28 February 2013

Review: Collateral Damage by Stuart Woods

I've been meaning to read Stuart Woods's Stone Barrington books for a long time, but for some reason I never got around to them. When I had a chance to listen to the audiobook of the latest one, Collateral Damage, I took at as a sign and gave the book a try.

Collateral Damage is the 25th book in the Stone Barrington series. I'm not sure if it's typical of all of them, but I loved it so much I almost want to start the series from the beginning. The truth is, I'll probably just start here and look forward the next installment, which comes out later this spring.

I'm not an expert on mystery genres, but I'd call this a combination of detective novel and spy thriller. Stone Barrington is an ex-cop and a lawyer in New York City. I couldn't quite tell if Stone still practices law, though, because the story line didn't involve that kind of case. Regardless, he seems to be quite well off and lives in a large building right in the city, with an office on the first floor and living quarters on the floors above.

Stone's girlfriend, Holly Barker, is the assistant CIA director and is actively pursuing a case of terrorism involving a woman who has been bombing strategic offices and people in England and the United States. The high-action and tightly edited plot revolves around the capture and/or elimination of the terrorist and her accomplices.

Although it is clear that the main characters have a history, I quickly figured out their personalities and relationships. I'm sure the excellent narration by Tony Roberts helped in that regard. I thought he individualized the voices just enough to allow me to understand each person's idiosyncrasies without getting in the way of my being able to form my own opinions. Thus I soon connected with Stone and Holly and the people in their orbit.

However, I wish I had started the series with the book just before this one, Severe Clear, because the action in Collateral Damage begins a few weeks after the previous book, and the cases are clearly connected. Fortunately, Woods included enough background information to get me up to speed, so I wasn't lost.

I loved the energy of the book both in terms of the case (bombings, hidden cameras, competition among the security agencies, danger) and in terms of the relationships among the characters (friends, lovers, business colleagues). The behind-the-scenes look at the workings of international security was interesting and not overly technical. In fact, some of the gadgets used by both our heroes and the bad guys were everyday items.

My recommendation? Don't hold back--start reading Stuart Woods's Stone Barrington series tomorrow. If you don't want to go back to the beginning, pick up book 24, Severe Clear, so you can catch all of the most recent plot line. On the other hand, I loved the characters so much, I may read a few of the earlier installments so I can get to know them better.

As I mentioned, I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Penguin Audio, 7 hr, 23 min) read by Tony Roberts, who I think has narrated most if not all of the series. This is my first experience with Roberts, and I enjoyed his characterizations and appreciated his skill at projecting author Stuart Woods's well-crafted pacing. I'm already hooked on the audiobooks for this series.

Buy Collateral Damage at an Indie or at bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
Penguin USA, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780399159862
Rating: B+

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

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26 February 2013

Wordless Wednesday 226

Glass Reflections, February 2013

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Today's Imprint Read: Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman

What would it be like to grow up in a dirt-poor community of rusted-out trailers in the middle of the desert, never feeling safe? Rory Hendrix knows that world all too well, even though she's still just a little girl.

My mama always hid her mouth when she laughed. Even when she spoke too gleefully, mouth stretched too wide by those happy muscles, teeth too visible. I can still recognize someone from my neighborhood by their teeth. Or lack of them. And whenever I do, I call those people family. I know immediately that I can trust them with my dog but not with the car keys and not to remember what time, exactly, they're coming back for their kids. I know if we get into a fight and Johnny shows up we'll agree that there has been "No problem, Officer, we'll keep it down."

I know what they hide when they hide those teeth.
Girlchild by Tupel Hassman (Macmillan / Picador, 2013, p. 3)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: the Calle des Flores, outside of Reno; the 1960s
  • Circumstances: Rory lives with her mother but must fend for herself; she is smart but is beaten down by abuse and poverty; she wants out but is distrustful of the system
  • Characters: Rory; Jo, her mother; Hardware Man, the evil neighbor; various people from the Calle and school
  • Style: written in short pieces: diary entries, Girl Scout Handbook, case worker files, school word problems
  • Genre: literary, coming of age
  • Difficult themes: child abuse, poverty
  • Miscellaneous: just out in paperback this month; winner of several awards, including the 2013 Alex Award and the 2012 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize

What to Know More?

Learn about Tupelo Hassman by visiting her her website, her Tumblr site, and her Facebook page. She's been interviewed a number of times, including by The Rumpus, Litseen, and The Kenyon Review. For an overview of the novel, watch this short video, which includes a brief reading from the book.

Picador USA is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, visit the Picador's website. While there, take a look at the Picador book club and reading guides and sign up for their newsletters. For up-to-date news, don't miss their Tumblr site or Facebook page and follow them on Twitter.

Buy Girlchild at an indie or at a bookstore near you. (Link leads to an affiliate program.)
ISBN-13: 9781250024060

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

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25 February 2013

Giveaway: Atlas Shrugged: Part II (BluRay)

Thanks to Think Jam and Twentieth-Century Fox Home Entertainment I'm excited to announce that I have one copy of the BluRay edition of Part 2 of Atlas Shrugged to give away to one of my readers (U.S. mailing address only).

Here's the summary:

Part two of Ayn Rand’s groundbreaking novel comes to the screen in this thrilling and powerful drama.

The global economy is on the brink of collapse. Brilliant creators, from artists to industrialists, continue to mysteriously disappear. Dagny Taggart, Vice President in Charge of Operations for Taggart Transcontinental, has discovered what may very well be the answer to a mounting energy crisis - a revolutionary motor that could seemingly power the World. But, the motor is dead... there is no one left to decipher its secret... and, someone is watching. It's a race against the clock to find the inventor before the motor of the World is stopped for good.

Directed by John Putch (Cougar Town, Scrubs), Atlas Shrugged Part II stars Samantha Mathis (American Psycho, Little Women), Jason Beghe (Chicago Fire, Californication), Esai Morales (Fairly Legal, Jericho), Patrick Fabian (The Last Exorcism) and Kim Rhodes (Supernatural, The Suite Life on Deck).
The film adaptation follows Rand's story line and the cast is perfect. I loved Part I and can't wait to see the how the story plays out on the screen.

Just remember, be wary of those who ask, Who is John Galt?

To enter for a chance to win, simply fill out the form. Remember that you need to have a USA mailing address. I'll pick a winner via random number generator on March 5. After a winner is confirmed, I'll delete all data from my computer. Good luck!

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Review: Only One You & You Be You by Linda Kranz

Only One You by LInda KranzI don't review many picture books, but when I saw these  fun and colorful board books at BookExpo America last year, I couldn't resist them. Linda Kranz's bright and engaging illustrations are sure to delight your youngsters.

In Only One You, Adri learns some words of wisdom from his parents. It's a big ocean, and Ardi is getting old enough to be on his own sometimes, so his mom and dad give him some advice. For example, to be ready to make new friends and to find a way to swim around problems.

Each page shows Ardi out in the ocean surrounded by other fish, each one unique and colorful. Children too young to fully grasp the advice will love to look at the fish and pick out their favorites. Those who go to preschool or have play dates away from home will absorb the down-to-earth lessons on how to get along with others and to find joy every day, such as by wishing on stars.

By the end of Only One You, Ardi is ready to swim off and play with his friends. He tells his parents that he will remember what they've told him, and his mom kisses him and says, "There's only one you in this great big world."

You Be You by Linda KranzIn the follow-up book, You Be You, Ardi has been off playing and exploring all day. He's swimming home to his parents, and he can't wait to tell them what he's learned and discovered.On his journey, he reminds himself of what he's seen. For example, he noticed that some fish swim left and others swim right, that some are loud and some are quiet, and some fish are smooth but others are spiny.

When he gets home, he tells his parents about the different kinds of fish he saw and how each type was special. His father tells him the great variety of fish helps make "the world colorful and beautiful."

All the different fish in You Be You reminds young ones that not everyone will look like them or act like them, but that's okay. Kids learn that the fish that swim up are just as pretty and are having just as much fun as the fish that swim down. Just because some fish like to swim together doesn't mean that it's wrong to want to swim alone.

I love the simple messages in Linda Kranz's books, and both children and their parents will love the hundreds of individual fish that swim in Ardi's world. Each fish has its own shape and markings, and it's fun to go through the books just looking for a favorite one on each page.

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

Buy Only One You at an Indie or at bookstore near you. Buy You Be You at an Indie or at bookstore near you. These links leads to an affiliate program.
Rowman & Littlefield / Taylor Trade, 2013
ISBN-13: 9781589797482 and 9781589797475
Rating: B+

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

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23 February 2013

Weekend Cooking: Quinoa Revolution by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming

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.

It was way back in the dark ages (the 1980s), when I first heard of quinoa, the seed that acts as if it were a grain. I've always liked the flavor and texture, and I'm pleased that in the twenty-first century, quinoa has gained popularity and is now readily available in most grocery stores in the United States.

Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming, sometimes called the Quinoa Sisters, are big advocates of the pseudo-grain, and their second cookbook, Quinoa Revolution: Over 150 Healthy, Great-Tasting Recipes under 500 Calories, is receiving plenty of buzz.

I, however, have mixed feelings about the cookbook. My first reaction was that I loved it. It's beautifully styled, with several full-page photos and a rainbow of subdued, earthy colors. I particularly like the informative front of the book, in which the authors introduce the ingredient, detail its nutritional value, and offer shopping tips. Besides a great FAQ, there are also cooking charts as well as advice for people on a special diet (gluten free or raw, for example).

I also was impressed with the range of flavors and dishes, from breakfast porridge to chocolate cupcakes. The salads, soups, and main dishes are appealing and cover Mexican, Indian, Asian, and down-home American styles and seasonings. Although a number of the dishes include meat or fish, vegetarians will find many recipes to suit them with little or no substitution.

Probably because Quinoa Revolution was first published in Canada, the measurements and oven temperatures are listed in both metric and imperial units, making the cookbook easy to use around the world. I also appreciate the many tips scattered throughout the book that explain a technique or suggest a substitution.

So what didn't I like about the cookbook? I'm an experienced and confident cook and wouldn't hesitate to tackle anything in Quinoa Revolution, but at the same time, I'd think twice about recommending it to cooks on the other side of the skills' spectrum.

First, I noticed quite a few dishes provide a cooking time but do not give us a way to determine when the dish is done. Inexperienced cooks may be frustrated when 15 minutes on their stovetop at what they consider to be a simmer leaves them with improperly cooked vegetables and meats and a less-than-yummy dinner. Doneness tests can make the difference between success and failure for unsure cooks.

I love it when cookbooks include the nutritional breakdown for each recipe and Quinoa Revolution does just that. Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out how the authors arrived at some of the numbers, rendering the information too vague to be of use. For example, I couldn't tell whether the nutritional analysis included the optional ingredients, so it was difficult to determine an accurate calorie or sodium count. Another problem occurred when general ingredients were listed, especially dairy products. Several recipes called for milk or yogurt but didn't mention a fat level (whole, low-fat, nonfat); this leaves me wondering which product was used when arriving at the fat content of each serving.

Although the photographs in the cookbook are beautiful, they don't always match the recipe. Again, not an issue for me, but some cooks may be thrown off by a recipe that calls for minced red chilies but the photograph shows whole chilies (including the stems!). Another recipe indicates grated lemon zest, but the photograph clearly shows ribbons of zest. And yet another one shows the dish topped with yogurt(?) but no topping is mentioned in the directions. I know plenty of home cooks who might be confused or bothered by these kinds of discrepancies.

Despite the issues I addressed, I do like the fact that the vast majority of the recipes call for easy-to-find ingredients and that the recipes are appealing. Moreover, gluten-free eaters will love the ways that quinoa flour can be used to make waffles, crepes, cupcakes and other dishes that usually require flour. I want to emphasize that confident cooks will have no problem finding success with Quinoa Revolution because they already know how to tell if a sauce is done or if the chicken has been thoroughly cooked.

Buy Quinoa Revolution if you want to learn more about this tasty and versatile seed and if you are looking for ways to add it to everyday dishes. If you're on your way to becoming whiz in the kitchen, you will find the cookbook to be a worthy addition to your collection, as I do. But if you're still learning to cook and rely heavily on detailed directions, you may want to check it out from the library before buying. 

Buy Quinoa Revolution at an Indie or a bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
Published by Penguin USA / Pintail, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780143186410
Rating: B-
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

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22 February 2013

Imprint Friday: We Live in Water by Jess Walter

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.

Most of you know author Jess Walter for his much-acclaimed novels Beautiful Ruins and The Financial Lives of the Poets. Whether you've read Walter's longer works or not, you won't want to miss his incredible short story collection, We Live in Water, published just this month.

Here's the publisher's summary:

. . . We Live in Water is a diverse suite of stories marked by the wry wit and generosity of spirit that has made [Jess Walter] one of America's most talked-about writers.

Stories in We Live in Water range from comic tales of love to social satire and suspenseful crime fiction. Traveling from hip Portland to once-hip Seattle to never-hip Spokane, to a condemned casino in Las Vegas and a bottomless lake in the dark woods of Idaho, this is a world of lost fathers and redemptive con men, of personal struggles and diminished dreams.

In title story "We Live in Water," a lawyer returns to his corrupt hometown to find his father, who disappeared 30 years earlier. In "Thief," a blue-collar worker turns unlikely detective to find out which of his kids is stealing from the family fund.

"Anything Helps" sees a homeless man try to raise money to buy his son the new Harry Potter book; and in "Virgo," a newspaper editor attempts to get back at his superstitious ex-girlfriend by screwing with her horoscope.

Also included are "Don't Eat Cat" and "Statistical Abstract of My Hometown, Spokane, Washington," both of which achieved cult status after their first publication online.
I used to think that I didn't like short stories, but when I read a collection like Jess Walter's We Live in Water, I realize I'm just plain wrong. Each piece included in this book is a standout. Although I may have liked some ("Wheelbarrow Kings," for example) better than others ("The New Frontier"), each story introduced me to a situation or to a character that beckoned to me.

One of the successes of We Live in Water, at least for me, is that Walter addresses several unifying themes, which helped give the pieces a lengthier feel. Before I explain what I mean, it's important to understand that each story stands alone, unlinked from the others. And, although I liked the rhythm created by the order of the stories, there is no reason not to pick and choose. However, I do suggest you save the last story for last. It has an entirely different feel yet points to many of the characters you meet throughout the book.

The stories are (mostly) set in the Pacific Northwest and in the seedier sections of town. The time periods range from post World War II into the future, and the stories are told by men who are down on their luck. Many of the men have served in the army, all have broken relationships, and most are trying to find a way to connect to their sons.

So while the circumstances and the personality and likability of the protagonists vary, the connecting themes bring a cohesiveness to the collection. Thus when I finished one story in We Live in Water, I moved smoothly and directly into the next rather than having a feeling of stopping and starting.

I realize the general themes may seem depressing, and I supposed they are. But Walter writes with such immediacy, sensitivity, and respect that I found myself rooting for and bonding with many of the men, although my semi-privileged life has kept me pretty far away from their sphere of existence.

Whether you're already familiar with the author or are a new reader, We Live in Water will make you a lifelong fan of Jess Walter's. I couldn't say it any better than Publishers Weekly: "You know the way Web sites recommend books by saying if you liked this, you’ll like that? The algorithm for this debut collection is straightforward: if you like to read, you’ll like this book."

I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Harper Audio, 4 hr, 55 min) read by Edoardo Ballerini. My very favorable audio review will be published by AudioFile magazine.

For more on Jess Walter, visit his website or read his short piece "How I Write" published by the Daily Beast.

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 We Live in Water at an Indie or at a bookstore near you. (This link leads to an affiliate program.)
Published by HarperCollins / Harper Perennial, 2013

ISBN-13: 9780061926624
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

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21 February 2013

Review: The Tin Horse by Janice Steinberg

review, The Tin Horse, Janice SteinbergEighty-something Elaine Greenstein Resnick was still full of all the spunk and quick wit that served her well during her long career as a Los Angeles activist lawyer. She knew how to argue a case and find a way to deflect the prosecution. But when it came time to face her own family's demons, she always held back.

When the University of Southern California asked her to donate her papers to their library, she was thankful. After all what would she do with all those files once her house sells and she moves into an apartment? With the help of Josh, a student archivist, Elaine begins to go through not only her trial records but her personal papers as well. Josh is particularly fascinated with latter, marveling over the Yiddish letters, the childhood dance programs, and especially a business card from Philip Marlow, the famous detective.

For Elaine, each piece of family memorabilia dredges up memories of her childhood growing up in the once predominately Jewish Boyle Heights neighborhood of LA. But most of all, each is a painful reminder that her fraternal twin sister, Barbara, ran away from home more than sixty-five years earlier, never to be heard from again.

Through a series of private memories, stories told to Josh, and conversations with her last remaining sister, Elaine recalls the complicated history that led to Barbara's disappearance and the effect that incident had on the Greenstein family.

Janice Steinberg's The Tin Horse is a beautifully written novel of a family whose internal dynamics are unique to them yet at the same time common to many families in the early twentieth century. I'm going to be vague and general in my discussion because Steinberg's plotting is so well constructed it would be a shame to spoil the way she teases out the clues to multiple family truths and mysteries.

There are several large themes in The Tin Horse, especially the question of assimilation, both as a result of immigration and of being Jewish. The differences among the generations made it difficult for the elder Greensteins to understand the four very American girls living under their roof. Elaine recalls the family stories of how her grandfather and then her mother escaped the Old World, how her parents met, and their struggles to make a living.

In addition is the strong idea, mentioned by Elaine's sister Harriet, that "every sibling grows up in a different family." Sibling rivalry mixed with sisterly loyalty, especially for Elaine and Barbara, made for an uneasy childhood. Elaine the quiet, plainer twin found it near impossible to come out from under the shadow of the vibrant, beautiful Barbara. And even at the end of her life and sixty-five years without her twin, Elaine has trouble shaking those feelings of being second-best when she thinks of her sister.

Other important issues are woman's opportunities through the generations, the need to sacrifice for the family good, the pressure to conform to cultural expectations, the meaning of love and marriage, the nature of motherhood, the power of family myths, the ability of family to hurt as well as to protect, and the depth of family secrets and betrayals. Obviously, with so many issues to discuss, The Tin Horse would make an outstanding book club selection.

Steinberg's writing is evocative and Elaine's voice is strong and consistent. There is a solid, realistic foundation to The Tin Horse, and the Greenstein family will stick with me for a long time. On the other hand, I'd be remiss if I didn't remark on the ending. After all the careful buildup and wonderfully paced reveals, the novel seemed to come crashing full-speed into a clean and all-to-easy conclusion. That's not to say the ending is somehow unsatisfying but that I expected something more in tune with the rest of the book.

Regardless, I still recommend The Tin Horse, especially to readers who enjoy stories of immigration, sisters, and family dynamics.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Random House Audio, 15 h, 38 min) read by Kate McGregor-Stewart. This was my first experience with McGregor-Stewart, and I look forward to many more hours with her voice in my earbuds. I can't imagine a better narrator for Elaine's story. My full audiobook review will be available at the AudioFile website and/or in the print magazine.

Buy The Tin Horse at an Indie or at bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
Random House, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780679643746
Rating: B+

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

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19 February 2013

Wordless Wednesday 225

On My Walk, February 2013

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Today's Read & Giveaway: Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans

What do you think happens when you die? What if there were no heaven or hell but just an eternity to remember your life, over and over. That's what happened to Felicia Ward, who died just one day shy of her eighteenth birthday.

I'll sleep when I'm dead. I used to say it a lot. When my dad suggested I turn off the flashlight I thought I so expertly hid under my covers. That time youth pastor Joe told us to pipe down at the church lock-in. The balmy summer night I convinced Autumn to sneak out after midnight so we could dance in Nidda Park, arms outstretched to the stars. But then I died.

And now I can't sleep.
Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans (Simon & Schuster / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013, p. 1)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: the afterlife
  • Circumstances: Felicia learns that death may not be as peaceful as she first thought
  • Characters: Felicia; Julian and Neil, whom she knew in life; other characters she meets in death
  • Genre: speculative; good vs. evil; life after death 
  • Miscellaneous: the first entry in the Memory Chronicles; Appelhans also writes picture books with her illustrator husband

Thanks to the generosity of my friend author Lenore Appelhans, I can offer one of my readers a copy of the unabridged audiobook edition of Level 2 read by the fabulous Jenna Lamia. I've listened to the audiobook and can attest to its wonderfulness. This giveaway is open to those of you with a U.S. or Canadian mailing address. To be entered for a chance to win, just fill out the form. I'll pick a winner on March 1 with the help of a random-number generator and will delete all personal information once the winner has been confirmed. Good luck!

    Buy Level 2 at an indie or at a bookstore near you. (Link leads to an affiliate program.)
    ISBN-13: 9781442441859

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

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    18 February 2013

    Review: Who Done It? Compiled by Jon Scieszka

    soho teen, anthology, 826NYCRemember when I introduced you to the fairly new imprint Soho Teen by teasing you with a passage from Jacquelyn Mitchard's What We Saw at Night? In my opinion, Soho Teen is an imprint to watch; I've loved both titles I've read.

    Who Done It?, compiled by Jon Scieszka, is a winner on two levels. More than 80 well-known, well-loved authors of young adult and children's books contributed to this fun, fun, fun anthology. Here's the idea: Famous editor Herman Q. Mildew has allegedly been murdered. The list of suspects is made up of authors and illustrators who slaved for worked with the odious wonderful children's editor.

    So what do Libba Bray, John Green, Lev Grossman, Gayle Forman, Lemony Snicket, and Mo Willems have in common? They and dozens of their peers have been called to an old pickle factory either to confess to the murder or to provide their alibi.  (Did you know the origin of the word alibi? Heather Terrell kindly provides the details. But that wasn't a diversionary tactic or anything.)

    As we read through each author's statement, our job is to figure out who is telling the truth, who is lying, and who is the killer. It's no easy task because the devious up-front, disgusting lovely Mr. Mildew had so many enemies friends. Don't worry if you can't decide, all will be revealed by the end.

    I just loved reading these short pieces. Each one is funny, creative, and clever. Many of the stories include references to young adult and children's books, pop culture, television, social media, and the publishing industry. Best of all, the authors' personalities and sense of humor really pop out in this collection.

    The statements are written in a variety of styles besides straight prose, such as lists, Twitter conversations, and poems. Other stories are illustrated, and we're even treated to a graphic short story. Read them all from first to last or read the pieces in any order that suits your mood. Just read them to discover a new side to some of your favorite authors.

    The second win for Who Done It? is that all proceeds are earmarked for 826NYC, a nonprofit teen literacy program founded by Dave Eggers. According to Soho Teen, the anthology has already "begun inspiring teen writing" in conjunction with other New York City programs.

    Buy a copy for yourself and another for a young reader in your life. Not only will you love the stories but you'll help encourage a new generation of writers at the same time.

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

    Buy Who Done It? at an Indie or at bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
    Soho Press / Soho Teen, 2013
    ISBN-13: 9781616951528
    Rating: B+

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

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    16 February 2013

    Weekend Cooking: Love's Kitchen (Film)

    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.

    Sometimes I'm in the mood to watch something light and fun. And if I can find a movie with a foodie theme, then I'm sure to love it. Love's Kitchen, starring Dougray Scott and Claire Florani and featuring real-life chef Gordon Ramsay, hit the spot. The movie came out in 2011, but I just discovered it.

    Rob Haley is interested in cooking "real food with real heart." He doesn't want to become a celebrity chef, but the critics and magazines hound him because his restaurant is such a success. That is until a family tragedy causes him to lose his cooking mojo.

    Three years later, after he's run his restaurant into the ground, he decides to start over by buying a country pub. He gathers up his old crew and they set about bringing the building up to their exacting standards. Of course, there is a pretty young woman, moments of miscommunication, and a new town to win over. Rob, his daughter, and the staff have a lot of work ahead of them.

    Yes, I know, the movie is predictable, but Dougray Scott couldn't be cuter, and the kitchen scenes will make you sigh. Oh, and you'll be craving trifle long before the movie is over. Love's Kitchen is the perfect pick for a stay-at-home evening. But, really, don't forget the trifle.

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    15 February 2013

    Imprint Friday: Above All Things by Tanis Rideout

    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.

    I know I'm not alone in my fascination with Mount Everest. Long before Jon Krakauer brought the power of the mountain to life in his riveting Into Thin Air (1996), I followed news of the climbers each spring. Then in 1999 the world once again remembered the 1924 expedition to conquer earth's tallest peak when the body of George Mallory was found by a climbing team. The question remains, however: Was Mallory the first known person to have stood at the top of the world?

    In Above All Things, Tanis Rideout takes us up the mountain with George Mallory, not only re-creating that tragic adventure but letting us see something of the private life of the man behind the myth through his own thoughts and through the eyes of his wife, Ruth, who remained in England with their children, waiting for news from across the globe.

    Here's the publisher's summary:

    Tell me the story of Everest,” she said, a fervent smile sweeping across her face, creasing the corners of her eyes. “Tell me about this mountain that’s stealing you away from me.” 

    In 1924 George Mallory departs on his third expedition to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Left behind in Cambridge, George’s young wife, Ruth, along with the rest of a war-ravaged England, anticipates news they hope will reclaim some of the empire’s faded glory. Through alternating narratives, what emerges is a beautifully rendered story of love torn apart by obsession and the need for redemption.
    Tanis Rideout bases her story of Mallory's last trip to Everest on solid research, filling in the details to create a historical novel that is difficult to put down. As Rideout herself says (see the video embedded below), in essence the Mallorys' story is almost a love triangle. No matter how deep his passion for Ruth, George could not walk away from the pull of the mountain. And no matter how proud and supportive Ruth was, she still wished her husband home with her.

    Although I was interested in the day we spend with Ruth, the time on the mountain that held my attention more. It's difficult to conceive of what the climbers went through. Remember, they had no modern equipment, no subzero special clothing, no accurate weather reports, no GPS, and no previously successful route to follow. Few people would have had the determination and bravery of Mallory and Irvine.

    Rideout's descriptions of the men's last push to the top is particularly emotional. She perfectly captures the internal debate between wanting to stay alive and the feeling that success can be had with only a bit more effort. Two hours behind schedule and knowing that they would have to return to camp in the dark, Mallory and Irvine made decisions that were based on a multitude of factors.

    We still don't know the truth of Mallory's success (his camera has not yet been found), but Rideout's version is one that I'd like to believe. She presents those last harrowing hours in vivid detail but mixes the drama with respect for men who died on that windswept peak. Tanis Rideout's account of the 1924 expedition to the top of Mount Everest will likely be with me for years to come.

    In the following video, author Tanis Rideout discusses Above All Things and Mallory and Ruth's relationship.

    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 Above All Things at an Indie or at a bookstore near you. (Link leads to an affiliate program.)
    Published by Putnam
    / Amy Einhorn Books, February 2013
    ISBN-13: 9780399160585

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

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    14 February 2013

    Stacked-Up Book Thoughts 5

    Stacked-Up Book Thoughts are my random notes about books I've read, movies I've watched, books I'm looking forward to, and events I hope to get to.


    I have entered the crazy, crazy busy, busy spring editing season (all those fall books!), and I don't think I'd be reading much of anything if it weren't for audiobooks. I've been listening quite a bit lately. Besides the audiobooks reviewed on my blog, I've listened to some fantastic books for  AudioFile magazine. Here are four I can recommend. (My audiobook reviews will be, or are already, published by AudioFile.)

    The Man on the Third Floor by Anne Bernays (read by Paul Michael) is about coming to terms with being gay in the 1950s. Mademoiselle Boleyn by Robin Maxwell (read by Suzan Crowley) takes a look at Anne's life in France before she returned to England. The Drowning House by Elizabeth Black (read by Anne Marie Lee) is about a young woman returning home to Galveston after having been sent away when she was teen. The Tin Horse by Janice Steinberg (read by Kate McGregor-Stewart) is an immigrant story involving the conflict between and within the generations of a Los Angeles family.

    Over at the SheKnows Book Lounge last month, I featured three great audiobooks for getting healthy and fit.

    Print Books

    I always seem to read a ton of graphic novels in the spring (must be that tired editor's brain). I'm determined to complete the Jack of Fables spin-off books so I can get back to the main story line of Bill Willingham's fabulous Fables series. I finished up Turning Pages last night. I've just started Indiscretion by Charles Dubow, it looks like it's going to be a great story of a summer in the Hamptons during which the perfect couple with the perfect life begin to unravel.

    My most recent Armchair Travels column for the SheKnows Book Lounge focused on NOLA and includes suggestions for the whole family. Besides a round-up of February cozy mysteries, I introduced a new column celebrating author's birthdays. This month's Whose Birthday Is It? features four prolific authors.

    Movies and TV

    Although we have watched a number of movies since the first of the year, we are currently catching up with some television. First, of course, is Downton Abbey, the must-watch show of Sunday nights. We are completely invested in the doings of the abbey and are so sad that the season will end on Sunday. We are woefully behind in Mad Men and are slowly catching up so we can start to watch some of the new season. And finally, I've started watching The Carrie Diaries. I've seen only two episodes, and I'm not sure what I think yet.

    In the Stacks

    Besides the wonderful books you'll find featured for Imprint Friday, I have the following three books near the top of stack. Who Done It? is a Soho Teen anthology featuring a boatload of awesome authors (Libba Bray, John Green, Lemony Snicket). I can't wait to get reading this "Investigation of Murder Most Foul." The Real Jane Austen is new biography by Paula Byrne, sounds like a book made for me. Finally, I'm looking forward to jumping into Stuart MacBride's latest: Birthdays for the Dead, just out in paperback. The tag line is "Twelve years. Twelve dead girls. Who will be unlucky thirteen?" I'm in for the read!

    What's on your read, watch, listen, or review list?

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    12 February 2013

    Wordless Wednesday 224

    Icy Branches

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    Today's Read: The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

    What would you do if you thought your father was evil? Juliet Moreau, 16 years old, is in service in London, making a quiet life for herself and hoping no one discovers her shame: Her father has been exiled from England for conducting unholy experiments on living creatures. When rumors surface that he has set up a new laboratory on a tropical island, Juliet decides to undertake the dangerous journey to learn the truth of her past.

    I awoke, head throbbing, the taste of chloroform in my throat. I was on the same wooden-framed bed I'd seen through the keyhole. I bolted upright. Scanned the room for my attacker, for a weapon, for an explanation as to why I was there.

    I remembered in flashes. The face in the mirror. The cloth against my mouth.
    The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd (HarperCollins / Balzer + Bray, 2013, p. 30; quote from uncorrected proof)

    Quick Facts
    • Setting: London; a tropical island
    • Circumstances: Juliet learns her father, a mad scientist, is still alive and sets off to stop his horrifying experiments
    • Characters: Juliet, Dr. Moreau, the handsome Montgomery
    • Genre: Gothic, suspense, adventure 
    • Miscellaneous: retelling of the The Island of Dr. Moreau from Juliet's perspective; first of a trilogy; movie rights have been bought
    Buy The Madman's Daughter at an indie or at a bookstore near you. (Link leads to an affiliate program.)
    ISBN-13: 9780062128027

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

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    11 February 2013

    Review: Black Ice by Andrew Lane

    Have you ever wondered how Sherlock Holmes became, well, Sherlock Holmes? Andrew Lane tackles that question in his series Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins, written for a middle grade audience.

    In Black Ice, the third entry in the series, fifteen-year-old Sherlock is living at Holmes manor with relatives while his parents are out of the country and his brother, Mycroft, is in London. When not focusing on regular school subjects, Sherlock spends his time with Amyus Crowe, an American who, among other things, was once a detective.

    Crowe teaches the boy many useful skills, such as the how to be observant and make deductions, and it is a delight to see a Sherlock who is still learning, who can make mistakes, and who is sometimes unsure of himself. Andrew Lane's depiction of the boy who would become the great detective is fantastic. Sherlock is curious and asks questions and clearly admires Crowe's talents, but he's also a teen, who can be a little impatient and careless and who sometimes acts without thinking though the consequences.

    In addition, we meet Rufus Stone, a traveling musician (perhaps a gypsy?) who introduces the young Sherlock to the violin, an instrument that, if you remember, the detective eventually masters.

    The basic plot is a locked-room murder that involves the victim and Mycroft. Sherlock and Crowe must save Mycroft from being convicted of the crime and sent to the gallows. The case takes Sherlock to the underside of London and, later, across the continent to Russia. Under the watchful eyes of Crowe, Stone, and Mycroft (out on bail), the teenager assists in working out how the crime was committed and why.

    Black Ice is action packed with well-paced tension. I can't stress enough how perfectly imagined Lane's young Sherlock is. Although clearly geared to a middle grade audience, Black Ice is a joy to read, and I plan to catch up with the first two novels in the series.

    I listened to the unabridged audiobook edition (Macmillan Audio; 6 hr, 54 min) read by James Langton. My audiobook review will be published by AudioFile magazine, but let me say here that Langton's performance is absolutely wonderful, pulling us into the story and making us want to listen to the whole book in one sitting.

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

    Buy Black Ice at an Indie or at bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
    Macmillan / Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 2013
    ISBN-13: 9780374387693
    Rating: B+

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

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    09 February 2013

    Weekend Cooking: Teen Cuisine New Vegetarian by Matthew Locricchio

    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.

    Nowadays, there's hardly a family or group of friends that doesn't include at least one vegetarian and perhaps even a vegan. Cookbook author, chef, and ex-TV star, Matthew Locricchio is an expert in recipes suited to kids and teens, which means his Teen Cuisine New Vegetarian is sure to be a hit with many young cooks and their parents.

    Locricchio starts out with simple tips and information for beginning cooks and for those who are just starting out as vegetarians. His goal is to provide a core repertoire of dishes that have a range of flavors, are fairly easy to put together, and are appealing to both teen and adult vegetarians of all kinds. The book's mouth-watering recipes, from breakfast to dessert, offer modern versions of familiar foods plus some surprises.

    Teen Cuisine New Vegetarian is printed on sleek but nonglossy paper and uses an earthy green and gold color scheme. Handy icons quickly point out which recipes are good for vegans and which for vegetarians who prefer raw foods. Scattered throughout the book are helpful chef's tips that ensure success. Besides introductions, beautiful full-page photographs, and clear ingredient lists, recipes are divided into fun and helpful "On your mark," "Get set," and "Cook!" sections that help teens develop the habit of preparing ingredients and gathering supplies before turning on the heat.

    From p. 118 of the cookbook
    Most teens will appreciate the obvious respect Locricchio has for them. The recipes have not been dumbed down for young cooks and provide a global range of flavors. None of the recipes is difficult to make, but some require more time and perhaps a bit of patience. There is a quick egg scramble with Mexican seasonings as well as several versions of hand-rolled vegetarian sushi.

    Another plus is that Teen Cuisine New Vegetarian doesn't rely heavily on soy products and fake meats. One or two recipes call for tempeh and at least one calls for tofu, but in general, Locricchio has developed dishes based on fresh vegetables, beans, and some grains. Vegans will, however, welcome the optional soy dairy products.

    Here are a few of the recipes that look particularly good to me and I know would also appeal to my teenage, vegetarian niece (who also likes to cook):
    • Sloppy Janes, which are full-flavored and mushroom based
    • New Waldorf salad, which includes jalapenos and fennel
    • Hodgepodge, which is quinoa based and has bright flavors
    • Curried vegetarian stir-fry, which is perfect for summer and is shown in the scan
    • Cupcakes, chocolate and vanilla with both flavors of frosting
    If you have a vegetarian teen in your house, Teen Cuisine New Vegetarian would be a welcome addition. But note that the cookbook is perfect for beginning cooks of all ages and anyone who is new to vegetarianism. I was also happy to see that most of the recipes would work for people on a gluten-free diet, and of course the vegan dishes are perfect for those with a dairy allergy.

    Here's quick drink snack that works for both vegetarians and vegans.

    Strawberry Lassi
    Serves 2
    • 1 cup (10 to 12) fresh or frozen strawberries
    • 1½ cups plain whole-milk yogurt or soy yogurt
    • ⅓ cup cold water
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
    • 5 to 6 ice cubes, plus more for serving
    On your mark, get set . . .

    If you are using fresh strawberries, wash them and let them drain in a colander, tossing them lightly, to remove any excess water. Cut away any dark spots or soft brown sections from the berries. Remove the stems. The tip of a teaspoon works well for this. Slice the strawberries in half and put in a blender.

    If you are using frozen strawberries, let the whole berries partially thaw in a bowl. Transfer them to a blender.


    Add the yogurt, water, sugar, cardamom, and ice to the blender in the order given and press firmly in place.

    Blend at high speed for 20 seconds, or until smooth.

    Divide between two glasses and serve immediately.

    Buy Teen Cuisine New Vegetarian at an Indie or a bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
    Published by Amazon publishing, 2012
    ISBN-13: 9780761462583
    Rating: B+
    Source: Review (see review policy)
    Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

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    08 February 2013

    Imprint Friday: All This Talk of Love by Christopher Castellani

    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 love immigrant stories, probably because I grew up hearing my grandfather's real-life stories of his own immigration to the United States. That's what first attracted me to Christopher Castellani's All This Talk of Love, but the vivid characters and multilayered plot are what held my attention.

    Here is the publisher's summary:

    It’s been fifty years since Antonio Grasso married Maddalena and brought her to America. That was the last time she saw her parents, her sisters and brothers—everything she knew and loved in the village of Santa Cecilia, Italy. Maddalena sees no need to open the door to the past and let the emotional baggage and unmended rifts of another life spill out.

    But Prima was raised on the lore of the Old Country. And as she sees her parents aging, she hatches the idea to take the entire family back to Italy—hoping to reunite Maddalena with her estranged sister and let her parents see their homeland one last time. It is an idea that threatens to tear the Grasso family apart, until fate deals them some unwelcome surprises, and their trip home becomes a necessary journey.

    All This Talk of Love is an incandescent novel about sacrifice and hope, loss and love, myth and memory.
    I want to start by saying that I was well into All This Talk of Love before I realized it was the third in a group (not a series or a trilogy in the normal use of those words) of novels about the Grasso family. I want to reassure readers that I never once felt lost; this book works well as a standalone story. At the same time, though, I am now eager to read the first two books and hope to revisit the Grasso family soon.

    As in any family, each Grasso has an opinion of the others and each has a distinct personality. Prima, the daughter, did what was expected of her: married a successful man, had four sons, and stayed near her parents. Frankie, a replacement child for the brother he never knew, is the opposite. He may talk to his mother every night at precisely 11:01, but he has no intention of returning to Delaware after he finishes graduate school. Never mind that he hasn't yet informed his mom of this.

    Then there are Maddalena and Antonio, who struggled to make something of themselves in the United States. Antonio may have embraced many of the stereotypes (he owns a restaurant that serves Italian food, for example), but his wife is as far from a Italian grandma as you can get. She's still beautiful, stylish, and thin in her seventies, and she doesn't cook.

    When Prima surprises her family with nonrefundable tickets to her parents' birthplace, she knows it'll likely be a hard sell, but she's unaware that she may have opened up doors that had been purposely and firmly closed.

    All This Talk of Love is a story of love, family, loss, aging, and facing the past. Christopher Castellani's characters are so realistic that it's sometimes difficult to remember that you're reading a novel. Not that every incident is one that could have happened to your own family, but the Grassos are believable as people.

    Antonio worries about the fate of his restaurant, Prima worries about how well her mother is going to age, and Frankie is living under the shadow of a brother who died in his teens. All these issues, past and present affect each person and in different ways. For example, Maddalena wonders:
    If [she] had stayed in the village, chosen Vito Leone over Antonio Grasso, she'd have had all she has here [in the United States]: a house and children, a car to drive to the dance studio, a family business of some kind, and flower beds to keep up. . . . What would have been the difference between that life and this one? She's been a seamstress, a wife, a mother, and an old woman terrified of the years ahead—no more special than any of her sisters, after all, just thousands of miles away and six hours behind. (pp. 248–249)
    Is she right? Would her life really have been the same if she had spent the last fifty years in Italy?

    As the proposed trip looms large, family tragedies change the dynamics of the group: One is quick and one is slow, and each plays against earlier losses and sorrows to reshape a family already feeling the loosening of its traditional bonds.

    All This Talk of Love is recommended to readers who like family stories and realistic characters. In addition, Christopher Castellani brings up some points to ponder, such as the quote I just shared. Because of this, the novel would make an excellent book club selection. Readers will likely differ in their reactions to the later part of the book and perhaps to some of Frankie's choices. If those topics don't generate enough discussion, Algonquin provides ten thoughtful questions to jump-start your meeting.

    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 All This Talk of Love at an indie or at a bookstore near you. (Link leads to an affiliate program.)
    Published by Workman / Algonquin Books 2013
    ISBN-13: 9781616201708

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

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    07 February 2013

    Safe Haven Movie Set Visit: Part 2 and Giveaway

    Last week, in Safe Haven Movie Set Visit: Part 1, I took you through a visual tour of my August 2012 visit to the North Carolina setting of the movie Safe Haven, which comes out on February 14 and stars Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough, David Lyons, and Cobie Smulders

    Today, I want to concentrate on author/producer Nicholas Sparks. During the course of the trip, we had four formal opportunities to talk with Mr. Sparks and rather than simply provide you with a disjointed transcript, I plan to focus on three principal topics: the film, the setting, and the writing.

    First, I want to stress how much I enjoyed meeting Nicholas Sparks. He's an easygoing, down-to-earth guy with no pretensions. Almost from the first moment you meet him, Sparks makes you feel as if he were a good friend. If you look at the photos I posted last week, you can see how comfortable he is. The photos from the movie Safe Haven shown here are courtesy of the studio (click to enlarge).

    Book to Film: As we all know, a movie made from a novel invariably deviates from the book's plot. And this is also the case with Safe Haven. Sparks gave us a few clues of some of those changes and explained why such differences must occur. He stressed repeatedly that print and film are two quite different media, and what he has 30 or 40 pages to explore in a book, the screenwriters have only a few minutes to demonstrate. Thus sometimes plot points have to be changed. As Sparks noted:

    It is a different kind of thinking. You have to be able to capture things. It's the picture first. And if you have a scene of introspection that you can't capture in a quick picture, sometimes you have to invent things or put things in or take things out to make it work. That’s just the nature of it.
    In addition to subtly changing some of the scenes, long narrative sections of Safe Haven (or any book to film) have to be projected to the audience by the emotions displayed by the actors. Sparks went on to say:
    A novel is a story told in words. A film is a story told in pictures. You’re trying to get these pictures to fill in all that introspection that I could do and you don't have a lot of time. You really need . . . quality performances that make you say, "I know who that person is. I relate to them. And I'm going to root for them by the end of the film."
    Sparks was more than satisfied that all three stars (Duhael, Hough, and Lyons) conveyed the emotional impact of Safe Haven, giving the audience characters to root for and to boo.

    North Carolina: If you've read Nicholas Sparks's novels, then you already know that they all take place in eastern North Carolina. Sparks is partial to the area not only because that's where he lives but because he loves the small towns, where everyone looks out for one another and where kids can grow up safe. He said:
    The reason I write about this place is that not too many people write about eastern North Carolina and eastern North Carolina is very different because it's all small towns. It is a different way of life here than it is in other places, all small towns.
    He went on to talk about the strong sense of community, the beauty of the water, the friendliness, the history, and even the abundance of live oaks. He noted that although his books take place in the state, they have not all been filmed there. Regardless, he had been wanting to shoot a film in Southport, North Carolina, for years, and Safe Haven was the lucky movie that won the location. Here's what he told us:
    I mean, I think this is one of the most beautiful towns. Ten years ago, I was here for the filming of A Walk to Remember. I remember walking down here and I said, "I have to find a book for this place one day."
    Thus Safe Haven fulfilled one of Sparks's dreams.

    Sparks as an Author: Nicholas Sparks has a unique way of starting all his novels. He knows from the beginning that the story will involve "love and something." So the first two decisions he makes are the age of his main characters and the extra:
    We all know that [one of my books will be] love and something. . . . You can have love and mystery, love and forgiveness, love and loss, first love, right? You can have all these things. [Safe Haven] was love and danger. I chose love and danger because it'd been a long time since I'd [written about that].
    The next thing Sparks works out is how make his story fresh and stay believable. Some of those decisions are based on the age of this characters and the "something" that adds to the story. In addition, he likes to write to a wide audience, so some readers might be drawn to the central issue of the book, whereas others will be attracted to the love story or to the friendships. But he is always looking for a different approach. Sparks gave us several examples, including this:
    What you're looking for is three things. You're looking for things to be interesting, original, and universal. That goes to the theme of the story, the journeys of the character, but also the specific elements in the book. For example, one of the questions I always have to answer is, "What's an interesting, original, universal way for the characters to meet and come together?"
    As for the central issue of Safe Haven--and for all his novels, for that matter--Sparks was quick to point out that he doesn't have a particular agenda. Instead he wants to explore personal growth and how one moves beyond adversity or learns to accept and cope when life gives us sorrow:
    What I'm trying to do more is to say that, if there's any message at all (and I don't write any messages), . . . [is] that [a single issue] doesn't define you entirely. It's one part of your life. But most importantly, parts you can change. I'm an author. But, I'm also a father, right? I also work out a lot, I also have brothers, I have friends. So, which one am I? You know, you're not just one thing.
    The two central people in Safe Haven are also multidimensional individuals who have several roles, and author Nicholas Sparks couldn't be happier with the way actors Duhamel and Hough have made it easy for audiences to connect with them and to hope that their characters can learn to grow, change, and trust.

    Of course Sparks talked about many other things, such as his experiences as an audiobook narrator, his answer to his most-asked question (Are you the most romantic guy on the planet?), his writing process, and his favorite scenes in the movie. Those stories will have to wait for another day.

    The Giveaway. Now at last the long-awaiting giveaway. Thanks to Big Honcho Media (and I have lots to thank them for), I am able to offer one of my readers who lives in the United States a chance to win tickets to the film Safe Haven and a copy of the movie tie-in edition of the novel. One winner will receive $25 in Fandango Bucks (like a gift card you can redeem online at Fandango.com to buy your tickets) and one copy of the book. All you have to do to enter for a chance to win is to fill out the form. I'll pick a winner, using a random-number generator on February 14, the day the movie Safe Haven opens in theaters.

    Good luck! And look for Safe Haven to open in theaters next week. 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.

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    05 February 2013

    Wordless Wednesday 223

    Brooklyn Bridge Arches, 2012

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    Today's Read and Giveaway: The Jane Austen Handbook by Margaret C. Sullivan

    So you think you'd like to live in Regency England? The servants, the loose everyday dresses, the rich men looking for a wife—it sure sounds great. But how would a modern woman know how to act?

    [On keeping house]
    Oversee the servants. Much of the daily interaction with the servants can be delegated to your housekeeper, but at the least you should know the name and function of each person working in your house.

    [On raising children]
    Give them treats. If all else fails, liberal slices of cake solve many child-rearing problems.

    [On declining a marriage proposal]
    Distract him. Introduce him to a girlfriend who is not as picky as you are.
    The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England by Margaret C. Sullivan (Quirk Books, 2007, pp. 59, 72, 117)

    Quick Facts
    • What is it about? Everything you'd ever want to know about how to behave, marry, run a house, attend a ball, and more in Regency England
    • Fun extras: period crafts and card games; line art; lists of Austen movies and modern print retellings
    • Who would like it? Jane Austen fans, Regency fans, anyone curious about life in the past
    • Genre: nonfiction with a good dose of humor and based on Austen's plot lines and characters
    • Miscellaneous: last week was the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride & Prejudice
    The Giveaway

    Thanks to Quirk Books, I am pleased to be able to offer one of my readers a copy of the fun and informative Jane Austen Handbook. Here's how to enter for a chance to win: Just fill out the following form and I will pick a winner on Valentine's Day. Because the publishing company will be mailing out the book, the giveaway is limited to readers with a U.S. mailing address (no post office box addresses, please). I'll delete the data in this form once a winner has been selected and confirmed. Good luck.

    Buy The Jane Austen Handbook at an indie or at a bookstore near you. (Link leads to an affiliate program.)
    ISBN-13: 9781594745058

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

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