31 August 2012

Imprint Friday: Up All Night by Carol Miller

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Ecco books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

If you're a fan of classic rock and live in New York or subscribe to Sirius/XM radio, then you're likely familiar Carol Miller's voice. Miller, who has been on the air almost every day since the early 1970s, tells her life story in her new memoir, Up All Night: My Life and Times in Rock Radio, out this week.

Here's the publisher's summary:

The all-American chronicle of radio legend Carol Miller, from her rise to success in a male dominated world, to the rockstars she's know along the way, to, for the first time, the private story of her quietly waged battle with a deadly disease.

As one of the nation's top radio DJs, Carol Miller introduced the music of Bruce Springsteen to the New York airwaves, was on a first-name basis with Sir Paul McCartney, dated Steven Tyler, and has been recognized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Her on-air approach and singular voice have influenced the sound of rock radio for more than four decades, and her satellite and syndicated Get the Led Out programs are heard nationwide.

In Up All Night, Carol spins the entertaining, moving, and revealing story of her life and times in rock radio and beyond. A nice Jewish girl from Queens, Carol was supposed to be a doctor or, at the very least, a lawyer. But hearing a doo-wop trio in the alley under her window changed the direction of her life forever: she fell in love with popular music. . . .

Told in the distinctive voice that has charmed millions of listeners for decades, Up All Night is a frank, funny, and inspiring memoir. Offering snapshots of the rarefied world of pop music and the shifting social history of our times, it is as much a cultural chronicle as it is one woman's candid and moving story.
In some ways, Carol Miller has led a blessed life. For example, in 1964, through family connections, she was a guest at a preshow rehearsal of The Ed Sullivan Show, which featured several British rock bands, including Gerry and the Pacemakers. Later that same year, she saw the Beatles live in New York, while her parents sat in a cafe down the street, waiting to pick her up. Then, in less than a decade, when she was still in college and barely of age, Miller landed her first professional radio job in Philadelphia in the early 1970s.

But despite meeting most of the rock greats, such as Linda and Paul McCarthy, Bruce Springsteen, and Paul Stanley (from Kiss), Miller has had more than her share of hardship. The toughest has been her decades-long battle with familial breast cancer and related conditions. Although Miller speaks frankly of her long-undiagnosed breast problems, her multiple botched reconstruction surgeries, and her more recent bout of uterine cancer, she does not dwell on her health issues. In fact, after each surgery, Miller came back on the air in record time, often missing only a week of work. Refusing to let cancer define her, she never mentioned her illnesses to her listeners, and even when writing about her surgeries, she remains upbeat and defiant.

After reading Miller's memoir, what sticks with you is not her battle to stay alive but the fascinating and exciting opportunities she's had throughout her life, from her first on-air interview (with Lily Tomlin) to her relationship with Mark Goodman (one of the first VJs) and her struggle to keep her job in the face of changing technology and radio formats. Note that Miller is respectful of the musicians and other stars she's met, so don't expect a tell-all, brimming with gossipy details.

Carol Miller's Up All Night will especially appeal to classic rock fans and baby boomers.

For more on Carol Miller, read this 2009 interview in the New York Times and sample her Sirius/XM radio show.

Beth Fish Reads is proud to showcase Ecco books as a featured imprint on this blog. For more information about Ecco, please read the introductory note from Vice President / Associate Publisher Rachel Bressler, posted here on July 15, 2011. Find your next great read by clicking on Ecco in the scroll-down topics/labels list in my sidebar and by visiting Ecco books on Facebook and following them on Twitter.

Up All Night at Powell's
Up All Night at Book Depository
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Published by HarperCollins / Ecco, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780061845246

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30 August 2012

An Octave of August Books

La, la, la, la, la . . . I can't hear you, I can't hear you! I'm in denial that summer is almost over and we're fast approaching September. Remember all those good plans you had for reading poolside or on the porch? Don't fret; there are still a few weeks of good weather ahead, and August was chockfull of great new books. Here are some you may have missed.

Getting to Know You

Rachel Cusk's short memoir Aftermath (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 9780374102135) is subtitled On Marriage and Separation. Through dark humor and surprising frankness, Cusk shares not only her own transformation after divorce but how separation effects modern women everywhere. Rob Spitz's Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child (Knopf, 9780307272225) was published just in time to celebrate the 100th birthday of the world-famous chef. Spitz's remarkable biography introduces us to the many facets of Julia: wife, author, daughter, television star, chef, and celebrity.

Magical Reading

Selden Edwards's second novel, The Lost Prince (Dutton Adult, 9780525952947), follows the story of Eleanor who discovers a journal in turn-of-the-century Venice that, she claims, records all the major events of the 20th century to come. Is she hysterical, as Freud says, or has the author of the journal defied the constraints of time? James Treadwell's Advent (Atria/Emily Bestler Books, 9781451661644) features young Gavin, who seems to have the second sight. Only after he's sent to the English countryside to live with his aunt does he begin to understand the magical world. Kirkus recommends the novel "to grown-up Potter-philes."

Killer Reads

In Tana French's fourth Dublin Murder Squad book, Broken Harbor (Viking Adult, 9780670023653), all but one member of a family is murdered in their apartment; the wife barely survived. In this psychological thriller of a mystery, elements of the case hit close to home for hard-hitting cop Scorcher Kennedy. Kate Williams takes us to the dangerous streets of Victorian London in The Pleasures of Men (Hyperion Books, 9781401324230). As a reclusive young woman becomes obsessed with a series of murders, death marches closer and closer to her doorstep.

West and East

In the ten stories in Battleborn (Riverhead Hardcover, 9781594488252), Claire Vaye Watkins draws on her Nevada roots, to explore the sometimes bleak western environment and the tough individuals who live there. Publishers Weekly described the collection as "the untold stories of people seeking connection with the past, the land, and each other." Heidi Jon Schmidt returns to Oyster Creek (Cape Cod) in The Harbormaster's Daughter (NAL Trade, 9780451237873), which tells the story of Vita Gray, who was only three when her mother was killed. Raised by a local woman, Vita is protected from the gritty details of her family, until the murder once again becomes news and the teen is confronted with the truth of her parents.

Forget the changing seasons, enjoy the last few weeks of mild weather, and take the time to read one of these August releases.

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29 August 2012

Wordless Wednesday 196

At the Horse Show, 2012

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28 August 2012

Today's Read: Trickster's Point by William Kent Krueger

What would you do if you were the prime suspect in the murder of your best friend? Cork O'Connor, no stranger to death or crime, must first face his own demons before he can find the true killer.

Although science said otherwise, Cork knew absolutely that the human heart was enormous. Inside that organ, which was only the size of man's fist, was enough room to fit everything a person could possibly love, and then some. Cork's own heart held more treasures than he could easily name. But one that always stood in the forefront was Sam's Place. (p. 16)
Trickster's Point by William Kent Krueger (Simon & Schuster / Atria Books, 2012; quote from uncorrected proofs)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: Tamarack County, northern Minnesota
  • Circumstances: Cork O'Connor's good friend Jubal Little dies with one of Cork's arrows through his heart; Cork must clear his name
  • Characters: Jubal Little, the victim; Cork O'Connor, the former sheriff and primary suspect; their friends and family from their childhoods to the present
  • Extras: Native American lore, beautifully written descriptions of the north country; politics
  • Genre: mystery; 12th in series (can possibly be read as standalone)
  • More on the series: I featured this series as part of Jen from Jen's Book Thoughts Detectives Around the World feature in 2010. Check my review of Purgatory Ridge and my post about O'Connor's Minnesota (including a recipe!).

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27 August 2012

Review: Pure by Julianna Baggott

Promise me that you'll read beyond the next sentence. Julianna Baggott's Pure is the first in a proposed dystopian trilogy geared to a young adult audience. Yes, you're sure you've burned out on dystopian YA trilogies. You want something uplifting, something adult, and no more series.

That's exactly why I held off reading Baggott's latest novel, published early this year. However, I have heard nothing but praise for her writing and understood that Pure promised to be different. I wasn't disappointed on either account.

The premise is simple and somewhat familiar: The world as we know it has been destroyed by the Detonations. Two types of people now exist: the Wretches, who were exposed to the explosions and their effects, and the Pures, who were safe inside the Dome and protected. That's where the familiar ends.

Pure stands out from the crowd thanks to Baggott's excellent world building. First are the sociopolitical factors. Baggott has thought out the hows, whys, and whos of the Detonations as well as the way circumstances inside and outside the Dome have changed and are different. In the new world, there are political factions, conspiracy theories, and people just trying to survive unnoticed. In addition, there's a whole new vocabulary along with new rules of etiquette and even small talk.

Second is the way people (beings?) have changed. Those who were outside the Dome during the Detonations were physically transformed, fusing with whatever they happened to be touching, and whether another organism or inert matter, these fusings cannot be undone. For example, a woman has a window frame embedded in her trunk, and a man has a small fan lodged in his neck. The unlucky were fused to rock, dirt, concrete, and even car engines. In addition all Wretches have scars from being burned, cut, or otherwise disfigured by the explosions.

In the Dome, the Pures are smooth skinned and untouched by physical deformity. But geneticists are busy working on enhancing the lucky survivors so they will be ready to repopulate the world once it's safe to be outside. Codings make the smart smarter and the strong stronger, but if they are so safe, why do some enhanced young men disappear never to be seen again?

And finally are the characters. Among the group we're rooting for are Pressia Belze, with her doll's head hand; Bradwell, with birds in his back; and El Capitan, with his brother fused to back, all of whom are living outside the Dome in what was once Baltimore. Inside the Dome are Partridge, son of one of the political leaders, and Lyda, daughter of a psychologist. Each has memories of before the Detonations, and each is living in very different circumstances.

How these five come together and what they do to survive make up the plot of Pure, which is told from their alternating viewpoints. The characters are complex, but more, they have distinct personalities, dreams, backgrounds, fears, and reactions. Their interactions with each other and with the world around them are consistent and contextually believable.

I wasn't surprised by many of the story lines in Pure, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment of Bloggett's tightly plotted novel. In fact, in this first of the trilogy, she so carefully set up the world and so thoroughly introduced the major players that it was easy to become emotionally invested in the story.

Julianna Baggott's fresh take on dystopian America makes Pure a standout in the genre. It's no wonder it was an Indie Next pick for March 2012.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Hachette Audio; 14 hr, 9 min) read by Khristine Hvam, Joshua Swanson, Kevin T. Collins, and Casey Holloway. As I mentioned, Pure is told from alternating points of view, and for the audiobook, each is read by a different narrator. As in any multinarrator book, some readers are better than others; fortunately, the weak link here did not detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. The narrators were particularly good at conveying the excitement of the action scenes as well as the fear and uncertainties of the characters and their muted emotions in a world without much happiness.

This review will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted every Saturday by Julie at Booking Mama.

Buy Pure at Powell's, at an Indie, at Book Depository, or at a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Hachette Book Group / Grand Central Publishing, 2012 (print) (audiobook: Hachette audio, 2012)
ISBN-13: 9781455503063
Source: Review (audio) (see review policy)
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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25 August 2012

Weekend Cooking: The Truck Food Cookbook by John T. Edge

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, quotations, beer, wine, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. More information at the welcome post.


I love to cook, and cook at least 300 nights a year. But even the most avid home chef needs a break once in a while. That's why I'm jealous of all of you who live within easy fetching distance of good truck food. Until I move to bigger place or until the nearby college town gets on the ball, I will content myself with the delightful and very readable The Truck Food Cookbook by John T. Edge.

The subtitle on the eye-catching red-and-white cover captures the contents perfectly: "150 Recipes and Ramblings from America's Best Restaurants on Wheels." From hot dogs to roast duck tacos, from Los Angeles to Durham, North Carolina, The Truck Food Cookbook has something for every taste. This book about "food on wheels" covers the country and all types of meals for any time of the day.

The book is stuffed full of playful photos of the trucks, the cities, and the owner/chefs. You'll also find tons of pictures of mouth-watering treats, all set in a colorful and easy-to-follow design. The Truck Food Cookbook can be read as a food guide, as a look at Americana, and of course as a cookbook.

Throughout you'll find great stories, such as how a Polish sculptor turned jewelry designer ended up as the owner/chef of a crepe cart in Philadelphia. You'll also read profiles of some of the top mobile food cities in America, complete with maps and fun facts. For example, did you know that groups of food trucks in Portland, Oregon, were called pods? Or that Austin, Texas, licenses more than a thousand mobile food vendors a year?

Although one chapter is called "Unexpected Pleasures," what I found surprising were some of the city–food match-ups. I wouldn't have thought Minneapolis would be the place to find fried green tomato salad or that San Francisco would be known for its food truck falafels. Of course the food cart classics are also included, such as cheesesteaks in Philadelphia and tacos in Houston.

One of the hits of The Truck Food Cookbook is that Edge included recipes for food cart extras. You'll find dessert toppings; all kinds of salsas, sauces, and spreads; and even Creole cream cheese. Thus even if you want to make your own family favorite hamburger, you can give it a makeover by serving one of the truck food condiments on the side.

You could spend days going through John T. Edge's The Truck Food Cookbook just studying the beautiful photos and reading the "ramblings." After you mark all the recipes that call to you, you'll be ready to head to the kitchen and make your own mobile dishes. Or, if you're really ambitious, perhaps you'll be inspired to find a used food truck (Edge suggests looking on eBay) and go into business for yourself.

I'm so happy it's just about tomatillo season around here because have a weakness for green sauce. This salsa verde recipe from the Tacos el Galuzo food truck, which vends in Los Angeles, looks easy to make.

Salsa Verde
makes about 1 cup
  • 20 tomatillos, husks removed
  • 3 jalapeño peppers, stemmed and seeded
  • ½ bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Salt
1. Place 3 quarts of water in a large pot and let come to a boil. Add the tomatillos, jalapeños, cilantro, and garlic, reduce the heat and let simmer until softened, about 10 minutes. Remove the tomatillo mixture from the heat and drain it, setting aside 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Let the tomatillo mixture and reserved liquid cool.

2. Put the cooled tomatillo mixture in a blender and puree until smooth, adding small amounts of the reserved cooking liquid as necessary to achieve the right consistency. Season the salsa with salt to taste.

Buy The Truck Food Cookbook at an Indie, at Powell's, at Book Depository, or at bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Workman Publishing, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780761156161
Rating: B+
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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24 August 2012

Imprint Friday: The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Algonquin Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

Last year when I featured Jonathan Evison's West of Here in an Imprint Friday post, I mentioned that I was fascinated with one of the themes of the novel: that the actions of our "ancestors can resonate through the generations." Evison's third novel, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, intrigued me for completely different reasons. In this case, I was taken with the idea of learning to move past personal hardship by creating new contexts.

Here is the publisher's summary.

Benjamin Benjamin has lost virtually everything—his wife, his family, his home, his livelihood. With few options, Ben enrolls in a night class called The Fundamentals of Caregiving, where he is instructed in the art of inserting catheters and avoiding liability, about professionalism, and on how to keep physical and emotional distance between client and provider.

But when Ben is assigned to tyrannical nineteen-year-old Trevor, who is in the advanced stages of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, he soon discovers that the endless mnemonics and service plan checklists have done little to prepare him for the reality of caring for a fiercely stubborn, sexually frustrated adolescent with an ax to grind with the world at large.

Though begun with mutual misgivings, the relationship between Trev and Ben evolves into a close camaraderie, and the traditional boundaries between patient and caregiver begin to blur as they embark on a road trip to visit Trev’s ailing father. A series of must-see roadside attractions divert them into an impulsive adventure interrupted by one birth, two arrests, a freakish dust storm, and a six-hundred-mile cat-and-mouse pursuit by a mysterious brown Buick Skylark.

Bursting with energy, this big-hearted and inspired novel ponders life’s terrible surprises and the heart’s uncanny capacity to mend.
I think you're going to be hearing a lot about Jonathan Evison's new novel. Reviews will mention the construction of the book (alternating time periods, brilliantly handled), the secondary characters (all vivid), the road trip (crazy and transforming), and the perfect blend of humor and sadness.

One of Evison's gifts is creating characters that are easy to care about. Ben is one of the more complex and sympathetic characters I've met in a long time. He's a man whose stint as a stay-at-home dad ended suddenly, leaving him to wonder whether the cause was an accident or his own negligence. Then, despite lingering self-doubts, Ben chooses to reenter the caregiving business—this time as an in-house aid to Trev, a young man whose failing body traps him in lifelong dependency. The thing about Ben is that he's good at his job, is a loyal friend, and is a rescuer of those in need, yet he doesn't know how to help himself. He's stuck in place: not exactly a husband and father, but not exactly single and unencumbered either.

He may push Trev to try new things because he knows
that no matter how safe one plays it, no matter how ones tries to minimize risk, to shelter oneself or one's charge from the big bad world outside, accidents will happen. (p. 21)
But Ben is far from accepting his own wisdom—until he finally steps out of the protection of the familiar by insisting on driving Trev to Utah. As he struggles to sort out everyone else's problems and to make things right, we cannot help but hope Ben finds the key that will get him out of limbo.

Evison, we can be thankful, doesn't let his novel slip into inspiration. The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving isn't about making lemonade, it's about making something else lemony, something different, not necessarily sweet. Ultimately, it's a thought-provoking story about two men trying to do their best in a world that doesn't play fair.

Algonquin Books
is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Executive Editor Chuck Adams's introductory letter, posted here on January 7, 2011.

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving at Powell's
The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Workman / Algonquin Books, 2012
ISBN-13: 9781616200398

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23 August 2012

Review: The Hunger Games (Film)

After waiting somewhat impatiently, I was finally able to watch the movie The Hunger Games, based on the novel of the same title by Suzanne Collins. The DVD/BluRay came out just this week, and I was lucky enough to get it from NetFlix over the weekend.

That was the really good news. The not so good news is that I thought the film was only just okay.

I'm sure my issues stem from the fact that I loved The Hunger Games book and thought Collins did a great job creating a believable world and fully realized characters. I had specific images in my head of what the places would look like and how the people would act. It's silly of me to expect that Gary Ross (the director) would have the same vision.

What I liked:

  • The cast, which includes Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, and Donald Sutherland
  • The acting, which didn't disappoint
In addition, the hand-held camera scenes, which some theater-goers complained about, were not at all bothersome on the television. It was the rest of movie that didn't live up to my expectations.

Here are some of the general things that bothered me (no particular order):
  • No real tension or connection between Katniss and Peeta
  • No real sense of Katniss as the "girl on fire"
  • Haymitch Abernathy (although Harrelson was good) was cleaned up too much; not haunted
Here are some of the things about the games that bothered me: (no particular order)
  • No sense of the importance of the little parachutes & connection with sponsors
  • Change in the rules, which completely deflated and ruined the end
  • Not enough sense of terror, danger, or need to be cunning
  • Seemed to be over in a flash
  • The cornucopia wasn't golden
I'm no scriptwriter or movie director, but I was hoping for more and wanted to be immersed in Katniss's world. Instead I got a well-acted action flick that I'll soon forget.

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21 August 2012

Wordless Wednesday 195

Stained-Glass Window, August 2012

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Review: Blizzard of Glass by Sally M. Walker

Did you know that one of the largest man-made explosions ever recorded took place in Halifax on December 6, 1917? I hadn't known either until I read Sally M. Walker's absorbing account of the disaster. The Blizzard of Glass is the true story of that fateful day, and although written for middle readers, this is a book for everyone.

The Halifax explosion was such an enormous event with such far-reaching effects that it seems almost impossible to get a handle on the story. Walker solved that problem by concentrating on just a few families, who lived in different areas of Halifax and across the harbor in Dartmouth.

Starting with a brief history of the towns along the waterfront, Walker sets the stage for what is to come. Then she takes us almost minute by minute through the morning routine of her chosen families on that December 6. Young children are getting ready for school, one is sick in bed, and another is running along to the store to buy some barley. Fathers head off for work, and mothers are in their kitchens or standing at the doorway watching the schoolchildren.

Meanwhile in the harbor, two ships, the SS Imo, which was nearly empty, and the SS Mont-Blanc, which was packed to the gills with explosives destined for the Allies fighting World War I, were inexplicably heading on a collision course. Although the Mont-Blanc did not explode immediately, it did catch on fire—a fire that could not be put out. By the time the crew abandoned ship, the fate of the harbor towns was sealed.

At 9:05 on December 6, 1917, the entire shipload of explosives went off. Here are just a couple of facts to give you a sense of the force:

  • The internal temperature of the explosion was about 9,032°F.
  • The initial speed of the shock way was about 5,000 feet/second.
  • The ground shook in a town about 250 miles away.
  • In the aftermath there was tsunami that crested at between 39 and 45 feet.
In the short time between the initial fire and the explosion, people went to their windows or raced down to the water front to see what was happening. Those people were totally defenseless against the power of the explosion.

Walker doesn't stop with the destruction of the town's factories, houses, piers, schools, and churches. Instead, she returns us to the families we met that morning, and reconstructs their fate: many died, and almost all were injured. Some were heroes, and some were just lucky. For the townspeople and for us, the number of fatalities and degree of mental anguish are almost incomprehensible.

One of things that was particularly heartbreaking was the number of babies who had been separated from their families. With no way to know their names, nurses had to care for them until or if a relative was able to identify an infant and take him or her home. Unclaimed babies were adopted or grew up in an orphanage. Walker doesn't sugar-coat the heartbreak and horror for her young audience, but neither does she sensationalize the events. She is respectful yet tells us the entire story, including the gruesome task of identifying the almost 2,000 bodies.

The title of the book, Blizzard of Glass, comes from the fact that every single piece of glass in Halifax and Dartmouth was shattered into minute fragments. Most of the injuries and many deaths were caused by that glass. The glass shards also meant that no food was safe to eat, and the survivors had to wait for outside supplies. Relief came from as far away as Boston and as close as the neighboring towns. But Halifax in winter is a rough place, and on December 7, even while rescuers were still looking for survivors, a full-force blizzard of snow hit the town.

Few people had shelter, as most houses were flatten or deemed unsafe. And those that withstood the blast had no windows and were badly damaged. Doctors and nurses were desperately needed, but the trains were stopped on the tracks because of the snow.

That the town survived and even thrived after those of days of hell, is a miracle in itself. Walker describes the decades-long process of rebuilding and resettling the harbor. She tells us what happened to the survivors of the families we met, and we learn of the yearly remembrance ceremony that takes place in Halifax.

The book is amply illustrated by maps, family trees, and historical photographs of the town and people as well as photos of the artifacts stored in the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. The photos alone are moving and worth studying.

I can't say enough good things about Sally Walker's Blizzard of Glass.

I had the great good luck to receive a copy of the unabridged audiobook (Listening Library, 2 hr, 51 min), read by Paul Michael. To be honest, I was unsure of Michael's narration for the first couple of chapters. I sensed a lack of excitement during the buildup of the disaster. But soon I understood his take on this true-life moment of devastation. Michael's respectful reading was just the right way to approach the story of the Halifax explosion. By going light on the dramatics, he allowed the emotional impact of the event to come through and gave me time to absorb the enormity of the situation.

The only problem with the audiobook is that listeners will miss out on the photos and maps. I suggest you do what I did: Have a copy of the book to flip through while you let Paul Michael do the reading. Again, do not be put off by the middle grade rating of Blizzard of Glass; this is book for all ages.

Note on the images:
As far as I can tell and according to Wikimedia, the two images included in this post are in the public domain. Click the images to enlarge them.

Buy Blizzard of Glass at Powell's, at an Indie, at Book Depository, or at a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Macmillan / Henry Holt, 2011 (print) (audiobook: Listening Library, 2012)
ISBN-13: 9780805089455
Source: Bought (print); review (audio) (see review policy)
Rating: A
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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20 August 2012

Review: Bride of New France by Suzanne DesRoshers

Although almost everyone in Canada knows the story of les filles du roi and although I grew up very close to the border, I was either unfamiliar with Louis XIV's scheme to populate his New World colony or I had forgotten. When I heard that Suzanne DesRochers's Bride of New France was being published in the United States, put it on my must-read list.

When Laure Beauséjour was little girl, her parents were traveling street performers. They were working in Paris when, thanks to the city's poverty laws, she was taken by authorities to the poorhouse, and her mother and father were banished from the city.

Laure, luckier than most poor girls, was given a reprieve from La Salpêtrière to be a lady's maid. When her elderly mistress died, Laure was forced to returned to the poorhouse, but she was able to live in one of the better dormitories, owing to her excellent needlework skills. Laure dreamed of working in a Paris dress shop and marrying a gentleman; however, when her hopes for a better future get her in trouble, the nuns in charge of the poorhouse recommend her as a fille du roi (daughter of the king).

Although the bulk of Bride of New France takes place before Laure marries, Suzanne DesRochers wrote the novel to tell the story of les filles du roi, her area of academic expertise. In an author's note, she explains that these girls and their marriages have been romanticized and glorified over the centuries, and few Canadians understand what les filles endured.

[Les filles du roi were young girls, generally those with no prospects, who where shipped off in groups to New France. According to the La Société des Filles du roi et soldats du Carignan, 770 girls were sent to Canada from 1663 to 1673. As DesRochers notes, in return for their sacrifice, the girls were given a free trip across the ocean and a small dowry. The men who married a fille were given land, and bonus was paid to any couple who had 10 or more children. This was Louis XIV's plan for settling the colony.]

Laure is a fictional character who represents the more independent, headstrong girls who were sent across the Atlantic. While her life in Paris was no piece of cake—she worked long hours at sewing and was given just enough food to stay alive—at least she enjoyed a certain amount of shelter, not only from the elements but from the dangers of the city. Once in Canada, however, the French girls quickly realized how ill-prepared they were and found little protection in their new home: not from the brutish men looking for wives, not from the cold and mosquitoes, and not from the "savages" who lived in the woods.

Despite the fascinating details and DesRochers's obvious command of the topic, the novel was not a win for me. For all of Laure's hardships, some of which she brought on herself, it was difficult for me to feel much sympathy for her. I think she was supposed to be thought of as spunky and independent, but I found her to be selfish and standoffish. In addition, the secondary characters came off as types, including the pioneer midwife, the noble savage, the uncaring husband, the mean nun, and the pious friend.

I was drawn to Bride of New France because I wanted to learn about the girls who were sent by the king to be the mothers of a new country. Unfortunately for me, most of the novel takes place in Paris and during Laure's journey. We learn almost nothing about the girls she travels with or of what happened to them once they arrive in New France. As for Laure's fate, the first two years of her life in the north woods are condensed into the final chapters of the book, and we are left hanging. (Maybe there's to be a follow-up novel that I don't know about.)

Regardless, I'm glad I read DesRochers's novel because I now know quite a bit more about Paris in the 1660s and the nature of ocean voyages at the time. To be fair, I believe DesRochers's intention was to tell the story of the origin of the girls, not to tell us about their lives in Canada. I, on the other hand, was looking for a different type of novel, one that told about les filles du roi as they created their new life in a strange land.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Random House Audio, 10 hr, 50 min) of the novel read by Emma Bering. My mixed review of her narration (excellent accent, some issues with the reading) will be published by AudioFile magazine.

Buy Bride of New France at Powell's, at an Indie, at Book Depository, or at a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by W. W. Norton, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780393073379
Source: Review (audio) (see review policy)
Rating: C+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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18 August 2012

Weekend Cooking: Quick-Fix Indian by Ruta Kahate

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, quotations, beer, wine, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. More information at the welcome post.


I like Indian food and I like quick, so when Ruta Kahate's Quick-Fix Indian: Easy, Exotic Dishes in 30 Minutes or Less arrived in my mailbox, I was looking forward to diving in.

Because not everyone is familiar with Indian ingredients, Kahate devotes the beginning of the book to discussing pantry, freezer, and refrigerator items as well as tips for successfully cooking from her book. Tips and definitions of cooking terms are also scattered throughout the pages, when needed.

One of the first things I noticed about Quick-Fix Indian is that I didn't have to worry about tracking down unusual ingredients. Although my pantry doesn't always contain coconut milk, brown poppy seeds, and fresh curry leaves, my local grocery store and/or health food store stocks everything I'll need to cook from Quick-Fix Indian.

The cheerful red and cream color scheme, which evokes the warm flavors of Indian cuisine, is inviting, and I appreciate that most of the recipes are super-fast to make. Kahate developed many of these dishes after she became a mother; no-stress weekend cooking is a must for busy families.

One chapter I know I'll turn to often is called "Shortcut Shelf." Here is where Kahate tells us how to make our own masala mixes and a fresh milk cheese (kind of like ricotta) called paneer. The chapters are organized in a familiar way but with cute titles such as "Mains in Minutes," "Express Veggies," and "Zippy Snacks."

The recipe directions are easy to follow and many include serving suggestions, but not all. There are very few photos, and none of the finished dishes, which may be a problem for some cooks. I made several dishes from Quick-Fix Indian and had no difficulties in the kitchen. However, my general opinion is that, although we liked the flavors, nothing was particularly spectacular.

Our biggest success was the eggplant bharta, which is a roasted eggplant dish with hot peppers, warm spices, onion, tomato, and cilantro. Unfortunately, Kahate didn't provide serving instructions for this dish, and I had to do some Internet investigation to discover that this is often served with naan as a snack or side dish. Because Kahate recommends serving the bharta at room temperature and because it contains no meat to spoil, this would be a terrific choice for a pot luck, picnic, or packed lunch.

Regardless of my thoughts, I can still recommend that interested cooks give this book a try. Quick-Fix Indian would be particularly appealing to those of you who like Indian cuisine but don't want to stock your pantry with hard-to-find ingredients. It's also a good source for weeknight recipes. In addition, the sauces, spice mixes, and snacks are all worth checking out.

Vegetarian/Vegan alert: If you like Indian food, you should absolutely give Quick-Fix Indian a look. Yes, there are meat and fish recipes, but many dishes will suit your diet.

Eggplant Bharta
Serves 4
  • 2 globe eggplants (about 2 pounds)
  • 4 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ¼ cup minced yellow onion
  • 1 minced serrano chile (seeded, if desired)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ½ cup minced tomato
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala (recipe in the book)
Wash and dry the eggplants. Use a paring knife to poke a few tiny holes into their skin. Rub 1 tablespoon of the oil all over the eggplants and place under the broiler. Turn frequently so they blacken evenly all over. They're ready when they collapse inward when touched—15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

While the eggplants are cooling, make the sauce:
Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a medium skillet over high heat. When the oil just begins to smoke, add the cumin seeds and cover. When the sputtering stops, add the onion and chile and saute until golden brown.

Turn down the heat, add the turmeric, cayenne, and tomato, and stir-fry until the tomato breaks up. Turn off the heat while you peel the eggplants.

When the eggplants are cool enough to handle, peel off the charred skin and save all the mushy goodness inside. It's okay if a few black specks also make it into the bowl; it heightens the smoky taste.

Now add the smoked eggplant to the skillet and turn the heat back on to medium. Add salt to taste and stir gently, breaking up any large lumps. Don't overstir; you don't want a smooth puree. Simmer for a minute, then remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro and garam masala.

Tastes best a room temperature.

BFR's notes: We blackened the whole eggplants on the gas grill, which gave them a good flavor and didn't heat up the kitchen. We served this spooned on pieces of naan.

Buy Quick-Fix Indian at an Indie, at Powell's, at Book Depository, or at bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012
ISBN-13: 9781449409777
Rating: B-
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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17 August 2012

Imprint Friday: Dust to Dust by Benjamin Busch

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Ecco books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

I'm not quite sure why I held off reading Benjamin Busch's memoir Dust to Dust, but now that I've started it, I'm finding it difficult to put out of my mind.

Here's the publisher's summary:

Dust to Dust is an extraordinary memoir about ordinary things: life and death, peace and war, the adventures of childhood and the revelations of adulthood. Benjamin Busch—a decorated U.S. Marine Corps infantry officer who served two combat tours in Iraq, an actor on The Wire, and the son of celebrated novelist Frederick Busch—has crafted a lasting book to stand with the finest work of Tim O'Brien or Annie Dillard.

In elemental-themed chapters—water, metal, bone, blood—Busch weaves together a vivid record of a pastoral childhood in rural New York; Marine training in North Carolina, Ukraine, and California; and deployment during the worst of the war in Iraq, as seen firsthand. But this is much more than a war memoir. Busch writes with great poignancy about the resonance of a boyhood spent exploring rivers and woods, building forts, and testing the limits of safety. Most of all, he brings enormous emotional power to his reflections on mortality: in a helicopter going down; wounded by shrapnel in Ramadi; dealing with the sudden death of friends in combat and of parents back home.

Dust to Dust is an unforgettable meditation on life and loss, and how the curious children we were remain alive in us all.
I am still in the early pages of Dust to Dust, but Busch's prose is addictive. His adventurous childhood was such a contrast to his father's sensibilities it's a wonder they had anything in common at all. As Busch notes, his father lived in words, whereas he lived in the world. Busch loved nature, but his father didn't even like houseplants. Busch wanted to be a soldier, but his parents had been active anti-Vietnam War protesters.

This is not a chronological memoir, and in the first chapter, "Arms," we learn about Busch's childhood solitary war games, the winter he lived in a uninsulated trailer, and his joining the Marines, for example. Each chapter has a theme, signaled by the substance used as the title, such as water, metal, stone, and ash. I like this organization because people don't tend to look back on their lives in a neat time line; rather one memory triggers another without regard to the calendar.

I'm curious about how Benjamin Busch became an actor, his experiences in Iraq, and his relationship with his parents. Several of the reviews I read used the word melancholy, but so far I think I sense nostalgia.

I'll leave you with the last paragraph of the "Prologue":
Childhood is still present in me. I can hear my own echoes now, elliptical, my voice changed but not the wonder I had. In seeking to disinter my childhood, I have found it unburied. (p. 3)
Let me know if you've finished Dust to Dust and what you think.

Here are some other opinions (click on the links for the full reviews):
  • Irene Wanner for the Seattle Times: "it's fascinating to journey through his literary landscapes as time passes, swirls back, and eddies like a stream before flowing away."
  • Publishers Weekly: "Benjamin Busch carries us on a haunting, humorous, and poignant journey in search of himself and his parents, especially his father."
  • Meganne Fabrega for the Star Tribune: "Busch has taken the places he's been, physically and emotionally, and shares them with the skill of an intrepid explorer."
Beth Fish Reads is proud to showcase Ecco books as a featured imprint on this blog. For more information about Ecco, please read the introductory note from Vice President / Associate Publisher Rachel Bressler, posted here on July 15, 2011. Find your next great read by clicking on Ecco in the scroll-down topics/labels list in my sidebar and by visiting Ecco books on Facebook and following them on Twitter.

Dust to Dust at Powell's
Dust to Dust at Book Depository
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Published by HarperCollins / Ecco, March 2012
ISBN-13: 9780062014849

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16 August 2012

Review: Bon Appetit by Jessie Hartland

In honor of Julia Child's 100th birthday (yesterday), I want to introduce you to Jessie Hartland's Bon Appétit: The Delicious Life of Julia Child. Although this is an illustrated children's biography, it is a wonderful book for food lovers and kids of all ages.

Right off, I need to say that I just love Hartland's illustrations and handwritten text. Each page is filled with colorful drawings, complete with fun details such as maps, animals, food, and nods to which country or state Julia was living in at the time. I also love Julia's clothes, which change (of course) over the years.

Next, Hartland manages to get across Julia's larger-than-life personality and unconventional ways with good humor and fun-to-read tidbits. Here are just four things I learned about the famous chef:

  • Julia Child was a tomboy and was well known as a prankster.
  • She played basketball as a girl.
  • She and Paul lived in at least five different countries.
  • It took Julia four years of hard study, despite living in France, to become fluent in French.
The bulk of the book takes us through Julia's life, from her childhood in California to how she ended up hosting her own PBS cooking show, The French Chef. But what makes this biography special are the little facts and lively drawings that show us the human side of Julia and some of the everyday moments of her life.

What's a Julia Child book without recipes? No worries, Harland includes two (one graphic, one written) that you and your kids can try. There is also a short bibliography so it's easy to learn more. Bon Appétit is a terrific illustrated biography to read with children and is a must-have for any self-respecting foodie.

The scan is from near the end of the book and is about Julia Child's first cooking show (click to enlarge). Isn't it great?

For more on Jessie Harland's artwork and her other books, check out her website. This review will be linked to Kid Konnection, a great feature hosted every Saturday by Julie at Booking Mama.

Buy Bon Appétit at Powell's, at an Indie, at Book Depository, or at a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Random House Children's Books / Schwartz & Wade, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780375869440
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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14 August 2012

Wordless Wednesday 194

Reflection of Reflection, 2012

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Today's Read: Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer

What would you think if you just learned the father you never knew had other families? Teenage Willa can't believe her mother never told her. And now two police officers have another bombshell:

"There were three little girls," Officer Schultz said.

"Were?" I repeated. "What do you mean there were three little girls? What kind of domestic disturbance was there?"

"Maybe we should wait until your mother gets home," Officer Rivera said. (pp. 32-33)
Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer Houghton Mifflin Harcourt / Graphia, 2012; paperback edition to be released September 4)

Blood Wounds at Powell's
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13 August 2012

Review: Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Bernadette Fox might be a brilliant architect but she also has just a little problem with her people skills. That little problem led to big problems, and when her husband, Elgin Branch, was offered a top-tier job with Microsoft, she was happy to move to Seattle. Well, she liked the real estate prices. All right, in truth, she hates the city with its wholesome goodness and five-street intersections.

Bernadette is not like the other moms at Galer Street School, but fourteen-year-old Bee is just fine with that. Her mom is one of her besties, even if she isn't exactly Donna Reed. Despite her lack of cooking skills, her abandonment of her career, and her reliance on a virtual assistant (located in India), Bernadette loves her daughter and is all ears when Bee announces what she wants for an early graduation present.

The trip to Antarctica came as a bit of shock. Okay, it came as a big shock: Bernadette hates to travel, can't stand the thought of being cooped up on a ship with strangers, and gets seasick. On the other hand, she can't deny Bee her trip, and besides, all the necessary online shopping for cold-weather clothes and supplies sounds like it could be fun.

There's just one tiny glitch: The police, the Galer Street School, the neighbors, an architecture graduate student, the FBI, and the Russian mob have all taken a sudden interest in Bernadette. And on the eve of departure . . . Bernadette departs. Alone. She is last seen on a ship somewhere off the coast of Antarctica. Is she dead or alive? Is she hiding or does she want to be found? Bee compiles all the known documents, files, e-mails, and memos concerning her mother and attempts to solve the mystery.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple's second novel, is more than the story of the Branch family and the puzzle of Bernadette's disappearance. Through humor moderated with more poignant moments, Semple takes a jab at helicopter moms, overworked techno geeks, private middle schools, and today's families. It's a fun story about how little things can quickly spin out of control, especially when Bernadette is involved.

As in her first novel, Semple proves to be a master at creating characters who are a touch crazy but not quite over the top. You'll love Bee, the tolerant daughter and perfect student who struggles with her emotions after her mother vanishes. And you'll laugh with and cry for Bernadette and Elgin and their unique relationship and individual worldviews.

Although most of the novel is told through the documents Bee assembles about her family, Semple makes it easy to picture even the most minor characters. You'll especially remember the uptight next-door neighbor, the enthusiastic school fund-raiser, the insecure underling at Microsoft, and even the virtual assistant.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is a spunky and smart look at modern life and what happens when you try to put a lid on creative energy. Maria Semple is now on my permanent must-read list.

Here's a great video in which Semple attempts to explain what Where'd You Go, Bernadette is all about.

For more about Maria Semple, be sure to check out her website, where you can see other reviews, her tour schedule, and more. You can also like her author Facebook page.

Buy Where'd You Go, Bernadette at an Indie, Powell's, Book Depository, or a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Hachette Book Group / Little, Brown, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780316204279
Rating: B+
Source: Review (see review policy)
t © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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11 August 2012

Weekend Cooking: The Kitchen Journal 6

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, quotations, beer, wine, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. More information at the welcome post.


I haven't done a Kitchen Journal post in a long while, so I thought I share a few of things I've been eating, cooking, and drinking.

Wine: Although there are a number of wines we return to again and again, we like trying new ones, especially when they're on sale. One vineyard we have been sampling is Quail Ridge, from Napa Valley. We found both the Pinot Noir and Cab to be very drinkable. An old favorite is Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin, which is a bit heavier but remains a staple, especially with grilled meats. Finally, we tried Middle Sister Rebel Red for the first time last week. This is a red blend that's light, fruity, but not too sweet; a nice table wine for summer.

Fruit: I love peach season! We've been eating puff pastry turnovers, crisps, and clafoutis. The early apples are also showing up at the market now. Summer Rambo is one of my favorites: tart and crisp, kind of like Granny Smith apples (but better). I've been eating them with sharp Cheddar for an afternoon treat.

North Carolina / Safe Haven: As many of you know, I was invited to travel to North Carolina to visit the movie set for Safe Haven, meet and interview Nicholas Sparks, and have a chance to meet the stars (Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel). Although I'll be writing about my experiences in Southport another time, I thought I share some of the food and drink. For lunch I had a crab cake sandwich at a water-front restaurant, and dinner was a wonderful fresh tuna dish with fried green tomatoes. For afternoon wine, we were treated to a sampling of Yellow Tail.

Grilling: It's been hot, hot, hot in central Pennsylvania and that means we've been grilling. Mr. BFR does most of the grilling, although sometimes it's a joint effort. We tried grilled corn this year (didn't Mr. BFR do an awesome job tying the husks?). We liked the grilled corn, but we prefer it quickly boiled.

One the best things about this summer is that I've finally perfected my basic spice rub. We use this on many things grilled: chicken wings, chicken parts, salmon, and pork. Sometimes I add 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika, but the following blend has become our go-to mix. I made this up after looking at a number of recipes in books and online and then taste testing and tweaking. If this is similar to, or even exactly like, someone else's recipe, it's purely coincidental.

BFR's Spice Rub

2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon onion powder (not salt)
1 tablespoon dehydrated ground garlic
1 tablespoon cayenne
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt

Mix together and store in a tightly sealed jar.

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10 August 2012

Imprint Friday: City of Women by David R. Gillham

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Amy Einhorn Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

Berlin at the height of World War II is almost devoid of men, the Allies are dropping bombs, food is getting scarce, and trust is getting scarcer. This is the setting for David R. Gillham's debut novel, City of Women, about a young women named Sigrid Schröder and the people who cross her path.

Here is part of the publisher's summary:

. . . . Sigrid Schröder is, for all intents and purposes, the model German soldier’s wife: She goes to work every day, does as much with her rations as she can, and dutifully cares for her meddling mother-in-law, all the while ignoring the horrific immoralities of the regime. But behind this façade is an entirely different Sigrid, a woman who dreams of her former lover, now lost in the chaos of the war. Her lover is a Jew.

But Sigrid is not the only one with secrets.

A high-ranking SS officer and his family move down the hall and Sigrid finds herself pulled into their orbit. A young woman doing her duty-year is out of excuses before Sigrid can even ask her any questions. And then there’s the blind man selling pencils on the corner, whose eyes Sigrid can feel following her from behind the darkness of his goggles.

Soon Sigrid is embroiled in a world she knew nothing about, and as her eyes open to the reality around her, the carefully constructed fortress of solitude she has built over the years begins to collapse. She must choose to act on what is right and what is wrong, and what falls somewhere in the shadows between the two. . . .
On some levels City of Women is a simple novel to describe. It's the story of Frau Schröder's incremental entanglement in the lives of the men and women who open her eyes to the truths of her country's policies.

The novel is also about Berlin and the atmosphere of living on edge. Friends report friends to the SS. Women rush to catch the early bus so they can be lucky enough to be the first in line to buy a little bit of the available milk or meat. Mothers wait for letters from their sons on the front. Apartment managers throw their weight around, suddenly big fish in small ponds. Gillham gets the details just right, and war-torn Berlin is alive again.

But Gillham's novel is really about the choices we make and how seemingly small acts have larger consequences. In 1943, everyone in Berlin must make moral and ethical choices every day. Even refusing to recognize that fact is a choice in and of itself. Selfish or selfless, people pick the path they can live with. If good people act in the name of self-preservation, are they no longer good? If a bad man makes one righteous move, is he no longer bad? Gillham makes us think about the fuzzy boundaries between right and wrong. When Sigrid questions the behavior of one of her friends, the girl answers:
"I mean to say that stealing is sometimes a moral imperative." (p. 98)
And finally, although City of Women is not a book about soldiers, Sigrid sees what war has done to her husband:
All the boyishness from his face has been rubbed off. The uniform he wears looks baggy on him. He stands slowly with a scrape of his chair on the floor, and faces her. And in his eyes she can see the gun sight aimed at the world. (p. 233)
And it is such details and dilemmas that make City of Women a book to be remembered.

For more about the book and David Gillham's meticulous research, see last week's article by Steve Pfarrer in the Amherst Bulletin, Charles Finch's article in USAToday, and his own essay on the PenguinUSA website. You can also follow Gillham on Twitter, check out his website, and like his Facebook page.

Amy Einhorn Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Amy Einhorn's open letter posted here on January 25, 2010, or click the Amy Einhorn tab below my banner photo. To join the Amy Einhorn Books Reading Challenge, click the link.

City of Women at an Indie
City of Women at Powell's
City of Women at Book Depository
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Published by Putnam / Amy Einhorn Books, August 2012
ISBN-13: 9780399157769

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09 August 2012

Review: Gold by Chris Cleave

What does it take to be an Olympic champion? Is the only possible route Zoe Castle's? From a young age, she had but a single drive: ride her bike faster than every one else lined up at the start. And if that didn't work, she could always use psychological warfare, even against her supposed best friend. Kate Meadows was no less motivated, but her empathetic nature and desire to connect with others meant she sometimes chose real life over racing.

Both in the velodrome and out in the world, Kate and Zoe are joined by complicated knots: Their shared dream for a gold metal; their shared coach; and even (at least once) their shared man, which means they are likely going to be tied for life. Now just months before their last Olympics, will their mutual history cut the binds or tighten them?

Chris Cleave's Gold touches on much more than the sport of bike sprinting. For example, Kate and Zoe's journey to the London Games will make you think about the nature of friendship, parenthood, competition, self-identity, and self-fulfillment. You might not like either athlete, but as you become familiar with their grueling training routine, get a hint of the exhilaration of speed, and sit with them in their darkest moments, you will care about their fate at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Simon & Schuster Audio; 11 hr, 55 min) read by Emilia Fox, whose pacing and expression added to my enjoyment of this novel. My complete review of her performance will be available at the AudioFile magazine website.

Buy Gold at an Indie, Powell's, Book Depository, or a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Simon & Schuster, 2012
ISBN-13: 9781451672725
Rating: B
Source: bought (see review policy)
t © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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08 August 2012

Wordless Wednesday 193

Fireworks Birds, 2012

click the image to enlarge it. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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07 August 2012

Today's Read: The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford

What would you do if you discovered a note hidden in a tree in the woods? When 10-year-old Araminta (Minty) Mortimer unfolded the note she found, she read: "No one loves me except my goldfish." Because almost everyone she knew owned a fish, she put the paper in her treasure box to keep it safe.

The next day, my life was one sentence different than it had been the day before. I kept looking at people I was used to seeing every day, and I wondered whether they felt that nobody loved them except their goldfish. (p. 31)
The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford (Scholastic Press, 2012)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: Woodlawn Road neighborhood, Catonsville, Maryland
  • Circumstances: Minty discovers that someone is hiding notes in a tree in the woods, her friends seem to be maturing faster than she is, her older sister is rebelling, and there's a mystery to be solved
  • Characters: Minty, her best friend, the new boy, Minty's family, various neighbors
  • Themes: friendship, growing up, people's secrets, privacy, family
  • Audience and genre: middle readers, contemporary fiction, a bit of a mystery
  • Awards: Indie Kids Next pick for summer 2012; Washington Post KidsPost Summer Book Club selection; Scholastic Mother-Daughter Book Club selection

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06 August 2012

Review: Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Remember earlier this summer when I introduced you to the Scholastic Mother Daughter Book Club for middle readers? I featured the books from May and June in a series of three posts. Although I missed July, from now on I plan to review at least one of the monthly selections and feature the other one.

Don't forget that the Scholastic book club site includes more information about the books, recipes, reading guides, and contests. As I wrote this post, the August books weren't up on book club site yet, but I'm sure the resources will be there soon.

When best-selling graphic novel author/artist Raina Telgemeier was in sixth grade, she tripped on a rock and knocked out two teeth. That started a four-year journey of dental work, orthodontics, and periodontal work--just at one of the most difficult times in childhood. Raina's struggle to regain the confidence to smile is a funny, smart, and painful look at not only trips to the dentist but navigating the rocky road through middle school friendships and crushes.

Smile started out as a serial comic on the website Girlamatic.com, and Telgemeier and Scholastic worked to bring the story to its present book-length form. This graphic novel autobiography is so honestly told that I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't love it. Even if you never wore braces (lucky you!), you can certainly relate to being embarrassed or unsure about your looks and changing body during adolescence.

A major theme throughout is Raina's relationship with her friends. It seems that from the time of her accident, her BFFs have trouble knowing how to act, and Raina's vulnerability makes her an easy target. Because her girlfriends are not always horrible, Raina sticks with them, but one day their mean-spirited teasing crosses a line. Fortunately, she eventually finds the courage to stand up for herself, which gives her the freedom to pursue her own interests in art. Once she does that, Raina is amazed to find friends who see her for what she is and what she can do, not how she looks or how cool she acts.

The scan gives you an idea of Telgemeier's delightful artwork (click the image to enlarge it). You can definitely get a feel for the characters' personalities and feelings through their facial expressions and body language. One fun thing we learn in Smile is that Telgemeier found her calling by seeing the movie The Little Mermaid, even though she was sure (as a seventh-grader) she'd be too old for Disney and wouldn't like it. Although she is not currently an animator (her initial dream), she is certainly using her art to tell stories.

Book clubs will want to talk about how it feels to be different, how to help friends get past traumatic events, what it's like to get your first crush, and how to deal with friends when they stop being nice. Other parts of Raina's story involve her family, an earthquake, and how small moments can affect the rest of your life. One of the great things about Smile is that it's a true story, so young girls can see it really is possible to survive even the most embarrassing moments of middle school.

Once I started reading Smile I couldn't put it down. Raina Telegemeier's engaging, personal story teaches all of us about self-confidence, true friendship, and how to survive the dentist.

Smile was the recipient of many well-deserved awards: 2010 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor title, a 2010 New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2010, a 2011 ALA Notable Children's Book, a 2011 YALSA Top 10 Great Graphic Novels for Teens pick, a Children's Choice Book Award Finalis, and the 2011 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Teens. For more on Raina Telgemeier and her other books and work, visit her website.

The second August selection for the Scholastic Mother-Daughter book club is The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford. Stop by tomorrow to learn all about it.

This review will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted by Julie at Booking Mama.

Buy Smile at Powell's, at an Indie, at Book Depository, or at a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Scholastic / Graphix, 2010
ISBN-13: 9780545132060
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: A
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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