28 February 2011

Review: Curiosity Thrilled the Cat by Sofie Kelly

When Kathleen Paulson moved from Boston to Mayville Heights, Minnesota, to oversee the restoration and modernization of the local library, she looked forward to settling into the peace and quiet of small-town life. Her illusions are shattered when she discovers a murder victim, and the local police take her in for fingerprinting.

Curiosity Thrilled the Cat is the first in a new cozy mystery series by Sofie Kelly. The novel has all the elements that make up a great story in this genre, including good characters and a solid plot with a few red herrings. To top it off, Kathleen has been adopted by two cats who seem have some hidden talents.

By the time we meet Kathleen Paulson, she's been in Mayville for a few months. Although she is still exploring the town, she has already made some friends and is making progress with the library renovations. She isn't all that happy with the construction firm, but a local handyman helps her out when he isn't working on the sets for the local summer music festival.

Among Kathleen's friends are local artists and musicians, a veterinarian, a yoga teacher, and her colleagues at the library. The women get together for lunch or dinner or to watch a movie on a weekend night. Their relationships are easy and supportive. Of course, Kathleen also gets to know Marcus Gordon, one of the local policemen investigating the murder. It is refreshing that their relationship is friendly but not instantly flirtatious. Naturally, we can assume that the two will get to know each other better as the series progresses.

The mystery itself is well conceived. There are enough hints that I almost figured it out, but there were also enough side plots and back story that I was never sure. The novel is solidly cozy, and Kathleen gets help from her cats, Owen and Hercules. The book cover promises "A Magical Cats Mystery," and the cats do indeed have special abilities. I have a high tolerance for magic and fantasy, so I found this element of the book to be fun. I am hoping we learn more about the history of the cats as the series progresses.

Curiosity Thrilled the Cat will appeal to cozy mystery lovers, cat lovers, and anyone looking for a fun read. To learn more about Sofie Kelly, visit her website and read her interview on the Debutante Ball Blog.


Published by Penguin Group USA / Obsidian, February 2011
ISBN-13: 9780451232496
YTD: 23
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: B
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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26 February 2011

Weekend Cooking: Big Night

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

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I recently watched Big Night, a 1996 film starring Tony Shalhoub and Stanley Tucci. The two brothers come to New York in the 1950s to open an Italian restaurant. Pimo (played by Shalhoub) is a master chef who is all about the artistry and perfection of food. Secondo (Tucci) is all about the money.

The food may be wonderful, but New Yorkers are not beating down the doors to eat at the brothers' restaurant. Just as they are about to go broke, they get a chance to cook for a famous jazz musician. Will they be a success? Have they been set up?

The all-star cast of this independent film includes Ian Holm, Minnie Driver, and Isabella Rossellini. The acting is great, but the movie starts off quite slowly. I loved the food scenes, although they were not quite enough to make me love the film. The movie did, however, make me crave Italian food!




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25 February 2011

Imprint Friday: The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Pamela Dorman Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

If you're anything like me, then don't start reading Erin Kelly's The Poison Tree unless you have some time to spare. The plot is immediately mysterious and takes off at a run; you'll need to keep reading.

Here's the publisher's summary:

This taut psychological thriller begins when Karen and her nine-year- old daughter, Alice, pick up Rex from a ten-year stint in prison for murder. Flash back to the sultry summer in 1990s London when Karen, a straight-A student on the verge of college graduation, first meets the exotic, flamboyant Biba and joins her louche life in a crumbling mansion in Highgate. She begins a relationship with Biba's enigmatic and protective older brother, Rex, and falls into a blissful rhythm of sex, alcohol, and endless summer nights. Naïvely, Karen assumes her newfound happiness will last forever. But Biba and Rex have a complicated family history--one of abandonment, suicide, and crippling guilt--and Karen's summer of freedom is about to end in blood.

When old ghosts come back to destroy the life it has taken Karen a decade to build, she has everything to lose. She will do whatever it takes to protect her family and keep her secret. Alternating between the fragile present and the lingering past with a shocker of an ending, The Poison Tree is a brilliant suspense debut that will appeal to readers of Kate Atkinson, Donna Tartt, and Tana French.
In the opening pages, we know only that a woman has left her house in hurry. We don't know why, and we don't know if she is racing to something or escaping from something (or somebody?). The situation is desperate, and she has no time to think:
The seat belt digs into the flesh between by breasts as I make an emergency stop to avoid hitting the truck that suddenly looms in front of me. It's a filthy vehicle of indeterminate color . . . moving so slowly that the driver must be drunk. I have no option but to slow to a crawl behind him.

I ought to use this enforced pause for rational thought. But there is nothing rational about this situation. I am driving alone in pajamas and wet, clammy boots on a country lane in the middle of the night. Nobody knows where I am or why. I had only been thinking of the others but for the first time it strikes me that my own safety might be compromised if I continue. . . .

I am frightened, but I feel strong. I have the strength of a woman who has everything to lose.
And thus by page 3 you are hooked. As you learn more about this woman's life--both present and past--you'll attempt to put together the facts before you get to the last chapter. Maybe you'll succeed, but I didn't. Rather than ruin the book by providing too much information, I'll leave you with three opinions:
  • Nicole from Linus's Blanket notes that the novel is "A sort of backward murder mystery, if you will, we know the identity of the killer, but what we don’t know is why he did it or whom he killed. The story unfolds in Karen’s first person narrative, and everyone the reader meets as Karen shares the story of their past, is a potential murder victim."
  • Maureen Corrigan, writing for the Washington Post, concludes: "In 'The Poison Tree,' Kelly gives readers a compelling creeper that intelligently invokes the conventions of the Gothic and plays within the doom-laden confines of the voice-over. More please, Ms. Kelly! Quickly!"
  • Publisher's Weekly wrote: "Though melodrama looms, including a double homicide, the tension never wanes, and the ensuing horror comes as a major shock. The surprises don't end until the last page of this twisted tale with its wonderfully evocative London atmosphere."
The Poison Tree was an Indie Next Pick for January 2011. To learn more about Erin Kelly, visit her website (warning: the book trailer starts playing immediately after the page loads) or read an interview at Excuse Me, I'm Writing.

Pamela Dorman Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Pamela Dorman's introductory letter, posted here on December 3, 2010.

The Poison Tree at Powell's
The Poison Tree at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Viking / Pamela Dorman Books, January 2011
ISBN-13: 9780670022403

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24 February 2011

Review: Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

Katie Takeshima, born in the early 1950s in Iowa, loves her older sister, Lynn, more than anything in the world. It is Lynn who teaches her to recognize kira-kira (glittering, shining) in the world: in the blue sky, in the stars, and even in people. But when the family is forced to move to Georgia because of financial troubles, Katie has to struggle to find kira-kira in the streets of the small southern town.

Because both her parents work long hours at the chicken hatchery, Katie rarely sees them, but she knows that Lynn will always be there after school to watch over her and their little brother, Sammy. When Lynn becomes seriously ill at the age of fourteen, the family can barely hold on, and Katie must discover her own hidden strengths.

In Kira-Kira, Cynthia Kadohata beautifully explores the postwar years through the eyes of Katie Takeshima. Katie not only is the middle child but is also in the middle between her more traditionally Japanese parents and contemporary American culture. Although Katie doesn't see herself as being different from anyone else, when the family moves to the South, they are subject to prejudice, and the family is lost somewhere in limbo: not quite white and not quite black or Native American. Whether at school or checking into a hotel, the Takeshimas don't quite fit in.

The story is told as a flashback, so we know from the beginning that Lynn will die before Katie does, but Katie's memories are more than just a loving tribute to her older sister. From a child's perspective we learn that the 1950s were not golden years for everyone in America. The poor were exploited by the rich, and prosperity didn't come easily to all citizens. Katie herself is far from perfect, and she recalls her resentment and jealousy over how much attention her parents bestowed on Lynn and how painful it was when her sister became a teenager and found friends outside the family.

In Katie's transformation from innocent child to one of her sister's principal caretakers, she never lets go of the concept of kira-kira that was so important to Lynn. By the end, Katie tries to remind her family that there is still beauty in the world and, in turn, starts to understand some of the comfort found in embracing traditional Japanese customs.

Kira-Kira is a wonderfully written coming-of-age story, and Kadohata is becoming one of my favorite young adult authors. The novel has won almost twenty awards, including the ALA Newbery Medal. A study guide is available for teachers and homeschoolers; book clubs will appreciate the online reading guide.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Listening Library; 4 hr, 29 min) read by Elaina Erika Davis. Davis's vocalization sounds young enough to be believable as Katie without being annoyingly juvenile. She handles the accents--Midwest, Southern, Japanese--easily, and her varied pacing and pitch adds to the story.

Kira-Kira at Powell's
Kira-Kira at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs

Published by Simon & Schuster / Aladdin Paperbacks, 2007
ISBN-13: 9780689856402
YTD: 22
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: A-
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


This review will be linked to Kid Konnection a regular Saturday feature at Booking Mama that focuses on anything related to chidren's books.

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Boxed Edition of West of Here Giveaway: Winner

I'm pleased to announce the winner of the West of Here giveaway, sponsored by the publisher. The winner will receive a fabulous boxed edition of the novel along with maps and postcards. Congratulations to

Kathy from Bag, Books & Bon Jovi

I hope you enjoy the book.

Thanks to Algonquin Books for sponsoring this giveaway.

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23 February 2011

Wordless Wednesday 118

Rose hip, February 2011


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22 February 2011

Today's Read: To Have and to Kill By Mary Jane Clark

MizB at Should Be Reading hosts Teaser Tuesdays. Here's how it works: Grab your current read; let the book fall open to a random page; and share 2 “teaser” sentences from that page. For more teasers, click on through to MizB's blog.

This teaser is from the first book in a new Wedding Cake Mystery series; watch for the review in the next couple of weeks.

Potassium cyanide seemed to make the most sense. It was available and could be mixed to contaminate common drinking water. Internet reports were conflicted about what the taste would be like, primarily because the people who could be trusted to know were dead. p. 46
—From To Have and to Kill by Mary Jane Clark (HarperCollins / William Morrow, 2011).

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21 February 2011

Review: Butterfly by Sonya Hartnett

In the weeks before her fourteenth birthday, Plum Coyle struggles with trying to fit in at school and with coming to terms with her adolescent body. Like all young teens, she feels her family doesn't understand her and that she is just one awkward moment away from being a social outcast.

Unfortunately, Plum's insecurity and vulnerability make her easy prey both for her so-called friends and for the lonely, desperate woman living next door. Through a combination of her own misdeeds and naiveté, Plum's fourteenth birthday is not at all what she had envisioned.

Teenage girls can be cruel to each other, and Sonya Hartnett's Butterfly does not sugar-coat that fact. Some girls ride out those years fairly unscathed thanks to social savvy, drop-dead good looks, or solid family support, but Plum Coyle has none of those. Although her family loves her, Plum's much-older brothers are not equipped to guide their sister through her difficult years, and her parents seem somewhat oblivious.

Thus when Maureen, a thirty-something wife and mother, decides to befriend the teen, Plum is flattered and accepts her neighbor's advice and attention without question. From that day, Plum seems to be at the eye of a storm. Although she brings some of her troubles on herself, the girl is clearly unaware of the broader picture and the disaster to come.

Hartnett obviously understands the teenage mind, making it easy to relate to Plum on many levels. The girl comes up with innocent solutions to adults' puzzling actions, believes in the power of wishes, and will do almost anything to be liked by her peers. Although your own particulars are likely different from Plum's, you'll cringe at the approach of the inevitable humiliating moment her world is shattered. But with youth comes resiliency, and as her anger and self-pity begin to dissipate, Plum finally understands the possibilities of metamorphosis and finds the strength to put childhood and childish dreams into storage.

Although Harnett's blunt yet sensitive coming of age story is set in the 1980s in suburban Australia, the themes and issues are universal and timeless. Butterfly would make a wonderful book club choice for high schoolers and adults. I could not find a reading guide for the novel, but discussion points include ethical behavior, honesty, the nature of friendship, appropriate behavior for adults, keeping secrets, what one would do be accepted or to find love, and families.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Brilliance Audio, 6 hr, 36 min), read by Rebecca Macauley. Macauley did a fine job distinguishing among characters, and her light Australian accent added to the setting. My full audio review will be published by AudioFile magazine.

Butterfly at Powell's
Butterfly at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs

Published by Candlewick Press, 2010
ISBN-13: 9780763647605
YTD: 21
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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19 February 2011

Weekend Cooking: Focaccia with Greens (from Lora Brody)

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

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I've been up to my eyeballs with work, so I haven't had time to try any new cookbooks, but I did remember to take photos of this stuffed bread I made a couple of weeks ago. So today's post is a recipe from Lora Brody's Pizza, Focaccia, Flat, and Filled Breads from Your Bread Machine, which I've written about before.

This is a great way to eat your greens and tastes pretty good the next day too. The dough is for the bread machine, but if you're used to making bread by hand, you can just use any semolina flour dough.

Focaccia with Greens

Dough
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup semolina flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
Place the ingredients in your machine according to manufacturer's instruction and use the dough cycle.

Filling
  • 4-6 garlic cloves
  • 1.4 cup olive oil
  • 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen, chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry or steamed chopped fresh greens to yield 2 cups
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1 (2 1/4-ounce) can of sliced pitted black olives, drained of 1/2 cup sliced pitted black olives
  • 4 anchovy fillets, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • salt to taste
While dough cycle is running, saute garlic in oil in a large frying pan until it just begins to color. Add remaining ingredients, stirring 2 to 3 minutes until well blended. Remove pan from the heat and set aside.

Finishing

When the dough is ready, remove it from the machine and divide in half. Use olive oil to lightly oil a 12-inch flat pizza pan. Roll one piece of dough out to a 13-inch circle and place in the pan. Spread the filling over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Roll out the other dough to a 12-inch circle and place on top. Fold the edges of the bottom dough over the top and pinch to seal.

Cover with oiled plastic wrap or a towel and let rise for 1/2 hour while you heat the oven to 400F. Bake the focaccia for 25 minutes or until it is a deep golden brown. Remove the bread from the pan and let cool on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Cut and serve.

Beth Fish's notes: I generally leave out the anchovies because we find them too salty with the olives and capers.


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18 February 2011

Imprint Friday: Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Harper Perennial. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

On Tuesday, I offered you a tease from Louise Erdrich's Shadow Tag. This intense novel examines marriage, trust, and families and is almost impossible to put down. Here's the publisher's summary:

When Irene America discovers that her artist husband, Gil, has been reading her diary, she begins a secret Blue Notebook, stashed securely in a safe-deposit box. There she records the truth about her life and marriage, while turning her Red Diary—hidden where Gil will find it—into a manipulative charade. As Irene and Gil fight to keep up appearances for their three children, their home becomes a place of increasing violence and secrecy. And Irene drifts into alcoholism, moving ever closer to the ultimate destruction of a relationship filled with shadowy need and strange ironies.

Alternating between Irene's twin journals and an unflinching third-person narrative, Louise Erdrich's Shadow Tag fearlessly explores the complex nature of love, the fluid boundaries of identity, and the anatomy of one family's struggle for survival and redemption.
I have been a fan of Erdrich's for many years, and Shadow Tag does not disappoint. I love the evocative nature her writing and I especially love the truth of her words: "Women are always swimming trustingly toward men! We're as curious as otters when we should be wary as snakes." The undercurrent of bitterness mixed with love and overlain by manipulation and desperation is evident almost immediately. Yet, despite the painful realities of the novel, the surprises, shocks, and emotional entanglements keep you in the moment of the story instead of dragging you under.

Here are some other thoughts:
  • Dawn at 5 Minutes for Books writes: "I was impressed with the quality of writing, the insistent tone, and the way that the characters came alive through the author’s unique-feeling prose."
  • Melissa from The Betty and Boo Chronicles says: "Erdrich gives her reader two very strong, well-defined characters and prose that glides off the page, but the stark pain that is evident throughout this novel doesn't give the reader many reasons to smile."
  • Ron Charles at The Washington Post says "If you haven't lived through this sad story yourself, you know someone who has. And of course it's the plot of a library's worth of domestic novels, but Erdrich distinguishes her own version in a variety of exquisite ways."
Shadow Tag was an Indie Next Pick for February 2010, the month of the hardcover release. Book clubs will find the online reading guide to be helpful.

Harper Perennial is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For information about the imprint, please read Erica Barmash's welcome note posted here on June 18, 2010. I encourage you to add your reviews of Harper Perennial books to the review link-up page; it's a great way to discover Good Books for Cool People. And don't miss the The Olive Reader, the Harper Perennial blog.

Shadow Tag at an Indie
Shadow Tag at Powell's
Shadow Tag at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by HarperCollins / Harper Perennial, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780061536106

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17 February 2011

Review: You Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers

In the aura of grief following the tragic loss of their childhood friend, Will and Hand feel the need for action. Between plots of revenge against the truck driver who caused the fatal accident, the young men hatch a plan to fly around the world giving away $80,000 to the needy or deserving -- all within the one week Hand can take off from work.

Dave Eggers's You Shall Know Our Velocity is difficult to pin down. Will and Hand are in their late twenties, yet much of their behavior is reminiscent of fourteen-year-olds: not so much with their wild scheme to give away Will's windfall but in their impulsiveness and cluelessness.

A good bit of the novel takes place within Will's head. He conducts elaborate conversations with himself, with strangers he sees on the streets, with their dead friend Jack, and even with Hand. Sometimes the voices in Will's head drive him crazy; sometimes they help him see more clearly. Hand, however, may not have enough in his head. Although he seems to have an unending ability to recite obscure (and questionable) facts on almost any subject, he proves to be unreliable and reckless.

The men's goal of circumnavigating the globe and giving away all the money is met with setbacks before they even leave Chicago. Each reacts differently to change, unexpected events, and the realities of life outside the United States. By week's end, Will and Hand have had a lifetime of adventures, but we wonder how much they may have healed, learned, or grown.

My feelings about You Shall Know Our Velocity are strongly influenced by the fact that I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Recorded Books, 11 hr, 23 min), read by Dion Graham. Graham's narration is brilliant and emotional. If I had read the novel, I'm not sure I would have finished; I suspect I would have been bored by Will's long internal rants. Graham's expressive performance helped me stick with it.

I was surprised to learn that the bound book is amply illustrated with notes, maps, photographs, and more. I am very sorry to have missed out on the visuals and wonder if they may have helped me better appreciate the novel.

In the end I was left with the feeling that You Shall Know Our Velocity was simply not a novel for me. There was nothing inherently wrong with the book, and I didn't dislike it. It just wasn't a particularly good match. If I were to recommend the novel, I think I would suggest listening to Graham but having a print edition nearby to enjoy the visual material (which I have not seen).

There is an excellent online reading group guide. I was unable to find an author website. My full audio review will be published by AudioFile magazine.


Published by Random House / Vintage, 2003
ISBN-13: 9781400033546
YTD: 20
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: C
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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16 February 2011

Wordless Wednesday 117

Bloom, February 2011

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15 February 2011

Imprint Extra: Giveaway--Boxed Edition of West of Here by Jonathan Evison

To help celebrate the launch of Jonathan Evison's fantastic new novel West of Here, Algonquin Books has generously donated a beautifully packaged copy of the novel to one of my readers.

What's this book all about? As the publisher says, it's "an exposition on the effects of time, on how something said or done in one generation keeps echoing through all the years that follow, and how mistakes keep happening and people keep on trying to be strong and brave and, most important, just and right."

The story takes place in the Pacific Northwest at the end of the nineteenth century when there were still wild parts of Washington State to be explored and maybe settled. We also see the twenty-first-century results of the actions and decisions made by some of the area's earliest white citizens. Check out my Imprint Friday post for the full scoop.

Here's the giveaway (open to those with a U.S. or Canadian mailing address): One reader will receive this beautiful boxed edition of West of Here:




Your book will come in a very cool wooden box packed with some fun extras: A letter from Algonquin's executive editor, Chuck Adams; five reproductions of vintage postcards from Port Bonita and Washington State; a reproduction of an 1883 map of Washington Territory; and a copy of an 1879 map from the Department of the Interior and General Land Office.

This book package brings an already fabulous novel to life. I love every item and referred to the maps and postcards several times while reading the book. I know you'll love this boxed set too.

To enter, fill out the following form. I'll pick a winner on February 24 via random number generator, at which time I'll delete all personal data from my computer. Good luck! Thanks again to Algonquin for sponsoring this giveaway.

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Today's Read: Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich

MizB at Should Be Reading hosts Teaser Tuesdays. Here's how it works: Grab your current read; let the book fall open to a random page; and share 2 “teaser” sentences from that page. For more teasers, click on through to MizB's blog.

I have been taught to think that life proceeds inevitably from its formative starting point and that its course is difficult to change. If it's the same with love, then there were bad omens from the beginning: the night before our wedding I dreamed that I was savagely attacked and pulled apart by wild dogs. . . . You are an unlucky thirteen years older than me. But here is the most telling thing: you wish to possess me. And my mistake: I loved you and let you think you could. p. 18
—From Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich (Harper Perennial edition, 2011)

Shadow Tag at Powell's
Shadow Tag at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

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14 February 2011

Austen Books & Bookplate Giveaway Winners


I'm pleased to announce the winners of the Jane Austen giveaway, sponsored by the publisher. The winner will receive a copy of each of these books. Congratulations to

Melissa from One Librarian's Book Reviews

I hope you enjoy the books.



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I'm pleased to announce the winners of the Pictures of you giveaway. Each winner will receive a beautiful bookplate from author Caroline Leavitt. Congratulations to

Sandy from You've Gotta Read This
Debbie F. (not a blogger)
Heather from Raging Bibliomania
Rebecca (The Bird Sisters)
Mystica from Mystica
Sarah from Reading Under the Influence
Beth from The Pine Meadow Pond Journal
Diana M. (not a blogger)
Courtney from Stiletto Storytime
Cass from Bonjour Cass

I know you'll love your angel wing bookplate.

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Review: Bone Handbook by Jeff Smith

As many of you know, I'm in love with the Bone series of graphic novels by Jeff Smith. The original Bone books consist of nine novels (all reviewed here) that tell the story of the three Bone cousins and their epic adventure.

You may be familiar with the novels, but did you know that Smith published the Bone Handbook? The book is a must for any Bone fan. Smith starts out with the history of how he created the characters and became interested in comics and graphic novels. He even includes some his earliest Bone panels.

We are also treated to a new Bone tale ("The Kite"), which is told in three parts. Other chapters consist of an index of characters, interviews with Smith and colorist Steve Hamaker, a history of the valley, a glossary, and more. Adding to the fun are a couple of recipes: one for Smiley Bone's favorite sandwich and, of course, one for quiche (a Bone insider joke).

The Bone Handbook is a fun and informative look into the world of the Bone cousins. Not to be missed! Note, however, that I suggest you read the nine graphic novels before you read the handbook to avoid spoilers.

For a little bit more on the series, here is a short video interview with Jeff Smith:


Bone Handbook at Powell's
Bone Handbook at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs

Published by Scholastic / Graphix, 2010
ISBN-13: 9780545211420
YTD: 19
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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13 February 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer Giveaway Winners

I'm pleased to announce the winners of The Lincoln Lawyer giveaway. Each winner will receive a copy of the book and a movie poster. Congratulations to

Jen of Jen's Book Thoughts
BookGeek of Reading under the Influence
Lori of She Treads Softly
Linda (not a blogger)
Karen (not a blogger)

I hope you love the book as much as I did.

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12 February 2011

Weekend Cooking: Novel-Inspired Cooking

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

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From a very young age I've been attracted to books that talk about food. In fact, one of my favorite childhood series was by Eve Titus, beginning with Anatole, which is all about a cheese-tasting mouse. I remember doing a book report on Anatole in first grade.

Since then, I've read many, many books of all sorts that have celebrated food both as a primary theme and in passing. I have a number of cookbooks based on books and authors I have read, and I thought I'd share five of them today.

One series I liked was P. L. Travers's Mary Poppins books. I wanted to be able to drink tea and eat crumpets every day and to go on adventures, whether around the world or up to the stars. Yes, the Mary Poppins in the books was a bit sterner than the movie version, but she was still magical.

Mary Poppins in the Kitchen: A Cookery Book with a Story by Travers, is about a week in the Banks house when Cook takes time off. Mary, of course, takes over the kitchen for the entire time, and each day is full of adventure and culinary fun. At the end of each chapter is the day's menu. Nicely illustrated, the book is fun to read and to cook from. You'll find recipes for shepherd's pie, Dundee cake, trifle, kedgeree, and more.

I--along with millions of young girls around the world--loved Anne Shirley and the Anne of Green Gables books. Who could forget the famous raspberry cordial incident? Anne is always dreaming of food: chocolate caramels, shortbread, lemonade, and "poetical" egg salad sandwiches.

Recipes for many of the dishes mentioned in the Anne books can be found in The Anne of Green Gables Cookbook by Kate Macdonald. The book is illustrated by Barbara Di Lella, and each recipe is introduced by a quotation from one of the books, so you can link the dish with Anne's story. The recipes are geared to the young cook, and my niece and I tried several recipes when she was going through her Anne stage.

Another childhood favorite series was the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I used to dream of hand-cranked ice cream in the summer and maple sugar snow candy in the winter. Those books were a young-foodie's delight. Barbara M. Walker's The Little House Cookbook is a well-researched book covering the foods and cooking techniques of the late 1800s. She culled the Wilder books for the sections on food, cooking, farming, gardening, and hunting as well as what one could buy at the town's general store.

The book includes a number of Garth Williams illustrations and each recipe is tied to a passage in one of the Little House books. You'll find Caroline's magic green pumpkin pie that had Pa fooled into thinking he was eating apples, the pancake men from the first book, rye'n'injun bread from Almanzo's childhood, huckleberry pie, dumplings, Christmas goose, and many other dishes Laura wrote about.

When Laura and Almanzo married and moved to the Ozarks, Laura settled down to raise her daughter, help with the farm, and write for a local newspaper. Eventually, of course, she wrote the books we remember her for. One of the things she left behind was her personal recipe book, which included original recipes and recipes clipped from magazines and papers. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Country Cookbook, introduced by William Anderson, contains the recipes that Laura made in her own kitchen.

The text and recipes are wonderfully complemented by Leslie A. Kelly's photographs of Rocky Ridge Farm and house. You'll find basic recipes for soups, stews, casseroles, cakes, cookies, and breads. The recipes were all tested and revised for the modern kitchen, and all look easy and good. Although I've owned this one since about 1996, I have yet to cook from it.

In the early 1980s, I read pretty much everything Barbara Pym ever wrote. I think I discovered her when I read about her death in 1980. I love her characters and her portrayal of women. And I love her little bits about the food they eat and cook. When The Barbara Pym Cookbook by Hilary Pym (her sister) and Honor Wyatt, was published in 1988, I knew I had to own it.

Similar to the other books featured today, every recipe is introduced by either a quotation from one of her books or her autobiography or a short blurb from Hilary. This is an absolute must for every Pym fan, even if you don't have much interest in cooking (though food and Pym go hand in hand in my mind). For example, we read from Less Than Angels: "They were talking in the kitchen, where Catherine had started to prepare a risotto with whatever remains she could find." (I want to be in that kitchen!) A longer quotation from that scene is capped with a comment from Hilary and then a recipe for risotto.

I have several other books along these lines and will share more in a future post. Do you own any novel- or author-inspired cookbooks?


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11 February 2011

Imprint Friday: The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Amy Einhorn Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

Most of you already know how much I love Eleanor Brown's The Weird Sisters. As I said in my review, this debut novel is "about a loving family that sometimes struggles to find common ground and sisters who try to balance friendship with competition and jealousy."

Here is the publisher's summary:

"There is no problem that a library card can't solve. "

The Andreas family is one of readers. Their father, a renowned Shakespeare professor who speaks almost entirely in verse, has named his three daughters after famous Shakespearean women. When the sisters return to their childhood home, ostensibly to care for their ailing mother, but really to lick their wounds and bury their secrets, they are horrified to find the others there. "See, we love each other. We just don't happen to like each other very much." But the sisters soon discover that everything they've been running from-one another, their small hometown, and themselves-might offer more than they ever expected.
Normally at this point I tell you why I wanted to shine the spotlight on today's featured title. But for The Weird Sisters, let me say simply that I loved the characters and their family, I loved that Shakespeare has an answer to everything, and I loved how quickly and solidly I got lost in story. Even if you've never read the Bard, you'll be able to relate to the Andreas family. As I wrote in my review, Brown "has beautifully captured sibling relationships [and] has also created an authentic picture of the confusing, conflicting years of young adulthood."

Apparently I'm not the only one recommending The Weird Sisters because yesterday author Eleanor Brown announced some exciting statistics on Twitter, among them were
  • #15 on the New York Times Best Sellers List
  • #15 on on the IndieBound Indie Bestsellers List
  • #9 on the New England Indie Bestseller List
And here are some thoughts from reviewers:
  • The Miami Herald concludes: "That’s Brown’s great gift: She draws you in and makes you believe her weird sisters aren’t so weird after all."
  • Norah Piehl, writing for the Bookreporter.com said: "The Weird Sisters is both a loving portrait of a family of inveterate readers and a complicated inquiry into the nature of fate and the bonds of family."
  • Jenn of Jenn's Bookshelves assures readers: "Even if you don’t have a sister, if you are a single child, I guarantee you will learn something from this stunning debut."
The Weird Sisters was an Indie Next pick for February 2011. To learn more about Eleanor Brown, visit her blog or website. She is also one of the 2011 featured authors on the Debutante Ball Blog, where she writes a weekly post.

Amy Einhorn Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Amy Einhorn's open letter posted here on January 25, 2010, or click the Amy Einhorn tab below my banner photo. To join the Amy Einhorn Books Reading Challenge, click the link.

The Weird Sisters at an Indie

Published by Putnam / Amy Einhorn Books, January 2011
ISBN-13: 9780399157226

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10 February 2011

Review: Reading Jackie by William Kuhn

In Reading Jackie: Her Autobiography in Books, William Kuhn begins with the premise that each book Jackie Kennedy Onassis helped bring to print, either as an acquisitions editor or as a line editor, reflected a specific facet of her life. Several of her books, for example, focused on the arts, marriage, feminist issues, and politics.

It's important to note right off the bat that Kuhn's biography is not a tell-all investigation into Jackie's life. The story of Jackie's twenty years in the publishing industry is told with the utmost respect for her as a person and editor as well as for her privacy. The woman you meet in these pages is smart, strong, funny and a bit sheltered from the real world.

Kuhn mines the content or acquisition history of many of the hundred or so books on Jackie's list for insight into her life and mind. For example, her love of fairy tales and personal relationship with Bill Moyers helped spark the idea of bringing Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth to press, and her famous sense of style made her a natural for working on several Tiffany coffee-table books.

It is interesting that she was the force behind a number of works about women in history, many of whom--like Marie Antoinette--were married to rulers or presidents. And Jackie's love of ballet and dancing was reflected in books such as Gelsey Kirkland's Dancing on My Grave and Sarah Giles's Fred Astaire.

Reading Jackie is not, however, without some flaws. Because the story of Jackie's editing career is not told chronologically, a couple anecdotes are repeated (some several times), which I found disconcerting and disruptive. Furthermore, quite a bit is made of how down to earth Jackie could be. While I can certainly appreciate the importance of showing that Jackie was a hard worker and was kind and respectful to others, the point was driven home a little too hard.

My other quibble has to do with the connections between her books and her life and worldview. I question how many of the projects were totally of her choosing and how many were assigned to her, thus weakening the premise that each book provides insight into Jackie's mind. [EDIT: please read the author's comment addressing this issue.] At times I felt Kuhn had to stretch a bit to link a title with a particular aspect of Jackie's psyche.

On the other hand, Reading Jackie will appeal to people in the publishing industry, book lovers, and fans of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. You may be surprised by the books she edited and by the authors she nurtured.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Random House Audio; 12 hr, 30 min) read by Susan Denaker. Denaker's ability to use accents for Jackie and the many other people quoted was outstanding, despite a few odd inflections and unexpected pauses. Reading Jackie, however, is a book best read in print. It is difficult for listeners to remember the names of all the people mentioned and the titles of the books analyzed. In addition, the print version contains her publishing list and other other resources that are missing from the audiobook.

Reading Jackie at Powell's
Reading Jackie at Book Depository
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Published by Doubleday, 2010
ISBN-13: 9780385530996
YTD: 18
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: C
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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09 February 2011

Wordless Wednesday 116

Ice Bridges, February 2011


For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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08 February 2011

Today's Read: Waiting for Snow in Havana by Carlos Eire

MizB at Should Be Reading hosts Teaser Tuesdays. Here's how it works: Grab your current read; let the book fall open to a random page; and share 2 “teaser” sentences from that page. For more teasers, click on through to MizB's blog.

I shouldn't have been surprised that New Year's morning. There had been plenty of signs of trouble brewing, of changes to come. Even a sheltered child should have known something was about to snap. Later in life I would think back to that morning and try to link it to earlier events, just to make sense of what had gone wrong with all our lives. p. 8
—From Waiting for Snow in Havana by Carlos Eire (Free Press, 2003)

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Imprint Extra: Caroline Leavitt and Cars Plus Giveaway

Yesterday I reviewed Caroline Leavitt's newest novel, Pictures of You. As I've mentioned, this engrossing novel was my Skype book club's pick for this month. We met on Sunday, and our discussion of the book was one of our most fruitful meetings.

Caroline presents so many great topics to think about—such as parenting, the need for drama, and the effects of asthma on a child's life—all of which fueled our conversation. In addition, we used the reader's guide at the back of the book to prompt even more discussion. And, of course, we each had our own take on the characters and their behavior. I can safely recommend Pictures of You as a terrific book club selection.

One thing my group didn't talk about was what motivated Caroline to write a novel centered so specifically on a car accident. I am thrilled that Caroline has decided to come clean and share her little secret with the readers of Beth Fish Reads. Let's take a look:

Art Doesn't Necessarily Imitate Life
In every single one of my novels, my characters are wildly in love with their cars. They jump in their Hondas or their Toyotas and drive for miles at night, thrashing out problems—or running away from them. Adrenaline-charged drivers, they can't imagine their lives without their trusty autos. Because of this, it might make perfect sense to know that my new novel, Pictures of You, revolves around a lethal car crash. You might even wonder about my own driving ability.

The truth is I'm completely phobic about cars.

My dirty little secret is that I don't drive at all. I don't even like to be a passenger in a car. Part of why I live in the New York City area is because of the incredible public transportation.

I'm not sure where the phobia came from, but I've always been fearful. Like all kids, I took driver's education. The instructor rolled his eyes while the other student in the back giggled as I made the car shimmy on the road. I got my license only because all I had to do was drive around the block, and after that, my parents insisted I take these brush-up courses. I took three, before the instructor pulled over to the side of the road and shook his head at me. "Caroline," he said. "Don't take this the wrong way, but you are the absolute worse driver I have ever encountered. Some people aren't meant to drive, and you seem to be one of them."

I admit I wasn't surprised, but I wasn't going to give up so easily. I began to wonder if I could clear up my phobia by writing about it. So I thought of the worse possible thing, which was not just a car crash, but a crash where someone was killed. I gave my fear to my character Isabelle, who, through no fault of her own, kills April, a wife and mother, in the crash. Because it's fiction, I ramped things up a bit, making Isabelle' phobia worse than my own. Isabelle can't even get in a car without breaking into a cold sweat. Her heart bangs against her chest, her breathing stitches up. I worked through the phobia for Isabelle, pushing her so she could slowly, gradually, climb back in her car and put it in drive.

But did writing about a car phobia help me? In a way. I'm still uneasy about cars and driving, but I think I've made a sort of peace with that. Maybe it's just who I am. And lately, I've been collecting the names of other writers who don't drive, like Alice Hoffman and Ray Bradbury, just to give me a little company. In the fictional world, I drive with the radio blasting, but in real life, hey, you'll find me happily walking, on a subway, or hailing a cab.
Thank you so much, Caroline, for sharing your secret with us. I promise we won't tell anyone. You do such an amazing job capturing the adventure of taking to the highway, no one would ever guess you weren't a natural-born driver.

So what about you? Driving: Love it or hate it? I don't mind driving, but I much prefer to be a passenger. It's so much more fun to look out the window and be in charge of the map and the toll money.

The Giveaway

Caroline has very generously offered ten (yes, ten!) of my readers a signed book plate that shows a very special symbol that is associated with Pictures of You. Don't you just love those wings? The photo is what's shown on the book plate. It so clearly echoes the book cover, I know you'll want one in your copy of the novel.

And even better, Caroline is opening up this giveaway to readers worldwide! To enter, just fill out the following form. I'll pick the ten winners on Valentine's Day (February 14). After the winners have been contacted, I'll delete all personal information.




Be sure to check out my teaser, review, and spotlight posts of Caroline Leavitt's Pictures of You.

Algonquin Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Executive Editor Chuck Adams's introductory letter, posted here on January 7, 2011.

Published by Algonquin, 2011
ISBN-13: 9781565126312

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07 February 2011

Iron Fey Trilogy Giveaway: Winner

I am so pleased to announce the winner of the Iron Fey Trilogy sponsored by Big Honcho Media. Congratulations to

Hannah from Word Lily

I know you'll love the books as much as I did.

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Review: Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt

On a foggy September afternoon two women who have never met leave their Cape Cod town, each escaping her life and each leaving her husband without warning. Three hours from home on a turnoff from the interstate, there is a fatal accident. Only one woman survives. In the aftermath, three people face an uncertain future.

Caroline Leavitt's Pictures of You (which I spotlighted a couple of weeks ago) examines the effects of a tragic accident from three viewpoints: a nine-year-old boy, Sam, who finds it impossible to believe that he will never see his mother again; the widowed Charlie, who can't understand what his wife, April, was doing so far from home; and Isabelle, who wonders if she will ever have the courage to leave the Cape and her husband, Luke, again.

The strength of this novel lies in the authenticity of the characters and the believability of their unique perspectives on their shared life-changing event. From the beginning, you are invested in the two families and their parallel, divergent, and intersecting lives. You want to know more about the impulsive, adventure-loving April and the steady, sensitive Isabelle. You hope Charlie finds a way to understand his late wife, and you're angry at Luke for how he behaved.

Most of all, though, your heart goes out to young Sam. He's sure he must have had something to do with the accident, but he's afraid to tell anyone what he remembers about that day. He is further isolated by his severe asthma, which makes it difficult for him to fit in at school. You want to reach out and tell Sam that he's not to blame and that he can trust the adults who love him.

Finally, Pictures of You, like real life, is not predictable. Characters do what they think is best for them, not necessarily what is best, and you wonder what you'd do in similar circumstances. The novel will make you think about fate, Münchausen syndrome, parenting, relationships, and angels. Highly recommended for book clubs.

I would be remiss if I were not to point out that there were some slight editing errors. For example, near the beginning of the book Isabelle mentions going to a new high school when she moves to the Cape, but later she says she has a GED. These were minor points that I thought about only after I finished the novel; I was never jarred out of the story.

Algonquin Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Executive Editor Chuck Adams's introductory letter, posted here on January 7, 2011.


Published by Algonquin, 2011
ISBN-13: 9781565126312
YTD: 17
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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