30 June 2011

Thursday Tea & Giveaway: Fallen by Karin Slaughter

The Book: Author Karin Slaughter started with two separate mystery series, one that stars Sara Linton, a pediatrician/coroner and one that stars Will Trent, an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Slaughter combined the series, and Fallen is the second book in which the two protagonists appear together. This is my first Slaughter book, so I'm grateful that she adds enough background (when appropriate and needed) to bring the new reader up to date.

Fallen starts with Will's partner, Faith Mitchell, single mother of a 4-month-old girl, as she is driving home from work on a Saturday afternoon. When she arrives at the home she shares with her mother, Faith finds her baby locked in a backyard shed, a dead man in the laundry room, the house ransacked, and a hostage situation in her mother's bedroom. Before police backup can arrive, Faith has killed two men but has no idea where her mother is.

A solid police procedural, Fallen is suspenseful and doesn't hide the nastier side of crime. Sara, Will, and Faith are complex characters, and we learn enough of their off-duty personalities to get a feel for them as unique individuals. Because I'm not quite halfway thorugh the audiobook, I can't yet reasonably predict the ending, but I can already tell that Slaughter isn't going to make it easy for me. The plot is easy to follow but is not straightforward or necessarily obvious.

The audio book is narrated by Shannon Cochran, who brings a hint of emotion and personality into the reading. Cochran nicely guides the listener, and her well-paced and easy-to-understand narration is a pleasure to listen to.

The Tea: Last week I was up in Maine, where we had a few cool, rainy afternoons, which were perfect for hot tea. I packed a small sampler tin of Singell tea from Harney & Sons and was looking forward to trying it. The description from the company says: "Singell is located outside the village of Kuresong, about halfway up to Darjeeling city. This was the best second flush darjeeling that we tasted this year. We loved its rich body and dark, fruity muscatel flavors." I liked it just fine, but I didn't love it. Maybe I should have added a little milk or sugar, but I drank it black and unsweetened (as always).

The Assessment: Because Sara, Will, and Faith live in Georgia, I can pretty much guarantee they drink tea. Doesn't everyone in the South drink tea? But I am also sure they're likely drinking their tea in a tall glass with sweetener and lots of ice. Would they drink Singell tea? I'm going to say no.

The giveaway: Thanks to audiobook producers AudioGo, I'm thrilled to be able to offer two copies of the unabridged audiobook of Fallen. These are CD copies and I can send them anywhere in the world. To enter, simply fill out the form, and I'll pick two winners on July 7. Remember, this one is open worldwide.



Fallen at Powell's
Fallen at Book Depository
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Thursday Tea was the brainchild of Anastasia at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog.

Published by AudioGo, 2011 (audiobook edition)
ISBN-13: 9781609982645
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)
FTC: I buy all teas myself, I am not a tea reviewer.

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29 June 2011

Wordless Wednesday 136

Blue Iris, 2011


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28 June 2011

Spend a Summer Day with Elin Hilderbrand (with Recipes)

There is nothing like being near the beach in the summer, and Nantucket is one of the nicest places to walk, read, and get some sun. Elin Hilderbrand knows this well, and her familiarity with the island adds an authenticity to her novels.

Now that summer is officially here and the kids are out of school, it's time to get outdoors. If you happen to be land-locked without much hope of getting to the ocean, don't fret. Elin's newest novel, Silver Girl, will transport you to Nantucket, letting you experience the waves, the salt-scented air, and the charm of the island through her words.

Silver Girl centers around Meredith and Connie, two women who are facing life-changing problems (such as the end of a marriage) and long-standing issues (such as the rift in their friendship). Although they have drifted apart in recent years, they turn to each other and to Nantucket, hoping to find answers and some peace. Nothing is ever simple, however, and Meredith and Connie have a way to go before they can see the possibilities of their future.

You don't have to be jealous of Meredith and Connie's summer, however, because I have some treats in store for you. I am so excited that I can help you imagine what it would be like to spend a glorious day on Nantucket. Elin has graciously offered to share not only the perfect Nantucket day but also two recipes for dishes mentioned in the novel! You know how much I love to cook, and I almost squealed when I saw that Elin sent recipes for two summer dishes that make use of one of the most abundant of seasonal vegetables.

Let's get this summer day started already--we have a lot to do!

One Perfect Nantucket Day by Elin Hilderbrand
Let's be clear: I live on Nantucket because I love the summertime. I have launched a career where I actually go to the beach to work, since my work is writing about the beach, and since I'm old-school and still write longhand in legal pads. Now, that said, my life has the demands that every other life has: deadlines, meetings, children (three children, two of whom play all-star Little League Baseball, which puts me on hot metal bleachers instead of on my towel for more hours than I might perhaps choose) and housework. So although I have perfected every possible way to enjoy the summertime, I rarely get to enjoy a string of days in the relaxing fashion which I'd like. However, I have a blueprint for the best 18-hour day on Nantucket, and I'd like to share it with you.

Rise early. Nantucket is the far east of the United States, and today for example, June 14, the sun rose at 5:18. Let's get out of bed at 6 a.m. and have a cup of coffee on the deck. My house overlooks the 18th hole of the Miacomet Golf Course and the ocean beyond. And for our purposes, my house is your house. At 6:15, the sprinklers come on. Sip your coffee, start a new novel (I hear Silver Girl is pretty good) and enjoy the mellow sunshine. At 7:00, go for an hour's walk on one of Nantucket's many connecting bike paths. The Cliff Road bike path is my favorite as part of it overlooks Tupancy Links and Nantucket Sound. Go home, eat a bowl of berries and a scone that you've picked up from Mark-Et, and take an outdoor shower. Around 10, meander into town. Nantucket's downtown has cobblestone streets and unique shopping and restaurants, old whaling captains homes and steepled churches. My favorite stores for women's clothes are Erica Wilson, Hepburn, and Ladybird Lingerie. The Bartlett Farm truck is on the corner of Main and India. Stop and buy an armful of gladiolas, just because.

At noon, pick up a sandwich from Something Natural (my favorite is the avocado, cheddar and chutney on herb bread) and go to Steps Beach. This is a harbor facing beach with gentle waves and beautiful dunes covered in Rosa rugosa. Swim, read, sleep, repeat. Around 4:30, take a walk to the right and stop in for a cocktail at the Galley Beach restaurant. Or, if you have your kids, keep going down to the Jetties and buy them a Popsicle.

That night, get a babysitter. After all, you're on vacation! Book the back table at the Company of the Cauldron. There's a different set menu every night, and there's a harp player, and the back garden is tented and extremely private. Afterwards, pop down to the Boarding House for a nightcap, and ask the bartender, Tom, to play "Daydream Believer." Sing along. You've had the perfect day.
Truly, what could be better than this? Elin is a woman after my own heart--the perfect blend of exercise (all that walking!), eating, drinking, reading, and relaxing. Ahhhhh.

I noticed she mentioned a market and a farm truck; that's good because you'll need to stop off to pick up ingredients for tomorrow's meals. But what to serve? No worries, Elin has that covered too. Here are two dishes that were part of Meredith and Connie's summer on Nantucket and can be a part of your summer too, no matter where you live.

Chilled Summer Squash Soup
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 4 cups summer squash, sliced into discs
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • salt & pepper to taste
Melt butter in a stockpot. Add onion and sauté until soft, 6-7 minutes. Add flour and stir for 1 minute. Add summer squash, broth, wine, and thyme. Simmer, partially covered, over low heat for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow soup to cool to room temperature.

Place cooled soup in a blender and puree until smooth. Return soup to stockpot, add heavy cream, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature or chill until cool.

Variation: Omit thyme and instead add 1 tablespoon curry powder. Prepare soup as described above. In a food processor, puree 1/2 cup sour cream and 2 tablespoons mango chutney. Top soup with the chutney cream. Yum!
_____
Let me pause a second. Wow! Yum. I will have to try both versions. This soup sounds so refreshing and would be the perfect starter for a meal centered on a simple grilled fish or meat.
_____
Summer Veggie Pasta with Mustard Cream Sauce
  • 1 pound linguine or other pasta
  • 2 large shallots, diced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons country Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup julienned fresh basil
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to taste
Cook pasta to al dente and rinse in a colander.

In a 3-quart saucepan, sauté shallots in olive oil until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add zucchini and sauté for additional 3-4 minutes. Add wine and cook down, stirring, 3-4 minutes. Add mustard and stir, then add the heavy cream, and cook over medium heat until sauce comes together. Add fresh basil, then toss with pasta. Season with salt and pepper and top with Parmesan cheese.

Note: This is excellent with Italian sausage that has been crumbled and cooked, and added to the sauce at the same time as the basil. You can substitute other vegetables for the zucchini: asparagus, mushrooms, etc. Yum!
______
Okay, I'm starving now. Vegetarian or with sausage? Hummm, perhaps made twice so I can try each version. I'm always looking for new ways to use zucchini, and these dishes sound wonderful. I hope there is summer squash in my CSA basket this week; if not, I'm buying it at the farmers' market.

Thanks so much Elin. I cannot wait to get into the kitchen and give these dishes a try. They say "summer" and would be part of a fabulous lunch or dinner on the terrace, with the sound of the waves in the distance. In my case, I'll be eating on the deck in between reading Silver Girl and dreaming of the beach.

Silver Girl at Powell's
Silver Girl at Book Depository
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Published by Hachette Book Group / Reagan Arthur Books, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780316099660

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27 June 2011

Forgotten Giveaway: Winners

I'm pleased to announce the winners of the Forgotten giveaway, sponsored by the publisher. Each winner will receive a copy of the book. Congratulations to


Carrie K from Books and Movies
Heather F from Raging Bibliomania



Hope you enjoy the book as much as I did!

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Imprint Extra: David Anthony and the Mixing of Genres

On Friday, I introduced you to David Anthony's Something for Nothing, which asks just how far family man Martin Anderson will go to maintain his extravagant lifestyle. As I mentioned earlier, one of the intriguing aspects about David's debut novel is that it seems to defy categorization.

I hope you took the time to watch the video interview (put together by Algonquin Books) I posted last week, in which David introduces his novel and discusses the bag-of-money concept. Today, David is back to talk to us about about blending genres.

Mixing Genres: The Suburban Noir

Someone asked me recently about the genre of my novel, Something for Nothing. "I mean, is it a thriller?" she asked. "Or a domestic kind of thing?"

It was the question I had both hoped for and feared. Hoped for because I think my book is actually an interesting blend of these two genres. Feared because I know that this sounds like a bit of a cop-out. Or, worse, as if I'm just indecisive.

As best I can remember, my answer to this question began with a caveat: I didn't start out with any sort of formula in mind. Instead, I just had a place (northern California), a time (1974, the height of the Arab oil embargo), and a situation (a protagonist, Martin Anderson, owns a small craft airplane business and has fallen into serious debt and so decides to accept an offer to fly heroin up from Mexico in order to preserve his lavish suburban lifestyle—one that includes race horses, a deep-sea fishing boat, and a cabin in Tahoe).

But I also explained that although the book revolves around the heroin trade (with several trips back and forth from the San Francisco Bay Area to Ensenada, Mexico), this really isn't a white-middle-class version of The Wire. No seedy heroin dens or scary needles here. Instead, Martin really only takes a tentative step or two over the edge of his safe suburban cordon sanitaire and into the criminal nether world. And this is by design, because in fact it's the borderland between these two spheres that I'm interested in. Or rather, what I'm really focused on is the emotional fallout (the anxiety) that comes from inhabiting this unstable borderland.

My term for the genre that best depicts this liminal space is suburban noir. And I think that this is the genre that best links the thriller and the domestic novel. As I said, I didn't set out to write within a specific genre, but as I started creating Martin's response to his situation, I realized that I had placed him in a noir-like space, one where the boundary between middle-class security and criminal danger has become porous. Think for example of the William Macey character in Fargo, the Fred MacMurray character in Double Indemnity, or the Janet Leigh character in Psycho. One minute their lives are secure if a bit mundane and perhaps disappointing; but then they step over the invisible dividing line, and they're in emotional freefall.

I should add, though, that this space is also fun—certainly for me as a writer, but also, hopefully, for readers. Because the anxious clashes between these worlds is both titillating and, to my mind anyway, the source for often comic tension. On the one hand, this stems from the oddness and incongruity of Martin's encounters with the denizens of the drug world and a police detective that enters the picture. But it also derives from his increasingly odd behavior while at home in the suburbs. Whether sneaking into people's homes and snooping around, lying to his wife about what he's been up to, or burying money in the neighborhood orchard, Martin's erratic behavior is, I think, the mark of his increasing hysteria. And again, this unsettled and sometimes comic quality is what accompanies Martin's location between cultural spaces (middle class and criminal) and genres (thriller and domestic novel).

Or at least that's what I'm hoping for—a mix of the pleasantly suspenseful and the darkly but awkwardly comic, both of which expose the familiar locale of the suburbs for what they are: a pretend space teetering nervously on the edge of the very things they're designed to hold at bay. This is how the suburban noir works, and hopefully it's what readers will find and enjoy in the book.

So to answer the usefully difficult question about the genre of my novel: It's neither a thriller nor a domestic novel. In fact, it's both.
Thanks so much, David; I love the term suburban noir. It's the perfect descriptor of the mix of thriller and mystery, humor and action, domestic and underworld that readers will find in Something for Nothing.

For more about David's novel be sure to check out the Imprint Friday post that spotlights this terrific debut.

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.

Something for Nothing at Powell's
Something for Nothing at Book Depository
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Published by Algonquin Books, 2011
ISBN-13: 9781616200220

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25 June 2011

Weekend Cooking: Review: Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

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.

_______

Love him or hate him, few people are neutral when it comes to Anthony Bourdain. It seems only fitting, though, because Bourdain himself is rarely neutral in his opinions.

In the years after he wrote his first memoir (Kitchen Confidential), Bourdain found himself in the rather awkward situation of being a member of the gang of celebrity chefs that he once raked over the coals. Although this has made him somewhat more generous in his assessment of some food stars, he has not--thank god-- lost his bite. Bourdain still calls a spade a spade.

In Medium Raw Bourdain reflects on food trends, the Food Network, friends and enemies, fatherhood, and memorable meals. Bourdain may have mellowed a bit, but he doesn't back down from naming his villains and heroes. You may be surprised by who fits in which column; for example, Alice Waters = evil but Jamie Oliver = good. Bourdain isn't flippant in his name-calling, though, devoting a whole chapter to the likes of Alice and a couple of pages to Jamie.

Some of the more interesting parts of the book are his insider assessments of meals, restaurants, and industry leaders. Bourdain takes us from the streets of Vietnam to the poshest establishments in New York City, describing dishes, tastes, and drinks in such detail that you have to stop reading every once in a while to try to imagine what you're missing. Throughout, he addresses current food trends and American sensibilities, makes predictions, and offers advice (his "grandma rule" is one I've always believed in too).

Bourdain is as hard on himself as he is on his peers. The stories he tells about his past are not always pretty, but what we learn of his current family life is reassuring, showing just how smart he has been about his unexpected success. Just in case you think he's gotten sappy, have no fear: The memoir is pure Bourdain, still upset about a lot of what he sees, but no longer just plain angry.

Give it me quickly: Although somewhat mellowed, Anthony Bourdain has lost none of his trademark wit and bite in his latest look at food, restaurants, celebrity chefs, and American tastes.

Medium Raw at Powell's
Medium Raw at Book Depository
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Published by HarperCollins / Ecco, 2011 (paperback)
ISBN-13: 9780061718953
YTD: 59
Source: review (see review policy).
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


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24 June 2011

Imprint Friday: Something for Nothing by David Anthony

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Algonquin 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.

Today's novel is a genre-bender, making it a great pick for almost everyone. David Anthony's Something for Nothing takes place in the 1970s and follows Martin Anderson's quest for material wealth . . . never mind that he's gotten seriously in debt and is wondering how to keep his kneecaps intact.

I have a couple of exciting things to share with you, but first I'll start (as always) with the publisher's summary:

Martin Anderson has a racehorse, a deep-sea fishing boat, a vacation home in Tahoe, and a Caddy in the garage. But his life is in freefall. It’s the 1970s, and with the arrival of the oil crisis and gas rationing, his small aircraft business is tanking, as is his extravagant suburban lifestyle. Martin keeps many secrets from his wife, such as his mounting debt and his penchant for sneaking into neighborhood homes and making off with small keepsakes. So when he’s given the opportunity to clear his debt by using one of his planes to make a few drug runs between California and Mexico, Martin doesn’t think twice . . . or at all, for that matter.

Things quickly spiral out of control when Martin’s simple plan lands him in the midst of gun-toting Mexican thugs. After a narcotics agent arrives on his doorstep, he becomes increasingly paranoid, both about the police and about his associates in the drug world—a feeling that seems justified when he stumbles upon the scene of a brutal double murder. Martin wants out, but he wants his money, too.

Deeply funny and suspenseful, David Anthony’s novel is a perfect snapshot of the excesses of American culture.
So we have social commentary, murder, humor, suspense, and thriller . . . truly something for everyone in this witty debut novel. What would you do in the heady days of the 1970s, when everything seemed possible and drugs and travel were easy? Martin is so sure he can have it all. Nothing to it—just one simple little flight to Mexico once a month for a year. Easy peasy. If you're thinking there must be a catch, you'd be right.

There's a lot to like about this novel, but two aspects really stand out. First is the time period. I was in college during the early 1970s, and in my mind, Anthony brilliantly re-creates the era of Patty Hearst, the oil embargo, and the Nixon administration. The second is the complexity of Martin, who at heart is a family man but who at the same time wants the extravagant lifestyle that pushed him just a little bit too far in debt and a little bit too beholden to the wrong sort of people.

In addition, as I mentioned, I like the mixing of genres. Author David Anthony has a lot to say about trying to place Something for Nothing into a specific category or type of novel, and I am thrilled to be able to share with you some of his thoughts. Today, I have a you've-seen-it-here-first video of Anthony comparing his book with other novels that share similar characteristics. On Monday, he will be back at Beth Fish Reads to talk more about genre and the difficulty of pigeonholing novels.

Now, take a couple of minutes to see this never-before-posted video of Anthony discussing his novel (no spoilers!):


The bag-of-money idea has always been intriguing, and the personality of the individual who finds the loot becomes a driving force for the story line. Martin is such a mix of bad and good, smart and stupid, selfish and caring that I just had to keep reading.

Early reviewers have agreed with me, praising Anthony's skills at character development and at capturing the 1970s:
  • From Kirkus Reviews: "Where this book exceeds the expectations of its formula is in the finesse and wit with which Anthony handles both the setting and the swaggering, self-absorbed but often likable protagonist—he captures the ethos of the '70s and the soul of sad-sack Martin admirably, and the links to our own time are compelling."
  • From Publishers Weekly: "The parallels Anthony draws between the 1974 economic crisis and our own are successful precisely because they're not overt, just like his depiction of Martin as an antihero succeeds because his ridiculous antics are laced with a yearning to belong that's so intense it borders on deranged innocence, rendering him the most lovable drug smuggler in ages."
  • The Daily Rumpus: "Anthony [is] a young writer who, without a single anachronistic misstep, has fabricated a '70s period piece complete with a toupee-wearing hero who thinks, acts, and talks exactly as I would expect him to."
Come back on Monday for David Anthony's thoughts on genre and on the spaces that exist between the classic categories.

This book was spotlighted as part of both my Imprint Fridays feature and my Get to know Algonquin Books feature. For more information about the imprint, please read Executive Editor Chuck Adams's introductory letter, posted here on January 7, 2011.

Something for Nothing at Powell's
Something for Nothing at Book Depository
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Published by Algonquin Books, 2011
ISBN-13: 9781616200220

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23 June 2011

Review: Homelands (Fables 6) by Bill Willingham

If you like fairy tale retellings, adult humor, and graphic novels, you can't beat the Fables series by Bill Willingham. In the sixth entry, Homelands, we follow two principal stories.

The first tale reveals what happens to Jack (as in "and the Beanstalk," "and Jill," "Be Nimble," and more) after he disappears from Fabletown. It seems that he looted the town's treasury and then lit out for Hollywood to become a movie producer. He wants to make a trilogy of his own life story that will be the biggest fantasy ever to make it to the big screen.

Things don't go quite the way Jack had hoped, and the story marks the jumping-off point for the Jack of Fables series (which I plan to read).

The rest of Homelands focuses on Boy Blue and his attempt to infiltrate the Fables' original world, which is currently under the control of the Great Adversary. His ultimate motivation is to rescue the love of his life, Miss Red Riding Hood, and to defeat the enemy, if at all possible. In this tale, we learn some truths about Blue, Pinocchio, Geppetto, and Mowgli, among other familiar characters. We also see how Fabletown is faring under the Charming administration.

As I've said before, the people and creatures of the Fables books are not your childhood friends. The characters we meet have seen generations of life and several worlds, and they've grown and changed. Willingham's novels are wonderfully illustrated by a team of artists, who add action, emotion, and details to the basic plot.

Give it to me quickly: World-wise fairy tale characters tackle modern problems in this graphic novel series. Fables 6 focuses primarily on Jack, Geppetto, and Boy Blue.


Published by DC Comics / Vertigo, 2006
ISBN-13: 9781401205003
YTD: 58
Source: bought (see review policy).
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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22 June 2011

Wordless Wednesday 135

Maine Sunset, 2011

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21 June 2011

Today's Read: Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

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.

In my life, in my world, I took it as an article of faith that chefs were unlovable. That's why we were chefs. We were basically . . . bad people—which is why we lived the way we did, this half-life of work followed by hanging out with others who lived the same life, followed by whatever slivers of emulated normal life we had left to us. Nobody loved us. Not really. How could they, after all? As chefs, we were proudly dysfunctional. We were misfits. We knew we were misfits, we sensed the empty parts of our souls, the missing parts of our personalities, and this was what had brought us to our profession, had made us what we were. (pp. 1-2)
—From Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain (HarperCollins / Ecco, 2011 [paperback])

Medium Raw at Powell's
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20 June 2011

Review: Forgotten by Cat Patrick

London Lane can remember the future but not the past. Every night her memories are erased, and she wakes up to a unfamiliar world. The good news is that she remembers her future; thus she recognizes everything and everyone who plays a part in her life to come. That means she knows her house, her mom, her school, and her town. What she doesn't know is what she wore to school the day before, the names of people who aren't in her future, her homework assignments, and her childhood.

Every night before she goes to bed, London records her day so she can live her tomorrow as normally as possible. She and her mom have it all under control until the day London has a real memory--one from her childhood. As past and future collide, London is confronted with events that she must learn to accept and is haunted by the possibility that she can change what's to come.

Cat Patrick's young adult novel Forgotten is founded on a classic premise: If you know the future, can you change events? Should you change them? Should you tell your friends what will happen? London Lane's story, however, has a unique perspective. What if you knew your future but didn't know your past? At least some of your tomorrows would lose their context, making it difficult to understand how your life will play out.

With its mix of humor, teen trauma, and deeper tragedies, Forgotten is both a quick read and a novel that is perfect for book clubs. Besides the ramifications of knowing the future, discussion topics include parent-child relationships, teacher-student relationships, the limits (if any) of one's responsibility to help others, personal privacy and trust, and the circumstances (if any) when it's okay to hide the truth to protect those you love.

Forgotten is an Indie Next pick for Summer 2011. If you'd like to read the novel, remember that there's still time to enter my giveaway: Two of my readers have a chance to win a copy of Forgotten (U.S./Canada mailing address only; for details, click the link).

Give it to me quickly: Teenage London Lane can "remember" her future but not her past; when she foresees unhappiness, should she use her special knowledge to try protect those she loves?

Forgotten at Powell's
Forgotten at Book Depository
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Published by Hachette Book Group / Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780316094610
YTD: 57
Source: review (see review policy).
Rating: B-
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

This review will also be linked at Julie's blog Booking Mama: "Every Saturday, [she hosts] a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books."

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18 June 2011

Weekend Cooking: Food and the Arts

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 you know, I collect all kinds of cookbooks. A while back I shared some books inspired by literature; today I'll talk about some inspired by the arts.

You might not know that Impressionist painter Claude Monet was as particular about his food as he was about his painting. Monet's days in Giverny had a rhythm: up at dawn to paint and draw, luncheon at 11:30, and then back to work until the sunlight faded.

Monet's gardens and paintings reflect his love of food and drink: from formal meals served on beautiful blue, white, and yellow china to picnics served from baskets on a cloth spread under the trees. I find it fascinating that Monet kept notes on his culinary adventures, including recipes from his own home and comments about meals he ate in the city and recipes received from friends.

Claire Joyes's Monet's Table (Simon & Schuster, 1989) is based on Monet's handwritten cooking journals. Chef de Cuisine Joel Robuchon tested and adapted each recipe that appears in the cookbook to make sure that modern cooks will be able to successfully reproduce the dishes. When you look at the vast variety of recipes, from simple to elegant, it's hard to remember how different Monet's late-nineteenth-century kitchen was from ours.

The book is filled with beautiful photographs of Giverny (inside and out), Monet's original journals, some of the finished dishes, and--of course--his paintings. The text is as interesting as the recipes, and the intimacy of the book should be of little surprise when one realizes that Joyes is married to one of Monet's descendants and lives at Giverny.

Ballet dancers Heather Watts and Jock Soto are well-known for two things: dance and food. Huh? Like me, you probably thought that all professional dancers pretty much shunned food. Not so for this couple. In fact, their culinary talents are so well known, they've been asked to host meals for the famous, like Charles Kuralt.

Each chapter and menu is introduced by a personal statement from Heather and/or Jock, and there we learn a bit about the hectic schedule of a professional dancer and that even seasoned cooks can feel frazzled before the guests arrive.

The recipes range from fancy holiday meals of poached salmon and stuffed goose to simple meals with family friends consisting of garlic bread and lasagna. Our Meals: Making a Home for Family and Friends (Riverhead Books, 1991) makes for good reading and good cooking.

In the late 1970s Margaret Wood worked as painter Georgia O'Keeffe's companion. Wood was just twenty-four years old when she met the elderly O'Keeffe. One of the first things Wood learned about life with the artist was about food: the kitchen, the gardens, the meals. O'Keeffe believed in buying organic and especially in eating what she could grow in her own garden or find locally.

O'Keeffe encouraged a simple life, and her dining table reflected her philosophy. Foods were fresh, clean, simply served, and beautifully presented. Wood introduces each chapter and recipe in A Painter's Kitchen (Red Crane Books, 1991) with a story about the artist or the garden or about a particular ingredient. While the text is fascinating (and it is!), the recipes are even more attractive: all are appealing and very doable. Nothing too fancy here; Wood shares soups, salads, and breads, easy baked chicken, and Southwest favorites.

There are a few black and white photographs of O'Keeffe and her house and some color photographs of the completed dishes. There are plenty of recipes for vegetarians, but O'Keeffe did not shun meat.

I know I have other such cookbooks on my shelves. Do you?

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17 June 2011

Imprint Friday: Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel

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.

The hook that looped itself around my mind and drew me into Susanna Daniel's Stiltsville was learning that such a community--built over the water--really exists, and that Daniel's own family owned one of those houses when she was a girl. What kept me interested was the intimate examination of a marriage and family. This month Harper Perennial is releasing the novel in paperback, complete with the P.S. section that fans of the imprint love.

Here's the publisher's summary:

One sunny morning in 1969, Frances Ellerby finds herself in a place called Stiltsville, a community of houses built on pilings in the middle of Biscayne Bay. It's the first time the Atlanta native has been out on the open water, and she's captivated. On the dock of a stilt house, with the dazzling Miami skyline in the distance, she meets the house's owner, Dennis DuVal—and a new future reveals itself.

Turning away from her quiet, predictable life back home, Frances moves to Miami to be with Dennis. Over time, she earns the confidence of his wild-at-heart sister and the approval of his oldest friend. Frances and Dennis marry and have a child—but rather than growing complacent about their good fortune, they continue to face the challenges of intimacy in the complicated city they call home.

With Stiltsville, Susanna Daniel weaves the beauty, violence, and humanity of Miami's coming-of-age with an enduring story of a marriage's beginning, maturity, and heartbreaking demise.
Author Daniel described her novel as a fictional memoir, and it is that style that helps make the book seem so personal. It is in simple terms the story of a long-term marriage. But the deeper truth is that Frances and Dennis are not perfect, and their life is not always filled with rainbows. Daniel's characters are more real than that; they are people you come to know and care about so deeply you may forget you're reading a novel. The sense of truth is supported by the background of historic events and the very real setting of Miami.

I was particularly struck by something Daniel said in an interview with Laura Valeri at Fiction Writers Review:
Stiltsville is a perfect setting for fiction, and it’s shocking to me that no one has ever placed a women’s novel there. For one thing, when you put your characters together on an island, they speak more plainly to each other than anywhere else. Things come to the surface. Also, family life is all about living together on an island, navigating choppy waters, and standing together when everything crumbles around you.
Most reviewers have commented on Daniel's beautiful writing and on the emotional connections they were able to make with the characters. Here are some examples:
  • Nomad Reader said: "It's the most emotionally engaging novel I've read in quite some time. I often struggle writing reviews for books I adore, and I found nothing to criticize in Stiltsville."
  • Ellen Kanner, writing for the Miami Herald, concluded: "Daniel renders Frances and her family so authentically, their dynamics and quirks come to feel utterly familiar and endearing. Deceptively placid Stiltsville reminds us, like Frances, to appreciate the small but potent magic in everyday life."
  • Kathy at Bermuda Onion's Weblog wrote: "The writing is magnificent in this story of love--between friends, parents and children, and spouses. . . . I found myself lost in Daniel’s words and became emotionally involved."
Book clubs will appreciate the Reading Group Guide's insightful questions. To learn more about the real Stiltsville (and so see some photos), the novel, and the author, visit Susanna Daniel's website.

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.

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

Published by HarperCollins / Harper Perennial edition, June 2011
ISBN-13: 9780061963087

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16 June 2011

Review: The Mean Seasons (Fables 5) by Bill Willingham

As always when I review a book in a series, I reveal no spoilers for this novel but I assume you've read the earlier titles.

Bill Willingham's Fables 5: The Mean Seasons focuses mostly on Bigby Wolf. In several short stories, we learn of his work to protect Fabletown from the enemy who drove the characters out of their homeland. We also read of Bigby's activities during World War II. The principal episode in Fables 5, however, is a more personal look at Bigby and Snow White.

Between Fabletown's mayoral election and political upheaval and Snow White's going into labor, Bigby has a lot on his mind. He is about to become a father for the first time (that he knows about!) and meanwhile must work with Beast (as in Beauty and) to make sure the post-election administration team can handle their new duties.

When Snow's babies turn out to be a mix of human and wolf, she realizes she must move to the Farm, where animal fable characters live away from the prying eyes of the Mundies (humans). The only problem is that Bigby's been banned from the Farm. Fortunately for Snow, she finds much help and support in her new home--some from a surprising source. She also learns a little bit about Bigby's childhood.

Each entry in the Fables series gets more complex and imaginative. Willingham's fairytale creatures are based on the stories you remember but are also much more than that. They've had centuries of experiences since the events that made them household names. They've changed, they've grown, and they are not necessarily what they seem. Throughout these very adult graphic novels, Willingham peppers the violence and harsh realities of Fabletown with humor, both verbal and visual.

In the scan shown here (click to enlarge) Snow is talking to her sister, Rose Red, about Bigby.

Fables 5: The Mean Seasons was drawn by a team of artists: Mark Buckingham, Tony Akins, Steve Leialoha, Jimmy Palmiotti, Daniel Vozzo, and Todd Klein. The characters are consistently portrayed and their emotions and action are clearly presented. Many panels have fascinating details, and readers will linger over the illustrations.

Give it to me quickly: Some of Bigby's past is revealed in this entry in the Fables series, which is an adult look at how familiar fairy tale characters cope with the modern world and troubles from their past.


Published by DC Comics / Vertigo, 2005
ISBN-13: 9781401204860
YTD: 56
Source: bought (see review policy).
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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15 June 2011

Wordless Wednesday 134

Fountain, Greenwich Village (New York), 2011

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14 June 2011

Today's Read & Giveaway: Forgotten by Cat Patrick

The Book Hot off the press this month is a book I've been waiting for: Cat Patrick's debut novel Forgotten, which is contemporary young adult fiction mixed with a bit of mystery and a splash of teen romance. Put this title on your list of great summer reads; I think you're going to like it.

Read the publisher's summary to get a sense of Forgotten:

What if every day when you woke up, you had no recollection of the days before?

Each night at precisely 4:33 am, while sixteen-year-old London Lane is asleep, her memory of that day is erased. In the morning, all she can “remember” are events from her future. London is used to relying on reminder notes and a trusted friend to get through the day, but things get complicated when a new boy at school enters the picture. Luke Henry is not someone you’d easily forget, but try as she might, London can’t find him in her memories of things to come.

When London starts experiencing disturbing flashbacks, or flash-forwards, as the case may be, she realizes it’s time to learn about the past she keeps forgetting--before it destroys her future.
What happens, though, when London doesn't have a handy reminder note and her mother is asking her and Luke what happened on their date? London has to wait until Luke gives a recap, then she thinks:
I can't believe I missed what might have been my best date ever.

I turn to my mom, mouth still slightly ajar, and the ice melts. I see in her eyes the realization. She understands now that I don't remember the evening. Keeping up the facade for Luke's benefit, she asks, "Is that true, London?" Her look tells me to agree. (p. 103)
Yikes, you've got to feel sorry for London. She can't remember eating pizza and talking and looking at the stars with this gorgeous hunk of a guy. Heck, she doesn't even remember his name!

Here's another look at how London copes with her messed-up memory:


Currently there are four entries in London's video diary, and you can see them all on the Little, Brown young adult site. New videos are added periodically, so don't forget (ha!) to check the site for more.

Giveaway

I'm really pleased to be able to offer two (yep, two!) of my readers a chance to win a copy of Forgotten by Cat Patrick. Because the books will be mailed by the publicist, this giveaway is open only to those who have a U.S. or Canadian mailing address. Just fill out the form to enter, and I'll use a random-number generator to pick two winners on June 27. Good luck!



For more information about Forgotten by Cat Patrick (Little, Brown, June 2011), be sure to visit the publisher's website.

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.

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13 June 2011

Review: The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

In 1947, Evie Mitchell's husband, Martin, had survived World War II in body but not in mind. When he had the chance to leave their native Chicago to document the last days of the British Raj and the partitioning of India, Evie thought the new environment would be a fresh start to their marriage.

Once she has settled in to their rented bungalow, loneliness overcomes Evie, who has few people to talk to besides her five-year-old son. She is unused to servants and begins to feel as if she were losing control of her own life. The turning point comes on the day she finds a cache of letters hidden in the house.

The letters were written by two British Victorian women--Adela and Felicity--who lived in that same bungalow in the 1850s. Evie becomes obsessed with learning more about these young women, and her research exposes her to many sides of her adopted village, including the inner sanctum of the British social club and the noisy and dangerous streets of the local market. The more Evie focuses on Adela and Felicity, the more she falls in love with India and less tolerant she becomes of Martin. While discovering the hard choices made by the two nineteenth-century women, Evie faces some life-altering choices of her own.

Elle Newmark's The Sandalwood Tree transports readers to the colors, smells, and accents of British-ruled India. Set in two politically turbulent times--the eve of Indian independence and the Sepoy uprising a century earlier--the novel explores multiple aspects of change and freedom.

On the national level, Evie was unprepared for the widespread servitude of colonial India and the outright prejudices of the British ex-patriots. But she is equally shocked at the seemingly unbridgeable divisions within Indian society itself as it prepares for independence and partitioning. As well, Adela and Felicity, in 1857, are no less affected by the utter disrespect British officers had of Muslim and Hindu beliefs, which pushed their soldiers to revolt.

The Sandalwood Tree also explores the changing roles and rights of women. In Victorian England, women were still very much repressed, but by moving to the colonies--whether by choice (like Felicity) or under duress (like Adela)--women could gain some freedoms, including the handling of their own money until marriage. The 1940s, especially in the United States, saw the very beginnings of the feminist movement to come.

At the heart of the novel, though, is the story of how India, despite its own revolutions and restrictions, helped three women living a century apart find the strength to begin to unshackle themselves of others' expectations and embrace whatever joy and freedom they could find.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Tantor Audio, 11 hr, 23 min), read by Justine Eyre. Eyre's subtle and respectful accents enhance the Indian setting of the novel. Eyre brings understated emotion to the reading, guiding listeners without getting in their way.

Give it to me quickly: The colors, smells, and sounds of northern India underlie the story of three women, living almost a century apart, who struggle to find a balance between individual freedom and the promise of love with the expectations of family and society.


Published by Simon & Schuster / Atria, 2011
ISBN-13: 9781416590590
YTD: 55
Source: review (see review policy).
Rating: B+ (based on audio production)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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11 June 2011

Weekend Cooking: The Kitchen Journal 4

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.

_______

Today I have a little bit of this and a little bit of that to share and almost all of it fits into my Kitchen Journal. I am now into my third week of this season's CSA (community sponsored agriculture; I wrote about it here), which always increases my kitchen creativity.

Our friends who ran the CSA we belonged to for the last seven or eight years decided to disband their program, so this year we are with someone new. So far we're very pleased with our new farm.

My kitchen adventures have also been guided by the lovely package of Southwest goodies that the wonderful Sarah McCoy (author of The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico and the upcoming The Baker's Daughter) sent me a few weeks ago.

I don't have many photos to share, but I do have some kitchen notes inspired by this week's CSA basket and a few goodies we bought at the farmers market. Oh and a cookbook that I bought on Margot's (of Joyfully Retired) recommendation.

Pasta Adventures

We bought some lovely fresh pesto fettuccine on Tuesday. It sounded wonderful at the time, but when I went to cook it, I was a bit stymied. I didn't really want a tomato-based sauce and we don't do cream sauces. What I came up with is this:

I soaked 3 or 4 small hot dried peppers in a bit of chicken broth for about 15 minutes. In a small pan I placed some chopped sweet onion, chopped garlic scapes, and the chopped reconstituted peppers. I added about 1/4 cup olive oil to the pan and heated the sauce as the noodles cooked (only 3 minutes in boiling water!). I tossed the noodles and warm olive oil sauce -- Oh, yes. Heaven.

Wine and Pork

Thanks to Margot, I bought The Winemaker Cooks by Christine Hanna of the Hanna Winery in California. Our farmers market has some wonderful organic meat farmers/vendors and we bought a lovely pork tenderloin this week. We made the following recipe and even used the recommended wines (well, as close as we could get here in central Pennsylvania). I adapted the recipe a bit to fit the size of tenderloin we had, but I'll give you the original.

Orange Dijon-Marinated Pork Tenderloin

  • 4 garlic cloves chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 pork tenderloins
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
Two hours before grilling, combine the garlic, mustard, zest, juice, oil, salt and pepper in a self-sealing bag. Add the tenderloins and turn to coat. Seal the bag and refrigerate 1 hour. Remove the pork, reserve the marinade, and let the meat sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Preheat grill to medium-high. Grill 3 minutes on all sides. Transfer to a carving board and tent with aluminum foil for 15 minutes. Pour the marinade in a small pan, add the wine, and bring to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes until it reduces. Slice the pork and serve drizzled with some warm sauce.

The Coppola Pinot Noir was outstanding with the pork. The J. Lohr Chardonnay that we cooked with, was not as wonderful, but not bad.

Strawberries

Finally, I brought home 2 quarts of strawberries from the market. On Wednesday, I made puff pastry pockets. I looked around the Internet and then came up with my own version.

While 2 sheets of puff pastry were thawing, I prepared the strawberries. I chunked strawberries to make 2 cups. I splashed on some balsamic vinegar (oh, maybe a couple of tablespoons) and then added a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper. To solidify the filling, I added 1/2 teaspoon instant tapioca. I didn't add sugar.

I preheated the oven to 400F, rolled out the pastry into 10-inch by 10-inch squares and then quartered each. On each square, I put 1/4 cup of the strawberries, pulled the corners together and twisted the pocket shut. I brushed the pastry with an egg wash (beaten egg with a little water) and baked them until golden brown and puffy. I think about 20 minutes (I forgot to write it down). They were outstanding!

I love cooking with seasonal foods! Tonight we're having grilled pizza with kale (from the CSA) and hot peppers (from Sarah). Oh and we have few bottles of wine to finish off!


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10 June 2011

Imprint Friday: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

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.

I admit that the back-of-the-book tag line of Liane Moriarty's What Alice Forgot was the first thing that caught my attention: "Finally, a smart woman's beach read." Doesn't that make you want to know more? Then I took a look at the summary and decided I had to read about Alice:

Alice Love is twenty-nine years old, madly in love with her husband, and pregnant with their first child. So imagine her surprise when, after a fall, she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! she hates the gym!) and discovers that she's actually thirty-nine, has three children, and is in the midst of an acrimonious divorce.

A knock on the head has misplaced ten years of her life, and Alice isn't sure she likes who she's become. It turns out, though, that forgetting might be the most memorable thing that has ever happened to Alice.
Fun, yes? Well, okay, not fun if that actually happened to you, but still, poor Alice! Can you imagine thinking you're ten years younger than you are and having no recollection of your kids or how you went from a loving marriage to one full of tension and bickering? Through humor and an easy-to-read style, Moriarty gives Alice a chance to reevaluate her life and take a fresh look and what she has forgotten.

Beneath the Hollywood-like premise, though, Moriarty explores deeper themes, such as infertility, infidelity, friendship, parenthood, and family. What Alice Forgot may be a light, fast read on one level, but it will also make you think about your own life and what you may have forgotten, even without the amnesia.

I was curious about how Moriarty came up with the idea for Alice and went exploring. I found the answer on her website. The basis of the novel combines the author's interest in time travel with a real-life news story about a woman who had lost her memory. Moriarty says, "I realized that memory loss is a form of time travel." I like that thought and what it brings to the book.

I'm pleased that I'm not the only one recommending What Alice Forgot; here are a few other opinions (click on the links for the full reviews):
  • Alyce, from At Home with Books, notes: "All in all it is an entertaining and thought-provoking book about how relationships and parenthood can define us and change us over the years."
  • Gayle, from Everyday I Write the Book, notes: "[T]his was . . . a surprisingly satisfying book on some deeper levels. I found the unpeeling of the story of why Alice's marriage had fallen apart to be pretty compelling."
  • Swapna, from S. Krishna's Books, notes: "It isn’t your typical woman-gets-amnesia, realizes-she’s-horrible, mends-her-ways novel; instead, Moriarty presents a carefully crafted and moving portrait of one woman struggling to understand who she is."
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.

What Alice Forgot at an Indie

Published by Putnam / Amy Einhorn Books, June 2011
ISBN-13: 9780399157189

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09 June 2011

Thursday Tea: Seeing a Large Cat by Elizabeth Peters

The Book: Sometimes I pick an audiobook simply for the escape factor. Elizabeth Peter's Amelia Peabody series is perfect for fun light listening, and narrator Barbara Rosenblat brings these books alive. This post assumes you've read the first books but really gives nothing away.

Seeing a Large Cat is the ninth book in the series and marks a turning point in the underlying story of the Peabody-Emerson story. Up to now, the novels have taken us from Amelia and Emerson meeting to their marriage and the birth of their son, Ramses, and then their taking on the care of Nefret and then of David.

In Seeing a Large Cat the children have grown into young adults, who are quickly becoming colleagues with Amelia and Emerson and contributing their own knowledge and skills to the family business: Egyptian archaeology. Furthermore, as Ramses transforms from precocious boy to potential heartthrob, the overall plot line is becoming more interesting and more complex. As always, the mystery itself almost takes a backseat to Egypt and the irrepressible Ameilia Peabody.

The Tea: It has been in 90s around here, which means I keep a pitcher of sun tea in my refrigerator at all times. I don't much like the fruit teas hot, but they make a refreshingly cool summer drink. This week it's Adagio's Apricot Tea. The fruit flavor is subtle, which suits me fine. Here's the description: "Combining the sweet flavor of ripe summer apricots with the tangy bright taste of Ceylon black tea, you can experience it year-round. Soft, mellow mouthfeel, succulent flavor and balanced astringency." As always, I drink it black with no sweetener.

The Assessment: The Emersons are British, and they drink tea every day, even in the heat of the Egyptian desert. Would they drink apricot tea? That's a hard call. Amelia is definitely willing to try new things, but I'm not sure she would want someone messing with her tea.

What About You? Whether summer is here or you're getting your first blast of winter chill, what are sipping this week? Since this is both audiobook month and audiobook week, tell me if you are listening to anything good.


Thursday Tea was the brainchild of Anastasia at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog.

Published by Grand Central Publishing, 1998 (various editions available)
ISBN-13: 9780446605571
YTD: 53
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)
FTC: I buy all teas myself, I am not a tea reviewer.

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08 June 2011

Wordless Wednesday 133

Empty Seat, 2011

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07 June 2011

Don't-Miss Books to Read: Memoir and Biography

As you may remember, I'm thrilled to be on the voting board for the 2011 Indie Lit Awards. In case you missed my first announcement and don't know what these awards are, here's a brief description from the awards' blog:

Independent Literary Awards are given to books that have been recommended and voted on by independent literary bloggers. Nominations are open to all readers, and are then voted upon by a panel of bloggers who are proficient in the genre they represent. Each panel is led by a Director who oversees the integrity of the process.
I'm serving on the panel for the biography and memoir category. I know many of you share a love for these genres, and I hope you take the time to nominate outstanding memoirs and biographies as well as great books in the other genres included in the 2011 awards. To spark your interest, I thought I'd share some titles I haven't yet read or spotlighted but am looking forward to exploring.

Here they are in no particular order.


In The Long Goodbye (Riverhead Books), Meghan O'Rourke talks about grief, joy, and memory in the aftermath of her mother's death. Darin Strauss remembers a tragic incident from his high school days in Half a Life (Random House Reader's Circle) and explores his lingering feelings of guilt and loss. An Extravagant Hunger (Counterpoint Press) by Anne Zimmerman is a biographical study of the well-known food writer M. F. K. Fisher focusing on the years between the wars.


Reading Lips (Unbridled Books) is Claudia Sternbach's memoir of important kisses in her life--from parents to friends to lovers. Parkinson disease is at the heart of Zoe FitzGerald Carter's Imperfect Endings (Simon & Schuster), a memoir of her mother. In Reluctant Hero (Skyhorse Publishing), Michael Benfante recalls September 11, 2001, when he helped carry a wheelchair-ridden woman down sixty-eight floors of the World Trade Center, saving her just minutes before the tower collapsed, and how that hour and half changed his life forever.

If you've read any great memoirs or biographies published this year, please take the time to nominate them for an Indie Lit Award. If those aren't among your favorite genres, perhaps you can nominate titles in one of the following groups: literary fiction, GLBTQ, nonfiction, speculative fiction, and mystery.

What was the last memoir or biography you read?

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

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