30 September 2011

Imprint Friday: If Jack's in Love by Stephen Wetta

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.

Just released yesterday, Stephen Wetta's debut, If Jack's in Love, transports us to rural Virginia. It's 1967, and twelve-year-old Jack Witcher and America are on the threshold of change.

Here's the publisher's summary:

It's 1967. Jack Witcher is a twelve-year-old boy genius living in a Virginia suburb at an address the entire neighborhood avoids. Jack's father has lost his job--again--and he's starting fights with other fathers. Jack's mother, sweet but painfully ugly, works as a cashier at a local market. Jack's older brother is a long-haired, pot-smoking hippie.

If all of that isn't bad enough, Jack's brother suddenly becomes the main suspect in the disappearance of the town's golden boy. And to make matters even worse, Jack is in love with the missing boy's sister, Myra. Mr. Gladstein, the town jeweler and solitary Jew, is Jack's only friend; together, they scheme to win Jack Myra's love. But to do that, Jack must overcome the prejudices, both the town's and his own, about himself and his family.
To be honest, I was unsure about sharing the publisher's summary for this week's Imprint Friday. But then I thought about it. Readers of If Jack's in Love are going to pick up on different aspects of the story and have different reactions, making the novel a fabulous book club choice. So what was my hesitation? Mostly, it's the description of Jack's brother, Stan. Although Stan's hair is longer than most in town and he's discovered pot, he is really isn't "a long-haired, pot-smoking hippie." He's a lot of things--most of it bad--but he's generally interested in avoiding the draft, spending time with the leggy girl down the street, and throwing his weight around. It's just a bit too early for small-town kids to be hippies, and he definitely missed the boat for the Summer of Love. Fortunately, despite the summary, Wetta got it right.

Jack is a good boy from a no-good family and has lived under the cloud of being a Witcher all his life. The summer he turns thirteen is pivotal, and not just because he is about start junior high and leave his childhood behind. It's the summer Jack sees his family and his community for what they are and must decide where he wants to stand in relationship to others.

If you remember the 60s (and I'm just a few months younger than Jack), you'll likely key in to the subtle references to the politics and music of the era. You'll also know exactly what Jack means when he says:
Earlier Myra and I met where we always met, in the woods. The woods! There was something daring, even salacious, about the words. Back then, before childhood had grown menaced by television reports, the woods were where kids went to drink and smoke and cop feels. One said "the woods" with a knowing smile. The words could make a thirteen-year-old's heart pump. (1)
Younger readers will wonder if some parts of the novel are realistic, but things were different before the Internet, before in-your-face mass-media reporting, and when small-town matters stayed that way. But these are the makings of a great discussion.

Other themes are family loyalty, prejudice (of all sorts), and young love. If I were leading a book club discussion, I would talk about the juxtaposition of the changes in Jack's life and the greater cultural and political changes occurring in American and throughout the world in 1967.

Here are some other opinions
  • The starred Publishers Weekly review ends: "At turns unsparing, tender, and disturbing when it comes to rivalry and the nuances of love versus obligation, this is no typical bildungsroman. That Jack emerges from a crucible determined never to look back is unsurprising; it is the path leading him to this conclusion that is intelligently, wonderfully conceived."
  • Stacy Alesi (The BookBitch), concludes: "this is Jack's story, and despite all that is going on around him, this is a lovely fairytale, if you will, about a boy who rises up beyond his beginnings. An excellent read, especially for book groups."
  • Abby Plesser, writing for BookPage says the novel is "a moving portrait of a specific time, family and town, but also a universal story of growing up and coming to terms with the people—and places—that raise us, told with all the humor, truth and urgency of its teenage hero."
If Jack's in Love was an Indie Next pick for October 2011. To learn more about Stephen Wetta, visit his website and/or follow him on Twitter.

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

If Jack's in Love at an Indie

Published by Putnam / Amy Einhorn Books, October 2011
ISBN-13: 9780399157523

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29 September 2011

Review: Bohemian Girl by Terese Svoboda

A shorter version of this review of Terese Svoboda's Bohemian Girl first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers on September 2, 2011.

Temporarily enslaved by a Pawnee to settle one of her father's bets, twelve-year-old Harriet clings to the promise of someday being reunited with her family. Ankles hobbled, she is forced into hard labor, biding her time until her sentence is complete. When she realizes the Pawnee has no intention of letting her go, she decides to slip her bonds and take off east in search of her father. Alone in the tall grass, she thinks:

I have no fear now. The Indian gave me so much fear at the end, it came in buckets until I had no choice but to drink it down and be Bohemian.

I walk right into the blue of this country's sky, the color of the glass Bohemians keep one or two bottles of in every house. If I had any sense I would change my skin and clothes to this blue so no Indian could find me, new or old. I could be a walking blue and lost to the eyes of all. (32–33)
Harriet's journey across the Great Plains during the Civil War years is neither romantic nor gratuitously violent; it is simply her reality: from hungry nights alone to run-ins with soldiers and chance meetings with other wanderers. As a consequence of one of those encounters, Harriet takes on the care of a baby boy when another young girl, claiming to be his sister, decides to abandon him. Making the best of every possible opportunity, Harriet finds a way to raise the boy, sacrificing her own desires to do right by him, even as those she loves and trusts unhesitatingly leave her behind.

Although quick thinking and a level head serve Harriet well, 19th-century Nebraska offers no safe haven for a single woman. The American West of Teresa Svoboda's Bohemian Girl is both harsher and more ordinary than that portrayed by Hollywood. Harriet is not caught up in an Indian raid or lured by pimps, instead she is involved in the more personal conflict of staying alive without losing her "true self."

Svoboda weaves her varied talents (published poet and winner of the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize) into Bohemian Girl, infusing her prose with poetry and her fiction with truth to craft a beautifully written story of a young girl's determination to live with honor. From the first page, readers will be drawn to Harriet's unique perspective ("If I look into the perfect face of the river, with no rock to make a muscle in its flow or tree stump to divide it, I see Pa in it") and will later marvel that even after years of sacrifice, loneliness, and sorrow she can still pause to watch the "quail skitter up in the new evening-pale light" along the river and hope for a better future.

Bohemian Girl at Powell's
Bohemian Girl at Book Depository
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Published by University of Nebraska / Bison Books (Flyover Fiction), 2011
ISBN-13: 9780803226821
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: A
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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27 September 2011

Wordless Wednesday 149

Broken Seedhead, September 2011


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Starting from Page 1: Six for Early Fall

Don't let the temperatures fool you; fall has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere and it's time to start thinking about indoor pursuits and long evenings devoted to reading. The quality of books coming out this season is astounding, meaning 2011 is going to end as strongly as it began.

As I've mentioned, one way I choose my next book is by reading the opening lines to see what grabs me. Here's what I read yesterday.


Gail Caldwell
Let's Take the Long Way Home
Random House Trade, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780812979114
Memoir

It's an old, old story: I had a friend and we shared everything and then she died and so we shared that, too.
Beth Kephart
You Are My Only
Egmont USA / Laura Geringer Books, 2011
ISGN-13: 9781606842720
Young Adult - Fiction
My house is a storybook house. A huff-and-a-puff-and-they'll-blow-it-down house. The roof is soft; it's tumbled. There are bushes growing tall past the sills. A single sprouted tree leans in from high above the cracked slate path, torpedoing acorns to the ground.
Anne Enright
The Forgotten Waltz
W. W. Norton, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780393072556
Fiction
If it hadn't been for the child then none of this might have happened, but the fact that a child was involved made everything that much harder to forgive. Not that there is anything to forgive, of course, but the fact that a child was mixed up in it all made us feel that there was no going back; that it mattered. The fact that a child was affected meant we had to face ourselves properly, we had to follow through.
Brian O'Reilly
Angelina's Bachelors
Simon & Schuster / Gallery, 2011
ISBN-13: 9781451620566
Fiction
"Perfect," whispered Angelina.

Standing alone in the moonlit warmth of her kitchen, she stroked them each softly in turn and applied the slightest, knowing pressure to each. They were cool to the touch now, all risen to exactly the same height, the same shape and consistency, laid side by side by side on the well-worn wooden table. The dusky scent of dark chocolate lingered in the air and on her fingers.
Greg Olear
Fathermucker
HarperCollins / William Morrow, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780062059710
Fiction
Fatherhood is fear. Fatherhood is disappointment. Fatherhood is anger and envy and lust. And the surest guarantee of fatherly success is a Spock-like mastery of those base emotions. Mister Spock, not Doctor.

Eleanor Henderson
Ten Thousand Saints
HarperCollins / Ecco, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780062021021
Fiction
"Is it dreamed?" Jude asked Teddy. "Or dreamt?"

Beneath the stadium seats of the football field, on the last morning of 1987 and the last morning of Teddy's life, the two boys lay side by side, a pair of snow angels bundled in thrift-store parkas. If you were to spy them from above, between the slats of the bleachers--or smoking behind the school gym, or sliding their skateboards down the stone wall by the lake--you might confuse one for the other. But Teddy was the dark-haired one, Jude the redhead.
From the opening lines, which of these would you read first? I haven't yet decided.

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26 September 2011

Review & Giveaway: Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

Hazel and Jack have been best friends and next-door neighbors since they were little--riding bikes, sledding, and dreaming up new superheroes. But life changed for each of them just before fifth grade, when Hazel's father walked out on his family and Jack's mother showed signs of depression.

The two share a sense of wonder and have active imaginations. In fact, Hazel thinks:

The truth of things was always much more mundane than what she could imagine, and she did not understand why people always wanted to replace the marvelous things in her head with [a] miserable heap of you're-a-fifth-grader-now facts. (p. 3)
Hazel struggles to fit in at school, but knows she can count on Jack for friendship. Then one day it snows, and Jack gets something in his eye, and suddenly everything changes.

Breadcrumbs is Anne Ursu's retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's story "The Snow Queen." This modern rendition maintains the ambiance of the original tale but makes it more accessible to today's middle grade reader.

Hazel is a girl in transition: She's adjusting to growing up, to living without a father, and to having to make new friends. Jack too is torn between his best friend (a girl) and his school buddies (boys) and is dealing with an emotionally distant mother. When Jack succumbs to the Snow Queen's false love and disappears into the woods, Hazel finds her courage and goes on a journey to rescue him.

As in any good fairy tale, the magic woods are spooky and Hazel meets crones, wolves, ravens, and woodsmen along the way. It's fun to see how she reacts to the creatures and people she meets. Hazel has a twenty-first-century sensibility and draws on it to help her determine friend from foe. Breadcrumbs is a good Halloween season novel but isn't so scary that timid readers need pass it by.

One way Ursu modernizes the original story is by giving the children problems that today's kids can relate to: divorce, adoption, being teased at school, and wanting things your parents can't afford. On the other hand, it's important that all is not sad for Hazel. Her mother truly loves and cares for her and the young girl is able to make a new friend, find new interests, and meet adults who can and do help her. In addition, well-read youngsters will appreciate Ursu's references to popular children's literature, such as the Narnia books and Harry Potter.

Breadcrumbs would make a great children's book club selection because there is so much to discuss, from the magical elements to the real-world problems Jack and Hazel must overcome. Parents and teachers will appreciate the thoughtful and helpful reading guide, available on the publisher's website. In addition to 18 great discussion questions and topics, the guide includes suggestions for related activities. Parents, home-schoolers, and teachers can use these interesting projects to help children discover how reading connects them to history, science, the arts, and imagination.

Adults who enjoy fairy tale retellings should add Breadcrumbs to their reading list.

Giveaway: Thanks to the publisher, who sent me an additional advance reader's edition of Breadcrumbs, I am pleased to offer an unread copy to one of my readers. I'm happy to send the book anywhere in the world. All you have to do to enter is fill out the form. I'll pick a winner (via a random-number generator) on October 6.




Anne Ursu's website includes a sample chapter from the book. You can also check out her Facebook page and follow her on Twitter. This review will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted by Julie at Booking Mama.

Breadcrumbs at Powell's
Breadcrumbs at Book Depository
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Published by HarperCollins / Walden Pond Press, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780062015051
Source: review (see review policy)
Rating: B
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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24 September 2011

Weekend Cooking: Review & Giveaway: The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn

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 marks a first for Beth Fish Reads: I have written my first-ever joint book review. The idea came from Marg from Adventures of an Intrepid Reader, and she couldn't have picked a better book review to collaborate on. We are different cooks, in different stages of our lives, and living on different sides of the world. Thanks to modern technology, our conversation about Kathleen Flinn's The Kitchen Counter Cooking School couldn't have gone more smoothly.

So here's how it works: The first part of our review appears on Marg's blog. So you need to run over there and see what we have to say. The second part is right here. We are both sharing our thoughts and photos. We're also each hosting a giveaway.

There's lots to read, so let's get started. First, the photos I've shared here show the produce I picked up at the farmers' market this week and a few items I bought at the grocery store. All the produce (there were a lot more apples than shown) will be eaten by the end of the week--and there are just two of us. I have a well-stocked pantry and freezer, so I didn't have too much extra to get at the store this week. (Click on the photos to see them full size.)

As you learned from Marg, Flinn came up with the idea for her cooking school and book when she approached a stranger in the grocery store. After introducing us to her nine students (ranging in age from 23 to 61), Flinn writes about the lessons she presented to the wannabe cooks. Each chapter focuses on a particular technique or ingredient and ends with a recipe.

Me: Who do you think Flinn is writing to? People who never cook? People who want to improve their cooking skills? Were you inspired to get cooking from scratch?

Marg: I am not sure that I was "inspired" to get cooking from scratch, but I started thinking about it at least. There’s a big difference! I think that there are three distinct groups of cooks--there are those who are really good cooks, who can look at a group of ingredients in the cupboard and come up with something fabulous and they enjoy the whole cooking experience. This book isn’t really for them.

The next group are the people who can cook a little bit but who for whatever reason don’t do it all the time. I would see myself as being in this group, and so there were definitely things in this book for me to try. For example, as I mentioned before the pasta side dishes, pancakes, and another example is vinaigrette. I have never, ever made a vinaigrette before. Every summer I buy bottles of salad dressing. At the end of every summer I throw out practically full bottles! Maybe with just knowing the 'formula' I would be able to just make small batches that would actually get used. Maybe.

The third group, in my opinion, are people who are completely intimidated by cooking and so really need to start from the basics. This is probably the target audience for the book, but my question would be would someone who has no interest at all in cooking even pick the book up?

Me: I agree. I think I fit more in the first group. I was looking for something new and didn’t really find it. I can see how the second group of cooks would really benefit. Vinaigrette is something I do make myself. Flinn’s vinaigrette video really emphasizes how easy it is to make your own. I always add some mustard, garlic, and an herb and vary the type of vinegar. I love her trick of using up the mustard in the jar! That was totally new to me. (Click the link to see the video.)

Marg: I would think that running seasons of classes in the same way she did with the group that are in the book would be more likely to work for these types of cooks, but then that limits the exposure of the message to a group of 10 or so people each time. In some way the message is pretty similar to the one that Jamie Oliver has tried to get out through his Food Revolution series but obviously he has a much bigger 'name' and audience.

Me: Oh good point about Jamie Oliver. I didn’t make that connection. But yes, very similar. The idea is important: If you make it yourself, then it will be more healthful and contain less chemicals. I also think that if you can get your kids to help cook then they become less picky eaters; if they made it, they’ll want to eat it.

I must say I was surprised by how many of the students were thankful for the knife skills class. This surprises me. Although I think knowing which knife or how many knives to own is very useful, I wonder if most everyday cooks and their families really care about achieving the perfect dice or julienne.

Marg: This was one of the videos that my son and I watched and he was very excited because it tallied with what they had been taught at school recently! I have a drawer full of knives, but I really only use a couple. I really should just get rid of the really cheap ones that I have that were given to us as a set years ago and buy another really good knife and just have the couple that I use there! I do think that chopping is something that intimidates nervous cooks. Whenever you watch the cooking shows that are so prevalent on TV, the cooks chop through mounds of vegies in no time at all and end up with everything perfectly evenly diced and sliced and straight away people will go I can’t do that and so not even try!

Me: Ahhh. I see. I don’t chop everything with a chef’s flare, but I have never really minding chopping. I usually prepare all my ingredients before I start cooking. First, it makes the actual cooking process go more smoothly. Second, it means I’m not frantically trying to get the zucchini chopped before the onion burns. Finally, it gives me a chance to make sure I actually have all the ingredients, so I can make substitutions if I’m out of something.

I admit to skimming some of the chapters, but I thought maybe the students' families took to the new foods and ways of cooking pretty quickly. And, in fact, they were all still off canned and boxed goods a few months later. Do you think that’s realistic?

Marg: If you knew that someone who had been teaching you this class was coming wouldn't you make sure that it looked as though you were doing everything right? Actually, that might be a bit harsh. I think if you have grown more confident in your skills and have really experienced the difference in terms of saving money and taste you would be more likely to actually keep doing it. What do they say about habits--it takes something like six weeks to form a new one?

Me: Ha! Yes, I would want to impress the teacher if she were coming back to assess my kitchen and have a meal with me. On the other hand, if you learn how easy it is to bake a cake, then maybe you wouldn’t by a box mix anymore.

The recipes all look good and easy enough to follow, but I think the most helpful part of the book is her " 'Cheat Sheet' to Flavor Profiles." Here is where readers can get creative in the kitchen and turn a plain chicken meal, for example, into something great. Do you think you’d use these flavor combinations to create your own recipes?

Marg: I think I skimmed over that section. Will have to have a look at that bit again! I do think that I might refer back to certain sections occasionally particularly seeing as my son is very interested in cooking at the moment and I really want to encourage that whilst he is still engaged and interested.

I did miss not having any photos for the recipes. I know that you can have fabulous cookbooks without any images, but it certainly helps. There are the supplemental features like the videos that can be found on her website, but I would like to see a few more of these and maybe some other recipes etc added to her site so that it becomes an evolving site that you could visit regularly to get new ideas and tips.


Me: I thought the videos were very helpful--they really drove home the point that cooking can be fast and easy. I love the idea of an evolving site. I’d especially like to see some seasonal recipes that use fresh vegetables in the winter months. (Click the link for Flinn's video channel.)

Some final thoughts: To be honest, I wasn't very enthusiastic about The Kitchen Counter Cooking School until I started talking with Marg. Through her, I saw how helpful the book really is. She also encouraged me to watch the videos, which I thought were a wonderful supplement to the book.

Giveaway: Thanks to the publisher I have one copy of Kathleen Flinn's The Kitchen Counter Cooking School to give away to one of my readers. You also get a cool kitchen magnet (shown at the right; click to enlarge). To enter, fill in the form and I'll pick a winner on October 3. This giveaway is open to those with a U.S./Canadian mailing address only.



The Kitchen Counter Cooking School at Powell's
The Kitchen Counter Cooking School at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Penguin USA / Viking, October 2011
ISBN-13: 9780670023004


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23 September 2011

Imprint Friday: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

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

Now here's a book that needs little introduction. Patrick deWitt's The Sisters Brothers made the Man Booker short list this year and is generating quite a bit of buzz all on its own.

Here's what it's all about:

Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. The enigmatic and powerful man known only as the Commodore has ordered it, and his henchmen, Eli and Charlie Sisters, will make sure of it. Though Eli doesn't share his brother's appetite for whiskey and killing, he's never known anything else. But their prey isn't an easy mark, and on the road from Oregon City to Warm's gold-mining claim outside Sacramento, Eli begins to question what he does for a living—and whom he does it for.

With The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable comic tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of characters—losers, cheaters, and ne'er-do-wells from all stripes of life—and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, and love.
Whoa! A Western? Well, yes, it is, but it's a different kind of Western and one that shouldn't be read too closely as historical fiction. Instead this a story of brothers and their strange journey on their way to do a violent job. Their adventure is told by Eli, the younger of the two, who is self-conscious of his weight and considered a bit slow but who, nonetheless is thoughtful and observant:
This perhaps was what lay at the very root of the hysteria surrounding what came to be known as the Gold Rush: Men desiring a feeling of fortune; the unlucky masses hoping to skin or borrow the luck of others, or the luck of a destination. A seductive notion, and one I though to be wary of. To me, lucky was something you either earned or invented through strength of mind. You had to come by it honestly; you could not trick or bluff your way into it.
The brothers couldn't be more different and yet they are bound by blood, love, and experience. As they make their way south to California, getting out of one scrape after another, you root for them—especially Eli—to somehow survive their mission.

Thanks to The Sisters Brothers's Man Booker nomination, there have been many reviews and analyses of the novel. Here are three thoughts (click on the links for the full reviews):
  • Jake Wallis Simons writing for The Independent: "The travails of the humane yet morally ambiguous protagonist in a hostile, lawless and unpredictable universe have echoes of Cormac McCarthy's speculative classic The Road. That book imagines a journey through a world in which civilisation has died; [The Sisters Brothers] explores a world in which civilisation, as we know it, has not yet emerged. But both have much to say about the business of being human."
  • Michael Christie, writing for the National Post: "Most of all, it is in the small details of their day-to-day lives where the conventions of the Western are deliciously trampled. Sure, there are saloons, prostitutes, brawls and sneak attacks on the bad guy’s camp, but the Sisters brothers mostly battle the mundane. . . . The overall effect is fresh, hilariously anti-heroic, often genuinely chilling, and relentlessly compelling. Yes, this is a mighty fine read, and deWitt a mighty fine writer."
  • Ron Charles writing for the Washington Post: "After capturing the fireside camps and saloons in perfectly drawn vignettes, deWitt strips these two lethal brothers of more than they ever thought a man could lose. And then, damned if he doesn’t surprise us again with a twilight scene that’s just miraculously lovely."
The Sisters Brothers was an Indie Next pick for May 2011. For more on Patrick deWitt, visit his website.

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.

The Sisters Brothers at Powell's
The Sisters Brothers at Book Depository
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Published by HarperCollins / Ecco, May 2011
ISBN-13: 9780062041265

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22 September 2011

Thursday Tea: The Ape Who Guards the Balance by Elizabeth Peters

The Book: As I've mentioned here before, Elizabeth Peter's Amelia Peabody series is one of my favorite ways to escape into an audiobook. Barbara Rosenblat does such an amazing job narrating the series, I can't imagine listening to anyone else's voice when indulging in another escape to Egypt with Peabody and her family.

The Ape Who Guards the Balance (10th in the series) takes us back to the Valley of the Kings, where Amelia's husband, Emerson, hopes to find an undisturbed tomb. Of course the whole family is in tow for the 1907 season, including their son, Ramses, and their two wards, Nefret and David, all of whom are now young adults and (mostly) out from under the watchful eye of Amelia.

Emerson's archaeological fieldwork provides the setting, but the real story involves the illegal antiquities trade, murder, and the reintroduction of Amelia's archenemy, Sethos (The Master Criminal). The fantastic characters, good humor, and complex plotting keep me coming back. Read this series from book one.

The Tea: This week I've turned to an old favorite Stash Tea's Keenum Hao Ya. Here's the description: "The narrow, tightly twisted black leaves brew into a brilliant reddish-gold cup with a full-bodied fruity, sweet flavor and a unique orchid aroma. Keemun Hao Ya tastes wonderful without milk or sugar and goes exceptionally well with baked goods like breads and cakes and muffins." I've skipped the baked goods but still enjoy the tea.

The Assessment: It's the turn of the 20th century and the Emersons are British, which means they drink tea every day, even in the heat of the Valley of the Kings. Would they drink Keemun? Perhaps. I'm pretty sure they would be adding milk and sugar and would never skip a sweet treat.

What About You? It's fall here in the Northern Hemisphere and the weather will soon be perfect for staying inside curled up with a good book. What are you reading this week? Drinking anything interesting?


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

Published by Avon, 1998 (various editions available)
ISBN-13: 9780380798568
'
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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21 September 2011

Wordless Wednesday 148

Seeking Shelter from the Rain, 2011

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20 September 2011

Today's Read: Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam

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 the middle of the workday at the small firm where he'd worked with Wilson for the last nineteen years, Lamb took his father's ball cap from the empty chair by his office door and left. He drove through the city, through the warm and thickening haze, returning to the same dim parking lot where he had seen the girl twenty-four hours before. He set himself at the bus stop and was not surprised when he saw her coming down the gummy sidewalk minutes later, in long sleeves and pants despite the heat. Somehow—how?—he'd known she would come. He always knew everything. Nothing in the world ever surprised him anymore, ever. Imagine that. Feeling that. (p. 22)
—From Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam (Other Press, 2011 [from uncorrected proof, may differ from published edition])

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19 September 2011

Review: The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

Sophie and Josh Newman are twins spending the summer in San Francisco with their aunt while their parents are doing research in Utah. The fifteen-year-olds find the perfect jobs, Josh at a bookshop and Sophie at a tea shop. They're working right across the street from each other so they can commute together.

It's turning out to be a great vacation, and the teens are well on their way to saving enough money to buy a car as soon as they get their licenses. Everything changes the day a very important book is stolen from the bookstore and they get caught up in trying thwart the thieves. That's the day they discover Josh is working for none other than Nicholas Famel, one of the most famous alchemists to have ever lived. The only problem is, Famel was born in 1330 and it's now the twenty-first century.

In The Alchemyst, Michael Scott mixes fact with fiction, mythology, and legend to create a fast-moving, mind-blowing tale of good versus evil and gods versus humans. All the action in this first of six planned books takes place in just a couple of days, and in those hours, Sophie and Josh see a glimpse of the world as it exists for the Elders (a.k.a. gods). As you can imagine, the twins' lives are changed forever, and they're caught up in an ancient battle without being sure which side should win.

Although Sophie and Josh are fifteen, The Alchemyst is geared more to middle-school readers than to high-schoolers and is a book that both boys and girls will like. It's obvious that Scott is writing to a young audience, but that's not to say that adults won't be caught up in the adventure. Readers of all ages will a kick out of how the ancient gods and creatures of legend deal with the modern world and the inventions of humans. It's also fun to hear Famel's take on the truth behind historical events, such as the Great Fire of London in 1666. I enjoyed the premise and action enough to want to continue the series.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Listening Library; 10 hr, 5 min) read by Denis O'Hare. O'Hare's expressive reading and clear and appropriate characterizations kept my attention. The Alchemyst is a good audio for family listening.

Michael Scott's website contains information about the historical basis of the series, including a time line, FAQ, and video interviews. You can also follow him on Twitter. This review will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted by Julie at Booking Mama.

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

Published by Random House / Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2007
ISBN-13: 9780385733571
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: B-
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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17 September 2011

Weekend Cooking: Review: Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis

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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David Tanis begins his Heart of the Artichoke with a short, personal introduction called "The Cuisine in My Head." The first thing he tells us is that he cooks for Chez Panisse. If you aren't familiar with the famous restaurant, all you need to know is that Chez Panisse means fresh, local, and friendly. I was pleased to read that Tanis, however, is happiest in his own home kitchen.

On page 4, I began to fall in love. There I learned that all a kitchen requires is "fire, water, a worktable, and a sharp knife." Tanis also suggests a blender, "a wooden spoon, and a cast-iron pan." In truth, he mentions a couple of other handy nonelectric tools and his recipes call for a variety of pots and pans, but simple works for him--and it does for me.

Somewhere in the next section, I was totally smitten. I just adore Tanis's fourteen personal, private "kitchen rituals." After reading about his favorite simple comfort foods made quickly out of odds and ends to his creating apple-peel spirals and making beautiful refrigerator jams, I knew this was a cook (chef?) after my own heart.

The recipes are arranged seasonally and grouped into menus. The flavors range from classic European to down-home American to Asian and more. I particularly like that each menu includes at least one vegetarian dish (as a side or main dish), well-matched flavors, and beautiful photographs (but not of every recipe). Each menu is built around a country or a flavor. I'll use the third menu, titled "In a Sicilian Kitchen," as an example of what you can expect.

Tanis introduces the menu by telling us story about Sicily and the Lanza family's winery outside of Palermo. We learn about the countryside, the people, the gardens, and the food. We take a tour of a Palermo market and learn how ricotta cheese is made. Then Tanis presents the recipes; each one has an introduction and short, easy-to-follow directions.

This spring menu consists of a bright, fresh salad with fennel, greens, and citrus. The flavors remind Tanis of Sicily, although his host tells him that "No Sicilian would ever eat it!" because they like their vegetables cooked. The entree is a simple baked tomato, ricotta, and pasta dish, called a timballo. It's a regional classic that's easy to put together. The meal ends with honey-flavored fried dough puffs, which are traditionally served on St. Joseph's Day.

Although I doubt I'd make the fried dough, both the salad and the pasta look delicious and perfect for a weekday dinner. Other menus include more dishes, stronger flavors, and meat, but all are accompanied by personal stories and most are appropriate for busy cooks.

I'm going to make a quick guess and say that 90% of the recipes use everyday ingredients and simple techniques. There are a handful of recipes that use ingredients that would be difficult for me to find here in central Pennsylvania or that I have no desire to fuss with. A couple are too time-consuming. On the other hand, pan-fried steak, tomato-basil soup, lamb burgers, tabbouleh, spiced pears, and apple compote are all welcome in my kitchen.

In the fall section, I found this wonderful chicken wing recipe. The other dishes in the menu are fried green tomatoes, cabbage slaw, a shrimp in a spicy sauce, scalloped corn, and molasses pecan squares. As you might imagine, the menu is called "Cooking America," and I think it'd make a great meal for a casual Saturday afternoon while watching football.

Peppery Chicken Wings
  • 5 pounds of chicken wings, wing tips removed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed to a paste with a little salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
Lay the chicken wings out on a baking sheet and season well with salt and pepper. Transfer the wings to a big mixing bowl, add all the other ingredients, and give the wings a massage. Refrigerate for at least an hour, or as long as overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Put the wings in a roasting pan or baking sheet in one layer. Roast, uncovered, until nicely browned and crisp, about 1 hour. You can eat them hot, at room temperature, or cold.

Beth Fish's notes: I seasoned the wings in the bowl to save washing the baking sheet. I smashed the garlic through a garlic press; maybe not a chef technique but certainly easier! I usually cut the two meaty sections of the wings apart at the joint, but Tanis serves the two sections connected, which saves some time and energy.

The vast majority of recipes are just this straightforward. Plenty of flavor, easy to use, happy cook!


Published by Workman / Artisan, 2010
ISBN-13: 9781579654078
Source: review (see review policy).
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)



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16 September 2011

Imprint Friday: The Taste of Salt by Martha Southgate

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.

Mark my words, The Taste of Salt by Martha Southgate is going to become a much-discussed novel and a book club favorite. Although the back-of-the-book summary may fool you into thinking there's nothing new here, you would be very wrong. Before I tell you why, take a look at the publisher's description:

Josie Henderson loves the water and is fulfilled by her position as the only senior-level black scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. In building this impressive life for herself, she has tried to shed the one thing she cannot: her family back in landlocked Cleveland. Her adored brother, Tick, was her childhood ally as they watched their drinking father push away all the love that his wife and children were trying to give him. Now Tick himself has been coming apart and demands to be heard.

Weaving four voices into a beautiful tapestry, Southgate charts the lives of the Hendersons from the parents’ first charmed meeting to Josie’s realization that the ways of the human heart are more complex than anything seen under a microscope.
I was immediately drawn to two things about the main character, Josie Henderson: She's from Cleveland and she's a marine biologist. Although I'm from a different Ohio town and my degrees are in a different science, I thought I could relate. I was right, but not in the way I had anticipated. I, of course, understood Josie's need to prove herself professionally as a woman and as a minority. I could also easily picture her childhood home on the shores of Lake Erie. What I didn't expect was how much I would feel for her, despite our myriad differences.

In a conversational style, Josie tells her story, starting from the near past, moving to the distant past, and then catching up us to the present. When she wants to tell her parents' stories or her brother's, she imagines what they might say and tries to fill in the gaps in her knowledge. But her research on marine life has taught her the futility of this kind of thinking:
How can you study something that you can't observe at length? . . . How can you truly get to know an environment that you can't live in, that you have to have all kinds of equipment even to spend time in? It's the miracle of my work--of our work--that we able to know anything at all. The life beneath us is so unfathomable, and we treat it with such disdain. (p. 5)
When Josie can no longer outrun her family or herself, she sees there are many kinds of addictions and many ways to fool yourself into thinking you're above all that. Rock bottom wears a different mask for each addict, sometimes--but not always--leaving a door open to salvation. As Josie shares her addictalogue, we, like the people at her brother's AA meetings, laugh and nod, sigh as the tale gets sadder, and think we know how the story ends (p. 239). But do we?

The simple, straightforward style Southgate uses in The Taste of Salt is deceptive. The emotional punch sneaks up on you, and by the end, your eyes are full and you need some quiet time to process Josie's story. Later, you'll need to talk about the novel and what it says about family, marriage, addiction, and love.

Here are some other thoughts:
  • Meredith Maran writing for SFGate.com: "What's new and important about this novel is the depth and breadth of its characters, the four Hendersons of Cleveland, who aren't the kind of white, middle-class familiars whose predicaments we're asked to care about in the vast majority of American literary fiction."
  • Publishers Weekly: "Southgate's arresting, fluid prose and authentic dialogue come together in a resonating study of relationships."
To learn more about Martha Southgate, visit her website or Facebook page or follow her on Twitter. Southgate will be touring this fall, for a schedule, visit Algonquin's website. Book clubs will appreciate the reader's guide printed at the back of the novel.

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.

The Taste of Salt at Powell's
The Taste of Salt at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Workman / Algonquin Books, September 13, 2011
ISBN-13: 9781565129252

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15 September 2011

Thursday Tea: Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

The Book: I recently listened to the first book in what promises to be a terrific series. Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin is definitely a murder mystery but it's also historical fiction. The setting is 12th-century Cambridge, England, at a time when Henry II is firmly in charge.

After several Christian children are found brutally murdered, rumors and accusations spread throughout the area, with the local Jews bearing the brunt of the blame. Although Jews have been expelled from several European kingdoms, Henry II depends on the taxes they pay him and thus he's forced to protect them.

Realizing that only solid proof of a non-Jewish killer will restore peace to Cambridge and money to his treasury, Henry asks the king of Sicily to send a doctor specializing in the art of death (a forensic expert). What Henry got was an unlikely trio consisting of Simon of Naples, a Jew known for his diplomatic skills; Adelia Aguilar, an atheist with both forensic and medical training; and Mansur, an Arab, who is Adelia's protector.

What was the king of Sicily thinking to send this team? Cambridge is not liberal Sicily, and the local English population has no love for Jews, Arabs, or educated women. The three find themselves caught between Church and Crown, Jews and Catholics, and good and evil as they work to find the murderer.

Franklin's mix of historical fiction with suspenseful mystery makes Mistress of the Art of Death appealing on a couple of levels. First, I enjoyed seeing medieval Cambridge and its diverse population from the perspective of the three travelers. At the same time, I was caught up in the investigation of the murders. Although I started to have an idea of where mystery was going, I was not prepared for the ultimate solution.

Although I can't attest to the historical accuracy of every detail, the foundation of the novel is based in fact. For example, it's true that Henry II did not expel the Jews from his kingdom and even offered them some protection. It is also true that there was a medical school in Salerno in the 12th century that trained women.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition of Mistress of the Art of Death (Penguin Audiobooks, 13 hr, 12 min) read by Rosalyn Landor. I've listened to a couple of books narrated by Landor, and her expressive reading is always spot on. For this novel, Landor's vocalizations intensified the action scenes and kept me fully engaged during the descriptive passages. Highly recommended.

Mistress of the Art of Death will appeal to fans of the Brother Cadfael books by Ellis Peters and the Magdalene la Batarde books by Roberta Gellis. The novel won two awards: a Historical Dagger award and a Macavity Award for Best Historical Novel. Penguin USA has posted a thoughtful reading guide on their website, a bit uncommon for a murder mystery. The book's website contains historical information and a time line.

The Tea: Tea has been just the thing to get me though the rainy, dreary afternoons we've had lately. This week I tried the Adagio's Ceylon Sonata tea. Nothing too fancy here, just a good basic tea for an afternoon pick-me-up. Here's what the company says: "Fresh, citrusy aroma, sweet juicy notes like mandarin peel or grapefruit, refreshing texture and balanced astringency." Yep, I'm still drinking it black and unsweetened, but that's the way I like it.

The Assessment: Could Adelia have had tea? As far as I can tell (and I really didn't spend much time looking), the chances are slim that she came in contact with an Asian trader who brewed tea for her in Sicily. On the other hand, there were probably established trade routes to Egypt, which had ancient ties with India, so maybe she had tea. In any case, once in England, I'm pretty sure the drink of choice was some kind of ale or maybe wine.

What About You? What are you drinking this week--tea, ale, soda, coffee or something else? And be sure to let me know what you're reading or listening to.


Thursday Tea was the brainchild of Anastasia at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog. The wonderful Sarah McCoy often posts a Thursday Tea post too.

Published by Penguin USA / Berkley, 2007
ISBN-13: 9780425219256
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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14 September 2011

Wordless Wednesday 147

Signs of Fall, 2011

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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13 September 2011

Imprint Extra: Celebrating Good Books & Giveaway

Today marks the third anniversary since I tentatively published my first post, which happened to be about red wines to drink with pizza. My second post was about books. This is my 1,324th post, and I can tell you truthfully that if you had asked me on September 13, 2008, if I thought I'd still be blogging three years later, I would have said no.

I've never celebrated my blogoversary, but I thought I'd use it as an excuse to have an Imprint Extra giveaway. My imprint awareness project started in January 2010, when I decided to host the Amy Einhorn Books Perpetual Reading Challenge. Since then, every Friday I've spotlighted a book from one of my favorite imprints.

Over the last twenty months, I've introduced you to literary fiction, historical fiction, light fiction, memoirs, short stories, and nonfiction from several genres. I have been blessed to have had the chance to work with some great publicists and marketing people, to have gotten to know some fabulous authors, and to have read some of the best books out there.

Today is all about sharing my love of reading and celebrating some terrific imprints by hosting a fairly large giveaway. The giveaway is open worldwide, and you can enter for a chance to win any of the following books. You can pick more than one title to increase your chances of winning, but there will be only one win per person. To enter, just fill out the form and I'll pick the winners on September 26.

Look over the titles and click on the links for more information. Then make your choices. Good luck!

1. Remedies by Kate Ledger is an Amy Einhorn Book that received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, was an August 2010 Indie Next Pick, a book club selection for Self magazine, and the community read for the Twin Cities Jewish Book Fair. It's book about a strong, smart couple who puts all their energy into everything but their marriage and daughter. It's about a family in crisis and what happens when everything finally falls apart. Author Kate Ledger has generously offered two signed copies of her book (two winners, one book each) and she has volunteered to send the books internationally.

2. The Call by Yannick Murphy is a Harper Perennial book that I reviewed and featured this past July. The book is about David, a New England large-animal veterinarian and his relationship with his patients and their owners and his family. It's about how a family deals with profound and unexpected changes and it's about everyday life. I love the unique format that Murphy uses to tell the story and I love the way she captured small-town life. I am pulling a copy of this off my shelves to share with one of you because I think this is a book that has universal appeal. This book has been gently read.

3. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman, published by Pamela Dorman Books, was one of my top-ten reads for 2010. I absolutely fell in love with CeeCee and the strong women who helped her through and past the difficult years of her childhood. This is a multilayered novel that touches on many themes, but your heart will go out to twelve-year-old CeeCee and you will carry her and the very wise Oletta with you for long time to come. I still think about them even a year after I first met them. I am so pleased to have a copy of the unabridged audiobook (on CD) to give away (brand new). Thanks to Beth for kindly sending me a copy so I can offer it to you. I listened to the book and I can assure you it's a great audio and a wonderful way to read the novel for the first time or the second.

4. When She Woke by by Hillary Jordan, from Algonquin Books, hasn't been released yet. In fact, I won't be featuring it for Imprint Friday until early October. I did, however, introduce you to the novel in June when I talked about the Hot Book Club Titles panel at BookExpo America 2011. Some reviews are already out there. This is an adult dystopian novel that is set in the not-so-distant future and has its roots in The Scarlett Letter. What would happen if your crimes were made visible for all to see? Where could find peace, safety, and new life? This book is already generating a lot of buzz, and I am adding my gently read ARC to the giveaway.

5. Quiet Chaos by Sandro Veronesi is from Ecco Books. The novel won the Strega Prize (the top literary prize in Italy) and came out in English translation last April. I haven't yet read this one, but it's high on my list and I just happen to have an extra unread ARC to share. Here's a bit from the description: "an unforgettable contemporary fable about stepping out of life after it cruelly turns everything upside-down, and finding a resolution to the unsolvable problem of loss in the beauty and strangeness of the everyday."


6. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen is now available in a Picador edition. Do I really need to tell you about this prize-winning, best-selling look at contemporary life? Well, just in case you're not sure what it's all about, I'll share part of the publisher's summary: "Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. . . . Franzen has produced an indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time." Thanks to the wonderful people at Picador, I have a brand new copy of the novel to offer to one of you.

I hope you're as excited for the chance to read these as I am to share them with you. Thanks to everyone who has been supportive and friendly and kind to me over the last three years. Now on to the entry form. Good luck!

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12 September 2011

Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Thomas wakes up in the total dark in a small room. He can't remember any details of his life--no last name, no parents, no mental image of his hometown. He senses that the room is moving up, like an elevator. When it finally stops and the doors are thrown open, he finds himself surrounded by strangers and in a strange land. All around him are teenage boys--no girls, no adults. How did he get there? What kind of place is it? Who are these boys? Why can't he remember?

James Dashner's The Maze Runner is the first book in a young adult dystopian trilogy. The reader knows only what Thomas knows and thus explores the dangerous and mysterious world of the Glade and Maze along with him.

Thomas quickly finds out that each boy in the Glade has the same type of amnesia and also arrived via the dark elevator. Each month on the same day at the same time, a new boy is introduced to the group. Outside the Glade is the Maze, which changes each night and is inhabited by deadly creatures. No one has yet solved the Maze or figured out its purpose.

Although there is quite a bit of action (squabbles among the boys, fights to death with the creatures) and a sense of mystery (what is the purpose of the Maze, who sent the boys there), the novel isn't very captivating. There are a few problems that stand out. First, the entire story takes place in a very short time, making Thomas's mastery of new skills and quick adjustment seem unrealistic. Second, the characters remained vague and were not vividly portrayed. I was unable to develop a clear picture of Thomas or any other character. Third, the solution to the mystery of the Maze seemed somewhat contrived, and it was unrealistic that no one had discovered any of the clues before Thomas showed up.

Most annoying, however, was despite the fact that Thomas had no memories, he was constantly sure that he'd never felt or done [fill in the blank] before. How could he be sure, when he doesn't remember anything specific about his life before the Glade?

I'm not sure why the The Maze Runner was a miss for me because it has been the recipient of a number of awards and honors. The novel was a 2009 winner from both Kirkus Reviews and the Kid's Indie Next List, was nominated in 2011 for the Tennessee Volunteer State Book Master List, was a 2011 winner of a Kentucky Bluegrass award, and was nominated for the 2012 Connecticut Nutmeg Children's Book Master List. Before taking my word for it, check out some other other reviews.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Listening Library, 10 hr, 50 min) read by Mark Deakins. Deakins is veteran narrator (although new to me) who was able to keep my attention throughout the book. I'm sure I would have abandoned The Maze Runner had I read it in print. Deakins's accents helped me keep the characters straight, and he brought a spark to the action scenes.

To learn more about the trilogy, visit the Maze Runner website. More about author James Dashner can be found on his blog. This review will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted by Julie at Booking Mama.

The Maze Runner at Powell's
The Maze Runner at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Random House / Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2009
ISBN-13: 9780385737951
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: C
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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10 September 2011

Weekend Cooking: Pressure Cooker (film) & C-CAP

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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Last week I introduced you to Richard Grausman's French Classics Made Easy, and I assured you that Grausman was capable of simplifying recipes without sacrificing flavor. What I didn't tell you is that Grausman is the founder of an incredible program, C-CAP, whose mission is "to promote and provide career opportunities in the foodservice industry for underserved youth through culinary arts education and employment" (from the mission statement).

The Careers through Culinary Arts Program is available in a handful of cities in the United States and provides much, much more than just cooking classes.

The Philadelphia program was the subject of the moving and inspirational documentary Pressure Cooker, which I first heard about on Beth Kephart's blog. High school teacher Mrs. Stephenson of Frankford High School in inner-city Philly is a force to be reckoned with. She tells it like it is, and students better be ready to hear the unvarnished truth. Stephenson's toughness, however, is mixed with incredible compassion and generosity.

Thanks to Grausman, teachers like Stephenson, and the support of donors, hardworking teens throughout the country have an opportunity to see a bright future. For many of these kids, C-CAP is the only way they'll get an education, helping not only themselves but their families see a better life.

One of the amazing things about the Philadelphia program is the diversity of students, including a recent immigrant from Africa, a cheerleader, and a football player. Some have family support, some don't, but all make sacrifices to stay in the program and practice to pass the rigorous competition for the chance to win a college scholarship.

Be inspired and have some tissues nearby. And don't miss Grausman's French Cooking Made Easy, which--in earlier renditions--"has served as an inspirational text for" C-CAP teachers and students. If inner-city teens can create awesome meals from this book, so can you.



Now please take a moment and check out the C-CAP website: read about the program and read the success stories of twenty former students.


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