30 May 2015

Weekend Cooking: Food, Mysteries, & Fun! Oh My!

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend 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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copyright cbl for www.BethFishRead.comThese days I have moments in which I swear I can't tell if I'm coming or going. Thank goodness for good friends (in real life and here on the blog), good books, and good food. Somehow the combo keeps me grounded and moving forward one step at a time.

I didn't do any cooking this week (woot!) because I was in New York at BookExpo America (BEA) learning about all things books and publishing. I met up with friends, drank a little wine, ate in restaurants, met authors, talked to publicists, and came home with a book or two.

This week I'm celebrating books and food by talking about four cozy mysteries coming out next month. Apparently June is chocolate month, because three of these books are definitely on the sweet side. But, hey, one actually features fruits and veggies! Hope you find something that catches your eye.

Bushel Full of Murder by Paige SheltonLet's talk about the health-inspiring cozy first and then head straight for the chocolate, shall we? Paige Shelton's Bushel Full of Murder is the sixth installment in her very popular Farmer's Market series. Becca Robins, who makes and sells jam and preserves, is a regular fixture at her local South Carolina farmers market. Lately, though, it seems that the goodwill among the vendors is reaching a breaking point. Food trucks are vying for space with producers and authorities are checking everyone's licenses. When the town business manager turns up dead, the police decide Becca's cousin is the killer. Can the jelly maker find the true villain before an arrest is made? Follow the included recipes to make your own versions of popular market treats. (Berkley Books; ISBN: 9780425279809, June 2015)

Death of a Chocolate Cheater by Penny PikeAre you fan of food festivals? If so, you might want to give Penny Pike's Food Festival Mystery series a try. Death of a Chocolate Cheater is the second installment featuring Darcy Burnett, a food truck owner who sells wonderful chocolate treats. This time out, Darcy and her aunt Abby are determined to win the $10,000 grand prize at a San Francisco chocolate contest. They're pretty confident that Abby's chocolate raspberry whoopee pie is going to beat the competition. Before the check can be cut, however, one of the judges has a fatal "accident." Darcy is quickly on the case, hoping to find the bad guy before anyone else is taken on a one-way ride to the morgue. A little romance and mouth-watering chocolate delights sweeten the story. Don't miss the recipes for six yummy desserts. (New American Library, ISBN: 9780451467829)

Truffled to Death by Kathy AaronsFor many of us, a little spot of heaven would include both books and chocolate. Apparently Kathy Aarons, author of the Chocolate Covered series thinks so too because the protagonists of her series, Michelle and Erica, own a store that sells both confections and books. In Truffled to Death (the second in the series), the Maryland shopkeepers are asked to host a party in honor of an archaeology exhibit opening at the local museum. The event may have been a success, but the theft of a priceless artifact and the murder of one of the experts leave the friends with a bitter taste, especially because law enforcement thinks Erica had means and motive. Will they be able to find the true killer before someone else meets an early demise? The truffle recipes at the back of the book look divine. (Berkley Books, ISBN: 9780425267240)

The Diva Steals a Chocolate Kiss by Krista DavisWould you like to go to a chocolate-tasting? Krista Davis's ninth Domestic Diva mystery, The Diva Steals a Chocolate Kiss, is centered around just such an event. Professional organizer Sophie Winston snags the sweet job of putting together a delightful sixtieth anniversary celebration of a local chocolate company. She has made sure that there will be chocolate goodies of all kinds, including cakes, cookies, confections, and even cocktails. Party-goers are well on their way to basking in the ultimate sugar high when the guest of honor disappears and Sophie discovers a dead body. Will the domestic diva find the missing chocolatier and discover the murderer before she becomes the next victim? The recipes are seriously sinful: Chocolate martini, anyone? (Berkley Books; ISBN: 9780425258156)

I hope you've added at least one of these fun foodie mysteries to your wish list.

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27 May 2015

Wordless Wednesday 343

Fleabane, 2015


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25 May 2015

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: The Pre-BEA Edition

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts @ www.BethFishReads.comStacked-Up Book Thoughts are my random notes about books I've read, movies I've watched, books I'm looking forward to, and events I hope to get to.

BEA: Of course, the biggest event in my near future is attending Book Expo America (BEA) in New York this coming week. I'm making a quick trip out of this year for a number of reasons. Unfortunately, that means I won't have time to see friends and relatives who live in the city and I'm worried that I'll even miss seeing some of you.

Regardless, I'm looking forward to learning about all the books and meeting up with publicists and authors. I plan to write several posts, so you'll be able to make your wish list grow as big as mine will. I'm also very excited to have the opportunity to be on a panel at the Audio Publishers Association Conference. The title of session will give you an idea of what we'll be talking about: "How to Build Relationships & Work with Reviewers to Secure Coverage." I can't wait to share ideas.

Fables: Happily Ever After by Bill Willingham, In a French Kitchen by Susan Loomis, Dylan Goes Electric by Elijah WaldWhat I've Read or Am Reading: May was the slowest reading month I've had in . . . well, could it be ever? I managed to finish a few books here and there, some of which I've already written about. Here's an indication of how bad a reader I've become: The new Fables came out, arrived at my home, and has still not been opened! I'm hoping to read it today, if I get my laundry and packing finished (see BEA, above). Fables: Happily Ever After by Bill Willingham will focus on Fabletown and the split between sisters Snow White and Red Rose. Should be good. One of my favorite food writers has a new book coming out in June, and I've just barely stared it. Susan Herrmann Loomis's In a French Kitchen is all about how the French manage to put together lovely, fresh, nutritious daily meals and still find the time to do all the other things normal people have to deal with in the modern world. Put this on your list. Another book I've got going is Elijah Wald's Dylan Goes Electric (I'm not sure why, but I really don't love the title). Even the introduction had me thinking and reevaluating Dylan, Pete Seeger, Newport, and the whole folk scene of my youth. (Bonus: If you like Dave van Ronk, be sure to read Wald's Mayor of MacDougal Street.)

Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy, The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy, The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina GeorgeWhat I've Listened to or Am Listening to: I've gotten very little listening time in because I've been around family and friends a lot over the last weeks. This is a good thing, but it makes it a little difficult to put my earbuds in. Plus rainy days have kept me from my walks. Enough of the excuses already! David Joy's Where All Light Tends to Go (read by MacLeod Andrews) is a kind of gritty coming-of-age story set in North Carolina. The audio production was well done, but I'm still processing the novel itself--I'm not completely sure what I thought. Sarah McCoy's The Mapmaker's Children (read by Abby Craden, Cassandra Campbell, and Jane Jacobs) is about two women who spend time in the same house but in two very different historical periods. Despite living in different centuries, they share some of the same sorrows and troubles. Don't miss this one. I've just started Nina George's The Little Paris Bookshop (read by Steve West, Emma Bering, and Cassandra Campbell). Oh how I love the bookstore on a barge, the references to both classic and modern literature, and the way Monsieur Perdu knows just what book will heal his customers. I can't wait to see where this story takes me.

Note on this week: I'm going light this week! Look for a photo on Wednesday and a Weekend Cooking post on Saturday. I'll be back to my regularly scheduled program next week, with lots of bookish talk from New York.

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23 May 2015

Weekend Cooking: 1,000 Foods to Eat before You Die by Mimi Sheraton

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend 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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1,000 Foods to Eat before You Die by Mimi SheratonAlmost everyone in the food world has heard of Mimi Sheraton. She is, among other things, a former restaurant critic for the New York Times and an award-winning cookbook author. Few people know kitchens, markets, restaurants, and ingredients as well as she does. And now she is sharing her top-1,000 list with her many fans.

1,000 Foods to Eat before You Die is a delightful mix of autobiography, travel memoir, cookbook, and kitchen reference. Sheraton says one of her aims "was to curate a sort of jigsaw puzzle that pieces together a picture of what the world eats." And lest you think that she had to struggle to come up with a thousand entries, Sheraton informs us that the real problem was culling her text to only a thousand.

1,000 Foods to Eat before You Die by Mimi SheratonSo what wonders will you find between the covers? Sheraton focuses on about seventy different cuisines from every continent, telling us where to go, what to eat, how to eat, where to buy, and how to cook. We learn about food festivals, restaurants, street food, open-air markets, and little shops.

Have you ever had English summer pudding? It's a creamy, berry-laden dessert that you can travel to London to try or you can follow the recipe and impress your friends. Sweets not your thing? You can learn the secrets of French grand aïoli sauce and where to eat eel in Brussels. More casual tastes? Read up on cinnamon toast, Turkish kebabs, and Brunswick stew.

I'm dreaming of a visit to the Palermo markets and thinking of the delectable nibbles that German beer drinkers munch on during Oktoberfest. The entry on smørrebrød made me miss Denmark, and the pierogi article made me miss my mother-in-law's cooking. From knishes to kibbeh, sopaipillas to satay, 1,000 Foods to Eat before You Die takes you around the world and into the kitchens of dozens of cultures and countries.

1,000 Foods to Eat before You Die by Mimi SheratonMimi Sheraton provides hours of fascinating reading, including dozens of recipes and hundreds of cool places to visit. The pages of 1,000 Foods to Eat before You Die transport us to a food-lover's paradise that contains everything from oysters to Oreos (really!). Even if you have no plans to try every recommended dish or drink, this is a must-own book for all of us who like to eat, cook, drink, travel, and/or learn.

Note: The illustrations were scanned by me and all rights to the text and photos remain with the original copyright holders. The quality of my scans do not reflect the quality of the book. (Click to enlarge.)

Published by Workman, 2015
ISBN-13: 9780761141686
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


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21 May 2015

Scholastic Mother-Daughter Book Club: May Selections

Remember when I introduced you to the Scholastic Mother-Daughter Book Club for middle readers? I'm committed to featuring or reviewing the books selected for this club because I think Scholastic has picked winning titles that have broad appeal.

Don't forget that the Scholastic book club site includes more information about the books, recipes, reading guides, and contests. The resources are perfect for book clubs, teachers, homeschoolers, and any one who wants to get more out of reading books with middle grade readers.

This month's picks are perfect for the end of the school year. Your young readers are looking forward to summer vacation and to having fun. Both books are light, easy reads with plenty of magic, lots of laughs, and loveable characters.

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures by Jackson Pearce and Maggie SteifvaterOkay, I'm just going to come out and say it: Something magical happened when authors Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater got together to write Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures. After nine-year-old Pip has a little misadventure with a unicorn on school career day, her parents arrange for her to spend the summer with Aunt Emma, who runs a veterinarian clinic for magical creatures. Pip may sometimes feel tongue-tied around people, but she has no trouble talking to the animals. And they talk back.

Of course, pretty much no one believes her when she says she understands the many languages of magical creatures, but her new friend, Tomas, is supportive nonetheless. All seems to be going smoothly until tiny Fuzzles start invading the town and spontaneously bursting into flame. Can Pip and Tomas figure out what's causing the infestation and the fires before the animal authorities take drastic (and permanent) action?

Pip is such a great character, it's easy to relate to her. She keeps notes on her observations of (and conversations with) all the magical creatures she meets in her aunt's clinic. She's a good kid, but can get herself into trouble when she lets her curiosity get the best of her. Tomas has a million allergies, and I love the way he is always prepared for a sneezing attack. I also love the illustrations of the creatures, complete with Pip's annotations of her personal encounters of each species.

Book clubs will likely want to talk about friendship, the importance of animals in their lives, and maybe even living with allergies. The discussion topics on the Scholastic mother-daughter book club site include questions about learning and about being different. The suggested recipe is for grilled pineapple, which is a favorite food of one of the creatures Pip befriends and is an easy summer treat.

Whatever After: Beauty Queen by Sarah MlynowskiThis isn't the first time one of Sarah Mlynowski's fractured fairy tale books has been picked for the Scholastic book club, and for good reason. These books about Abby and her little brother, Jonah, take us on fun adventures, and I'm glad to see that the series is going strong. In Whatever After: Beauty Queen, the kids find themselves inside the tale of Beauty and the Beast.

The basic premise is that Abby and Jonah discover a magic mirror in their basement. If they knock three times at the stroke of midnight, they are transported into the world of fairy tales. The only problem is that sometimes the stories don't go quite the way they're supposed to. In this adventure, Beauty and the Beast meet and, well, don't fall in love. Oops. What can Abby and Jonah do to save the well-known story and still get home before their parents wake them up for school?

One thing I like about these books is that we get to see Abby both in fairy tale land and in real life. The lessons she learns during her trips through the magic mirror often help her understand issues she might be struggling with at home. In this case, she learns that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder and that jealousy isn't a pretty thing.

Your young readers will find a lot to talk about, such as jealousy, friendship, and finding the beauty of people beneath the surface. Don't forget to download the reading guide on the Scholastic mother-daughter book club site, which includes several questions about different kinds of relationships. The Beast would love the suggested cheesecake recipe and so will you and your kids. 

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures: Scholastic Press, 2015; ISBN-13: 9780545709262
Whatever After: Beauty Queen: Scholastic Press, 2015; ISBN-13: 9780545746540
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

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20 May 2015

Wordless Wednesday 342

Fern, 2015


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19 May 2015

Today's Read: A Place for Us by Harriet Evans

A Place for Us by Harriet EvansWhat if your mother requested your presence at a party, luring you in by adding that she had something important to tell the family? Martha Winter, on the eve of her 80th birthday, does just that, though she's sure her revelation will have devastating effects.

The day Martha Winter decided to tear apart her family began like any other day.

She woke early. She always did, but lately she couldn't sleep. This summer sometimes she'd been up and dressed by five: too much to think about. No point lying in bed, fretting.
A Place for Us by Harriet Evans (Simon & Schuster / Gallery Books, 2015, p. 5)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: English countryside, modern times; flashbacks to Europe during World War II
  • Circumstances: Everyone makes sacrifices over the course of a long life, and Martha and David Winter are no exception. But not everyone carries the secrets that Martha has. When she tells her family the truth, there is no predicting their reactions.
  • Characters: Martha and David Winter plus their three children and their spouses and their grandchildren
  • Genre: family saga plus a little bit thriller
  • Topics & themes: family, love, sacrifice, secrets, marriage, parenting
  • What I know: The story is told in four parts and from multiple points of view. The core of the novel takes place in the twenty-first century, though there are sections set in World War II Italy and and France.
  • Reviews & thoughts: Readers have had a wide range of feelings about this novel. None of the negative comments bother me (for example, I don't mind time shifts and I like multiple points of view), and the positive reviews note the strong emotions and well developed characters. I will likely save this book for a lazy summer weekend.

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18 May 2015

Review: Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Our Souls at Night by Kent HarufKent Haruf's Our Souls at Night is the perfect ending for his run of novels about the fictional town of Holt, Colorado. I've written about Haruf and his work before (Plainsong; Benediction) and will leave those posts to continue to speak for me.

Haruf finished this slim novel just days before he died at the age of seventy-one. It's hard to accept that is our last visit to Holt and the last time we'll be immersed in the ordinary lives of its citizens. I'm sure these thoughts heightened my emotional involvement with Our Souls at Night, but I can assure you that Haruf was at the top of his game until the last second.

This story focuses on Louis Waters and Addie Moore, both in their seventies, long-time widowed, and living alone. Although they are neighbors and Addie was a friend of Louis's late wife, the two don't really know each other, so Louis is initially taken aback when Addie comes for a visit and proposes something surprising: Will Louis consider spending the night at her house? She isn't interested in something physical, she simply misses the companionship of talking in the dark while lying in bed on the verge of sleep.

As with all of Haruf's books, Our Souls at Night is not full of drama or last-minute twists. Nor is it a fairy tale romance. Instead, it's a look at the everyday life of two people trying to find a way out of loneliness while preserving their dignity and independence and honoring their pasts.

Read this one slowly. You'll want to savor every moment of Addie and Louis's developing relationship: their uncertainty in the early days, their nighttime confessions, the pettiness of those who don't understand, the simple joys of a summer afternoon, the sorrows of what cannot be.

Kent Haruf will be missed, but Holt, Colorado, lives on in my heart. I hold tight to the promise of hope.

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For more about Kent Haruf--his life and work--see this New York Times article and especially this one from the Wall Street Journal (have a few tissues handy). Our Souls at Night is a standalone novel and is perhaps Haruf's most personal.

Audiobook fans shouldn't miss the outstanding performance by Mark Bramhall, who also read Benediction. See my review for AudioFile magazine.

Random House / Knopf, May 26, 2015
ISBN-13: 9781101875896
Source: Review (audio) (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

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16 May 2015

Weekend Cooking: Movie Menus by Francine Segan

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend 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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Movie Menus by Fancine SeganLike movies? Like Food? Then you're bound to get a kick out of Francine Segan's Movie Menus.

Author Segan sounds like someone I should meet: Her biography notes that she's a food historian, a good cook, and a movie fan. What's not to like? Plus we'd have a lot to talk about.

The concept behind Movie Menus is to match Hollywood films to recipes in terms of time period, place, and cultural norms. But Segan goes further by including all kinds of cool movie trivia scattered among the recipes.

Rather than match a single menu to a single movie, Segan organized her book by movie genre, pairing dishes and movie recommendations. For example, in the "Knights and Kings" chapter, which covers the Middle Ages, the recipes include meat pies, fruit pudding, and penne (a medieval Italian invention). Becket, several versions of the King Arthur story, and a number of Robin Hood movies are found in the list of recommended films.

The recipes in Movie Menus range from "Ancient Times" (stuffed figs) to modern times (shrimp with sugar snap peas) and the movies run the gamut from historic (Amistad) to romantic (Breakfast at Tiffany's) to perfect for the whole family (The Princess Bride).

All the recipes are doable and have been adapted to the modern kitchen. I thought it was fun to see the wartime recipes that were developed during times of rationing, dishes that Shakespeare might have eaten, and the hearty fare downed by cattlemen and pioneers in the Old West.

Here's a recipe for Prohibition Punch from the "Gangsters to Greasers" chapter. Make a batch and settle in to watch The Untouchables or Chicago. BTW, Segan notes that this tame recipe is excellent "with a generous splash of hooch."

Prohibition Punch
Serves 8
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 tea bags
  • 1/2 cup mint jelly
  • 1 cup grapefruit juice
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • Juice of 4 lemons
1. Bring 3 cups of water and the sugar to boil in a small saucepan. Cook until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat, add the tea bags, and allow to steep for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags and discard. Stir the mint jelly into the hot tea until completely dissolved.

2. Pour the tea mixture into a large pitcher along with the grapefruit, pineapple, and lemon juices and refrigerate until cold. Serve over ice.

Published by Villard Books, 2004
ISBN-13: 9780812969924
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


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15 May 2015

Imprint Friday: 6 Picks from Picador

Imprint Friday on www.BethFishReads.comWelcome to a special edition of Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint Picador. It's been a while since I wrote an imprint feature, but I'd like to revive my habit of introducing you to great reads from some of my favorite publishers.

The Picador logo means quality, whether you find it on the spine of a hardcover original or paperback reprint. They publish across the genres, as you'll see from the half dozen books I'm writing about today.

Put these excellent books on your wish list or pick them up at your favorite store or library. Read them in print or on your eReader. Just read them!

Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed, edited by Meghan DaumSelfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed edited by Meghan Daum. One of my most anticipated books of this spring, this collection of sixteen essays focuses on what it means to be purposely childless. The pieces present a variety of perspectives, but all make the case that having children is not necessarily the primary road to personal happiness, despite the pressures from modern society. It doesn't matter where you are on the parent spectrum--are one, hope to be one, aren't sure yet, or can't even imagine such a thing--Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed will give you much to think about and may even help you understand yourself or your childless friends. There are a world of reasons to not reproduce, and believe it or not, it's really no one's business except the person making the choice. Many of the writers in this collection mentioned how many times people asked them why they didn't have kids. Their answers are enlightening and varied. (March 2015; ISBN: 9781250052933)

The Memory Painter by Gwendolyn WomackThe Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack. If you love books that are difficult to categorize, you'll love Womack's debut. Bryan Pierce is an artist who has been plagued by nightmares that are set in ancient times: Rome, Egypt, Persia, and so on. He uses his dreams as fodder for his world-famous paintings. Linz Jacobs is a neurogeneticist who has specialized in the biology of memory. When she recognizes, in vivid detail, one of her own dreams in one of Bryan's paintings, she is startled enough to seek him out; their meeting sets off a series of events tied to mysterious deaths, history, dreams, memory, and even romance. A little bit thriller and maybe a whole lot love story, The Memory Painter offers great escape reading for fans of historical fiction, reincarnation, and mystery. (April 2015; ISBN: 9781250053039)

The Domino Diaries by Brin-Jonathan ButlerThe Domino Diaries by Brin-Jonathan Butler. Most of us are familiar with the many great Cuban athletes who have found fame in professional sports. Often these men and women leave Cuba to train and live with their teammates, but some decide to stay put. Butler's memoir focuses on the ten years he spent immersed in the boxing world and in Castro's Cuba. Part sports memoir and part ethnography, The Domino Diaries examines island culture and traditions as much as it does the boxers themselves. One of Butler's primary questions is why some athletes defect and others choose to stay, basking in the love of their fans but lacking the money and resources of those who left home. This memoir is particularly timely, with the renewal of U.S.-Cuban relations and the continued popularity of boxing, as demonstrated by the recent Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. You can embrace this book with an eye toward its cultural commentary or you can focus on the sport of boxing. Either way, there's plenty to learn. (June, 2015; ISBN: 9781250043702)

A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil HoganA Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan. You might be glad you didn't read this novel in the dark days of winter; the creep factor is strong enough that you'll welcome the comfort of daylight and sunshine. Mr. Heming has had a troubled past but is happy in the small English town he calls home. He sells houses and knows each one inside and out . . . but not just when they're empty. You see, he has kept the keys for each house he has sold over the last seventeen years. He's curious about his neighbors, learning what they do in public and what they do when they think they're safe at home. When his normal routines are upset by a single woman and a married man, Heming decides to take control. This psychological thriller has garnered several starred reviews. Read it if you dare. (January 2015; ISBN: 9781250060631)

On the Run by Alice GoffmanOn the Run by Alice Goffman. We've all heard it, America is supposedly waging a war on crime. Unfortunately, this so-called war has resulted in racial profiling, crowded prisons, and no real halt in the trafficking of street drugs. As the publisher's summary for On the Run puts it: "Goffman spent six years in one Philadelphia neighborhood, documenting the routine stops, searches, raids, and beatings that young men navigate as they come of age." This is a heart-breaking and very real look at what goes in the neighborhoods most of us see only on the news or in movies. If you've been sickened by recent run-ins and violence between police and black citizens living in urban neighborhoods, you need to read this book. Goffman outlines just how difficult it is for decent people to stay decent and to stay out of harm's way. Combining thorough research, personal experience, and excellent journalism, Goffman has created a gripping true story of our times. Whether or not you agree with Goffman's methods and conclusions, On the Run has a place in this important debate. (April 2015 ISBN: 9781250065667)

The Last Pilot by Benjamin JohncockThe Last Pilot by Benjamin Johncock. Americans have always been in love with the space program, especially in its early days. Johncock's debut novel focuses on U.S. Air Force test pilot Jim Harrison and tracks his progress from an isolated military base in the Mojave Desert in the 1940s through the 1960s and the race for the moon. Balancing family life with career ambitions isn't easy; the lure of the young NASA organization is strong. Although Harrison initially does what's right for his wife, fate doesn't treat him well. The Last Pilot is a sharp look at a man torn by personal loss and a desire to reach for the stars. The period details, well-drawn characters, and emotional depth make this the perfect summer read, as we come up on the forty-sixth anniversary of the first moon landing. (July 2015; ISBN: 9781250066640)

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14 May 2015

Guest Post: Why I Love Writing Dance Scenes by Ann Weisgarber (The Promise)

The Promise by Ann WeisgarberSometimes you pick up a book intending to read just a couple of pages, but before you know it you're 200 pages in and haven't taken a break. That's what happened to me when I first took a look at Ann Weisgarber's The Promise, out in paperback just last week.

Set in 1900 in the months leading up to the devastating Galveston hurricane, this is a story of two women who are linked through their very different relationships to a widower and his young son.

Catherine, a pianist from Ohio, flees her home town under the taint of a scandal, accepting the marriage proposal of a childhood admirer. Although they haven't seen each other in a dozen years, Oscar, now a dairy farmer in Texas, has not forgotten Catherine's refined ways, and hopes not only for love but also for a proper mother for his boy. Nan, a Galveston native, is Oscar's housekeeper, but she was also a close friend of his first wife and is a second mother to his son.

Told from both Catherine's and Nan's points of view, The Promise explores second chances, hope, friendship, parenthood, and marriage. Weisgarber's flowing prose draws you in, and her characterizations and period details keep you invested. Just as the two women begin to find their place in Oscar's world, the storm hits, destroying much more than the up-and-coming city.

Today I'm pleased to welcome author Ann Weisgarber, who talks about how she came about writing the dance scene for The Promise. Music is one of the few bonds between the main characters--although Catherine is a classically trained pianist, and Nan plays more popular tunes on the fiddle at local events--and the scene Ann describes here was one of my favorites.

Why I Love Writing Dance Scenes

For many of us, dancing is part of our lives. When we were kids, we might have twirled around our bedrooms when no one was watching. Some of us took ballet lessons or in my case, tap lessons. (Yes, tap. I loved the shiny silver shoes with heels.) Maybe we went to dances at school and danced at parties, weddings, and other celebrations. They can be romantic opportunities to be close to someone we love.

Or a dance with the wrong person can be awkward and seem endless.

Dancing says something about who we are. The style often reflects when we were born and where we're from. Our comfort level on the dance floor reveals hints about our personalities or sometimes it shows something unexpected about us.

Dancing is loaded with possibilities and that's why I love to include dance scenes in my novels.

My latest novel, The Promise, takes place on the rural end of Galveston Island, Texas, at the time of the historic 1900 storm that killed at least 6,000 people. I wanted a dance scene, but I couldn't figure out how one would drive the plot forward. Then I read an article about the tradition of dance halls in rural Texas. The farmers and ranch families used any excuse to hold dances with their neighbors.

I went to my research books about Galveston and looked for dance halls. I didn't find any but did find open-air pavilions.

Starting with an image of a pavilion, the scene took shape. The main characters, Catherine and Oscar, have just married. Catherine is new to the island but Oscar, a dairy farmer, is known and well-liked by his neighbors. I realized the neighbors would have a dance to celebrate Oscar's marriage and to meet the bride. They wouldn't know the couple is uneasy with one another or that Catherine doesn't want to be at the dance. When she and Oscar are called to the floor, though, her pride takes over.

Catherine says, "The neighbors were watching. I put my hand on his shoulder. Fixed in position, he stood as though suddenly paralyzed, his gaze skipping from me to the people who surrounded us, Nan's waltz going on without us. 'One, two, three,' I whispered to help him find the rhythm. Oscar didn't move. He was shy, I thought. And unaccustomed to being the center of attention."

Catherine's awareness of Oscar's shyness took me by surprise. She understood him better than I thought she did.

This scene helped me add a new layer to the relationship and when the characters reflect on what the dance means to them, another layer is added. It's all the more poignant since a week after the dance, a massive hurricane hits Galveston. The characters, though, can't see the future as they glide and sometimes stumble on the dance floor.

I loved writing this scene. Initially, I wanted the characters to have a few hours of pleasure before going through a devastating hurricane. As I wrote it, though, a complicated mishmash of emotions—embarrassment, joy, laughter, and heartbreak—bubbled to the surface and made the scene bigger than I expected.

That's the power of dance. It's loaded with possibilities as it reaches into our hearts and takes us to new and unexpected places.
Thanks so much, Ann. I know exactly what you mean about the emotional power of dance. As I said, that scene in The Promise was one of my favorites. It showed another side of Catherine and Oscar and also changed the relationship between Catherine and Nan.

To learn more about The Promise, visit Ann Weisgarber's website and be sure to follow her on Twitter.

Published by Skyhorse (paperback), 2015
ISBN-13: 9781632206459
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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13 May 2015

Wordless Wednesday 341

Lilacs, 2015

copyright cbl for www.BethFishReads.com

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12 May 2015

Today's Read: The Fog Diver by Joel Ross

The Fog Diver by Joel RossWould you be able to survive in a world of mountaintops and airships? In the distant future, thirteen-year-old Chess and his fellow crew members live on an air raft high above the earth and the thick misty fog that covers all the once-inhabitable lands.

My name is Chess, and I was born inside a cage.

Imagine a wooden platform jutting from a mountain cliff. Now picture a chain falling from that platform and vanishing into the Fog, a deadly white mist that covers the entire Earth.

That's where I was born: locked in a cage, at the end of a chain, inside the Fog.
The Fog Diver by Joel Ross (HarperCollins / HarperCollins Children's Books, 2015, p. 1)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: mountaintops and airships; in the future
  • Circumstances: The woman who has provided Chess and his crew with a home has fallen sick, and the young teens don't have enough money to buy her a cure. When trying to raise the funds to save Mrs. E, the kids get on the wrong side of air pirates, junkyard gangs, and a slum lord. Will they survive to help to their friend?
  • Characters: Chess, a tetherboy, who dives off the raft into the Fog to search for salvage; Hazel, the captain of the air raft; Swedish, the pilot; Bea, their mechanic; Mrs. E, who acts as their foster mother; various air pirates, slum lords, gang members, and neighbors
  • Genre & audience: dystopian with a steampunk feel; despite some techie elements, I wouldn't call this science fiction; the book is geared to middle grade readers
  • Topics & themes: friendship, pollution, survival, family, trust, loyalty
  • What I like so far: Ross has done a great job creating four distinct characters, each with his or her own personality and skills. The futuristic earth is easy to envision, especially because the items Chess finds in the lands under the Fog are from our own era. Snappy dialogue and fast action keep us invested, as the kids run from rivals and hide from pirates. Readers of all ages will appreciate the corny humor, which also serves to ease the tension. In addition, I sense there might be a little romance brewing, but so far it's pretty tame, age-appropriate stuff.
  • Extras: I understand that this is the start of a new series. I hope so, because I really enjoy being in Chess's world. The novel has won several starred reviews.
  • Recommendations: Perfect for anyone who likes dystopian and/or steampunk stories. Chess and his friends are resourceful, smart, and independent but still retain enough vulnerability to be likeable and believable. Fun reading for the whole family.

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11 May 2015

My Father

My father embraced and lived by the following poem, often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson. He was a role model to almost everyone who ever met him. He was deeply loved by his family and will be missed by us every single day.

Whether this poem was really written by Emerson or not is of no consequence. . . . My father was a success in every way possible.

To Have Succeeded

To laugh often and love much:
To win respect of intelligent people
And the affection of children;
To earn the approbation of honest critics
And endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To give one's self;
To leave the world a little better,
Whether by a healthy child,
A garden patch,
Or redeemed social condition;
To have played and laughed with enthusiasm
And sung with exultation;
To know even one life has breathed easier
Because you have lived . . .
This is to have succeeded.

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09 May 2015

Weekend Cooking: Haute Cuisine (Film)

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend 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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Haute Cuisine (film)First, I want to thank all of you for your support of my Weekend Cooking link-up. I love to read your posts, and they are one of the highlights of my week.

After today, my life will return mostly to normal, and I'll be cooking again and reading cookbooks, sharing recipes, and commenting on your posts. It's been a very rough period, and I appreciate everyone's good thoughts.

At one point while sitting in the hospital last week, I took a mini vacation by putting in my ear buds and setting my tablet for Netflix streaming. As you might guess, I turned to my favorite type of movie: something to do with food.

Haute Cuisine (directed by Christian Vincent) is based on the true story of Danièle Delpeuch, the first woman to be the private chef for President François Mitterrand. Although the names were changed in the movie, the general story is supposed to be fairly accurate.

Haute Cuisne (film)This quiet film highlights the many hurdles Hortense Laborie (played by Catherine Frot) had to face when she was hired into the very male world of the Élysée Palace's kitchens. Hortense and her pastry chef assistant (Nicolas, played by Arthur Dupont) worked in a small kitchen and were responsible for the president's intimate lunches. The main kitchens, on the other hand, handled the state dinners and banquets.

Be warned that despite the adversarial relationship between the two kitchens, there isn't much of a plot in Haute Cuisine. On the other hand, the food is simply gorgeous, and I enjoyed following Hortense and Nicolas's growing friendship. Plus I love Hortense's idea of simple French food (read: not simple at all!) and would hire her to be my personal chef in a heartbeat.

The movie alternates between Paris and Antarctica, where Hortense cooked for a year after leaving the palace. The South Pole scenes were not as interesting as the Paris kitchens, but they do demonstrate Hortense's resilience.

Haute Cuisine is recommended for foodies in need of a quiet escape. (Note: the movie is in French with English subtitles)


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07 May 2015

4 Companion Volumes for Fans of Series: Reading on Topic

I admit right from the start that I'm kind of cheating because the featured books don't share subject matter but instead share a genre of sorts.

Today's Reading on Topic is compendiums, encyclopedias, and annotated editions of favorite series. It's in these tomes that we discover the inspiration for and deeper history of the stories and worlds that have found a place in our hearts. Turn to such companion volumes to see familiar characters and landscapes in a new light.

Pamela Smith Hill, ed., Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Before Wilder published her famous children's books about her childhood as a pioneer on the High Plains,  she wrote an autobiography. Although never published, it formed the foundation of her later novels. In this volume, Hill supplements the details of Wilder's real-life tales with period photographs, maps, historical research, and more. This is an absolute must for all Little House fans. (South Dakota State Historical Society, 2014, ISBN: 9780984504176)

George R. R. Martin (with Elio M. Garcia Jr. and Linda Antonsson), The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones. Fans of the Ice and Fire series are well aware of the complex politics and history of the land of the Seven Kingdoms. This beautifully designed and illustrated companion volume fills us in on the kings, the prominent families, the lands, and the castles of Martin's beloved series. Impress your friends by learning the names of all the major dragons and the history of the most obscure corners of Westeros. (Bantam, 2014, ISBN: 9780553805444)

Jess Nevins, Bill Willingham, and Mark Buckingham, The Fables Encyclopedia. This amply illustrated volume provides fans with all kinds of fascinating background material for the long-running Fables series. Willingham comments on specific characters and panels, and Buckingham reveals the inspiration behind some of his drawings. No matter how many times you've read the trade volumes of this popular comic, the encyclopedia is bound to give you new insight and information. Spoiler alert: You'll want to have read up to issue 121 as well as 1001 Nights of Snowfall before starting. (DC Comics, 2013, ISBN: 97814012439510)

Diana Gabaldon, The Outlandish Companion: Volume One. Newly updated, this companion volume to the first four Outlander books offers hours of escape into Claire and Jamie's dual-time-period world. You'll find synopses of the books, family trees, theories of time travel, and FAQs. I particularly loved the guides to Gaelic vocabulary and pronunciation. Even better, the new edition includes information about the making of the hit TV series based on the books, complete with behind-the-scenes photographs. (Delacorte Press, 2015, ISBN: 9781101887271)

Bonus Reads: Last year I wrote about Elizabeth Peters and Kristen Whitbread's Amelia Peabody's Egypt, which is the companion volume to the fabulously funny historical mystery series starring a world-famous family of archaeologists. Outlander lovers should be on the lookout for Diana Gabaldon's The Outlandish Companion: Volume Two. This volume is scheduled for a fall 2015 release and will cover the remaining books in the series plus the Lord John Grey books.

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06 May 2015

Wordless Wednesday 340

Dogwood, 2015

copyright cbl for www.BethFishReads.com

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04 May 2015

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: What My Family Is Reading

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts are my random notes about books I've read, movies I've watched, books I'm looking forward to, and events I hope to get to.

Even though we're focusing on a hospitalized relative, my family is still reading. Reading offers comfort, a way to escape, and reduces stress.

Here are just a few of the books and magazines that my family and I--aged thirteen to eighty-six--are reading to help ease the long hours at the hospital.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (Vintage, 1991): my mother and older brother just finished this modern classic because they had a chance to see the author at a local book event. They both recommend it. Frog Music by Emma Donoghue (Little Brown, 2014): my husband is reading this because I thought he might like it. He was not immediately hooked but is giving it a chance. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini (Riverhead, 2014): my brother's girlfriend is reading this on the recommendation of a friend. She's totally absorbed. The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac by Sharma Shields (Holt McDougal, 2015): one of my nephews recently read this and convinced my parents to give it a try too. All three had a lot of fun dicussing it. The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy (Crown, 2015): I started listening to this one and am so far fascinated. The Fog Diver by Joel Ross (HarperCollins, 2015): I'm reading this one in an eGalley; fun combo of dystopian and steampunk for middle grade readers. As Red as Blood by Salla Simukka (Skyscape, 2014): I'm also reading this Finnish thriller; I've just started it and am reserving judgment until I get a little farther along.

I've also spotted other family members reading manga, the New York Review of Books, National Geographic, Entertainment Weekly, and various newspapers.

What are you and your family reading?

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02 May 2015

Weekend Cooking: Rhubarb and Strawberry Sauce

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend 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.

_______
Hi all. It's been a stressful week owing to a number of family issues, so this week's post is going to be short and sweet.

I haven't done very much interesting cooking at all, relying instead on tried-and-true recipes like split pea soup, pasta, grilled burgers, and even a night of take-out.

I did take the time to make the season's first rhubarb and strawberry sauce. I generally cut up the strawberries (1 quart) and rhubarb (4 or 5 stalks) and put them in a pot, add the juice of 1 lemon, 1/2 cup of sugar, some cinnamon, some vanilla, and about 1/4 cup of water. I let it simmer until the rhubarb falls apart. Then I let it cool to room temperature and refrigerate it.

We eat it plain (like applesauce), mixed into yogurt, as a topping for pancakes, or over vanilla ice cream. The sauce is such a nice taste of spring.

Hope your week went well. I'm looking forward to reading your posts, just as soon as I can.

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