31 October 2009

Weekend Cooking: Review: What to Cook . . . by Arthur Schwartz

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

What to Cook When You Think There's Nothing in the House to Eat by Arthur Schwartz is one of the cookbooks that I turn to a lot. I confess that I probably haven't made but one of the recipes exactly as written in the book, but that is not what this book is all about.

The chapters are arranged alphabetically by main ingredient, from anchovies to yogurt. Each one starts by introducing the ingredient, including storage and preparation tips, and concludes with three to four recipes. The first chapter has information on how to use the book and how to stock your pantry.

I usually turn to the book for ideas. It's late, and I think I have nothing for dinner in the house. I rummage around the cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer, and then I look through the cookbook. Oh, I happen to have pasta, olive oil. garlic, and hot pepper flakes. Yay! I can make aglio e olio (found in the oil chapter). Generally, however, I use the book for inspiration, adapting the recipes for what I have on hand.

The book covers all meals plus desserts. The absolute godsend recipe in the book is this:

Microwave Polenta (serves 2)
Combine 1 cup cornmeal and 4 cups cold water in a 3-quart casserole. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. Stir well to smooth out the mixture. Return to the microwave on high for 10 minutes, stir, and repeat two more times or until desired consistency. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. (adapted from p. 111)
My well-used cookbook is from 1992 and has a different cover. I haven't seen the newer edition, but I bet it is just as good or even better.

What to Cook at Powell's
What to Cook at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs; if you buy, you support this blog.

Published by Harper Perennial, 2000
ISBN-13: 9780060955595
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: B

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Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge: Prize Winner

Happy Halloween! I have the perfect way to celebrate: Today I'm announcing the winner of the first Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge giveaway drawing.

I used time the time stamp on the comments and on the Mr. Linky site to incorporate the people who left comments but not links into the drawing. Then I eliminated duplicates, because each person got only one chance in the drawing. Then I went to random.org and picked a number. I truly think I did this fairly. It was quite complicated to figure out!

As you may recall, the prize was Charlaine Harris's new Sookie Stackhouse short story collection: A Touch of Dead. Okay, okay already, I won't keep you in suspense any longer! The winner is

Julie from Booking Mama!

Congratulations! I'll be in touch with you shortly and get your book out to you immediately.

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30 October 2009

Review: Darkness Be My Friend by John Mardsen

Darkness, Be My Friend is the fourth in the Tomorrow series by John Marsden. It's a particularly interesting entry because Marsden originally planned to write a trilogy. This novel, however, does not feel as if it were tacked on as an afterthought. The story flows smoothly and believably.

I reviewed the second and third books in the series on Beth Fish Reads; however, I read the first book before I started blogging. Major spoilers for the series (not this novel) lie ahead (can't be helped). This review assumes you've read the first three books. Those who are new to the series, can read the earlier reviews and/or skip to below the asterisks to read my opinion.

Darkness opens several months after The Killing Frost (book 3) ends. Ellie and her friends have been in New Zealand, recuperating from the war. With the help of therapists, the kids have started to come to terms with their experiences in guerrilla warfare. But they are all having trouble adapting to their new life in a new country.

When the New Zealand armed forces ask Ellie and her friends to be their guides for a planned attack on the Wirrawee air base, the teens feel as if they really had no choice. They are clearly caught between the need to be active (as is often typical in post-traumatic stress syndrome), feeling lucky that they escaped alive first time, and being pressured into helping their country and families.

After they return to Australia, they immediately notice that the enemy has made changes, most them disheartening. But the truly startling thing for Ellie and her friends is that they've lost their edge: They are more frightened now and find themselves second-guessing their instincts.

The raid on Wirrawee goes awry, and by the second third of the book, we are once again immersed in the uncertain world of war and survival.

* * * * * * *

As I said in my earlier reviews, it is very difficult to discuss the power of the Tomorrow series without giving away the story. Marsden's characters are extremely realistic; there are no stereotypes or predictable behavior. Just like real people, the teens and adults are not always strong and selfless; they make errors in judgment, get angry, and pout. You may not love every character, but they always behave in a believable and consistent manner.

The books are dark, intense, and action packed. The series is rated for readers aged twelve and up, but the themes are universal, and adults will find themselves fully engaged in Ellie's world. I have been trying to draw out the series so that it isn't over too quickly, but I may have to treat myself to a mini-marathon late in the year.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Suzi Doughtery. As I've said before, she is perfect as Ellie and brilliantly captures the tension, uncertainty, and fear as well as the few sparks of happiness.

John Marsden
has a website and blog.

Darkness, Be My Friend at Powell's
Darkness, Be My Friend at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs; if you buy, you support this blog.

Published by Scholastic, 2006 [originally published 1996]
ISBN-13: 9780439858021
Challenges: YA Dystopian, 100+, 999, Clear Off Shelves
YTD: 78
Source: Borrowed (see review policy)
Rating: B+

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R.I.P. IV Challenge: Wrap Up

Thanks so much to Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings for hosting the fourth edition of the RI.P. challenge.

I read my two books and even have the reviews written and posted. Both books were mysteries:

Mind Scrambler by Chris Grabenstein
To Darkness and to Death by Julia Spence-Fleming

This is a super challenge! I didn't join last year because I thought participants had to read horror, which I don't do. Once I realized that mysteries counted, I was in. I'm already looking forward to next fall.

To see what everyone else read, see the R.I.P. IV Review Site there are an astounding 650+ reviews posted. Now how's that for a 2-month challenge?

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29 October 2009

Thursday Tea: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

I usually spotlight my audiobook on Thursdays, but I'm still listening to An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon. I'm not sick of Clare and Jamie, but you might be.

I started reading The Magicians by Lev Grossman. I've heard it described as Harry Potter for grownups, and so far I think that's fairly accurate. Since I'm only on page 10, I really can't say too much about the plot. My review will be up on Sunday, though, because I plan to be done in time for my book club meeting that afternoon.

The Tea. I'm drinking Adagio Tea's Pu Erh Dante. I cannot pronounce it at all, but I've discovered I really like it. "Black tea from the Yunnan region of China. Pu Erh tea, perhaps the most esoteric of Chinese varieties, has a pronounced earthy aroma and taste. It is very popular in China due to its notoriety as a slimming diet tea." I don't know about the diet part, but I've had two cups each afternoon this week.

The Assessment. Because Quentin Coldwater lives in modern times in the United States, he could at least get this tea. Maybe brilliant, nerdy types are attracted to it. (Hey! No wise cracks!) I'd like to think that he and his friends might sip a cup while doing their homework.

What's on your reading list this week? And what's in that mug or glass?

The Magicians at Powell's
The Magicians at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs; if you buy, I get a small percent.

Thursday Tea is hosted by Anastasia at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog. Here's how it works: Tell us what tea you are drinking (and if you like it). And then tell us what book are you reading (and if you like it). Finally, tell us if they go together.

Source: Review copy (see review policy).
FTC: I buy all teas myself, I am not a tea reviewer.

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Unfinished: Sword of Fire and Ice by John Matthews

During the read-a-thon, I picked up The Chronicles of Arthur: Sword of Fire and Ice, by John Matthews. It's a graphic novel illustrated by Mike Collins.

Publisher's Summary: Before the Round Table. Before the great quests, before he was king . . .

Many stories have been told of King Arthur. Young Arthur's days were full of adventures that prepared him for the life that lay ahead. As a boy, Arthur lived in a time and place where all things were possible and the old magic prevailed. Get ready to step inside the ancient world of Albion and see Arthur like you've never seen him before. . .

Why I Abandoned the Book: Yes, indeed, this was Arthur as I've never seem him before. The book starts off okay, giving an alternate telling of Arthur's very early years before he meets Merlin. But on page 11, we are introduced to a large green creature who looks suspiciously like The Hulk. Then on page 16, we discover the "first born," who look like large purple insects with shiny green eyes. It was then that I decided this book was not for me. I guess I'm just too much of a traditionalist when it comes to Arthur.

A Quick Look at Reviews: First I took a look at several commercial book sites. Neither Powell's, Barnes & Noble, nor Amazon had any consumer reviews. That alone is interesting. Maybe no one has read it yet? To be fair, the book came out only a month ago. Two members of Library Thing own the book but did not review it; the average rating was 2.5 stars. Good Reads and Shelfari provided no ratings or reviews. A quick search for blog reviews also turned up nothing.

If you have read this graphic novel, please let me know what you thought. Maybe I missed something. If so, I am willing to give it another try.

Published by Aladdin Paperbacks, 2009
ISBN-13: 9781416959083
Source: Bought (see review policy)

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Introducing . . . Weekend Cooking

Introducing a new feature here at Beth Fish Reads. Every weekend, starting on October 31, I invite you to share your reviews of cookbooks, food writing, foodie novels, and movies that make you hungry.

Weekend Cooking is a chance to share the food love. On Saturday mornings, I'll publish my post -- perhaps a cookbook review or maybe just some favorite food-related quotes.

At anytime during the weekend, if you care to share a similar post, please come on back and hook up with Mr. Linky, so we can read what you have to say. I hope you'll join in when your weekend (or recent) reading or movie watching fits in with the theme. Remember, the definition of Weekend Cooking is free and easy, if you think your post even remotely fits the theme, grab the button and sign in to Mr. Linky.

EDIT: for those confused by Mr. Linky -- the linky appears on the weekly posts, not in this welcome post. For the most recent posts and to participate, click on the following link: Weekend Cooking posts.

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28 October 2009

Wordless Wednesday (October 27)

Half Moon, October

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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Short Review: The Love Wife by Gish Jen

The Love Wife
is Gish Jen's third novel. It examines the relationships among an All-American white woman and her Chinese-American husband, her mother-in-law, and her children. Take a look at the publisher's summary:

Here is Carnegie Wong, second-generation Chinese American warm heart and funny guy. Here is his WASP wife, the delicious "za-za-vavoomy" Blondie. Here are their two adopted Asian daughters, and their half-half bio son. And here is Mama Wong, Carnegie's no-holds-barred mother, who, eternally opposed to his marriage, has arranged from her grave for a mainland Chinese relation to come look after the kids. Is this woman, as Carnegie claims, a nanny? Or is she, as Blondie fears, something else?

What happens as Carnegie and Blondie try to incorporate the ambiguous new arrival into their already complicated lives is touchingly, brilliantly, intricately told.
I read this novel in the summer of 2006; thus I don't remember the details. According to my reading notes, the characters are well developed, and the plot held my attention. However, Blondie is a bit too stereotypically WASP-ish and is not very assertive, which lessened my sympathy for her. On the other hand, the dynamics of the intersecting cultures and generations were interesting. I noted that the ending left me hanging, and not in a particularly good way.

When I was writing this post last night, I discovered that there was a Reading Group Guide for the novel. I looked over the questions and realized that The Love Wife would probably make a great book club choice. Jen brings up a number of interesting issues that could generate good discussions. I originally rated the novel a B-, but as a book club choice, I would consider it a solid B or even a B+.

The cover shows the 2004 Random House edition. (Source: bought; see review policy)

The Love Wife at an Indie
The Love Wife at Powell's
The Love Wife at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs; if you buy, I get a small percent.

Reading at the Beach is the host for this meme: Each week she invites us to spotlight a book whose title begins with the featured letter. This week it's L.

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27 October 2009

Beth Fish Reads: One of Top-Ten Book Blogs

This morning, I opened an email from Online Universities, informing me that they posted this list: "101 Book Blogs You Need to Read." I was pleased, flattered, and excited to see that Beth Fish Reads is listed in their Top Ten, which were picked on the following criteria: "These ten book blogs are the most popular, most informative out there, and they contain information about the widest number of genres."

Be sure to check out the entire list of 101 blogs. You will recognize a lot of names (maybe even your own!) and will discover some new blogs too. Thank you so much, Online Universities.

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Today's Read: Septimus Heap: The Magykal Papers by Angie Sage

I'm the seventh son of a seventh son and a wizard living in the Castle. Okay, so I'm really still training to be a full-fledged wizard. I thought I'd share some articles, secret documents, and private diaries relating to the history of the Castle, the building of Wizard Tower, and even my school days. I don't know how it happened, but one of my love notes was also published. It's so embarrassing.

For more Where Are You? answers, visit Raidergirl3 at An Adventure in Reading.

MizB at Should Be Reading hosts Teaser Tuesdays. Here's how it works: Grab your current read; let the book fall open to a random page; and share 2 “teaser” sentences from that page. For more teasers, click on through to MizB's blog.

Guards are everywhere. The Castle has been taken over. The Wizard Tower must stand firm. They will not dare touch us. [From: The Journal of Marcia Overstrand] (p. 70)
—From Septimus Heap: The Magykal Papers by Angie Sage, illustrated by Mark Zug (Source: borrowed, see review policy)

The Magykal Papers at Powell's
The Magykal Papers at Amazon
These 3 links lead to an affiliate program; if you buy, I get a small percent.

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Challenge: Shelf Discovery

Julie of Booking Mama is hosting a great challenge. Participants get a chance to either revisit favorite YA books or catch up on the ones we may have missed.

Yep, I'm signing up for the Shelf Discovery Challenge. All I have to do is pick six books that are featured in the book Shelf Discovery and agree to read them over the next six months. Sounds fun and easy, doesn't it? I have from November 1 to April 30 to read some really great childhood novels.

Wondering what I found to read? I have five novels from the book and one "cheater" novel. Let me explain: I haven't read the Austin series by Madeleine L'Engle. The second book is the series is on the official list of Shelf Discovery books. I have a sad problem: I cannot read books out of order, so one of my six books is the first in that series: my cheater. The Louisa May Alcott and E. L. Konigsburg books are repeats for me, but the other four are new.

There are some terrific choices, including two books from the Little House series. I almost picked them but ultimately decided that I do not want to review them or write about them here; I'll just let my reading of that series be noncritical.

My Book List

  1. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  2. Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  3. Meet the Autins by Madeleine L'Engle
  4. Moon by Night by Madeleine L'Engle
  5. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
  6. An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott
I'm very excited about this challenge and the chance to read some novels I missed when I was a kid and refamiliarize myself with some old favorites.

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26 October 2009

Review: To Darkness and to Death by Julia Spencer-Fleming

In the predawn cold of a November morning, the Reverend Clare Fergusson is woken up by the Millers Kill, New York, search and rescue team, which is looking for a young woman presumed lost in the woods near her home. Little did Clare know that by the end of the day she and police chief Russ Van Alstyne would have dealt with deceit, death, desperation, and destruction.

To Darkness and to Death is the fourth in the Clare Fergusson–Russ Van Alstyne mystery series by Julia Spencer-Fleming. Like the previous novels, this one revolves around a greater social issue—here, it is the intersection among environmentalists, local businesses, and large industry. What's different in Darkness is that the entire book takes place in less than 24 hours.

Throughout the multilayered plot, we follow the men and women who are directly or peripherally affected by the changing economic situation in the small Adirondacks town. Emotions and money are the driving forces behind a variety of crimes from blackmail to murder. Can Clare and Russ discover what is accident and what is crime and if and how a group of seemingly unrelated events may be related?

Spencer-Fleming's series is a bit difficult to categorize. The ever-evolving relationship between Clare and Russ and each of their personal commitments to their separate lives are at the core of the books, making the novels lean toward the cozy. On the other hand the nature of the crimes and the investigations take the books away from the light and fun. The series is a good choice for readers looking for a solid mystery that's a bit on the hard side. To Darkness and to Death is not the strongest entry of the four I've read, but I can still recommend it.

I listened to the audio version read by Suzanne Toren, who does a nice job with Clare's soft southern accent and the sharper inflections of the Millers Kill natives.

Julia Spencer-Fleming has a website where you can learn more about the author and her books, including the back story of the series.

To Darkness and to Death at Powell's
To Darkness and to Death at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs; if you buy, I get a small percent.

Published by St. Martin's Press, 2006
ISBN-13: 9780312988876
Challenges: RIP, Clear off Your Shelves, 999, 100+
YTD: 77
Source: Borrowed (see review policy)
Rating: B−

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25 October 2009

Read-a-Thon: Hour 24!!!!!

It is the end of another Read-a-Thon! Well done and good job for those who stayed up the whole time and especially those who read the entire 24 hours. Way to go!!!

There is a final Twenty-Fourth-Hour Meme and I'm going to participate!

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Somewhere around hour 17, I closed my eyes for just a second -- and, well, next I knew, I had slept 5 hours!

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? No, but I wish I hadn't started out with a novel that touched on heavier topics. I think light and fun is the way to go.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? No -- it is super!

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? I liked the more organized cheering for the blogs. Great idea.

5. How many books did you read? I finished 2, abandoned 1, and got almost all the way through another.

6. What were the names of the books you read? A Friend of the Family, A Sword of Fire and Ice (abandoned), Fables, The Darcys and the Binglieys

7. Which book did you enjoy most? Can't say because all three were totally different.

8. Which did you enjoy least? A Sword of Fire and Ice.

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? Just keep cheering!!!

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I am absolutely participating -- probably just cheering.

I love the Read-a-Thon; it's a fabulous event! I'm so glad I tried to be both a reader and a cheerleader because I learned that my real role is to be a full-time cheerleader. It was way too difficult to be both, and I didn't do a good job of either. In the spring I'm taking up my pompoms and sticking with being a full-time cheerleader. Who knows, maybe someone will ask me to be one of the lead cheerers!

Hip-hip-hurray to all the organizers!!!! Super, super job.

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24 October 2009

Read-a-Thon: Hour 11

At 11 hours in, I've read 2.5 books and abandoned 1 book (it wasn't for me) and hosted a mini-challenge. I plan to read for about another hour or so and then I'm turning to cheerleading.

I'll write a wrap-up post tomorrow. Once I turn to cheering, I won't have much to update here. So look for me on Twitter or on your blog.

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Read-a-Thon: Start of Hour 7

Hour 7 Recap

I'm starting to feel a little weary, so I'm just getting ready to brew up a big pot of tea to keep me going.

I finished A Friend of the the Family by Lauren Grodstein (302 pp). A very good read. That is going to be the only heavy fiction I'm planning on today.

Book 2 was a graphic novel called Sword of Fire and Ice by John Mathews. I love King Arthur stories, but I just couldn't get past about page 20. The novel is not for me: Arthur with giant purple bug creatures? I think not.

So now I'm halfway through book 3, which is also a graphic novel: the first volume in the Fables series. So far I love it. It's funny and well drawn, and I like the general idea.

I hope you have entered to win my lace bookmark. It's a really, really easy meme, so be sure to read about the Eat to Read Mini-Challenge.

I'll probably read another 3 to 5 hours and then it will be cheering for the rest of the night. Glad I stocked up on snacks, tea, and coffee.

Good luck everyone!!!!

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Read-a-Thon: Eat to Read Mini-Challenge

Eat to Read Mini-Challenge

Okay all you Fall Read-a-Thon readers, how are you holding up?? You've been reading for 6 hours now, and I bet you're starting to look at your snack stash. I'm not talking meals at this hour. I'm talking about food that helps you keep reading along.

So this is what I want to know. What's in your snack pile? Healthy fruit, just-baked brownies? Hot tea, ice-cold cola? Are you craving crunchy? Chocolate? Savory? A gigantic bowl of popcorn? You tell me.

Want to know what you're playing for? Sure you do. It's a homemade lace bookmark. As you can see from the photos (click to enlarge) that I'm not quite done yet. I was almost halfway when I took the photos yesterday. I hope I made good progress last night! In any case, the bookmark will be finished in no time, and I will send it out by the end of October.

All you have to do to win the bookmark is tell me what you've been snacking on or what snacks or drinks you have in store for later. Creative is always good and may just win you an extra shot at the random draw for the bookmark. [The definition of creative is totally up to me.]

Write up a quick post, put up a photo -- whatever you're in the mood to do. Then come back here and leave a link with Mr. Linky. Be sure that your link leads to your specific Eat to Read Mini-Challenge post. I'll use random.org to pick the winner.

You have until 5:00 eastern time to get your post up; I won't count links that went up after that. This is open to cheerleaders and readers alike. What happens if you don't have a blog? Write a comment here. Then fill out Mr. Linky; for the link, use the URL to this post. Your Mr. Linky number is the number I'll use for random.org.

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Read-a-Thon: Hours 3-4

Fourth-Hour Meme!

Welcome back Read-a-Thoners! Hope you're still reading and cheering! This hour, Bart's Bookshelf asks us to make a sentence from book titles and then post a photo.

Anyway, I did a quick take on this meme, and doubt I have a winner, but I'm giving it a shot anyway. Here's the photo:

A friend of the family drawing in the dust in the courts of the sun. (Kind of a phrase rather than a sentence.)

I'm just about done with my first book and hope to be on book 2 in an hour.

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Read-a-Thon: Hour 1

First-Hour Meme!

The first hour of the Read-a-Thon is coming to an end, and with it comes a meme:

1. Where are you reading from today? I'm starting out on the couch -- and may stay there! But it's very comfy on this rainy morning.

2. Three facts about me. Hummmm. I love to cook, I love to read, I love to walk.

3. How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours? Waaaaaaaaay too many!!!

4. Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)? My only real goal is to stay awake the whole time, reading at first and then changing to cheering (go team Transcendentalists!!)

5. If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time? Relax and have fun! It's not a contest.

Good luck everyone!

I'm still on my first book: A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein.

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Read-a-Thon: Starting Post

Read-a-Thon: Starting Post

Yippee, yippee!!!! The fall Read-a-Thon has started! I'm so excited -- I have my new (and faster) Internet connection in place (long story, but there was a reason I was unexpectedly missing in action Thursday and Friday), my food is ready, my Book Buddy is here -- and I have a pile of books to read.

Last week I wrote about my Read-a-Thon Stack. It was kind of a 24-week stack instead of a 24-hour stack, but never mind that. Sad to say, I've added to the pile. Some of the books I already owned and some are new, but I have three text novels and three graphic novels to throw into the mix.

I am starting my Read-a-Thon with [drum roll, please!] A Friend of the Family, which is a novel that I didn't think would be for me. But I started looking through the first chapter, and I'm hooked. So I'm off and reading!

Good luck to everyone!!!! I hope to post an update every hour or two, but I'm not totally sure. I will definitely be on Twitter.

Print novels

Graphic novels

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23 October 2009

Thursday Tea (a Day Late!): An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon

I am still listening to An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon, the latest in her Outlander series. I'm 10 or 12 hours into the 46 total hours. I'm loving it still. I could spend hours with Jamie and Claire (and have!).

Gabaldon has many plot lines going, and I'm enjoying catching up with all the characters. At some point, I'll probably switch to reading in print so that I can speed to the end.

The Tea. I'm drinking Adagio Tea's chocolate chai. A very, very yummy tea: "Chocolate flavored Ceylon black tea blended with cardamom, ginger, cloves, cinnamon. Make it extra rich by preparing with hot milk." I haven't tried it with the milk yet, but even black it makes a wonderful afternoon treat.

The Assessment. As I said last week, Claire is British and Jamie is Scottish, so I know they like their tea. Even though Claire has seen the twentieth century, I'm not sure what she'd think of this tea. Jamie would probably be baffled. On the other hand, some tea is probably better than no tea.

What's on your reading list this week? And what's in that mug or glass?

An Echo in the Bone at Powell's
An Echo in the Bone at Amazon
These 3 links lead to an affiliate program; if you buy, I get a small percent.

Thursday Tea is hosted by Anastasia at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog. Here's how it works: Tell us what tea you are drinking (and if you like it). And then tell us what book are you reading (and if you like it). Finally, tell us if they go together.

FTC: Source: bought (for all disclosures, see my review policy).

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21 October 2009

Wordless Wednesday (October 21)

Seedhead (Purple Coneflower)

For more Wordless Wedness, click here.

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Short Review: The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches by Robert Stanek

The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches is the first in a series by Robert Stanek. I picked this up because I love fantasy, I think elves are great, and I am the queen of series. I don't remember enough of the book to write a decent summary, so here is the publisher's synopsis:

The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches tells the story of [the] fantasy world of Ruin Mist. After the Great War that divided the peoples, the kingdoms of men plunged into a Dark Age that lasted 500 years. To heal the lands and restore the light, the great kings decreed that magic and all that is magical, be it creature, man, or device, shall be cleansed to dust. The cleansing raged for so long that no human could recall a time without it, and it is in this time that the Dark Lord Sathar returned from the dark beyond. The one hope of the peoples of Ruin Mist was Queen Mother, the elf queen of old. She saw a way out of everlasting darkness, a path that required the union of the divided peoples. And so it began.

Unfortunately this book was not for me. When I read the novel in 2007, here's all I had to say: "Very tedious. I love fantasy, but this did not click with me. I know that millions of people love this series, but I could barely get through the first book. Even though it ends in a cliff hanger, I have no desire to read more."

The cover shows the 2007 Reagent Press edition. (Source: borrowed; see review policy)

Kingdoms and Elves of the Reaches at an Indie
Kingdoms and Elves of the Reaches at Powell's
Kingdoms and Elves of the Reaches at Amazon
These 3 links lead to an affiliate program; if you buy, I get a small percent.

Reading at the Beach is the host for this meme: Each week she invites us to spotlight a book whose title begins with the featured letter. This week it's K.

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20 October 2009

Today's Read: The Darcys & the Bingleys by Marsha Altman

It's 1803 and I am soon to marry the love of my life—not that I'd let anyone see how much I cared. I have been spending a lot of time at my best friend's house, Netherfield, to be near my beloved Elizabeth, but I'm ready to return to Pemberley and regain my privacy. And now Bingley has come to me for advice, and I'm going to be forced to tell him something about the marriage bed. I suppose I must help him.

For more Where Are You? answers, visit Raidergirl3 at An Adventure in Reading.

MizB at Should Be Reading hosts Teaser Tuesdays. Here's how it works: Grab your current read; let the book fall open to a random page; and share 2 “teaser” sentences from that page. For more teasers, click on through to MizB's blog.

Bingley was right. Best he could recall, there was no gossip when he was back in the changing room the next day and no knowing winks from his captain. Surely if there was some assault on the Darcy honour, he would remember it distinctly. At the moment, all he remembered was a pounding headache. (54)
—From The Darcys & the Bingleys: Pride & Prejudice Continues by Marsha Altman (Sourcebooks Landmark, 2008; page no. from an eBook edition)

The Darcys & the Bingleys at Powell's
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19 October 2009

Guest Post: Matthew Pearl on Working with an Editor

Remember last week when I posted my review of the first half of Matthew Pearl's The Last Dickens? I had only read half the book at that time, and I still managed to write a fairly long post! My final review will be up very soon.

I am pleased and excited to welcome Matthew Pearl to Beth Fish Reads today as a guest blogger. His post is just perfect for me because he talks about what it's like to work with an editor. I'd better pay close attention!

Cut It Out: The Editor's Role in The Last Dickens

People often ask what it is like working with an editor when writing a novel. It seems people imagine terrible moments of an editor throwing out whole sections of your book while you're looking the other way.

Working with an editor can be a very open and collaborative experience. Editors in my experience don't force changes on you, they suggest and guide you through them. My first editor had a funny way of putting the dynamic between editor and writer. He said final decisions about the content were always mine because the book would be in my obituary, not his.

At the end of the day, it's up to the author to absorb input from editors and anyone else and make the choices.

I can think of two good examples from my most recent novel, The Last Dickens, that illustrate the collaboration between editor and writer. One is an editorial suggestion that I incorporated, and the other is one I decided against.

The novel has two different, intertwining narrative strands. The primary narrative follows Dickens's American publisher, James Osgood, as he embarks on a quest for the mysterious finale of Dickens's last novel after Dickens's death. The second narrative strand traces Dickens while he is on his book tour of the United States.

Osgood's quest takes him to London and the English countryside as he searches for clues to Dickens's unfinished book. The quest itself is fictional, although I was able to draw from history when it came to the feeling of urgency to discover the true ending to the book and also to draw inspiration from an actual trip to England Osgood made a few years earlier to convince Dickens to let their firm publish his next work.

Historically, Osgood had a brother named Neddie who lived in Paris. Neddie was a classic American bachelor abroad and was a very colorful character. In my early drafts, Neddie meets Osgood and his assistant, Rebecca, in London to help their investigation.

My editor suggested cutting Neddie. He was one of those characters I really got along well with, so to speak, the kind that as a writer you look forward to seeing in any of his scenes. But I had lots of characters roaming around, particularly with the dual-narrative format I had committed to. Neddie, as a helper, was not essential to the plot or to defining Osgood, my protagonist. It was a tough decision, but my editor was right, and I retired Neddie as a character.

Of course, you can't just search your document for all “Neddies” and erase them. It's like pulling a tablecloth from a set table. Things topple over, and you have to make adjustments. I had undertaken a similar challenge removing Ralph Waldo Emerson as a member of the Dante Club in my first novel.

The second example comes from the other narrative strand. While Dickens was touring the United States, he and his staff got stuck in a flood in upstate New York. Nearby was a stranded train filled with livestock that would have perished in the water. Dickens led his staff to rescue them. [EDIT: see Matthew's post about this at Wendy's Musings of a Bookish Kitty.]

At some point in my drafts, we were trimming the Dickens-on-tour narrative in order to keep the right balance in relation to the main thread of the story. The animal rescue scene was one suggested by my editor to cut. This time, I decided against it because I felt it humanized the larger-than-life Dickens in a different way than did any other scene.

I'd say I implement an average of 90 percent of my editor's suggestions. You can feel an editorial change is the right thing to do and still wish it weren't.

The truth is, editing is only one of the many things an editor does. The title is a bit misleading. Editors at publishing houses acquire manuscripts to publish and guide a project through the process of cover design, marketing, and publication. They're less like the editors of movies and more like executive producers. In The Last Dickens, my hero, James Osgood, is actually an editor-publisher. Not that many novels out there with an editor as your hero!

Nothing, however, has to go to waste these days. For each of my novels, I have a section on my website for extras: Lost Chapters for The Dante Club, Secret Chapters for The Poe Shadow, Extra Chapters for The Last Dickens. Though the latter two include original content written for the web, each has scenes cut out in the revision process.

I call these my Revenge on My Editor.


Thank you so much, Matthew, for giving me and my readers some insight into an author's reaction to his editor and the editing process. Now you have me wondering if there are any revenge pages out there with my name on them!

For more Matthew, here are some helpful links: official author website, Facebook page, Matthew on Twitter.

The Last Dickens at Powell's
The Last Dickens at Amazon
These 3 links lead to an affiliate program; if you buy, I get a small percent.

Click for more


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