30 April 2011

Weekend Cooking: The Kitchen Journal 3

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.

_______

A few weeks ago one of the Weekend Cooking participants posted a photo of polenta and mushrooms, which made me immediately crave the same. I love polenta; it's one of my comfort foods.

A long while back, I shared my version of a microwave polenta recipe I use from What to Cook When You Think There's Nothing in the House to Eat by Arthur Schwartz. I use stone-ground corn meal for my dish, but many people like a finer grind.

For the mushroom-topped bowl of goodness pictured here, I stirred a cup of Parmesan cheese into the polenta when it finished cooking.

For the topping, I turned to Julia Child's The Way to Cook. A truly useful cookbook, worth every penny if you can find a copy. On page 314, Julia included a "Special Note," which is a recipe for mushrooms duxelles. Yummmmmmm. Here's her version, and the choices I made:
  • 4 cups fresh mushrooms or mushroom stems, diced (I used a combo of portabella mushrooms and common white mushrooms)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots or scallions (I used the shallots)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons Port or Madeira (used the Port)
By handfuls, twist the mushrooms in the corner of a towel to extract their juices. Heat the butter to bubbling, and saute the mushrooms in hot butter over moderately high heat, stirring and tossing, until the pieces begin to separate from each other--3 to 4 minutes. Add the shallots or scallions and saute a moment more; season to taste. Add the wine, letting it boil down rapidly to nothing.

To serve, I spooned the polenta into a low bowl, topped it with a bit of warmed diced tomatoes, and then the mushrooms. Comfort food at its best.



Click for more

29 April 2011

Imprint Friday: Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

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.

You might recall that Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay made my list of top-ten reads in 2010. Thus I'm thrilled that Harper Perennial is publishing a new trade paperback edition, complete with the extras (the P.S.) that give their books a special edge. Before I tell you what I loved about the novel, take a look at the publisher's summary:

When Nina Revskaya puts her remarkable jewelry collection up for auction, the former Bolshoi Ballet star finds herself overwhelmed by memories of her homeland, and of the events, both glorious and heartbreaking, that changed her life half a century earlier. It was in Russia that she discovered the magic of dance and fell in love, and where, faced with Stalinist aggression, a terrible discovery incited a deadly act of betrayal—and an ingenious escape to the West.

Nina has kept her secrets for half a lifetime. But now Drew Brooks, an inquisitive associate at a Boston auction house, and Grigori Solodin, a professor who believes Nina's jewels hold the key to unlocking his past, begin to unravel her story—setting in motion a series of revelations that will have life-altering consequences for them all.
In my review of Russian Winter, I praised Kalotay for the way she "carefully and subtly draws us into the varied aspects of Nina's world," from the constant fear of being entrapped by the Soviet government to the world of Russian dance and the mystery behind Nina's jewels. As I said last fall, "Kalotay's prose should be savored, allowing the complex story to slowly unfold."

I'm not the only one who loved Russian Winter, let me quote some other reviews:
  • Nancy Rommelmann, writing for The Oregonian, started her review this way: "Warning: You will be awake until 4 a.m. reading Daphne Kalotay's debut novel, Russian Winter, a work that near-seamlessly marries political terror, romance, and questions about love, art, truth and the risks we are willing to take to protect them."
  • Dawn from She Is Too Fond of Books concluded: "The people, the settings, the history, and--most of all--the clever layered plot make Russian Winter a rare 'un-put-down-able' novel. I didn't want it to end."
  • Emily Beardsley writing for the Baltimore Jewish Times noted: "Her story pulls at the reader's heartstrings and truly invokes an emotionalism that is the sign of a great writer. . . . Be warned--once started, this book will be highly difficult to put down."
Russian Winter was an Indie Next pick for September 2010. A reader's guide is available on the Harper Perennial website. To learn more about Daphne Kalotay, visit her website or Facebook page.

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.

Russian Winter at an Indie
Russian Winter at Powell's
Russian Winter at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by HarperCollins / Harper Perennial, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780061962172

Click for more

28 April 2011

Review: Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler

Pearl Tull never did learn much about love. As she lies dying in her Baltimore home—too stubborn to go to a hospital—she has only her elder son at her bedside. While waiting for her death, Pearl and her children reflect on the past.

Anne Tyler's Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant follows the Tull family from the time Pearl marries in the 1920s until she is bedridden more than fifty years later. Each chapter reveals the truth as it is perceived by Pearl or by one of her children: Cody, Ezra, and Jenny. The family history is not presented chronologically; instead, incidents are remembered in a more natural manner, and some events are told from more than one perspective. By the end, Tyler has painted a complex, multilayered picture of a troubled family.

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant helps us understand what happens to a family that fails to make close bonds. Lacking nurturing instincts, Pearl was a neglectful and distant parent, often crossing the line into abuse. When Pearl's obsessive-compulsive tendencies drove her husband away, he left in the middle of night without saying good-bye to his kids. Such circumstances often draw siblings together, but not the Tulls. From the outside, Cody (a time-management expert), Ezra (a restaurant owner), and Jenny (a pediatrician) became productive, successful adults. But when you get to know them better, you can see the lingering effects of their upbringing. For example, they have difficult relationships, fear abandonment, and have issues with self-esteem. They long for love and security but don't know how to recognize them. Will they find the keys to happiness by gaining a better understanding of their past?

Although the Tulls are fairly unlikable and the themes are difficult, Tyler doesn't wallow in the negative. The novel is a study in family dynamics and in how problems can be carried through the generations, unless something breaks the cycle.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Audible, 13 h, 20 min), read by Suzanne Toren, one of my go-to narrators. Toren was an excellent match for this novel, increasing my enjoyment of the book. My full audio review will be published by AudioFile magazine.

A reading guide is available on the Barnes & Nobel website, where you'll also find more information about Anne Tyler and her work.


Published by Ballantine, 1996 (originally published 1982)
ISBN-13: 9780449911594
YTD: 42
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: B-
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

Click for more

27 April 2011

Wordless Wednesday 127

Grape Hyacinth, 2011


For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

Click for more

26 April 2011

Today's Read: Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen

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.

When my husband, Michael, died for the first time, I was walking across a freshly waxed marble floor in three-inch Stuart Weitzman heels, balancing a tray of cupcakes in my shaking hands.

Shaking because I'd overdosed on sugar—someone had to heroically step up and taste-test the cupcakes, after all—and not because I was worried about slipping and dropping the tray, even though these weren't your run-of-the-mill Betty Crockers. These were molten chocolate and cayenne-pepper masterpieces, and each one was topped with a name scripted in edible gold leaf. (opening paragraphs)
—From Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen (Washington Square Press, 2011)

Skipping a Beat at Powell's
Skipping a Beat at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Click for more

25 April 2011

Review: Dead of Wynter by Spencer Seidel

Alice Wynter Dunn has secrets that not even her husband of eighteen years knows about. She left Redding, Maine, in 1984 to go to college and has never looked back. As far as Alice and her twin, Chris, were concerned, their senior year in high school couldn't have ended too soon.

When she answered the middle-of-the-night phone call informing her that her mean-spirited, alcoholic father had committed suicide, Alice wasn't sure what to think. By the time she arrived home to help her mother, Alice learned that her father had actually been murdered and her brother, the prime suspect, is nowhere to be found.

Spencer Seidel's Dead of Wynter is a mix of thriller, family drama, and murder mystery that is told in the present with flashbacks to the year that everything changed for the twins. Seidel reveals the Wynters' past in small bits that are well timed to give a foundation for the family's current behavior. The action scenes are exciting, but the mystery is foreshadowed enough that the impact of the ending is somewhat weakened.

The plot and setting would translate beautifully to film, but as a novel, the story is uneven. You are left wanting to know more about the Wynters and the detective as well as the town itself. There are very few characters outside the immediate family, which not only narrows the answer to the mystery but limits one's perspective of the family.

Regardless, Dead of Wynter is a fast, entertaining read. I am looking forward to Seidel's continued growth as a writer.

Dead of Wynter at Powell's
Dead of Wynter at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs

Published by Publishing Works, May 2011
ISBN-13: 9781935557692
YTD: 41
Source: Review (print) (see review policy)
Rating: C
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

Click for more

Domestic Violets Giveaway: Winner

I'm pleased to announce the winner of the Domestic Violets giveaway, sponsored by the publisher. The first winner will receive a will receive an ARC of Matthew Norman's up-coming novel. Congratulations to

Florinda from The 3 R's Blog!

Hope you enjoy the book.

Thanks to Harper Perennial for sponsoring this giveaway.

Click for more

23 April 2011

Weekend Cooking: Dinner with My Grandmothers

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.

_______

Last year I kicked myself for not having enough free time to enter TLC Book Tours' contest to have tea with author Adriana Trigiani. Everyone who was lucky enough to win had a fabulous time, and they are still talking about it. This year the contest is for lunch and a walking tour with Adriana, and I can enter by following this guideline:
Make a recipe given to you by your grandparents, take a picture of the recipe you made, post about it on your blog, and then post the link on Adriana’s Facebook page.
I can do that! And I can go one better: Today's meal features a recipe from each of my grandmothers.

I will be forever grateful that I was able to really know my grandparents. In fact, I lost my last grandparent when I was in my forties. I loved knowing my grandmothers as peers and loved sharing recipes with them. My family has an abundance of great cooks who are easygoing and inventive in the kitchen. Because both my grandmothers lived nearby, I have many, many memories of helping them in the kitchen.

The lamb recipe comes from my maternal grandmother. My mother's parents liked to travel, and my grandmother told me that this dish was served on trains "going west to San Francisco" in the 1950s. On the train, diners also got rolls, peas, and new potatoes, but in my house, the lamb is often served with my paternal grandmother's famous noodle pudding. One taste of this dish, and you'll forget about the pile of dirty dishes left in its wake.

The recipes are exactly as I got them from my grandmothers.

Noodle Pudding
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup melted sweet butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 pound creamed cottage cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 pound medium noodles, cooked
  • 1/2 cup cornflake crumbs
  • extra butter
Beat yolks with the melted butter and sugar. Fold in the cottage cheese and sour cream and then the noodles. Beat the whites until stiff and fold in with the rest. Place in a buttered 2-quart casserole and sprinkle with the crumbs. Dot with butter. Bake 45 minutes at 375F.

My dad's mom gave me this very cool egg separator!

Lamb Casserole
  • 2 1/2 pounds boned lamb
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 pound sweet butter
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium turnips, peeled and chunked
  • 1 heaping tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup tomato puree or sauce
  • 1 pint broth, lamb or chicken
  • salt and pepper
Cut lamb into bite-size pieces. Melt the butter in the pan, add the lamb and sprinkle with pepper. Let cook, but do not brown. Add the onion and celery and stir until the vegetables are soft. As the liquid evaporates, add the flour. Stir until it starts to brown and then add tomato puree and broth. Bring to a boil and add the carrots and turnips and let boil until sauce gets shiny. Taste and add salt as needed.

Pour into a casserole. Cover and bake until done.

My notes written on the recipe: Sauce doesn't really get thick, this is tasty even without herbs, bake about 40 minutes or so at 350F or 375F.



Enjoy!! Be sure to visit Adriana's Facebook page or click on the cute I ♥ Adriana button to learn more about the contest.


Click for more

22 April 2011

Imprint Friday: Island beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

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.

First, just take a moment to look at the fabulous cover Harper Perennial is using for Isabel Allende's Island beneath the Sea. Isn't it wonderful? One shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but in this case you can rest assured that the novel inside is just as stunning.

Here's the publisher's summary:

Born a slave on the island of Saint-Domingue—the daughter of an African mother she never knew and a white sailor who brought her into bondage—Zarité, known as Tété, survives a childhood of brutality and fear, finding solace in the traditional rhythms of African drums and in her exhilarating initiation into the mysteries of voodoo.

When twenty-year-old Toulouse Valmorain arrives on the island in 1770, he discovers that running his father's plantation is neither glamorous nor easy. Marriage also proves problematic when, eight years later, he brings home a bride. But it is his teenaged slave, Tété, upon whom Valmorain becomes most dependent, as their lives intertwine across four tumultuous decades.

In Island Beneath the Sea, internationally acclaimed author Isabel Allende spins the unforgettable saga of an extraordinary woman determined to find love amid loss and forge her own identity under the cruelest of circumstances.
Pretty much all I needed to know about this book was that Allende was the author. But when I learned that the novel took place in the Caribbean in the late 1700s, I was even more intrigued. Allende has proven her ability to immerse the reader in a historical setting and draw believable characters; Island beneath the Sea does not disappoint her fans.

Zarité is strong in the face of what she cannot change and has the courage and will to survive and adapt. Life for a slave girl was not pretty and Allende doesn't sugar-coat the situation, accentuating the gulf separating Zarité's world from that of a plantation owner.

Other aspects of the plot that interest me are the elements of voodoo (a cultural force in both the Caribbean and New Orleans), the rebellion that led to Haiti's independence, and the gritty side of life in the American South in the years after the Revolution.

Here are some other thoughts:
  • Betsy Willeford, writing for the Herald Tribune: "Allende is deservedly renowned for her finely honed awareness of injustice, for her often nuanced description of life—whether in a house or a nation—under dictatorship. She is sometimes described as a writer of magic realism, and Haiti then and now is fraught with both."
  • Phyllis writing for the APOOO BookClub: "Besides being entertained (as well as one could be considering certain themes of the book), I was inspired and educated—I learned a lot. . . . I would recommend [the novel] to historical fiction fans with an interest in the Haitian Revolution, French colonialism, and the African Diaspora."
  • David Hendricks, writing for the San Antonio Express-News: "Reading Island Beneath the Sea can be a shortcut to understanding Haiti's longtime struggle and its new challenge of recovering from devastation. Along the way, readers also will be rewarded with an intriguing and wonderfully woven story."
To learn more about Isabel Allende and her work, visit her website. To get a taste of her writing style, see the teaser I posted last year.

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.

Island beneath the Sea at an Indie
Island beneath the Sea at Powell's
Island beneath the Sea at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by HarperCollins / Harper Perennial, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780061988257

Click for more

21 April 2011

Review: World without Fish by Mark Kurlansky

How often do you think about ocean fish? Perhaps once a week when you decide to have it for dinner or maybe for two weeks out of the year when you go the shore for vacation. Mark Kurlansky believes we should think about fish a great deal more than that.

As a result of poor commercial fishing practices, pollution, global warming, and food fads, we are losing species of fish at an alarming rate. As early as the mid-nineteenth century some scientists were concerned that our oceans could easily be fished out. But politics, people's livelihoods, and public indifference have maintained the status quo.

In World without Fish, Kurlansky discusses all of these problems and more in a thoughtful, easy-to-understand manner. Although the book is geared to a young audience, Kurlansky has not dumbed-down the language, nor does he discuss serious environmental concerns in a cutesy style. Different fonts, photographs, drawings, a graphic short story, sidebars, and other elements make the text easy and fun to read, but the vocabulary and information are scientific and educational.

The primary message of this short book is that we must make immediate changes to the way in which we harvest fish. Yet Kurlansky is not an alarmist; he's a truth-teller. He is sensitive to and aware of the cultural and economic concerns of commercial fishing. He presents the argument that sustainable fishing--just like sustainable farming--is not only possible but vital to the health of our planet.

After exploring how overfishing came about and many of its long-reaching environmental effects, Kurlansky details several solutions, some of which were proposed centuries ago. He then explains why sustainable fishing may be the best answer. He presents the problems faced by fishermen as well as by environmentalists. He explains the difference between the short-term view and the long-term view. Always, he is respectful.

World without Fish goes beyond environmental awareness by showing readers what they can do to help bring about change. The book contains lists of resources and organizations as well as easy ideas and tips for taking action. Kurlansky gives readers practical advice on how to make a difference when they're at the fish market or in a restaurant.

Highly recommended for readers of any age who want to know more about current environmental issues. Teachers and homeschoolers will find World without Fish to be a welcome addition to their curriculum.

On a personal note, I was happy to see that the little Seafood Watch guide I carry in my purse was featured in World without Fish. In fact, Kurlansky includes an updated copy of the guide in the back of the book. The guide is also available as a phone app at the Seafood Watch website (I've already downloaded it).

To learn more about Mark Kurlansky, visit his website. See also my spotlight of his book Cod and review of his book Salt. This review will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted by Julie at Booking Mama.


Published by Workman, April 2011
ISBN-13: 9780761156079
YTD: 40
Source: Review (print & audio) (see review policy)
Rating: A
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

Click for more

20 April 2011

Wordless Wednesday 126

Sundial Parts, 2011


For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

Click for more

19 April 2011

Today's Read: Fire Season by Philip Connors

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.

It's no wonder our Forest Service brethren think of us lookouts as the freaks on the peaks. We have, in the words of our forebear Edward Abbey, "an indolent, melancholy nature." Our walk home is always uphill. We live alone on the roof of the world, clinging to the rock like condors, fiercely territorial. We ply our trade inside a steel-and-glass room immaculately designed to attract lightning. Our purpose and our pleasure is to watch: study the horizon, ride out the storms, an eagle eye peeled for evidence of flame. (p. 47)
—From Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout by Philip Connors (Ecco, 2011)

Take a look at the book trailer for a bit of a bonus teaser!


Fire Season at Powell's
Fire Season at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Click for more

18 April 2011

Review: Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros

The roller coaster car of Abby Donovan's career is beginning to slow down. She's already had her day on Oprah, and she can't get past chapter four in her new novel. Her publicist thinks Abby needs to get a Twitter account to boost her sales and help her connect with her fans.

On her very first Twitter day, Abby meets Mark Baynard, who says he's a literature professor from Ole Miss on sabbatical in Europe. Abby hasn't had much luck with love, she's suffering writer's block, and her editor isn't returning her phone calls. All those problems seem to fade away, however, when she exchanges tweets with Mark. Abby is counting the days until she can meet her Twitter buddy in real life.

Teresa Medeiros's Goodnight Tweetheart: A Love Story in 140 Characters or Less is mostly a conversation between Mark and Abby rendered as if the two were DM'ing (direct messaging) each other on Twitter. I didn't count, but presumably each tweet met the 140-character limit. Abby and Mark's banter is, however, a little more thought out than most Twitter conversations; for example, there are no funny typos and very few instances of dropped articles or other means of shortening the text to meet the 140 limit. In only one case does Abby mistakenly send a somewhat embarrassing private tweet to her public stream.

Goodnight Tweetheart is a quick, light read that would be perfect for travel or for the beach. Fans of pop culture will appreciate the many television, movie, book, and music references Abby and Mark work into their conversation. There is also a fair amount of gadget/technology name-dropping. Unfortunately, the Twitter gimmick doesn't quite work. You'll soon forget that the couple is communicating on Twitter, and you have the impression that Abby and Mark could just as easily be instant messaging, texting, or emailing.

Book clubs will appreciate the reading guide included at the back of the novel. Questions focus on the meanings behind some of the pop culture references, the idea of finding love online, and how truthful people are about themselves in a public forum.


Published by Simon & Schuster / Gallery Books, 2011
ISBN-13: 9781439188156
YTD: 39
Source: Review (print & audio) (see review policy)
Rating: C
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

Click for more

Dead by Midnight Giveaway: Winners

I'm pleased to announce the winners of the Dead by Midnight giveaway, sponsored by the publisher. The first winner will receive a finished hardcover copy of Carolyn Hart's newest book and the second winner will receive an ARC. Congratulations to

Pam K from Pennsylvania
Yvann from the UK and Reading Fuelled by Tea


Hope you enjoy the book. Thanks to William Morrow/HarperCollins for sponsoring this giveaway.

Click for more

16 April 2011

Weekend Cooking: Kings of Pastry (Review)

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.

_______

While browsing through Netflix a few weeks ago, I ran across a documentary called Kings of Pastry, directed by Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker.

In France, the best of the best pastry chefs earn the privilege of wearing a red, white, and blue collar by passing a grueling three-day competition. The event is held only once every four years, and although everyone who enters can pass, very few end up meeting the judges' approval.

Competing chefs practice for years to perfect their techniques in show pieces, sugar work, baking, and decorating. Each competition has a different theme, so the particular pastries cannot be finalized until the theme is announced. Chefs work on their recipes for taste, presentation, decoration, technique, and speed.

Once the competition begins, chefs have only three days to create the required pieces for the judges. Their baking and sugar work are done in an unfamiliar kitchen and under weather and temperature conditions that cannot be accurately predicted. Reputations, money, and careers are on the line, and emotions are very close to the surface.

The documentary follows two chefs in particular -- one who lives in France and one who lives in the United States. The commitment to the competition involves years of effort outside normal work obligations, and the support of family, friends, and colleagues is critical.

A fascinating film that is well worth renting. The trailer gives you an idea of what the documentary is like.




Click for more

15 April 2011

Imprint Friday: Deep Down True by Juliette Fay

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.

Juliette Fay's second novel, Deep Down True, is grounded in an all-too-common life-changing event for contemporary women: divorce. Fay, however, doesn't stop there; instead she uses that base as a springboard to explore a variety of difficult modern issues. Here's the publisher's summary:

Newly divorced Dana Stellgarten has always been unfailingly nice--even to telemarketers--but now her temper is wearing thin. Money is tight, her kids are reeling from their dad's departure, and her Goth teenage niece has just landed on her doorstep. As she enters the slipstream of post-divorce romance and is befriended by the town queen bee, Dana finds that the tension between being true to yourself and being liked doesn't end in middle school . . . and that sometimes it takes a real friend to help you embrace adulthood in all its flawed complexity.
I am particularly interested in the idea that no matter how old we get, no matter our personal achievements, it can be so easy for women to find themselves reverting back to seventh-grade behavior. You see it in church groups, in local housing associations, at high school reunions, and even in social media communities.

Fay touches on other themes that will be sure to prompt discussions at book clubs and with your friends. Among these topics are eating disorders, the wisdom of always saying yes when one is asked to help, and the complex relationship separated parents have with each other and with their children.

Here are some other views on Deep Down True:
  • Swapna at S. Krishna's Books says: "Fay does an excellent job incorporating . . . important discussion points into the story and treats them very realistically. In fact, that is a word that perfectly describes this entire book--realistic."
  • Natalie at Book, Line, and Sinker notes: "I found myself wholly engrossed with Juliette Fay’s writing--honest and devoid of gimmicks. A book that could easily be categorized as ‘chick-lit’ becomes much more under Fay’s direction. Her prose is simple yet elegant."
  • Norah Piehl writing for Bookreporter says: "What seems on the surface to be a fairly lightweight, breezy sort of novel actually tackles a host of serious issues in a remarkably thoughtful fashion."
To learn more about Juliette Fay, visit her website where you can read an excerpt and view the book trailer. The publisher's website includes an author interview and discussion questions for the novel.

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.

Deep Down True at Powell's
Deep Down True at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Viking / Pamela Dorman Books, February 2011
ISBN-13: 9780143118510

Click for more

14 April 2011

Review: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

A Game of Thrones is the first book in George R. R. Martin's epic Song of Ice and Fire cycle. The world of the Seven Kingdoms is affected by ancient tales, clashing religions, longstanding powerful families, and shifting loyalties. Ruling over all is Robert Baratheon, who won the iron throne through the might of his armies and the help of his friend Eddard Stark.

This complex novel, told from the alternating points of view of a handful of characters, takes us deep into this world. We get to know the principal families, their seats of power, their lands, and their people. We learn of the Night's Watch, who guard the northern borders against the Wildlings and the Old Ones. We hear the old tales of dragons and direwolves.

Martin has created a world so real, it's difficult to convey how quickly you find yourself making your own alliances. Are you with upstanding Eddard Stark or the clever Tyrion Lannister? Maybe your heart goes out to Princess Daenerys, who is misused by her brother, or Arya, who wishes she could be a knight.

The setting is vaguely British or European (but there is a hint of the Moguls) and definitely medieval. There is ancient magic in the Seven Kingdoms, and strange creatures and beings can be seen their woods. Don't be misled, however; Martin's world is unique. It's not the land of The Lord of the Rings; we don't find elves and dwarfs and ents. It's not the fantasy of Harry Potter; there are no magic wands and wizard schools. The Seven Kingdoms have a kind of intimacy that makes you feel as if the story could have happened in our own world, a millennium or two ago.

A Game of Thrones is a solidly written saga of political intrigue, war, and families that would appeal to readers who like multilayered stories with realistic characters. This is an adult book that doesn't flinch from the harsher realities of a world divided between lords and peasants.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Random House; 33 h 53 min) read by Roy Dotrice. Dotrice well handles the difficult task of differentiating among dozens of characters from different socioeconomic classes and different kingdoms. He brings tension, drama, and emotion to the reading, enhancing the listener's connection with the story.


Published by Bantam, 2002 (originally published 1996)
ISBN-13: 9780553573404
YTD: 38
Source: Bought (print & audio) (see review policy)
Rating: A-
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

Click for more

13 April 2011

Wordless Wednesday 125

First Flower of the Season, after the Rain (2011)

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

Click for more

12 April 2011

Imprint Extra & Giveaway: Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman

I can't tell you how excited I am about today's Imprint Extra. Really. Matthew Norman's Domestic Violets is so new, there isn't even a picture of the cover on Harper Perennial's website. In fact, the book summary has yet to be written.

The best gushing description I could find comes from the Harper Perennial blog, The Olive Reader, posted last December:

Get ready to hear a lot about this book, because I’m going to start talking about it now and keep mentioning it constantly until next fall. It’s the story of Tom Violet, a struggling novelist with a soul-sucking office job whose father is a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist. Tom has a lot of problems: the aforementioned job and pain in the ass father, a terribly inconvenient crush on his assistant, a suspicion that his wife is sleeping with a guy she met at the gym, and, of course, the desperate desire to publish his novel. He’s kind of an idiot sometimes, but he never stops being sympathetic. I fell in love with him a little bit.
I admit I'm developing a bit of crush myself . . . and I've read only the first few chapters. What Erica didn't tell you in her description is that you'll also meet a neurotic dog, a brace of ex-stepmothers, a powerful literary agent, and other great characters. The novel is told from Tom's point of view and is written in an easygoing, almost conversational, style. Here's a sneak peek:
I open the door and find my dad sitting at my computer desk staring at his laptop and casually smoking a joint. The window is open and he's turned on the ceiling fan, but the entire upstairs smells like the inside of a VW van, and I have to actually wave a plume of smoke out of my face.

"Nice, Dad. Just make yourself right at home."

He coughs and snaps his computer shut with a loud thwack. From the sleepy stoned look on his face, I can't tell if he's been writing or napping.

"You know there is a child in the house, right?"

He holds the wiry little bud out, offering me some.

I look out into the hallway for signs of [my wife and daughter] and then close the door. "Alright, but I'm doing it under formal protest."

"I'll make sure it's noted in the official ledger," he says. (p. 59)
Later in the summer Domestic Violets will be spotlighted here in more depth for an Imprint Friday post, and my full review will appear a little closer to the book's publication date. Watch for some good buzz about this debut novel at BookExpo America in May and on book blogs over the summer.

To learn more about Matthew Norman, be sure to stop by his blog, The Norman Nation. In one of my favorite of his recent posts, Norman talks about his 17-month-old daughter's taste in reading material.

I know that it's going to be torture for some of you to wait until September to read Norman's debut novel. Worry no more! I'm thrilled to be able to offer one of my readers an advance reader copy of Domestic Violets. This giveaway is open to anyone with a U.S. or Canada mailing address. Just fill out the following form to be entered for a chance to win. I'll pick a winner on April 24 (and will delete all personal data at that time).




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.

Published by HarperCollins / Harper Perennial, September 2011
ISBN-13: 9780062065117

Click for more

11 April 2011

Review: March of the Wooden Soldiers (Fables 4) by Bill Willingham

In volume 4 of his Fables series, Bill Willingham takes a bit of darker turn than he did in the first novels. March of the Wooden Soldiers, includes much less humor and much more sorrow.

The book begins with Boy Blue's telling of the last days of life in the fable Homelands. A few hundred years ago, the Adversary's army finally breached the last fortress of the fable beings. The remaining characters either stayed to fight to the death or were given leave to flee. The survivors narrowly escaped to the mundy (our own) world before the last gates were locked, presumably forever.

Unfortunately, in modern-day Fabletown, Snow White (the deputy mayor) and Bigby Wolf (the sheriff) learn that at least one of those gates has been unlocked. Apparently, the Adversary's wooden army has been ordered to kill the fable beings and bring all the magical artifacts back to the occupied Homelands. A major battle ensues, and Willingham doesn't necessarily save all of our beloved characters.

The action is intense, bloody, and deadly. In the course of battle, some of the fable beings are revealed in their true state and with their full power--an awe-inspiring sight. This novel includes almost none of the art humor that made the first three volumes such fun to read. Joking would be inappropriate in these dire times.

March of the Wooden Soldiers demonstrates Willingham's versatility. The plot is intense, and the art matches the mood. Most of the panels are rendered in black, browns, and purples to match the story line. The page embedded here is one of the few done in brighter colors, but it shows no spoilers. Pinocchio and the Frog Prince are consoling Boy Blue. The three are on the stoop of their building in Fabletown. Note that Willingham, the writer of the Fables series, works with a team of illustrators.

As always, Willingham ties up the immediate plot lines by the end of the novel. At the same time, he moves the larger story arcs forward and teases us with clues of what's to come.


Published by Vertigo, 2004
ISBN-13: 9781401202224
YTD: 37
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

Click for more

One of Our Thusdays Is Missing Giveaway: Winner

I'm pleased to announce the winner of the One of Our Thursdays Is Missing giveaway, sponsored by the publisher. The winner will receive a finished hardcover copy of Jasper Fforde's newest book. Congratulations to

Sam from Toronto!

hope you enjoy the book.

Thanks to Viking Books for sponsoring this giveaway.

Click for more

09 April 2011

Weekend Cooking: Around the Southern Table by Sarah Belk

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.

_______

This week, I featured Carolyn Hart's Death on Demand Mystery series as part of the Moonlighting for Murder event hosted by Jen of Jen's Book Thoughts. Because the novels are set on an island off the coast of South Carolina, I thought it'd be fun to feature a southern cookbook as a sort of tie-in.

Although I've had Sarah Belk's Around the Southern Table since the early 1990s, I haven't cooked out of it as much as I'd like. On the other hand, I have read it cover to cover, I browse through it on occasion, and I use it as a reference.

This is the type of cookbook that holds a number of attractions for me besides the recipes. Here are some of the highlights:
  • The book contains historical information about many of the ingredients. (I didn't know Thomas Jefferson grew pomegranates.)
  • I love the literary quotes that introduce many of the recipes (from Carson McCullers to Pat Conroy to Civil War diaries).
  • I appreciate that Belk has slightly modernized dishes (less lard, more vegetable oil).
  • Belk has an easy to read, personable writing style.
Of course, I do love the sound of the recipes too! Before I get to the food, I want to give you a sense of Belk's style. Here's quote from her introduction to catfish:
Catfish is one of those foods whose basic goodness transcends all economic and social levels. Catfish suppers--complete with hush puppies, fries, coleslaw, and plenty of iced tea--create a kind of "get-down" camaraderie that is as warm and genuine as Southern hospitality itself. (p. 151)
And here she is talking about her cornmeal shortcakes with peaches and cream:
Whenever I indulge in a fresh peach, the kind so ripe and juicy you have to eat over the sink, my mind leaps back to summer mornings in my grandmother's kitchen where the scent from bowlfuls of the fruit permeated the entire room. The glorious simplicity of perfectly ripe peaches inspired this dessert. (p. 397)
Okay, so what about the recipes? Belk gives us the full range, from biscuits and breakfast to barbecue and desserts. As I mentioned, many of the recipes have been updated to eliminate some of the fats, but Belk still uses enough cream, butter, and bacon to keep the authentic flavors. Most of the ingredients are easy to find, even for a northerner living in a small town. Others, especially some of the fish and seafood, are not readily available in my area.

Belk has provided recipes for southern classics like cheese and grits, fried oysters, and hoppin' John. Her updated dishes include a soba noodle salad with cucumbers and spicy peanut dressing, smoked chicken salad with dried cherries and walnuts, and pork with apple-thyme sauce.

The index is very well compiled, making it easy to find what you're looking for. And I especially like chapter on beverages, which includes historical information about beer, wine, whiskey, and tea. There is a list of southern vineyards and a section with mail-order information (although it was put together before the days of easy Internet access).

My only complaint is that there are no photos or drawings in the cookbook. When a dish is completely new to me, I appreciate knowing what it's supposed to look like when I go to serve it.

Here's a vegetable dish I make in the winter months.

Carrots and Parsnips with Orange Butter and Chervil

Serves 4
  • ½ pound carrots, trimmed and peeled
  • 1½ cups freshly squeezed orange juice (may substitute half grapefruit juice)
  • ½ pound parsnips, trimmed and peeled
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Fresh chervil sprigs, to garnish (I've used parsley)
Cut carrots into 1½-inch pieces. Cut larger pieces lengthwise into sixths or eights; cut smaller pieces lengthwise into fourths, leaving tips of carrots whole if they are slender. (The idea is to make sure all the pieces are approximately the same length and width so they will cook evenly.)

In medium saucepan bring orange juice to boil. Add carrots, cover, and simmer 3 minutes. Meanwhile, peel parsnips and slice to same size as carrots. Add parsnips to carrots and simmer covered 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. With slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to serving dish and cover tightly to keep warm.

Bring orange to boil over high heat and reduce to 3 tablespoons. Off the heat, tilt pan and whisk in butter, piece by piece, allowing each piece to become thoroughly incorporated before adding next, returning pan to very low heat if sauce becomes too cool. Season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over vegetables, garnish with chervil, and serve immediately.

Published by Simon & Schuster, 1991
ISBN-13: 0671528335


There is a MR LINKY associated with this feature; if you can't see it, please click on the title of this post to find everyone's links.

Click for more

08 April 2011

Imprint Friday: The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead by Paul Elwork

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.

Paul Elwork's The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead is just a little bit creepy, exploring what happens when two teens claim to have found a way to unite living and dead. The novel takes us back to the easy years of the 1920s and follows a child's game that goes a bit too far:

Emily Stewart is the girl who will claim to stand between the living and the dead. She and her brother, Michael, are thirteen-year-old twins, privileged, precocious, wandering aimlessly around their family’s Philadelphia estate during the quiet summer of 1925. One day Emily discovers an odd physical tic—she can secretly crack a joint in her ankle so the sound seems to burst from midair. In their garden tea house, Emily and Michael gather the neighborhood children to fool them with these "spirit knockings." But soon this game of contacting the dead creeps into a world of adults still reeling from World War I. When the twins find themselves dabbling in the uncertain territory of human grief and family secrets, their game spins wildly out of control.

A layered, multigenerational story, The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead is a novel about family secrets, love triangles, missing people. It is about the desperate need to contact the departed, about faith and chicanery, and what we ultimately will do for forgiveness.
Are Emily and Michael bad kids or have they simply been left alone a little too much? After trying out their trick on a younger boy, "Emily could not forget the look on Albert Dunne's face when he believed Regina['s ghost] had joined them in the tea house. . . . [I]t was thrilling to see herself transformed in his eyes" (p. 58). What thirteen-year-old could resist that power? But when Emily sees the more serious results of their game, she begins to have second thoughts, wondering if she still wants to be The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead.

Here some other readers' thoughts:
  • From Publishers Weekly: "Interweaving Emily's experiences with those of several generations of family and friends devastated by tragic loss, Elwork paints an unforgettable portrait of individuals traumatized by death and unhinged by grief."
  • From Julie of Booking Mama: "I was blown away by how this book handled the issue of grief as well as the many different ways that people deal (or don't deal) with it."
  • From Michelle at That's What She Read: "[Emily] understands that she is fulfilling a need within people's lives, and her discovery of just how tenuous the line is between helping and hurting is fascinating."
To learn more about Paul Elwork, check out this interview at Eric Forbes's Book Addict's Guide to Good Books, where I learned that Paul and I have some interesting things in common. Paul also had a website and blog and shows up on Twitter.

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 Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead at an Indie

Published by Putnam / Amy Einhorn Books, March 2011
ISBN-13: 9780399157172

Click for more

07 April 2011

Dead on Demand (& Giveaway): What's in the Window?

If you read my review of Dead by Midnight on Monday and author Carolyn Hart's guest post on Tuesday, you know that Annie Darling owns the mystery bookstore Death on Demand on Broward's Rock. The store's front window is always up to date, displaying the latest mysteries.

Let's have a look:

Annie reached Death on Demand. As always, she was pleased and proud to see her storefront. A new cream-colored wooden sign hung about the front door. DEATH ON DEMAND gleamed in gold letters. A dagger dripping bright red drops pointed to the legend: The Lowcountry's Finest Mystery Bookstore.

Annie took an instant to glance in approval at the display behind the plate glass of the front window. Ranged on a beach chair were brightly jacketed books sure to please summer sun worshipers: (p. 15)



These all look good to me! Nice selection of books, Annie. Who wouldn't be tempted to come on inside to browse and buy?

In celebration of Moonlighting for Murder, I am pleased to offer one final hardcover copy and one advanced reader copy of Carolyn Hart's latest Death on Demand novel Dead by Midnight. This giveaway is open worldwide. I'll pick two winners via random number generator on April 17. The first winner will get the hardcover copy and the second will get the ARC. All you have to do to enter to win is fill out the following form.




To learn more about Carolyn Hart and her Death on Demand series, be sure to visit her website.

Don't forget to visit Jen's Book Thoughts for more posts in her Moonlight for Murder event.


Click for more

Copyright

All content and photos (except where noted) copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads 2008-2017. All rights reserved.

Quantcast

Thanks!

To The Blogger Guide, Blogger Buster, Tips Blogger, Our Blogger Templates, BlogU, and Exploding Boy for the code for customizing my blog. To Old Book Illustrations for my ID photo. To SEO for meta-tag analysis. To Blogger Widgets for the avatars in my comments and sidebar gadgets. To Review of the Web for more gadgets. To SuziQ from Whimpulsive for help with my comments section. To Cool Tricks N Tips for my Google +1 button.

Quick Linker

Services

SEO

  © Blogger template Coozie by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP