31 January 2013

Safe Haven Movie Set Visit: Part 1

You might recall that last summer I had the unbelievable opportunity to visit the movie set of the upcoming film Safe Haven, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks. A huge thanks goes out to Big Honcho Media for inviting me to participate.

I can't wait to see the movie, which comes out on February 14 and stars Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough, David Lyons, and Cobie Smulders. And, if I'm very lucky, I might be seen on screen too (don't blink or you'll miss me).

The movie was filmed in Southport, North Carolina, and used existing houses, some sets, and some repurposed buildings. It was a rainy day for our visit but we had a great time, watching a scene being filmed, talking with Nicholas Sparks, exploring the town, taking photographs and meeting the actors.

First, here's the studio's summary of the movie plot:

An affirming and suspenseful story about a young woman’s struggle to love again, Safe Haven is based on the novel from Nicholas Sparks, the best-selling author behind the hit films The Notebook and Dear John. When a mysterious young woman arrives in a small North Carolina town, her reluctance to join the tight knit community raises questions about her past. Slowly, she begins putting down roots, and gains the courage to start a relationship with Alex, a widowed store owner with two young children. But dark secrets intrude on her new life with such terror that she is forced to rediscover the meaning of sacrifice and rely on the power of love in this deeply moving romantic thriller.
Sounds exciting, doesn't it? I've read the book, and I've gotten the inside scoop on some of the movie plot, and  I can tell you that there is danger, excitement, new friendships, and--of course--love.

Come along with me while I visit the movie set! (Click on the images to see them full size)

You'll see from the photos that our day on the Safe Haven set was a little damp, but that didn't seem to stop the filming. When the rain came down, the movie crew covered the equipment and we all took a break.
Here we are on the set waiting to film. You can see the crew hard at work, the very cool director chairs with the actors' names, and even me!
Finally the day cleared up enough to film. If you've read the book Safe Haven, then you are very familiar with the carnival scene. For the movie, that part of the book was transformed into a Fourth of July celebration. Southport put on their red, white, and blue and reenacted their traditional and quirky annual parade. We got our first star sighting! And if I'm in the film, I'm in this scene.
After a hard morning being movie stars, it was time for lunch and a look at the town. Isn't that Safe Haven sign the best? We had lunch in the colorful restaurant shown here. It has a great waterfront name: Fishy Fishy Cafe. If you click on the link, you'll go to their website and see photos of the interior and get a peek at the menu. I had the coastal crab cake sandwich, and let me tell you -- OMG good.
After lunch we met up with author Nicholas Sparks who took us on a walking tour of the sites and buildings used for filming the movie. Here are exterior and interior shots of the house that Alex and his kids live in. You might recall that in the book Alex lives over his store, but that was changed for the movie. When Katie comes to town, she gets a job a Ivan's Fish Shack. Carpenters were working on that set, so we didn't have an opportunity to photograph the interior.

After that, we had a chance to talk with Mr. Sparks about the movie, the book, and his work. Thanks to the Frying Pan Restaurant for hosting the interviews, providing yummy hush puppies, and letting us stay to party. Next week's post will be all about talking to Mr. Sparks, so let's move right along to the party!

After our interviews, Mr. Sparks graciously signed a copy of the book Safe Haven for each of us and then posed for a photograph with every one of the bloggers. (You'll see my individual photo next week.) Here's a photo of all the invited guests and another of our fantastic and generous hosts from Big Honcho Media.

The party was super fun because it was hosted by Yellow Tail Wines. We had several wines to choose from, both sweet and dry. I picked the Merlot, which was delicious. Thanks to Yellow Tail for thinking of us and for making the afternoon so relaxing.

While we sipped our wine, we got to try on a special present we got from Sole Society. A week before we headed to North Carolina, Sole Society sent us a mini catalog and we were asked to pick out our favorite shoe. I had such a hard time deciding because I really liked so many of them. One other woman picked the exact same ones I did, and you see our pretty flats in the photo.
Even though we had a reception, our day wasn't over. The film crew was on a break from that day's shooting, and so we went back to the parade set to meet the actors and have a chance to take some photos. Before we were introduced to Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough, David Lyons, and others we were lucky enough to witness a special ceremony. The Safe Haven production company made a generous donation to the Southport Boys and Girls Club. Afterward we met the stars and got our pictures taken. The photo on the stairs and the earlier group photo were taken by Big Honcho Media.

Unfortunately the rain put the day's shooting behind schedule and we didn't have time to conduct interviews, but we were able to have a chance to chat with the stars. They were all very down to earth, kind, and accessible.

We topped off our visit by having a fantastic and leisurely dinner at Mr. P's Bistro in Southport. The wine, the appetizers, the entrees--all were fabulous. If you click on the link, you can see photos and their menu. I ordered an outstanding tuna dish, which was one of the chef's specials for the day. After dinner, we walked down the street for some ice cream, and then headed back to the hotel to get some much needed rest before leaving the glamor of Hollywood behind us.

Stop back next Thursday for more about Nicholas Sparks, the movie Safe Haven, and a chance to win a book and tickets to the movie. Watch your local listings, the movie opens on February 14.

If you want to stay current on the movie's doings, you have plenty of opportunity. Check out the Safe Haven Facebook Page or follow them on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. Finally(!) check out the official trailer: (for some reason the trailer has disappeared. I hope it's temporary)

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29 January 2013

Wordless Wednesday 222

Reflections, January 2013

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Review: Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

Yesterday the American Library Association announced the 2013 Youth Media Award winners. The entire list looks fantastic, and I was happy to see I owned a few of the winners, although I hadn't yet read them all.

Inspired, I picked up Deborah Hopkinson's Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, which was an honored book in two categories: The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children and the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults.

It didn't take me very long to understand why Hopkinson was honored twice this year. Although writing with a young audience in mind, Hopkinson did not simplify the language and concepts, nor did she gloss over the terrifying experiences.

As the subtitle indicates, Titanic presents the familiar story of the sinking from firsthand accounts. We learn about the ship and the tragic night from a well-rounded range of viewpoints, including a nine-year-old boy, a ship's maid, and crew members. We also hear from adult passengers of both sexes and from people of all social classes.

For example, a teenager tells us what it was like to explore the ship and meet other young travelers. A thirty-something American socialite recalls the elegant dresses and jewels she saw in the first-class dining room and how happy everyone was. Later, a twenty-three-old third-class passenger, who barely made it to a lifeboat, remembered:

 We could hear the popping and cracking, and the deck raised up and got so steep that the people could not stand on their feet on the deck. So they fell down and slid on the deck into the water right on the ship. (p. 137)
One of the things that makes this book so special is the supplemental material. Titanic is amply illustrated with  photographs of the ship (some of which I'd never seen before), and pictures of an original ticket, telegrams, ship's records, and the like. We read postcards written before the disaster and letters written after. We see a transcript of some of the hearings held to investigate what went wrong, and we discover the fate of the survivors in the decades that followed. At the back of the book, Hopkinson provides a glossary, a timeline, charts, further resources, and a bibliography.

Teachers, homeschoolers, and young historians will particularly appreciate the extras, which add period details and offer paths for further research. Others may want simply to read the stories of what it was like to have survived the Titanic. And still others may want to spend an afternoon pouring over the unforgettable images in the many illustrations.

Titanic: Voices of the Disaster is a personal and very readable account of the sinking that should appeal to everyone from middle graders on up to their grandparents. Deborah Hopkinson is well deserving of her Youth Media Award nods and I'm only sorry I waited so long to read this fascinating and moving book.

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

Buy Titanic: Voices from the Disaster at an Indie or at bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
Scholastic/ Scholastic Press, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780545116749
Rating: B+

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

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28 January 2013

Review: Saga: Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan

Falling to peer pressure, I picked up a new graphic novel series this week: Saga: Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples.

I hesitated a bit because the story is slightly out of my usual genres. I love fantasy but I'm not big on science fiction, and I was afraid this would be too much the latter for me. Fortunately Saga was a perfect fit.

Somewhere in some galaxy, the beings (I'll call them people) from the planet Landfall and its moon, Wreath, went to war. Soon the conflict escalated, and there is now almost nowhere in the universe to escape the hostilities. You are one side or the other and there is no neutrality.

This is the story of Marco and Alana; their newborn daughter, Hazel; and their fight to stay together. Marco, from Wreath, is a conscientious objector and was a prisoner of war. One of his Landfall guards was Alana, who would rather read romances than be a soldier. When they discovered their love for each other, they plotted an escape, which begins with Alana giving birth in a vehicle-repair shop. Both sides are after them for political and moral reasons. Both sides want the couple dead, but they each want the baby alive.

Saga is full of fantastic human-like creatures. Some have wings, some have TVs for heads. Others are part insect or have wings or horns. There are bad guys and good guys on both sides, but the Freelancers are the most terrifying: stopping at nothing to destroy the couple and capture the baby.

The color palate of the illustrations is mostly blues, teals, and burnt orange and somewhat muted. The vibrancy is punched up when needed to introduce a particular type of being or to emphasize the action. Fiona Staples did a fantastic job, and many pages are frame worthy. The scan is of one of the bad guys and was picked to show you the colors and style without spoiling the story.

As for the story, Brian Vaughan did amazing work setting up the background to the action to come. The relationship between Marco and Alana is loving but not even close to being sappy. They banter, they are sarcastic, they are funny, but they clearly have a strong relationship. In addition, this is an adult graphic novel, so be prepared for sex and violence. Finally, I like Vaughan's sense of humor both in words and in pictures.

Saga: Volume One sets the stage for the story to come and ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. I can't wait to track down a copy of the next book.

Buy Saga: Vol. 1 at an Indie or at bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
Image Comics, 2012
ISBN-13: 9781607066019
Rating: B+

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

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26 January 2013

Weekend Cooking: A Girl and Her Pig by April Bloomfield

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, 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. For more information, see the welcome post.

April Bloomfield must be one of the hardest working chefs in New York. She co-owns three restaurants and holds the food she serves to the highest of standards. Celebrity chefs, food writers, and those in the know frequent her establishments to partake of her simple dishes with startlingly full flavors.

In her cookbook, A Girl and Her Pig, Bloomfield explains her approach to cooking, shares her stories, and gives us her recipes. Unlike many restaurant chefs, she is well aware that the home cook is not professionally trained and doesn't have a team of kitchen helpers. Thus one her goals is to provide us with knowledge and tips so we can elevate our own dishes from good to wow.
Finding balance is about understanding a dish's harmonious potential, the place where all the flavors achieve a sort of equilibrium. Each bite should make you want to take another. (p. 6)
She emphasizes bright flavors and particular ways to cut vegetables so our food has interest both to the palate and to our eyes. She isn't fussy about fancy presentations and dainty portions, but she is quick to point out that a good-looking plate helps boost the appetite and the enjoyment of the meal.

Some of her recipes may seem long, such as her beef pie, but Bloomfield breaks them down into doable steps and offers plenty of personal notes ("I like to . . "). Other recipes, her grilled sea bass, for example, call for four ingredients and the simplest of directions. Although a few of the main ingredients may be difficult to find or too expensive for everyday eating (quails' eggs, squid), the bulk of the recipes are accessible to the average home cook (featuring familiar meats and vegetables).

Despite the title and the cover photo, A Girl and Her Pig is not solely a meat cookbook. Her vegetable and salad dishes are among my favorites, and I love the nibbles recipes. She also includes a drinks chapter (her version of a Bloody Mary is fantastic) and desserts (that dark chocolate orange cake has my name on it).

As much a book about food and cooking as it is a cookbook, A Girl and Her Pig belongs on the bookshelf next to M. F. K. Fisher, Elizabeth David, and Edna Lewis. The writing is personal and confident and is to be savored along with the meals. Follow April Bloomfield's tips for the perfect cup of tea, plate up some of her soft oatmeal cookies, and get ready to be inspired.

Instead of sharing a recipe, I've imbedded a video that shows Bloomfield cooking three dishes from the book. For a few recipes from A Girl and Her Pig, visit Bloomfield's website.

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 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.

Buy A Girl and Her Pig at an Indie or a bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
Published by HarperCollins / Ecco, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780062003966
Rating: A
Source: bought (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

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25 January 2013

Imprint Friday: Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde by Rebecca Dana

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.

Admit it, just the title of this week's book caught your attention. I was curious about what would bring two such different people together and whether they would connect. In Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde, Rebecca Dana recalls the nine months she shared an apartment with a Hasidic rabbi in the Lubavitch neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Here's the publisher's summary:

The ultimate fish-out-of-water tale . . .

A child who never quite fit in, Rebecca Dana worshipped at the altar of Truman Capote and Nora Ephron, dreaming of one day ditching Pittsburgh and moving to New York, her Jerusalem. After graduating from college, she made her way to the city to begin her destiny. For a time, life turned out exactly as she’d planned: glamorous parties; beautiful people; the perfect job, apartment, and man. But when it all came crashing down, she found herself catapulted into another world. She moves into Brooklyn’s enormous Lubavitch community, and lives with Cosmo, a thirty-year-old Russian rabbi who practices jujitsu on the side.

While Cosmo, disenchanted with Orthodoxy, flirts with leaving the community, Rebecca faces the fact that her religion—the books, magazines, TV shows, and movies that made New York seem like salvation—has also failed her. As she shuttles between the world of religious extremism and the world of secular excess, Rebecca goes on a search for meaning.

Trenchantly observant, entertaining as hell, a mix of Shalom Auslander and The Odd Couple, Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde is a thought-provoking coming-of-age story for the twenty-first century.
To say that Jujitsu Rabbi is not your usual memoir is a bit of an understatement. Rebecca Dana writes for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, she's covered Fashion Week and has met Kelsey Grammer, and that was all  before she was thirty years old. But don't expect to read a memoir about fabulous parties and back-stage access to the latest designer clothes. Instead, Jujitsu Rabbi is about an unlikely friendship between two people who were both going through a sort of crisis.

The pair met when Dana was desperate to leave the Village apartment she had shared with her perfect boyfriend who turned out to be not all that perfect after all. She answered an ad and took a room in a kosher-kitchen apartment about as far from Bleecker Street as she could get. Her new roommate was Russian-born Cosmo, who was waiting for his green card, working at a copy shop, and beginning to second-guess his decision to embrace Judaism. What could a liberal Reform Jew from Pittsburgh have in common with such a man? Quite a bit, as it turns out.

Besides telling us about Cosmo and her own struggles to move past her breakup, Dana also writes about adjusting to New York, learning the truth about Fashion Week, and getting to know her Brooklyn neighbors. Ultimately, though, Rebecca Dana's Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde is a story of friendship and of two young people trying to untangle idealized dreams from true desires.

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.

Buy Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde at an Indie or at a bookstore near you. (Link leads to an affiliate program.)
Published by Putnam
/ Amy Einhorn Books, January 2013
ISBN-13: 9780399158773

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

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24 January 2013

Review: A Late Quartet (Film)

Four classical musicians, played by Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, and Mark Ivanir, have been playing together for about 25 years. Now, despite their great success, the quartet seems to be on the brink of dissolution.

Peter is facing a career-ending disease, Robert and Juliette's marriage is at a crisis, and Daniel thinks he's in a love with a much younger women, who happens to be Robert and Juliette's daughter. These personal issues are played out against the background of music, not just in the score but almost as another character.

A Late Quartet, directed by Yaron Zilberman, is a character study of four friends and partners who also harbor jealousies and their own ideas of how pieces should be played. The acting is wonderful, and the individual stories of the quartet members are interesting, even if not uplifting.

But honestly, I was more fascinated by what I learned about the life of a classical musician than I was in the fate of the quartet. I was unaware of the choices musicians make, the life cycle and lifestyle of a classical group, and the inner workings and emotions that hold such groups together (or tear them apart).

The score, principally Beethoven’s Quartet in C Sharp Minor, sets the structure for the film (the opus is described and explained in the script), and the musicians' emotional ups and downs nicely follow the moods of Beethoven's long piece. Unfortunately, the actors were less convincing when attempting to look as if they were really playing their instruments, but their stellar performances more than compensate.

The BluRay of the movie comes out February 5. Thanks to Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment for the chance to view a streamer of the film.

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22 January 2013

Wordless Wednesday 221

Winter Bloom, 2013

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Today's Read: On the Map by Simon Garfield

Did you know that Ptolemy created a map of the world based on stories, both oral and written? And what if you were to learn that his map was used for almost 1,350 years as "the principal map of the world"? In today's environment of the Internet, GPS, and smart phones, how many of us still own a physical atlas?

Maps hold a clue to what makes us human. Certainly they relate and realign our history. They reflect our best and worst attributes—discovery and curiosity, conflict and destruction—and they chart our transitions of power. Even as individuals, we seem to have a need to plot a path and track our progress, to imagine possibilities of exploration and escape. The language of maps is integral to our lives, too. We have achieved something if we have put ourselves (or our town) on the map. The organized among us have things neatly mapped out. We need compass points or we lose our bearings. We orient ourselves (for on old maps east was at the top). We give someone a degree of latitude to roam.

Maps fascinate us because they tell stories.
On the Map by Simon Garfield (Penguin USA / Gotham Books, 2012, p. 18; uncorrected proof)

It will be a while before you'll see a review of this true account of the mapping of world from the ancient Egyptians to GPS. I've been savoring it a little at a time.

Buy On the Map at an indie or at a bookstore near you. (Link leads to an affiliate program.)
ISBN-13: 9781592407798

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

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21 January 2013

Review: Kiss Me Again by Rachel Vail

Life for Charlie Collins, "approximately fifteen years old," has been turned totally upside down. She kissed Tess's boyfriend and Tess stopped talking to her, her mother just got remarried and the step-family has moved in, and her new stepbrother is, well, the boy she kissed. Charlie wonders how long she can remain hidden in her bedroom and how she can avoid Kevin now that he's moved into the room down the hall.

 Kiss Me Again, by Rachel Vail, is told from Charlie's perspective and begins on the day of the big wedding. She has spent most of her life alone with her mother, but from this day forward she has siblings and a live-in father. It's a lot for a ninth-grader to deal with, but the situation is complicated by her feelings for Kevin.

A few things make this story a winner. First, it's hard not to fall for Charlie, who is a good kid but not unrealistically perfect. She's often unsure of herself and struggles with wanting to fit in even when she doesn't always like the other girls' behavior. She is also caught between stages of growth: one minute giggling about silly things and the next truly concerned about the welfare of her young stepsister.

Although Kiss Me Again deals with some serious issues--such as blended families, the nature of friendships, and learning to put the greater good before selfish wishes--Vail helps us and younger readers see the funny side of things. In one scene, Charlie loses all dignity at the dinner table after she spills water, drops a knife, and bangs her head: "In all it was forty-five seconds of the Charlie Freaks Out Show." It was a laugh-out-loud moment.

Not everything in Charlie's life can be glossed over with laughter, of course, but Vail doesn't dwell on the negative. For example, when Tess behaves badly, we're aware of it as something Charlie must eventually recognize, but mean girls are not at the center of the novel.

Kiss Me Again would be a great book club choice for girls aged thirteen to fifteen. Topics of discussion include how to deal with manipulative friends, what it's like to be part of a blended family, and how to know what kinds of information you should share with others what you should keep to yourself. I didn't find a reading group guide for the novel, but I think teens would find plenty to talk about. 

Only after I finished reading the book did I realize that Kiss Me Again is a sequel. Vail first introduces Charlie and Kevin in If We Kiss. Don't let that stop you from reading Kiss Me Again; I never felt at a loss for background information.

Quick take: Rachel Vail's Kiss Me Again is a sweet story of how fifteen-year-old Charlie learns to cope with change, gains self-confidence, and matures just a tiny bit.

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

Buy Kiss Me Again at an Indie or at bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
HarperCollins / Harper Teen, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780061947179
Rating: B

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

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19 January 2013

Weekend Cooking: Review: The Back in the Swing Cookbook by Barbara C. Unell and Judith Fertig

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, 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. For more information, see the welcome post.


Although Barbara C. Unell and Judith Fertig wrote The Back in the Swing Cookbook for breast cancer survivors, it's really aimed at anyone who wants to embrace a more healthful diet. Thus it's fitting that I began reading this terrific cookbook in January, when—like most people—I vow to do better during the coming year.

As usual, I'll start with my thoughts about the design. I love the pink (for breast cancer) and teal color scheme of Back in the Swing, it's cheerful and adds a fun feeling to the book. I especially like the biggish, easy-to-read fonts used for the recipes and the more fun style of the many sidebars and boxes.

Scattered throughout the book, you'll find literary quotes, inspirational stories, quick fitness ideas, myth busters, and well-researched health and fitness information. Unell and Fertig have gathered a wealth of knowledge about staying healthy that deserves a second or even third read.

The recipes in Back in the Swing were based on a specific set of healthful foods and were developed to enhance flavor and still be easy to prepare. The authors concentrated on plant-based dishes, but many of the main dishes include lean meats and fish. The recipes call for common, real ingredients, although almond milk is often used instead of cow's milk. And best of all, the dishes are low calorie, full of nutrients, and very appealing.

Here are some of the recipes (I picked one from each chapter):
  • Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pudding with Fresh Berries
  • Spiced Blueberry Applesauce Muffins
  • Sea Breeze Mocktail
  • Thai Lettuce Cups
  • Citrus Sesame Chicken Salad
  • Cheese Tortellini with Artichoke-Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
  • Island Fish Tacos with Fresh Pineapple Salsa
Don't they sound yummy? Unell and Fertig take a global approach to their diet, and I found recipes with European, Mexican, and Asian flavors.

The Back in the Swing Cookbook is a great choice for exploring new dishes and for helping you stay on track with your weight, fitness, and health goals. Even the most inexperienced cooks will feel comfortable cooking from this book. Unell and Fertig have made it very easy to serve healthful meals to yourself and your family.

Vegetarian/vegan alert: Most recipes in The Back in the Swing Cookbook would fit a vegetarian lifestyle. Vegans will have more trouble, but I encourage them to take a look for themselves.

Here's a great dish for a busy weekday night that can be eaten warm as a main dish with a side salad and then is good cold for a packed lunch the next day. It's also a wonderful for a picnic or pot luck.

Orzo with Spinach, Garbanzo Beans, and Feta
Serves 4
  • 1½ ounces orzo pasta, cooked according to package directions (about 2 cups cooked)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese (about 1 ounce)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
Stir the pasta, garbanzo beans, spinach, and cheese together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic together, pour over the pasta, and toss to blend. Season to taste. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Buy The Back in the Swing Cookbook at an Indie or at bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program
Published by Andrews McMeel, 2012
ISBN-13: 9781449418328
Rating: B
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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18 January 2013

Imprint Friday: The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Harper Perennial. 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.

Because I enjoyed Sadie Jones’s Small Wars, I was looking forward to reading her latest novel, The Uninvited Guests, out in paperback this month. When I learned the story takes place in England a few years before World War I and involves a family that is just about to lose its tenuous hold on gentility, I was intrigued.

Here's the publisher's summary:

One late spring evening in 1912, in the kitchens at Sterne, preparations begin for an elegant supper party in honor of Emerald Torrington's twentieth birthday. But only a few miles away, a dreadful accident propels a crowd of mysterious and not altogether savory survivors to seek shelter at the ramshackle manor—and the household is thrown into confusion and mischief.

Evening turns to stormy night, and a most unpleasant parlor game threatens to blow respectability to smithereens: Smudge Torrington, the wayward youngest daughter of the house, decides that this is the perfect moment for her Great Undertaking.

The Uninvited Guests is the bewitching new novel from the critically acclaimed Sadie Jones. The prizewinning author triumphs in this frightening yet delicious drama of dark surprises—where social codes are uprooted and desire daringly trumps propriety—and all is alight with Edwardian wit and opulence.
From the start you can see that trouble is brewing. Emerald and her brother, Clovis, are unhappy with their stepfather and with the thought of losing their home. Young Smudge is in hiding and is left unsupervised. Edward Swift, the stepfather, has gone into town to see about borrowing money, meaning his wife, Charlotte, is to be the sole hostess of the birthday party. No one seems particularly happy on this celebration day.

Jones skillfully sets up the time period through both the descriptive prose and the dialogue, firmly placing us in Edwardian England. Snapshot scenes with each of the family members creates a mood of unease. We're not sure what's going to happen, but we know it won't be all good.

When the accident survivors appear on the doorstep, the family has nowhere to put them and nothing to feed them. And, of course, they are mostly of the lower classes and can't be trusted. To make matters worse, the gentleman among the victims begins to behave shockingly, ultimately leaving an indelible mark on the family.

Sadie Jones's The Uninvited Guests is a story of manners and saving face, perfectly blended with humor and social commentary spiced with a hint of Gothic.

Don't miss Harper Perennial's trademark P.S.section at the back of the novel. There you can read an interview with Sadie Jones about the novel and its characters as well as an article she wrote about great dinner party scenes from books and movies. The Uninvited Guests was a Indie Next pick for May 2012.

Harper Perennial is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For information about the imprint, please read the welcome note, posted here on June 18, 2010. To discover more Harper Perennial books, use the Topics/Labels pull-down menu in the sidebar. 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. For more about Harper Perennial, follow them on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook.

Buy The Uninvited Guests at an Indie or at a bookstore near you. (This link leads to an affiliate program.)
Published by HarperCollins / Harper Perennial, 2013

ISBN-13: 9780062116512
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

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17 January 2013

Review: Leonardo and The Last Supper by Ross King

Leonardo da Vinci got a late start on his path to everlasting fame. By the time he was in his forties, he had a reputation for never finishing his works and for devising strange contraptions. He also had a passion for being a military engineer (weaponry and fortifications) and for exploring mathematics (although he often had trouble with simple addition).

Thus when da Vinci started The Last Supper on the wall of the refectory in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the monks surely had little expectation that the painting would ever be completed.

In Leonardo and The Last Supper, Ross King reveals the fascinating story behind one of the world's most famous paintings. Although the core of the book focuses on da Vinci, King takes the time to develop the context, providing the cultural, political, religious, and technological environment of the late 1400s.

King packed an amazing amount of information into just under 300 pages of text and did so in an easy-to-read style that makes the book accessible to a wide audience. Rather than try to summarize the book, I'll mention just a few things that stuck with me.

The composition of the painting. I was especially interested in the ways da Vinci's scene differed from earlier depictions of the last supper, including the placement of the people, the food on the table, and the colors of the men's robes. King is careful to remind us of the various stories of the last supper, as told in the New Testament and other writings and then discusses those versions in terms of da Vinci's interpretation.

The technical and mechanical aspects. Other sections of Leonardo and The Last Supper discuss the components of da Vinci's paints, pigments, scaffolding, and brushwork. We also learn that the 450-square-foot painting was groundbreaking in a number of ways. For example, the artist's use of perspective, his creation of realistic expressions and body positions, his use of shadows, and his careful placement of the focal point were all innovations that changed the course of art forever after.

The artist's personal life. Da Vinci was far from conventional, and King lets us see the man behind the paintbrush, including his dietary preferences, a typical workday, and his household inventory. Da Vinci had quite an impressive personal library for his day and would often put his artwork aside to pursue his other interests.

There is quite a bit more in Ross King's Leonardo and The Last Supper, such as sections that involve the Borgias, various kings and dukes, contemporary artists, and da Vinci's family. King also talks about the painting in terms of today's popular culture and even addresses Dan Brown's interpretation.

This is a don't-miss read for anyone interested in Italy, da Vinci, art, and/or history and, of course, biography fans. (My audiobook review of this title will be published by AudioFile magazine.)

Buy Leonardo and The Last Supper at a bookstore near you.
Bloomsbury Publishing / Walker, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780802717054
Rating: B

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

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15 January 2013

Wordless Wednesday 220

January Sunset

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Today's Read & Giveaway: What We Saw at Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard

What would you do if you couldn't go outside when it was light out? No, you're not a vampire, you're an ordinary teenager who was born with a rare genetic disorder that makes you essentially allergic to the sun. Now let's say you and your friends were out one night and saw something you shouldn't have . . . and the bad guy knows you were a witness.

Allie Kim isn't exactly sure what she saw, but she knows it wasn't good, and she's starting to get paranoid. Here she is talking to her best friend, who was one of the witnesses.

"I want to talk to your dad [a policeman]. We could call in a sketch artist. Someone could draw her, from what I saw."

"But my dad was actually in [the apartment], Allie. He didn't see anything."

I stared at her, pleading with my eyes, my belly filled with rage, my heart breaking. "You don't believe me. You really don't."

She shook her head. At the time, I was certain she truly doubted me. But she didn't doubt me at all.
What We Saw at Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard (Soho Press / Soho Teen, 2013, p. 72; uncorrected proof)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: Iron Harbor, Minnesota, and surrounding area
  • Circumstances: three teens with xeroderma pigmentosum witness something strange through the windows of a penthouse
  • Characters: Allie, Rob, and Juliet; their parents and siblings; doctors & nurses at the clinic; the bad man with the blond streak in his hair
  • Genre: mystery, thriller, adventure  
  • Interesting extra: the teens are learning parkour, an extreme sport made more extreme by their nighttime participation
  • Miscellaneous: the initial publication of a new imprint from Soho Press; Jacquelyn Mitchard also wrote The Deep End of the Ocean (a book I loved)
For more on the imprint and the first season of Soho Teen books, watch the following short video.

The Giveaway

Thanks to Soho Teen, I am pleased to be able to offer one of my readers a copy of Jacquelyn Mitchard's new novel, What We Saw at Night. Here's how to enter for a chance to win: Just fill out the following form, and I will pick a winner, using a random number generator, on January 25. Because the publishing company will be mailing out the book, the giveaway is limited to readers with a U.S./Canada mailing address. I'll delete the data in this form once a winner has been selected and confirmed. Good luck.

Buy What We Saw at Night at an indie or at a bookstore near you. (Link leads to an affiliate program.)
Published by Soho Press / Soho Teen, 2013
ISBN-13: 9781616951412

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

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14 January 2013

Review: Jack of Fables: Americana by Bill Willingham

In Americana, the fourth installment of Bill Willingham's Jack of Fables books, Jack is (as usual) looking for easy money to put him back in the lap of luxury. But before he can put his latest scheme in motion, he has to put Humpty Dumpty together again. And that he does.

Setting out with the egg, Pathetic Fallacy, and Raven (a Native American Fable), Jack jumps a train to Americana, the home of the New World Fables. There we meet various people of legend, including Huck Finn and Roaring Twenties gangsters.

Unfortunately for Jack, his enemies have hired the great Natty Bumpo to track him down. That guy was one serious tracker, and no matter where Jack hides, Natty eventually finds him. Thanks to the self-sacrificing Paul Bunyan, Jack and his friends escape capture. Will they find the legendary golden treasure? And if they do, will they be able to hold on to it?

Although the story line in Americana is not my favorite of the fable books, Willingham and his team are at their funniest. There are several (adult) laugh-out-loud moments that make the book well worth your while. The scan (click to enlarge) is from when Jack tries hiding out in Canada. Apologies to my friends north of the border, but I had to share this page.

The book ends with tangential story of the Fables putting on Hamlet, starring Alice of Wonderland fame. Although a few scenes made me chuckle, I'm not quite sure what it has to do with the larger story arc. Perhaps I just missed it.

As with all the Fables books, a number of artists worked on Americana, and this entry was nicely drawn. The drawing style varies a bit throughout the series, and Americana's illustrations were visually appealing to me. In the scan, you can see what a great job Jack did when he reconstructed Humpty Dumpty.

Buy Jack of Fables: Americana at a bookstore near you.
DC Comics / Vertigo, 2008
ISBN-13: 9781401219796
Rating: B+
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

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12 January 2013

Weekend Cooking: A Look at My Cookbook Shelves

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, 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. For more information, see the welcome post.


Last week in the Weekend Cooking comments and then yesterday on Twitter a few of you asked for a peek at my cookbook shelves. It's been a while since I've done one of these posts, so I picked a random stack, photographed it, and now I'll describe it. (Click the photo to enlarge it.)

This group contains an eclectic mix of books I haven't used in while, so I hope I'll be inspired to get reacquainted them. I'll start at the top and work my way down.

1. Diana Shaw's The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook (Potter, 1997) is more than 500 pages of everything a vegetable lover needs to know. Of course, there are tons of recipes, but Shaw also talks about buying, prepping, and storing ingredients; provides sample menus; and clarifies nutritional information. I've cooked out of this one quite a bit. Recommended and useful.

2. Who could resist The Sopranos Family Cookbook, compiled by Artie Bucco (AOL Time Warner, 2002)? I've never cooked out of this book, but I love the photos, information about the show, and fun layout and design. The recipes, as you might expect, are very Italian, and none of them looks too difficult. If you were a fan of the HBO show, you should at least check this one out of the library. Fun reading.

3. I'm not quite sure why I bought Pam Anderson's How to Cook without a Book (Broadway, 2000) because the vast majority of my cooking is done without a recipe. I guess I thought I might learn some new tricks. Perhaps I could have. I don't remember ever reading this one. Unknown recommendation.

4. Beth Hensperger is one of my go-to bread sources, and I just love her Breads of the Southwest (Chronicle, 1997). Recipes include tortillas, flat breads, sour doughs, and the breads of the many different cultures native to the American Southwest. I think I'm going to put this one in the kitchen for a while. Highly recommended.

5. Jeffrey Alford and Namoi Duguid's Homebaking (Artisan, 2003) is mostly a bread book but also includes chapters on pastry and cakes/cookies. The recipes are from around the world and each one looks better than the last. This is an oversize book with glossy pages and stunning photography. Recommended for baking from and for reading.

6. I bought Spirit of the West by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1996) after it won a IACP Cookbook award. The focus of this book is, as the subtitle says, on the ranch house and range. I absolutely adore this book. It takes a historical perspective, describing foods (and providing recipes) from the cowboy tradition, homesteading, early cattle ranching, and even dude ranches. The flavors have a Mexican influence and are heavily meat oriented but oh so yummy. The information, photographs, and resources are invaluable. Recommended for anyone interested in the Old West.

7. Marlene Sorosky's Cookery for Entertaining (HP Books, 1979) is one I've had since it came out. I don't think I'll ever let it go. It has a photo of a carved-out watermelon whale on the cover (filled with fruit salad), and the recipes preserve a piece of Americana. Although I never did and never would shape liver pate into a football for a fall Saturday party (yes, that's in the book), I recall that the recipes were easy to make and fit my graduate student budget. Recommended for nostalgic purposes only.

8. Finger Food by Elsa Petersen-Schepelern (Ryland Peters & Small, 2002)  is a beautiful book filled with all kinds of fantastic ideas, like cold soups served in liqueur glasses and tiny radicchio leaves filled with yummy goat cheese spread. It's not that I couldn't re-create these pretty dishes in my kitchen, but when it comes down to it picking an appetizer, I seem to look elsewhere. Unknown recommendation.

9. Another beautiful book is Cool Cocktails by Ben Reed (Ryland Peters & Small, 2000). If you're into colorful and delicious cocktails, this a book you might want to check out. From classic rusty nails to the New Orleans sazerac, you'll find something for everyone's taste. Unfortunately for this book, I tend to stick to wine or scotch. Recommended for classic drink lovers.

10. Madur Jaffrey's gigantic World Vegetarian (Clarkson Potter, 1999), contains about 650 recipes from (yes) around the world. Jaffrey's is one of my dependable cookbook authors, and this book doesn't disappoint. The recipes feature rich, full flavors and are easy to follow. Unsure cooks will appreciate the tips, techniques, and buying guides. Highly recommended.

11. I love Japanese food, but I bought Shizuo Tsuji's Japaneses Cooking: A Simple Art (Kodansha International, 1980) because the foreword was by M. F. K. Fisher. Really. Someday when I have the time and if I ever live near the ocean, I may actually tackle one of these so-called simple recipes. Not for the casual cook.

12. One of the gems in my collection is Joel Patraker & Joan Schwartz's The Greenmarket Cookbook (Viking, 2000). The photography, stories, and recipes from Manhattan's Union Square market are fantastic. The cookbook is divided by season and focuses on fresh vegetables and fruit (though it is not a vegetarian cookbook). From ice creams to hearty soups, this book has you covered no matter what your mood. Highly recommended.

13. And finally, in the unlucky 13th place, is the famous French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller (Artisan, 1999). Have I ever cooked out of this book? No. Will I ever? Maybe. Am I sorry I own it? Absolutely not. The immense amount of information in this cookbook makes it worth every penny. There's a section on the importance of trussing a chicken, information on how to make the perfect cheese plate, and a discourse on the different kinds of chinois (known as sieves to us regular folks). Plus, let's face it, what cookbook collection is complete without it? Recommended for cookbook fools (like me).

I hope you enjoyed this trip through one small section of my cookbook collection. If you want to see the watermelon whale, you can find a cover shot over at Amazon. I have no idea how many of these books are still available in stores, but you can always look at used book stores and flea markets.

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11 January 2013

Imprint Friday: Hikikomori and the Rental Sister by Jeff Backhaus

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.

I had never heard of the Japanese phenomenon of locking oneself in a room until I became aware of Jeff Backhaus's debut novel, Hikikomori and the Rental Sister. I was fascinated with both the concept and the difference between American and Japanese attitudes toward becoming a hikikomori.

Instead of explaining it to you, I'll let you read the publisher's summary:
Thomas Tessler has cloistered himself in his bedroom and shut out the world for the past three years. His wife, Silke, lives right in the next room, but Thomas no longer shares his life with her, leaving his hideout only occasionally, in the wee hours of the night, to pick up food at the grocery store around the corner from their Manhattan apartment. Unable to cope with a devastating loss, Thomas has become isolated and withdrawn. He is hikikomori.

Desperate for one last chance to salvage their life together, Silke hires Megumi, a young Japanese immigrant attuned to the hikikomori phenomenon, to lure Thomas back into the world. Fleeing from her own shattering experience, Megumi has buried her pain in a fast life spent in nightclubs with nameless men. Now she will try to help Thomas and Silke as a "rental sister," as they are known in Japan. At first Thomas remains steadfast and sequestered, but as he grows to trust Megumi, a deepening and sensual relationship unfolds.

Hikikomori and the Rental Sister is a taut novel that packs a big philosophical punch. In this revelatory and provocative debut, Jeff Backhaus asks, What are the risks of intimacy? Can another woman ever lead a husband back to his wife? And what must we surrender for love? Hikikomori and the Rental Sister pierces the emotional walls of grief and delves into the power of human connection to break through to the world waiting 
Hikikomori is an introspective novel about how grief and guilt can lead some people into withdrawal and how love, patience, and understanding can, if not heal, at least provide the hope for a different future.

One of the main themes of the novel is between-ness, of being stuck in a limbo, partially of one's own making. Although both Thomas and Silke are clearly unable to move past their shared tragedy, it's Megumi who most embodies the idea of being neither here nor there. And it's this quality of being outside the usual categories that makes her the perfect catalyst for change.

Backhuas's writing is careful and sparse, capturing a Japanese style in an American voice. I wanted to say more about the prose, but that one sentence sums up my thoughts. Here's an example that includes no spoilers:
Go away, girl. Be someone else's sister.

But she stays at the closed door and talks. I unfocus my ears and hear only sounds, sweet sounds like a bird, all rhythm and cadence, sounds but no meaning, just up and down like notes on a page. (p. 17)
I was hooked from the first chapter, and read the novel in one sitting.

Book clubs may want to consider Hikikomori and the Rental Sister. There is certainly a lot to discuss, starting with the questions asked in the publisher's summary.

For more on the hikikomori phenomenon, read "Shutting Themselves In," published in the New York Times a few years ago. Get to know Jeff Bakhous by visiting his website, following him on Twitter, or liking him on Facebook.

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. Don't forget to follow Algonquin on Twitter and Facebook and read their blog (where you can sign up for the Algonquin newsletter).

Buy Hikikomori and the Rental Sister at an indie or at a bookstore near you. (Link leads to an affiliate program.)
Published by Workman / Algonquin Books 2013
ISBN-13: 9781616201371

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

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10 January 2013

Thursday Tea: Reunion at Red Paint Bay by George Harrar

The Book:  Simon Howe grew up in Red Paint, Maine, population just over 7,000. Although he left for college and worked as a newsman in Portland, he returned home, bought the local weekly, and set himself up as editor-in-chief.

Things in Red Paint are pretty uneventful, and it's not easy to fill the 32 pages of the paper, but by using enough photos, a quote of the week, and some fancy layout, Simon makes do. The top story this summer is a toss-up between someone claiming to have seen the Virgin Mary in her backyard and Simon's 25th high school reunion.

The first small tear in Simon's quiet life shows up in the form of postcard. And then another. Someone is about to stalk him, and Simon has no idea who it is or why. Does the stalker know a secret from Simon's past or is there another side to the story?

George Harrar's Reunion at Red Paint Bay is part psychological thriller and part mystery, which is one of my go-to genres. I also like books set in Maine, so I was all prepared to enjoy myself. And, in fact, Harrar does a good job setting up the situation so it's not clear whom the reader should believe. There is also one decidedly creepy scene that kinda of makes me want to sleep with the lights on. Unfortunately, as a whole, Reunion at Red Paint Bay didn't quite live up to its promise for me. Two things stand out: too much foreshadowing, which cut down on some of the tension, and not vivid enough characterizations, which made it difficult for me to connect.

You may have a better luck with Harrar's novel than I did; the blurb from Kirkus sounds very positive.

The Tea: In these bleak, cold days of January I'm once again drinking tea in the afternoons. My latest discovery is Trader Joe's Candy Cane Green Tea. This is a decaf tea with a lovely smell and just the right amount of peppermint. I'm hooked . . . at least for this week.

The Assessment: As I mentioned, I didn't get a strong feeling for the characters, so I'm really not sure what Simon would think about decaf peppermint tea. But I have known a few newspaper people in my day, and I really don't see any of them interested in tea, especially tea without the caffeine. Simon's wife, on the other hand, might go for a cup.

What About You? Are you drinking anything interesting these days? And what are you reading this week?

Buy Reunion at Red Paint Bay at an Indie or a bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
Thursday Tea was the brainchild of Anastasia at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog.
Published by Other Press, January 29, 2013
ISBN-13: 9781590515457
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: C
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)
FTC: I buy all teas myself, I am not a tea reviewer.

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08 January 2013

Wordless Wednesday 219

Welcome Home (Brooklyn), 2012

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Review: Two Nature Books for Kids

Animal lovers of all ages will be absolutely entranced by David E. Klutho's Time for Kids: Zoo 3D. Let me start by raving about the photography. After you turn the first page of the book, you're instructed to put on the 3D glasses found in the inside cover. And once you do, you'll gasp as the photographs seem to pop off the page!

The effect is so truly three-dimensional, you'll want to pet the giant panda, keep your fingers away from the leopard's mouth, and duck out of the way of the flying bats. I just love the way the butterfly's wings rise off the page, and I was totally creeped out by the Chilean tarantula. (*shudder*) You and your kids will spend hours looking at the fantastic photographs of mammals, birds, insects, amphibians, and reptiles.

What makes Zoo 3D really wonderful, though, is the informative but easy-to-understand text that goes with the special effects. Photographer and animal-lover David Klutho, along with writer Curtis Slepian, fills us in on what the animals like to eat, how they they are born, where they live in the wild, and more. Throughout the book are fun "Did You Know?" boxes with quick facts that kids will likely want to share with whoever will listen.

Earmark Klutho's spectacular book for the budding photographer or veterinarian in your family

Buy Zoo 3D at an Indie or a bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
Published by Time Home Entertainment / Time for Kids, 2012
ISBN-13: 9781618930095

Rating: B+
Source: Review (see review policy)

In And the Tide Comes In . . . Exploring a Georgia Salt Marsh, Merrly Alber transports young readers to the wonderfully diverse world of the eastern coastal lowlands. When Ginger, who lives in Colorado, travels to Georgia to visit her cousin, she expects to see white sandy beaches. Instead she discovers the muddy tidal marshes and comes to love the grasses, snails, raccoons, and birds that live there.

Joyce Mihran Turey's beautiful illustrations bring the story of exploration alive. Ginger and her cousin get muddy, catch crabs, feast on shrimp, and watch the animals and fish.

Although And the Tide Comes In can be read as a delightful story of having fun in the outdoors, it's much more. On every spread you'll find a discussion question or two that pertain to the story. Some are fun (like "Have you ever gotten really muddy?") and some prompt your young ones to notice the natural world around them (like "What animals have you seen visiting your neighborhood?").

In addition, there are numerous illustrated sidebars to satisfy the curious reader. I was surprised to learn of all the different mammals that find a home in the marshes and was interested to read about how marsh grass survives its daily baths of salty tidal waters.

Because And the Tide Comes In can be read on different levels, it's a book your children will enjoy as they mature from looking at the illustrations to learning about the tides.

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

Buy And the Tide Comes in at an Indie or a bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
Published by Taylor Trade / Moonlight, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780981770055

Rating B+
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads

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07 January 2013

Imprint Extra: Cathy M. Buchanan on Degas's Little Dancer

In my last Imprint Friday post, I featured Cathy M. Buchanan's The Painted Girls. I couldn't stop reading this fact-based novel about one of Edgar Degas's ballerina models and her efforts to help her family rise out of poverty.

Marie was a young teenager when she entered the Paris ballet school and began supplementing her income by modeling for Degas. The artist used her image in several of his works, including one of his most famous sculptures. I can't help but wonder what Marie would have thought if she realized she would become so well recognized around the world.

Please welcome author Cathy Buchanan, who was kind enough to stop by today to tell us a little bit more about the famous Degas bronze. I'll never look at that sculpture the same way again.

Five Things You Never Knew about Degas's Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (unless you've read The Painted Girls)

1. Marie Van Goethem modeled for the sculpture: Fourteen-year-old Marie van Goethem posed both naked and clothed for Edgar Degas. Between 1878 and 1881, he drew, painted, and sculpted her in numerous artworks, most famously in Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. She was from a poverty-stricken family and was trained at the Paris Opéra dance school to enter the famous Paris Opéra Ballet.

2. Marie's meager circumstances were not unusual at the dance school: A position with the Ballet was the dream of many a poor Parisian girl. The ballet offered a chance to escape the gutter, to find fame and fortune if she had talent and ambition and if she was able to attract the attentions of a wealthy admirer.

3. Ballet girls like Marie were often preyed upon by male season's ticket holders: Along with their own private boxes at the Opéra, male season's ticket holders had purchased entrance to the Foyer de Dance, a space built to encourage encounters with the young ballet girls. It was a sort of gentleman's club, a place where highlife met lowlife, where mistresses were sought by industrialists and noblemen with clout enough to advance a girl's career.

4. With Little Dancer Degas may have been hinting at the corruption of Marie: "Scientific" findings of the day supported notions of innate criminality and particular facial features—low forehead, broad cheekbones, forward-thrusting jaw—that indicated a tendency toward crime. It appears Degas bought into the idea and sought to incorporate it into his artwork. The telltale features are apparent in the criminal portrait he exhibited alongside Little Dancer in 1881, and he, in fact, titled the portrait Criminal Physiognomies. With the same features marking Little Dancer's face, art historians hypothesize Degas was suggesting the corruption of young Marie.

5. Little Dancer shocked the city of Paris: When Degas unveiled Little Dancer in 1881, it was to reveal something very curious—a highly realistic wax sculpture of a ballet girl, wearing a real skirt, bodice and pair of slippers and a wig of human hair. She was called a "flower of precocious depravity." Her face, they said, was "imprinted with the detestable promise of every vice." The public, it would seem, had linked Little Dancer with a life of corruption and young girls for sale.

Thanks so much, Cathy. I was fascinated not only with Degas and his work but also with the details of the ballet school and life in the less-romantic areas of Paris. In addition, The Painted Girls brought back many fond memories of own years at various dance studios. (Click the image of the bronze to enlarge it; as far as I can tell it's in the public domain.)

Riverhead Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, visit the Riverhead website. While there, explore their terrific book list, check out authors in the news, and view some fun videos. Stay in the know by following them on Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter.

Buy The Painted Girls at an indie or at a bookstore near you. (Link leads to an affiliate program.)
Published by Penguin USA / Riverhead, January 8, 2013
ISBN-13: 9781250013972

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

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