30 July 2011

Weekend Cooking: A Look at My Cookbook Shelves 2

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

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It's been a long time since I showed you my bookshelves, so thought I give you a peek (click to enlarge). This (bad) photo shows part of one of my walls of cookbooks. Yes, I have two walls of cookbooks, cookbooks on the floor, cookbooks in several rooms. I keep telling myself to cull them, but I guess it ain't gonna happen.

So what do we have on these shelves? A mishmash of old and new--some I use a lot and some I hardly ever look at.

I'll give you a quick overview of the books that I particularly like in case you want to find a copy for yourself. Many of these deserve their very own Weekend Cooking post, and I hope to feature them in the coming weeks and months. If you click on the photos, you'll be able to read the spines.

Upper shelf:This seems to be a shelf of heavy-hitters. There are a couple of books by Bert Greene (including a memoir with recipes), two by Simone Beck, the first M. F. K. Fisher book I read, two by Waverly Root, and an Edna Lewis. I see a couple on the foods of Britain and even one called Time for Tea.

Upper middle shelf:
Another shelf with some famous names, such as James Beard, Michael Field, Diana Kennedy, more Bert Greene, Guiliano Bugialli, and Elizabeth David. Featured flavors are South America, Russian, Southern USA, and a variety of vegetarian and vegetable books. There is also the original paperback edition of On Food and Cooking, which was updated and re-released last fall.

Bottom middle shelf:
This shelf seems to hold some media giants, like Nigella Lawson, Bobby Flay, Sara Moulton, and Lynne Rossetto Kasper (from The Splendid Table). You can also see some of my Moosewood cookbooks and a number of bread cookbooks.

Bottom shelf:
You can barely see these books, I know! On this shelf you'll find Madhur Jaffrey and Ruth Reichl plus books on Thai, Italian, Brazilian, Southern, West Coast, and vegetarian cooking. Oh, and that little brown paperback next to the Segram's book is Laurel's Kitchen. A vegetarian cookbook from the mid-1970s, and one that everyone in those days cooked out of at one time or another. It's kind of a hippie classic.

As I said, looking over just these partial shelves has given me ideas for future Weekend Cooking posts and has reminded me of what fun it can be to browse one's own cookbook collection.

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29 July 2011

Imprint Friday: The Call by Yannick Murphy

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.

Today I have something completely different. Yannick Murphy's The Call is a novel in, well, kind of a journal form. The record is kept by a veterinarian and includes his calls, his thoughts, his actions, and bits about his wife and kids.

First, as always, take a look at the publisher's summary:

The daily rhythm of a veterinarian’s family in rural New England is shaken when a hunting accident leaves their eldest son in a coma. With the lives of his loved ones unhinged, the veterinarian struggles to maintain stability while searching for the man responsible. But in the midst of their great trial an unexpected visitor arrives, requesting a favor that will have profound consequences—testing a loving father’s patience, humor, and resolve and forcing husband and wife to come to terms with what “family” truly means.

The Call is a gift from one of the most talented and extraordinary voices in contemporary fiction—a unique and heartfelt portrait of a family, poignant and rich in humor and imagination.
It's one of kind, funny, sad, true, and utterly unputdownable. I absolutely love everything about The Call. I love the way it's constructed, I love David, I love his random thoughts as he drives home, I love his relationship with his family, and I love learning about his calls and the people and animals he tends. Even in the more heartbreaking moments, the authenticity of David's record is not lost. His life is distilled to what's important: the sounds the house makes, his wife's emotions, the corny jokes he tells the kids to break the tension, and his troubled thoughts in the middle of the night.

I don't want to tell you what happens, how the story of David's family ends. But I do want to share a little bit from near the beginning of the book so you can see the style of novel and get a feel for Murphy's writing. The scenes can be anything: funny, sad, light, deep, loving, or angry. I liked this one:
CALL: Sick sheep.
ACTION: Visited sheep. Noticed they'd eaten all the thistle.
RESULT: Talked to owner, who is a composer, about classical music. Admired his tall barn beams. Advised owner to fence off thistle so sheep couldn't eat it. Sheep become sick from thistle.
THOUGHTS ON DRIVE HOME: Is time travel possible? Maybe time is not a thing. Because light takes a while to travel, what we're seeing is always in the past.
WHAT THE WIFE COOKED FOR DINNER: Breakfast. (p. 4)
David's thoughts are all over the place, and Murphy captures those private internal musings just perfectly. In the scene right after this one, David's driving-home thought is this: "What's the point of a poncho if it doesn't cover your arms?"

I tried to savor the novel but ended up reading it straight through in a single evening.

Here are some other thoughts:
  • Kirkus Reviews: "A marvelous book: sweet and poignant without ever succumbing to easy sentiment, formally inventive and dexterous without ever seeming showy. A triumph. "
  • Publisher's Weekly (starred): "Murphy's subtle, wry wit and an appealing sense for the surreal leaven moments of anger and bleakness, and elevate moments of kindness, whimsy, and grace."
  • Library Journal: "Murphy’s eye for small-town detail and human/animal relations makes for a complex, delicate story line, and the novel as a whole carries a very real human velocity and gravity."
To learn more about Yannick Murphy, visit her website. Book clubs will appreciate the reading guide available at the publisher'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.

The Call at an Indie
The Call at Powell's
The Call at Book Depository
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Published by Harper Perennial August 2011
ISBN-13: 9780062023148

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28 July 2011

Review: Half a Life by Darin Strauss

Just one month before Darin Strauss graduated from college, he was driving his friends to the miniature golf course near his Long Island home. They never made it—the afternoon ended in an accident and the death of a teenage girl who had been riding a bicycle.

From the very first sentence ("Half my life ago, I killed a girl.") Strauss holds his head up and owns his struggle to understand what happened and to find a way to live a life that would forever include the specter of Celine, a young girl he barely even knew.

The power of Half a Life lies in Strauss's unpretentious, straightforward approach. He talks about the second half of his life in relationship to the accident the way he might tell the story to his wife or best friend. He doesn't try to fill in the gaps of his memory; he doesn't embellish to make for a better book. He simply writes about that day and the many days after in which Celine was always there and he was never sure if or when or how to let her go.

My accident was the deepest part of my life, and the second-deepest was hiding it. (103)
I know the truth of this story. When I was fifteen, three of my close friends were in a car accident in which one girl died. I remember the looks the driver got when she returned to our small high school and the way that she and her friends (including me) and the other kids were suddenly unsure how to act, even though we had known each other all our lives.

I cannot (thank God) know what it was like for my friend the driver, whom I've lost touch with over the decades, but now I have a hint, a glimpse into what it must have been like. Strauss frankly exposes his inexplicable torment of realizing that he might have gone a whole a day without thinking about Celine: Is that good (am I healing?) or is that bad (am I a cold-hearted bastard?). The guilt whenever he thought about how the accident affected his own life (I'm so selfish, what about her parents?). His need to find fault, forgiveness, closure . . . something, when there may have been no fault, no one to forgive but himself, and no closure but the acceptance that it's okay to be alive.

In the end, Strauss shares some of his life lessons, lessons that likely come easier to those of us who haven't been haunted; nonetheless, they are worth learning. These are the passages you underline, even though you never write in books. Strauss finds the truths, and the beauty of his words embrace you.

Strauss said that going to Celine's funeral "was—and remains—the hardest thing I've ever had to do," but I think it was writing Half a Life.

Half a Life at Powell's
Half a Life at Book Depository
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Published by Random House, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780812982534
YTD: 70
Source: Review (see review policy).
Rating: A-
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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27 July 2011

Wordless Wednesday 140

Tomatoes, July 2011


Click the photo for full effect. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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26 July 2011

Giveaway: One Day by David Nicholls (Prize Pack)

One of the movies I'm most looking forward to this summer does not involve Hogwarts . . . it's One Day based on the novel by David Nicholls, opening nationwide on August 19.

In case you haven't yet read the book, here's the synopsis:

Twenty years . . . two people. Directed by Lone Scherfig (director of An Education, Academy Award–nominated for Best Picture), the motion picture One Day is adapted for the screen by David Nicholls from his beloved bestselling novel One Day. After one day together—July 15th, 1988, their college graduation—Emma Morley (Academy Award–nominee Anne Hathaway) and Dexter Mayhew (Jim Sturgess of Across the Universe) begin a friendship that will last a lifetime. She is a working-class girl of principle and ambition who dreams of making the world a better place. He is a wealthy charmer who dreams that the world will be his playground. For the next two decades, key moments of their relationship are experienced over several July 15ths in their lives. Together and apart, we see Dex and Em through their friendship and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. Somewhere along their journey, these two people realize that what they are searching and hoping for has been there for them all along. As the true meaning of that one day back in 1988 is revealed, they come to terms with the nature of love and life itself.
There is a whole lot of celebrating going on in the days leading up to the movie release, and I'm happy to be part of that excitement and to share some of the One Day love with you.

Thanks to Focus Features for giving me the chance to host a terrific giveaway. In celebration of the movie, I can offer two of my USA/Canadian readers a chance to win a super One Day prize pack. Here's what you get:

Each winner will get an autographed paperback copy of the book One Day (movie tie-in edition, signed by David Nicholls), a clear cosmetic case, a necklace, and a One Day Moleskin journal (click the image to enlarge it). I told you it was a terrific giveaway!

All you have to do is fill out the following form, and I'll use random.org to pick two winners on August 8. After I get confirmation from the pair, I'll delete all personal information from my computer.



I am an Anne Hathaway fan and I think she's going to be terrific in the film. Take a look at the trailer to see what I mean.


For more ways to celebrate, check out the official website for the film, One Day's Facebook page, and the Goodreads sweepstakes.

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25 July 2011

Imprint Extra: Simon Van Booy Triple Giveaway



On Friday, I introduced you to Simon Van Booy's unforgettable Everything Beautiful Began After. Last year, I sung the praises of his stunning collection Love Begins in Winter. The Los Angeles Times called Van Booy's first collection, The Secret Lives of People in Love "breathtaking" and "chillingly beautiful."

Once you begin to read Van Booy, you won't want to stop. He writes about love and loss from a such a tender spot that you feel the ache and hope for healing.

The Giveaway: Because I want everyone to read Van Booy's work, I'm thrilled that—thanks to Harper Perennial—one of you will be soon be the proud owner of all three Simon Van Booy books, signed by the author. Whether you are new to Van Booy or an old friend, you won't want to miss this generous giveaway.

All you have to do to be entered for a chance to win is fill out the following form. Because this giveaway is sponsored by the publisher and is for three books, you must have a USA or Canadian mailing address to win. If you live elsewhere, you can still enter if you have a North American friend willing to receive the books for you. I'll pick a winner on August 8, at which time I'll delete all personal information from my computer.



Good luck.

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23 July 2011

Weekend Cooking: The Kitchen Journal 5

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

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As I've written here before, I don't plan out my meals for the week, and this is especially true in the summer. Opening my weekly CSA box is a little bit like Christmas: I can't wait to see what goodies "my" farm produced!

A couple of weeks ago I was looking for something creative to do with some small summer squash and a nice bunch of arugula. I looked through a few cookbooks and scoped out the Internet, but nothing was calling to me.

So I took an idea from there and another from here and put them all together for a really delicious pasta dish. We ate this warm for dinner and then cold the next day for our lunches. The photos show my pickled garlic scapes, but I used fresh scapes in the recipe.

Note that the following measurements are approximate -- I didn't really measure. Because garlic scapes are done for the season, I'd substitute one or two cloves of garlic instead. Note that arugula is also called rocket or roquette.

Lemon Zucchini with Arugula
created by Beth Fish Reads
  • 1 pound dried pasta, any shape (I used penne)
  • 1 dried hot pepper
  • 4 small summer squash or zucchini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (or as needed)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic scapes, chopped
  • zest of one lemon
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 bunch arugula, washed and torn
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 5 basil leaves rolled up tight and sliced thin
In a large pot, start heating the water for cooking the pasta. Place the dried pepper in some chicken broth or water to soak.

Meanwhile, grate the squash on a medium grater (I used my food processor). Place the squash in a tea towel or paper towels and squeeze out as much liquid as you can.

Put the pasta in the water to cook. Remove the hot pepper from the liquid and chop, set aside.

Heat the oil in large skillet over medium-high heat and add the hot pepper and onion and saute until soft. Add the garlic scapes and the squash and saute until tender. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, arugula, and black pepper. Add a couple of ladles of pasta cooking water to the pan and let simmer until the pasta is cooked. Drain the pasta (but don't rinse it) and add it to the skillet. Stir in the cheese and the basil and mix until well combined.

Serve with crusty bread and wine and enjoy!


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22 July 2011

Imprint Friday: Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy

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.

It was almost a year ago that I first spotlighted Simon Van Booy on Beth Fish Reads. When talking about his short story collection Love Begins in Winter, I wrote "Van Booy's prose is lyrical and sometimes almost stunningly beautiful."

When I heard he had written a novel, Everything Beautiful Began After, I waited in great anticipation for its release. Still, I was worried about my expectations. Could Van Booy wow me again? I read the first two paragraphs and that's all I needed:

For those who are lost, there will always be cities that feel like home.

Places where lonely people can live in exile of of their own lives—far from anything that was ever imagined for them.
Before I tell you more, take a look at the publisher's summary:
Rebecca is young, lost, and beautiful. A gifted artist, she seeks solace and inspiration in the Mediterranean heat of Athens—trying to understand who she is and how she can love without fear.

George has come to Athens to learn ancient languages after growing up in New England boarding schools and Ivy League colleges. He has no close relationships with anyone and spends his days hunched over books or wandering the city in a drunken stupor.

Henry is in Athens to dig. An accomplished young archaeologist, he devotedly uncovers the city’s past as a way to escape his own, which holds a secret that not even his doting parents can talk about.

. . . And then, with a series of chance meetings, Rebecca, George, and Henry are suddenly in flight, their lives brighter and clearer than ever, as they fall headlong into a summer that will forever define them in the decades to come.
In Everything Beautiful Began After, Van Booy creates an almost dream-like mood, bringing the city and the three young adults together for an intense shared moment that leaves them branded. The novel is multilayered: a love story, a tragedy, a character study, a poem of Athens, a snapshot of a life.

It's easy to fall in love when we're young and away from home, especially when we don't stop to wonder just who we're falling in love with. What do we really learn about someone in a few heady weeks? And when reality shifts, we are seared:
Things in your mind are shuffling into order.

And you realize that you've finally grown up. That youth has finished. In its place you have knowledge, which you must learn to carry. You must also learn to accept that death is most the sophisticated form of beauty, and the most difficult to accept.

From this moment on, you will always be conscious of what you are feeling. (p. 298)
And thus begins mature adulthood.

Besides the language, characters, and story, I also love the design of Everything Beautiful Began After. Scattered throughout the novel are drawings, postcards, telegrams, and letters (on letterhead). Not only does this device give you the feeling of doing the forbidden—reading someone else's mail—but it strengthens your personal and emotional connection to the characters as they travel through time and place.

It's customary for me to quote three reviews when I introduce a book for Imprint Friday, but today I'm going to leave you with just one:
  • Cynthia Ellis, writing for HuffPost Books: "Reading this book, the language is so beautiful and potent that you want to go slowly, savoring every word like a mouthful of the most delectable soufflĂ©, but at the same time the momentum and passion of the story gallop ahead of you, taking you on an incredible ride, leaving you gasping, breathless, and barely able to hold onto your reigns . . . or spoon."
If you're like me, you're already on your way to the bookstore. Be advised: You'll want to stop back here on Monday, when I'm going to host a very special Van Booy giveaway, thanks to Harper Perennial.

Simon Van Booy has been interviewed many times; Wales Online and Interview Magazine are both worth reading. Van Booy also has a website, a Facebook page, and is on Twitter. The Harper Perennial site includes a reading guide and Van Booy's tour schedule.

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.

Everything Beautiful Began After at an Indie
Everything Beautiful Began After at Powell's
Everything Beautiful Began After at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by HarperCollins / Harper Perennial edition, July 2011
ISBN-13: 9780061661488

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21 July 2011

Review: The World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale by Sneed B. Collard III

Do you know where to buy a bucking bronco? On the third weekend of May each year, you'd go to Miles City, Montana, where you'd be sure to find the feistiest horses in the West.

In The World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale author Sneed B. Collard III gives us the grand tour of one of the the oldest and biggest events for the sale of unruly horses. The story of the Bucking Horse Sale is, in many ways, the story of the American West itself, and Collard helps middle readers make connections that reach more than a hundred years into our nation's past.

Illustrated by stunning photographs, both contemporary and historic, the book takes us into the heart of the four-day event. From concerts, parades, and the winners of the Miss Southeastern Montana Rodeo pageant to the bone-jarring action of horse and and bull riding and the accompanying auction, we see it all. And throughout the book, Collard introduces us to some of the stars, such as one of the oldest bull riders on the circuit, a young boy who collects the flank straps after each ride, and a little girl who competes in the mutton busting.

For readers who don't spend half their life in a saddle, there is plenty of background information. For example, we learn just how long a few seconds can be when trying to stay on top of a bucking bull or horse. We also meet some of the most famous women rodeo stars and discover how the rodeo got started in the first place. (Don't miss the historic photo of Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show.) In the back of the book you'll find a glossary (so you can look up flank strap) and resources "For Further Learnin'."

The Miles City Bucking Horse Sale has something for everyone who's interested in horses, the rodeo, action photography, and the American West and how it's surviving in the modern world. Although the book is geared to middle readers, adults will find plenty to to keep their interest. Collard's book could also fit nicely into a homeschool curriculum.

Give it to me quickly: Through the story of the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale, young readers learn about the rodeo and its deep roots in the American West; generously illustrated with beautiful photographs.

The World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale was a finalist for the High Plains Book Awards. To learn more about Collard B. Sneed and his many books for young readers, be sure to visit his website. This review will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted by Julie at Booking Mama.


Published by Bucking Horse Books, 2010
ISBN-13: 9780984446001
YTD: 69
Source: Review (see review policy).
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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20 July 2011

Wordless Wednesday 139

Happy New Yorker, 2011


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19 July 2011

Review: Book Lust to Go by Nancy Pearl

Nancy Pearl is a self-professed unenthusiastic traveler, but as she notes in the introduction to her Book Lust to Go that makes her an expert in armchair traveling. Thank goodness, because the rest of us have a valuable and readable (ha!) resource to turn to whether we're packing our bags for a rugged trip to Timbuktu or grabbing a towel and heading to the beach for a virtual tour of Iceland.

Pearl's collections range from travel narratives to "biographies of explorers, memoirs, novels . . . and a smattering of history." Although not all the books are still in print, you should be able to find what you want at the library (or via inter-library loan) or on the Internet.

The book is arranged alphabetically from "A Is for Adventure" and "Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires" to "Zambia" and "Zipping through Zimbabwe/Roaming Rhodesia." If you don't see what you want in the table of contents, you can choose countries from a map or find authors, locations, and book titles in the well-done index.

Pearl takes on whole countries, types of transportation, cities, islands, and states. For example, are you familiar with Lyme Regis, a seacoast city in England? You might say no, but if you've read The French Lieutenant's Woman, Persuasion, Remarkable Creatures, or The Way through the Woods (a mystery), then you're a Lyme Regis expert. In the Canada chapter, Pearl alerts Bill Bryson fans to Will Ferguson's Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw: Travels in Search of Canada. Not sure where to wander? Try Dorothy Gilman's Mrs. Pollifax mystery series. Each book takes place in a different country, and in the first adventure (The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax) our hero visits Albania.

No matter your taste—mysteries, memoirs, history, traditional travel literature, or literary fiction—and no matter where in the world you want to go—the poles, Oceania, Africa, the United States, or Rome—you'll find plenty of titles to keep you entertained via a lifetime of reading.

For more about Nancy Pearl and the Book Lust series, you can visit her website, friend her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

Give it to me quickly: Fantastic reading lists for virtual and literal world travelers written in an entertaining style and presented in an easy-to-use format.

Book Lust to Go at Powell's
Book Lust to Go at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Sasquatch Books, 2010
ISBN-13: 9781570616501
YTD: 68
Source: Review (see review policy).
Rating: B

Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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18 July 2011

Review: Auschwitz by Pascal Croci

In stark and sometimes horrifying black-and-white drawings, Pascal Croci's Auschwitz tells the story that none of us should ever forget. Based on interviews with concentration camp survivors, Croci created the characters Cessia and Kazik, who unburden themselves of the memories they've held on to for a half a century.

When we remember episodes in our lives, especially events we've buried deep and have tried to forget entirely, we don't recall things in a coherent story line. And thus Croci's style is that of chronological memories that are not necessarily smoothly joined. Instead of being off-putting, this device adds an authenticity to the graphic novel.

Although Cessia and Kazik are fictional characters, the events told in the novel happened and are based on interviews and historical documentation. The horrors of the gas chamber and murder are true, and the book is emotionally difficult to read. This is not a story about heroes or finding happy endings.

Despite the importance and power of Auschwitz, the novel is not without flaws. The ending was confusing, and the separate stories of husband and wife were not ultimately linked. Thus the book somehow felt distance, despite the moving artwork. Click the scan to enlarge the image; I chose one of the more innocuous pages, so don't hesitate to take a look.

The backmatter of the novel, including an in-depth interview with the author, details about his sources, and information about the drawing process, however, is fascinating and shouldn't be missed.

Give it to me quickly: A half century after liberation, an elderly couple recalls their time in Auschwitz; a graphic novel based on eyewitness accounts.

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

Published by Abrams, 2004
ISBN-13: 9780810948310
YTD: 67
Source: Giveaway win (see review policy)
Rating: B-
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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16 July 2011

Weekend Cooking: Try This by Danyelle Freeman

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

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One of my favorite food blogs is the New York–centric Restaurant Girl by Danyelle Freeman. Although I'm rarely in New York, I still love reading about food and the city through her eyes (or is that through her stomach?). Plus you gotta love anyone who brings must-have gadgets to your attention, such as the s'more maker that was recently featured or the combo toaster/egg poacher from last year. Some of you may know Freeman from The Food Network, where she's been a judge for Iron Chef America and Top Chef.

When I learned that Freeman had written a book, Try This: A Modern Guide to Global Eating, I wondered if it would simply be a rehash of her blog or a collection of her food critic articles. I couldn't have been more wrong. Instead, Try This is—as the subtitle states—a country-by-country guide to eating the world's cuisine . . . no matter where you live. And in Restaurant Girl style, this is no hoity-toity tome of how to spend $200 on steak and a salad (although she talks about fine dining) but more like a descriptive menu dictionary:
I'm writing this book for anyone who's ever looked at a menu and had a question. Anyone who's had a plate put in front of him and wondered what the hell [he was] about to eat. Just because a cuisine is foreign to you doesn't mean you have to feel like a tourist at the table.
Whether you're in a British-style pub wondering what bangers and mash are (sausages, mashed potatoes, and onion gravy) or thinking about trying chaat (Indian snacks) from a food cart or looking over the lists of cheese and wine in an exclusive Manhattan cheese cave, have no fear, Freeman has you covered. She's been there before you, clearing a path so you can order with confidence or at least know that you're not the only one to have been stumped by a menu.

Thanks to Freeman's personal, chatty style, you'll feel as if you were getting tips from your BFF. For example, you'll learn the correct way to pick up sushi, how to use the wasabi, when to eat the ginger, and the proper way to dip into the soy sauce. Headed to a Middle Eastern restaurant? Freeman assures you that she too "could have used a kebab manual" the first time she went to one of her now-favorite spots. Take advantage of her decoder, and you'll know just what to ask for.

Throughout the book are "Tasty Morsel" boxes with fun food facts, like how margherita pizza got its name and Hemmingway's favorite daiquiri when he lived in Cuba. Freeman shares her thoughts on how to negotiate a restaurant, your rights as a diner, and more in several longer features. Finally, each of the fourteen chapters ends with a section called "Table Settings and Modern Manners," which provides practical information and alerts you to good behavior.
  • When in Spain, don't put your elbows on the table and don't let your hands stray out of sight under the table.
  • When at a Korean restaurant, don't expect to see a knife.
  • In Greece, all food on the table is for sharing, no matter who ordered it.
Whether you read Try This from beginning to end or scope out the appropriate cuisine chapter a couple hours before you head out the door for dinner, you'll be amused, you'll make friends with Danyelle Freeman, and you'll feel worldly wise when get to the restaurant.

Give it to me quickly: Everything you've always wanted to know about restaurant eating but were afraid to ask.

Beth Fish Reads is proud to showcase Ecco books as a featured imprint on this blog. For more information about Ecco, please read the introductory note from Vice President / Associate Publisher Rachel Bressler, posted here on July 15, 2011. Find your next great read by clicking on Ecco in the scroll-down topics/labels list in my sidebar and by visiting Ecco books on Facebook and following them on Twitter.

Try This at Powell's
Try This at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by HarperCollins / Ecco, June 2011
ISBN-13: 9780061881787
YTD: 66
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


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15 July 2011

Imprint Friday: Ecco: Your Next Great Read

For a couple of months now I've had a secret. I've been working behind the scenes with Rachel Bressler and Ben Tomek of Ecco books to showcase their wonderful imprint on Beth Fish Reads.

It seems that the HarperCollins imprint Ecco and I were made for each other. They have one of those catalogs that makes me say, "Yes, I need to read that," on almost every page. Their amazing range of genres and the quality of their authors have given Ecco decades of faithful fans.

Ecco's list embraces everything from poetry to food writing, fiction to memoir, with the binding thread being excellence. Over the weeks and months to come, I'll introduce you to some of the current Ecco books that I'm especially excited about.

But before I talk about the future, let me turn my blog over to Rachel Bressler, vice president and associate publisher of Ecco, who will make the formal introductions:

2011 marks Ecco's 40th year in publishing, a true accomplishment in these quickly changing times. Ecco (Italian for "there it is") was born as an independent press in 1971, and in 1999 it became an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers. It was the brainchild of poet Daniel Halpern, who is still the publisher today.

Each year we publish about 50 books across virtually every genre, by authors including Joyce Carol Oates, Charles Bukowski, Anthony Bourdain, Richard Ford, Robert Stone, Mario Batali, Paul Bowles, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith, John Ashbery, Ron Rash, and David Wroblewski. While there is no one type of "Ecco book," our list reflects the passion we bring to publishing with an emphasis on quality over quantity.

Ecco is proud of the books we continue to publish year after year, a great many of which have stood the test of time.

We are thrilled to be included among the featured imprints on Beth Fish Reads, and I hope you will take a moment to familiarize yourself with the books we will be featuring each week--there are many gems awaiting your discovery. I hope you will consider friending us on Facebook or following us on Twitter, we have lots to share, books to give away, and news to spread--all we are missing is you.

All best regards,

Rachel Bressler
Thanks so much, Rachel, and welcome to Beth Fish Reads. I know my readers are looking forward to getting to know you and Ecco books better. When an imprint has an author list like Ecco's, readers know where to turn to find their next great read. I'm convinced that you all will be jumping on the Ecco-fan bandwagon, if you aren't already onboard.

Because Ecco has a strong foodie presence, I will be showcasing the imprint not only as part of my regular Imprint Friday posts but also for my popular Weekend Cooking feature. That makes me doubly happy to be working with Rachel and Ben, bringing great books to your attention.

For more on publisher Daniel Halpern, be sure to listen to the interview with him at Writers Cast. Last summer, Halpern talked with Publisher's Weekly about Ecco's food writers. To learn more about Ecco's books and authors, check out their website, their Facebook page, and follow them on Twitter.

Get ready to find your next great read!

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14 July 2011

Thursday Tea: The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan

The Book: Before I read Carrie Ryan's Forest of Hands and Teeth, I would have never believed I could like a zombie book. Zombies? Really? But once I started reading, I was hooked. Rather than sum up the series, I'll direct you to my reviews of the The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves.

In The Dark and Hollow Places, the third in the series, the Unconsecrated (the walking dead) have become so numerous they have taken over the Dark City, where Annah has been waiting three years for Elias, her only real friend, to come back for her. She is getting desperate as the Unconsecrated increase in numbers and the Recruiters, who are supposed to protect the living, fall pray to corruption and cruelty. Only after she meets a guy named Catcher, does her life seem to turn around--that is, until the two are held hostage by the Recruiters and Annah realizes that life among people is no safer than life among zombies.

The novel is great mix of heart-thumping action tempered by quiet moments when Annah dares to take a chance with love. As in the earlier books, Ryan brings up the questions of what makes us human and what makes life worth living. Dark and Hollow Places also looks at the nature of relationships in a world in which every moment should be focused on survival.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition of The Dark and Hollow Places, read by Allyson Ryan, who did an excellent job keeping me glued to my earbuds.

The Tea: You can bet that I've been drinking iced tea on these hot, humid summer days. My latest obsession is made by Nestea, and I'm almost too embarrassed to admit that I drink it and like it. I've been buying their K-cups of instant (yeah, I know) black iced tea mixed half and half with powdered lemonade. I know I should really just make black sun tea and add my own freshly squeezed lemon juice and sugar or honey, but the little cups are so easy.

The Assessment: You might think that Annah and Catcher wouldn't be able to get tea, but they do at least have herbal teas. What they'd think of Nestea K-cups, I have no idea, but I think they'd be grateful for anything warm and sweet to drink.

What About You? What are drinking to stay cool (in the North) or to warm up (in the South)? Reading anything good this week?


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

Published by Random House / Delacorte for Young Readers, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780385738590
YTD: 65
Source: Bought (see review policy).
Rating: B

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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13 July 2011

Wordless Wednesday 138

Night Sky, July 2011

For full effect, click on the image to see it larger. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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12 July 2011

Today's Read: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

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

I am dead, but it's not so bad. I've learned to live with it. I'm sorry I can't properly introduce myself, but I don't have a name anymore. Hardly any of us do. We lose them like car keys, forget them like anniversaries. Mine might have started with an "R," but that's all I have now. It's funny because back when I was alive, I was always forgetting other people's names. My friend "M" says the irony of being a zombie is that everything is funny, but you can't smile because your lips have rotted off. (p. 3)
—From Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion (Simon & Schuster / Atria, 2011)

Warm Bodies at Powell's
Warm Bodies at Book Depository
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11 July 2011

Review: Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

Three generations of Irish-Catholic Kelleher women grew up in different times, under different circumstances, and with different opportunities and expectations. Yet Alice (the greatest generation), her daughter Kathleen (hippie-inspired baby boomer), her daughter-in-law Ann Marie (yuppie-inspired baby boomer), and her granddaughter Maggie (generation X) each struggle with the same universal women's issues of the last century.

Rather than seeking mutual support and commiseration, the Kelleher women instead focus on their own private guilts, deep resentments, self-inflicted martyrdom, and need for control, preventing them from making meaningful connections. When unexpectedly reunited at the family's summer home in coastal southern Maine, the four are forced to confront hard truths about themselves and their relationships.

J. Courtney Sullivan's Maine is the story of twentieth-century women encapsulated in the Kelleher family. While individual issues, opportunities, and answers vary, every woman has had to come to terms with the questions of motherhood, marriage, and personal careers and fulfillment. And the manner in which a woman handles her own situation can have repercussions through the generations.

For example, a family tragedy in Alice's young life shaped her adulthood, creating a barrier that few, including her children, could breach. Kathleen, vowing to be everything her mother wasn't, smothers her children with too much friendship and moves to California to be an earthworm farmer. Maggie, a thirty-something writer living in New York, wishes Kathleen could have been more like other kids' mothers and has trouble understanding boundaries and personal privacy. Ann Marie, somewhat embarrassed by her upbringing, strives to rise above her own family and to prove to her in-laws that she is every bit as good as, if not better than, they are.

Through the alternating voices of these four women, Sullivan explores several other large issues, especially how the importance of the Church changed for women over time. The Kellehers don't discuss or ponder the gap between Alice's almost unquestioning belief and devotion and Maggie's indifference, making it almost impossible for the generations to understand each other.

Two other major themes are guilt and alcohol, both of which profoundly affect the Kelleher family dynamics. Maine also brings up the issues of caring for aging parents and outward image versus inner reality.

Alice, Kathleen, Ann Marie, and Maggie are in different life stages, but not one of them arrives in Maine that summer willing to take a frank look at herself or to take responsibility for her own actions. Readers stick with the Kellehers, hoping that despite the conflicts, the women will find at least some moments of acceptance--of themselves and of each other.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Random House Audio, 17 hr, 20 min) read by Ann Marie Lee. Lee's Irish-Boston accents added to the ambiance of the novel. Although she has a tendency to be an enthusiastic narrator, Lee well conveyed the underlying tension that colors the Kelleher family. My full audio review will be published by AudioFile.

Give it to me quickly: Three generations of women from the Irish-Catholic Kelleher family unexpectedly converge on the family's Maine summer home, forcing each to confront longstanding guilt, resentments, secrets, and disagreements.

Maine at Powell's
Maine at Book Depository
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Published by Random House / Knopf, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780307595126
YTD: 64
Source: Review (see review policy).
Rating: A
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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09 July 2011

Weekend Cooking: The Boy Who Wanted to Cook by Gloria Whelan

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.

_______

It should come as no surprise that I picked up a few foodie books at BookExpo America (BEA) last May. But you may be surprised that I found one from Sleeping Bear Press, a publisher known for its illustrated children's books.

The Boy Who Wanted to Cook, by Gloria Whelan and illustrated by Steve Adams, is an entry in Sleeping Bear Press's Tales of the World series.

Whelan's charming story is about Perrier Valcourt, who lives in a small village in southern France. His father is the owner/chef of a little restaurant called La Bonne Vache (the good cow), where all the villagers come to eat. Monsieur Valcourt is famous for his boeuf a la mode, and Madame Valcourt is known for her wonderful pastries. Ten-year-old Pierre wants to cook too, but his parents think he should be outside playing.

One day when Pierre is out riding his bike, he is stopped by a man who asks directions to the restaurant. As Pierre tells him how to get to La Bonne Vache, he notices the man is from the company that awards stars to the best establishments. Pierre doesn't know what to do. He wants his parents to win a star but he knows that the evaluation is supposed to be anonymous. Will Pierre warn his father?

The Boy Who Wanted to Cook is beautifully illustrated and can be read as an introduction to France and its food (there is even a glossary with a pronunciation guide at the back) or as the opening to a discussion of ethical behavior. Perfect for any young foodie.

Take a look at the sample page, showing Pierre shopping in the village, to get a feel for the illustrations and the text (Click to enlarge. Note: this is scanned from a review copy and does not reflect the final quality of the illustration.) I wish Madam Farcy had a cheese shop in my town!


Published by Sleeping Bear Press, 2011
ISBN-13: 9781585365340
YTD: 63
Source: Review (see review policy).
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


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08 July 2011

Imprint Friday: Very Bad Men by Harry Dolan

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 called Harry Dolan's first novel featuring David Loogan, Bad Things Happen, "a crazy, suspenseful, fun journey," and so I was thrilled to learn that there was a followup book: Very Bad Men (published just this week). Dolan's second novel promises more pulp fiction, dark humor, and twisted mystery.

Take a look at the summary:

David Loogan returns! Loogan is living in Ann Arbor with Detective Elizabeth Waishkey and her daughter, Sarah. He's settled into a quiet routine as editor of the mystery magazine Gray Streets--until one day he finds a manuscript outside his door. It begins: "I killed Henry Kormoran."

Anthony Lark has a list of names--Terry Dawtrey, Sutton Bell, Henry Kormoran. To his eyes, the names glow red on the page. They move. They breathe. The people on the list have little in common except that seventeen years ago they were involved in a notorious robbery. And now Anthony Lark is hunting them down, and he won't stop until every one of them is dead.
And David and Elizabeth are in it up to their eyeballs. This time a road trip takes them north through the Upper Peninsula to Sault Sainte Marie and back home again. The mystery involves politics, a robbery, and the question of why Anthony Lark is on a murder streak.

Although Dolan didn't step back from the fun, he peppered his followup novel with a healthy dose of darkness. As he said in an interview for Kirkus: "I made a conscious effort in the second book to introduce more action, to make Loogan tougher. Loogan gets into more fights and chases. But he’s still more likely to carry a Swiss army knife than a gun."

Don't miss out on the wild ride that is David Loogan.

And now for some other opinions:
  • Annette from Annette's Book Spot: "If you like a good mystery, with lots of twists and turns, and well-described characters that are easy to get attached to, I highly recommend Dolan’s books."
  • Publisher's Weekly says: "Relentless pacing, a wry sense of humor, and an engaging protagonist add up to another winner for Dolan."
  • Kirkus Reviews says: "A second mind-bending case for Ann Arbor editor David Loogan that begins just as simply and ominously and takes the reader on just as wild a journey."
For more on Harry Dolan, visit his website, where you can read the opening of the novel and check out his book tour. Don't miss his first appearance on Imprint Friday and my review of Bad Things Happen. Or check out the short piece on Very Bad Men published by Arbor Web.

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.

Very Bad Men at an Indie
Very Bad Men at Powell's
Very Bad Men at Book Depository
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Published by Putnam / Amy Einhorn Books, July 2011
ISBN-13: 9780399157493

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07 July 2011

Fallen Giveaway: Winners

I'm pleased to announce the winners of the Fallen giveaway, sponsored by the publisher. Each winner will receive a copy of the audiobook on CD. Congratulations to

Antoinette A
Alice T from Hello, My Name Is Alice



Hope you enjoy the book as much as I did!

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Review: The Other Half of My Heart by Sundee T. Frazier

Minerva and Keira King's fifteen minutes of fame came on the day they were born. One-in-a-million twins, not because they were born in the back of their daddy's Cessna on a airstrip in Forks, Washington, not because they were born six weeks early or ten minutes apart. They made the news because Minni had the pale skin and red hair of their father's family and Keira had the dark skin and curly hair of her mother's.

Sundee T. Frazier's The Other Half of My Heart starts on the twins' eleventh birthday and explores the concept of feeling different from a unique angle. This middle reader coming-of-age story focuses on Minni and how she wishes she were more like her twin and her mother.

As all preteens, Minni sees the world mostly as it affects her. She is shier, more bookish, and less exuberant than Keira and relies on her sister to get her through social situations. When she takes the time to see how strangers sometimes treat Keira differently, Minni usually ends up feeling guilty that she can't muster the courage to stand up for what is right.

All this changes for Minni when the girls visit their grandmother Johnson to compete in the Miss Black Pearl Preteen of America pageant. From the moment they land in South Carolina, Minni notices that the ratio of black to white is much more balanced than it is the Pacific Northwest. She also notices that Keira seems to be separating from her.

When she has to prove her blackness to be allowed to enter the pageant with her twin, Minni begins her journey to self-discovery and self-identity. With the help of her grandmother's neighbor, Minni learns that it is up to her to decide who she will be--black or white, a leader or a follower--and that no matter what, she will always have a sister and will never look like her twin.

Frazier balances out the tougher aspects of Minni's story with humor, love, and a touch of civil rights history. The novel would make an excellent family listen or read because it provides a basis for good discussion. Themes include the nature of families, being different, accepting others, sibling love, and pushing yourself to do better while learning to accept yourself for who you are.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Listening Library, 7 hr, 55 min) read by Bahni Turpin, whose characterizations--from the young twins to the southern grandmother--are believable and engaging. My full audio review will appear on the AudioFile website and/or in an upcoming issue of the magazine.

Give it to me quickly: Minni King, a biracial twin struggles with self-identity in an accessible coming-of-age story; recommended for the entire family, but perfect for middle reader book clubs.

To learn more about the award-winning Sundee T. Frazier and her work, be sure to visit her website. This review will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted by Julie at Booking Mama.


Published by Random House / Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2010
ISBN-13: 9780385734400
YTD: 62
Source: Review (see review policy).
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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06 July 2011

Wordless Wednesday 137

Candles through a Wineglass, 2011

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05 July 2011

Review: A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

This post contains no spoilers for A Storm of Swords but assumes you've read the first two books in the series.

In the land of the Seven Kingdoms, the fight for the Iron Throne involves cunning, treachery, strength, honor, luck, and the help of the gods. A Storm of Swords, the third installment of George R. R. Martin's epic A Song of Fire and Ice series, recounts the continuing battle--both bloody and political--for ultimate power over the country.

One of the hallmarks of great fantasy is the creation of a complex, internally consistent, and believable world that hints of deep history and an uncertain future. Now inhabit that world with multidimensional characters who learn, grow, change, make mistakes, and do what they must to survive, and you begin to understand why Martin has garnered a large and faithful fan base.

No one is safe in the struggle for the throne of the Seven Kingdoms. Whether a ruling house stands together in solidarity or is divided against itself, all suffer losses in both people and property. While some families concentrate their attention on the battlefield, they are undermined by the conniving schemes of the wannabes. Everyone is mindful of relatives who are held hostage by various enemies, but few pay attention to the armies of Wildlings and Others, whose invasions from the north must be stopped by the politically neutral brothers of the Night Watch and the great wall of ice and snow. And from across the sea the young mother of dragons, daughter of the last Targaryen ruler, and widow of the great Khal Drogo is coming into her maturity and has turned her eye on her father's Iron Throne.

There is no less action on the individual level, and few people are left unaffected by the war. Deaths, political marriages, and unlikely alliances are to be expected, but what is less predictable is the changes in personalities. Some people have an inner strength (sometimes aided by money and power) to stay steady, remaining honorable and brave or redoubling their cruelty when it serves them best. Others, however, lose their spunk or become depressed, surprise themselves by their acts of kindness or bravery, or begin to question their most basic beliefs.

Be warned: Martin has created a realistic world in which no one is safe, and there is no obvious final outcome. The medieval-like Seven Kingdoms is not an easy place to live, and the reader is not shielded from its harshness. In addition, although there are fantasy elements to the series, this is not a story of magic wands and flying broomsticks; it's more firmly planted in the world of humans. And finally, once one enters the world of the game of thrones, he or she is in it for the duration; it's near impossible not to become invested in the saga.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Random House Audio, 47 hr, 37 min), read by Roy Dotrice, who continues to do an excellent job with the series.


Published by Random House / Bantam Spectra, 2005 (originally published 2000)
ISBN-13: 9780553381702
YTD: 61
Source: bought (see review policy).
Rating: A
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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