26 March 2019

Today's Read: The DNA of You and Me by Andrea Rothman

review ofImagine you've just earned your PhD and have landed a place in a prestigious research lab studying something you're passionate about. Now add in a fellow researcher . . . he's nice but he's also both a collaborator and a rival in looking into the neurology of the sense of smell. Here's how the novel opens:

Smell is an illusion, my father used to tell me: invisible molecules in the air converted by my brain into cinnamon, cut grass, burning wood. Heat was a measure of receptors in my skin, and brown was not brown but a combination of light waves captured by cones in my eyes. The world as I knew it, as I felt it to be, was the result of my own personal experience, and so it was up to me to make the best of understanding of it.
The DNA of You and Me by Andrea Rothman (William Morrow, March 12, p. 3 [ARC])

Quick Facts
  • Setting: modern times; New York City
  • Circumstances: Fresh out of grad school, Emily is given a place in a New York City research lab, studying the sensory neurons involved in the sense of smell. Her work involves DNA sequencing, as she tries to identify the  specific genes involved. She's in her element, until she starts to feel a draw toward Aeden. Although they must share results, they are also rivals in trying to find answers to similar research questions. Emily is ultimately faced with the age-old dilemma: balancing career, happiness, love, and ambition.
  • Genre: contemporary fiction; women's fiction
  • Why I want to read it & themes: When I was fresh out of graduate school with a PhD in a biological science, I too had to make choices. I'm interested in seeing how things have and have not changed for women in science.
  • Things to know about the author: This is Rothman's debut novel. She once held a postdoc position in a research lab in New York studying the neurobiology of olfaction, so she knows what she's talking about. She also has an MFA in writing.
  • Reviews: The novel has won starred reviews from print publications, and most reviewers have noted that the laboratory setting is more than gimmick here. The protagonist faces issues that many women in the lab sciences have had to deal with: introvert personalities, a love of their work, a hope for some kind of social life, and ambitious career goals. Goodreads rating is 3.5; Amazon rating is 4.7.
  • Acknowledgments: thanks to William Morrow for a review copy of Andrea Rothman's The DNA of You and Me.

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23 March 2019

Weekend Cooking: Recipes, Links, & (Yes) More SkinnyTaste

11 great recipes to make right nowHelp! I've fallen down the SkinnyTaste rabbit hole and I can't get out! Seriously. I have some new cookbooks to review for you, but the bulk of my meals this week have once again come from SkinnyTaste One & Done, which I reviewed last week.

Everything was delicious, but I'm going to recommend two dinners. For my meat-eating friends, try the Garlic Dijon Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Potatoes and Green Beans, which is a sheet pan dinner. If you don't want to make a whole tenderloin, you could (like I did) use pork chops instead (I used center-cut boneless chops). This was so gooood.

For a vegetarian meal, make the Mexican Pinto Beans with Queso in your pressure cooker. The only change I made was to reduce the cooking time by almost half. I cook my soaked beans for 23 minutes, let the pressure release for 10 minutes naturally, and then hit the valve and let the pressure escape. The cookbook has you cook the soaked pintos for 45 minutes. I think that's a little too long.

When I crawled out of the SkinnyTaste vortex, I found the following recipes and articles to bookmark this week. Check them out and get cooking and eating!

  • 11 good recipes to make right nowLast year I reviewed the cookbook What's Gaby Cooking, and since then, I've become a big fan. This week, I pinned her recipe for cheesy vegetarian Calabacitas -- oh this looks so good for now and into the summer. We eat salmon quite often and her Greek Salad with Salmon totally says spring! I think I'll have to make this over the weekend.
  • I really like Melissa Clark's recipes and have been following her for a long time now. She's currently a food writer for the New York Times, and this week she wrote about polenta, a dish that I have a weakness for. Her Baked Polenta with Crispy Leeks and Gorgonzola is absolutely appearing on my table this spring.
  • The Washington Post food section was also a hit this week. First up was an article all about bok choy (a vegetable I make often) including six recipes. A couple of these caught my eye, especially the grilled version. I was also thrilled to see a recipe for Nanaimo bars, no-bake bars popular in Canada. I remember having this dessert when I was growing up (in the USA but not far from the Canada border). I'm so happy to have the chance to try them again.
  • Next time I'm in Chicago, I know what I'm going drink. Urban Matter published a list of the best places to get boozy milk shakes in the Windy City. Oh man, I think I need to start planning a trip!
  • Who isn't a fan of Deb from The Smitten Kitchen? If you're not, then you will be soon. I'm a pretty good cook and baker, but pie crust is one of my banes. That, my friends, may be about to change: Check out this recipe for Extra-Flaky Pie Crust . . . and then get ready to make your first strawberry pie of the season.
  • I wrote about Budget Bytes a couple of years ago when Beth's cookbook came out. I still haunt the website and always find something yummy to try. This week, I found Scallion Herb Chickpea Salad, which can be eaten in bowl or as a sandwich. This looks like a great quick dinner or healthful lunch. It's still plenty cold out, so I was happy to also discover a recipe for Vegan Lentil Stew, which makes enough for a meal now with extras for the freezer. This too is going on a meal plan soon.
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Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. 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.

NOTE: Mr. Linky sometimes is mean and will give you an error message. He's usually wrong and your link went through just fine the first time. Grrrr.
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22 March 2019

8 Good Books for Teens and Tweens

March has been a great month for fiction geared to younger readers. You may shy away from middle grade and young adult books, assuming they lack a certain, shall we say, sophistication. In my experience, many contemporary novels written for teens and tweens deal with real-life issues in a authentic and frank manner and can be every bit as intense as adult fiction. Of course, you’ll also find plenty of books with teen angst, magic, and love gone awry.

Today’s roundup covers just a few of this month’s middle grade and young adult titles that caught my attention. Some are set in real life, but others contain elements of speculative fiction. All are worth looking into for yourself or for the young readers in your life.

Contemporary Stories

  • Far Away, XL, In Another LifeFar Away by Lisa Graff (Philomel, March 5): This middle grade story is about 12-year-old CJ who lives with her itinerant aunt, who makes her living as a psychic. CJ is grateful that her aunt can commune with spirits because that’s the only way she can talk to mother, who died when she was a baby. But when her aunt says that she can no longer receive messages from CJ’s mother, the girl takes off with a teenage friend to try to reforge the connection. Magical realism, family secrets, and a road trip create a moving coming-of-age story. Note: this novel has gotten very mixed reviews. Audiobook: read by Monika Felice Smith Listening Library; 7 hr, 3 min)
  • XL by Scott Brown (Knopf BYR, March 26): Set in San Diego, this young adult novel focuses on 16-year-old Will who still hasn’t had his growth spurt. Measuring in at just under 5 feet, he feels invisible and unattractive. But what happens when he starts growing . . . and growing? Is life any better on the other side of the yardstick? Romance, popularity, self-acceptance, friendship, and family round out Will’s story, which (according to reviews) contains a good dose of humor. Audiobook: read by Robbie Daymond (Listening Library 9 hr, 50 min)
  • In Another Life by C. C. Hunter (Wednesday Books, March 26): When teenage Chloe and her just-divorced mom move to Texas to start over, Chloe has trouble adjusting. First, she begins to imagine that she remembers her life before her parents adopted her when she was just a toddler. Then when she befriends a cute boy living with foster parents, she begins to question everything her adoptive parents ever told her. This young adult thriller involves family secrets, lies, mental illness, adoption, and cancer. Audiobook: no information
Speculative Fiction
  • Revenge of Magic, Sky without StarsThe Revenge of Magic by James Riley (Aladdin, March 5): Set in a future Earth in which only children can learn magic, this is the first entry in a middle grade fantasy / adventure series. Young Fort Fitzgerald loses his father when Washington, D.C. is destroyed by monsters. Thus he jumps at the chance to attend a government-run school that teaches magic to promising tweens. Perhaps he’ll find a way to recover his dad and stop further creature attacks . . . or maybe he’ll just be haunted by disturbing dreams and barred from learning the truth of who’s really in control of the world. Fort must find allies and his own inner strength. The academy is less wizardy and more military, as the kids are being trained to fight the monsters. Audiobook: read by Kirby Heyborne (Simon & Schuster Audio; 9 hr, 2 min)
  • Sky without Stars by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell (Simon Pulse; March 26): Centuries after the French colonized the planet Laterre, rebellion is in the air as the one-percenters have all the power and the rest have few resources and little hope. Can three teens of very different backgrounds, personalities, and skills lead a successful uprising? This is the first in an action-packed young adult space opera series that is a futuristic retelling of Les Misérables, complete with the politics, romance, and class divides. Audiobook: read by Vikas Adam, Joy Osmanski, and Emily Woo Zeller (Simon & Schuster Audio; 18 hr, 33 min)
Finish Up a Series
  • Young Adult Fantasy SeriesWinter War Awakening by Rosalyn Eves (Knopf BYR; March 19): Final entry in the Blood Rose Rebellion trilogy. This series is set in eastern Europe (basically Austria and Hungary) and contains elements of alternate history, real history (rebellion against the Hapsburgs) and fantasy. Series themes and issues: overcoming prejudice, self-acceptance, romance, strong female protagonists, learning to trust. Audiobooks: read by Fiona Hardingham & Steve West (Listening Library)
  • The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton (Freeform; March 5): Second book in the Belles duology. These books are set in an alternate history New Orleans and contain dystopian and steampunk elements. Series themes and issues: corruption of power, LGBTQ, class differences, the worth of beauty. Audiobooks: read by Rosie Jones (Blackstone Audio)
  • The Shadowglass by Rin Chupeco (Sourcebook Fire; March 5): Final book in the Bone Witch trilogy. Set in an alternative world with an Asian feel, the trilogy follows Tea and her brother as she struggles to find her place in a world that is hostile and dangerous; high fantasy elements. Series themes and issues: LGBTQ, romance, self-discovery, personal growth, family, leaving the past behind. Audiobooks: first two read by Emily Woo Zeller and Will Damron (Blackstone Audio); no information on book three

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19 March 2019

Today's Read: The Man with No Face by Peter May

review of The Man with No Face by Peter MayImagine that you're a Scottish journalist on assignment to investigate the political climate in Brussels as the UK is on the verge of joining the European Union. What would you do if the journalist you're supposed to meet up with is found dead alongside a high-ranking British government official? You would likely stick around to figure out what happened. That's what protagonist Neil Bannerman does.

Here's how the book starts:

Kale watched the train through the rain-spattered glass and thought, this time will be the last. But even as the thought formed in his mind it clotted and he knew he would kill again.
The Man with No Face by Peter May (Quercus, March 5, 2019., p. 3)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: Brussels, 1979
  • Circumstances: Neil Bannerman, a journalist for an Edinburgh newspaper, is sent to Brussels to cover the discussion surrounding the entry of the UK into the European Union. When a fellow journalist and a British Cabinet minister are found dead, presumably having shot each other, Bannerman's plans for a routine article are abandoned, especially when he discovers the journalist's autistic daughter was a witness to the crime. The only clue she can provide is a drawing of a faceless killer. The more Bannerman looks into the crime, the more he suspects deep and dirty politics, but worse, how can he be sure the killer won't strike again. What will happen once he learns about the child witness?
  • Genre: murder mystery
  • Things to know: May wrote this book early in his career (in 1981) when he himself was still a journalist in Scotland. The novel is, as the author's note reminds us, set in a pre-internet world, where journalists still used typewriters and had to find a library, witnesses, or archives to conduct research. May was involved with this re-issue of the novel.
  • Why I want to read it: I've read several of May's books (all set in Scotland) and love how he can set a mood and create characters that evoke an emotional response. I really like Belgium, so the setting is a draw for me.
  • What's holding me back: First, I'm kind of hoping this will be available on audio. Second, although May himself still stands behind this early novel, I'm worried that it won't be as polished as more recent books. Regardless, I'm really pretty sure I'll read this in one form or another. Note that the review rating is 4.1 stars on Goodreads and 4.2 on Amazon
  • Acknowledgments: thanks to Quercus for a finished review copy of Peter May's The Man with No Face.

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16 March 2019

Weekend Cooking: Skinnytaste One & Done

review of Skinnytaste One & Done by Gina HomolkaI'm probably the last person in the universe to jump on the Skinnytaste bandwagon. I know, I know, especially because you all have had only wonderful things to say about the cookbooks and about Gina Homolka's website.

When her newest cookbook Skinnytaste One & Done came out last fall (Clarkson Potter, October 2018), I zipped over to my library's site, only to see that I was on a long, long wait list. My turn finally came about 10 days ago.

I was so afraid that the ebook would expire before I had a chance to explore it, I decided that all our dinners this past week would come from that cookbook.

You want the fast answer? Buy, buy, buy! That's what I did, and my very own copy is on its way to me right now.

First off, I really liked the premise of this book: All dinners require exactly one pot, pan, or appliance. Can you say "fast cleanup"? The traditional cooking methods use a skillet, Dutch oven, or sheet pan, and the appliances are the electric pressure cooker, slow cooker, and air fryer. I can already hear you saying, "Wait! What if I don't have one of those machines?" Homolka is a step ahead of you, and offers alternative cooking methods that don't require a gadget.

Second, I so appreciate that each recipe is clearly marked for quick (under 30 minutes), vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free, and freezer friendly. That's such a help when I'm cooking for friends or family with dietary restrictions. And if you happen to be on Weight Watchers, the Skinnytaste website lists up-to-date points for each recipe in the book. Nice.

review of Skinnytaste One & Done by Gina HomolkaAll the recipes we tried from Skinnytaste One & Done were very good (truly) and full of flavor. So often cookbook recipes are too bland for us, but each meal we tried was perfectly seasoned. I was also impressed that the number of servings seemed fairly accurate, at least for the way we eat.

I made a chicken soup (recipe below) in the pressure cooker, which had just the right level of heat. The curry-flavored roasted vegetables, a sheet pan dinner (shown at the right), was delicious as is but would also be good over rice or couscous. Note that I didn't make the green chutney but used my own homemade fruit chutney instead.

Finally, I made the lamb stew in the pressure cooker. This too was delicious and perfectly seasoned. In full disclosure, I need to say that I made two changes. First, I cut the cooking time from 35 minutes to 25 minutes. Why? Because I've been using a pressure cooker since the 1990s and I've never cooked lamb stew that long. Second, I didn't add the canned beans until after I released the pressure, stirring them in at the end. I was afraid they'd turn to mush.

I ordered my copy of Gina Homolka's Skinnytaste One & Done before the week was over. I can't wait to cook my way through this book. Note: if you have a pressure cooker and are still not sure what to make in it, buy this book. I promise you will find plenty to try.

Scans and recipe come from the cookbook and are used here for review purposes. All rights remain with the original copyright holders. The review copy of the book came from the library, but I've already added the book to my personal collection.

Click image to enlarge recipe. Enjoy!

review of Skinnytaste One & Done by Gina Homolka
NOTE: This recipe is a perfect addition to Deb's (from Kahakai Kitchen) Souper Sunday link-up. Follow the link for full information. The short take: it's a place to share soup, sandwich, and salad recipes. Join in or just check out the great recipes!
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Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. 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.

NOTE: Mr. Linky sometimes is mean and will give you an error message. He's usually wrong and your link went through just fine the first time. Grrrr.
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