29 February 2012

Wordless Wednesday 170

Signs of Spring, February 2012

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28 February 2012

Today's Read: The Legacy of Eden by Nelle Davy

Welcome to those of you who have been following The Legacy of Eden scavenger hunt tour. If this is the first you've heard of Nelle Davy's debut novel, then you might want to check out this Book Trib page, where you'll find the links to the other blogs on the tour. Some sites have reviews, others have guest posts or interviews, and several are hosting giveaways. Each one has a portion of the first chapter, so you can get sucked into a feel for the novel.

The Legacy of Eden is a family saga set on the fertile lands of Iowa on the Hathaway family farm, Aurelia. Thanks to Lavinia, who married a Hathaway soon after World War II, the 3,000 acres was home not just to wheat and corn but also to a modern house and beautiful gardens. It was the envy (and not necessarily in a nice way) of the county.

When Meredith Pincetti, Lavinia's youngest grandchild, is informed that her uncle died, leaving the farm in debt, she is the only one of her sisters and cousins to bother to call back the lawyers handling the estate. Despite 17 years in New York City as an art student and then a sculptor, Meredith hasn't been able to bury or forget her Midwest childhood. It looks as if it's up to her to decide the fate of Aurelia. But first she must face the painful truth of her family history.

Davy's descriptive writing and well-paced plot will soon pull you into the Hathaway family story. If you've ever lived in a small town, you'll relate all too well to life around Aurelia. With its Gothic undertones and hints of a mystery, The Legacy of Eden is a great weekend read. In fact, it's killing me that I'm only halfway done, I'll definitely finish this tonight.

I plan to do a full review of the novel soon: there are themes I'd like to comment on, but feel I should wait until I finish the book.

Here's today's tour excerpt. To understand the context, you'll have to visit the other blogs. :)

I stood up and walked out of the room. This is it, I thought to myself, I’ve snapped. I’m finally broken.

“You’re not fucking real,” I suddenly shouted.

“Dear God, girl, still so uncouth,” my grandmother said, stepping out from the kitchen, her tongue flicking the words out like a whip.

“I always told your mother she should have used the strap on you girls more often, but she was too soft a touch.”

I turned around to face her, my fists clenching and unclenching by my side. “You—if you hadn’t—”

She turned away from me, disdainful, bored. If this were all in my head, what did that say about me?

“Enough excuses, Meredith.”

I was shaking so hard, my voice tripped over itself.

“You were a monster, you know that? A complete monster.”

“Made not born,” she said and looked at me knowingly.

“Oh, no—” I shook my head “—I am nothing like you.”

“No, Merey—” and she smiled “—you exceeded all of our expectations.”

I took a step toward her—toward where I thought she was.

Intriguing? Read the entire first chapter, and I bet you'll add The Legacy of Eden to your list. For tomorrow's tour stop, head on over to Type-A Parent.


Buy The Legacy of Eden at an Indie, Powell's, Book Depository, or a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Mira 2012
ISBN-13: 9780778329558
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: TK
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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27 February 2012

Review: Ironweed by William Kennedy

In honor of the Oscars last night, I thought I'd talk about an award-winning movie (New York and LA film critics) and book (Pulitzer Prize) combo I watched and listened to last month.

William Kennedy's Ironweed is a difficult book to write about because the power of this character study and examination of the destructiveness of alcohol, the harsh world of the homeless, and the inability to find self-forgiveness must be experienced to be appreciated.

The story takes place in just a week or so in 1938 Albany, when Francis Phelan returns to his hometown, twenty years after he abandoned his family. Although he was once a Major League ballplayer, by the time the Great Depression hit, Francis was already riding the rails, working just enough to buy his next bottle of hooch.

Kennedy's prose evokes a surreal atmosphere, mirrored by the fact that it's Halloween, and the streets are filled with ghouls. Are they children in costume or are they the ghosts of Francis's past? As the dead awaken, he's visited by both those he's failed to save and those whose lives he took, reminding him of the reasons he's been on the self-destructive path he opted to take.

Ironweed pulls us into Francis's life: the mission, the bars, the other deadbeats and bums, and finally the house he lived in with his wife and children. Despite his alcoholism and his destitution, he is no different from many us. He can help others more easily than he can help himself. He finds it hard to let himself fully love, lest he let someone down yet again. He exaggerates the significance of his faults and doesn't recognize his strengths. And he's haunted by his past.

Ironweed is about family, forgiveness, salvation, and the spark of hope that no matter how far we fall, no matter how hard life can be, there may still be someone who will care for and about us.

Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson were both nominated for Academy Awards for their work in the film version of Ironweed, which follows the novel fairly closely. The acting in the movie is fantastic, but the book is the better way to experience the story. Here's the official trailer:


Buy Ironweed at an Indie, Powell's, Book Depository, or a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
My review of the audio edition of this novel is available at AudioFile magazine.
Published by Penguin Books, 1983
ISBN-13: 9780140070200
Source: Audio: Review (see review policy)
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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25 February 2012

Weekend Cooking: Review: Bean by Bean by Crescent Dragonwagon

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, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

_______

Today I'm talking about one of my favorite cookbook authors: Crescent Dragonwagon. You might remember when I first introduced you to her in my Double Dose of Crescent Dragonwagon post or perhaps you were baking up a storm after my review of her Cornbread Gospels.

I waited patiently all fall while her new book, Bean by Bean, was undergoing final edits and then was sent to the printer. When her book arrived a couple of weeks ago, I was relieved to learn that my patience was rewarded because Dragonwagon has written another winner. Bean by Bean is quickly becoming my go-to source for dinner.

The first thing I noticed about Bean by Bean is its fresh and appealing design, with its green-and-white color scheme, fun fonts, cute drawings, and thoughtful layout. My eye was also quickly attracted to the many great extras:
  • quotes from cookbooks, comedians, food writers, and literature
  • informative sidebars about chiles, Thai condiments, fresh herbs, soy, and more
  • recipe introductions with tips for success
  • menu ideas to help you pull together just right dishes
  • appendix with information about each type of bean and weight and measure conversion charts
Another great feature is the many, many recipe variations you'll find in Bean by Bean. Even the most timid cooks will be able to tweak dishes to fit their tastes and the ingredients they have in the house. I'm the type of person who can generally substitute on the fly, but I always appreciate a new suggestion, and many home cooks will be grateful to have some guidance.

The recipes themselves include everything from appetizers to desserts (yes, bean-based desserts!). You'll find dips, soups, salads, chilies, stews and curries, casseroles, and stir-fries. The beans, by the way, include all kinds: fresh beans from the garden, dried and canned beans, and legumes. This means you'll use Bean by Bean all year long.

Oh, and I almost forget one of the coolest, most useful features. Each recipe is flagged with one or more color-coded icons. This makes it easy to tell at quick glance whether the recipe is suitable for vegetarians, vegans, meat eaters, and/or gluten-free diets. I'm telling you, Bean by Bean is a book all of you can use. And because of the variations, one base recipe can often work for everyone, just by changing an ingredient or two.

Want some idea of the recipes themselves? Here are few I want to try:
  • The 7-Layer Middle Eastern Mountain (a take-off on the popular layered Mexican appetizer/dip)
  • Three Sisters Salad (green beans, zucchini, corn, and tomatoes)
  • Baked Beans Brazilian (casserole with olives, cheese, and pork)
  • Falafel (fried chickpea balls traditionally served in pita)
All the directions are clearly outlined and easy to follow and the vast majority of the ingredients are readily available at the supermarket. There are a few spices or herbs that might be more difficult to find if you are very rural, but that won't limit the useability of the cookbook.

I made the following bean and pasta recipe, which was quick and easy and a big hit. I picked broccoli rabe for my greens, which just happened to be one of the suggested variations, and served it with fresh-baked bread. I'll give you the base recipe here. The directions give you a sense of Dragonwagon's writing style, which is easygoing and personal.

CD's Beans & Greens Pasta with Lemon, Garlic, and Chile

Serves 4
Vegetarian (Vegan if the cheese is omitted)
  • 16 ounces dried pasta
  • 2 to 3 whole dried chiles, stemmed and broken in half
  • 1 large bunch of Swiss chard, rinsed well (but with some moisture still clinging to the leaves), tough ends of stems removed, leaves and tender pars of stems sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch ribbons
  • 3 to 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained well
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Finely grated Parmesan cheese for grating
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions.

2. Meanwhile, set a large, heavy skillet (ideally cast iron) over medium-high heat. Place the chiles in the skillet and toast, stirring them or giving the pan a shake occasionally, until they darken slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. (You might want to turn on an exhaust vent, if you have one, or throw open the windows; the air gets pretty pungent and cough-producing.)

3. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and then, almost immediately, the still-wet greens. Stir. There will be a big sizzle and the greens will quickly start wilting down, deepening in color. Immediately, just as soon as the greens have been stirred into the chile and olive oil, pop a tight-fitting lid over the skillet. Lower the heat just a bit and let the greens steam in their own liquid for 3 to 4 minutes.

4. Lift the lid and stir in the garlic. Cook for a few minutes more, just to take the edge of rawness off the garlic (don't let it brown), stirring to distribute everything. Then turn off the heat, squeeze half the lemon over the greens (squeeze through a strainer, to trap the seeds), and add the beans. Stir some more to heat the bean through (the pan will still be plenty hot). Add coarse sea salt and pepper to taste.

5. When your pasta is done (which might be about now, or midway through lemoning the greens), drain it well. Pile it, steaming hot, onto plates and divide the greens and beans over each portion. You can try to pick out the chiles if you like, or warn diners that they are there (if you're using red-stemmed chard, it's quite hard to spot those chilies, so, I repeat, warn those who like their food tamer). Drizzle each portion with a bit of the remaining olive oil. Cut the remaining lemon half into wedges and pass them along with the Parmesan at the table.




Buy Bean by Bean at an Indie, at Powell's, at Book Depository, or at bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs
Published by Workman, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780761132417
Rating: A
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


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24 February 2012

Imprint Friday: Londoners by Craig Taylor

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.

Back in 1974, when I was in college, a book about Americans at work was taking the reading world by storm. That book was Working by Studs Terkel, and it consisted of interviews of hundreds of people employed in every kind of job imaginable and from all over the country. I bought it, even on my undergrad budget, and I still have my original copy.

When I heard Craig Taylor had written Londoners, a similar book about modern London, I knew I had to have it. Not only because I loved Working but because I spent some time in London finishing up my doctoral research at the Natural History Museum. I lived well east of South Ken, and for the first and only time in my life, I became a big-city commuter who rode the tube at least twice a day, every day.

Enough about me, take a look at the publisher's summary.

Five years in the making, Londoners is a fresh and compulsively readable view of one of the world's most fascinating cities—a vibrant narrative portrait of the London of our own time, featuring unforgettable stories told by the real people who make the city hum.

Acclaimed writer and editor Craig Taylor has spent years traversing every corner of the city, getting to know the most interesting Londoners, including the voice of the London Underground, a West End rickshaw driver, an East End nightclub doorperson, a mounted soldier of the Queen's Life Guard at Buckingham Palace, and a couple who fell in love at the Tower of London—and now live there. With candor and humor, this diverse cast—rich and poor, old and young, native and immigrant, men and women (and even a Sarah who used to be a George)—shares indelible tales that capture the city as never before.

Together, these voices paint a vivid, epic, and wholly original portrait of twenty-first-century London in all its breadth, from Notting Hill to Brixton, from Piccadilly Circus to Canary Wharf, from an airliner flying into London Heathrow Airport to Big Ben and Tower Bridge, and down to the deepest tunnels of the London Underground. Londoners is the autobiography of one of the world's greatest cities
.
Londoners is not the kind of book you necessarily need to read from cover to cover, in order. Because it consists of short accounts told in the words of people who live or spend time in the city, you can dip in and out of the collection as fits your mood.

Whether you've been to London or not, you'll be entranced by the personal stories. Some of the pieces I particularly liked are these:
  • The black ballerina turned plumber who gets a kick out seeing clients' reactions when they open the door to "a black woman with dreadlocks, . . . me in overalls with a headscarf and my locks sticking out."
  • The director of markets in the City, who feels quite personally the history of the markets he supervises: the fish market that has been around since Roman times and the meat market that was established early in the Middle Ages.
  • The rhyming slang of the market traders.
  • The young barristers who discuss the best place to buy a wig and whether one should spring for a traditional wig tin.
I also love the fact that Taylor chose to bookend the interviews with the thoughts of a commercial airline pilot, who describes flying into the city at the beginning of the book and leaving the city at the end.

Londoners is a must for anyone who has visited or lived in the city, who dreams of visiting the city, and who is interested in the opinions of the public. Brew yourself a pot of tea or pour yourself a pint, open Londoners, and be transported to the streets of one the most interesting cities in the world.

BBC news did a short video piece on Londoners and author Craig Taylor, which you can view here. For more news and information, like Taylor's Facebook page.

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.

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

Published by HarperCollins / Ecco, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780062005854

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23 February 2012

Thursday Tea: Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

The Book: Anaya Borzakovskaya was born in Russia, but her family moved to the United States when she was five. Even at that young age she realized the only way she'd fit in with her private-school classmates was to lose her accent along with her baby fat.

Unfortunately, ten years later, no matter how all-American she feels, she can't escape the pain of being a teen: wanting to fit in, wishing she were prettier and thinner, experimenting with cigarettes, and hoping the cool boy will notice her. One day when wandering in the park and stewing over her troubles, Anya falls into a well. When she lights a match to assess the situation, she's startled to see a skeleton . . . and the dead girl's ghost.

Through expressive and moving black-and-white art (click on scan to enlarge), Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol tells the story of what happens to Anya after she meets the ghostly Emily Reilly. At first Anya thinks it's great to have a ghost friend, but the better she gets to know Emily, the more she questions the price of having such a companion.

The graphic novel is geared to young adults, but readers of almost any age will enjoy Anya's story. Despite the fact that there's a ghost, the book isn't that kind of spooky. There are a few scary moments, but no one except the very young will likely be bothered. Book clubs and parents can use Anya's Ghost as a starting point for discussing friendship, honesty, family, and being true to oneself.

Anya's Ghost has been a universal favorite with reviewers, and won awards from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Horn Book. It's one of the best graphic novels I've read.

The Tea: I've been so crazy busy with work lately that my afternoon tea break has become one of the highlights of my day. This week I've been drinking Adagio's Irish Breakfast Tea, a tried-and-true brew that hits the spot. Here's how the company describes their blend: "It seamlessly blends the citrusy notes of a high-grown Ceylon with the malty underscore of a pungent Assam. Spicy and jammy aroma on the leaf, malty and deep flavor with a brisk and 'buzzy' mouthfeel. Rounded sweetness in the finish." Well I don't know about all of that, but I do know it's a great-tasting tea.

The Assessment: Anya is Russian, so I'm fairly sure she's a tea drinker. And because she's a modern teen, it's not at unreasonable to think she might choose an Irish Breakfast blend. Her mother, however, probably sticks with a Russian tea.

What About You? As always, I'm interested in what you're reading this week. And what beverage would find in your glass or mug when you sit down to read?

Buy Anya's Ghost at an Indie, Powell's, Book Depository, or a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Thursday Tea was the brainchild of Anastasia at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog.
Published by First Second 2011
ISBN-13: 9781596435520
Source: Borrowed (see review policy)
Rating: A
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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22 February 2012

Wordless Wednesday 169

Historic Granary (central Pennsylvania), 2012


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21 February 2012

Today's Imprint Read: The Paperbark Shoe by Goldie Goldbloom

What would it be like to be a prisoner in your own skin, your own house, and your own marriage? Gin Boyle, an albino, marries Mr. Toad to escape being sent to an asylum only to find that small-town life in the Australian outback can be just as confining.

When I finally fall asleep, my dreams are full of whales leaping out of a frothy khaki sea, their huge baleen grins aimed at me, their masculine elements raucous and ready, while I cower on a ledge that shudders in the wind of their passing. They leap and miss, leap and miss, and the platform bucks beneath my feet. Bizarre to dream of whales in the middle of a drought.

I wake up to the sound of hammering, and it's the whales I think I hear, battering the weatherboard wall next to my bed, and I scream, and scream again when my soul jolts back into my body with a feeling akin to being rolled in a thorn bush, and this time I think—oh my God! It's the Italians. They are coming for me. (p. 29)
The Paperbark Shoe, by Goldie Goldbloom (Picador 2011)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: Australian outback on the edge of the desert; memories of Sydney
  • Circumstances: Italian prisoners of war from World War II have been sent to Australia; some are placed on isolated family farms
  • Characters: Gin, an albino and classically trained pianist; her husband and children; two Italian prisoners; Australia itself
  • Themes: isolation, being imprisoned, self-discovery, love, marriage, war, family
  • Genre: fiction
  • Awards: 2008 Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Novel Award and 2011 Great Lakes College Association’s New Writer’s Award
Want to Know More? Watch the embedded book trailer (below) from the Australian edition of The Paperbark Shoe. Visit the Picador website to find the book summary, an excerpt, a reading guide, and more. To learn more about author Goldie Goldbloom visit her website and don't miss these interviews: from Reader and from Book Browse. For more on Picador and for news about events and great books, visit their website, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

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20 February 2012

Review: You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik

The individuals who make up the international school in Paris are worldly wise. Most of the teachers are ex-pats, who prefer to travel in Europe than to visit family during school breaks. The students are the children of diplomats and business executives and have moved so often they don't have much sense of home as being a geographic location.

The plot of the novel unfolds over a school year and is told in retrospect from three viewpoints in alternating chapters. Will Silver is the teacher high-schoolers love: irreverent yet motivating, and most of his students work hard to earn his praise. Gilad is a loner who idolizes Will but has not found a way to break into the teacher's inner circle. Marie is a self-aware teen who sets out to seduce Will as a means of one-upping her best friend.

Although the premise of a high schooler being attracted to her teacher is not unique, Alexander Maksik's take in You Deserve Nothing is not what you'd expect. The novel has earned high praise for being "engaging," "enthralling," and "thrilling." Unfortunately, I'm not sure I read the same novel.

Although Maksik's ability to put the reader in the heads of Will, Marie, and Gilad is indeed masterful, the characters themselves are decidedly unappealing. Perhaps I simply didn't understand the novel, but the overwhelming apathy, indifference, and shallowness of entire community—parents, teachers, and students—left me cold. Several events in the story should have had an emotional effect, but it's difficult to make such a connection when the characters themselves are unmoved.

I also had issues with the end of the story, which most reviewers described as thought-provoking. Because I don't want to spoil the book, all I'll say here is that the end made me angry, and not in a good way. If the novel is based in truth, as some have suggested, then I'm also left feeling uncomfortable. I prefer to think of You Deserve Nothing as fiction.

You Deserve Nothing was an Indie Next pick for September 2011. For more about Alexander Maksik and his work, visit his website, where you'll see that my reaction puts me in a party of one. Everyone from Kirkus and the New York Times to Bookslut and Farm Lane Books gives You Deserve Nothing high praise.

Buy You Deserve Nothing at an Indie, Powell's, Book Depository, or a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
My review of the audio edition of this novel is available at AudioFile magazine.
Published by Europa Editions 2011
ISBN-13: 9781609450489
Source: Audio: Review (see review policy)
Rating: C-
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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18 February 2012

Weekend Cooking: Desperation Cooking

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

_______

I'm sure this scenario never happens to you: It's 6pm, you've just finished work, and you haven't even thought about what to make for dinner. Your family is hungry, and you really don't want to spend the money to order out. What's a busy cook to do?

I have an arsenal of what we call desperation meals in the BFR household. These are the meals I make when the thought of dirtying up the kitchen, chopping veggies, and waiting for flavors to develop in a simmering pot are just to too much to bear. Today I'll tell you about two of them.

The first one is quick canned chili. It involves opening five cans and one bag, chopping an onion and some garlic, and grating cheese. The second is a soup that involves about the same effort: opening a can, two boxes, and a bag and chopping an onion and garlic. Both put dinner on the table quickly with almost no work and no mess.

I make it a point to always have the ingredients for these meals on hand. Most of them are either canned or frozen, so there is no problem with shelf life.

Desperation Chili

Serves 4
  • 2 cans chili beans (with seasonings)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can sliced black olives, drained
  • 1 can chopped green chiles
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bag frozen corn
  • 2 to 3 good shakes of green sauce
  • grated cheese for serving
  • hot sauce for serving
Put the beans, tomatoes, olives, chiles, onion, and garlic in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the corn and green sauce and heat through. Ladle into bowls and top with grated cheese and a shake or two of hot sauce.

I usually serve this over rice. Although we normally eat only brown rice, I keep white on hand for desperation evenings because it cooks so quickly in the rice cooker. So I begin this meal by putting the white rice in the cooker, then I start opening cans. Then entire meal is ready in about 20 minutes, or when the rice is done.

Tortellini Soup
Serves 3-4
  • 1.5 quarts chicken broth (boxed, frozen homemade, whatever you have)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (or tomato sauce, if that's what you have)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 box frozen chopped spinach (not shown, I forget to put it in photo)
  • 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A few shakes each of oregano and basil
  • a few handfuls of frozen tortellini
  • Grated Parmesan, for serving
Put the broth, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and spinach in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. When the spinach is mostly thawed, add the frozen vegetables and seasonings and bring the soup back to simmer. (You may have to add more broth or some water, depending on how much liquid is in your spinach and canned tomatoes.) Add the tortellini and cook until they're heated through and floating, or for the amount of time indicated on the package. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with a little Parmesan.

Although these are not the versions of chili or soup I'd normally use, I'm happy to know I have some very quick and tasty meals at my disposal when I need them. I'll share some other ideas in future posts.


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17 February 2012

Imprint Friday: Until the Next Time by Kevin Fox

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.

Thanks to its mix of Ireland, family secrets, twisted timelines, and mysterious journal, I knew I couldn't resist Kevin Fox's Until the Next Time, a multilayered tale of self-discovery and enduring love.

Take a look at the summary:

For Sean Corrigan the past is simply what happened yesterday, until his twenty-first birthday, when he is given a journal left him by his father’s brother Michael—a man he had not known existed. The journal, kept after his uncle fled from New York City to Ireland to escape prosecution for a murder he did not commit, draws Sean into a hunt for the truth about Michael’s fate.

Sean too leaves New York for Ireland, where he is caught up in the lives of people who not only know all about Michael Corrigan but have a score to settle. As his connection to his uncle grows stronger, he realizes that within the tattered journal he carries lies the story of his own life—his past as well as his future—and the key to finding the one woman he is fated to love forever.

Whip-smart and full of suspense, Until the Next Time is a remarkable story about time and memory and the way ancient myths shape our modern lives—from what we believe to whom we love.
What if everything you thought you knew about your family was only a half truth? That's what happened to Sean Corrigan. And to make matters worse, no one will tell him about the other half, the secret half. After his father gives him the beat-up journal and a plane ticket, Sean is on his own, an ocean away from home. In Ireland, he must figure out whom to trust and how to interpret the bits and pieces of information left to him by his dead uncle.

The story alternates between the 1970s (Michael's point of view) and the 1990s (Sean), and although their circumstances are vastly different, their lives and thoughts become unexpectedly interwoven. We know only what Michael and Sean know; thus we too are on the quest, theorizing and coming up with our own explanations. Fox is a master at pulling us in and leading us down crooked paths into the Corrigan family history, and we following willingly.

Here's a section from Michael's story, when he first got to Ireland and met a woman named Kate:
I stood there for a minute, waiting for her to say something else. I wanted to leave and I wanted to stay, but she just hid behind her book, invisible. Finally, to save myself from looking more like an idiot, I stepped out into the soft cold rain, wondering if I could find my way back here if I did get lost again.

As the cold started to seep back in, it reminded me that I already was lost, in the middle of a foreign country, pretending to be my brother, running from a murder charge. If she was right, and the only way to find my way was to get back where I started from, I was going to be lost for a long time. Maybe even long enough for my soul to catch up. (p. 68)
And here is Sean, only hours after getting off the plane:
I stood in the middle of the kitchen for a minute, and from there I could see the cranberry-colored stain at the bottom of the front stairs—it really did look like dried blood. I'm not much for ghosts or spirits, but I was overtired, and between the noises the house was making, the stories in my uncle's journal, and the darkened wood at the base of the stairs, I was little freaked out. . . .

In the midst of my exhuastion and confusion, I remembered something Uncle Mike had written in his journal. Something Kate had said to him. Flyin's done too fast nowadays. You go so fast you leave part of your soul behind and now you have to wait for it to catch up. I understood what she meant. The world had shifted around me, and everything was a bit off. I was a stranger in my own head. (p. 100)
Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, immerse yourself in a family tale in which the border between myth and reality, past and present dissolves in the Irish mists.

For more on Kevin Fox, visit his website, where you'll find an insightful Q&A. Check out his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter. The Readers Round Table edition of Until the Next Time, includes an author's note, the author Q&A, and discussion questions. The Algonquin Books Blog and Algonquin Book Club offer more ways to connect with Fox and 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.

Until the Next Time at Powell's
Until the Next Time at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Workman / Algonquin Books, February 14, 2012
ISBN-13: 9781565129931

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16 February 2012

Thursday Tea: The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

The Book: You may have heard of Kaui Hart Hemmings's The Descendants because it's now a major motion picture staring none other than George Clooney. But before the movie, came the book.

Matthew King, lawyer, husband, and father is a good guy, who tries to do the right thing. Although he's a descendant of Hawaiian royalty and controls or has access to quite a bit of money, he tries to live off of what he earns, despite his wife's complaints.

The women in his family, however, seem to have gone wild. His wife, Joanie, takes risks and craves adventure; his older daughter, Alex, has experimented with drugs and alcohol; and his younger daughter, Scottie, wants to grow up all at once. When a boating accident puts Joanie in a deep coma, Matt must confront all his roles and face some hard truths.

The Descendants is a novel that sneaks up on you. Although you're sure you know how the major plot lines will play out, that doesn't matter. The character studies, Hemmings's depiction of family and family dynamics, and Hawaii itself all draw you in and wrap around your brain. Matt King goes from relatively carefree to single parent of difficult daughters in a matter of minutes. In addition, he learns that his wife had a secret, leaving him to pick up the pieces. Life has imploded for the girls as well, and each has had a conflicted relationship with her mother and is left wondering how to make things right.

I saw the movie and then listened to the unabridged audiobook (AudioGo 9 hr, 12 min) read by Jonathan Davis. The movie followed the book very closely and differed only in inconsequential details. What I found particularly interesting is that George Clooney and Jonathan Davis had eerily similar takes on the character of Matt King. Although the two men do not really sound alike, it was amazing how nicely their voices meshed. I attribute this to how clearly and skillfully Hemmings developed her main character; there really is only one way to play Matt.

Even if you've seen the movie, I recommend reading the book. I also recommend The Descendants for book clubs. Topics for discussion include families, inheritances, infidelity, friendships, parenting, death and dying, and responsibility.

The Tea: Despite the lack of snow and relatively mild winter temperatures for my area of the world, I've been welcoming my afternoon tea breaks. This week, I turned to a tea I haven't had in a while: Harney & Sons' Cranberry Autumn. Here's how the company describes it: "Ideally sweet and tart, this black tea blended with cranberry and orange flavors reflects the crisp days and colorful leaves of Autumn. A full-bodied brew, exceptionally smooth and flavorful that pairs well with festive holiday meals." The tea has just a hint of the fruits and makes a warming, comforting drink.

The Assessment: Matt King and his daughters are not brewing up a cup of tea in the afternoon, I promise you that. Fancy coffee, shaved ice, beer, or wine is more of the King family style. If any of them were to go for tea, it'd likely be something more traditionally Chinese or Japanese. So Cranberry Autumn and The Descendants is a total miss. That's okay, I like my cuppa anyway.

What About You? Here's where I ask you what you're drinking this week (tea, coffee, wine?). And don't forget to tell me what you're reading.

Buy The Descendants at an Indie, Powell's, Book Depository, or a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Thursday Tea was the brainchild of Anastasia at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog.
Published by Random House Trade Paperbacks 2011
ISBN-13: 9780812982954
Source: Audio: Review (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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15 February 2012

Wordless Wednesday 168

Elegant Welcome (Tonder, Denmark)


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14 February 2012

Review: To Kill a Mockingbird (Film: 50th Anniversary Edition)

I know you've seen the movie To Kill a Mockingbird and I bet you love it just as much as I do. I had the great good luck to see the movie again on BluRay, out last month from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Let me just say that I loved this edition. The quality of the picture and sound were stupendous. And everything, from the rabid dog scene to the courtroom scene, was just as moving, exciting, and heartfelt as I remembered it.

But what's really incredible about the special 50th Anniversary To Kill a Mockingbird edition is the bonus materials. There are over 3 hours of them, and every one is fascinating. This is truly a copy to own and one that you'll view many times.

There is so much on this disc that I'm simply going to copy the promo information, then I'll talk about some of my favorites.

  • Fearful Symmetry— A feature-length documentary on the making of To Kill a Mockingbird with cast and crew interviews and a visit to author Harper Lee's home town.
  • A Conversation with Gregory Peck— An intimate feature-length documentary on one of the most beloved actors in film history with interviews, film clips, home movies and more.
  • 100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics— An in-depth look at the film restoration process
  • Academy Award® Best Actor Acceptance Speech— Gregory Peck's speech after winning the Academy Award® for his performance as Atticus Finch.
  • American Film Institute Life Achievement Award— Gregory Peck's memorable remarks upon receiving the AFI Life Achievement Award.
  • Excerpt from “Tribute To Gregory Peck”— Cecilia Peck's heartwarming farewell to her father given at the Academy in celebration of his life.
  • Scout Remembers— Actress Mary Badham shares her experiences working with Gregory Peck.
  • Feature Commentary with Director Robert Mulligan and Producer Alan Pakula
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
Mr. BFR and I watched the BluRay edition of the movie one night and then watched the bonus materials over two more evenings. I recommend watching all the features, but three of them really stand out.

In Fearful Symmetry the actors and writers talk about the making of the feature film, and we're treated to vintage photos and movies and interviews with people who knew Harper Lee when she was young. The commentary in this bonus film is not to be missed, and it alone is worth the cost of the DVD/BluRay.

A Conversation with Gregory Peck was filmed and produced by his daughter, and through this documentary we really get to know Peck, his family life, stories of his career, and of course backstage tales of To Kill a Mockingbird. I have always loved Peck, and this was a wonderful look at his life.

Scout Remembers also interesting because we get to see Mary Badham as an adult and learn about the close relationship she had with Peck all her life.

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment did a wonderful job on this anniversary edition, and I can't say enough good things about it. I thank them for the opportunity to review it.

Take a look at the 50th Anniversary Edition trailer to learn more about this not-to-miss version of To Kill a Mockingbird.

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13 February 2012

Guest Post and Giveaway: Girl Meets Boy edited by Kelly Milner Halls

I'm so excited to be part of the fabulous blog tour for Kelly Milner Halls's edited collection Girl Meets Boy. What I have on tap today is a fun collective guest post and an amazingly awesome giveaway.

First take a look at the publisher's summary:

What do guys and girls really think? Twelve of the most dynamic and engaging YA authors writing today team up for this one-of-a-kind collection of “he said/she said” stories—he tells it from the guy’s point of view, she tells it from the girl’s. These are stories of love and heartbreak. There’s the good-looking jock who falls for a dangerous girl, and the flipside, the toxic girl who never learned to be loved; the basketball star and the artistic (and shorter) boy she never knew she wanted; the gay boy looking for love online and the girl who could help make it happen. Each story in this unforgettable collection teaches us that relationships are complicated—because there are two sides to every story.
Doesn't that sound great? Here's a bit more from the publisher about the paired stories found in this collection:
Chris Crutcher and Kelly Milner Halls explore how a dangerous girl named Wanda could turn a handsome guy named John’s world upside down. Joseph Bruchac and Cynthia Leitich Smith introduced basketball warrior Nancy Whitepath and the shy boy, Bobby Wildcat who secretly loves her. Ellen Wittlinger and James Howe captured a boy named Cal’s yearning for love and his puzzling meeting with a girl named Alex. Terry Davis and Rebecca Fjelland Davis proved love can be tough for a Muslim boy and a Christian farm girl. Sara Ryan and Randy Powell proved things aren’t always what they seem with Gavin and Steph.
As part of this tour, the authors featured in Girl Meets Boy were asked to provide some additional insight about their characters. To give them a starting point, the publisher asked the authors following question.

What would your character save if a fire threatened to consume his or her bedroom?
  • Chris Crutcher: John. His girlfriend, and he'd want to get her out of there under a blanket so when his parents came out the front door, they wouldn't see her.
  • Kelly Milner Halls: Wanda. Her dog and the keys to her beat up car; escape, for Wanda, is everything.
  • Joseph Bruchac: Bobby. His karate belt, which he keeps wrapped around the book The Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee.
  • Cynthia Leitich Smith: Nancy. Her parents' wedding photo.
  • Ellen Wittlinger: Alex. The copy of Franny and Zooey her brother, Cal gave her for her birthday.
  • Terry Davis: Rafi. He would save his dear Muttski, of course. How dare you even ask!
  • Rebecca Fjelland Davis: Kerry. The picture of her and Rafi at prom and her first-place ribbon from the county fair.
  • Randy Powell: Gavin. His laptop
  • Sara Ryan: Stephanie. If it's the room at her parents' house, absolutely nothing. If it's where she is staying now, everything essential is in the backpack next to the futon.
Great answers! Now you have some hints about the characters' personalities. For more about this short story collection, watch the book trailer:


The Giveaway:
Okay, here is the part that I'm particularly excited about. I can offer one of my readers a copy of Girl Meets Boy signed by all twelve of the contributors. Yep, you got that right, each and every one of the authors signed a copy. To enter to win, just fill out the form.

Here's a few particulars: You must have a U.S. or Canada mailing address. I'll pick a winner on February 20 using a random number generator and the publisher will mail you your book. Easy as that. Good luck!



Don't miss the final Blog Tour Stop at Chronicle Books tomorrow.

Girl Meets Boy is available at an Indie, at Powell's, and at Book Depository. (These links lead to affiliate programs.)
Published by Chronicle Books, 2012
ISBN-13: 9781452102641
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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11 February 2012

Weekend Cooking: Heartland: The Cookbook by Judith Fertig

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, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

_______

I grew up in the American Midwest, otherwise known as the nation's heartland. In the introduction to Judith Fertig's Heartland: The Cookbook, she captures what that means:
Among those fortunate enough to have born and raised in the Midwest . . . the heartland holds us, comforts us, makes us stand up straight. Even if we leave, it still claims a place in our hearts. (p. xi)
If your childhood didn't include country fairs, roadside farm stands, and never-ending vistas of corn and wheat fields, you might not understand the charms of the prairie states. You might also be unaware that America's heartland is home to organic farms, artisan bakeries, artisan cheesemakers, hormone-free dairies, microbreweries, and preservers of heritage species.

Heartland: The Cookbook takes you into the fields and barns and kitchens of the American Midwest. Printed on heavy, glossy paper with stunning photos of farms and scenery (by Jonathan Chester) and beautiful and inspiring photos of down-home meals and upscale cheeses and breads (Ben Pieper), the book will capture your imagination and your taste buds.

Before I talk about the recipes, there are few things I'd like to mention. First, I love the foodie literary quotes scattered throughout the text. Some are from well-known authors (Willa Cather) and others are from some of my favorite authors, even if they are less well known (Carrie Young). I also love the sidebars and features that tell the story behind foods used, produced, and grown throughout the Midwest (canola, strudel, and heritage chickens, for example). And finally, I've spent a number of hours exploring many of the websites listed under "Resources" at the back of the cookbook (check out Nueske's for meats or Carpriole for cheese) and have gathered even more recipes and bookmarked places for possible road trip destinations.

Now, of course, I want to talk about the core of the book: the recipes. You will find everything from the fun (making your own butter) to the fancy (roasted lake fish with remoulade). In between are tons of recipes that you'll want to try for both weekdays and weekends and some that will help you stock your freezer and pantry.

Most of the ingredients are readily available or easily substituted, and the directions are straightforward and simple to follow. In addition, Fertig introduces each recipe, giving advice or telling the story behind the dish. Finally, when appropriate, recipe directions include storage, freezing, and/or serving instructions.

Heartland includes a nice bonus for those of us who lead busy lives, like to economize, and/or don't want to fuss:
In this book, leftovers are a good thing. When you purposefully cook for leftovers, you'll have ready-made ingredients for other dishes like Minnesota Wild Rice Soup, Haymaker's Hash, or Hunter's Pie. Cook once, eat several times!

This book is about ingredient-centered food and is a testament to the fact that if you grow, raise, or buy quality foods, you don't have to do a lot to them to make them taste great. (p. xix)
Here are just a few of the many recipes I've marked to try:
  • Crisp Refrigerator Dill Pickles (ready to eat in just 24 hours; will keep in refrigerator for months)
  • Pumpkin Patch Muffins (with yogurt or sour cream and loaded with spices)
  • Four Seasons Flatbread (toppings for all year round)
  • Grilled Pear Salad with Blue Cheese and Honey (late summer on the deck?)
  • Badlands Bison Chili (I might have to substitute lamb)
  • Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts with Tarragon Creamed Corn (dinner in under an hour)
  • Ohio Lemon Tart (kind of like lemon meringue pie in a cookie crumb crust)
  • Garden Gimlet (gin, basil, herb syrup)
The cookbook includes recipes for soups and stews, salads, grilled vegetables, game, breads, cheese souffles, and wild-rice pilafs. Truly you'll find plenty of flavors to pick from.

Vegetarian/vegan alert: Although many of the recipes include meat, vegetarians should take the time to look through Heartland: The Cookbook. There are plenty of recipes that you would be able to use as is or adapt with no trouble. Vegans will have a bit harder time, because many vegetarian recipes call for dairy products, honey, eggs, or other animal products.

Here is recipe that's easy to make and wonderful to eat. The recipe introduction tells you that the scones will keep in the freezer up to 3 months, so you can stock up on grab-and-go breakfasts. I like to serve these with chili. Note that the recipe suggests mixing in a food processor, but you can mix them by hand instead.

Bacon, Cheddar, and Scallion Scones

Makes 12
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, chilled
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • Half-and-half, for brushing
1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In the work bowl of a food processor, pulse together the flours, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter pieces, egg, milk, and sour cream and pulse again until the dough just comes together. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and sprinkle the bacon, 1/2 cup cheese, and scallions on top. Using a dough scraper or a pancake turner, fold the dough over onto the bacon mixture several times. Roll or pat the dough out to a 10-inch circle about 1 inch thick. With a large knife or a pizza wheel, cut the dough into 12 wedges. Carefully transfer each wedge to the prepared baking sheet, placing them 2 inches apart. Brush the tops with half-and-half and sprinkle with more cheese.

3. Bake for 10 to 22 minutes, or until lightly browned on top. Serve warm.

Heartland: The Cookbook is available at an Indie, at Powell's, and at Book Depository. (These links lead to affiliate programs.)
Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2011
ISBN-13: 9781449400576
Source: review (see review policy)
Rating: A
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


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10 February 2012

Imprint Friday: Quarantine by Rahul Mehta

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.

Late last summer I began to read reviews and hear buzz about Rahul Mehta's short story collection Quarantine. The characters in these stories are interesting because they are Indian-American gay men who find themselves on the fringes of society . . . and not solely because of their sexual orientation.

Here is the publisher's summary:

With buoyant humor and incisive, cunning prose, Rahul Mehta sets off into uncharted literary territory. The characters in Quarantine—openly gay Indian-American men—are Westernized in some ways, with cosmopolitan views on friendship and sex, while struggling to maintain relationships with their families and cultural traditions. Grappling with the issues that concern all gay men—social acceptance, the right to pursue happiness, and the heavy toll of listening to their hearts and bodies—they confront an elder generation's attachment to old-country ways. Estranged from their cultural in-group and still set apart from larger society, the young men in these lyrical, provocative, emotionally wrenching, yet frequently funny stories find themselves quarantined.
In the nine stories in this collection, Mehta explores the lives of second-generation immigrants who are dealing with many issues that make them feel apart. Although homosexuality is the obvious force that pushes these men to the margins, their relationships with their parents and grandparents, their life in limbo between two cultural worlds, and their struggles with relationships have nothing to do with their sexuality. Thus these stories of realistically flawed characters touch on universal themes, giving almost every reader a connection point.

The sparse yet moving prose pulls the reader through the stories, many of which are set in two continents. I was particularly taken with Mehta's skills at developing contrasts—between cultures:
Listening to my relatives' hushed conversations, I wondered whether there was, in their language, a word for homosexuality. I doubted it. I doubted, even, that the English word was used. For them, the concept was unspeakable. (p. 83)
and between generations:
Bipin had never told his son this story. There was so much he'd never said. He'd never told him how many days he'd cried in Oklahoma; or how scared he was, when he brought Meenakshi to American, that he would disappoint her or fail her somehow; or how much he'd struggled. What Bipin did tell his son about his early life in America is what he thought he needed to know: that he had come with nothing and that it hadn't been easy, but he had worked hard and now here they all were. When Sanj asked his father why he came to America, Bipin answered, "For a better life," which was, in Bipin's estimation, what they now had. As for the details of what he'd been through, why would his son want to know? Bipin barely wanted to know himself. (p. 201)
Other passages are more beautiful, emotional, and sexual but the two extracts I've shared show Mehta's style without spoiling any of the stories.

You do not have to be male, Indian-American, or gay to appreciate this collection. As I mentioned, some of the connecting themes in Quarantine are the double pull of personal desire and family obligation, sexuality, love, immigration, and modern life in conflict with cultural traditions.

Here are some other opinions (click on the links for the full reviews):
  • V. Jo Hsu writing at Fiction Writers Review: "Mehta’s simple yet striking imagery becomes most effective in "The Cure" and "What We Mean." Situated in the middle of the book, the stories . . . showcase his mastery of language."
  • S. Krishna writing at S. Krishna's Books: "Mehta’s ability to convey so much emotion and compassion with just a few words left me speechless. I couldn’t believe how nuanced each of these stories were, nor how absolutely complete they seemed, even though they were just a short few pages each."
  • Christina writing at The Blue Bookcase: "Rahul Mehta writes these vibrant, incredibly varied characters who each have heartbreakingly real stories to tell. And the issues they deal with in their romantic and platonic and familial relationships are universal."
For more on Rahul Mehta, see a short video interview with him, available on YouTube.

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.

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

Published by Harper Perennial, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780062020451

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09 February 2012

Thursday Tea: Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris

The Book: Dead and Gone is the ninth book in Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire series, starring Sookie Stackhouse.

Louisiana is still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, which had a devastating effect not only on humans but on the supernatural beings as well. The vampire kingdoms have undergone new leadership and new borders, which means quite a few changes for Sookie's undead friends. But more significant for Sookie are a few other events.

First, the weres and shape-shifters decide to announce their presence to the world at large. As you can imagine, the reactions to this revelation are strong and varied. Some citizens of Bon Temps seem to have gone off the deep end, and a vigilante group is out to kill all known supernaturals. Sookie, of course, is caught up in the investigation of who's been doing the murders. Second, the fairy world is involved in a civil war, and the enemies of Sookie's grandfather are out to kill or kidnap her as way to make him surrender. So on top of everything else she's dealing with, Sookie has to stay alert to stay alive. And then there's the matter of Eric (sorry, I can't say more than that without spoiling the story--Ha!).

Dead and Gone is another fun entry in Harris's Sookie Stackhouse books. Despite the murders, blood, and vampires, the novels are light reading and a great way to escape into another world. As always, I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Recorded Books, 9 hr, 1 min) read by Johanna Parker, who is perfect as Sookie.

The Tea: I don't normally drink herbal teas, but there's one exception: I love Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice tea. It is so warming and has such a wonderful aroma that it's one of my go-to teas when I'm feeling sick or have a chill. This week's snowfall had me brewing a pot. Here's the company's description: "Brimming with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves, a cup of our aromatic Bengal Spice tea is like a trip to an exotic spice market in a faraway land. This adventurous blend is our caffeine-free interpretation of Chai." As always, I drink it black with no sweetener.

The Assessment: We've been through this before. It's highly unlikely Sookie would be drinking any kind of fancy tea. In fact, in Dead and Gone, I think she drank lemonade more than anything else, and I really don't see her drinking chai--herbal or traditional. Oh well, she doesn't know what she's missing.

What About You? Here's where I ask you what you're drinking this week (tea, coffee, wine?). And don't forget to tell me what you're reading.

Dead and Gone at Powell's
Dead and Gone at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

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

Published by Penguin USA / Ace, 2009
ISBN-13: 9780441017157
Source: Review (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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08 February 2012

Wordless Wednesday 167

Urban Reflections (Bethesda, MD), 2011


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07 February 2012

Today's Imprint Read: Charlotte au Chocolat by Charlotte Silver

What would it be like to have grown up in a restaurant? Every night you put on your pretty dress, sit down at your special table, sip your Shirley Temple, and anticipate being served by an ever-changing wait staff. Meanwhile your parents are in the kitchen cooking for hundreds.

I grew up rich. The setting—or stage set—of my childhood was the velvety pink-and-green dining room of my mother's restaurant, Upstairs at the Pudding, located above the Hasty Pudding Club in a red-brick Victorian building at 10 Holyoke Street in Harvard Square. My life was not a child's life of jungle gyms and Velcro sneakers, but of soft lighting, stiff petticoats, rolling pins smothered in flour, and candied violets in wax paper. It was a life of manners, of air kisses, of "How do you dos," and a life for which I needed six party dresses a year, three every spring and three every winter. We were rich. Everybody knew it.

Yet we were not; we were not rich at all. For as long as I could remember, the restaurant had tottered on the brink of collapse. I always knew we would lose it one day. And we did lose it; we did. (p. 1)
Charlotte au Chocolat: Memories of a Restaurant Girlhood, by Charlotte Silver (Riverhead Books 2012; quote is from uncorrected proofs)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: Cambridge, Mass., and environs
  • Characters: Charlotte Silver, her family, and assorted waiters and kitchen staff; the rich and famous make cameos
  • Main theme: Loving tribute to her mother and the sacrifices she made to keep restaurant and family running
  • Other themes: Food and drink, family, manners, times gone by
  • Genre: Memoir
Want to Know More? For a fun annotated menu from Charlotte's childhood, check out the publisher's website. For more on author Charlotte Silver, read her interview with the Boston Globe. For more on Charlotte au Chocolat, including events and news, visit the memoir's Facebook page and watch the fantastic book trailer (below). For more Riverhead Books and for news about events and great books, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.


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06 February 2012

Review: The Never Weres by Fiona Smyth

In the year 3088 humans have been affected by a virus that has destroyed their fertility. The last generation is now in the teen years, but still the world is debating the ethics of cloning humans, although the technology could save humanity.

Xian, Mia, and Jesse are best friends. Xian loves to explore the old subway system for artifacts from times past, Jesse likes to experiment with cloning animals (which is legal), and Mia volunteers at the senior center. After Xian starts to find evidence of long-abandoned labs hidden deep below the city, the teens combine their talents to learn the nature of the experiments conducted there. What have they discovered?

Fiona Smyth's The Never Weres is a dystopian graphic novel that takes as its major theme the issue of human cloning. Although there is plenty of action, the novel was not a success for me. First, the mystery of the secret laboratories is foreshadowed in such a way that I figured it out long before the teens. And second, I thought the ending was too quick and tidy. Nonetheless, Xian, Mia, and Jesse are smart and likeable with distinct personalities.

The scan (from page 11) is a good example of the black and white artwork, which is detailed and expressive. The target audience is middle grade readers, but some of the deeper implications of cloning, infertility, and elder care would appeal to more mature readers.

Others--such as Kirkus Reviews--had better luck with The Never Weres than I did, so if the topic or artwork interests you, give the novel a try.

I read this graphic novel to help celebrate Lenore's Dystopian February (see Presenting Lenore). This review will also be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted by Julie at Booking Mama.

The Never Weres at Powell's
The Never Weres at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Annick Press, 2011
ISBN-13: 9781554512843
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: C-
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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