31 March 2012

Weekend Cooking: Bar Cookies A to Z by Marie Simmons

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.

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Today I'm introducing you to a little cookbook that I'm sorry to see might be a bit difficult to track down, although a couple of popular online bookstores had copies. Marie Simmons's Bar Cookies A to Z is one of my go-to sources when I want to bake up a quick dessert.

Before I decribe my latest baking adventures, I should tell you that Simmons is a fairly prolific cookbook author. Her résumé includes a number of Williams-Sonoma books, a couple about rice, a few on light or vegetarian cooking, two or three "A to Z" titles, and at least two "Fast & Fresh" books. I own three or four of her books, and I've always found Marie Simmons's recipes to be reliable.

Bar Cookies A to Z is a slim volume at just over 100 pages, but it's chockfull of recipes for and photos of delicious baked goods to suit pretty much every taste. The recipes are, as you probably already figured out, arranged alphabetically by title, and most letters contain more than one recipe.

There are chocolate and coffee cookies under C, gingery goodies under G, and tasty toffee treats under T. (You can relax, I just ran out of alliterations.) Here are some recipes I've made over the years:
  • Carrot-Pecan Bars with Cream Cheese and Nutmeg Frosting
  • Dark Ginger Bars with Dark Chocolate Frosting
  • Orange and Cranberry Ginger-Oat Bars
  • Queen Victoria Bream Bars (orange-flavored)
  • Vanilla Shortbread Bars
Last night I had a hankering for Hermits. As Simmons says in the recipe introduction, there are a lot of variations on this cookie. I love her version because it has maple in it.

Hermits
Makes 36 bars
Batter
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup dark raisins
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Icing
  • 2½ cups confectioners' sugar
  • 6-8 tablespoons half-and-half or heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or ½ teaspoon maple flavoring
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 15 × 10 × 1-inch baking pan.

2. Make the Batter: Sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Combine the walnuts and the dark and golden raisins in a bowl. Add about 1 tablespoon of the four mixture; toss to coat; set aside.

3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar with an electric beater until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in the maple syrup; add the vanilla.

4. Gradually stir in the flour mixture until blended. Fold in the dried fruits and nuts.

5. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the edges turn golden and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool on a wire rack.

6. Make the Icing: Sift the confectioners' sugar into a bowl. Gradually stir in 6 tablespoons of half-and-half until the mixture is thick and smooth. Add the vanilla. Add more cream if needed to make a smooth spreadable consistency. Spread the cooled bars with the icing and let set for 1 to 2 hours before cutting into bars.

Beth F's notes: I use whatever dried fruit I have on hand. The bars shown here were made with 1 cup of craisins and ½ cup of dark raisins. I used pecans instead of walnuts. In addition, I happened to have had fresh orange zest that needed to be used up, so I added a tablespoon to the icing.

Published by Chapters Publishing, 1994
ISBN-13: 9781881527558
Source: bought (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


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30 March 2012

Imprint Friday: Next Stop by Glen Finland

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.

If you're a parent, you might remember teaching your child how to take public transportation. You might even remember the day your kid took the bus by himself. Glen Finland remembers clearly, because she practiced all summer with her twenty-one-year-old son, and even then, she was scared when he set off to ride the D.C. Metro alone for the first time. Next Stop: A Memoir of Family spirals around Finland's son David, who has been diagnosed with autism.

Here's the publisher's summary.

Next Stop is the universal story of how children grow up and parents learn to let go—no matter how difficult it may be for both of them.

The summer David Finland was twenty-one, he and his mother rode the Washington, D.C., metro trains. Every day. The goal was that if David could learn the train lines, maybe David could get a job. And then maybe he could move out on his own. And then maybe his parents’ marriage could get the jump-start it craved. Maybe. Next Stop is a candid portrait of a differently-abled young man poised at the entry to adulthood. It recounts the complex relationship between a child with autism and his family, as he steps out into the real world alone for the first time, and how his autism affects everyone who loves him.
All parents wonder about the day their children will leave home for good. It's a bittersweet time of pride and worry. For the Finland family, that day may never come for David. Although he can hold down some jobs (working at the ballpark), he has trouble with others (working at the grocery store), and his prospects of moving beyond minimum wage and receiving benefits are slim.

But David's story, of course, doesn't start when he's a legal adult. Almost from the day he was born, David was different from his older brothers—physically, mentally, and socially. Finland talks about his life in a straightforward, easy-to-read manner. She makes no judgments, and she asks for no sympathy. As she says, "When you meet one autistic person, you have met one autistic person." There are few universals when it comes to individual quirks and tics.

On the other hand, millions of families have had to learn to live with and help a troubled or different child. All parents of such children seesaw between wanting to hold on and needing to let go, between accepting limitations and refusing to give up. All siblings of such children also suffer. Some seem to understand why their brother or sister is the center of attention; others, like David's brother Max, are sometimes reduced to wondering why they can't be the star. If you're lucky, like the Finlands, then love and the relentless striving to do whatever can be done will hold everyone together, despite the bouts of anger, sadness, and acting-out. I suspect that not all families do as well.

Although Next Stop is about a family "who know[s] not to expect a fairy-tale ending," David Finland's story is not without its miracles. No matter your parental status, you can't help but be moved by the Finlands. They are an ordinary couple who have risen to extraordinary heights to give their son the best possible chance for an independent life.

To help kick off April's National Autism Awareness Month, Glen Finland talked to the Washington Post about autism, her own experiences, and Next Stop. On that page you'll also find a link to her article "Doors Opening," which eventually led Finland to write her memoir. To learn more about Finland, visit her website, follow her on Twitter, or like her Facebook page.

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.

Next Stop at an Indie
Next Stop at Powell's
Next Stop at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs

Published by Putnam / Amy Einhorn Books, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780399158605

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29 March 2012

Bloggiesta 2012: Labels/Tags Mini-Challenge

I am obsessed with my label system, I admit it. And thus my favorite Bloggiesta task is to work on cleaning up my labels. And so I've become the traditional labels/tags mini-challenge host.

This post has been revised from previous Bloggiesta events, so even if you've done this challenge before, you might want to skim through.
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This is the home of the Bloggiesta Labels/Tag Mini-Challenge. I hope you'll take this one on because you know your labels need some help. If you don't know what Bloggiesta is, pop on over to It's All About the Books and read all about it. It's not too late to join in the fun.

Why Should You Care about Your Labels?

Each of your posts should be clearly tagged or labeled so that visitors can easily find the material that is important to them. Your labels should be broad enough to direct visitors to a number of related posts but narrow enough to make them useful.

What do I mean? Let's say you have a series of posts about attending author events (signings, readings, and so on). I come to your blog because I want to read these posts. The first thing I'll do is look for your labels gadget (Blogger) or categories/tags list (Wordpress). Then I'll scan the list looking for "author events," "author signings," or "author readings."

In the best case, you have all such posts grouped under one recognizable label ("author events," for example). Once I click on the link, I'm all set to read. You might also have a label called "author signings" so I if I'm interested in only those posts, I can find them easily too.

In the worst case, you have these posts labeled only by the author's name. When I see that label, I have no idea if I'm going to get a book review, interview, spotlight post, or wish list post. I don't want to waste my time clicking on a number of author links in the hopes I'll find what I want, so I'll likely give up and move on to the next blog in my reader.

Another bad choice is to have a label that isn't clear. "Authors in the wild" is cute, but what does it mean? Will all your visitors know that this is the link to your author events posts?

When thinking about how to label your posts, always remember that they guide your readers to the content of your blog. You want this to be as easy as possible for your visitors.

How to Label?

Ah, well, this is up to you. If you are totally confused, do some blog hopping and look at different bloggers' labels or tags. What do you like, what do you dislike? Here are just a couple of types of posts and a few ways to approach your labeling.

  • Review posts: Some people add a label for every author reviewed on their blog. This can be useful, but you can end up with hundreds of labels for which there is only one post. Some people label their reviews by genre and medium (eBook, audiobook, print), which is almost always a good idea. You might want to think about labeling reviews by year of review or year of publication.
  • Personal style/advocacy: You can use your labels and tags to help promote your blog's viewpoint or strengths. For example, if you like to bring attention to debut authors then you should have label that will make it easy for your readers to find that content. In some cases, you might want to consider adding more information to your labels, such as "Debut Author - 2011" or "Indie Bookstores - Detroit." If you are on Wordpress, you can use your tags and categories in a similar manner.
  • Memes/Awards: You can label your meme posts by the meme's title. This is helpful to your readers, who might remember you had an interesting book in a Mailbox Monday or a Friday Finds. If your meme post is also a review or opinion post, it might be a good idea to give it additional labels so that visitors who usually skip memes won't miss something good.
  • Opinions/Conversations: Opinion posts and conversation starters should be clearly labeled because these are just the types of posts that people revisit. They think, "Didn't I see a good post about the importance of using the library on this blog last year?" If they find the label "library" in your label list, they'll soon find the post they want.
How Labels Can Work with Tabs

I don't use author names or book titles in my labels because I don't want a lot of labels that cover only one post. Instead, I have a tab at the top of my blog that direct readers to my reviews by title. I am in process of adding pages (with links in the sidebar) to my reviews by genre and author. These lists save me from creating a lot of labels.

Your Mini-Challenge

I admit that I created this mini-challenge because I really need to clean up my own labels. In fact, this should be my main Bloggiesta task. I have published many new posts and have taken my blog in new directions since the last Bloggiesta, and I really should review each and every one post and all my labels!

You might not want to examine every post on your blog, but you really should think about the state of your labels. Ask yourself if they are currently useful and how they could be better. So here's the deal:
  1. Set and state a goal (fix labels on all posts, fix labels on review posts, set up labels for the all 2012 posts)
  2. Meet goal
  3. Blog about this mini-challenge (in a separate post or as part a Bloggiesta progress post or in your wrap-up Bloggiesta post)
  4. Come back here leave the link to that post in Mr. Linky
A Little Help

If you are using Blogger then you have access to a label gadget. Open it up, look at your options, and see if you have the settings the way you want them to be. Here are four links with some advice on using and editing labels:
If you are using Wordpress then you have both categories and tags. I don't use Wordpress, so I can't give you technical advice, but I can direct you to some articles that explain the difference between the two. Categories are larger (reviews) and tags are specific (historical fiction, fantasy). Here are four links that should offer help:
Good luck and remember that everything you do during Bloggiesta will benefit your blog and your readers. Be sure come back to Mr. Linky to let us know you finished the challenge.

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Bloggiesta 2012: Opinion/List Post Challenge

This is the home of the Bloggiesta Opinion and List Post Challenge for a Rainy Day. I hope you'll take this one on because you know your labels need some help. If you don't know what Bloggiesta is, pop on over to It's All About Books and read all about it. It's not too late to join in the fun.

Rainy Day Mini Challenge Task

So what's your task for this Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge? Write a post and save it for another day. This mini challenge will put you ahead of the game by helping you create content you can schedule for the future.

The Details

Okay, so what are you going to write about? You get a choice: Write either an opinion post or a list post. But don't get discouraged, I have some help for you from ProBlogger.

(1) Here's information about opinion posts.
(2) Here's information about list posts.

Don't forget to check out the comments to ProBlogger's blog: You'll find links to examples and some extra tips.

You must have an opinion on something: what makes a good review, why you love audiobooks, why you'll never own an eReader, the importance of libraries. You get the idea.

Lists are easy: gather up some good reviews or interesting blog posts, tell us about your TBR pile, tell us about yourself, list your favorite kids books, share some of your wish list.

Note: Although a book review is an opinion post of a sort, I encourage you to stretch yourself and tell us your opinion about something else. Bloggiesta, however, should be fun as well as helpful, so don't stress too much.

Now What

Once you've written your post, go ahead and either schedule it for posting or save it to use when you need some backup material. Don't forget to link up to Mr. Linky when you've finished so we know you completed the task.

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Thursday Tea: The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

The Book: This is an interesting week on my blog. On Monday I wrote about a spinoff of Pride & Prejudice and started out that post by saying I sometimes claim Austen's classic is my favorite book. Today—and I promise it's total coincidence—I'm writing about a reworking of the other book I often claim as my favorite: Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy is a well-done modernization of Brontë's beloved novel. Margot Livesey very smartly set her retelling in the postwar years of Scotland. Much past the 1950s, and Gemma's aunt would not have been able to send the girl off to be a working student. Further, if Gemma had left her Mr. Sinclair any later than the 1960s, the whole second half the story would have fallen apart. It's difficult to imagine Gemma Hardy's or Jane Eyre's flight would have been successful in a more modern world.

I was as thoroughly taken in by Livesey's version as I was the original. I was particularly interested to see how the scenes I remember from Brontë would be adapted in the retelling. Everything in Jane's story—the scary attic room, Helen Burns's death at Lowood, Adele, Mr. Rochester, the fire, Rochester's secret, the cousins, St. John Rivers, the Rivers sisters—is a part of Gemma's story. Livesey has updated and tweaked the details, but all is recognizable.

My only objection was that I didn't think Sinclair's secret was bad enough to scare Gemma off, but before the last page, I understood and accepted her reaction. I had been anticipating the ending of The Flight of Gemma Hardy, wondering how it would compare to that of Jane Eyre. Here I was happy to see that Livesey remembered that Gemma is a twentieth-century young woman who had a different vision of her future than Jane could ever have imagined.

Added bonuses for me, besides the descriptions of Scotland, were everything Orkneys and Iceland. I wish I too could take flight at a moment's notice and hop on a plane for points north. If you love Jane Eyre, you'll love The Flight of Gemma Hardy.

I listened to the unabridged audiobook edition (AudioGo, 14 hr, 52 min) read by the devine Davina Porter. Need I elaborate? She is one of my all-time favorite narrators, and I can't imagine listening to a Scottish novel read by anyone else.

The Tea: We were briefly back to summer temperatures in these parts, and I was drinking iced tea. Adagio's Strawberry tea, which I don't love hot, makes a refreshing cool drink. Here's the description: "Combining the succulent taste of sweet strawberries with bright Ceylon black tea. Fresh sweet-floral and berry flavor, smooth and sugary texture." I definitely did not pick up on the sugary texture (sounds gritty to me), but I did like the taste.

The Assessment: Would Gemma Hardy drink iced strawberry tea? Probably not. In fact, she doesn't really care for tea and probably would shudder at the idea of drinking it cold. I'm blaming it on all that time spent in the isolated Scottish countryside. If she were living in the States in the 1960s, she just might go for a glass of sun tea.

What About You? In these crazy days of seasonal transition it's hard to tell whether you want something hot or cold to drink. Which did you choose? And tell me what book has caught your attention.

Buy The Flight of Gemma Hardy 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.
My full audio review will be published by AudioFile magazine.
Published by HarperCollins / Harper 2012
ISBN-13: 9780062064226
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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28 March 2012

Wordless Wednesday 174

Citrus, 2012

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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27 March 2012

Today's Read: No Mark upon Her by Deborah Crombie

In the fourteenth entry in Deborah Crombie's Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James mystery series, No Mark upon Her, interwoven cases means the list of suspects seems to grow instead of shrink as the investigations into multiple murders proceed. The deeper the husband–wife team probe, the harder it is for them to tell who is friend and who is foe, even within the boundaries of Scotland Yard itself.

Tavie shielded her eyes from the glare on the water, leaning forward perilously as she peered into the nest of tree trunks and debris. When she stiffened, Kieran dropped to his knees beside her.

Tavie turned to him, pushing him back as if she could keep him from seeing what she had seen. But it was too late.

Beneath the surface, tendrils of dark hair moved like moss, and white fingers, slightly curled, drifted back and forth as if waving, signaling for help. (pp. 44–45)
No Mark upon Her, by Deborah Crombie (HarperCollins / William Morrow, 2012)

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26 March 2012

Review: The Unexpected Miss Bennet by Patrice Sarath

Truth be told I don't have a favorite book, but when pressed to state a title, I often say Pride & Prejudice. I love the novel and the various movie versions, but I have had mixed results with the spinoffs and takeoffs of the Austen classic. Thus I was relieved to find Patrice Sarath's The Unexpected Miss Bennet to be both a good story and a fun nod to Austen.

Sarath revisits the Bennets several months after Jane and Lizzy's weddings and turns her attention on Mary, who is plainer, quieter, and more austere than her sisters. In an effort to help Kitty and Mary, Jane and Lizzy decide that it's best to remove their single, younger sisters from Longbourn and their mother's influence. We all remember what happened to Lydia, and Kitty is particularly vulnerable to inappropriate men.

While Kitty is sent to the Bingleys for the summer, Mary is to visit the Darcys. Even before Mary arrives at Pemberley, she is starting to blossom. Not only did she catch the attention of a young man, however briefly, at one of the Lucas's assemblies but she has begun to find her true self now that she's out from under the shadow of her more outgoing sisters. Lizzy notices almost immediately that Mary seems different, but the full extent of her sister's maturity isn't evident until the Darcys make a trip to Roslings to visit Aunt Catherine de Bourgh and the Collinses.

Patrice Sarath is obviously a student of Pride & Prejudice, and her development of Mary, the middle Bennet sister, is at once believable and surprising. Of all the Austen spinoffs, The Unexpected Miss Bennet shines in its characterizations. All the familiar people from the original novel seem spot-on. Mr. Collins, resplendent in his ridiculousness, is especially well done, and Mr. Bennet's sarcastic observations are perfect. We are introduced to a couple of new individuals, and the horse-loving Tom Aikens is a charming addition to the Bennet circle.

The novel is solidly based on the original and will be most successful with readers who have read Austen or who have at least seen one of the film versions. Although Sarath fills in some of the background, the real fun comes from discovering the links to Austen all on one's own, starting with the first sentence:

It is a comforting belief among much of society, that a plain girl with a small fortune must have no more interest in matrimony that matrimony has in her.
Although Austen leaves Mary in Longbourn to care for her parents, Sarath finds a way to give the middle sister some of the famous Bennet characteristics. It's a joy to see Mary become a young woman who gives her opinions freely, who enjoys the outdoors, and who finds her independence.

I hope Sarath is planning to give us the inside scoop on Kitty. After that, she can tell us more about Lydia.

Buy The Unexpected Miss Bennet at Powell's, at an Indie, at Book Depository, or at a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Penguin USA / Berkeley, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780425244210
Source: Giveaway win (see review policy)
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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24 March 2012

Weekend Cooking: Review: Food from Many Greek Kitchens by Tessa Kiros

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.

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I love Greek food. I adore the flavor combinations: citrus, olive oil, cinnamon, salty cheeses, lamb, fish, mint, sesame, eggplant, olives, almonds . . . Sigh. Really, few cuisines are better in my opinion.

Tessa Kiros's Food from Many Greek Kitchens is a beautifully designed cookbook that is easy to cook from and will satisfy all your Greek food cravings. Its Aegean green and white color scheme helps put you in a Mediterranean mood, and the pretty bottles of ouzo on the cover add to the feeling of good cheer.

Whether you decide to make a traditional dish, such as the familiar baklava or dolmades, or something a bit more unusual, such as a wild greens pie or baked chickpeas, you'll find that the vast majority of the ingredients are readily available and that all the instructions are clear, chatty, and easy to follow. There only a handful of recipes that call for harder-to-find items: For me, the problem ingredient is always fish because I live in a land-locked state and simply don't have access to all the varieties available on the coasts.

The complexity of the recipes range from watermelon and feta:
Cut off the rind and then slice the watermelon flesh into chunks and put on a plate. Break the feta into chunks and eat with the watermelon. That's it.
To mussaka, which is not very difficult to make but requires several steps and lots of pots and pans. But, as the introduction to the recipe says, "If this dish seems like too much work all in one go, you can make the meat sauce the day before." Kiros also mentions that the dish freezes well, so you can cook once but eat twice.

Kiros includes helpful extras, such as a glossary, informative recipe introductions, and a useful index. This is is a cookbook I plan to cook from many times. I can't wait for our local farmers' market to open so I can buy fresh vegetables and locally produced meats and cheeses to use in my Greek dinners.

Here are some recipes I have marked to try:
  • Orange Semolina Cake (with a citrus-y syrup and almonds)
  • Stewed Green Beans in Tomato (with garlic and cinnamon; nice for summer)
  • Small Shoes (don't you love that name? similar ingredients as moussaka)
  • White Bean Soup (vegetarian and overflowing with good veggies)
Vegetarian/vegan alert: I didn't count the recipes, but my gut feeling says about two thirds of the recipes would fit a vegetarian diet. Appropriate dishes can be found in all courses from appetizers to desserts. Vegans will have a rougher time of it. Most vegetarian recipes call for cheese, yogurt, honey, eggs, or some other animal product.

I made the Baked Lamb with Rice-Shaped Pasta, except I used brown rice (because we ate pasta the night before). This was a yummy meal and easy dish to prepare: A small leg roast is rubbed with lemon, garlic, and oil and baked with cinnamon, oregano, scallions, and tomatoes. When the roast is almost done, the cooked pasta is added, and the pan is returned to the oven to give the pasta a chance to absorb the pan juices and to heat through. We loved it. I forgot to take a photo, but the photo from the book (above) shows the finished dish. I served it with a salad and steamed asparagus.

Buy Food from Many Greek Kitchens at an Indie, at Powell's, at Book Depository, or at bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs
Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2011
ISBN-13: 9781449406523
Rating: B+
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


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23 March 2012

Imprint Friday: The Reconstructionist by Nick Arvin

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.

Nick Arvin's new novel The Reconstructionist is about a man obsessed with car accidents and with his past. In fact, Ellis Barstow is an automotive forensic engineer whose half-brother died in an accident and whose boss is married to a women who used to date his dead brother. I'll tell you a bit more in a second, but first, read the publisher's summary:

One instant can change an entire lifetime.

As a boy, Ellis Barstow heard the sound of the collision that killed Christopher, his older half brother—an accident that would haunt him for years. A decade later, searching for purpose after college, Ellis takes a job as a forensic reconstructionist, investigating and re-creating the details of fatal car accidents—under the guidance of the irascible John Boggs, who married Christopher's girlfriend. Ellis takes naturally to the work, fascinated by the task of trying to find reason, and justice, within the seemingly random chaos of smashed glass and broken lives. But Ellis is harboring secrets of his own—not only his memory of the car crash that killed his brother but also his feelings for Boggs's wife, Heather, which soon lead to a full-blown affair. And when Boggs inexplicably disappears, Ellis sets out to find him . . . and to try to make sense of the crash site his own life has become.

Raising a host of universal questions—Can science ever explain matters of the heart? Can we ever escape the gravitational pull of the past?—Nick Arvin's novel is at once deeply moving and compulsively readable.
Ellis Barstow's tangled life is difficult to sort out. Why would he choose a career in analyzing vehicular accidents, when they serve only to remind him of one of the tragic, defining moments of his life? One attraction, of course, is that his boss and mentor, Boggs, is married to Heather. And Heather has fascinated Ellis since he was thirteen years old. But is Heather a bridge to healing or the ax that rips his world apart?

Although Ellis's job is to make sense of accidents, explaining them in minute scientific detail, he has less success understanding the pivotal accidental moments in his own life. Perhaps he is looking at things from the wrong angle. As Boggs is fond of saying:
"I don't really know what an accident is." . . .

"Everything . . . depends on the contingent and the adventitious . . . and if some people make some decisions that result in the physical interference of one vehicle with another in an intersection, and that can be called an accident, then what can't be called an accident? Where my footsteps fall, where I place my hands, where I sit, where I stand, how I appear in the world, who I speak to, the kind of work I do, who I befriend, who I fall in love with?" Boggs pouted. "Accident?"
And so what in the lives of Ellis, Boggs, and Heather is the result of chance?

Arvin's prose is easy to read, drawing you in and teasing you with hints of the possible ending. You might work it all out before the last page, but I couldn't. The Reconstructionist starts out strong as a character-driven novel. After one of the key scenes about halfway through the novel, however, Ellis and Boggs set out on a chase / tour of crash sites they have worked on together. At this point the novel changes personality and the knotty connections among the men, Heather, the accidents, and the past become more complicated.

I was buckled in for the whole ride, questioning the meaning of fate, coincidence, and memory right along with Ellis. For readers who stay onboard, Arvin leaves them with plenty to discuss and think about.

Harper Perennial is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For information about the imprint, please read Erica Barmash's welcome note posted here on June 18, 2010. I encourage you to add your reviews of Harper Perennial books to the review link-up page; it's a great way to discover Good Books for Cool People. And don't miss the The Olive Reader, the Harper Perennial blog.

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

Published by Harper Perennial, March 2012
ISBN-13: 9780061995163

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22 March 2012

Teaser, Guest Post, & Giveaway: The Book of Lost Fragrances by M. J. Rose

To help celebrate the release of M. J. Rose's The Book of Lost Fragrances, I have a lot to share in this post: Overview, excerpt, guest post, and giveaway! Let's get started.

Overview: Set over thousands of years and in France, Egypt, and China, The Book of Lost Fragrances by M. J. Rose is a genre-spanning, action-packed story centered on the history of one family and its long, long connection to the art of making perfume. Interwoven plot lines involve reincarnation, memory, Tibetan mysticism, Chinese politics, the Dalai Lama, French history, archaeology, and mental health.

Okay, you say. Whoa! How can that work? Well, it does. As I noted Rose anchors the plot by focusing on a single family and weaving in a mystery, complete with red herrings and twisty bits to throw you off. The Book of Lost Fragrances is a thoroughly enjoyable adventure that will capture your attention.

The scavenger hunt excerpt is from near the beginning of the book and it's part of a crucial scene:

The soul rose to the heavens on the smoke from incense.

The general came closer to inspect the mummies. As he reached down into the coffin, Abu muttered a warning. Napoléon waved off the cautionary words and lifted a small object out of the male mummy’s hand. "How extraordinary," he said as he extracted an identical piece of pottery from the female’s hand. "They are each holding one of these." He opened the first pot, then the second. A moment passed. He sniffed the air. Then he lifted each pot to his nose, smelling one and then the other.

"L’Etoile, they seem to contain an identical perfumed substance." He gave one of the pots to him. "Is this a pomade? Do you recognize it?"

The container was small enough to fit in his hand.

To read more , visit Dreaming in Books, where the next bit will be posted in a day or so.
Guest post: To spark your interest even more, I'm so pleased to welcome author M. J. Rose to my blog today to tells us a little bit about the research that went into The Book of Lost Fragrances.
M. J. Rose on Researching Perfumes

Researching The Book of Lost Fragrances was a labor of love. One of the most wonderful parts was working with a famous blogger, Dimi of The Sorcery of Scent. He helped me find out about fragrances that have been lost to us and what they smelled like.

I thought it would interesting for us to tell you about some of them.

Guerlain first focused on verveine (verbena) varieties to use in perfumes in the mid to late 1800s. Eau de Verveine was released first in the 1870s and made brief reappearances in the 1950s and the 1980s before being retired from Guerlain's perfume portfolio. Eau de Verveine is the scent of high summer . . . sharp, uplifting notes of citrus-green lemon verbena flood the mouth with saliva with their crisp, energizing aroma. Below is a prickle of something darker - perhaps carnation or clove, which adds incredible depth. There is a dry, tea-like quality that emerges as the scent dries on the skin. This impossibly rare scent evokes feelings of long days at the summer's end with the chirrup of cicadas ringing in the ears.

The most coveted and rare perfume from the Guerlain portfolio, Djedi, was launched in 1926, right on the heels of Howard Carter's discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb. Presented in a flacon resembling a golden sarcophagus with its lid being raised, Djedi is an exploration into decomposition and decay. Gloomy and desolate, Djedi has a dry, arid quality like the shifting desert sands . . . a "closed over the ages" feel furnished by dry vetiver, oakmoss, musk, and leather. This olfactory requiem pays homage to fallen ancient Egyptian dynasties that have been lost to the sands of time.

Coque d'Or is an exceptionally beautiful leather chypre created in 1937 by Jacques Guerlain. Soft florals tumble over a buttery leather accord, which evoke thoughts of paper-thin handmade gloves of extraordinary quality. Built over a classic Guerlain chypre base of sandalwood, amber and oakmoss . . . this perfume is pre–World War II finery at its best. A scent to be worn with cashmere, pearls, and soft furs, but sadly one that has been out of production for the last 60 years.
Wow, the perfume descriptions remind me of wine tasting notes. Very evocative.

Giveaway: Thanks to the publicists, I am fortunate to be able to offer one reader of Beth Fish Reads a copy of M. J. Rose's The Book of Lost Fragrances. Because the book will be mailed by the publicist, this giveaway is open to only those with a U.S.A. or Canadian mailing address. To be entered for a chance to win, just fill out the form. I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on March 29. Good luck!



My full audio review will appear on the AudioFile website next month.
Buy The Book of Lost Fragrances at an Indie, Powell's, Book Depository, or a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Simon & Schuster / Atria 2012
ISBN-13: 9781451621303
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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21 March 2012

Wordless Wednesday 173

Forsythia, March 2012


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20 March 2012

Giveaway: Chopsticks: A Novel by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral is a 21st-century, multimedia experience. The storyline depends on print, websites, social media, videos, phone and tablet apps, and playlists to tell the story of piano prodigy Glory Fleming.

Chopsticks is a mystery and a love story. Here's the publisher's summary:
After her mother died, Glory retreated into herself and her music. Her single father raised her as a piano prodigy, with a rigid schedule and the goal of playing sold-out shows across the globe. Now, as a teenager, Glory has disappeared. As we flash back to the events leading up to her disappearance, we see a girl on the precipice of disaster. Brilliant and lonely, Glory is drawn to an artistic new boy, Frank, who moves in next door. The farther she falls, the deeper she spirals into madness. Before long, Glory is unable to play anything but the song "Chopsticks."

But nothing is what it seems, and Glory's reality is not reality at all. In this stunningly moving novel told in photographs, pictures, and words, it's up to the reader to decide what is real, what is imagined, and what has been madness all along....
To figure out what happened to Glory and to discover where she is, you must search for clues in the visuals in the book, in the songs, and in the companion videos and website. Doesn't it sound like fun? Take a look at a sample video:



Be sure to check out the Chopsticks Tumblr site, where you'll find more visuals and more information. If you have iProducts (phone, pad) you can access the apps through iTunes or the through whatever source you use to buy your apps.

The Giveaway: One lucky reader of Beth Fish Reads will win not only a copy of Chopsticks in print but also a $10 iTunes gift card so he or she can experience the Chopsticks app. The giveaway is sponsored by the publicists and is open to anyone with a U.S. or Canadian mailing address. Just fill out the form, and I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on March 27. Good luck!



Buy Chopsticks at an Indie, Powell's, Book Depository, or a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Penguin USA / Razorbill 2012
ISBN-13: 9781595144355
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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19 March 2012

Review: Emily the Strange: Piece of Mind by Rob Reger and Jessica Gruner

Apparently I've been living under rock because I was completely unaware of Emily the Strange: her books, her website, her fans, and her connection with skateboarding. So when I opened the latest Emily book, Emily the Strange: Piece of Mind (by Rob Reger and Jessica Gruner; illustrated by Rob Reger and Buzz Parker), I was introduced to a whole new world.

Emily is a Dark Girl, but not just any Dark Girl, she's the 13th Dark Girl who has just turned 13! Now is the time for her to find her personal source of power, called Black Rock. The only problem is, she doesn't know how to summon it and the manifestations of the previous 12 Dark Aunts can help only so much. It's up to Emily to use her intelligence and resourcefulness to solve the mystery of her own Black Rock.

Of course, this is no easy task. Emily runs up against her archenemy (a Shady Uncle) and meets her generation's Bright Girl. It takes all of Emily's talents and intelligence to outwit those who stand in the way of her birthright, and before the end, she is forced to contend with a few surprising twists and some young teens with powers of their own.

This fun story is told in the guise of Emily's diary, which is peppered with drawings, printouts, letters, and other great graphics. The scan is from pages 26-27 (click to enlarge), and will give you an idea of how visual the book is.

Although this is the fourth book in the Emily series, I had no problem catching on to the gist of the back story. Because the books are an offshoot of what started out as an icon used on skateboards and T-shirts, I suppose some of you will wonder about the commercialism of the Emily phenomenon. I'm not going to speak to that directly; instead I want to stress a couple of things.

First, I know my niece would have loved these books when she was in fifth or sixth grade (although the target audience is thirteen). Second, these book could be just the thing to get a reluctant young reader hooked on books. And finally, I like the philosophy behind Emily, as explained on the Emily the Strange website:

Today, Emily continues to be a voice for individualism and self-awareness, and her appeal is especially strong among alternative-minded young women and girls who identify with her signature singularity. Her presence in the worlds of art, pop culture, literature, and fashion celebrates non-conformist and reminds us all to cultivate that which makes us unique.
Emily is smart, seeks self-fulfillment in being resourceful, and isn't focused on finding a boyfriend or being cool. I like those things about her. That's not to say I don't like middle grade books about friendships, fitting it, and boys, but it's good to know there are alternatives.

This review will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted by Julie at Booking Mama.

Buy Emily the Strange: Piece of Mind at Powell's, at an Indie, at Book Depository, or at a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by HarperCollins / Harper, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780061452383
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: B
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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17 March 2012

Weekend Cooking: Shades of Hope by Tennie McCarty

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.

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I think I need to start out today with a few personal words. First, as many of you know, I am a big fan of Amy Einhorn Books, an imprint at Putnam, and I am hosting the Amy Einhorn Books Perpetual Reading Challenge. So for those reasons, I am breaking a policy I have about not reviewing trade health, fitness, and diet books on this blog.

I admit to being a bit surprised to find out that Tennie McCarty's Shades of Hope: A Program to Stop Dieting and Start Living was an Amy Einhorn Book. But once I started reading, I understood better. Shades of Hope is not a diet book, it's a book about our relationship with food, and it has a strong basis in the 12-step program.

No matter if we overeat, undereat, binge eat, diet, or have secret comfort foods, many of us have an emotionally charged relationship with food. McCarty herself is a recovering overeater, and thus intimately understands the issues her clients are dealing with at her clinic, Shades of Hope.

Through her own personal story and the stories of people who have sought treatment at her clinic, McCarty offers a way out to those who feel trapped by their eating habits. The book helps us face up our individual behaviors (denial, obsession), identify our personal role (enabler, hero), and deal with our control issues. Journaling, mindful eating, and spirituality are among the healing techniques recommended by McCarty.

The book ends with suggestions for coming up with meal plans and help with identifying trigger foods. Her guidelines are sane and seem doable for the long term. Again, this is not a diet book, it is a book to help us break the negative aspects of our attitudes about food.

I am one of the lucky people. I have been thin all my life and don't really have any particular food issues. Thus it's a little difficult for me to critique Shades of Hope and to judge just how helpful it would be for someone who is truly suffering from an eating disorder. It is well written and the personal stories are heartfelt. It is also clear that McCarty is doing good work and offering hope to those who have lost their hope. If you are struggling with food issues of any kind, I suggest you give Shades of Hope a try. It may be just what you've been looking for.

Buy Shades of Hope at an Indie, at Powell's, at Book Depository, or at bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs
Published by Putnam / Amy Einhorn Books, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780399158063
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


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16 March 2012

Imprint Friday: The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

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.

New York has always been tough, but in the 1840s, the city was a particular kind of hell for the fainthearted and the poor. Gangs, prostitution, sweatshops, and slums collided with people of all religions, nationalities, cultures, and languages. It's a fascinating point in New York history, and when I heard Lyndsay Faye's The Gods of Gotham was set at just that time and in one of the worst of the city's wards, I knew I had to give it a try.

Here's the publisher's summary:

1845. New York City forms its first police force. The great potato famine hits Ireland. These two seemingly disparate events will change New York City. Forever.

Timothy Wilde tends bar near the Exchange, fantasizing about the day he has enough money to win the girl of his dreams. But when his dreams literally incinerate in a fire devastating downtown Manhattan, he finds himself disfigured, unemployed, and homeless. His older brother obtains Timothy a job in the newly minted NYPD, but he is highly skeptical of this new "police force." And he is less than thrilled that his new beat is the notoriously down-and-out Sixth Ward-at the border of Five Points, the world's most notorious slum.

One night while making his rounds, Wilde literally runs into a little slip of a girl-a girl not more than ten years old-dashing through the dark in her nightshift . . . covered head to toe in blood.

Timothy knows he should take the girl to the House of Refuge, yet he can't bring himself to abandon her. Instead, he takes her home, where she spins wild stories, claiming that dozens of bodies are buried in the forest north of 23rd Street. Timothy isn't sure whether to believe her or not, but, as the truth unfolds, the reluctant copper star finds himself engaged in a battle for justice that nearly costs him his brother, his romantic obsession, and his own life.
Plan some free time before you pick up The Gods of Gotham; like as not, you'll be reluctant to put it down once you get started. Faye's talent is evident on many levels in this historical mystery. By the time you finish the short prologue, you'll have a clear sense of Timothy Wilde, and he's just the first of several vivid characters you'll meet. In addition, Faye brilliantly captures the heart and soul of the seedier and more dangerous side of New York in the 1840s. We hear the accents and slang, we sense the hustle on the streets, we feel the breeze through the window, and we wrinkle our nose at the stench.

But what about the story itself? Here, Faye does a masterful job of interspersing the principal timeline with a welcome mix of background information and subtle foreshadowing that blend well with the plot. One device Faye uses is to circle around an event, so, for example, we learn of the blood-covered girl via three or four avenues before the child makes her appearance. Instead of being repetitious, it whets our appetite, and we need to know more. At the same time, The Gods of Gotham doesn't give all its secrets freely, leaving room for a few surprises before the tale is done.

The Gods of Gotham will appeal to a wide variety of readers, among them are fans of historical fiction, history, mystery, character-driven stories, and literary fiction.

As I often do, I'd like to share a trio of other opinions (click the links to read the full reviews):
  • Julie of Booking Mama: "THE GODS OF GOTHAM is an outstanding example of well-crafted mystery as well as a fascinating historical novel. It really is the best of both worlds."
  • Kirkus Reviews: "No one is precisely what they seem in Faye’s richly imagined, superbly plotted narrative, which delivers not one, not two, but three bravura twists as Timothy tracks the killer."
  • Publisher's Weekly: " Vivid period details, fully formed characters, and a blockbuster of a twisty plot put Faye in a class with Caleb Carr."
To learn more about Lyndsay Faye, visit her website or follow her on Twitter. Book clubs and other readers will want to see the reading guide, available on the publisher's website.

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

The Gods of Gotham at an Indie

Published by Putnam / Amy Einhorn Books, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780399158377

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15 March 2012

Thursday Tea: Cruising Attitude by Heather Poole

The Book: Have you ever been jealous of the exciting life you imagine flight attendants live? I mean, they work just a few hours a day and get to travel all over the world for free. Heather Poole throws cold water on all your perceptions. Even those so-called free tickets are paid for by keeping irregular hours, dealing with cranky passengers, and spending many nights away from home.

In her memoir, Cruising Attitude, Poole reveals how hard it is to become a flight attendant and just how completely unglamorous her life really is. From the grueling training program to the scramble for seniority and decent flights, Poole gives us the inside scoop.

Cruising Attitude is a well-written, informative, and sometimes funny look at the behind-the-scenes business of making sure your flight is pleasant.

The Tea: Thanks to the snow on Sunday and then the near 70F temperatures on Wednesday, I can't tell if I should be drinking hot tea or iced tea. Thus this week I turned to Adagio's Thai Chai tea, a blend that tastes good both hot and cold. Here's the company's description: "Creamy sweet coconut and playfully floral lemongrass highlight this succulent black tea chai blend." It's a great choice for chai fans.

The Assessment: Would Heather Poole drink Thai chai? Maybe during a trip to Thailand! When she was just starting out in her career, there'd be no way she could have afforded any kind of fancy tea at home. When on the job, she would have been drinking whatever she could get at the airport or in a restaurant. Now that she's married and has a permanent house, she could very well keep chai on hand.

What About You? As you transition into the next season (summer or winter), are you drinking tea? If not, what's in your mug or glass? And don't forget to tell me what you're reading this week.

Buy Cruising Attitude 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 HarperCollins / William Morrow 2012
ISBN-13: 9780061986468
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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14 March 2012

Wordless Wednesday 172

Street Sculpture, Bethesda, Maryland


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13 March 2012

Today's Imprint Read: Five Bells by Gail Jones

Can your life change in a single day? Three women and one man—two former lovers and two strangers, each with unresolved feelings from a past personal trauma—are drawn to Sydney Harbor. Lost in their own thoughts, each sees something different in the lines and curves of the opera house, and each seeks a way to move past memory to embrace the future.

Circular Quay: she loved even the sound of it.

Before she saw the bowl of bright water, swelling like something sexual, before she saw the blue, unprecedented, and the clear sky sloping upwards, she knew from the lilted words it would be a circle like no other, key to a new world. . . .

There was confusion at first, the shock of sudden light, all the signs, all the clamour. But the vista resolved and she saw before her the row of ferry ports each looking like a primary-colour holiday pavilion, and the boats, bobbing, their green and yellow forms toy-like, arriving absorbing slow lines of passengers, departing. With a trampoline heart. she saw the Bridge to her left: its modern shape, its optimistic uparching. Familiar from postcards and television commercials, here now, here-now, was the very thing itself, neat and enthralling. There were tiny flags on top and the silhouetted ant forms of people arduously climbing the steep bow. It looked stamped against the sky, as if nothing could remove it. (p. 1)
Five Bells, by Gail Jones (Picador 2012)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: Sydney Harbor (the opera house) on a single Saturday
  • Circumstances: modern times, four people alone in a crowd
  • Characters: Ellie, obsessed with a girlhood sexual experience; James, haunted by a personal tragedy; Pei Xing scarred by a political imprisonment; Catherine, burdened by the early death of a brother
  • Themes: forgiveness, memory, loss, transformation
  • Genre: literary fiction
  • Awards: shortlisted for Victorian Premier's Literary Award for the Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction (2011) ; a top-ten pick for 2012 from Christian Science Monitor
Want to Know More? Watch Laura Kroetsch introduce Gail Jones and Five Bells at Adelaide Writers Week (embedded video). Visit the Picador website to find the book summary and a reading guide. To learn more about author Gail Jones check out this interview at Fancy Goods. For more on Picador and for news about events and great books, visit their website, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

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

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12 March 2012

Review: The (Nearly) Great Escape by Bill Willingham

You know Jack, right? Jack Horner, Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack Be Nimble, Jack and Jill. . . . That Jack sure got around. The only problem is all that hard living has earned him very few friends. In the early entries in Bill Willingham's Fables series, we learn just how bad Jack can be.

On the other hand, any press is good press, and Jack always seems to land on his feet. After being exiled from Fabletown, where all his fellow fairy tale, fable, and nursery rhyme colleagues live while in the Mundy world (that's our world), Jack hits the road and snags his own spin-off series. As the banner on the book cover says, "No one deserves his own collection more than Jack of Fables."

The (Nearly) Great Escape is the first in the Jack books. It's not necessary to have read the original Fable books before starting this series, though they will give you the deep background on the whole reason the Fable beings have been forced to live among Mundies (mortal humans).

After Jack introduces himself and his situation (see the scan, which is page 1), the adventure begins quickly, and the pace is non-stop. Jack is kidnapped by the Reviser and his team of Librarians, who are determined to erase the Fables from Mundy memories, the only true way Fable creatures can die. (Do you remember Tinkerbell from Peter Pan? It's kind of like that.)

One of the truly great features of Willingham's books is his sense of humor. The books all include witty banter and double entendres in the dialogue and art puns and funny details in the drawings. Mix that with some good storytelling, and you've got yourself a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

Although Jack is about a half century behind in women's rights and can be, as Cinderella called him, a Jackass (ha!), he's a fun character to read about. His ego would fill a room, but wouldn't you know it? He generally lives up to his own good opinion of himself. I'm already looking forward to more in the Jack of Fables series.

As with the other Fable books, Bill Willingham has a staff of writers and artists. The (Nearly) Great Escape is co-written with Matthew Sturges and is wonderfully drawn by Tony Akins, Andrew Pepoy, Daniel Vozzo, Todd Klein, and James Jean.

Buy The (Nearly) Great Escape at an Indie, Powell's, Book Depository, or a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by DC Comics / Vertigo, 2007
ISBN-13: 9781401212223
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: B
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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10 March 2012

Weekend Cooking: Review: See Mix Drink by Brian D. Murphy

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.

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I guess my 18/7 work schedule is going to my head. Last week I talked about a documentary film about beer and today I'm talking cocktails. This makes me laugh because, as I've said before, I generally drink red wine or scotch. Oh well, a woman's got to relax sometime when she's working long hours.

Brian D. Murphy's See Mix Drink is a fun and easy-to-use cocktail book that is all about the visuals. Printed on glossy, color-coded pages with fun graphics, this book will have you mixing up a refreshing adult beverage in no time.

In a few short introductory chapters, Murphy explains how to use the book, suggests bar ware and equipment, and describes the spirits that make up the base of the recipes. Then we get to the heart of See Mix Drink, which is the recipes for classic cocktails and modern drinks, divided by alcohol: brandy, champagne, gin, rum, tequila, vodka, whiskey, and liqueurs. The book concludes with two indexes, one by cocktail name and the other by calories.

It's difficult to describe the layout of the book, so I decided to use a illustration. The recipe I scanned is from pages 120-121 and is for the Brave Bull (shown at the right below). (My scanner bed is a little small and cut off the name of the drink, but all other elements are shown.)

My scan doesn't do the page justice; in the book, the type is clear and the icons and colors are fun and cheerful. But from the image (click to enlarge), you can see that all it takes is a glance to determine how to make the drink, the shape and size of the glass, the calories, and the time required to make it. In addition, each recipe includes a photo of the finished drink, a brief description, and a pronunciation key. Tequila is coded yellow, and each spirit has its own shade, so you know immediately what chapter you're in. Fun, yes?

The taste tests: Both Mr. BFR and I thought the cocktails we tried were delicious. The blends were nicely balanced and not too sweet. We aren't giving up our wineglass for a highball glass any time soon but we're happy to have a book we can turn to for a festive occasion or whenever we want to try something a bit different. By the way, the other other drink I photographed is a Kamikaze, made of vodka, triple sec, and lime juice. Cheers!



Buy See Mix Drink at an Indie, at Powell's, at Book Depository, or at bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs
Published by Hachette Group / Little. Brown, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780316176712
Rating: B+
Source: giveaway win (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


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