29 June 2013

Weekend Cooking: A Year in Food & Beer by Emily Baime and Darin Michaels

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.

Most of us are at least aware of the idea of pairing wines with food, but I'm often surprised by how often people choose their beers without a thought for what they are eating. Now that Americans finally have more choices than [big beer brand] light in a can, we should be paying more attention to the interplay of flavors.

In A Year in Food & Beer, Emily Baime and Darin Michaels offer a guide for pairing a world of beers with specific recipes and seasons. They encourage readers to pay attention to what they are drinking, noting how summer's heat requires sharper, more citric flavors, whereas winter's chill calls for darker, more roasted brews.

Besides offering their own recipes with specific brew suggestions, Baime and Michaels provide helpful information about the different types of beer so we can start to make our own successful pairings. I particularly like the extras, such as the section titled "Care of Beer and Glassware" and the solid advice on pouring.

The heart of the book is made up of recipes plus beer suggestions, organized by season. Here is where A Year in Food & Beer gives mixed results. Before I get to the details, I want to make it clear that I read an ARC, and some of the issues I mention may have been corrected in the finished book.

The Beer Pairings: As expected, Baime and Michaels tell us which beers go well with each of the recipes in the book. They not only provide a general description of the paired drink (such as aged wheat beer, porter, or fruit-forward beer) but also name specific beers by brewing company and label. In addition they tell us why those beers work well with the recipe, so we are learning, not just following along blindly. I was pleased to see that the authors were not afraid to tackle some of the more difficult foods (asparagus, artichokes, caviar, and desserts), increasing our confidence when serving guests.

The Beer and Cheese Party: The last chapter of the book contains "detailed tasting notes to pair fifteen beer styles with cheese." This section is a gold mine of information about how to host a tasting party, including glassware, serving temperatures, and advice for how to make your party informative but still fun.

The Recipes: Here is where Baime and Michaels were less successful. First, the recipes are arranged oddly within each seasonal category, jumping from desserts to sides to main dishes willy-nilly. Second, the directions are not kitchen friendly. For instance, oven temperatures are not always listed early enough to allow for preheating, and yields aren't provided. Finally, although the dishes are appealing--such as grilled trout, vegetarian lasagna, and pork meat balls--they are common enough that most readers will already have a favorite tried-and-true recipe.

The Bottom Line: Refer to A Year in Food & Beer to help you learn more about beer and how it pairs with the food you plan to serve your family and guests. Although I'm sure there are more comprehensive beer pairing books available, Baime and Michaels offer a reasonable place to begin. On the other hand, you'll probably not be motivated to try the recipes, though you may want to host a tasting party.

Rowan & Littefield Publishers / AltaMira Press, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780759122635,
Rating: C
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright 2013 cbl for www.BethFishReads.com

Click for more

28 June 2013

Imprint Friday: Hot Picks for Summer Reading

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

I'm shaking it up over here at Imprint Friday by introducing you to three imprints within the larger publishing house of Simon & Schuster. I'm also playing a bit of catch-up so I can talk about books that were published over the last few months.

Let me start with Atria Books, which includes Washington Square Press. I'm not sure if you recognize the Atria name, but I can pretty much guarantee you've read their books. They publish Jodie Picoult, William Kent Krueger, Brad Thor, and Jennifer Weiner as well as many other household names. They are a twenty-first-century imprint and thus have a strong digital presence. To get the full scope of what Atria is all about, watch this short video.

So what Atria Books are at the top of my reading stack? Sarah Pekkanen's The Best of Us (ISBN: 9781451673517) takes us to the steamy shores of Jamaica, where four college friends and their partners reunite to celebrate a birthday, only to discover that despite outward appearances, the stresses of everyday life weigh heavily on everyone. Pick this up for an honest look at contemporary life in one's thirties. Douglas Kennedy's Five Days (ISBN: 9781451666359) examines what happens when Laura, a radiologist whose marriage is cooling, meets Richard, a salesman, when both are in Boston on business. Will their encounter heal, hurt, or open new horizons? M. J. Rose's Seduction (ISBN: 9781451621501) takes us to the Channel Islands, where we meet Victor Hugo in the past and a mythologist in the present. Both protagonists are searching for answers in the misty realms of the other worlds.

How many Gallery Books do you have on your bookshelves? No matter what your reading style, Gallery has a book for you, from celebrity memoirs and biographies (William and Kate) to the best in book club choices (Still Alice) to books that have made it to the silver screen (The Perks of Being a Wallflower). To watch a video about the broad scope of titles published under the Gallery umbrella and their strong, long-term commitment to their authors, visit their website.

Here are three fairly recent Gallery Books you won't want to miss. Chelsea Pitcher's The S-Word (ISBN: 9781451695168) is a mix of mystery with social commentary on high school bullying. When Lizzie's reputation is shattered and she driven to suicide, her best friend is determined to find out how and why this tragedy happened. Patricia Beard's A Certain Summer (ISBN: 9781476710266) explores a different sort of question: How do you live your life after your husband has been lost in action but is not officially declared dead? This is a thought-provoking novel that would make an excellent book club choice. Adam Mitzner's A Case of Redemption (ISBN: 9781451674798) offers up court room drama at its best, as a grieving attorney must get his act together to defend a high-profile rapper who has been accused of murder. Can either of these men find redemption?

As you put together your summer reading list, I hope one or more these titles from Atria and Gallery end up in your hands. Although they feature very different protagonists, all of these books explore issues that are sure to start an interesting discussion.

For more on Atria Books (and Washington Square Press) check out the imprint's website and Facebook page and follow them on Twitter. And don't forget to do the same for Gallery Books: website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Click for more

27 June 2013

Guest Post: Author Eli Brown (Cinnamon and Gunpowder) Talks Taste

A few weeks ago I gave you a bare-bones tease of Eli Brown's Cinnamon and Gunpowder and shared the opening paragraph. Here's the premise in a nutshell: Owen Wedgwood was been captured by Mad Hannah Mabbot, a fearsome pirate. In return for his life, Mabbot makes the following proposal:

You will, of a Sunday, cook for me, and me alone, the finest supper. You will neither repeat a dish nor serve foods that are in the slightest degree mundane. In return I will continue to keep you alive and well. . . . Should you balk in any fashion you will find yourself swimming home, whole or in pieces, depending upon the severity of my disappointment. (p. 13)
What follows is an action- and food-packed account of Owen's meals, his developing relationship with Hannah and her pirate crew, and his many failed attempts at escape. Side plots include historical information about British trade in the Far East and what life was like aboard a pirate ship. I found Cinnamon and Gunpowder to be a fun summer read, and I often thought how I'd manage to cook my way off the gangplank if I were in Owen's shoes.

Today I'm happy to welcome author Eli Brown to Beth Fish Reads. When I met Eli in New York during BEA, we chatted about food and writing and editing, but we didn't talk about biology. What does science have to with Owen Wedgwood? Read on to find out.
The Taste Map

The first time I saw the taste map chart in a biology textbook I was around eight years old. It showed up again and again as I grew, and it was still there when I entered college. You've probably seen it too, the graphic that delineates where on the tongue we experience different tastes: sweet is perceived on the tip, salt flanks sweet, sour sits like saddle bags on the sides near the rear, and bitter squats near the hole in the back. It's compelling in its simplicity, and there's something comforting about seeing our senses organized in bright colors.

In Cinnamon and Gunpowder, the chef, Owen Wedgwood muses about taste, assigning each one a color. It's a kind of earned synesthesia that was inspired by my own explorations into this sense. For me it all started with that drawing of the tongue.

Of course, the taste map is wrong—very wrong. Scientists now tell us that none of the tastes is so clearly confined to any region of the tongue. Some tastes even wander to the roof of the mouth.

And where on the chart was umami, the savory fifth taste? It hadn't been "discovered" by Western palates yet, and so, for much of my life I couldn't distinguish it. I grew up in a culture that was limited to only four tastes. I was umami-blind.

We were told a number of whoppers as children. It turns out that the brontosaurus, that benign behemoth, was a pastiche of different animals. Franklin didn't fly a kite in a storm. Newton didn't sit under apple trees. But the taste map holds a special place in my internal museum of misinformation. It was the one lie that I could easily have disproved. I had a tongue, and it worked just fine. Still, I believed the chart. We all did.

But there are revelations hidden inside the shadows of ignorance. We now "know" that sweetness will brighten the whole tongue, not just the tip. I'm thrilled to have my tongue unshackled from the numbing chart, thrilled to have five tastes instead of four.

Now I can't help but wonder what dark age I still wander. What undiscovered continents of pleasure await naming? 
Thanks, Eli, you certainly gave me some things to think about. I clearly remember that taste chart from the many, many biology classes I took over the years. I'm particularly fascinated by the different perceptions between East and West and the idea that it took us Westerners so long to figure out that there was a fifth taste. How did that effect Eutopean culinary masters throughout the centuries?
Don't forget to pick up a copy of Cinnamon and Gunpowder; you'll love getting to know Owen and the crew. And if you're an audiobook fan, consider listening to the unabridged audio edition (Macmillan Audio; 11 hr, 50 min), which is nicely read by James Langton, even if he doesn't know how to pronounce mole (the Mexican sauce). Langton captures the characters' personalities beautifully and kept my attention throughout.

Published by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780374123666
Source: review (print); bought (audio) (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

Click for more

25 June 2013

Wordless Wednesday 243

In My Garden, 2013

Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

Click for more

Review: June Selections for the Scholastic Mother-Daughter Book Club

Remember when I introduced you to the Scholastic Mother Daughter Book Club for middle readers? I'm committed to featuring or reviewing all the books selected for this club because I think Scholastic has picked winning titles that have broad appeal.

Don't forget that the Scholastic book club site includes more information about the books, recipes, reading guides, and contests. The resources are perfect for book clubs, teachers, homeschoolers, and any one who wants to get more out of reading books with middle grade readers.

The Loser List by H. N. KowittI agree with the folks at Scholastic that a book club pick for middle grade girls doesn't necessarily have to have a female protagonist. The Loser List by H. N. Kowitt is a perfect example. Right off, young readers will love the design of this book. Each page is lined like notebook paper and the font looks like hand-written printing. Not only that, there are ample illustrations throughout because Danny Shine loves comic books and practices his drawing every chance he gets.

In fact his craft is what gets him in trouble in the first place. When he refuses to give up his special art pen to one of the class bullies (a girl), he and his best friend, Jasper, end up on the Loser List, which is written on the wall of the girls' bathroom. When the boys decide to sneak into the bathroom to delete their names, Danny's life begins to take a downward spiral.

A day in detention with the bad boys gives Danny a new perspective, and as he gets caught up in the benefits of having the protection of the tough bunch, he loses sight of what's really important, such as his friendship with Jasper, his good reputation, and the importance of being honest and kind. He also discovers that, although he doesn't want to be part of the boys' gang, looks can be deceiving and you can't really know someone just by the way he or she dresses or talks.

The Loser List will likely generate a lively discussion. Topics include friendship, staying true to oneself, honesty, knowing when to take things into your own hands vs. needing to tell an adult, and having a passion (like art). Young readers will also like the secondary story line of Danny's crush on a girl who doesn't seem to know he exists. It's all very sweet and very age appropriate.

The discussion questions at the Scholastic book club site cover these issues and more. The suggested recipe is for Skull cookies, which are a perfect symbol for Danny's brief time with the troublemakers.

The Romeo and Juliet Code by Phoebe StoneThe second book selection for June is The Romeo and Juliet Code by Phoebe Stone. Despite the cover photo, this is actually historical fiction that takes place during World War II in Maine. Eleven-year-old Flissy, who was born in the UK, is taken by her parents to her father's childhood home to escape the bombings in London.

Flissy has never met her grandmother, uncle, and aunt and never even knew she had a twelve-year-cousin, who was taken in by the Bathburn family when he was baby. Her adjustment to her new life doesn't go smoothly. Not only hasn't she received any mail from her parents, who returned to Europe, but she senses that her relatives are keeping deep, dark secrets.

The Romeo and Juliet Code unfolds slowly as Flissy and her cousin, Derek, learn about their family's past and the truth about Flissy's parents. Throughout it all, the period details emphasize the differences between British and American children in the mid-twentieth century. Although adults may figure out some of the plot about midway through the story, all readers will find plenty of surprises by the end of the book.

Discussion topics include honesty and secrets within a family, the need for security, wartime, young love, friendship, marriage, family loyalty, sibling relationships, and coping with great change. I think girls will spend a lot of time talking about the differences between America and England during the war and the way that Flissy's relatives treat her. The family is not mean, but they seem very different from Flissy's parents.

The reading guide at the Scholastic book club site offers other interesting topics sure to generate a good discussion. The suggested recipes are for a traditional English tea with scones, which Flissy misses when she first moves to Maine.

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

The Loser List: Scholastic / Scholastic Press, 2011; ISBN-13: 9780545240048
The Romeo and Juliet Code: Scholastic / Arthur A. Levine Books, 2012; ISBN-13: 9780545218276
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

Click for more

24 June 2013

Going Public . . . In Shorts with Narrator John Lee (June Is Audiobook Month)

You must know by now that June is Audiobook Month (#JIAM2013, for those of you on Twitter). To help celebrate the month, I'm thrilled to be involved with the Going Public Project, which has put together an audiobook of short stories. All proceeds From this Spoken Freely project will go the Reach Out and Read literacy advocacy organization.

Every day in June, one or two of these stories (in the public domain) will be released on the Going Public blog as well on other blogs in the book blog community. Each story is free for listening (no downloads) for one week. On June 30, in collaboration with Blackstone Audio, the entire collection will be available for download via Downpour.

To find out when each story will be released and which narrator is reading it, check out the Going Public site. Jeffrey Kafer and SpringBrook Audio did the engineering and mastering and f power design did the graphic design. Blackstone Audio is the publisher. A huge thank you goes to project coordinator and executive producer Xe Sands.

I can't tell you how happy I was to be teamed up with veteran narrator John Lee for the Going Public . . . In Shorts project. I have spent many an hour with John as he's accompanied me on my walks and entertained me in my kitchen. No, I've never met him, but I know his voice well.

For Going Public . . . In Shorts, John read "Eveline" by James Joyce. To hear the story for free, just hit the play button above and be transported to Joyce's Dublin. To learn more about John Lee and what's it's like to be an audiobook narrator, listen in on our conversation:

Beth Fish Reads (BFR): We've never met, but I feel as if I'd know your voice anywhere, considering that I've had you in my head (earbuds) for almost 200 hours over the years. When you're recording a book, do you feel the pressure from repeat listeners' expectations for another stellar performance?

John Lee (JL): I do worry that people will either get tired of listening to me or will realize that I am not particularly good at certain kinds of books. I find myself thinking either that I should be sure to sound just like I did on the last book or thinking I should vary this a little because surely people are tired of me by now. Fortunately the sheer concentration it takes to narrate prevents me from thinking too deeply. Or maybe that's just my lack of intellectual depth.

BFR: You've recorded quite a variety of genres, although I'm most familiar with your narrations of historical fiction. Do you have a favorite genre for recording audiobooks? Is it different from what you might pick up for your personal reading?

JL: My personal reading consists almost entirely of nonfiction. If I did not narrate audiobooks I would probably never read anything fictional. This is just a function of my obsession with history, not any reflection on the quality of fiction. There are certain writers I love revisiting that I read when I was younger. Dickens, Conrad, Lawrence. I like the sort of history books that inject real personality. Ben Macintyre, whose books include Double Cross and The Napoleon of Crime, is an expert at this. Though I love nonfiction the best discovery I have made in narrating is Orhan Pahmuk, the Turkish Nobel Laureate. His books are wonderful, real gems. I always recommend them.

BFR: I'm a full-time professional book editor, and I turned to audiobooks in the late 1980s because, after reading all day for work, I needed to rest my eyes. Plus, I often silently edit when I'm reading. Do you have similar issues? When reading for pleasure do you begin to create voices for the characters or think about pacing and volume?

JL: Oh, yes. All the time. I now create voices in my head not just for my own amusement but in a way that I feel would be appropriate for a listener. I find myself thinking—You know, the writer really could have made that paragraph easier to read aloud. I find myself thinking that the writing is awkward because it's not easily read aloud when it might well be a perfectly lovely line as it sits on the page. I sometimes wonder if writers look at their work and think it looks lovely on the page. Perhaps they write in such a way as to shape their paragraphs nicely.

BFR: You've mostly recorded solo performances but in some cases, The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society comes to mind, you've been part of a collaboration. Can you talk a little bit about the pros and cons of working alone vs. working with others?

JL: The first difficulty with multicast productions is pronunciation. The first person to complete their part gets to tell everyone else how things are pronounced. The English have so many ways of pronouncing so many things that we all have to contort ourselves if a different pronunciation from our "normal" pronunciation is used. Trying to match at least the tone of another actor's interpretation of a character is quite difficult. I imagine that multicast projects are fun for listeners, and I try to make sure that the differences between narrators are not so glaring as to take people out of the flow of the book.

BFR: I'm sure you're asked this all the time, but I'm curious. What happens if you have to narrate a book you're not enjoying. I know that as an editor, sometimes that makes my job easier; when I'm less caught up in the story, I can more easily concentrate on the editorial issues. But what about for an audiobook narrator?

JL: My father was a construction carpenter. He made what Americans call "forms," what the English and Irish call "shuttering," the forms into which concrete is poured to make a foundation or a wall or a post. My father oversaw the pouring of more concrete than anyone outside of the Grand Coulee Dam. He helped build some of the ugliest buildings I've ever seen. However, those ugly buildings will stand as long as the elegant structures he helped build. He never asked why the building had to be so ugly, he just made sure it would stand up and stay up. I have the same attitude to narrating books. First of all, my dad might not have been a good judge of architecture and I might not be a good judge of a book. I write myself, plays and screenplays, so I know how hard it is to write anything, even bad work, so I have nothing but admiration for someone who can write a novel or a historical work and convince people who know books better than I do that it's worth publishing. Each writer deserves the best we can give him or her. Of course, it's a lot easier to narrate a book I enjoy. I do wonder sometimes if my attitude to a book comes across in the narration.

BFR: As an avid audiobook listener, one thing I always appreciate is when a narrator hits that sweet spot of adding emotion, drama, tension, and characterizations to a novel while at the same time leaving me space to form my own connections and reactions. Is that something you consciously strive for or is that a just part of the job?

JL: It's always what I strive for. It's similar to being on stage and doing just enough to tell an audience what they need to know while letting them come to their own conclusions or get that laugh without being pushed or find those tears without being forced. It's the trickiest part of the process.

BFR: Finally, I have another question that I bet audiobook narrators are often asked. What kind of research do you do when the book you're narrating contains a number of foreign words or regional cities or towns that might have a distinct pronunciation? In some cases, how do you even know that a town name (Cairo, Georgia, comes to mind) might not be pronounced as it's spelled?

JL: Two parts to this answer. Let's say I am reading a book set in Sweden. I come across the city of Gothenburg. I know, of course that this is pronounced Goth-un-berg. However, I decide to look it up. In fact it is pronounced Got-a-burr-ya. Now, if it's a Swede speaking it must be pronounced in this way. However, can we get away with saying Gothenberg for the sake of the non-Swedish listener? It's a dance between accuracy and reality. Back when I started narrating you had to look all these things up in books or call someone in Cairo, Georgia, and ask them how they say the name. Google has saved us all a lot of time. Who those people are who take time out to record all these words I have no idea but I thank them. There is a difference, too, if I am working with a director. The director will also have pronunciation research.

The part of research that is more difficult ultimately comes down to skill as a narrator, but the narrator does need to know something about the context of a given book. I mentioned Orhan Pahmuk, not just a Turkish writer but, very specifically, an Istanbul writer. It helps my reading if I know something about Turkey, about Kemal Ataturk, the military junta that ruled there, something about Turkish Islam. I won't be able to convey all that to a listener but it adds something very important to my narration, something intangible.

BFR: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, John. I learned quite a bit about what's it's like to be the person on the other side of the mic. I'm particularly amazed by all the decisions that must be made about pronunciations, whether foreign words, names of cities, or matching other performers on a multicast project. I also want to thank you for giving me so many, many hours of pleasure when I've listened to books you've narrated.
More about John Lee (the most evil man in the world?): His voice can be heard in MTV’s Aeon Flux, as Trevor Goodchild, the most evil man in the world: in HBO’s Spawn, as Jason Wynn, the most evil man in the world, and in Jet Li's The Black Mask he dubbed the voice of Commander Hung, the most evil man in the world. He also provided the voice for Meier, the conflicted vampire in Vampire Hunter D and worked on Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke.

John’s voice can be heard all over the gaming world, in Final Fantasy, The Mists of Avalon, Warhawk, Ninja Scrolls, Blackjack, and Everquest.

His book narration continues apace. In 2007 he recorded the monumental World Without End, Ken Follet’s sequel to the equally grand Pillars of the Earth, which John recorded in 2006. He has been lucky enough to read the remarkable works of Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk and Philip Kerr’s wonderfully researched detective novels set in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. He has not quite recovered from narrating James Joyce’s Ulysses but hopes that large quantities of stout will solve that problem.

For more about Going Public . . . In Shorts, visit yesterday's host The Guilded Earlobe and tomorrow's host Jen's Book Thoughts.

Click for more

22 June 2013

Weekend Cooking: Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals by Caroline Wright

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.

June is the season of weddings and graduation and the promise of summer fun. It's also a crazy time of buying gifts and trying to get meals on the table between work or camp and an evening game of backyard horseshoes. Caroline Wright's Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals (for 4 People) was published just in time to help you navigate these rough waters.

Before I tell you what's inside the covers, I encourage you to buy several copies: give some as gifts to graduates renting their first apartments on entry-level budgets; give others to newlyweds, who need a stock of go-to, easy dishes for weeknights and for entertaining; and keep one for yourself to add fresh new dishes to your repertoire without straining your wallet.

I love the small size and fun, bright design of Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals. The red-and-white theme is cheerful, and the yellow highlighting and cute "handwritten" margin notes make the cookbook fun to use.

I also love Caroline Wright's kitchen philosophy. Her nightly meals are less influenced by a weekly plan and more on transitory factors, such as what's on hand, what's fresh, what she has a craving for, and even the weather. Although she is a professionally trained cook, Wright's recipes have a foundation in her twenty-something days, when she might not have had much money but still liked to eat well and feed her friends.

She also believes a tasty, from-scratch, casual dinner can be made with a minimum of fuss and in about twenty minutes. To help you develop your skills, she offers plenty of tips for organization, pantry stocking, and substituting on the fly. All of the recipes serve four people, and all (except the desserts) can stand as a one-dish main meal, rounded out with a little something like a salad, bread, or cheese.

Each recipe has a full-page color photo of the finished dish, which I know is welcome news for many of you. In addition, Wright includes ideas for variations and notes on ingredients, when needed. The recipes are written out in paragraph form, but all the ingredients are highlighted, so you can spot them at a glance. Even better news is that no special equipment or arcane chef skills are required. There is nothing intimidating about these dishes. In fact, some dishes are so simple a recipe is hardly needed, such as the traditional dessert of French bread, chocolate, and red wine and a simple dinner of linguine with fresh garlic sauce.

So if the meals are quick, inexpensive, and easy to make, what must they taste like? Well here's the thing, the flavors will bowl you over. The meals are based on classic combinations with good depth of flavor, and even the pickiest of eaters will readily dig in. You won't find unusual ingredients or hard to find spices. Even the fish recipes are accessible for everyone, calling for shrimp, salmon, catfish, and other common species.

Although vegans will find Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals difficult, vegetarians will discover plenty of meals to satisfy their tastes. There's even an entire vegetarian chapter, and only two recipes call for tofu.

In chapters ranging from salads and sandwiches to soups, pasta, and pizzas along with meats, eggs, and desserts, you'll find classic flavors as well as fresh, modern combinations. Here are just a few that caught my eye:
  • Spring Green Salad with Poached Chicken + Buttermilk Dressing
  • Red Lentil Soup with Browned Spice Butter
  • Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches with Fresh Aioli
  • Steak + Arugula Pizza
  • Sage-Rubbed Pork Chops with Grilled Peaches + Onions
  • Butternut Squash Curry with Bulgur
To tell you the truth, close to 98 percent of the recipes appealed to me, and I predict that this cookbook will be well worn and kitchen stained before too long

Caroline Wright's Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals is casual dining at its finest. Serve these meals on a busy weeknight, before or after a Saturday night movie, or for a lazy holiday brunch. Feeding your family and friends has never been so simple and stress free. I bet you anything, your guests will want a copy of this cookbook for their very own.

To the right is a scan of one of the recipes I tried (more or less). I used hot sausage, didn't have anchovies, and substituted chick-peas. I think Caroline Wright would have approved. [NB: Do not judge the quality of the cookbook by my poor scan. Click the image to enlarge.]

Workman Publishing, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780761174936,
Rating: A-
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright 2013 cbl for www.BethFishReads.com

Click for more

21 June 2013

Imprint Friday: No One Could Have Guessed the Weather by Anne-Marie Casey

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.

Can I admit that I was a little nervous about reading this week's Imprint Friday pick? I was afraid that I would have trouble relating the women in No One Could Have Guessed the Weather by Anne-Marie Casey because their lives are so different from mine. I should have known that I could trust Amy Einhorn to find a novel that offers a smart, sharp look at contemporary marriage, motherhood, women's choices, and friendships.

Here's the publisher's summary:

Sometimes what you want in your twenties isn’t what you want or need in your forties. . . .

When Lucy Lovett’s husband loses his job, she is forced to give up her posh life in London and move their family to a tiny apartment in Manhattan, where her husband has managed to secure a lowly position. Lucy finds herself living in the center of cool and hip. Across from their apartment is a trendy bar called PDT—whenever Lucy passes by, she thinks, Please Don’t Tell anyone I’m a middle-aged woman.

Homesick and resentful at first, Lucy soon embarks on the love affair of her life—no, not with her husband (though they’re both immensely relieved to discover they do love each other for richer or poorer), but with New York City and the three women who befriend her.

There’s Julia, who is basically branded with a Scarlet A when she leaves her husband and kids for a mini nervous breakdown and a room of her own; Christy, a much older man’s trophy wife, who is a bit adrift as only those who live high up in penthouses can be; and disheveled and harried Robyn, constantly compensating for her husband, who can’t seem to make the transition from wunderkind to adult.

Spot-on observant, laugh-out-loud funny, yet laced with kindness through and through, No One Could Have Guessed the Weather is a story of what happens when you grow up and realize the middle part of your story might just be your beginning.
Although No One Could Have Guessed the Weather is a novel, the sections could almost stand on their own as snapshots of four New York City women whose lives intersect in various ways. Their friendship is solidified after they decide to take a weekend "equine assisted learning course," which promises to help them with their emotional growth. Let me be quick to reassure you that this is no sappy, feel-good novel; the women's struggles are genuine, but the humor keeps the story from getting bogged down in heavy issues:
It doesn't matter whether you can ride or not," said Christy firmly. "The course is psychological. Lianne says you spend time with the horses and you learn life lessons. Then, when you find yourself in a crisis situation, you think, What would a horse do?" (p. 134; uncorrected copy)
Through alternating chapters, we learn each woman's present situation and how she came to be there (economic troubles, idealized love) as well as a bit about their childhoods and families. Once they go to the equestrian program, the story is carried into the present and beyond as Lucy, Julia, Christy, and Robyn learn to accept the past and look to the future.

All women everywhere have to face questions about motherhood, career, and relationship status while keeping an eye on their birth family (aging parents, siblings in trouble). Is it any wonder why we often find ourselves pulled too thin? As the women in No One Could Have Guessed the Weather discover, no one should feel shackled to a single path. Change may require sacrifice, pain, and courage, but it can be done and often should be done.

Anne-Marie Casey's debut novel is an astute look at contemporary life. You may not be like any of the protagonists, but you know women just like them. I couldn't be more different from Lucy and Julia, yet I understood their pain, rooted for their happiness, and accepted their ultimate solutions. Add No One Could Have Guessed the Weather to your summer reading list; you can thank me later.

To learn more about Anne-Marie Casey, visit her website, where you can see the UK cover and title. Check out her tour schedule there or on her Facebook page. Book club members will appreciate the thoughtful reading guide, which covers the major themes of the novel. And don't miss the fabulous interview/conversation with Adrianna Trigiani!

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.

Published by Putnam / Amy Einhorn Books, June 13, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780399160219
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

Click for more

20 June 2013

Review: While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax

Although Wendy Wax has written at least eight previous novels, While We Were Watching Downton Abbey was my first experience with her work. As you know, I am often a bad match for contemporary women's fiction, but I couldn't resist a book that made reference to the wonderful Masterpiece television series.

As it turns out, you don't have to be a Downton Abbey fan to understand the novel. In fact, you needn't have watched even one episode to enjoy the story, which centers around three women living in the Alexander, a high-class Atlantic apartment building, who bond after they join a buildingwide weekly viewing of the television series.

On the surface, Claire, Brook, and Samantha have very little in common except their address. Claire is a single mother, empty-nester, and published author who quit her job and moved out of the suburbs to focus fully on writing her second Highland historical romance; unfortunately, she is spending more time at the park than in front of her laptop. Brook is a newly divorced mother of two young daughters who is still trying to adjust to her altered circumstances while her ex-husband is quickly moving on to his second marriage. Samantha, childless, lives in the penthouse with her seemingly perfect (and rich!) husband. Yet looks can deceive, and there seems to be trouble in paradise.

While We Were Watching Downton Abbey explores the women's relationships within their families and among themselves. Each woman has different needs and strengths, bringing something unique to the friendship and promoting the idea that women share commonalities that span gaps in money and social status. The principal themes of the novel are friendship, loyalty, self-discovery, and self-acceptance.

Although two of the women have man troubles, Claire is a beacon for readers who don't pin their happiness and success on having a romantic relationship or a model marriage. In addition, the secondary characters, including some men, are so well developed that it's easy to get a feel for life in the Alexander.

Yes, the overarching plot of the novel is predictable, but there were enough surprises and lots of good humor to keep me connected to While We Were Watching Downton Abbey. As I mentioned in my review of Dorothea Benton Frank's The Last Original Wife on Tuesday, I like books that mix humor with more serious issues, and I'm adding Wendy Wax to my list of authors who do this well.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Penguin Audio; 10 hr, 24 min) read by the fantastic Orlagh Cassidy. For my review of her Earphones Award-winning performance, check out AudioFile magazine. This is one of the best audiobooks I've listened to this year, and I urge you to find a copy and get listening.

Published by Penguin USA / Berkley Trade, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780425263310
Rating: A (audio edition)
Source: review (audio) (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

Click for more

18 June 2013

Wordless Wednesday 242

Mural / Street Art, Somewhere in the Lower East Side (New York City), 2013

Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

Click for more

Review: The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank

Last week I teased you with the opening lines of Dorothea Benton Frank's just-released novel, The Last Original Wife. I had barely started the book when I wrote that post, but I've already finished reading. Once I got to know the characters, I was dying to find out how the story would end.

Leslie Anne Greene Carter has been married to Wesley for several decades, one of the only solid marriages in their social circle. In fact, all of Wes's closest friends are currently married to much, much younger women. Lately, Les has become uninterested in socializing because she has nothing in common with the trophy wives, who are almost young enough to be her daughters. After a series of events leave Les frustrated and angry, she packs her bags and leaves town to visit her brother, hoping some distance will help her sort out her feelings.

The Last Original Wife is told in alternating points of view, so we hear both Leslie's take on her marriage and Wesley's. Frank's fabulous sense of humor is seen especially in Wes's sections. Although he's a bit of a selfish jerk, you cannot help but laugh at his justifications and his total cluelessness when it comes to his wife and all the things she has done to make their life pleasant. Once he's in charge of himself, he very quickly develops a strong appreciation for Les and begins to see their grown children without his rose-colored glasses.

Owing to the circumstances in which she got married (she was pregnant) and thanks to the expectations of her generation, Les has always put herself last. She takes care of the house, the kids, the grandchild, and her husband, which doesn't leave much time for her to pursue her own interests. Even worse, she has given up things she used love (classical music, for example) in deference to Wes. Once she leaves Atlanta for Charleston, she gets a taste of what life could be like on her own.

The big question Frank asks in The Last Original Wife is not whether the Carters' marriage can be saved but whether it should be saved. It's not completely clear how the book will end because there are complicating factors and the two still care for each other. Although Frank includes the serious themes of marriage, parenthood, lost youth, and fidelity, she provides lots of comic relief.

I love the combination of light, fun reading mixed with enough issues to make me think. I also like books that star smart, strong, slightly older women who are still looking to the future. Baby boomers are hardly ready to throw in the towel, and it's refreshing to see like-minded protagonists in contemporary novels.

No matter your age or marital situation, be sure to put a copy of Dorothea Benton Frank's The Last Original Wife in your beach bag this summer. It's a great choice for a weekend escape.

Published by HarperCollins/William Morrow, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780062132468

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

Click for more

17 June 2013

Review: Family Pictures by Jane Green + Macmillan Audio Workout Challenge

I don't know about you, but I consider my daily walk to be the perfect opportunity to listen to my current audiobook. This past spring, Macmillan Audio started a Listen While You Work Out campaign and fitness challenge.

The program has been written up by several major websites, including Parents and Fitness. It even has its own Facebook page! The first two challenge books are Secrets from the Past by Barbara Taylor Bradford, read by Stina Nielsen, and Family Pictures by Jane Green, read by Amy Quint. You can hear samples of the audiobooks by clicking through to the Facebook page.

I picked Family Pictures, and a publicist at Macmillan Audio kindly provided me with a review copy and a break-down of the timing of each chapter. Although I'm fully aware of the length of every audiobook I listen to and of how many minutes I walk each day, I had never really thought about combining the two sets of numbers.

Armed with the stats, it was fun to plan out my exercise around Family Pictures. For example, my first workout consisted of Chapters 1 to 6 for total of about 54 minutes. It was motivating to keep moving until I heard the words Chapter Seven instead of quitting when I hit a particular distance or I decided I had walked long enough.

Family Pictures is the story of two families--particularly the mother-daughter pairs--and how their lives become intertwined through a shared traumatic event. Even though I had most of the story figured out early on, I enjoyed getting to know the characters, and Green made me think about fidelity, honesty in marriage, obligations to loved ones, family dynamics, finding inner strength, and the ups and downs of friendship.

My only complaint is that just when I thought the novel was ending, there was jump to the future; in fact, this happened three times (if you include the epilogue). It is always great to learn the outcome and fate of the characters in a story, but I would have been happy if Green had left some questions unanswered or if we had been given only one "where are they now" section.

The unabridged audio edition (Macmillan Audio; 10 hr, 14 min) is read by Amy Quint. This was my first experience with Quint, who reads with enthusiasm and expression. She did a fine job distinguishing characters and was easy to understand, but some of her pauses seemed too strong and every once in a while the rhythm of her reading was slightly repetitive. Regardless, these issues wouldn't stop me from trying another book narrated by Quint.

If you want to join the Macmillan Audio fitness challenge, visit their Facebook page and learn more about the program as well as their great auidobooks. No matter how you get your exercise--walking, gardening, running, or just living--an audiobook will help keep you moving and is a great motivator.

Published by Macmillan/St. Martin's Press, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780312591830

Rating: C+
Source: review (audio edition) (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

Click for more

15 June 2013

Weekend Cooking: Party Potatoes

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's hard to believe, but this is the third Saturday in a row I've been either out of town or busy, busy. First I was in New York for BookExpo America, then I was in Ohio for my niece's high school graduation, and today we have a neighborhood graduation party followed by the village's annual strawberry festival. As a consequence of all that traveling and partying, I haven't been spending much time in the kitchen.

On the other hand, the celebration meals have me thinking about some of my favorite dishes to serve for informal gatherings. One of my go-to party cookbooks is the Toledo Museum of Art's Art Fare.

A couple of years ago, I shared a carrot recipe from Art Fare, which I hope you've tried. It's a dish that appears on my New Year's Eve menu every year, and even the vegetable haters seem to love it. The recipes in Art Fare come from museum supporters, including restaurant chefs, caterers, and home cooks. The foods reflect the diverse ethnic community of northern Ohio and southern Michigan, and each recipe was, as the cover copy says, triple tested to guarantee success.The cookbook, which won the Tabasco Community Cookbook Award in 2001, is available from the museum's gift shop.

Although my mom and I made a green bean recipe from Art Fare last weekend (and there wasn't even one bean left over!), I want to give you a different recipe because it's one of my standbys and it's always a big hit.

My friends often request that I make these potatoes when I ask, What can I bring? I love that the dish can be made the day before and then heated up when my guests arrive. If I'm taking this to a pot luck, I just wrap it up well, so it stays hot during transport.

Party Potatoes
Serves 10
  • 8 large baking potatoes, peeled
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper, or to taste
  • Milk
  • 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • ½ teaspoon dried dillweed
  • 1½ cups shredded Cheddar cheese
Combine the potatoes with enough water to cover in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Boil until tender but firm; drain. Peel the potatoes. Mash the potatoes in a bowl. Stir in the sour cream, salt, sugar, and pepper, adding milk as needed for a fluffy consistency.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cook the spinach using package directions; drain. Press the excess moisture from the spinach. Combine the potatoes, spinach, butter, chives, green onions, and dill in a bowl and mix well. Spoon into a buttered 9 × 13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with the cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes or until brown and bubbly.

Note: May prepare up to 1 day in advance and store, covered in the refrigerator. Reheat before serving.

Click for more

14 June 2013

Imprint Friday: The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Riverhead 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 don't know what I was expecting when I sat down to read Anton DiSclafani's The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. I knew the story would involve horses and teenage girls, but the rest of the novel came as complete and thought-provoking surprise.

Here's the publisher's summary:

It is 1930, the midst of the Great Depression. After her mysterious role in a family tragedy, passionate, strong-willed Thea Atwell, age fifteen, has been cast out of her Florida home, exiled to an equestrienne boarding school for Southern debutantes. High in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with its complex social strata ordered by money, beauty, and girls’ friendships, the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is a far remove from the free-roaming, dreamlike childhood Thea shared with her twin brother on their family’s citrus farm—a world now partially shattered. As Thea grapples with her responsibility for the events of the past year that led her here, she finds herself enmeshed in a new order, one that will change her sense of what is possible for herself, her family, her country.

Weaving provocatively between home and school, the narrative powerfully unfurls the true story behind Thea’s expulsion from her family, but it isn’t long before the mystery of her past is rivaled by the question of how it will shape her future. Part scandalous love story, part heartbreaking family drama, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is an immersive, transporting page-turner—a vivid, propulsive novel about sex, love, family, money, class, home, and horses, all set against the ominous threat of the Depression—and the major debut of an important new writer.
As I mentioned in my Bloggers Recommend writeup of The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, DiSclafani creates a misty, dreamy atmosphere that fits both the humid southern setting and Thea's confusion and uncertainty as she finds a way to move past her childhood and to step bravely into her future.

DiSclafani was wise to set this story in 1930, a time of great economic and social change, especially for old-money families in decline. Thea and the girls she meets at Yonahlossee are caught between their childhood expectations of marrying rich and being pampered and the realities of needing a real education that could allow them to earn a living. Yet their parents have invested their resources in their sons, freely admitting that their daughters are worth less, matter less. These historical circumstances color Thea's life both before and after her shame and banishment.

The novel is told in alternating time periods, so we learn what happened to Thea only slowly. Scenes of her family life are interwoven with her adjustment to boarding school and her self-awakening. We might not condone her behavior, but by the end of the novel, we sympathize with her situation and have a better understanding of what motivates her choices.

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is a story about twins, family dynamics, parenthood, and growing up. And throughout it all are the horses Thea loves. They are her constants, her means of connecting to others, and the source of both her troubles and her happiness. Anton DiSclafani's debut novel is strong in period details, the examination of women's issues, and the world of horses. It's sure to be one of the much-discussed books of the summer.

For more about Anton DiSclafani, visit her website,  like her Facebook page, and follow her Twitter.

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.

Published by Penguin USA / Riverhead, 2013
ISBN-13: 9781594486401
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

Imprint Friday Survey Results: I want to thank everyone who responded to my survey. I was grateful that so many of you took the time to answer the questions. The overwhelming conclusion is that you look forward to my Imprint Friday posts. With the help and support of the publishers, publicists, and marketing people I work with, Imprint Friday will remain a regular feature of Beth Fish Reads. At the same time, with your encouragement, I've decided to ease up on my self-made stress and may on occasion write a different kind of post for a Friday, if that's what makes sense at the moment.

Click for more

13 June 2013

Guest Post and Giveaway: Three Truths and a Lie about Antoine de Saint-Exupéry by Ania Szado

If you're like me, you loved the illustrated book The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Perhaps you even read it in French, as I did, when you were in school. This year readers the world over are celebrating the seventieth anniversary of the book's publication by rereading The Little Prince and by learning more about Saint-Ex.

Ania Szado's new novel, Studio Saint-Ex gives us an inside look at the French author's life in New York and the writing of his famous story. Here's a short description from the publicist:

Set in Manhattan and Quebec City in 1943, Studio Saint-Ex is a fictionalized account of the love triangle among Antoine de Saint-Exupéry; his mercurial wife, Consuelo; and a young fashion designer. Mignonne Lachapelle leaves Montreal for New York to make her name but is swept away by the charms of France's greatest living writer. Nothing about their relationship is simple—not Antoine's estranged wife who entangles Mig in her schemes to reclaim her husband, not his turmoil, and certainly not their tempestuous trysts or the blurring boundaries of their artistic pursuits. Yet the greatest complication comes in the form of a deceptively simple manuscript: Antoine's work-in-progress, The Little Prince, a tender tale of loneliness, friendship, love, and loss in the form of a young prince fallen to earth.

Studio Saint-Ex is a deeply evocative love story of a literary giant caught between two talented and mesmerizing women, set in the glittering world of French expatriates in Manhattan during World War II. Reminiscent of The Paris Wife, Loving Frank, and The Rules of Civility, Studio Saint-Ex explores themes of love, passion, and creativity in sophisticated, literary prose.
I have always been fascinated with how a French Air Force pilot came to write such a charming story about a little boy. There is so much I don't know about Saint-Ex and his world, and Szado's novel is calling to me.

To tide me over until I read the book, I asked Ania Szado to tell me a few little-known facts about Saint-Ex's life.

Studio Saint-Ex and WWII New York: Three Surprising Truths and a Lie

True: The Little Prince—the phenomenally best-selling tale of a boy who relates the story of his beloved rose and planet to a pilot on Earth, a mainstay of high school French courses, written by the French author–aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, was written entirely in New York. It was published in English first, in 1943.

True: World War II Manhattan was home to the world's largest wealthy, culturally elite group of French expatriates. Artists, filmmakers, and writers . . . and among them, Saint-Ex. Decommissioned from the French Air Force when the Nazis took over, he came to the United States to advise the military on their mission to liberate Europe and to persuade them to take him back into combat. His fiery estranged wife, Consuelo, followed, determined to regain his heart and share his spotlight—for Saint-Ex was a celebrity in America, a winner of the National Book Award, the man the
Times relied on to explain the French to WWII America.

True: Early 1940s Manhattan was the cradle of American haute couture. Until this time, all high fashion came from Paris. If you were wealthy, you went to the Continent to shop. And if not? Copies of Parisian fashions filled the local department store racks. There was no homegrown fashion design scene. Then Paris fell, and Mayor LaGuardia and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt announced that New York would become the new fashion center of the world. Contests were launched. Designers were lauded. The first Fashion Week—then called Press Week—got under way.

Which leads to the lie: In
Studio Saint-Ex, Saint-Exupéry is immersed in New York's glittering expat community, scrapping with his wife, aching to return to the war, and writing The Little Prince in friends' studios, including that of an ambitious young fashion designer, the entirely fabricated Mignonne.

In real life, Saint-Ex's girlfriends aspired mainly to save the author from himself. But a woman like Mig could do much more. She could identify with his creative struggles. She could illuminate the complex connection between love and art. Saint-Ex had artistic friends and devoted lovers, but none that came together in one person: There was no real Mig.

To me, that is the most surprising fact of all. She is such an agent of revelation and connection in
Studio Saint-Ex. It's through her that we discover the greatest truths.
Thanks so much, Ania. All three truths were new to me. Now I'm more excited that ever to read Studio Saint-Ex so I can learn more about New York, the fashion world, and the circumstances in which Saint-Exupéry wrote his famous book.

The Giveaway: Thanks to the publicist and publisher, I'm able to offer one of my readers with a U.S. or Canada mailing address a chance to win a copy of Ania Szado's Studio Saint-Ex. All you have to do to enter for a chance to win is to fill out the following form. I'll pick a winner, using a random number generator, on June 24. After the winner has been confirmed, I'll delete all personal information from my computer.

Good luck!

Random House / Knopf, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780307962799
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

Click for more

11 June 2013

Wordless Wednesday 241

Daisy, 2013

Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

Click for more

Today's Read: The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank

How would you feel if your husband's friends were all on their second, much-younger wives? Leslie Anne Greene Carter is getting tired of being made to feel lucky just because her husband hasn't yet found his arm candy. Taking control of her own fate, Les moves back to the Lowcountry, hoping to rediscover the joys of her youth.

Welcome to Saint Magnolia's Wounded Theater. At least that's what I called it. Within these slick walls reside Atlanta's pish-posh team of premier psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, and relationship counselors who specialize in the broken hearts/crushed egos of the privileged and renowned. Their lavish confessionals, perched high above the city, are, well, breathtaking. I was here because my husband, Wesley, insisted this was the only place he'd even consider receiving, as he was loath to say, therapy. And as it was on my first visit, the vast waiting area was packed.

Just for the record? Wesley needed therapy. I. Absolutely. Did. Not.
The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank (HarperCollins / William Morrow, 2013, p. 3)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: contemporary, Scotland; Charleston and Sullivan's Island, South Carolina; Atlanta
  • Circumstances: Can this marriage be saved? Should this marriage be saved?
  • Characters: Leslie and Wesley, their family and friends
  • Genre: women's fiction, beach reading, contemporary fiction
  • Themes: friendship; marriage; family; aging; trust; loyalty; fidelity
  • Miscellaneous: the story is told from both Leslie's and Wesley's perspectives
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

Click for more

10 June 2013

Review: Beholding Bee by Kimberly Newton Fusco

In the summer after Pearl Harbor, twelve-year-old Bee notices changes in the traveling show and carnival that has been her home for all her life. When her carny parents died in a car accident eight years earlier, Bee was taken in by then-teenager Pauline, who taught the girl to read, do math, and help run the hot-dog cart.

Despite the hardships, Bee could have been happy, but she was born with a diamond-shaped birthmark that covers half her face. Ellis, the show's owner, has been waiting for an excuse to put Bee in a "look-see booth," knowing people would pay good money for chance to stare at her face. Only Pauline's fierce protection has kept Bee out of the orphanage and away from Ellis's control. What will Bee do when Ellis finds a way to separate the pair, leaving Bee all on her own?

Kimberly Newton Fusco's Beholding Bee is a magical story about self-acceptance, self-reliance, and finding bravery geared to a young middle grade audience. Although the story contains a few light paranormal elements (Bee is helped by an elderly woman whom only she can see), it is grounded in reality. Young readers will love Bee, who is hardened to the life of the carnival but who is still scared and shy when people want to catch a glimpse of her face.

Although older readers will find some parts of the plot to be a little too neat, young girls will love learning how Bee finds a way to fulfill her dreams. With the help and prodding of the mysterious old woman and by remembering the lessons she learned from the carnival workers who cared for her, Bee overcomes the worst of her troubles and gains a new sense of herself along the way.

Filled with interesting period details and facts about traveling carnivals, Beholding Bee would make an excellent book club pick. Topics for discussion include the differences between schools in the 1940s and today, victory gardens, life in a carnival, family, friendships, handicaps, cooking, and wartime rationing.

I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Listening Library; 8 hr, 5 min) read by Ariadne Meyers. This was my first experience with Meyers, who did an amazing job portraying the young Bee. Her expressive reading and fantastic characterizations greatly increased my enjoyment of the story. I loved how she made me feel the entire range of Bee's emotions, from her pain and hurt when people stared at her to the love she feels for Pauline. In fact, I'm not sure I would have liked the book as much in print.

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

Random House / Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780375868368
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

Click for more

08 June 2013

Weekend Cooking: An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails by Orr Shtuhl

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.

As some of you know, I was in New York last week attending BookExpo America (BEA), where I spent some time learning about the upcoming food and drink titles from a variety of publishing houses. I'm so excited by many of the summer and fall foodie books and can't wait to share some of my discoveries with you.

One fun little book I picked up was An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails by Orr Shtuhl, which is no ordinary bartender's cheat sheet. First, the book is amply and charmingly illustrated by Elizabeth Graeber. You can get a taste of her style by looking at the cover at the left and the scan I include below. I love her animal drawings, and she seems to have captured Shtuhl's engaging sense of humor.

As the subtitle, 50 Classic Cocktail Recipes, Tips, and Tales, implies, the book includes stories, history, and other information for each of the drinks. Although the cocktails are fairly no-nonsense classics (martini, bloody Mary, Tom Collins, for example), the recipes and presentation are anything but. All it takes is a look at the two-page chapter on the Long Island iced tea to make my point (click image to enlarge):

But despite the humor, Shtuhl provides quite a lot of information in this slip of a book. For example, on page 1 we learn that the structure of a classic cocktail is quite simple: strong + sweet + bitter = great cocktail. The strong is the alcohol; the sweet is sugar, a liqueur, or juice; and the bitter is, well, bitters or citrus. We also learn the origins of the cocktails, their names, and what famous people sipped them. We can even pick up some useful tips for buying bar equipment. But even here, Shtuhl is quick to point out that a good drink can be made without fancy gadgets. And, in fact, his zero bar equipment recipe is hilarious--and a bit reassuring to those of us who are minimalists.

I also enjoyed the sections on how to like different types of spirits (whiskey, tequila, gin, and so on). Included here are beginner, advanced, and expert cocktails (in taste, not execution) as well as general information about the liquor and how to use it in a drink. I thought the stories about the people behind the drinks--from the historic (George Washington) to the fictional (James Bond)--gave me a new appreciation for the liquid in my glass.

If you're looking for an easy introduction to traditional cocktails or a thoughtful Father's Day gift for your favorite home bartender, I highly recommend Orr Shtuhl's An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails.

Penguin USA / Gotham Books, 2013
ISBN-13: 9781592407958
Rating: B
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright 2013 cbl for www.BethFishReads.com

Click for more

07 June 2013

BEA Book Group Speed Dating Session: Part 2

**NB: Imprint Friday will return next with the results of my survey (there is still time to answer the 7 questions) and hints of what's to come.

Yesterday I mentioned that my favorite panel at BEA each year is the one geared to book clubs. Here is Part 2 of my recap of that event, covering four of the eight publishers that stopped by my table to present their hottest book club titles for the coming seasons. (Be sure to check out BEA Book Group Speed Dating Session: Part 1, which I posted yesterday.)

Here are the books I learned about at the session, plus my top pick from each publisher. Titles in boldface are books that made it to my wish list.

Random House Publishing Group

  • The Boleyn Deceit by Laura Andersen: alternate history in which Anne has a son who becomes king; second in a series
  • The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin: historical novel focusing on the life and accomplishments of Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  • Defending Jacob by William Landay: contemporary novel; a lawyer must defend his young son who has been accused of murder
  • A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee: contemporary novel; can a family survive a man's poor choices?
  • Perfect by Rachel Joyce: contemporary novel; how much does a young teen really know about his perfect mother? [This is my real top pick, but the publisher's summary and book cover are currently unavailable.]
Once a privileged and loving couple, the Armsteads have now reached a breaking point. Ben, a partner in a prestigious law firm, has become unpredictable at work and withdrawn at home—a change that weighs heavily on his wife, Helen, and their preteen daughter, Sara. Then, in one afternoon, Ben’s recklessness takes an alarming turn, and everything the Armsteads have built together unravels, swiftly and spectacularly.

Thrust back into the working world, Helen finds a job in public relations and relocates with Sara from their home in upstate New York to an apartment in Manhattan. There, Helen discovers she has a rare gift, indispensable in the world of image control: She can convince arrogant men to admit their mistakes, spinning crises into second chances. Yet redemption is more easily granted in her professional life than in her personal one.

As she is confronted with the biggest case of her career, the fallout from her marriage, and Sara’s increasingly distant behavior, Helen must face the limits of accountability and her own capacity for forgiveness.
What will book clubs talk about? Marriage, trust, forgiveness, how far can a family bend without breaking, moving on, second chances. On sale August 6; ISBN 13: 9780812983388

Sourcebooks / Landmark
  • Book of Someday by Dianne Dixon: contemporary novel; three women unexpectedly connected and forever changed over the course of a summer
  • Lies You Wanted to Hear by James Whitfield Thomson: contemporary novel; two points of view; how a couple tears apart their family
  • Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure: historical fiction; how an architect creates hiding places for Jews during the German occupation
Like most gentiles in Nazi-occupied Paris, architect Lucien Bernard has little empathy for the Jews. So when a wealthy industrialist offers him a large sum of money to devise secret hiding places for Jews, Lucien struggles with the choice of risking his life for a cause he doesn't really believe in. Ultimately he can't resist the challenge and begins designing expertly concealed hiding spaces--behind a painting, within a column, or inside a drainpipe--detecting possibilities invisible to the average eye. But when one of his clever hiding spaces fails horribly and the immense suffering of Jews becomes incredibly personal, he can no longer deny reality.

Written by an expert whose knowledge imbues every page, this story becomes more gripping with every life the architect tries to save.
What will book clubs talk about? Morality, ethical dilemmas, selflessness, religion, tolerance. On sale October 1; ISBN 13: 9781402284311

William Morrow
  • Swimming in the Moon by Pamela Schoenewaldt: historical fiction about a mother and daughter in the early 1900s during a time of social change
  • Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson: southern fiction; messy love story
  • The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly: historical fiction about the 1927 Mississippi flood
  • The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle: contemporary fiction; a happy, successful family is torn apart when the parents discover that their teenage daughter is having an affair with a married teacher
  • Help for the Haunted by John Searles: contemporary novel; the deeper a young girl looks into the death of her parents the more she realizes she cannot trust anyone
  • The House Girl by Tara Conklin: contemporary and historical; intertwined stories of two women: one a New York lawyer and one a runaway slave
It begins with a call in the middle of the snowy February evening. Lying in her bed, young Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation, helping "haunted souls" find peace. And yet, something in Sylvie senses that this call is differnt than the rest, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behnd the church's red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep only to wake to the sound of gunfire.

Nearly a year later, we meed Sylvie again, struggling with the loss of her parents, and living in the care of her older sister, Rose, who may be to blame for what happened the previous winter. As the story moves back and forth in time, through the years leading up to the crime and the months following, the ever inquisitive and tender-hearted Sylvie pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night, as she comes to terms with her family's past and uncovers secrets that have haunted them for years. (Note: copy from publicity memo; no summary available.)
What will book clubs talk about? Family secrets, sisters, spirituality, truth, ghosts, loss, death. On sale September 17; ISBN 13: 9780060779634

  • The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood: historical fiction (1919 and 1961); two women living in different time periods that were marked by great changes in women's rights
  • Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III: contemporary; stories about finding fulfillment via food, sex, work, and love
  • A Guide for the Perplexed by Dara Horn: contemporary and historical novel involving twin sisters; about jealousy, memory, and secrets from the historic past
  • Brewster by Mark Slouka: historical fiction about two teens and their dreams for a better life beyond the confines of their small town
The year is 1968, a year after the summer of love and the peak of the Vietnam War. The world is changing, and sixteen-year-old Jon Mosher is determined to change with it. Racked by guilt over his older brother's childhood death, Jon turns his rage into victories running track. When he meets Ray Cappicciano, a local legend in the making, a rebel as gifted with his fists as Jon is with his feet, he recognizes a friendship with the potential to save him. Realizing that Ray needs saving too, Jon sets off on the race of his life--a race to redeem his past and save them both. Reverberating with compassion, heartache, and grace, Brewster is sure to remind readers of Andre Dubus III and Richard Russo.
What will book clubs talk about? Redemption, forgiveness, hopes, dreams, friendship, life before modern technology, social change On sale August 5; ISBN 13: 9780393239751

Don't forget that discussion guides will be available for all these titles. Check ReadingGroupGuides.com and the publishers' websites for more information about book club resources, the books, and the authors.

Click for more


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



To The Blogger Guide, Blogger Buster, Tips Blogger, Our Blogger Templates, BlogU, and Exploding Boy for the code for customizing my blog. To Old Book Illustrations for my ID photo. To SEO for meta-tag analysis. To Blogger Widgets for the avatars in my comments and sidebar gadgets. To Review of the Web for more gadgets. To SuziQ from Whimpulsive for help with my comments section. To Cool Tricks N Tips for my Google +1 button.

Quick Linker



  © Blogger template Coozie by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP