29 November 2021

What I Read in November

November turned out to be an okay reading month for me. Most of the nine books I read were winners or at least fun or entertaining.

Note that the following thoughts are also available on Goodreads. Thanks to the publishers and to Libro.fm for the print, digital, and/or audiobook review copies.

Book cover of As the Wicked Watch by Tamron HallAs the Wicked Watch by Tamron Hall (William Morrow; Oct.): This mystery is set in Chicago, where a bright teenager is reported missing. Police dismiss the case, saying the Black girl likely just ran away, and there's nothing they can do. Meanwhile, up-and-coming Black TV journalist Jordan Manning takes an interest in the case and begins to investigate. She has training in crime scene analysis and other investigative techniques, which helps her finally figure out what happened to the teen and who was responsible. The novel examines many complex themes such as the difference in press coverage between missing Black and White teens; issues faced by professional women who try to advance their careers; and how race, socioeconomic class, politics, and more affect criminal justice. Jordan is portrayed with all her flaws and insecurities.

Not a bad debut from Hall, though there is quite a lot going on not related to the case. On the other hand, if this is the start of a series, then perhaps the information was needed to set the stage for future adventures.

Book cover of Cokie by Steven RobertsCokie: A Life Well Lived by Steven V. Roberts (Harper; Nov.): A very well done tribute / biography written by Steven Roberts, the husband of NPR star, journalist, and historian Cokie Roberts. The book is set up not in chronological order but by topic, and thus we see many sides of Cokie--as a mentor, a friend, a mother, a reporter, a wife. We learn about her spiritual and ethical/moral beliefs and about her great sense of humor and kindness. Rather than a series of facts and figures, Steven talks about Cokie through stories. The book is (as I wrote for my AudioFile magazine review) the perfect balance between well-written biography and loving tribute.

Cokie led an honorable life, demonstrating that personal success is enhanced not only by working hard and standing up for oneself but also by maintaining a sense of humor and always helping others.

Cover of A Side of Murder by Amy PershingA Side of Murder by Amy Pershing (Berkley; Feb.): This fun cozy mystery is first in a series with a lot of potential. I listened to this because book 2 in the series just came out and I wanted to start from the beginning. Samantha Barnes left her hometown on Cape Cod to pursue her dream of becoming a chef. She was on her way to a promising career in New York, when some personal issues sent her back the Cape to regroup. Her parents owned the local newspaper, but they recently sold their business to one of Sam's old friends and retired to Florida. So instead of moving back into her childhood home, she decided to clean out her late-aunt's house and prepare it for sale. Looking for work, she takes a job as the newspaper's new restaurant critic. On her first night on the job, she almost literally stumbles across a dead body in the alley behind the restaurant she wanted to review. From there, the book has all the fun cozy mystery action one expects--plus a lot of good foodie scenes.

My only complaints are (1) that Pershing does quite a lot of telling instead of showing and (2) that she apparently thinks anyone over about age 55 has no clue how to use a smartphone, take a photo, send email, or send a text. I found the ageisms to be kind of annoying. Still, this promises to be a fun series for escape reading. Audiobook: The unabridged audiobook was read by Patti Murin who did a fine job with characterizations; her expressive reading kept me engaged.

Cover of The Month of Borrowed Dreams by Felicity Hayes-McCoyThe Month of Borrowed Dreams by Felicity Hayes-McCoy (Harper Perennial; Nov.): I stopped listening to this audiobook at about the 25 percent mark. My issues with the novel were twofold. I started the book not realizing that it was fourth in a series. The plot assumed you knew what happened in the other books, so I felt somewhat lost and had trouble getting in to the story. In addition, narrator Marcella Riordan didn't draw me in. I had trouble telling the characters apart (even men from women), and her delivery style wasn't engaging enough to make me hang in there to see if things improved.

Cover of O, Beautiful by Jung YunO Beautiful by Jung Yun (St. Martin's Press; Nov.): The novel is set in contemporary North Dakota, where a budding journalist takes an assignment from a major magazine to write about how the Bakken oil boom has affected local people and communities. Elinor grew up close to the Bakken, so her college mentor and the magazine's editor think she'll be able to provide an insider's look. The truth, though, is that Elinor is half Korean and has never felt like a insider, and not just because she's biracial. She left home as soon as possible and had a successful modeling career before studying journalism. Now, she's tired of being objectified and of dealing with #MeToo moments.

Yun's evocative, sparse style matches the beauty of the land and the bleak outlook for many of the local women and families. So many dilemmas, including weighing self-worth with the chance to make money; weighing the environment and the family farm against the pressures from big business. Well worth your time. Audiobook: Narrator Catherine Ho shines here. She captures the moods, the personalities, the feelings.

Cover of Everything We Didn't Say by Nicole BaartEverything We Didn't Say by Nicole Baart (Atria; Nov.): This mystery is set in two time periods. Juniper and her half-brother, Jonathan, grew up in small-town Iowa. While Jonathan stayed in the area, June left town for bigger dreams, especially because her last months at home were complicated by two events: she found herself pregnant and the couple living on neighboring farm was murdered. June left her baby in the care of her parents, and saw her only on annual visits. The murder case was never solved, but June never stopped trying to ID the killer.

Returning home 13 years later to help her childhood friend deal with cancer and to attempt to reconnect with her daughter, June has some trouble fitting back in. Meanwhile, as a result of her continued investigation into the murder, she and her family come under danger. The plot was slightly convoluted, though the story kept my interest. Audiobook: Narrator Emily Tremaine's performance of the audiobook is expressive and clear, though her delivery is somewhat deliberate.

Cover of A Blizzard of Polar Bears by Alice HendersonA Blizzard of Polar Bears by Alice Henderson (William Morrow; Nov.): This is the second in the series starring field wildlife biologist Alex Carter. In this outing, Alex travels to the shores of Hudson Bay to study the health of the local polar bear population, especially in light of climate change and the melting ice cap. Besides the thriller aspect of the novel, involving several crimes, which I won't spoil, there is good information about Arctic wildlife and other sorts of field research that takes place in the area. The thriller itself was well done and action packed. I figured out one bit of the mystery part, but not all of it. I really hope Henderson continues this series.

Audiobook: The audiobook was read by Eva Kaminsky, who read the first book as well. She adds drama without going overboard and keeps the characters distinct. Note that the audiobook comes with a PDF of the map that's included in the book as well as the list of resources for learning more about polar bears and Arctic conservation.

Cover of Miss Moriarty, I Presume? by Sherry ThomasMiss Moriarty, I Presume? by Sherry Thomas (Berkley; Nov.): This re-imagining of the Sherlock Holmes character as an independent woman was only okay for me. I think the main issues I had were (1) I haven't read the first five books in the series so I didn't fully understand the overarching premise or the characters' relationship to each other and (2) I'm not a Sherlock Holmes aficionado. In this outing, Charlotte Holmes and her partner the widow Mrs. Watson are pitted against the evil Mr. Moriarty, who is attempting to control the life and money of his adult single daughter. The story started very slowly, and honestly, I would have given up except I was listening to the audiobook for a freelance review (see AudioFile magazine for my thoughts). I found much of the drama surrounding the ending of the book to be unbelievable. Your mileage may vary.

Cover of The Unseen Body by Jonathan ReismanThe Unseen Body: A Doctor's Journey through the Hidden Wonders of Human Anatomy by Jonathan Reisman (Flatiron; Nov.): I alternated reading and listening to this terrific book. Reisman introduces readers to, as the subtitle says, the hidden mysteries of what goes on in our bodies beneath the skin. He is both a doctor and an avid traveler and outdoorsman, and I loved the way he drew on his other interests to enliven his descriptions of human anatomy and physiology.

Whether you hardly remember your high school biology class or you (like me) have studied or practiced in a medically related field, you will find this book to be fascinating. I did. Audiobook: The audiobook was brilliantly read by Robert Petkoff. He perfectly captured the author's enthusiasm and deep interest. Note that the print book does not include illustrations, so you won't miss any visuals if you decide to listen instead of read.

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27 November 2021

Weekend Cooking: What's New in My Kitchen, Fall 2021

Today I'm doing something a little bit different for Weekend Cooking. Instead of a cookbook review (come back next week, when reviews resume), I thought I share four kitchen items I'm loving this fall plus a new recipe I tried for this year's Thanksgiving dinner. If you're still looking for ideas for gift-giving, I can recommend everything here.

I've provided links in the descriptions below, but rest assured that they are not affiliate links. They lead you to the manufacturer's website. Note that you can likely find better prices on the gadgets if you shop around.

A photo of an air fryerYou might recall that last winter I bought an Instant Pot air-fryer lid from one of my neighbors. I thought it'd be a good introduction to the supposed wonders of a small convection oven. As it turned out, we loved the idea of the air fryer and especially liked using it for roasted vegetables. What we didn't like was washing the pressure cooker inserts. After seeing a recent America's Test Kitchen video rating air fryers, I decided it was time to get a dedicated appliance. We opted for ATK's top ranked fryer, which happened to be the Instant Vortex 6-quart. I love the easy cleanup, and so far it works like a charm. It's fairly quiet, and I love that I don't need to turn on the big oven just to roast some Brussels sprouts. So far, we're pleased with the purchase.

Photo of steel measuring cupFor the last couple of years, we've gotten more and more interested in mixing a weekend cocktail (or two). My favorite measuring device for bar tending was a plastic OXO angled 1/4 cup measure. It works brilliantly for measuring ounces and tablespoons, but it doesn't look very elegant on the bar cart. Last spring I discovered that OXO makes a steel version of the same little measuring cup, so I bought one. It looks nice enough for company, works perfectly, and washes up easily. This would make a great little stocking stuffer, or add an OXO cocktail shaker (we have one) and you have a nice themed gift.

Photo of an ipad standA few months ago, I read an article about making the transition from printed cookbooks to digital cookbooks. One of the tips was to get a sturdy, adjustable stand for your phone or tablet. Not only can you adjust the angle to avoid glare, but your device is elevated and less likely to suffer from an accidental spill. I picked up a silver-colored stand from Lamicall. It easily holds my devices, even with their covers on, and indeed it's useful when cooking from a digital recipe. It's also great for much more, such as reading during lunch or watching a show when cooking. We've already bought a second one to give as a Christmas gift.

Photo of a notebookThis favorite is probably a little idiosyncratic. As you know, I've become a meal planner over the last few years. Along with that, I thought it'd be a great idea to have a record of our meal plans for those weeks when I was feeling lazy or uninspired. I'm also always on the hunt for a good way to keep track of the recipes I've made and loved, whether out of a book or a website. I finally caved and designed a notebook on the Agendio site. The website can be a bit overwhelming at first, but Agendio allows you to design your own notebooks and planners. The photo shows the cover I choose and the screenshot shows one of the spreads I designed; click to enlarge. [Yes, the "Week of" should really be to the left, but that's my mistake.]

Scan of notebook pages

Each week, I have a place to write down the 3 to 6 dinners I plan plus a column to write down what I need to pick up at the grocery store. The other page provides a place where I can record the recipes and where I found them. Then I included six pages I designed for writing down the recipes themselves (not shown). The pages are numbered, and I put an index at the front of the notebook so I can easily find whatever recipe I'm looking for. If I'm too lazy to write out the recipes by hand, I can print them and glue them into the book. I also included a couple of note pages for each week, and I'm glad I did. It was great to have a place to make some notes about Thanksgiving dinner, which I hope will help me next year. My book will last for 15 weeks. I started this system in mid-October and love it. I'll likely order another notebook when this one runs out.

Photo of cheesecakeFinally the promised recipe. Last week, Mr. BFR asked me if there was such a thing as pumpkin cheesecake. I laughed and told him yes. That's what he wanted this year for Thanksgiving instead of traditional pie. I made the Pumpkin Cheesecake with Bourbon-Sour Cream Topping, which was originally published in Gourmet Magazine about 20 years ago. The recipe is now available on the Epicurious site, which is the one I linked to above. Note that Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen also has a version of this cheesecake. Next year I'm going to use her food processor method. Anyway, the cheesecake was a huge hit. I'd make this for any fall celebration or dinner party. It was easy to put together and looks so pretty with its ring of pecan halves. (The photo is my own.) To find the original recipe, or Perelman's variations, click on through the links.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)

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20 November 2021

Weekend Cooking: The Pioneer Woman Cooks Super Easy! by Ree Drummond

Book cover of The Pioneer Woman Cooks Super Easy by Ree DrummondFor years, I've had a love-neutral relationship with Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman. I loved following her success in growing her blog into a household name, establishing a television presence, and building a mini-empire. I love that her recipes are amazingly reliable, but I hit a stumbling block because she and I have different ways of cooking and eating. Still, when I was offered the chance to review her new cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks Super Easy, I knew I wanted to take a look. Thanks so much to William Morrow for the review copy. All thoughts are my honest opinion.

The theme of Drummond's new book is summed up in the subtitle: "120 Shortcut Recipes for Dinners, Desserts, and More." As she writes in the introductory sections, Drummond's life has become busier as her family grows and her professional responsibilities increase. She's given herself permission to use shortcuts and to embrace prepared ingredients because "that means more time hanging with your family, gardening, reading, or taking selfies with your dogs."

Photo of stromboli from The Pioneer Woman Cooks Super Easy by Ree DrummondSo what are some those ingredients? Bagged salad greens, bottled dressings and sauces, canned beans and tomato products, baking mixes, frozen doughs, dried and refrigerated pasta, bakery breads, and boxed stocks and broths. So, for example, instead of making her own pesto, she's happy to use a good-quality sauce from the grocery. She hasn't gone 100% processed foods, though, as I saw at least five recipes for homemade salad dressing. On the other hand, her shrimp and ramen soup uses frozen cooked shrimp, bottled Thai chili sauce, store-bought vegetable broth, inexpensive dried ramen noodles, and frozen vegetables.

I found quite a few recipes that caught my eye. Some I'll use simply for inspiration, like her entire salad chapter. Others I plan to make pretty much as is, like the broccoli-cheese stromboli (see scan), sheet-pan gnocchi (see video), baked risotto, chicken with mustard herb sauce, teriyaki chicken sheet pan supper, enchiladas two ways, and chorizo burgers. One of the several recipes I've already tried is Taco Shells and Cheese, which is essentially taco meat mixed into pasta and topped with sour cream and salsa. Yum!

Photo of Steak Pizzaiola from The Pioneer Woman Cooks Super Easy by Ree DrummondSeveral recipes in the dessert chapter called to me, including a quick fruit galette, which uses premade pie crusts from the grocery store. I'm dying to try her mug cakes: you mix the ingredients for a single-serving cake right in the mug and then microwave to bake. They look fantastic and perfect for those times when you just want a little something in the evening.

Recommendation: Ree Drummond's The Pioneer Woman Cooks Super Easy would make a great gift to a whole host of cooks: those looking for shortcuts, those just learning to cook, those who are too busy to make each ingredient from scratch, and those who cook in RVs or vacation houses, and college students. Is it healthier to avoid box mixes and prepared sauces? Sure. Is it always realistic to spend a couple hours cooking each day? No. This cookbook celebrates the easy.

Here's a short video of Ree Drummond making two sheet-pan recipes on The Today Show


Note: The scans and video clip are used in the context of a review; all rights remain with the original copyright holders.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)

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13 November 2021

Weekend Cooking: Gabriel Kreuther: The Spirit of Alsace, a Cookbook

Book cover of Gabriel Kreuther: The Spirit of Alsace, a CookbookToday's cookbook is one of the prettiest cookbooks I've gotten this fall. The cover and the stunning photographs of the completed dishes and the gorgeous French countryside completely caught my attention. Gabriel Kreuther: The Spirit of Alsace, a Cookbook could almost be a coffee-table book, but I'll be shelving it with my go-to cookbooks. Thanks to Abrams and the Abrams Dinner Party for the review copy.

The Spirit of Alsace is in effect two cookbooks in one. The first half contains Kreuther's family recipes and other traditional dishes from the Alsace region. The second half consists of recipes from Restaurant Gabriel Kruether. It's the home-cooking section that calls to me the most.

Before I get to the recipes, I want to draw your attention to some of the features you'll find within the covers.

I loved reading the chapter in which Kreuther tells us about his childhood, how he became a chef, and the journey that led his opening his own restaurant in New York. At the end of that chapter he talks specifically about Alsatian cuisine and about some of the recipes found in the book. There is also a note about ingredients and measuring, which will help lead to success. Throughout the cookbook you'll find features that go into depth about specific dishes and ingredients. Finally, don't miss the section about Alsatian wines, which includes pairings with the recipes. Kreuther also shares some of his favorite regional towns and restaurants.

Photo of a loaf-shaped cake from Gabriel Kreuther: The Spirit of Alsace, a CookbookNow on to the recipes. As I said, the traditional Alsatian dishes are the ones I most want to try. Here are just a few I've flagged:

  • Flatbread with Fromage Blanc, Onions, & Bacon: this is described as an "iconic staple of Alsace"
  • Farmer's Beer Soup: this simple onion and broth soup is delicately flavored with a smoked ham hock (it's really good!)
  • My Brussels Sprouts: the recipe calls for bacon and half-and-half
  • Red Wine-Braised Red Cabbage: see recipe below
  • My Onion Tart: described as a thin quiche
  • Potato Galette: really upscale potato latkes, which I plan to make for Hanukah
Of course you'll also find recipes for fish and meats; there's a short rib stew that caught my eye. One more note: don't skip over the recipe introductions. Here's where you'll learn the story of the dish and find variations and tips for success.

The star of the first half the book, though is the baking chapter. I pretty much want to try them all, from the braided bread to the kougelhopf, red wine cake, spiced bread (almost like gingerbread), apple tart, pain perdu, white wine mousse, and all eight of Kreuther's mother's holiday cookies. The Gsundheitskueche cake (see photo) is light and subtly flavored. I can see why this is the "cake that every farmer would always have on hand for visitors." I bet I make this again and again. I took the photo when I removed the loaf from the pan; once cooled you can dust with confectioner's sugar or top with a simple glaze. Supposedly this will last a week in an air-tight container. I wouldn't know because we finished it off in a matter of days.

Photo of a white soup from Gabriel Kreuther: The Spirit of Alsace, a CookbookThe second half of the book contains recipes from Restaurant Gabriel Kreuther. They're geared for the more ambitious home cook. The recipes are involved and require advanced techniques and exact plating. I'm unlikely to make any of these recipes, but I enjoyed reading them. On the other hand, this section contains recipes for stocks and jus, which I would try, and has a whole section on vegetable purees, which would be fun to make and use.

Recommendation: Gabriel Kreuther: The Spirit of Alsace, a Cookbook is perfect for anyone interested in learning more about Alsatian cooking. Kreuther's family and regional recipes are easy to follow, and I plan to try many of them, especially the baked goods. The second half of the book is a bit intimidating (at least to me), but the information contained in those pages about the recipes' origins and the techniques used is interesting and useful. Put this cookbook on your holiday gift list or check it out from the library. Either way, you won't be disappointed.

I decided to share the braised cabbage recipe because I think almost all of you can eat this (vegetarians and vegans will need to do a bit of tweaking). I've braised a lot of cabbage in my life, but this was particularly good. I think it's the addition of wine and waiting to add the apples. I didn't have any chestnuts on hand, but I bet they'd really elevate the final dish.

Red Wine-Braised Red Cabbage
Photo of braised cabbage from Gabriel Kreuther: The Spirit of Alsace, a CookbookServes 6
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) schmaltz or butter (I used less)
  • 2 cups (220 g) sliced onion
  • 6 to 8 ounces (200 g) bacon cut into thin strips
  • 1 red cabbage, core removed and thinly sliced
  • 3 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 30 grinds pepper, or more to taste
  • 1 cup (240 ml) red wine
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 12 slices per apple (I didn't peel the apples)
  • 24 cooked, peeled chestnuts (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350F (175C).

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add the fat and onions. Cook until the onions are softened, then add the bacon and continue cooking until it's lightly browned.

Add in the cut red cabbage in three layers, seasoning each layer with 1 teaspoon of salt and 10 grinds of pepper. Add 1 cup (240 ml) water, the red wine, vinegar, sugar, and bay leaf. Cover the pot and bake for 60 minutes, less if you like the cabbage to have a bite. Remove the pot from the oven and stir in the apples and/or chestnuts. Return the pot, covered, to the oven and cook for 30 minutes more to finish. Take out of the oven, stir, and taste, adjusting the seasoning if necessary.

Note: The scan and recipe are used in the context of a review; all rights remain with the original copyright holders. Two photos are my own.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)

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08 November 2021

What I Read in October: Part 2

Happy Monday -- long time, no linking up. I know. In any case, here's part 2 of what I read in October. If you're interested, I posted part 1 on Friday (click through to see my thoughts).

As on Friday, the books here are presented in no particular order. Note that my brief thoughts are also available on Goodreads. Thanks to the publishers and to Libro.fm for the print, digital, and/or audiobook review copies.

Book cover of The Taking of Jemima Boone by Matthew PearlThe Taking of Jemima Boone: The True Story of the Kidnap and Rescue That Shaped America by Matthew Pearl (Harper; Sept.): This is an interesting examination of the far-reaching effects of the capture of Daniel Boone's daughter and her friends by Native Americans. The book starts with the kidnapping of the girls by a group of Shawnee and Cherokee men. Boone and other men from the Boonesboro settlement tracked the girls (who tried to leave clues) and eventually rescued them, but not before one of the White men killed the son of a Shawnee chief. The remainder of the book ties this event into the general settlement of Kentucky, the Revolutionary War, and indigenous-settler conflicts. Though I knew of Jemima's capture and rescue, I didn't know the many later events surrounding Boonesboro, the Boone family, and other prominent settlers. This is a very readable account, though it is less about Jemima's capture than it is about the aftermath.

Audiobook: I partially read and partially listened to this book (as I often do with nonfiction). The audiobook comes with a PDF of the footnotes and a chart showing the major players. Jeremy Arthur performed the text in an engaging style.

Book cover of Shards of Earth by Adrian TchaikovskyShards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Orbit; Aug.): This is a complex and very well-received space opera. Unfortunately, this is my only DNF of the month. I need to point out that I do not think it was the fault of the book or the narrator. I think I had trouble getting into the story because I started the audiobook on vacation and then had to put it down for a almost a week. By the time I picked it back up, I needed to start from the beginning again. By then, I realized I should have waited because my mind wandered during the re-listen. SO this was totally a me issue and not a reflection on the story or on narrator Sophie Aldred's performance. I do plan on listening again sometime this coming winter.

Book cover of Nanny Needed by Georgina CrossNanny Needed by Georgina Cross (Bantam; Oct.): This thriller is set in New York. A deeply in debt young woman accepts a job with an uber-rich, uber-private family to be the nanny for their toddler. The penthouse apartment is everything Sarah has ever imagined, and at first she's in awe of how the one-percenters live. All, however, is not normal in her employer's household, but once Sarah starts to get really uncomfortable, it's way too late. She has signed a contract, a NDA, and other papers that lock her into her job for at least three months. And if that weren't enough, she's been not-so-subtly threatened with lawsuits (or worse) if she tries to leave early. There are some twists and turns, but the novel fell short in building the tension and making me root for Sarah. I found a few plot points beyond my ability to suspend disbelief.

Audiobook: The audiobook was read by Emma Ashton, who did an okay job, though her delivery was a little too earnest during tense moments.

Book cover of The Woman All Spies Fear by Amy Butler GreenfieldThe Woman All Spies Fear: Code Breaker Elizebeth Smith Friedman and Her Hidden Life by Amy Butler Greenfield (Random House; Oct.): I'm not quite sure why this biography is tagged for a young adult audience. The biography is well documented and solidly written. In any case, this is the story of Elizebeth Smith Friedman who spent decades in the cypher business. As a young woman in the early 1900s, she worked for a man who wanted to know if it was true that Shakespeare's original folios included cyphers. Later she broke codes for the government during both World Wars, helped break a ring of rum runners during Prohibition, and figured out how to read encrypted messages from enemy countries and spies. She was called as an expert witness in court and was a formidable force when it came to deciphering codes.

Greenfield also talks about Friedman's struggles with being a working woman, especially after she got married and then after she had children. Her husband was also a well-respected code breaker, and the public often gave him credit for her work, even when the couple worked for completely different government agencies and were under strict nondisclosure and security orders (which they both obeyed).

The book is amply illustrated with examples of codes, photographs, and even a page from Friedman's diary. A bibliography and footnotes round out the biography. Don't let the YA rating put you off. This account of Elizebeth Smith Friedman's life is readable, serious, and in no way simplified for a teen audience.

Audiobook:The unabridged audiobook is read by Samantha Desz, who did a great job keeping my attention and subtly distinguishing between quoted material and running text. Note that I both listened to and read this book. The audiobook comes with a PDF, though I haven't seen it.

Book Cover of A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. HarrowA Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow (Tordotcom; Oct.): I really enjoyed this short retelling of the fairy tale "Sleeping Beauty," especially with its feminist and LGBTQ+ aspects. The good news is that this is the first in Harrow's new Fractured Fables series.

Ohioan Zin Gray celebrates her 21st birthday a little differently from most because she was born with a rare disease that, statistically speaking, should kill her before the year is out. Still, her BFF Charm hosts a small Disney-inspired Sleeping Beauty party. When Zin pricks her finger on the spinning wheel meant for decoration, she is transported to an alternate world where she meets Prim, another Sleeping Beauty, also cursed at birth. The story is full of pop culture references and tongue-in-cheek fairy tale dialogue and shows how Zin, Prim, Charm, and other surprise feminist heroes find a way to give everyone their happy ending. Fun!

Book cover of The 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance Comic Book by Gord HillThe 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance Comic Book: Revised and Expanded by Gord Hill (Arsenal Pulp; Oct.): Just in time for the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims' original Thanksgiving feast (I'll leave it you to research Indigenous peoples' view on that day and the contemporary federal holiday). This revised and expanded graphic look at Indigenous history after contact with Europeans focuses on resistance and activism and provides a perspective that most of us throughout the Western Hemisphere aren't taught in school or in popular culture. From Columbus's several voyages and settlements through to very current protests against development of Native lands and the destruction of the environment, the stories are heartbreaking and introduce readers to Indigenous groups throughout the Americas.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in learning a different view of history and perfect for homeschooling or the classroom.

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All content and photos (except where noted) copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads 2008-2020. All rights reserved.

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