19 June 2021

Weekend Cooking: Pizza Czar by Anthony Falco

Review of Anthony Falco's Pizza CzarWe love pizza here in the BFR household. We especially like homemade pizza, and we have it often. So, you might ask, why am I so over the moon about Anthony Falco's Pizza Czar cookbook, which I received as part of the Abrams Dinner Party program? Well, this book is much more than a collection of recipes. Falco, a well-known pizza expert, draws back the curtain to reveal all the pizza-making tricks and tips that will elevate your home-baked pies.

The book is so full of useful and interesting information, it's a little hard to summarize. Falco tells us how he became an international pizza consultant and then shares his wisdom on ingredients, tools, and methods. Photographs and tip boxes accompany his directions for making mozzarella and a variety of sauces and doughs. He has opinions on toppings, and attempts to distinguish among grandma pizza, pan pizza, and Sicilian pizza. And that's just small bit of what you'll find in Pizza Czar.

I homed in on a few specific sections. First, I checked out Falco's four standard sauces. All were tasty, but it's the Spicy Grandma Sauce that won our hearts (recipe to follow). I'm pretty sure I won't bother to make any other sauce, though his Tomato Flavor Bomb was pretty darn good too.

Review of Anthony Falco's Pizza CzarNext, I devoured the sections on baking methods and was so intrigued with his tips for augmenting a home oven, that I broke down and bought a baking steel. No, not for baking on but for helping my oven trap the heat better. When I used his trick while baking a grandma pie (see my photo), I was completely sold. Even though I always put my half-sheet pan on a baking stone, I've often had trouble getting the crust to completely cook before the topping got too dark. However, when I used Falco's advice for turning my oven into a pizza oven by placing a baking steel on an upper rack, I got a perfectly baked crust and perfectly melted cheese. One of the best grandma pies I've ever made.

I also carefully read the sections about different techniques for layering ingredients, shaping dough, and even how and when to put the sauce on. Though I've been making homemade pizza for decades, I learned a lot and had fun trying the various ways of assembling a pizza.

Review of Anthony Falco's Pizza CzarFinally, I need to say a word about the dough recipes. All the recipes rely on a sourdough-like starter. Although I've made sourdough, I have long since lost interest in keeping a starter going. Instead, I made my favorite yeast crust, but I followed Falco's suggestions for how many grams each dough ball should weigh. All the pizzas we've made since I got this book (one grandma pie, six grilled pizzas, and two oven-baked Neapolitan-style pizzas) have been excellent, with perfect crusts and delicious sauces.

If you're a pizza maker--even if you use store-bought, premade dough--you need to take a look at Anthony Falco's Pizza Czar. I bet you learn something new and that your pizza skills will reach new heights.

The following sauce is my new favorite. Take note of my changes: I use less than 1/4 cup oil to brown the onions. I couldn't find the suggested chiles, so I used 14 grams of a Hungarian Wax pepper; use whatever pepper you'd like. I used crushed red pepper flakes to taste instead of the Calabrian chiles.

Spicy Grandma Sauce
Makes about 1 liter

  • 1 (794-gram/28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes (preferably Bianco DiNapoli), drained
  • 4 grams (1 teaspoon) kosher salt
  • 110 grams (1/2 cup) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
  • 40 grams (about 1-1/2 ounces) yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 30 grams (5 cloves) garlic, chopped
  • 14 grams (about 4) fresh red chiles (bird's-eye or similar), thinly sliced
  • 8 grams (about 3) dried Calabrian chiles
  • 10 grams (about 1/3 ounce) basil, chopped
Put the tomatoes in a large bowl. Using your dominant hand, crush each tomato into walnut-sized pieces. Season with the salt and 55 grams (1/4 cup) of the olive oil. Mix thoroughly and set aside.

In a medium saute pan, heat the remaining 55 grams (1/4 cup) oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until it begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until the garlic is soft.

Add the fresh red chiles and Calabrian chiles and continue to cook. Raise the heat to high, add the tomatoes, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring vigorously. Add a bit more olive oil if the mixture begins sticking.

Add the basil, taste, and adjust the seasoning. Transfer to a container, cool, and refrigerate until ready to use. Use in the first 2 days or freeze.

Note: Recipe is shared in the context of review; all rights remain with the original copyright holder. The pizza photos are my own.

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

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12 June 2021

Weekend Cooking: 9 New Food and Cooking Books

Food and cooking books spring 2021Hello, my friends. Hope that all has been well with you. I'm still cooking and reviewing, but needed a little break.

In today's post, I want to share with you a bunch of food-related books I have on my list to examine more closely. I haven't fully read or cooked from any of them yet, so the following thoughts are gleaned from a combination of skimming through the text, marking dishes I'd like to try, reading bits here and there, and (in some cases) actually trying a recipe. I'll let you know what I think--either here or on GoodReads--after I take the time to read and explore each title.

Thank you to the publishers for providing the review copies. My reactions are purely my own.

Recommended Cookbooks for Spring 2021

What's the Difference? by Brette Warshaw (Harper Wave, June): This handy kitchen reference helps cooks distinguish between similar ingredients, like ale vs. lager, prawns vs. shrimp, and all the different styles of barbecue and types of flour. The information is presented in a straightforward manner and is divided into logical sections, making it easy to find what you're looking for. While it's certainly convenient to have a book that gathers all these kinds of data in one place, my guess is that most readers would simply use Google or the equivalent to figure out the difference, for example, between creme fraiche and sour cream.

At the Chinese Table by Carolyn Phillips (Norton, June 15): This memoir details Phillips's transformation from a food-loving language student in Taipei to eldest daughter-in-law of a traditional Chinese family. She talks about her discovery of the full range of Chinese cuisine, her courtship and marriage to a Chinese scholar, and how she eventually was accepted by her husband's family. Here she shares her almost 50-year love affair with China and its foods, ending each chapter with at least two recipes. Throughout are charming black-and-white drawings.

We Are What We Eat by Alice Waters (Penguin Press, June 1): In her latest book, Waters stays true to her ideals, outlining her philosophy on sustainability, the need to use local products, and the importance of home cooking or slow cooking. She talks about the pressure of advertising and economic issues as well as the effects the fast-food and convenience food industries have on farmers, on the planet, and on our health.

New Cookbooks for Spring 2021

One-Beer Grilling by Mike Lang (Castle Point Books, May): The point of this cookbook is to provide grilling recipes that can be made "before you finish your first cold one." The cookbook is full of easy and very tasty-sounding recipes for sides, meats, sandwiches, appetizers, and even pizza. Almost every recipe is accompanied by a full-page color photo of the finished dish. I like the variety of dishes and the idea of quick grilling, which is perfect for busy families, weeknight dinners, and casual entertaining.

The Maine Farm Table Cookbook by Kate Shaffer (Countryman Press, June): We love Maine, so I was excited to see this cookbook pop up on my list. Here Shaffer introduces us to a wide variety of Maine producers, farmers, and fishermen, located throughout the state. We meet the people, we see gorgeous photos, and learn about Maine's food culture. The recipes are often family dishes provided by the local growers and producers. While the recipes feature local foods, they can be reproduced in any out-of-state kitchen.

What's Good? by Peter Hoffman (Abrams, June): This chef's memoir is one I plan to read a chapter at a time. Hoffman intertwines his journey from childhood to well-known chef with his discovery of specific flavors (maple syrup, garlic, stone fruits, for example), with inside information about the restaurant world, visits to farmers markets, seasonal foodie delights, travel, and the farm to table movement. This is just my kind of foodie memoir, and I'm looking forward to trying out the recipes scattered throughout. In fact, I've already tried one of the cocktails, which is made with a maple syrup simple syrup. Yum.

Books for Foodies, Spring 2021

Cheese, Wine, and Bread by Katie Quinn
(William Morrow, April): Though Quinn's new book does include a few recipes, its not really a cookbook. Instead this book is a deep dive into three specific types of food and three countries. In England we learn about all things cheese: how it's make, different types, melt factors, and the people and places that make cheese so delicious. Italy is all about the wine, from harvest to bottle to table. Again, we travel throughout the country and discover all its vast diversity. Finally we head to France to learn about bread, bread starters, baking bread, different kinds of bread, and the boulangeries we want to visit. Beautifully illustrated with drawings, graphics, and photographs.

Technically Food by Larissa Zimberoff (Abrams, June): This expose, written by an investigative journalist, takes a hard look at high-tech foods: those better-than-beef burgers, non-dairy cheeses, and molds and fungi. Zimberoff asks--and answers--the questions many of us have: Are these "foods" safe and nutritious? Are they really environmentally and ethically sound? Is the high-tech food industry just a way for Silicon Valley to make money or is it the answer to food shortages around the world? This book may change the way you shop and read labels.

Cook for Your Gut Health by Alicia A. Romano (America's Test Kitchen, April): I picked up this cookbook for a couple of reasons. First, it's from ATK, and second, it includes recipes specifically for people on gluten free, diary free, and/or low FODMAP diets. Though I don't have any of those restrictions, several of my friends and family do have to watch their diet. I wanted a reliable source of flavorful recipes so I don't have to worry about inviting those people to eat at my table. Not every recipe will fit all three diets, but ATK clearly labels their dishes so you can find exactly the right foods to cook. I've already made several recipes from the book and loved each one. I still need to read the information at the beginning of the book, which goes through gut health, discusses ingredients, and offers tips and suggestions. If you are on a special diet, you might want to buy or borrow this cookbook.

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

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22 May 2021

Weekend Cooking: Keto BBQ by Myron Mixon (Plus Giveaway)

Review of Keto BBQ by Myron MixonA couple of years ago I wrote about Myron Mixon's BBQ&A cookbook, which totally upped our grilling game. We still turn to that book for sauces, spice rubs, and just plain good advice on how to grill successfully. Now Mixon has come out with a new book, Keto BBQ, which, as the title suggests, reworks his recipes for those who are following a keto diet. (Thanks to Abrams and the Abrams Dinner Party for the review copy.)

Mixon is a world-famous barbecue pitmaster champion, and so, as you can imagine, he really knows his stuff when it comes to traditional grilling and smoking and making any BBQ meal delicious.

When he realized it was time for him to lose weight, he picked the diet/eating plan that suited his lifestyle best: the low-carbohydrate, no-sugar, meat-heavy plan known as keto. By tweaking his tried-and-true recipes and changing his eating habits (explained in the Keto BBQ), Mixon lost more than 100 pounds and has kept it off.

Now, to be fully transparent, I don't know a whole lot about keto eating, so I can't evaluate the information he provides. He, however, doesn't claim to be a nutritionist or doctor; he just knows what worked for him. Though I too am not a keto expert, I do know about cooking and how to evaluate a cookbook. Here's what I discovered about Mixon's Keto BBQ: The flavor profiles of the new recipes--from the spice rubs and sauces to the meats and side dishes--are very similar to those found in his earlier cookbook. I have full confidence that the recipes in this book will lead to delicious low-carb meals.

Review of Keto BBQ by Myron MixonI made the slow-cooker pulled turkey recipe from Keto BBQ, but I used Mixon's original poultry rub and one of his original sauces (because I already had them made up and because I didn't want to buy monk fruit powder). Note, however, that the new rub and sauce recipes in Keto BBQ are almost identical in ingredients, minus the sugars, to his originals. The recipe worked great and the meat was really juicy and delicious.

Mixon includes a number of recipes for side dishes, drinks (with and without alcohol), and appetizers in his new book--all keto friendly. Note too that a number of recipes call for a backyard smoker.

GIVEAWAY: Because we don't follow a keto diet, but we do love Myron Mixon's flavor combos, I'd like to give this cookbook away to someone who will get way more use out of it than I will. All you have to do to be entered in the international giveaway (yes, I'll ship the book to you no matter where you live) is to fill out the following form. I'll pick a winner via a random number generator on Friday, May 28. Once the winner has been confirmed and has sent me his or her mailing address, I'll delete all the email info from my computer. Good luck to those who enter.

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

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06 May 2021

What I Read in April, Part 2

Welcome back! As I said on Tuesday, I finished 16 books last month. I shared my thoughts about the first 8 books in that post; today I talk about the rest. I present them here in the order that I finished them.

Note that the following thoughts are also available on Goodreads. Thanks to the publishers and to Libro.fm for the print, digital, and audiobook review copies. "AFM" means you can find my thoughts about the audiobook production over on the AudioFile Magazine website.

Review of Empire of Ants by Susanne Foitzik and Olaf FritscheEmpire of Ants: The Hidden World and Extraordinary Lives of Earth's Tiny Conquerors by Susanne Foitzik (The Exmperiment, April): This is a very accessible and fascinating look at everything ants. Foitzik and Fritsche take us around the world and into the lab to tell us about that pesky bug that invades our homes and gets into our picnic food.

The book is full of interesting and eye-opening facts about ant behavior and biology and ants' interaction with the world around us. The tone is conversational and sometimes funny. If you're interested in the natural world, you should give this book a shot.

As I often do with nonfiction, I both read and listened to the book. The audiobook was really well performed by Cat Gould, who did a super job conveying the authors' tone. If you listen instead of read, you'll miss the fabulous photographs in the digital/print edition.

Review of Summer on the Bluffs by Sunny HostinSummer on the Bluffs by Sunny Hostin (William Morrow, May 4): Bring on the summer reads! I really liked the concept behind this beach book set on Martha's Vineyard. The story revolves around Ama Vaux Tanner, her late husband, and their three god-daughters, who are are now in their twenties.

What makes this book a little different from other beach reads is that uber-wealthy Ama is Black, as are her daughters. The book includes themes of systemic racism and colorism along with the expected plot lines concerning family drama, romance, life on the island, past secrets, and finding one's way in the world. The plot could have been a bit tighter, but overall an enjoyable read. I'll likely look for the next book in the series. (AFM)

Review of Kisses and Croissants by Anne-Sophie JouhanneauKisses and Croissants by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau (Delacorte, April): Because I danced in my youth, I always like a good ballet story. Mia, an American teen, has had only one dream since she was a very young child: to be a professional dancer. Fortunately, she has the talent and focus to make that dream come true. Her summer internship in Paris is a crucial step in her career. Female friendships and frenemies, lots of ballet, and a complicated summer crush add to the story. Yes, mostly predictable and a few plot tangents, but still a fun rom-com for escape reading.

The audiobook was delightfully read by Imani Jade Powers, who captured the ups and downs of Mia's summer in Paris.

Review of The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahonThe Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon (Gallery, April): I like McMahon's ability to layer on the creep factors, and this Gothic story about a Vermont resort turned private estate doesn't disappoint in that regard. Set in two time periods, 1929 and modern times, the story focuses on a spring that is fabled to cure ailments and grant wishes. Of course, nothing is given for free or without consequences.

In the past, Ethel Monroe and her doctor husband visit the springs during its inaugural year as a luxury resort. While there Ethel caves to the rumors and asks the waters to cure her infertility. After the resort burns to the ground at the start of the Depression, the couple buys the property, builds a home, and turns the springs into a kind of natural swimming pool. In modern times, two sisters who spent their summers at the house with their grandmother have their own interactions with the waters.

I loved the creepy atmosphere of this book and the complex, fragile characters. McMahon did a good job weaving local tales about the spring's miracles with the personal interactions of the characters, whether they swam in or drank the water. The two time periods worked well and most of the surprises hit the mark.

The audiobook was read alternately by Joy Osmanski and Imani Jade Powers, who added to the Gothic elements and brought the characters (and the spring) alive.

Review of Gut Feelings by Alessio FasanoGut Feelings: The Microbiome and Our Health by Alessio Fasano (MIT Press, March): A well-researched and well-presented summary of current research on the human microbiome and its relationship to many aspects of our overall health and well-being.

Fasano's account is non-prescriptive and straightforward. We learn about the microbiome throughout human evolution, in traditional cultures, and in today's world. If you don't have a basic understanding of human (or mammalian) physiology, this could be hard going. For those of us with a solid background in biology, this presents a nice overview and good starting point for further investigation through the medical literature.

Review of Golden Girl by Elin HilderbrandGolden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand (Little, Brown, June 1): I'm a Hiderbrand fan and look forward to her Nantucket novels every summer. Her latest doesn't disappoint.

When 50-something Nantucket novelist Vivian Howe is hit by a car when out for her daily morning run, her death and the search for the hit-and-run driver sets off a far-reaching chain of events. We hear from Vivian in heaven limbo and from those she left behind. There are fun literary references, not only to Hilderbrand's own books but also to other writers and the book world in general. The drama, the food, the relationships, the satisfactory ending -- put this on your summer reading list.

Audiobook fans will be relieved that Erin Bennett was available to narrate. She and Hilderbrand make a perfect audiobook marriage.

Review of Under the Southern Sky by Kristy Woodson HarveyUnder the Southern Sky by Kristy Woodson Harvey (Gallery, April): I picked this up because of the cover; I've been in beach-reading kind of mood. In her latest, Harvey tackles cancer, love, loss, infertility, infidelity, friendship, families, and second chances. Despite the tougher issues at the core of this book, it was only okay for me, probably because the ultimate outcome was so clear from the start and I wasn't invested in the characters enough to be all caught up in how they got to the last page. Note however, that I'm not much of a romance reader, so your mileage may vary.

The audiobook was alternately read by Cassandra Campbell, Michael Crouch, Rebekkah Ross, and Karissa Vacker. They all put in a good performance, blending well.

Review of Mirrorland by Carole JohnstoneMirrorland by Carole Johnstone (Scribner, April): I have a weakness for stories about twins. When Cat's identical twin, El, is lost at sea in a presumed sailing accident, she leaves her apartment in California to return to her native Scotland to help her brother-in-law deal with the aftermath.

This novel is complex and engrossing, taking us along on several well-developed threads. First is the investigation of El's accident: staged escape? murder? unfortunate accident? Through this, we gain insight into the nature of El's marriage and her husband's personality. El had been living in the girls' childhood home, and being back releases Cat's memories. She remembers her mother reading to them and especially the many hours they spent in "Mirrorland," their make-believe world, in which they pretended to be Caribbean pirates, for example, or characters in a movie, especially Shawshank Redemption.

As the investigation of the accident continues, we learn more and more about the twins, their upbringing, and their lifelong relationship to Ross, El's husband. The tension builds incrementally until we are totally immersed in Cat's world, trying to figure out which of her Mirrorland memories were real and which were those of a child trying to make sense of the really bad things about her childhood.The truth changes as Cat forces herself to brush aside her strong, deep self-defenses.

I was completely captured by Johnstone's debut, with its difficult themes, good plotting, and growing suspense. What is real in Cat's world? Highly recommended.

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04 May 2021

What I Read in April: Part 1

Time for another quick round-up of the books I've read and listened to lately. I finished 16 books in April, most of them audiobooks. Why so many books? I spent the month doing some major paper shredding and cleaning out a storage room. All that gave me hours of good listening time!

Here is part 1 of what I read last month, in the order I finished each book (part 2 will go live on Thursday). Note that the following thoughts are also available on Goodreads. Thanks to the publishers and to Libro.fm for the print, digital, and audiobook review copies. "AFM" means you can find my thoughts about the audiobook production over on the AudioFile Magazine website.

Review of The Babysitter by Liza RodmanThe Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer by Liza Rodman (Atria, March): In the 1960s, author Liza Rodman spent the summers in Provincetown, MA, so her schoolteacher mother could take on seasonal work and party with her friends. Liza and her little sister were left in the care of whomever their mother could find. One of their favorites was Tony Costa, a charming local handyman who would buy the girls ice cream and take them on drives to the nearby woods. When Liza was 10, Tony disappeared from her life, and it wasn't until years later that she learned he had been sent to prison for the gruesome murder and dismemberment of several young women.

The story alternates between Liza's memories of the two or three summers she knew Tony, including her interactions with her neglectful, heavy-drinking mother, and sections based on investigations into Tony's life and crimes. I love true crime, but this book seemed to lack a gripping element. The murders were, of course, horrific, but Liza herself didn't seem to be in any danger. In addition, Tony is described as being well liked, despite the fact that he was into drugs and had a checkered work life. You may have better luck.

The audiobook was read by Andi Arndt and Aida Reluzco, who alternated between the chapters based on Liza's memories and the chapters based on Tony. Their performances were fine; nothing particularly outstanding or problematic.

Review of Lightseekers by Femi KayodeLightseekers by Femi Kayode (Mulholland, March): I like a good mystery and was drawn to this book because it takes place in contemporary Nigeria. The general set up is this: Philip Taiwo and his family return from a long residency in the United States to their native Nigeria. Philip is a criminal psychologist with an interest in hate crimes. He's picked to investigate a brutal murder that took place in a small university town.

The narrative is full of interesting details about life in modern Nigeria, from university life to the courts, the law, and the power of the wealthy. The characters were well wrought and multidimensional. Despite these strengths, the novel, as a mystery, didn't hold up for me. By the middle of the book, I felt lost--partly because the book itself lost focus and partly because I'm not familiar with Nigerian university culture and politics, which played large roles in the story.

Narrator Cary Hite did a fine job with the audiobook. His expressive delivery; varied tempo, cadence, and volume; and good accents strengthened the setting and enlivened the characters.

Review of Anna K by Jenny LeeAnna K: A Love Story by Jenny Lee (Flatiron, 2020): I'm not sure how I missed this contemporary retelling of Anna Karenina when it first came out. Set in Manhattan, this novel includes the familiar characters (like Count Vronsky) of the original but adds in pop and social media references and places most of the upper-class diverse cast in high school. The story follows Anna K and her brother and friends over the course of a party- and drama-filled school year and veers from Anna Karenina in a couple of significant ways.

Despite the multiple brand name references (it got a little tiring), it was easy to get drawn into the YA story, and you don't need to be familiar with Tolstoy to like Anna K. The author's note at the end explains Lee's choices for her version of the classic. I'm looking forward to reading the just-released follow-up novel, Anna K Away. (library book)

Review of All Girls by Emily LaydenAll Girls by Emily Layden (St. Martin's, Feb.): Set in 2015 over the course of a school year in a prestigious private all-girls high school in Connecticut, this story is told from a variety of perspectives. From the opening pages we learn about a 20-year-old rape accusation, which the school has buried and for which the male teacher has suffered no consequences. The over-arching thread of the novel is the mystery of the rape: Did it happen? Who did it? Was it a one-time event?

Each female voice has something to say about the case and its affect on the school. The students also reveal their inner life and the personal issues they face, from their own #MeToo moments to bullying, eating disorders, family pressures, and feminism. The chapters flow well with each other, and the story gives us lots to think about. A complaint is that it's easy to lose track of who is who among the students and staff (AFM).

Review of Dust Off the Bones by Paul HowarthDust Off the Bones by Paul Howarth (Harper, June 8): One of the best books of the year. Note that this is a sequel to Only Killers and Thieves (2018), which you should read first. (Click the link for my thoughts on book 1.)

Brothers Billy and Tommy McBride were forced into estrangement after their unwitting and complicated involvement in crimes against an Aboriginal community in the 1880s, when the boys were young teenagers. Now adults, Billy has become a wealthy landowner and seemingly has moved on from the tragedies of his youth. Tommy has changed his name, has rarely settled in one place, and has struggled all his life to come to terms with the events of his childhood.

Now almost 20 years later, a two-bit lawyer is hired to prosecute Noone, the brutal Native Police Inspector who was responsible for the crimes and for involving the boys. Noone, now a powerful and still cruel-man who is able to control a wide network of evil men, sets out to murder all witnesses to his earlier offenses. The McBride brothers are principal targets.

As in the first book, Howarth pulls no punches: there are no fairy tales in real life, and cold, calculating men don't soften with old age. Billy, Tommy, Noone, and others are vividly drawn and evoke strong and true emotions. The pace and tension are so tightly constructed it's almost impossible to put the book (or in my case, audiobook) down. Australia itself--the land, the people--plays a central role. This duology should be on your must-read list. Please try to avoid spoilers.

The unabridged audiobook was brilliantly read by David Linski, who also performed book 1. Linski portrays the characters perfectly and matches his tempo and volume with Howarth's style.

Review of One Two Three by Laurie FrankelOne Two Three by Laurie Frankel (Henry Holt, Feb.): This is the story of triplets, born in a town that has been scarred after a chemical plant contaminated their drinking water. Nearly everyone in the community has been affected, especially the children, most of whom are disabled in some way. Everyone who had any kind of money long since left the area; the ones who remain suffer in some way.

The Mitchell girls refer to themselves as One, Two, and Three (based on birth order). Mab, seems to be a typical teen, and Monday, the middle triplet, is on the autism spectrum. Mirabel is severely physically disabled, unable to speak or control her body, except one arm and hand. She is, however, intellectually brilliant and communicates through an app, which vocalizes what she types. Their father died from the poisoning and their mother has spent 16 years trying to get a class-action suit off the ground.

The story takes place over the course of a few months when the son of the original factory owner returns to town with his family to try to reopen the factory. Reminiscent of Love Canal or the PG&E case in California, this story is about the battle between big business profits and real people with real lives. The girls and other characters are sensitively and realistically portrayed. Very worth your while.

The unabridged audiobook was read by Emma Galvin, Jesse Vilinsky, and Rebecca Soler, who alternated the chapters told from the perspectives of the sisters. They conveyed the personalities of the girls nicely.

Review of Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah PricePride and Premeditation by Tirzah Price (Harper Teen, April): This was fun. Using the characters from and general time period of Austen's Pride & Prejudice, this first in a cozy mystery series works on a number of levels. While the characters are recognizable from their personalities, this book places them in a completely different context from the original. Longbourn and Pemberley are family law firms, and Bingley's family is in shipping. When Bingley is accused of murdering his brother-in-law, Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy are both determined to solve the case.

Readers familiar with P&P will smile at the reconfigurations of Mr. Collins, Charlotte, Wickham, and others. The mystery itself was less engaging for me than Price's take on Austen. I enjoyed the book, though, and am looking forward to the next in the series.

The audiobook was nicely read by Morag Sims. Some listeners may have trouble with her accent and tone, so I advise giving the audio sample a try before buying.

Review of Lost in Paris by Elizabeth ThompsonLost in Paris by Elizabeth Thompson (Gallery, April): I picked this one up because the summary indicated a Jane Austen tie-in. That link turned out to be a very minor piece of the story, though Thompson includes a number of literary and and art references. The story is set in two time periods. In modern times, Hannah, an American woman living in London is surprised by a visit from her unreliable, alcoholic mother (Marla) who has been settling her own mother's estate back in their native Florida. Marla's showing up unannounced is only part of the surprise: Hannah's grandmother has willed the two women a paid-for apartment in the heart of Paris. In the past, we hear from the grandmother's mother, who lived in Paris in the 1930s, where she met many of the great writers and artists of the time.

This was only okay for me. The story was completely predictable and at the same time fairly unbelievable. I didn't connect enough to the women to root for any of them. Others will likely enjoy the details of Paris, the light romance, and the various mother-daughter themes.

The audiobook was read by Emily Tremaine and Imogen Church, who alternately took on the sections that were set in the present and past. I like both these narrators, but I don't think these were their best performances.

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