30 November 2010

Spotlight On . . . Carol Larese Millward

Welcome to the Literary Road Trip and my Spotlight On . . . Carol Larese Millward. Even though we live in an age when premarital sex is common and perhaps assumed, teen pregnancy is an issue that is as life-changing as it has always been. Carol's novel Star in the Middle addresses teen pregnancy from both the young mother's and the teen father's points of view.

Although Carol now lives across the border in Maryland, she is definitely a Pennsylvania author. Both she and her husband were born and raised here, and they have deep ties to the state. Carol became interested in teen parents when she began working with them as part of her job. Take a moment to get acquainted with Carol.

Pennsylvania: Back Again One Day

I grew up in Pennsylvania, and my husband and I now own a house along the Juniata River. We plan to escape there often after he retires, to visit with family in the area and in Cambria County.

I like to believe that my desire to write came to me, at least in part, from living on an old country road with violets and Johnny jump-ups growing along a tiny stream bank in the spring and beautiful foliage exploding everywhere in the fall. I remember brilliant shades of green in the summer, and layers and layers of crusted white snow in the winter—and that moon! Okay, I know it’s the same moon that rises over my current home in Maryland, but memories of my childhood Pennsylvania moon are larger than life—as is the whistle that summoned my father to his job deep in the coal mines with other Pennsylvania miners. (A story about my father entitled "Whistle Prayers" has appeared in Pennsylvania Magazine, as well as several other publications, and can be found on my website.)

I’ve always been a writer, but truthfully, writing a novel about teen parents was never on my radar. I literally got talked into working with pregnant teens and teen parents at one of Maryland’s family centers, testing and tutoring them as they prepared to take GED classes. Although I felt ill-prepared to work with young adults, after having worked with preschoolers for many years, I soon found that I loved working with young families. I started incorporating parenting topics into their writing assignments and talking them through their voiced concerns and challenges as they learned to parent their babies. I was then asked to teach parenting classes and trained in two parenting curricula.

Star in the Middle started as a character sketch that I wrote for a writing class. That assignment helped me to focus on the difficulties teen mothers face as they attempted to complete their educations and raise their babies, often without the support of their babies’ fathers. The assignment got tucked away, but every time I found myself concerned about rising teen pregnancy statistics, I vowed to write a novel about the difficulties pregnant teens and teen mothers face.

When I finally sat down to write Star in the Middle, I felt like I knew the characters personally. Their voices were in my head, and it was their voices that told their stories. Star, the teen mother, had a very strong voice, but Wilson, the teen father, wanted his voice heard as well. Although I never intended to write a novel in dual voices, I soon found that his was a voice that could not be ignored. In retrospect, I see that this was the novel I intended to write all along, and even though Baby Wil was not old enough to talk at novel’s end—I felt he had a voice as well.

Star in the Middle is a story about a girl who has a secret. Star’s secret, in fact, has been identified as a factor in putting girls at a higher risk of becoming teen mothers. It’s also a story about a boy who is privileged and who is forced to face some facts about himself and the mother of his baby—a baby that he denies is his, even to himself.

I hope that readers will find the suspense in Star in the Middle exciting, the characters both likable and engaging, and their stories compelling. I also hope the novel will demonstrate the importance of young adults protecting themselves against unplanned pregnancies and STDs.

Thank you so much, Carol. There are couple of things about your novel and your guest post that interest me. First, teen pregnancy continues to be an issue, even in this day of easy access to reproductive information and birth control. I think many people tend to forget that. Second, I am sure your personal experience of working with young parents has brought an authenticity to Star in the Middle. Finally, I love that you have included the father's voice. So many teen pregnancy books and movies leave the young father's issues out of the story.

Oh and I just love the photos Carol shared of the Pennsylvania countryside. I'm glad she's kept her Pennsylvania roots close to her heart.

Star in the Middle at Powell's
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Carol Larese Millward is a writer who for several years was a family advocate and parent educator working with teen parents through Family Support and Education Centers. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and when she isn’t writing, Carol enjoys spending time with her two children and their families, which include six grandchildren. She lives in Maryland with her husband of 40 years and their two cats. Star in the Middle is her debut novel.

To learn more about Carol, to read her short story, and to see the book trailer, visit her website.

Thanks to Jenn of Jenn's Bookshelves for hosting this fabulous project. For more Literary Road Trip posts from around the world, visit the LRT page.

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29 November 2010

Thankfully Reading Weekend: Winner of Mini-Challenge #2

The winner of the Show me the Books mini-challenge from Thankfully Reading Weekend is . . .

Congratulations. Thanks to everyone who shared a photo or a video. I loved looking at all those books.

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Review: Tall Tales by Jeff Smith

I loved the nine graphic novels that made up the Bone series by Jeff Smith, so when I saw there was another Bone book, I knew I had to read it.

Tall Tales by Jeff Smith with Tom Sniegoski consists of four stories told by Smiley Bone to four young Bone Scouts (well three Bones and Bartleby, the rat creature) whom he has taken on a camping trip.

One story is a previously untold episode that takes places within the time line of the original Bone series and involves Smiley's cousins Fone Bone and Phoney Bone. The other tales introduce us to "the roughest, toughest Bone that ever lived": Big Johnson Bone, the founder of Boneville.

The humor is what you'd expect from Smith: a mix that ranges from innuendo to sarcasm to slapstick to laugh-out-loud funny. I loved the tales about Big Johnson--a Bone version of a Davy Crockett type of folk hero--and hope we get to see more of him in the future.

The artwork is terrific. Smith conveys quite a lot with a simple facial expression and body posture. He provides enough detail to set the scene without stifling the reader's imagination. The following scan is from one of the Big Johnson tales (click to enlarge):

To learn all about Jeff Smith and the Bones, visit his website Boneville.

Tall Tales at Powell's
Tall Tales at Book Depository
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Published by Scholastic / Graphix, 2010
ISBN-13: 9780545140966
YTD: 105
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: B+

Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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28 November 2010

Holiday Gift Giving . . . Finny style (via Justin Kramon)

Justin Kramon, author of Finny, has been featured on Beth Fish Reads as a Pennsylvania author. He is also one of the nicest people -- I know because I was lucky enough to meet him in New York at last year's BookExpo America (BEA) and then again in Baltimore at the Baltimore Book Festival.

Anyway, I wanted to let you Finny fans and you who have not yet read the book about this great gift idea.

Justin and The Open Book (an independent bookstore in Long Island) are making it possible for you to purchase signed and personalized and gift-wrapped copies of Finny (Random House 2010) for only $17.

The price includes wrapping and shipping. The novel will be signed and personalized to whomever is receiving the gift, gift-wrapped, and then shipped anywhere in the continental U.S. The book will be guaranteed to arrive before December 25.

This is a double gift because $1 from every purchase will be donated to feedingamerica.org, an accredited charity that feeds hungry children across the United States.

For complete information about this great opportunity, visit Justin's website and be sure to place your order by December 7, to guarantee arrival before Christmas.

Bonus: if you go to the bookstore's website and click on "staff picks," you'll learn a little-known fact about Justin.

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27 November 2010

Thankfully Reading Weekend: Mini-Challenge #2

Welcome to day 2 of Thankfully Reading Weekend, hosted by Jenn (of Jenn's Bookshelves), me, and Jen (of Devourer of Books).

I am hoping to spend the great bulk of today reading because I wasn't very successful yesterday.

Today's mini-challenge is to share a photograph of your TBR pile or at least one bookshelf. I know some of you already posted some photos of the books you hope to read this weekend, but I'd like to see more books. You can show older books, your kids' books, or new books. You can show a boring old bookcase (like I did) or you can photograph something fun. If you want, feel free to vlog. Either way, Show Me the Books!

The bookcase I photographed is double-shelved and contains a mix of old and new books. Click to enlarge if you want to read the titles.

If you have signed up for the weekend and link up your photograph or video to the Mr. Linky at the bottom of this post, then you'll be in the running to win one book. I'll ship internationally, so don't be shy. What book will you win? I'm not quite sure yet, but I promise it will be something good and relatively new.

I'll use a random number generator to pick one winner on Monday morning (USA). That means you have the whole weekend to photograph or videotape your books.

Oh and be sure to check in at Jenn's (Jenn's Bookshelves) to see what everyone has been reading and writing.

Have fun and get in some good reading.

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Weekend Cooking: Culinary Classics & Improvisations by Michael Field

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share from the past week: 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.


One of my all-time favorite cookbooks is Michael Field's Culinary Classics & Improvisations. The premise of the book is simple: One night you make a classic dish, such as a roast beef, leg of lamb, ham, or turkey, and then the following night you make a dish that uses the leftovers.

There are meat chapters, a fish and shellfish chapter, and a chapter on stuffed vegetables. These days, I don't make big roasts very often, but when I do, I almost always turn to this book. Thanksgiving is no exception. I rely on several recipes in the chicken and turkey sections for my Saturday night dinner after Thanksgiving. By Sunday, I'm usually making soup (our favorite is turkey and split pea soup).

All the recipes in Culinary Classics that I've tried work and taste heavenly. The directions are written in a clear and chatty matter, which makes the book a breeze to use. Although some dishes call for cream and generous amounts of butter, I have had no trouble substituting more healthful ingredients. On the other hand, what's one more indulgent meal on a holiday weekend?

I'm not sure how available this book is anymore, but if you ever see it around, be sure to buy yourself a copy.

Here's what we're having for dinner tonight. I've noted in parentheses some of the substitutions I usually make.

Capilotade of Turkey in the French Style

Serves 4
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots or scallions
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (I use sage vinegar)
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded and finely chopped (I use canned diced tomatoes)
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup turkey or chicken stock (I've used unthickened gravy)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (I usually leave this out)
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons leftover turkey gravy (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 4-8 large pieces of roast turkey: thigh, wing, thick slices of breast
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
To make the sauce, lightly and slowly brown the onions, shallots, and garlic in 2 tablespoons of the butter. Then pour the vinegar into the saute pan, raise the heat and, stirring almost constantly, boil the vinegar completely away. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir in the stock. Bring this all to a boil and immediate reduce the heat to barely simmering. Add the sugar and bay leaf and season quite highly with salt and pepper. Cook the sauce slowly, uncovered for about 20 minutes; it should be quite thick when its done. If it isn't, cook it a while longer. Stir in the turkey gravy--thickened or not--if you have it, and add the capers.

Although the turkey pieces may now be immersed in this sauce, heated through (without boiling), and served simply with a sprinkling of chopped parsley, the dish will have more character if it is treated in the following fashion. Preheat the broiler, then add the turkey to the simmering sauce and baste it for about 10 minutes to heat it through. Take care not to let the sauce boil or the turkey may toughen. Now transfer the hot turkey to a small shallow baking dish, spread the sauce over it, and sprinkle heavily with the bread crumbs. Dot with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and brown quickly under the broiler. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve.

Published by Ecco Press, 1983
ISBN-13: 9780880010153

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26 November 2010

Thankfully Reading Weekend: Mini-Challenge #1

Jenn from Jenn's Bookshelves is hosting the first mini-challenge of the Thankfully Reading Weekend.

She asks us to

write a post about the book you are most thankful for. This could be a book released this year or twenty years ago. Your post should include why you are thankful for that book.

Here's one of many books I'm thankful for: Mrs. Mike by Benedict Freedman. It was first published in the 1940s, and I read it in the early 1960s when I was in third or fourth grade. I have never reread the book, but I still remember the story of the young Irish-American who married a Canadian Mounty and how they had to travel by sled and canoe to his posting in the wilderness.

The novel is based on the true story of Katherine Mary O'Fallon, and I remember admiring her spunk and determination as she ventured into the cold north with her new husband.

As I was tracking down a cover shot for the book and getting some publishing information this afternoon, I was amused to see that it is described as a romance and a love story. Frankly I don't have any recollection of that part. What I recall is the journey, the interactions between the cultures, and the fact that Mike, her husband, was all things Western to the Native Americans in his territory.

I also discovered that there were other Mrs. Mike books. Who knew? Maybe I'll reread the original and give the others a try.

Why am I grateful for this book? How many books are there that remain in your head for more than 40 years? I credit this book--as well as several others I read around the same time--with starting me on the road to historic fiction, adventure stories, and books with strong female characters.

Mrs. Mike at Powell's
Mrs. Mike at Book Depository
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Published by Berkley Publishing Group, 2002
ISBN-13: 9780425183236

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Thankfully Reading Weekend: Getting Started

The first round of turkey and pie is over and now it's time to settle in for a long reading weekend. No fighting crowds at the stores for me; instead, I intend to read and perhaps take a few walks (with an audiobook) and maybe make some lace.

So what's up in terms of reading plans for Thankfully Reading Weekend? I'm not sure. I haven't made a list, but here are some books I'm thinking about, in no particular order. I'll be lucky to get three books finished.

I have a good mix of graphic, nonfiction, YA, historic, and contemporary. Like I said, I don't plan on reading nine books in three days, nor am I restricting myself to just the books shown here. Thankfully Reading Weekend is all about no stress and no rules!

And in the no-rules, spirit, remember, if you are going read this weekend -- even for just an hour, even just 20 pages -- you are welcome to join in the fun. Check out Jenn's Bookshelves for more information.

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Featuring . . . Great Imprints into 2011

It's Friday, so it must be imprint day here at Beth Fish Reads. For a long time now, I've been on an imprint awareness campaign here and on Twitter. As part of this effort, I featured two of my favorite imprints in 2010.

I introduced you to every book published under the wonderful Amy Einhorn Books imprint and to 22 titles published under the exciting Harper Perennial imprint. Further, I gave you some insight into the people and philosophy behind these imprints.

In 2011, I will continue to be an advocate for both imprints. I will be featuring every title published by Amy Einhorn Books next year. I'll also continue to spotlight some of the Harper Perennial books I'm most looking forward to reading. I'll be gushing about at least 16 books.

In the past, I featured these imprints separately, each in one big block. I hope that by so doing, I was able to showcase the depth and breadth of these imprints, which run the full range from literary fiction to humor, nonfiction to fiction, and long works to collections of stories. This format allowed you to get a good feel for both Amy Einhorn Books and the Harper Perennial imprint.

The down side was that sometimes I featured a title months before its release date. That seems a bit unfair: You see a book you want to read, only to realize that you have to wait three or four months until it is published. Sometimes you remember to track down that book right away, but it is all to easy to forget until long past the book's initial release.

What to Look for in 2011

I can't tell you how excited I am about my plans for 2011. I've been working with marketing people and publicists from four of my favorite imprints and have an outline of imprint features that stretches all the way into next summer.

First, I'm adding one more small imprint: Pamela Dorman Books, which you'll meet in December. By the time August 2011 rolls around, you will have learned about every book published by this relatively new imprint, and we'll all be looking forward to taking a look at Pamela Dorman's fall books.

Then, in January, I will introduce you to one more larger imprint: Algonquin Books, whose tag line is "Books for a Well-Read Life" (I love that!). Over the course of next year I'll have featured at least 16 Algonquin titles that I just can't wait to share with you. I know you'll be adding many of these to your reading list.

After giving you a chance to get acquainted with Pamela Dorman Books and Algonquin Books, I'll be featuring one book from one of these imprints or from Amy Einhorn Books or Harper Perennial every Friday. I'll spotlight titles close to their release dates, which means I won't be rotating through the imprints in any particular order and sometimes the same imprint will be featured on consecutive weeks.

Next, I'll be adding more author input throughout the year, with interviews, guest posts. short Q&As, and other features. I will also be sponsoring a few giveaways from all four imprints -- so be sure to watch for those.

As always, I'll introduce you to each book; will let you know why I'm excited about it; and then will share other reviews, book trailers, blogs, websites, third-party interviews, and/or extracts so you can really get a feel for each title. I'll also continue to spotlight a variety of books from these four imprints. I am an eclectic reader with eclectic tastes, so I hope to be able to tempt every single one of you at least once and, I hope, many times.

Finally, look for more full-length reviews of the featured books from me. I will also continue to collect reviews from these imprints and will work hard to keep the alphabetized imprint review indexes up to date.

I am giddy with anticipation for Imprint Fridays in 2011 and hope my enthusiasm will rub off on you.

Before I close I want to mention that I read books from many other imprints and follow the editorial tastes of a number of small presses as well. If you take a look at some of your favorite books from the last several years, you may find that you are already following an imprint or a small press, even though you hadn't realized it.

I'd like end with a nod to my good friends Kathy from Bermudaonion's Weblog and Julie from Booking Mama. They have been strong advocates for Reagan Arthur Books, another great imprint. Be sure to check out their dedicated blog and perpetual reading challenge. I am a fan, and you should be too.

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25 November 2010

Looking to 2011: Four Reading Challenges

If you know me at all, you know I like a good reading challenge. I've been looking through the most dangerous blog on the web: A Novel Challenge -- the place to find all things challenges. Here are four challenges I'm looking forward to.

This fall I read my first steampunk book (review: Clockwork Angel) and became interested in the genre. Then I discovered the Steampunk Challenge. I love that there are "no obligations other than to have fun discovering a genre and let other participants know about what you find." I am going to commit to reading two books. Check out the announcement post for more information.

Although I didn't do very well with the South Asian Author Challenge in 2010, I am joining the newly revised South Asian Challenge in 2011. A sign-up post will be available next week, but the changes have already been announced. The new rules open up the number of qualifying works, and I'm excited to get reading. I'll be committing to three books, which will make me a South Asian Wanderer.

Kathrin is hosting the fifth annual Series Challenge. I'm committing to reading at least three books to finish or catch up in a series. I plan to read the Ellie Chronicles, the final three books in the JohnMarsden series about an alternate history Australia. There is no badge yet, but the challenge has been announced.

Here is a new and very clever challenge that Eva told me about. The One, Two, Theme! Challenge goes like this: pick a theme or topic and read a book about it, pick a second theme and read two books about it, pick a third theme and read three books about it. The total commitment is for six books, two which should be non-fiction. If I can come up with three good themes, I'm definitely going to join the challenge. Read the full rules on the dedicated blog.

I know that more and more challenges will be announced over the next month. I'll let you know which ones I plan to take on.

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24 November 2010

Wordless Wednesday 105

Danish Cemetery

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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23 November 2010

Today's Read: Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff

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.

I absolutely love biography (even though I haven't blogged about it very often), and when the subject is someone as fascinating as Cleopatra, who can resist? Here is a longish teaser to stimulate your interest in this powerful woman:

A capable, clear-eyed sovereign, she knew how to build a fleet, suppress, an insurrection, control a currency, alleviate a famine. An eminent Roman general vouched for her grasp of military affairs. Even at a time when women rulers were no rarity she stood out, the sole female of the ancient world to rule alone and to play a role in Western affairs. She was incomparably richer than anyone else in the Mediterranean world. And she enjoyed greater prestige than any other woman of her age. . . . She nonetheless survives as a wanton temptress, not the first time a genuinely powerful woman has been transmuted into a shamelessly seductive one. (p. 2)
—From Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff (Hachette / Little, Bown, 2010)

Cleopatra at Powell's
Cleopatra at Book Depository
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What's in a Name 4 Challenge: Announcing 2011 Categories

Once again I'm hosting the What's in a Name Challenge. For the history of this challenge and to sign up for it, check out the brand new What's in a Name 4 blog.

Because you might not be able to stand waiting to learn the new categories, I'll give you sneak peek here. Be sure to click over to the What's in a Name 4 blog to see examples, sign up, and learn the rules.

Between January 1 and December 31, 2011, read one book in each of the following categories:

  1. A book with a number in the title
  2. A book with jewelry or a gem in the title
  3. A book with a size in the title
  4. A book with evil in the title
  5. A book with a life stage in the title
I hope you have room in your challenge schedule to join in the fun. This is one of my favorite challenges.

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22 November 2010

Review: The Rabbi's Cat by Joann Sfar

In 1930s Algeria there lives a widowed rabbi, his beautiful daughter, and a cat. The cat is well loved but is constantly annoyed by the family parrot, who never shuts up. Out of frustration, he eats the bird, thereby gaining the gift of speech.

The cat has a biting sense of humor and is more worldly than the rabbi. Together they discuss Jewish law and customs, learn the truth about the rabbi's students, and help each other through rough times. Later, they travel to Paris and discover the world of secular Jews, which leaves them questioning their life at home.

Joann Sfar's The Rabbi's Cat will have you laughing out loud at the snarky cat and the kindly rabbi. The cat's sharp intellect and discussions with the rabbi raise respectful questions about Jewish life in North Africa and in Paris before the war. Smart, funny, and surprisingly tender, The Rabbi's Cat is not a religious testament but the story of one family faced with a changing world.

The drawings are gorgeous, richly colored, and wonderfully expressive. Here are two scans (click to enlarge and then enlarge again to read). The first one is soon after the cat has gained the power of speech. The second is a story three Jewish girls are telling about a local Jewish hero. Note that the humor is for adults.

The Rabbi's Cat was the winner of the Jury Prize at Angouleme. For more on Joann Sfar, visit his website (which is in both French and English).

The Rabbi's Cat at Powell's
The Rabbi's Cat at Book Depository
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Published by Pantheon Books, 2005
ISBN-13: 9780375422812
YTD: 104
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: B+

Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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20 November 2010

Weekend Cooking: The Wine Trials 2011 edited by Robin Goldstein et al.

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.


If you follow me on Twitter or know me at all, you know that I am a wine drinker. When Workman offered me the chance to review the 2011 edition of The Wine Trials edited by Robin Goldstein, Alex Hershkowitsch, and Tyce Walters, I of course said yes.

I have heard of the wine trials, now in its third year, but never read one of the books. The wine trials involve about 6000 wines, hidden in brown paper bags, served to more than 500 tasters. The wines come from all over the world, cover pretty much every grape, and span the price range. The tasters represent a broad spectrum of wine drinkers, from noted experts to everyday wine enthusiasts.

The trials were developed to eliminate as much as possible what the authors call the placebo effect, which is being influenced by price, region, vintage, vineyard, and/or grape. The wine trial tastings are totally blind. And what the organizers discovered was that the under $15 wines more often than not beat out the expensive wines in terms of taste.

The opening chapters are full of interesting information about the wine-tasting world, including my favorite: When tasters are given two glasses of the same wine from the same bottle, they often rate the two glasses differently! They expect the wines to be different, and their brains and taste buds confirm their exceptions.

Not everyone agrees with the facts and statistics presented in The Wine Trials 2011. But the authors do not shy away from their critics. For example, they mention specific articles by Eric Asimov, the New York Times wine reviewer, that took the trials to task (click here, for one). I admire their openness at showing both sides of the arguments.

The heart of the book is the results of the wine trials and the wine reviews. The winners of the trials are 175 wines from around the world that generally sell for under $15 (US) a bottle. The wines are presented in lists and in individual reviews. Most of the wines are readily available, although some were produced in limited runs.

I live in Pennsylvania, a state that makes you buy wine from a state-run liquor store. As a result, I do not have access to every vineyard and multiple vintages. Regardless, I was pleased to find that many of the wines and the specific vintages reviewed in the book are available even to me. Our prices run between $2 and $3 more than those given in the book, but I expected that.

Mr. BFR and I tried four wines listed as winners in the wine trials. We really liked the three reds we tasted and will definitely be buying two of them again. We didn't like the white as well, but I think a 75 percent success rate is pretty good.

I recommend this book as a starting place to find great wines at low cost. I especially like the authors' attitude that fine wines are in the palate not in the wallet.

I cannot (it's my profession, give me a break) leave this review without commenting that I found a number of copy-editing errors, which put me off a bit. In the end, though, the content of the book won the day, and I will be turning to The Wine Trials 2011 throughout the year.

For more information about the trials and about wine, visit the blog Blind Taste.

Published by Workman / Fearless Critic Media, 2010
ISBN-13: 9781608160167
YTD: 103
Rating: B
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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19 November 2010

Featuring . . . What He's Poised to Do by Ben Greenman

This Friday and every Friday for the next several months I'll be featuring a book in the Harper Perennial Imprint. Some were recently published, some will be released later this year, all are worth a closer look.

Today's book is a little difficult to categorize. What He's Poised to Do is a collection of stories in which Ben Greenman explores the epistolary form by using written correspondence as a linking style. This is the summary from the publisher's website:

Ben Greenman is a writer of virtuosic range and uncanny emotional insight. . . . The stories in this new collection, What He's Poised to Do, showcase his wide range, yet are united by a shared sense of yearning, a concern with connections missed and lost, and a poignant attention to how we try to preserve and maintain those connections through the written word.

From a portrait of an unfaithful man contemplating his own free will to the saga of a young Cuban man's quixotic devotion to a woman he may never have met; and from a nineteenth-century weapons inventor's letter to his young daughter to an aging man's wistful memory of a summer love affair in a law office—each of these stories demonstrates Greenman's maturity as a chronicler of romantic angst both contemporary and timeless, and as an explorer of the ways our yearning for connection informs our selves and our souls.
The focus on relationships is what first drew me to this collection, but when I realized that Greenman was using letters as the major form of communication among characters, I knew I had to look closer. When I started reading reviews, here is what I found:
  • From the LA Times: "Greenman long has displayed a dazzling command of the language and a boundless imagination. . . . This slender volume is astonishing precisely for its depth of emotional engagement."
  • From The Literary Lotus: "[Greenman's] stories are at once weighty and genuine and light and breezy, as he subtly nudges hefty themes of permanence and transience, meaning, isolation and connection."
  • From Pop Matters: "[T]hese stories are, on the whole, so playfully inventive and they so accurately encapsulate the gulf that exists in male-female interaction, that I want to run out onto the balcony of my apartment and yell from there how snazzerific, how terrificadelic, how ├╝bertastic this book is to the people gathered below."
One of the unique aspects of Greenman's What He's Poised to Do is that it is, in a way, still being created, and you (yes, you!) can contribute if you're so moved. The companion blog Letters with Character is place where "readers [can] interact directly with literary characters." Greenman encourages you to write a love letter to your Mr. Darcy, tell Snipe what you really think of him, give advice to Anne Shirley, or warn Romeo not to drink the poison.

Currently there are 210 letters written to characters who have appeared across a broad range of genres and time periods. Take a look and think about participating.

Ben Greenman also has a personal website where you can learn more about him and his other books.

This book was featured as part of my Spotlight on the Harper Perennial imprint. For information about the imprint, please read Erica Barmash's welcome note posted here on June 18, 2010. I encourage you to add your reviews of Harper Perennial books to the review link-up page; it's a great way to discover Good Books for Cool People. See the alphabetized review index to see what others are saying. And don't miss the The Olive Reader, the Harper Perennial blog.

What He's Poised to Do at Powell's
What He's Poised to Do at Book Depository
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Published by HarperCollins / Harper Perennial, 2010
ISBN-13: 9780061987403

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18 November 2010

Review: After the Falls by Catherine Gildiner

Catherine McClure Gildiner's teen and young adult years were both normal and odd, conservative and liberal. The memoir After the Falls begins when Gildiner's family moved from Niagara Falls to Buffalo in the early 1960s, where they all began new lives. Cathy's story is one of contrasts: public persona versus private beliefs and first judgments versus deeper analysis.

Cathy had been encouraged from a young age to be self-reliant and resourceful, and from the first day in her new school, she put her energies into fitting in and making friends. Although in appearance, she was the perfect blond preppy, wearing Villager outfits with Pappagallo shoes, in the inside she was always questioning, always just a bit rebellious, and never afraid to work.

To the outside world, she had the typical suburban upbringing: Her father went to work each morning and tended his lawn on the weekends, while her mother stayed at home. But Cathy's home life was anything but normal for the Donna Reed Show era. For example, the family ate every meal in a restaurant, and Cathy was treated almost as an adult from about the age of four.

When Cathy moved to Ohio for college, she once again had to find a way to fit in and stay true to her personal convictions. The university was an eye-opener for her, and she gradually traded in her pink and green A-line skirts and sweaters for bell-bottoms and suede jackets. Instead of trying to join a sorority, Cathy became more interested in joining the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, instead of listening to Sandra Dee, she started tuning into Buffalo Springfield.

Catherine Gildiner is about six years older than I am and was way more active in the political scene of the 1960s as a college student than I was as a high schooler. On the other hand, we share common cultural memories and experiences from the Beatles' appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show to the demonstrations in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention. Her perspective brings the decade to life, and although my upbringing was different from hers, Gildiner's story is familiar and authentic.

Cathy's memoir is the best of genre: It transports the reader to a time and place. It doesn't preach and it doesn't try to inspire or guide or give hope. It just tells a story of a young women who came of age during one of the most actively transitional times of the late twentieth century. For those who lived it, for those who remember it, for those who want to know more about it, After the Falls captures the sixties from a personal perspective that is also universal.

After the Falls is an Indie Next Pick for November 2010. To learn more about Catherine Gildiner, be sure to visit her website. Her earlier memoir, Too Close to the Falls, relates the first twelve years of her life. There is a planned third memoir, which will take us into the seventies and beyond.

After the Falls at Powell's
After the Falls at Book Depository
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Published by Viking , 2010
ISBN-13: 9780670022052
YTD: 102
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: B+

Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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17 November 2010

Wordless Wednesday 104

Spent Sunflowers (click image for full effect)

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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16 November 2010

Today's Read: The Memory Thief by Rachel Keener

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.

Here's mine:

James Island[, South Carolina,] taught her how to eat. Showed her what fruit tastes like when it's still warm from a ripening sun. How fish is meant to be eaten, no more than a few hours from the ocean. Handing somebody a Carolina peach was the same as giving them your best smile. Passing a bowl of shrimp and grits was as clear as any Love you could get. Food was a language there. (p. 15)
—From The Memory Thief by Rachel Keener (Hachette / Center Street, 2010)

The Memory Thief at Powell's
The Memory Thief at Book Depository
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15 November 2010

Review: Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston

Katrina Katrell is an adventuresome girl who lives with Mrs. "Krabby" Krabone. When her creative and active intelligence becomes too much for her guardian, Katrina decides to run away.

Mortimer "Morty" Yorgle lives underground in Zorgamazoo and wants nothing more than to write his sports columns and visit his dad who is ill. But one day Morty gets picked to enter the lottery, and his prize is the dubious honor of getting a chance to search far and wide for the lost Zorgles of Zorgamazoo.

When Katrina and Morty meet up one day just when they each are in dire need of help, they combine their talents and take off for the adventure of a lifetime.

Robert Paul Weston's Zorgamazoo is a scary, funny, gross, and exciting tale told in rhyming couplets. The heroes are an improbable team of a young girl and a rumply middle-aged Zorgle journalist who will capture your imagination and take your whole family on a mission to solve a Zorgamazoo mystery. Boys and girls, young and old will find themselves captivated by the spunky girl and her mild-mannered friend. The pair travels to strange lands where they meet all kinds of creatures, and they aren't quite sure if they will ever manage to make it back home.

To give you a flavor of the text, here's a bit from the publisher's summary:

Are You a Believer in Fanciful Things? In Pirates and Dragons and Creatures and Kings?

Then sit yourself down in a comfortable seat, with maybe some cocoa and something to eat, and I’ll spin you the tale of Katrina Katrell, a girl full of courage (and daring, as well!), who down in the subway, under the ground, saw something fantastical roaming around . . .

What was it she saw? I’d rather not say. (Who’s ever heard of a Zorgle, anyway?)

But if you are curious, clever and brave, if intrepid adventure is something you crave, then open this book and I’ll leave it to you to uncover the secret of ZORGAMAZOO!
I was lucky enough to have listened to the audio edition (Penguin Audio) read by the fabulous Alan Cumming. This is a charming audio production that is brilliantly narrated by Cumming and can be enjoyed by all ages. Reading rhyming couplets is not an easy task, and Cumming is just the right kind of dramatic and never falls into singsong. My full audio review will be published by AudioFile magazine in the coming weeks.

One warning: Krabby is a bit mean and some children may be frightened; the target age for the book is age nine and older. Personally, I wouldn't hesitate to share this story with any child over about six, but only you know your child. Even though the story is about a girl, there is plenty of boy humor.

Don't miss out on the Zorgamazoo website for samples and drawings and more about the book and Robert Weston's blog for more about the author. Zorgamazoo won The Silver Birch Award and an E.B. White Read Aloud Honor award.

Zorgamazoo at Powell's
Zorgamazoo at Book Depository
For the audio edition click on the links in the sidebar
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Published by Penguin Group / Razorbill, 2010
ISBN-13: 9781595142955
YTD: 101
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: A

Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

This review will also be linked at Julie's blog Booking Mama: "Every Saturday, [she hosts] a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books."

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14 November 2010

Chronicle Book's Happy Haul-iDays Giveaway

I'm sure you've seen this fabulous holiday giveaway sponsored by Chronicle Books. I just love their books and have reviewed several of their cookbooks as part of my Weekend Cooking feature.

Here's how the giveaway works: I simply make a list of Chronicle Books that I'd like to own -- up to $500 in value -- and submit my link to the Chronicle site and I and one of my readers will then have a chance to win every single book listed here in this post.

How's that for a holiday treat! Here are the books I'm hoping to win. Look over the list and see how you too can be entered to win all of these books and journals and stationary.

For more information about each title, click the links.

Michael Chiarello's Bottega ($40), Skinny Dips ($19) The Commonsense Kitchen ($35), The Country Cooking of Ireland ($50)

New Vegetarian ($20), Slow Cooker ($25), Wine Lover's Cookbook ($25), Savory Baking ($25)

Cooking for Two ($20), Sunday Soup ($20), Big Night In ($25)

Lace Knitting to Go ($17), Gift of Wine (this is a craft book; $15)

Beatles Anthology ($60), The Life and Love of Trees ($50)

Repro Notebooks ($13), Mini Journals ($15), Book Journal ($11), Mix and Match Stationery ($9)

There you have my list -- a whooping $495 worth of books and notebooks and one craft kit. Wow!

Here's how you can have a chance to win these books. First the contest is sponsored by Chronicle Books and is open only in the United States (full rules here). Second you must leave a comment here (Chronicle will pick someone from the comments) -- I'd love it if you told me if you will keep all the books yourself or will give some away as gifts. Third you must provide a valid email address (or make sure it's in your profile). Winners will be announced on December 13.

Good luck to us all! And thank you to Chronicle Books. Oh and don't forget to look around at other blogs for different books and more chances to win.

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All content and photos (except where noted) copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads 2008-2018. All rights reserved.



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