26 November 2015

Thanksgiving Thoughts and Reading Plans

To all my friends in the United States, I wish you a happy, healthy, and relaxing holiday weekend. Hope you find time to read a book or two between tending the turkey and visiting with friends and family.

To everyone else, pardon our many photos of food over the next twenty-four hours and may your upcoming weekend be filled with all things good.

We're planning a quiet weekend at home. Besides cooking and eating, I'm looking forward to reading, walking, and doing some book culling. I may even get around to watching Jessica Jones.

Here are some the books I have at the top of my reading list. I may read these or pick up something else entirely. I'm going to see where my mood takes me.

LIke Family by Paolo GiordanoA couple of years ago I read and liked Paolo Giordano's The Solitude of Prime Numbers, so when I was offered a copy of his newest novel, Like Family, I didn't hesitate to say yes. According to the publisher's description, this is a story of a young family and their housekeeper. The themes seem to be marriage, parenthood, family, facing personal setbacks, and negotiating adulthood. I have high hopes. First sentence:

On my thirty-fifth birthday, Mrs. A. abruptly gave up the determination that in my eyes characterized her more than any other quality and, already laid out in a bed that by then seemed too big for her body, finally abandoned the world we all know.
I'm giving away a copy of this next week.

The Outlandish Companion Volume 2 by Diana GabaldonEven though the second volume of The Outlandish Companion by Diana Gabaldon entered my house in October, I haven't had time to sit down and read it. I don't plan to read this book front to back all in one go. Instead, I'll flip through, reading the essays (on language, on writing, on the television show, etc.), browsing the maps, and skimming the synopses of the more recent Outlander books. Good fun ahead. Here's the first sentence of the first chapter:
The Outlander series includes three kinds of stories: The Big, Enormous Books, which have no discernible genre (or all of them).
It's true: It's damn near impossible to describe the Outlander books by genre.

The Bone Hunters by Robert J. MrazekAlso high on my list is the novel by Robert J. Mrazek. I can't resist a mystery / thriller that stars an archaeologist. The first book in the series, Valhalla, involved a discovery of Viking ruins in Greenland. The Bone Hunters concerns hominid fossil remains found in China. The premise promises politics, the military, religious beliefs, and science combined with a twisty and action-packed plot. Good escape reading. Here's the first sentence of the prologue:
It was one of the two darkest nights Corporal Sean Patrick Morrissey could ever remember.
The opening scene is set in China in 1941, but chapter one takes us to Boston in modern times. I'll be giving away copies of both Mrazek books in a couple of weeks.

I have a gazillion other books on my plate, so we'll see what I really get around to reading over the next few days. Enjoy the weekend, and see you Saturday for Weekend Cooking!

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25 November 2015

Wordless Wednesday 369

Looking Out, 2015

Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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23 November 2015

Review and Giveaway: If You're Lucky by Yvonne Prinz

Review of If You're Lucky by Yvonne PrinzAs you know, I love pretty much everything Algonquin Books publishes for adults. But you might not be aware that my love extends to books published under the Algonquin Young Readers imprint as well.

Yvonne Prinz's If You're Lucky, published last month, is no exception. Here's what I wrote for Readerly magazine:

This is an emotionally complex psychological thriller that weaves a mystery into a story that also examines grief, families, and mental health. After seventeen-year-old Georgia's older brother died in a surfing accident, she begins to question the behavior of one his friends, who decides to stick around town after flying in to attend the funeral. Unfortunately, Georgia has been battling schizophrenia all her life, and her friends and family dismiss her fears as emanating from her condition. As well as building tension and crafting an absorbing mystery, Prinz sensitively portrays the teen's mixed feelings about the side effects of her meds and her struggle to be seen as something more than her diagnosis. This young adult thriller would make an excellent book club choice, initiating discussions of several fruitful issues, including preconceived notions of mental illness.
Many of you read over a broad range of audiences and already know that not all young adult novels involve a dystopian world or an angst-filled love triangle. But if you tend to shy away from young adult novels, I urge you to put your misgivings aside and give this thriller, set in contemporary times, a try. If You're Lucky is multilayered and examines mature topics, making this a terrific crossover book.

For more on Yvonne Prinz and her newest novel, be sure to check out If You're Lucky page on the Algonquin Young Readers website. I enjoyed reading Prinz's essay about the writing of the novel and the surprising source of her inspiration. Book club members, both adults and teens, will appreciate the insightful questions included in the reader's guide, also available on the publisher's website.

Thanks to Algonquin Young Readers, I can offer two of my readers with a US or Canadian mailing address a copy of Yvonne Prinz's If You're Lucky. All you have to do to be entered for a chance to win is to fill out the following form. I'll pick a winner using a random number generator on December 4. Once the winner has been confirmed, I'll erase all personal information from my computer. Good luck!

Published by Algonquin Young Readers, 2015
ISBN-13: 9781616204631
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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21 November 2015

Weekend Cooking: As Always, Julia edited by Joan Reardon

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

Review: As Always, Julia edited by Joan ReardonI belong to a group of Julia Child fans who simply can't get enough of her. Although her story has been told time and again, I couldn't resist reading just one more book.

As Always, Julia, edited by Joan Reardon, is a collection of letters written by Julia Child and her friend and pen pal Avis DeVoto from 1952 to 1961. This was the decade during which Child was writing her Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Avis DeVoto, a book and manuscript reviewer (among other things), was the wife of an award-winning author. The two women met on paper when Child wrote DeVoto's husband a fan letter. When Avis replied, little did she know that she had found her soul mate. The letters between the women start off somewhat formal, but once the friendship formed, they shared their opinions on many aspects of their lives, from the kitchen to the living room and even the bedroom.

Underlying these personal letters is Child's ongoing project of writing her Mastering the Art of French Cooking. DeVoto was more than supportive; she was instrumental in getting the book accepted and published by Knopf. In addition, DeVoto helped copyedit the manuscript and tweak it for an American audience.

The letters themselves make for delightful reading, giving us insight into Julia Child the person, not the famous cook or television personality. The women, of course, wrote often of meals, recipes, ingredients, kitchen equipment, and cooking techniques. But they also shared their thoughts on books, politics, and aging (the women met when they were in their forties). I loved Child's descriptions of the cities she visited or lived in, the women's discussions of McCarthyism, and their thoughts on the other people in their lives. I was also interested in Child's frank reactions to the problems and pains of moving whenever Paul, her husband, was reassigned to another city or another country.

Whether you read each letter carefully or you pick and choose, Joan Reardon's As Always, Julia is perfect for Julia Child fans and for anyone interested in food and travel during the 1950s. The letters also offer interesting insight into the writing and editing of Child's masterpiece cookbook. Check this out of the library or ask for it for Christmas. Then pour yourself a proper cup of tea and settle in for a good read. (Note: the image is from Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain.)

Published by Houghton Mifflin, 2010
ISBN-13: 9780547417714
Source: Borrowed (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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19 November 2015

Review: Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams

Review of Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz WilliamsBullet summary: Along the Infinite Sea is Beatriz William's latest book about the Schuyler sisters. In 1966, Pepper Schuyler, a twenty-something senator's aide, is facing up to her new reality: Her growing belly confirms that she's in a situation that will seriously dampen her partying, flirty ways. Meanwhile fifty-something Annabelle Dommerich, recently widowed, is coming to terms with her convoluted past. When the two women meet, they find they have a lot in common.

More about Annabelle: Although she is actually a French princess, Annabelle lived in American for much of her young life. When her mother died young, Annabelle returned to France, under the care of her father and brother. When just nineteen, she fell in love with Stefan, a handsome German Jew, but she was heartbroken when she discovered he was not only married but also a father; thus she was grateful when Johann, a German officer as well as baron, agreed to marry her and raise her unborn child as his own; she, in return, was to be a faithful and good wife to him and a devoted stepmother to his children. Annabelle is not stupid, but she's young, naive, and trusting. So the more the new baroness learned about her husband and about Stefan, the more she began to question her decisions. It all ccame to head two years later on Kristallnacht, when Annabelle and her cobbled-together family escaped across the German border, eventually settling in America. But which family and which man flees with her?

More about Pepper: Pepper, the middle Schuyler sister, is pregnant by a U.S. Senator from a powerful family. She is tough and resourceful, but not entirely prepared to survive all on her own. When Annabelle offers her a place of refuge, Pepper is hardly in a position to refuse. The chance meeting has the potential to change the direction of Pepper's future.

Thoughts on the construction: The novel's setting alternates between the U.S. South in 1966 and Europe in the late 1930s. Of the two stories, Annabelle's is the more engaging and emotionally strong. I particularly liked the way Williams presented the issues surrounding the rising Nazi regime from the perspective of a young girl who thought more about love and life than she did about politics. The novel shows how intelligent and caring people could be oblivious to the harsh realities until it was too late. I also liked the slight mystery of who Annabelle ended up with and why. The intrigue was nicely done. I was somewhat disappointed in Pepper's story, though the lightness and fun provided relief from the darker days of prewar Europe.

Themes: love, survival, duty, marriage, doing the right thing, politics, women's issues, parenting, sacrifices. In both time periods, the women each reject any notion of abortion, despite their unmarried status and risk of social and family rejection. Along the Infinite Sea would make a great book club choice; all the themes would provide fodder for conversation.

Things to know: Although Williams's has written about the Schuyler family before, Along the Infinite Sea works solidly as a standalone novel. The book is a November Indie Next Pick and a LibraryReads pick. It has also received a few starred reviews.

Recommendations: Beatriz William's Along the Infinite Sea would appeal to fans of historical fiction and fans of women's fiction. The romance aspects of the novel are strong, but not sappy or overwhelming. There is plenty here for those more interested in historical details than in a love story. If you're looking for fiction to read for Jewish book month, Along the Infinite Sea could work.

Audiobook: The unabridged audiobook edition (Penguin Audio; 15 hr, 43 min) was nicely read by Kathleen McInerney. I'm hardly an expert on accents, but I thought her German and French accents were believable without being cartoony or stereotypical. Her characterizations were consistent, and she gave the dialogue the proper male, female, old, and young intonations. I liked the way McInerney captured Pepper's spunk and sass and Annabelle's calm self-confidence. The good pacing and expressive performance make this a recommended audiobook.

Published by Penguin USA/ Putnam, 2015
ISBN-13: 9780399171314
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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