31 January 2010

Let the BLOB Game Begin!

Ah, Twitter, friend or foe? I haven't figured that out yet.

But one of the most fun and coolest ideas I've been privileged to egg on is the Biggest Loser of Books—otherwise known as the BLOB Game.

Was Amy (My Friend Amy) feeling at a loss because the Game On Diet was ending? Was Dawn (She Is Too Fond of Books) looking for a clever new hashtag (#BLOB)? Was Nicole (Linus's Blanket) feeling the effects of living upstairs from bookstore? Perhaps Jen (Devourer of Books) was thinking about the boxes of books she'll have to move later this year. I think Natasha (Vasilly at 1330v) was feeling sorry for her poor neglected TBR pile. Me? I just needed to get a grip.

Thus Amy proposed the BLOB Game; the rest of us pitched in with the fine tuning

The timing: The month of February.

The object: Read through the books already in your house; don't let new books through the door.

The scoring: The following points are earned for each new book in February.

  • Impulse buy: 10 points
  • Coercing someone into buying you gift / buying book for someone else (not): 10 points
  • Snagging a book on a swap site: 5 points
  • Requesting a review copy (including Shelf Awareness): 5 points
  • Considered buy: 5 points
  • Saying yes to a review copy (pitched): 3 points
  • Checking a book out from the library (any medium): 3 points
  • Winning a giveaway or contest: 3 points
  • Entering a giveaway or contest: 1 point
  • Unsolicited review copy and genuine gift: 0 points
There is only one way to neutralize a book acquisition:
  • Give a book a permanent new home (gift it, donate it, send it packing): -2 points
So what happens at the end of the month? Who wins? What does she get?

Donating to charity: Each point is worth $1. At the end of the month, the player is to add up her points and then donate the equivalent money to the charity/organization of her choice. I will be giving my check (assuming I have accumulated points!) to my local library.

Who wins? She with the lowest score wins!

The prize: The losers pledge to buy the winner a drink or meal or something foodie at BEA. We'll need to give our arms and backs a break from carrying around all those new books. (I see a June BLOB Game in our future.)

Let the BLOB Game begin!

⇒ ⇒ She with the lowest score wins! ⇐ ⇐

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Challenges: Yes, Two More

Yes, I'm joining two more challenges--but they're good ones! Really, really good ones! And one is perpetual and one I already own the books for. See, I kinda haveta join 'em.

The first is the Reagan Arthur Books Challenge, hosted by Kathy (Bermuda Onion) and Julie (Booking Mama). As you know by now, I'm very interested in imprints, editors, and publishers and here is a challenge to help me explore the new imprint of Little, Brown. Three books are currently available but more are coming out soon. Jump on over to the challenge blog to learn all about it and to sign up. This one is perpetual, so no worries.

The second is hosted by Trish From Hey Lady! Whatcha Reading? This one is also a great match for me: it's a Laura Lippman Challenge. How great is that? I've always, always wanted to read Lippman's literary mysteries and now I have no excuse. In fact, I already own the first two novels in her mystery series. I'm going in for Dabbler and committing to the two books I already own. Be sure to click on through to Trish's blog to see the rules and to sign up.

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30 January 2010

Weekend Cooking: 46th Bookworms Carnival of Book Reviews

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.


Welcome to the 46th edition of the Bookworms Carnival of Book Reviews. The theme for this carnival is food books: fiction or nonfiction and of any genre.

I am thrilled with the number and variety of reviews I got. Sit down and get ready to do some exploring. I've given you a teaser from each review; click through to the blog to read the rest.


Shel from The Hungry Readers reviewed Getting the Girl: A Guide to Private Investigation, Surveillance, and Cookery by Susan Juby, a culinary mystery for middle school readers: "Humorous and well written, this mystery reminded me of the works of John Green . . ., but a little younger and a little lighter. The book includes quirky characters, many great lines and some social commentary."

Jennifer from Reading with Tequila reviewed three culinary mysteries by Diane Mott: The Main Corpse ("thrilling, emotional and definitely one of the very best books in the Goldy Culinary Mystery series"), Dying for Chocolate ("The mystery itself kept me guessing until the very end"), and The Cereal Murders ("I did not have any clue who the murderer way. I love when that happens.").

Sandy from You've GOTTA read this! reviewed The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister. a novel: "Her warm, delicate prose is nearly hypnotizing."

Melody from Melody's Reading Corner also reviewed The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister, a novel: "a delight to read, and Erica Bauermeister's writing style is simply beautiful. "

Anna from Diary of an Eccentric also reviewed The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister, a novel: "Bauermeister is a master of words, using simple sentences with descriptions so rich you can actually smell, feel, and taste the food along with whatever emotion the character is feeling."

Kay from My Random Acts of Reading reviewed State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy, a culinary mystery: "a real romp of a mystery or maybe caper is a better word. It is very fast paced and fun."

Joanna from A Worn Path reviewed Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs, a novel of a celebrity chef: "All in all, it's a winning combination of pop culture references, well-rounded characters, and good storytelling."

Melody from Melody's Reading Corner reviewed The Sweet Life of Stella Madison by Lara M. Zeises, a novel: "a fun, entertaining story about family, friendship and food."

Mel from The Reading Life reviewed Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barberry, a novel of a food critic: "My hopes for this work were very high and they were at least met and maybe exceeded."

Stacie from Simply Stacie reviewed Hungry Woman in Paris by Josefina Lopez, a novel about a woman who goes to culinary school: "The author is very descriptive with the details of the cooking school which I found fascinating."

Serena from Savvy Verse & Wit reviewed Deep Dish by Mary Kay Andrews, a novel starring a chef: "[A look] at how one woman can dig deep within herself to find the courage to take a hold of her life and her destiny."

Kristen from BookNAround reviewed The Book of Unholy Mischief by Ellie Newmark, a novel of 15th-century Venice: "I couldn't escape the tug of intrigue and I am so very glad I didn't! I thoroughly enjoyed this lively historical fiction."


Aarti from BookLust reviewed Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, the story of one family's year of eating locally: "It might not change your life, but I guarantee that it will make you pause, and to really think, next time you're in the grocery store."

Rebecca from Lost in Books also reviewed Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barabara Kingsolver, a memoir: "a testament to the importance of making a more sustainable living and of the ability of an ordinary family to make these changes."

Heather from Age 30+ ... A Lifetime of Books reviewed My Life in France by Julia Child, a memoir: "it is a quiet and touching story about a woman with a wonderful appreciation for the world around her and a great sense of humor."

Diana from Rantings of a Bookworm Couch Potato also reviewed My Life in France by Julia Child, a memoir: "it kept me constantly entertained. Definitely a worthwhile and interesting read."

Sandy from You've GOTTA read this! reviewed Larousse Gastronomique by Prosper Montagne: "Larousse would officially be named an encyclopedia/cookbook. To describe it this way, however, is sacrilege."

Luanne from A Bookworm's World reviewed Cleaving by Julie Powell, a memoir: "Powell is brutally honest is describing her penchant for rough sex, over consumption of alcohol and self destructive behaviours."

Amanda from A Bookshelf Monstrosity reviewed Making Toast: A Family Story by Roger Rosenblatt, a memoir: "Rosenblatt is tender in his writing, and although I initially felt his style to be too choppy, I soon fell into the rhythm of his writing."

JoAnn from Lakeside Musing reviewed French Milk by Lucy Knisley, a graphic memoir: "a light, fun look at a Parisian adventure."

JoAnn from Lakeside Musing reviewed Eat This Not That by David Zinczenko with Matt Goulding, a list of the best and the worst: "browse though it at the bookstore while you sip a Tall Starbucks Skinny Vanilla Latte + Protein (Best Coffee Drink in America)."

Rebecca from Lost in Books reviewed Stuffed: An Insider's Look at Who's Really Making America Fat by Hank Cardello and Doug Garr, a look into food advertising: "This book was an all-consuming, intense read that made me want to keep reading quotes right from the book to others."

Kristen from BookNAround reviewed I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Guilia Melucci, a memoir: "It's entertaining and fun, fluffy and delicious. I don't wish Melucci never finds the man of her dreams but I wouldn't mind reading more of her writings."


Swapna from S. Krishna's Books reviewed The Billionaire's Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace, a true story involving a bottle of wine and Thomas Jefferson: "I laughed at the absurdities of rich wine collectors, was surprised at the gall of some of the characters in the book, and was enthralled by the mystery of where this bottle of wine really came from."

Cookbooks / Recipes

Aarti from BookLust reviewed Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets by Deborah Madison: "I love the way the book is organized by season. . . . [I]t allows you to slowly ramp up your cooking, in anticipation of the flood of produce in August and September."

Rachel from Books I Done Read reviewed Julia's Kitchen Wisdom by Julia Child: "Basically what we have here are all these stripped-down recipes, and then infinite variations of 'instead of this, do this,' and suddenly you can cook a thousand things!"

Joanna from A Worn Path reviewed Pat Conroy's Love Affair with Food by Pat Conroy: "rather than simply listing recipe after recipe, Conroy gives us something more. He gives us the story behind the recipe."

Stacie from Simply Stacie reviewed Make-Ahead Meals for Busy Moms by Jane Doiron: "I was pleased to see that there were a number of recipes for main dishes that I could whip up without making a special trip to the grocery store."

Kathy from Bermudaonion's Weblog reviewed The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond: "I think this cookbook would be great for beginning as well as experienced cooks." (review includes a recipe)

Dawn from She Is Too Fond of Books shares her Butternut Squash Soup recipe: Beth Fish has made it, and it is fabulous.

Phew! Hope you find some new books and have a fun weekend reading all these fabulous reviews. (If you find a broken link, please let know and I'll fix it.)

EDIT: It looks like Mr. Linky is having problems. If he has disappeared, leave your link in the comments, I'll add it later.

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29 January 2010

Featuring . . . Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan

This Friday and every Friday for the next couple of months, I will be featuring a book that was published under the Amy Einhorn Books imprint. I am starting with the 2009 books and will spotlight them in alphabetical order.

Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan is a suspense novel that has won some critical acclaim, including starred reviews in Publisher's Weekly and the Library Journal. Here is the publisher's summary:

The man who calls himself David Loogan is leading a quiet, anonymous life in the college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. He's hoping to escape a violent past he would rather forget. But his solitude is broken when he finds himself drawn into a friendship with Tom Kristoll, the publisher of the mystery magazine Gray Streets—and into an affair with Laura, Tom's sleek blond wife. What Loogan doesn't realize is that the stories in Gray Streets tend to follow a simple formula: Plans go wrong. Bad things happen. People die.

Elizabeth Waishkey is a single mother. She's also the most talented detective in the Ann Arbor Police Department. But when Tom Kristoll turns up dead, she doesn't know quite what to make of David Loogan. Is he a killer, or an ally who might help her discover the truth? Loogan suspects his friend's death is part of a much larger puzzle, and he's not going to wait for someone else to put the pieces together.

As Loogan and Elizabeth navigate their way through Kristoll's world, they find no shortage of people with motives for murder, from a young graduate student obsessed with Laura Kristoll to a trio of bestselling writers, all of them with secrets they don't want uncovered. But as the deaths start mounting up—some of them echoing stories published in Gray Streets—Loogan begins to look more and more like the most promising suspect. Soon it becomes clear that only Elizabeth can find the path to solving both the murders and the mystery of Loogan himself.
There are a couple of things that interest me about this novel. First is the setting: I have visited Ann Arbor enough times that I'm sure to get a kick out recognizing landmarks. Furthermore, I live fairly close to another Big Ten campus, so I'll definitely pick up on any university references.

I also discovered that Dolan is a freelance editor, and that makes him a colleague. (Although I have no desire to write a novel.) I'm curious about the structure and style of the book, and I wonder if I'll be able to tell that it was written by professional editor.

Finally, the reviews I've read mention the book's humor, and I think a bit of comic relief can enhance a good mystery. As the Washington Post said: "there's an air of make-believe here, of fun. . . . [Dolan gives] us a witty send-up of the crime genre itself." That caught my attention!

Harry Dolan has a website, where you can find reviews, a biography, and an excerpt.

This book was featured as part of the Amy Einhorn Books Reading Challenge (click to join the fun). For information about the imprint, please read Amy Einhorn's open letter posted here on January 25, 2010.

Bad Things Happen at Powell's
Bad Things Happen at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, 2009
ISBN-13: 9780399155635

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28 January 2010

Thursday Tea: Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (#2)

I'm almost finished listening to Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell. (For a bit more information about the novel see my last tea post.) Poor Molly Gibson, her father has indeed remarried, and the new Mrs. Gibson turns out to be manipulative and selfish. But Molly did gain a loving step-sister—or so she likes to think.

I am thoroughly enjoying life in the small town of Hollingford in the 1830s. Molly is an obedient daughter, caring sister, and true friend, but sometimes she is a little too sweet for her own good. I hope to post a full review in the next 10 days or so.

The Tea. I'm drinking Harney & Son's Nahorhabi GBOP Tea. This is a nice basic tea. It has a good flavor but is not anything special. The company's description is not particularly informative, but here it is: "This is a broken (smaller pieces) Assam from . . . [the] Jayshree Group garden. The small tea flecks have lots of golden tips, making for an intense brew balanced with cooked honey and malt flavors." As always, I drink it black with no sweetener.

The Assessment. Unlike last week's tea, here's one the women of Hollingford would not be afraid to serve. No outlandish name, no radical flavor. I think this would likely be an everyday, family tea rather than one to serve to company.

What are you reading or listening to this week? Anything interesting in your mug or glass?

Wives and Daughters at Powell's
Wives and Daughters at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs.

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

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27 January 2010

Review: The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale

In Agnes Trussel's world of 1750s Sussex, young farm girls who find themselves pregnant bring disgrace to their families and have few choices. They can marry the man, if he's single, or they can live in shame at home, forcing their parents to feed yet another baby. Agnes is determined not to harm her family's reputation or to marry the baby's father. She dreams of a third way out: running away.

While on an errand for her mother, Agnes finds a stash of gold coins. Realizing that this is her only chance, she steals most of them and journeys north to London. She is alone and in unfamiliar circumstances but is befriended along the way by the beautiful Lettice Talbot, who suggests that Agnes go to a particular lodging house in the city, where Agnes will be sure to find work.

Agnes, however, loses the address. As darkness descends on her first day in London, she is cold and scared. Fortunately, she notices a sign for a housekeeper. When Agnes crosses the threshold into Mr. Blacklock's house, she has no clue that she has entered into a world of science, intuition, and secrecy.

The Book of Fires grabs you from the very first paragraph. Jane Borodale does not shrink from describing the harsh realities of eighteenth-century England but neither does she dwell on them. Instead we see the world through Agnes, for whom death and drunkenness and hunger are everyday occurrences. But we also experience Agnes's wonder as she discovers that she has entered into the service of a fireworks maker, a pyrotechnist.

And here is the heart of the book. There is so much to learn about fireworks: grinding the chemicals just so, mixing them in the correct ratios, packing them perfectly so they will explode correctly. You can almost smell the gunpowder and see the bottles lined up on shelves and the mortar and pestles on the workbenches. You can feel the danger of fire or unexpected explosion.

Agnes was a very real character for me. She is fairly naive, but, after all, she grew up on a poor farm and knew nothing of the wider world. Yet she is smart and capable and concentrates on learning her new trade, all the while dreaming of fanciful solutions to her unwanted pregnancy. Blacklock is more of a mystery to both us and to Agnes, and his secrets are revealed slowly.

I'd like share a couple of quotations, so you can get a sense of Borodale's writing style. Blacklock, just after he has met Agnes:

"The world is awash with claims for knowledge." He smiles grimly. "Knowledge is like time: it forges a way forward but must look back over its shoulder to remember where it has come from. The only certain way to forge new understanding is to carry out investigations for oneself." (p. 73)
Agnes discussing colors with Blacklock:
"Well . . . what about a green fire, sir? As green and poisonous as the feathered woodpecker in the pear tree at home, the unearthly bigness of its head tipping and battering at the bark for grubs. Or as green as soap made with Barbary wax, or early gooseberries with the June sun going through them. I'd want to see yellow! Scarlet, sir!" (p. 212)
My only complaint about the novel is that I think it begs for an epilogue. On the other hand, perhaps we'll be lucky enough to get a sequel.

Jane Borodale has a website that includes a biography and an interesting book trailer/interview video.

The Book of Fire at Powell's
The Book of Fire at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, 2010
ISBN-13: 9780670021062
Challenges: New Author, Historical Fiction, Global, 100+, 2010
YTD: 9
Source: Review copy (see review policy)
Rating: B+

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Wordless Wednesday 63

Canal across from Vermeer's House (Delft)

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26 January 2010

Today's Read: The Life of Glass by Jillian Cantor

My father collected odd facts. The night he died, I sneaked out of my room and rode my bike in the Arizona desert with my best friend, Ryan. We liked to look for things in the dried-up wash, and that night he found a piece of rainbow glass and gave it to me. When I got home, I showed it to my dad, who told me that it takes glass a million years to decay. Now I've started high school, and my sister doesn't want anything to do with me, Ryan is paying attention to the new girl, and my mom has started to date. I study my father's journals every day, looking for an anchor.

—For more Where Are You? answers, visit Raidergirl3 at An Adventure in Reading. (Text by me, based on today's read.)

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.

It was crazy the way I could break this glass, shatter it so quickly with just one false move, but I could not kill it, not really, not for a million years. Whereas it was so hard for people to break, but we could get sick or die in what seemed like a matter of seconds. (p. 33)
—From The Life of Glass by Jillian Cantor (Source: Review copy, see review policy)

The Life of Glass at Powell's
The Life of Glass at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs.

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25 January 2010

Guest Post: A Letter from Amy Einhorn

When you add a book to your wish list or bookshelf, do you ever think about the editor or imprint? Some readers do, and that was the inspiration for the Amy Einhorn Books Perpetual Challenge (click for information and to join).

Some avid readers may not realize that imprints are created to showcase a particular type of book, genre, or viewpoint. An underlying philosophy or mission statement guides the editor as she decides which manuscripts will be printed under her name or logo.

One of the characteristics about Amy Einhorn Books (AEB) that intrigues me is that it is an eclectic collection of fiction and nonfiction, light-hearted and serious.

I am absolutely thrilled to post an open letter from Amy Einhorn in which she talks about some of her goals for the AEB imprint and what kinds of manuscripts get her attention.

A Letter from Amy Einhorn

Dear reader/bloggers:

I am incredibly flattered and honored that you’ve chosen Amy Einhorn Books as your challenge.

I started Amy Einhorn Books with the goal of hitting that sweet-spot between literary and commercial. Over my 20+ year publishing career, I’ve worked in very literary houses and very commercial houses—but what I found is that I enjoy a mix of both—smart, intelligent writing coupled with a page-turning story. And I think many others find this to be true as well. My first book I published at my new imprint was The Help by Kathryn Stockett and to me this epitomizes what I am aiming to do at AEB.

In terms of the types of books I publish, or how I pick what I publish, well I’m afraid it’s all rather unscientific. When I started the imprint, I realized that if I was going to put my name on these books, they had to be ones I loved. Basically, if a book speaks to me and I find myself responding to it, I follow that gut feeling and hope it will speak to others as well. As you’ll see from my the books I’m publishing, this means my list is rather broad in range—from literary/commercial women’s fiction (The Postmistress) to quirky (The House of Tomorrow—a fan of this said “this book is for anyone who loved the movie Juno,” and I think that’s a great description) to memoir/narrative nonfiction (This Is Not the Story You Think It Is by Laura Munson). What I like to think unites all of these books is that they are smart, not in a pretentious esoteric way but rather that they are all intelligent and well done.

I’ll be very curious to hear what you think of the list. This is a wonderful opportunity for me to hear from real readers so I’ll anxiously be awaiting your feedback!

With best wishes,
Amy Einhorn

Thank you so much, Amy, for telling us a bit about the imprint that bears your name. From my own experience and from the reviews I've read, you are batting 1.000.

This is the first in what I hope will be a series of guest posts and interviews from the authors of Amy Einhorn Books. These posts will appear here and on the blogs of the other participants in the challenge.

For a full list of AEB books and to join the challenge visit the announcement post or click on the "AE Challenge" tab at the top of this page.

Have you read any Amy Einhorn books? Do you ever think about the imprint? If so, do you have a favorite? Have you ever thought about reading through an imprint?

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24 January 2010

Review: Fables 2--Animal Farm by Bill Willingham

Fables 2: Animal Farm by Bill Willingham continues the story of how the fairy tale, nursery rhyme, and folk tale creatures have been adapting to life in the mundane world. (For a bit of background, see my review of Fables 1.)

Volume 2 takes us from the city to the special farm in upstate New York where the nonhuman creatures live. They are sick of having their movements restricted and have taken up arms to reclaim their traditional homelands. Their rebellion is discovered by Snow White, who must find a way to stop it.

As with the first volume, the dialogue is sprinkled with quick one-liners, a bit of sarcasm, and some adult humor. Look carefully at the drawings so you don't miss the art humor (is that a literary term?). Here are two pages: one showing Snow White and Reynard the Fox; the other is of the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. Enjoy!

I'm slowly collecting the remaining volumes in the Fables series: Thanks to many people over at the Graphic Novel Challenge blog and on Twitter for letting me know about Willingham's work.

Animal Farm at Powell's
Animal Farm at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by DC Comics, 2003
ISBN-13: 9781401200770
Challenges: 100+, 2010, Graphic Novels, Buy and Read
YTD: 8
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: B+

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23 January 2010

Weekend Cooking: Two Movies, One Script

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.


Today I want to introduce you to two movies: Eat Drink Man Woman (1994; Ang Lee, director) and Tortilla Soup (2001; Maria Ripoll, director). They are essentially the same story of a widowed man and his three grown daughters. I believe they are based on the same screenplay.

The father is a professional chef and an excellent cook. Every Sunday, he spends hours and hours creating a special meal for his daughters, who are expected to be at the table, no matter what. He is protective of them and wants them to live at home always.

The young women, on the other hand, have secret boyfriends and dreams of being on their own. The eldest is fairly conservative, the middle one is an up and comer, and the youngest is fairly liberal. The sisters get along okay, but they squabble as most siblings do.

The movies are fun and the shots of the food are amazing. Tortilla Soup is in English and takes place in southern California. Eat Drink Man Woman is subtitled and takes place in Taiwan. Light viewing and worth the rental.

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22 January 2010

Review: The Kingdom of Ohio by Matthew Flaming

As an old man looks through a recent shipment of magazines for his Los Angeles antiques store, he spots a 1900 newspaper clipping with a photo of two men and a woman in New York City. The man is compelled to tell the story of how those people—Peter Force, Cheri-Anne Toledo, and Nicola Tesla—more than a hundred years ago, found themselves together on that particular day and what happened later. The telling involves several changes in point of view, at least three time periods, a trip across the country, and the crossing of class and educational boundaries.

So what is Matthew Flaming's The Kingdom of Ohio all about? It's about technology and invention and the people who control them. It's about the underlying forces of the universe. It's about love. And, finally, it's about the nature of time.

Overall, the novel works on many levels, especially when focusing on the life of Peter Force and how he ended up working on machinery for the construction of the New York City subway system. The rise and fall of the Kingdom of Ohio and Flaming's take on Tesla, Edison, and Morgan (reminiscent of the novel Ragtime) were imaginative and interesting.

The changing points of view and time frames smoothly interlocked. The reader is never confused, although once in while a change was unexpected or startling. Parts of Peter Force's ultimate fate were easy to figure out, as intended. On the other hand, the very end—which made me chuckle—was a surprise, but I was kicking myself for not seeing it earlier.

What didn't work as well were the love story and some of Cheri-Anne's experiences in New York. It wasn't really clear why Peter would fall for her and be so completely drawn into her world. And, in fact, Cheri-Anne was sometimes less solid than the more minor characters. This was probably a conscious decision, but I'm not sure it was a completely successful device.

Flaming has written an impressive debut novel that is difficult to put down. You'll be drawn to both Peter Force and the old man. You'll find it easy to envision the frontier west and the working man's world of the city. It is a fun read that shouldn't be missed, especially by those who like a little bit of fantasy or alternate history.

See also my feature post of The Kingdom of Ohio.

The Kingdom of Ohio at Powell's
The Kingdom of Ohio at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Putnam/Amy Einhorn, 2009
ISBN-13: 9780399155604
Challenges: New Author, What's in a Name, Global, Amy Einhorn, 100+
YTD: 7
Source: Review copy (see review policy)

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21 January 2010

Thursday Tea: Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

I'm about seven hours into the unabridged audio of Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell. The story centers around Molly Gibson and her growth from naive teenager to mature young woman. In the 1830s, Hollingford's gossip mongers have plenty to occupy their minds when the widowed Dr. Gibson decides to remarry, and Molly gains not only a stepmother but a beautiful sister.

Wives and Daughters was Gaskell's last novel, and it was originally printed in serial form. Unfortunately, she died before the last chapter was completed. According to the book's introduction, she left enough notes on how she intended to conclude the novel that final episode could be published.

The Tea. I'm drinking Harney & Son's Lover's Leap Tea. Here's the description: "Lover's Leap is made at one of the prettiest gardens in the world. High in central Sri Lanka, is the old tea town of Nuwara Eliya. Here the teas are light, with hints of lemon in the cup." I may have let the leaves steep too long, but I found this black tea to be unpleasantly bitter, so I'm glad I got just a small sample of it.

The Assessment. The ladies of Hollingford are absolutely drinking tea, but I don't think they'd approve of anything called Lover's Leap. They have different teas for every day and for company, but I'm sure those teas all have sensible names.

What are you reading or listening to this week? Anything interesting in your mug or glass?

Wives and Daughters at Powell's
Wives and Daughters at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs.

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

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20 January 2010

Wordless Wednesday 62

Blue Glass with Candles

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Review: Genesis by Bernard Beckett

Genesis by Bernard Beckett is the story of Anaximander, pupil of Pericles and student of history. Anax is about to take her oral examination for entry into the Academy, which is the ruling body of the island nation she lives in. This is the moment she's trained for, and she's as ready as she can be.

Anax's specialty is the history of her country in the mid-twenty-first century, in particular the acts and arrest of Adam Forde (2058–2077). Adam was stationed in the island's watchtowers, making sure no outsider breached the Great Sea Fence, the Republic's protection against plague-ridden immigrants. Owing to an act of rebellion that had the potential to endanger the entire community, Adam was imprisoned with only Art, a highly developed android, for company. Through Anax's entrance exam, we learn not only the fate of our own society but the transformation of Adam from criminal to folk hero.

It is difficult to convey the amount of material that Beckett manages to pack into 160 pages. The philosophical debate centers around what it means to be human, the divide between robot and humankind, whether it is possible to create true artificial intelligence, the implications of DNA testing, and the notion of free will. The dialogue is dense but easily understood, and the plot has enough action that the book never drags.

Unfortunately, I have no way of discussing this book without ruining the entire experience. Just take my word for it, this is a book worth reading and worth owning, so you can reread it—maybe even moments after you finish the first time.

Genesis is unique in the dystopian genre. Read this description from the Last Blog in the Universe and read Amy's (My Friend Amy) thoughts on why she likes dystopian novels. Then ask yourself where Genesis fits in and track me down for a spoiler-free discussion.

I listened to the unabridged audio read by Becky Wright. She did a great job conveying the appropriate emotions and voices without detracting from the narrative. Wright is a new to me narrator, but I wouldn't hesitate to listen to her again.

Bernard Beckett does not have a website, but you can read about him at the New Zealand Book Council site.

Genesis at Powell's
Genesis at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009
Unabridged audio published by Brilliance Audio, 2009
ISBN-13: 9780547225494
Challenges: Young Adult, Support Your Library, New Authors, 2010, Global, Audiobooks, 100+
YTD: 6
Source: Borrowed (see review policy)
Rating: B+

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19 January 2010

Today's Read: Need by Carrie Jones

My first morning in Maine, I have didaskaleinophobia. Huh, you don't know the word? Fear of going to school. I know the names of all the phobias. It helps me feel in control. Like the string I wear around my finger to help me remember my step-dad . . . who died . . . back in Charleston . . . where my mom is. Betty, my grandmother—okay, step-grandmother—is letting me stay with her. She's cool though; she's even an EMT. But something is odd about this town, and I'm not talking about the ugly work boots the guys wear. I found some huge paw prints in the snow near my car, along with some gold glittery stuff. What's up with that?

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.

The howling wakes me up in the middle of the night.
It is a long noise, full of grief.
I shudder and sit up in bed.
Something outside howls again. It's not too far away.
Coyotes? (p. 16)
—From Need by Carrie Jones (Source: Bought, see review policy)

Need at Powell's
Need at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs.

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18 January 2010

Readalong 2: The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

As you know, I'm rereading The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien as part of the Lord of the Rings Readalong. Eva from A Striped Arm Chair is the host for The Hobbit and has posed the second batch of discussion questions for January. (I posted my answers to first Readalong questions last week.)

Let's get on to the questions.

1. Where are you in the story? So far, has the book lived up to your expectations (for first-timers)/memories (for rereaders)? What’s surprising or familiar?

Beth Fish Reads (BFR): I finished the audio last week. One thing that surprised me (and this was mentioned on Twitter over the weekend) was how little time we spend in Rivendell. I remembered more elves! I think that's because we hear of Bilbo's love of the elves in The Hobbit and in The Lord of the Rings. The other thing I didn't remember was how early on in the book Bilbo discovers the ring and that he ended up telling the dwarves all about it.
2. Have you been bogged down anywhere in the book?
BFR: There were no slow spots for me, this time or in the past.
3. Let’s talk about the songs . . . are you skipping over them to get back to the prose? Why or why not?
BFR: Yes, I admit it. I generally skim the songs and poems (I don't skip them altogether). One of the joys of the unabridged audio production is that the songs are actually sung, and thus I listened. They contain some good stuff—some are fun, but other songs contain information that I have clearly missed over the years.
4. What do you think of the narrator’s voice?
BFR: I like the narrator of The Hobbit. I enjoyed the blend of humor, chastising, and admiration that one senses for different characters at different moments. These attitudes are particularly evident in the audio.
5. Does your edition have illustrations or maps? Have you been ignoring them or referring back to them?
BFR: My print edition of The Hobbit has maps, black ink drawings, and color illustrations. I do look at them and refer back to them. Like Bilbo, I love maps!
6. Now it’s time to play favourites! Who’s your favourite main character? Who’s your favourite minor character (i.e.: villains, random helpers, etc.)? What’s your favourite scene? Do you have a favourite quote to share?
BFR: I'm going to take Bilbo and Gandalf out of the running for favorites! Of the dwarves, I like Bombur and the comic relief his character provides. Of the minor good guys, I like Beorn and his gentle life in the woods. In fact, I love the scene when Gandalf and Bilbo visit with Beorn and the wizard begins to tell his tale, all the while being interrupted by both Beorn and the dwarves.
Some of the enduring lines in The Hobbit are the following. I think of them often as I cross the threshold and start out on a walk:
Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wondering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Don't miss what other readers have to say about their current experience with The Hobbit.

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17 January 2010

Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Just in case you don't know, Catching Fire is the second in Suzanne Collin's Hunger Games Trilogy. If you haven't read The Hunger Games (click for my review), then skip to below the asterisks.

After they defied the spirit of the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark have returned home to live in their district's Victor's Village. Peeta seems to adjust fairly well, but Katniss misses her freedom and the hours she used to spend in the woods with her true love, Gale Hawthorne.

In the months since the seventy-fourth games ended, Katniss has learned three important lessons: (1) winning the games doesn't bring happiness and independence, (2) life in the districts is not what it is reported to be, and (3) the Capitol expects her to marry Peeta. She is not surprised about the first, doesn't quite know what to do about the second, and is hoping she can get out of the third.

Before Katniss can formulate all her options, President Snow finds a way to take control, leaving her stunned and helpless. Can Katniss find solutions that will not have unthinkable consequences for the people she loves?

* * * * *
After I finished The Hunger Games, I couldn't wait to get started on Catching Fire. Collins's second in the series did not disappoint in terms of action, plot, and character development. It was easy to reenter Katniss's world and to empathize with her as she took on the responsibilities for her family, friends, and community. We were drawn into the dilemmas of her heart and mind and rooted for the choices we would have made. We hoped for her safety and that of her family.

On the other hand, Catching Fire lacked the suspense of the first novel. Once the Capitol's plans were revealed, we began to suspect the outcome. That is not to say that the ending was predictable in its details but that we had a sense of how it must end, especially knowing that a third book will follow.

My hope is that the next book is the last one, so that we can begin reading with the notion that the story line is fairly open-ended. And in case you're wondering, I'll proudly announce my loyalties (thanks to Michelle from Galley Smith for the badge).

I both read the print version and listened to the unabridged audio edition (Scholastic Audio). The audiobook was narrated by Carolyn McCormick. McCormick kept me fully engaged in the story and on the edge of my seat during the action scenes. Recommended for first-time reads or rereads.

Catching Fire has won numerous honors, including best young adult book of 2009 from Kirkus Reviews, Publisher's Weekly, and The Los Angeles Times. For the full list of honors and to learn more about Suzanne Collins, visit the author's website.

Catching Fire at Powell's
Catching Fire at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Scholastic, 2009
ISBN-13: 9780439023498
Challenges: 2010, 100+, Young Adult
Source: Bought (see review policy)
YTD: 5
Rating: B+

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16 January 2010

Weekend Cooking: Chocolate by Max Brenner

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.


Chocolate: A Love Story by Max Brenner (of Chocolate by the Bald Man) is a collection of recipes from Brenner's restaurants.

Every one of the 66 recipes contain chocolate. Most are desserts, but there are also some breakfast dishes and a few beverages. The vast majority of the ingredients should be easy to find for almost everyone, but a few call for specific types of chocolate or Greek yogurt or a particular liqueur.

The directions are clear and easy to follow, but most dishes are not quick to put together. Desserts run the range from banana splits and chocolate meringues to souffles and yeasted waffles.

There is no index, but each recipe is listed in the table of contents.

One of the joys of Chocolate is the incredible art by Yonatan Factor. Each recipe is accompanied by a full-page poster-like graphic. I love Factor's work!

Unfortunately, I can't say that I'm moved to make any of the recipes in this book. I'm not a huge chocolate fan (I almost always choose a fruit-based dessert or creme brulee), so that might be part of the problem. In addition, I have never been to one of Brenner's restaurants; fans of the Bald Man will probably be thrilled to make his treats at home. Finally, as much as I love the art, I would have preferred to see some of the chocolate creations in a clear photograph.

This might make a wonderful gift for the true chocolate lover in your life, but I'm more inclined to track down other examples of Factor's art.

Chocolate at Powell's
Chocolate at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Little, Brown, 2009
ISBN-13: 9780316056625
Challenges: 100+
Source: Contest win (see review policy)
YTD: 4
Rating: C

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15 January 2010

451 Challenge: Wrap Up

Yeah, you read that title right. I've finished my first challenge for 2010. I committed to the Spark level for the 451 Challenge hosted by Elizabeth from As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves.

I finished my one book: The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. Because I'm in the LOTR Readalong, I am participating in the discussion memes rather than writing a formal review.

Gotta love these one-book challenges! Thanks to Elizabeth for hosting this one.

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14 January 2010

Thursday Tea: Genesis by Bernard Beckett

I just started listening to Genesis by Bernard Beckett, a short dystopian novel.

Anax hopes to be admitted into the Academy, the governing body of her island society. The book opens as she begins her admittance examination, a full day of questions posed by a committee of three officials. Anax's specialty is history and, in particular, the story of Adam Forde, a rebel who lived in the mid-twenty-first century. Through her words, we learn of the plagues and wars that led to the unraveling of our own world.

I am not far enough long to know whether she is admitted into the Academy or to have a clear idea of might happen.

The Tea. I'm drinking Harney & Son's Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea. Oh.My.God. This tea is fabulous. If you are a cinnamon fan or like red-hot cinnamon candies, you will love it. Here's the company's description: "medium-bodied black tea . . . naturally sweetened to perfection by a blend of cinnamons, orange, and sweet cloves. The remarkably assertive tea effuses a hot spicy aroma and sets off miniature fireworks on the tongue that'll have you exclaim WOW!" This tea may become a staple in my house.

The Assessment. I don't have a full picture of Anax's life, but I bet there isn't much tea drinking going on in her postapocalyptic world. If anyone is drinking tea, he or she is unlikely to be sipping something this yummy.

Are you reading anything good this week? Have you discovered anything new to pour into your mug or glass?

Genesis at Powell's
Genesis at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs.

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

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13 January 2010

Wordless Wednesday 61

Through the Barn Window

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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Amy Einhorn Books Perpetual Challenge

Welcome to the Amy Einhorn Books Perpetual Challenge.

Have you read The Help by Kathryn Stockett? How about Jim Beaver's Life's That Way or Frahad Zama's The Marriage Bureau for Rich People? These books earned four- and five-star reviews from many sources, including book bloggers.

The other thing these books have in common is that they were published under the Putnam imprint Amy Einhorn Books. And that's what this perpetual challenge is all about: reading through the imprint.

The Amy Einhorn Books challenge was born on Twitter (where all evil occurs) and was inspired by (in no particular order) Swapna from S. Krishna's Books, Trish from Hey Lady! Whatcha Reading?, Jenn from Jenn's Bookshelves, Jen from Devourer of Books, Amy from My Friend Amy, Dawn from She Is Too Fond of Books, Nicole from Linus's Blanket, and several other enthusiastic bloggers.

Currently, there are sixteen Amy Einhorn titles (covers shown in the fabulous button made by Jenn):

Published in 2009

  • Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • I'm Sorry You Feel That Way: The Astonishing but True Story of a Daughter, Sister, Slut, Wife, Mother, and Friend to Man and Dog by Diana Joseph
  • The Kingdom of Ohio by Matthew Flaming
  • Life's That Way: A Memoir by Jim Beaver
  • The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama
  • Remedies by Kate Ledger
  • Ten Degrees of Reckoning: The True Story of a Family's Love and the Will to Survive by Hester Rumberg
Published in 2010
  • The Book of Awesome: Snow Days, Bakery Air, Finding Money in Your Pocket, and Other Simple, Brilliant Things by Neil Pasricha
  • The Gendarme by Mark Mustian
  • The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni
  • The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees
  • My Wife's Affair by Nancy Woodruff
  • The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
  • This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness by Laura Munson
  • Where's My Wand?: One Boy's Magical Triumph over Alienation and Shag Carpeting by Eric Poole
The Challenge
  • Sign up via Mr. Linky here. You do not need to have a blog to join. If you don't have a blog, use the URL to this post in the URL box.
  • Read through the Amy Einhorn Books imprint in any order you'd like.
  • Read the books in any medium (print, eBook, audio).
  • Pages for linking your reviews will be found via the AE Challenge tab under my banner photo. There are two pages, one for 2009 books and one for 2010 books. Be sure to link up your reviews of the books you've already read.
  • The Twitter hashtag is #amyeinhorn.
  • There are no time limits.
  • EDIT: There is no need to publish a sign-up post, but I hope you mention the challenge when you read an AE book or perhaps in a Sunday Salon post.
I hope you decide to join this no-pressure challenge. Use the link pages to find out who else has read the book you just finished. Need to discuss a particular issue? Can't understand what the hype was about? Use the link pages as a gateway for finding other readers and other opinions.

FTC: I have no vested interest in Amy Einhorn Books (see also my review policy).

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