30 July 2013

Wordless Wednesday 248

Barn Door, 2013

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Today's Read & Giveaway: Shorecliff by Ursula DeYoung

Shorecliff by Ursula DeYoungHow would you like to spend the summer on the coast of Maine with your extended family? Imagine that you're only thirteen, an only child, and the youngest of your ten cousins; what would you do to fit in with the other kids? Richard Killing has at least one trait his Hatfield cousins like: He is an expert eavesdropper. What will Richard do with the information he acquires?

The summer when I was thirteen years old changed everything for me. Looking back on it now, I can fill in the gaps with what I learned later, but at the time it seemed like a story unto itself, and that is the way I want to tell it. When I got back to school in September, I thought to myself, "I've been through hell this past month, and not one of you knows a godamn thing about it." I'd picked up swearing that summer, but it wasn't the worst thing I had picked up, and it wasn't the most lasting. What I like to remember best are the mornings in Uncle Kurt's room when he would regale me with tales of the war. But what I remember most vividly is a bright patch of flames surrounding something so horrible I couldn't bear to look at it. That comes at the end. I will take my time getting there.
Shorecliff by Ursula DeYoung (Hachette Book Group / Little, Brown, 2013, p. 1)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: Maine coast; family vacation home; summer 1928
  • Circumstances: Richard Killing spends the summer with his maternal relatives; Richard is somewhat withdrawn and finds it easy to learn people's secrets and listen in on their conversations; when secrets are exposed, life is changed
  • Characters: Richard, 13 years old; his mother and father; his aunts and their husbands; his ten cousins, aged 21 to 13
  • Genre: general fiction; historical fiction
  • Themes & plot lines: secrets; family; marriages; siblings; extended family; America before the Depression; love; loyalty
  • Miscellaneous: Author DeYoung's debut novel
The Giveaway

Doesn't Shorecliff sound great? I love the coastal Maine setting, the time period, and the family themes (and secrets). I've only just started this, but I'm already intrigued. Thanks to Little, Brown (who will be mailing the books) I'm able to give away a copy of Ursula DeYoung's debut novel to two of my readers. To be eligible for this giveaway, you must have a US or Canada mailing address. Just fill out the form and I'll pick two winners via random number generator on August 10. Once the winners are confirmed, I'll erase all personal data from my computer. Good luck!

ISBN-13: 9780316213394
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29 July 2013

Review: Dead Reckoning & Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris

Dead Reckoning by Charlaine HarrisI am so bad with finishing series that I'm still behind in the Sookie Stackhouse (Southern Vampire) series by Charlaine Harris. I decided a few days ago that I would do my best to catch up. I had three books left and managed to listen to two and have already started on the last.

It's my understanding that there will be only one more Sookie book, which is sad, but I think the series has lost some of its initial charm. I still love Sookie; she's cute, funny, and spunky and has surprising strengths. On the other hand, how many times can she be beaten up by life?

I can barely remember the problems in just the last two books: She was almost burned to death; she was betrayed by loved ones; she was kidnapped; she was the target of jealous women; she was almost murdered; she was tricked and bullied; and she was pursued by men she didn't want. Okay, so some good things happened to her too, but the premise of Sookie being at the center of violence in every single book is getting old.

Because these are the eleventh and twelfth installments in the series, I'm not going to try to avoid spoilers to the earlier books. And, frankly, there's not much to review here anyway.

Deadlocked by Charlaine HarrisIn Dead Reckoning and Deadlocked, Sookie, Eric, and the gang get involved in the affairs of other creatures, which leads to murder, revenge, and some tricky schemes to try to set things right. Meanwhile, vampire law and politics are threatening Sookie and Eric's relationship, and Sookie was forced to decide what to do with a few things she had inherited.

At the end of Deadlocked, it appears that Sookie's life is going to change drastically. I think this is a good thing and likely foreshadows how Sookie's story will ultimately end. If I'm right, then I'm pretty happy where things could end up. That said, though, I kind of wish Sookie had done something different with a gift her grandmother left her. It's not that Sookie squandered her inheritance, but she could have used it in a way that would been more directly beneficial to her well being.

The plotting of both books followed Harris's usual style. There is a ton of action played out against Sookie's personal life and the doings of her family and friends in Bon Temps, Louisiana. As always, Harris's sense of humor comes shining through, and her world of humans, weres, fairies, vampires, and more is complex and well developed.

As you can tell, I have mixed feelings about the series. I'm still interested in the characters, but I'm not going to be too sad to say good-bye when Harris writes the last page of Sookie's story.

What I will miss, however, is Johanna Parker's stellar performances on the audiobook editions (produced by Recorded Books). I can't imagine a better narrator for the series. Parker has nailed the characters' personalities and is amazingly consistent both with a single book and across the entire series. She has added greatly to my enjoyment of Sookie's adventures.

Penguin USA / Ace
Dead Reckoning, ISBN-13: 9781937007355, 2012
Deadlocked, ISBN-13: 9781937007447, 2012
Source: Review (both print and audio) (see review policy)
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27 July 2013

Weekend Cooking: What Katie Ate by Katie Quinn Davies

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend 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.

What Katie Ate by Katie Quinn DaviesDublin-born Katie Quinn Davies has a background in graphic design and doesn't come from a particularly foodie family. But when an opportunity came for her to change careers, after she moved to her husband's native Australia, she decided her future was in the kitchen. After a series of false starts, she found a way to join two passions by becoming a food photographer and stylist.

At the brink of her new adventure and on the advice of a friend, Katie started a blog, What Katie Ate, both to document her learning process and to serve as a kind of portfolio of her work. Although she posts in bursts with long breaks, her photographs (and recipes) caught the attention of some of the major players in the food and publishing world, and the idea for her cookbook, What Katie Ate, was born.

There is no doubt that Davies is a talented food stylist and photographer. Her book is an absolute joy to look through, with its typewriter font and earthy colors. The stunning photos project a rustic, vintage, casual style and are incredibly inviting.

The recipes range from breakfast through to evening dessert, with a stopover at drinks and appetizers. Davies notes that her style is casual and she loves developing dishes from whatever fresh ingredients are at hand and generally can't resist tweaking the recipes that she gets from family and friends.

copyright Katie Quinn DaviesEven though she was born and raised in Ireland and lives in Sydney, her ingredients are universal. I doubt anyone would have trouble finding the necessary components of any of her dishes. Davies is aware that she has an international audience, so when, for example, a particular type of Pacific fish is called for, she tells us any firm white variety will do.

The directions are straightforward and use basic techniques, making the cookbook accessible to anyone who is at home in the kitchen. On the other hand, I found her idea of everyday casual to be my idea of weekend cooking for friends. Her recipes can be a little fussy--not in terms of difficulty but in the number of steps. In addition, she likes her cheese, eggs, bacon, and other ingredients that I'm happy to eat, but not necessarily every day.

On the other hand, many of her recipes seem perfect for a casual evening with friends or family. I have several flagged for fall entertaining, such as crab cakes with a spicy sauce, roasted chicken with a lemony gravy, red wine pork lasagna, and mushroom-chicken cannelloni. Each would be a welcome excuse for a no-particular-reason get-together.

If you're looking for a cookbook to help you with light entertaining, you won't go wrong with Katie Quinn Davies's What Katie Ate. Don't miss the beautiful photographs and be sure to check out Davies's helpful tips and tricks. This book is a great treat for the eye and stomach.

Here's a easy dish that will make it to one of our deck parties this summer; perhaps this coming week. Manchego is a hard sheep's milk cheese from Spain, which I can get, even in my small town. If you can't, try Asiago or Pecorino Romano.

Copyright KatieQuinn DaviesSlow-Roasted Tomatoes with Manchego

Serves 4
  • 6 large, ripe tomatoes, halved lengthways
  • 4 tablespoon light olive oil
  • Handful of large basil leaves
  • 1 cup shredded manchego, plus extra to serve
  • Toasted bread slices, for serving
Preheat the oven to 275°F.

Divide the tomato halves among four individual heatproof tapas bowls, placing them cut-side up.

Drizzle the olive oil over the tomato halves and season very well with salt and pepper. Arrange the basil leaves around the tomato halves, pushing them into the oil. Transfer to the oven and roast for 1½ hours, or until the tomatoes are soft.

Sprinkle with the shredded manchego, then return to the oven for another 10 minutes to melt the cheese.

Serve piping hot with extra shredded manchego sprinkled on top. Accompany with slices of toasted bread. (Photo credits: the photos are copyright by Katie Quinn Davies and appear in the book.)

Penguin USA / Viking, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780670026180
Rating: B
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Copyright 2013 cbl for www.BethFishReads.com

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26 July 2013

Imprint Friday: Little Century by Anna Keesey

Little Century by Anna KeeseyWelcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Picador USA. 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 suppose I'm like most readers in that there are a few settings and time periods that always attract my attention. Books set in the far West, especially in the late 1800s, seem to call me, and Anna Keesey's affecting debut novel, Little Century, is no exception.

As always, let me start with with publisher's summary:

Orphaned after the death of her mother, eighteen-year-old Esther Chambers heads west in search of her only living relative. In the lawless town of Century, Oregon, she’s met by her distant cousin—a cattle rancher named Ferris Pickett. There, she begins a new life as a homesteader, in the hope that her land will one day join Pick’s impressive spread.

But Century is in the midst of an escalating and violent war over water and rangeland. As incidents between the sheep and cattle ranchers turn to bloodshed, Esther’s sympathies are divided between her cousin and a sheepherder named Ben Cruff, sworn enemy of the cattlemen. Torn between her growing passion for Ben and her love of the austere land, she begins to realize that she can’t be loyal to both.
Although the summary makes Little Century sound like a historical romance, the novel is really about life on the Oregon high desert during the waning days of the old frontier. Two aspects of Keesey's writing stood out sharply for me: her characters and her ability to capture the environment.

So often authors fall back on the stereotypes of the Old West: the prostitute with the good heart, the gruff wrangler who is really gentle, the principled sheriff, and the black-hatted outlaw. Keesey, however, has mostly avoided that pitfall. Her characters are complex and full of realistic contradictions. For example, Pick likes to think that he has lofty goals, but in the end, he really acts in his own best interest.

Of all the people in Century, I was particularly taken with Esther. Raised in the city and now alone without options, she is not a martyr or a whiner. She's accepted the realities of her life and is determined to make a go it, learning to ride a horse, sleeping alone in her cabin, and trying hard to understand the local grazing rights conflict.

She, who "for most of her life  [had] known mostly women and girls," is suddenly thrown into the world of men in a country that isn't exactly lawless but is far from the predictable streets of Chicago. Within hours of her arrival, she finds herself lying about her age with her hand upon the Bible, foreshadowing the moral conflicts of living in the West. Her transformation from a lonely, naive schoolgirl to a mature, capable woman drives the plot, although there is plenty of action, especially in the later chapters.

Keesey's evocative and flowing prose bring forth the sights and sounds of the Oregon desert, from the gray winter days to the awaking of spring and from the hot sun to the deepest hour of the night. As other reviewers have mentioned, the landscape plays a strong role in Little Century, shaping the characters, the town, and the events that unfold.

Anna Keesey's Little Century opens up a piece of the real frontier: the bleakness, the infighting, and the broken dreams are solidly juxtaposed with the fight for survival and the ever-present promise of making one's own luck.

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.

Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux / Picador 2013
ISBN-13: 9781250033369

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25 July 2013

Sound Recommendations: Something for Everyone

The three audiobooks I recommend today have only one thing in common: Each is a superb listening experience. If you're an eclectic reader, like I am, then be sure to listen to (or read) all of them; otherwise, pick the one that suits your taste. For my full audiobook reviews for these titles, see the AudioFile Magazine website.

Sisterland by Curtis SittenfeldTwin sisters Vi and Kate couldn't be more different. Kate has chosen a conventional path of work, marriage, and motherhood. Vi, however, has never moved past her hippie days and has shunned traditional relationships and a middle-of-the road career. What they do share, however, is an innate sensitivity to psychic phenomena, although Kate is careful to keep her abilities buried deep inside. When Vi publicly announces that their native St. Louis will be the epicenter of a major earthquake, even predicting a date, the sisters' lives begin to spin out of control. Curtis Sittenfeld's Sisterland explores a number of contemporary issues, from the alarmist media to family relationships. The audiobook (Random House Audio; 14 hr, 59 min) is brilliantly read by Rebecca Lowman. She not only does an amazing job with the wide range of needed characterizations but also keeps the tension building as the predicted day of the natural disaster approaches. I recommend the novel for those who like contemporary stories about family relationships, marriage, twins, and parenthood. It would also make a good book club pick.

Because of Mr. Terupt by Bob BuyeaAlthough Rob Buyea's Because of Mr. Terupt was published in 2010 to much acclaim and starred reviews, the audiobook edition was released only recently (Tantor Audio; 4 hr, 10 min). This charming novel follows seven fifth-graders as they are get to know and then are changed by the school's newest teacher, Mr. Terupt, who has an unusual way of bringing out the best in his students. Each child has a unique personality (for example, one is shy, one is a bully, and one is a prankster), and the story is told alternately through their eyes. Buyea captures the inner essence of each student as he or she begins to blossom under Mr. Terupt's tutelage. When an accident puts their teacher out of commission, the children are deeply and differently affected. Arielle DeLisle (who reads the girls' chapters) and Mike Chamberlain (who takes on the boys) make a wonderful narrative team and are especially talented at projecting the students' maturation and changes over the course of the school year. This short middle grade novel will win over kids and adults alike, making it a great family listen. The book is a wonderful tribute to special teachers who devote themselves to giving their students more than just book learning.

The Longest Road by Philip CaputoWhen Philip Caputo looked his seventieth birthday square in the eye, he decided it was time to fulfill one of his long-time dreams: drive across America . . . the long way. Starting at the tip of Key West, the southernmost point of continental United States, and making his way all the way to the Arctic Ocean, at the end of the country's northernmost road, Caputo, his wife, and two dogs saw America as few ever do. But Caputo's journey, told in The Longest Road, was more than just a vacation; he set out to discover what holds this vast country together, especially in the current climate of political strife. Throughout the trip, he posed the question to the people he met, and their answers may surprise you. Caputo also shares his adventures, including encounters with wildlife and the weather. The audiobook (Highbridge Audio; 11 hr, 49 min) is narrated by Pete Larkin, who takes a conversational approach, which fits the story perfectly. He is a master at the necessary regional accents and enhances the story's great mix of humor, wonder, and drama. Whether you have the travel bug or like to stay safely inside, you'll be fascinated by Caputo's 16,000-mile trip and the people and places he saw along the way.

Sisterland, ISBN-13: 9781400068319; Because of Mr. Terupt, ISBN: 9780385738828; The Longest Road, ISBN: 9780805094466
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23 July 2013

Wordless Wednesday 247

In My Garden

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Today's Read: Seduction by M. J. Rose

Seduction by M. J. RoseDo you believe in reincarnation? What would you think if you started having vivid images of yourself in other places, other bodies, other times? For mythologist Jac L'Etoile, it comes down to believing in past lives or accepting that she may have deep psychological problems. Will a trip to the island of Jersey and the discovery of a lost journal of Victor Hugo help her find peace?

Every story begins with a tremble of anticipation. At the start we may have an idea of our point of arrival, but what lies before us and makes us shudder is the journey, for that is all discovery. This strange and curious story begins for me at the sea. Its sound and scent are my punctuation. Its movements are my verbs. As I write this, angry waves break upon the rocks, and when the water recedes, the rocks seem to be weeping.
Seduction by M. J. Rose (Simon & Schuster / Atria Books, 2013, p. 1)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: Jersey, Channel Islands: 1850s and today
  • Circumstances: in the past: Victor Hugo, mourning the loss of his daughter, turns to the occult for answers; in the present: Jac, mourning the end of a relationship, seeks relief in a new project
  • Characters: Jac, a mythologist whose family owns a famous French perfumery; Hugo, in exile from France, & his family and friends; Theo Gaspard, Jac's friend from Jersey, & his family
  • Genre: thriller with Gothic, mystery, paranormal, and historical fiction elements
  • Themes: unresolved issues, jealousy, free will, good versus evil, reincarnation, trust, loyalty, friendship, mourning
  • Audiobook: wonderfully read by Phil Gigante, who is brilliant with the necessary accents, languages, & characterizations; his narration ups the tension and drama, drawing the listener in
  • Miscellaneous: the fifth novel in Rose's Reincarnationist series, but works well as a stand-alone; this don't-miss novel was an Indie Next pick for May 2013; I was fortunate enough to have met the author in New York this summer
  • Little-known fact: In the mid-1980s I visited Jersey and lived in Guernsey when conducting my doctoral research
ISBN-13: 9781451621501
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

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22 July 2013

July 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.

This month, clubs can choose between a contemporary novel that touches on the very real theme of pediatric cancer and a magical novel that transports girls to the world of owls.

Ways to Live Forever by Sally NichollsEleven-year-old Sam is feeling sick for the third time, and his doctors have run out of treatment ideas. Although most children go into permanent remission, a few kids with acute lymphoblastic leukemia die young. Sam is aware that his chances of reaching his teens are very slim, but he still wants to live as normal of a life as possible for as long as possible.

When his homeschool teacher suggests that he write a book about himself, Sam embraces the project wholeheartedly. Sally Nicholls's Ways to Live Forever is Sam's story, written from the preteen's perspective.

As Sam records his thoughts, he neither shies away from his cancer nor dwells on it. Besides writing about being sick, he focuses on everyday events, his family, his best friend, and his wishes and dreams. These stories are interrupted by his questions and lists, which ease the tension and give readers built-in moments to pause and think.

You may believe that a story of serious childhood illness would be too difficult for young girls to read, but Nicholls's novel is sensitively told and address issues everyone, not just kids, ponder when confronted with the possible death of a child. Middle readers are already asking themselves deeper questions about life, and Sam's story can be used as a starting point for a good conversation.

Rest assured that Nicholls does not take any particular stance on the big issues, such as why God lets kids get sick. Sam's views range from preteen silly to scientific to spiritual, giving readers lots of room to explore their own thoughts based on their own cultural and religious beliefs.

The Scholastic Mother Daughter Book Club page contains a discussion guide with ten insightful questions covering the major issues of illness and death as well as friendship, schooling, and family. The recipe is for a milkshake, which has particular significance for Sam and his mother.

Guardians of Ga'Hoole: The Capture by Kathryn LaskyFantasy and animal lovers will quickly fall in love with Soren, a barn owl born to two loving parents. But when sibling rivalry puts Soren in the path of evil birds, he is kidnapped and transported to the St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls. The academy, however, is no ordinary school; it's really a place where nestlings are brainwashed and trained to be laborers and soldiers as part of the rebel birds' scheme to rule the owl kingdoms. Will Soren be able to keep his senses in tact and learn to fly in time to escape?

Guardians of Ga'Hoole: The Capture, by Kathryn Lasky, is the first in an action-packed fantasy series involving different species of owls as well as bald eagles and even a friendly snake. Thanks to Lasky's great world building and terrific characters, young readers will be fully engaged in Soren's story.

From treetops to box canyons and from dessert sands to thermal winds, readers are taken on an exciting journey of evil versus good, as Soren and his newfound owl allies hatch a plan of resistance. The Capture involves many elements of classic fantasies and touches on themes of friendship, loyalty, and family as well as owl folklore, traditions, songs, and rituals.

Part of what makes this novel so great is Lasky's careful attention to detail and the fact that she based the personalities of the characters on scientific research of owl behavior. Book club members will be fascinated at the differences between the species, such as Soren, a barn owl, and Gylfie, an elf owl.

Besides ornithological topics, clubs will want talk about bravery, friendship, cooperation, sacrifice, and family. The discussion guide at the Scholastic Mother Daughter Book Club page includes great questions about the nature of fantasy, family rituals, and learning to fly. The recipe is for absolutely adorable owl cupcakes, which are sure to be a big hit with your book club. Check out the Scholastic website for  more about the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series as well as owl facts and activities.

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

Ways to Live Forever: Scholastic / Scholastic Press, 2008; ISBN-13: 9780545069496
Guardians of Ga'Hoole: The Campture: Scholastic / Scholastic Press, 2012; ISBN-13: 9780439405577
Source: Review (see review policy)
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20 July 2013

Weekend Cooking: The Kitchen Journal--Zucchini Edition

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

Although it isn't yet National Zucchini Day yet (that's August 8, in case you were wondering), I thought I'd devote this week's post to that ubiquitous summer squash.

As most of you know, Mr. BFR and I have been members of a CSA since the last century. And this is the time when summer squash, especially zucchini, fills up our market basket. Fortunately for us, we love squash, and usually have no trouble eating it almost every night while it's garden fresh. What we can't use up, gets grated, measured, and put in the freezer for winter baking and soups.

This summer, I've already made zucchini bake, and we've eaten squash simply sauteed with onion and as part of stir-fries. So this week I decided to experiment a bit and came up with three new (to us) dishes. Unlike my usual bad habits, I actually wrote down what I did and remembered to take photos.

A note on the recipes: My recipes are inspired by the ingredients I have in my kitchen. Once I come up with an idea, I generally do a quick cookbook or Internet search to see some variations on my basic formula. Sometimes I tweak my recipe based on what I find. The following were all developed in my head and in my kitchen; as far as I know, they are unique.

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Simple Grilled Zucchini (© Beth Fish Reads)
Serves 2
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon coarse-ground mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon dried basil
  • Pepper and salt to taste
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into 3/8-inch slices, longitudinally
Whisk the oils, vinegar, garlic, mustard, basil, and salt and pepper until well blended. Pour into a self-sealing gallon-size plastic bag. Add the zucchini strips. Let marinate at room temperature, turning the bag over every once in a while, for at least an hour, more if you have time.

Preheat your grill to medium high. Remove the zucchini from the marinade and grill 11 minutes total, turning once, or until crisp-tender.

Notes: We loved this and ate every bite. By the way, the marinade is my favorite salad dressing. I vary the herb (oregano, basil, thyme . . .) and don't use salt. Adjust the grilling time if you slice your zucchini thinner or thicker.

Zucchini and Pasta in Spicy Peanut Sauce (© Beth Fish Reads)
Serves 4-6
  • 1 pound dried pasta (any shape)
  • 2 medium zucchini,  cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3 garlic scapes, minced (or use, um, say 2 garlic cloves)
  • 2 tablespoons water + 1/3 cup hot water
  • ½ cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • 1½ teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1½ teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
Cook the pasta according to the package directions. When done, drain and rinse, and allow to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, place the zucchini and garlic scapes in a microwave-safe bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of water and microwave on high about 5 minutes, stopping and stirring once, until just softened. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix the peanut butter with the 1/3 cup hot water (I used the pasta cooking water) until well blended. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring until well blended.

Place the cooled pasta in a large bowl, add the zucchini mixture (and any residual liquid). Mix. Then add the peanut sauce and mix until the pasta is well coated. Serve at room temperature.

Notes: I'm slightly allergic to peanuts, so I used Sunbutter (a fake peanut butter). If you use real peanut butter, you may have to adjust the amount of added water to get the right consistency (thick, but loose enough to coat the pasta). This may sound like an odd combo, but it was delicious. Next time, I'll add some red bell peppers (cooked with the zucchini) for color; the finished dish was a little bland looking.

Crustless Spicy Zucchini Quiche (© Beth Fish Reads)
Serves 4
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Hungarian wax peppers, coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium zucchini, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 2 small andouille sausages, already cooked, diced
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk (or whatever you use for milk)
  • 1 tablespoon chili spice mix (I use one from Penzeys), or to taste
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8 by 8-inch baking pan.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and peppers, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the zucchini, and continue cooking and stirring until the zucchini begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Add the sausage, and continue cooking and stirring until the meat is heated through, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the milk and chili spice until well blended. Stir in the zucchini mixture and the cheese. (If the zucchini mixture is hot, stir in a little at a time to temper the eggs.) Pour into the prepared pan and bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until the egg mixture has set up.

Cut into squares and serve warm.

Notes: I didn't add salt or pepper because there were enough spices in the chili mixture and sausage. Mr. BFR spooned salsa over his portions.

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19 July 2013

Imprint Friday: Freud's Mistress by Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman

Freud's Mistress by Karen Mack and Jennifer KaufmanWelcome 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.

When I first heard about Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman's new novel, Freud's Mistress, I realized I knew little about Sigmund Freud's personal life. I was aware of only the basics: He was Jewish, lived in Vienna, and escaped to the UK as Hitler rose to power. He was married and had children. But that's it. So the title of the novel caught my attention. Freud, who thought sexual issues were the basis for neuroses, had cheated on his wife? I had to read this book!

Here's the publisher's summary:

It is fin-de-siècle Vienna and Minna Bernays, an overeducated lady’s companion with a sharp, wry wit, is abruptly fired, yet again, from her position. She finds herself out on the street and out of options. In 1895, the city may be aswirl with avant-garde artists and revolutionary ideas, yet a woman’s only hope for security is still marriage. But Minna is unwilling to settle. Out of desperation, she turns to her sister, Martha, for help. Martha has her own problems—six young children and an absent, disinterested husband who happens to be Sigmund Freud. At this time, Freud is a struggling professor, all but shunned by his peers and under attack for his theories, most of which center around sexual impulses. And while Martha is shocked and repulsed by her husband’s “pornographic” work, Minna is fascinated. Minna is everything Martha is not—intellectually curious, engaging, and passionate. She and Freud embark on what is at first simply an intellectual courtship, yet something deeper is brewing beneath the surface, something Minna cannot escape.

In this sweeping tale of love, loyalty, and betrayal—between a husband and a wife, between sisters—fact and fiction seamlessly blend together, creating a compelling portrait of an unforgettable woman and her struggle to reconcile her love for her sister with her obsessive desire for her sister’s husband, the mythic father of psychoanalysis.
Mack and Kaufman focus on the first couple of years after Minna moved in with the Freuds, when her relationship with Sigmund changed from companionable to something more. Without forgetting that Freud's work was important to the lives of the principal players, the authors do an excellent job shifting our attention to the less-well-known domestic side of the famous psychoanalyst and his family.

Although Freud may have been brilliant, he wasn't a particularly attentive husband, father, or lover. His research and practice were all-consuming, and if you couldn't discuss his theories, you were likely going to be dismissed as not worth his time. Minna was not only pretty but intellectually starved, and she loved talking about a variety of issues with her brother-in-law. They were in many ways a perfect match, but their relationship did not come without pain.

Freud's Mistress paints Martha, Freud's wife, in a fairly unflattering light and it's no wonder that Sigmund was attracted to the more easygoing Minna. I found it interesting that the Freud children seemed to have a number of developmental and behavioral problems, yet neither of their parents bothered to take an active part in their upbringing. It was Minna who soothed their nightmares and negotiated their arguments.

Readers who are interested in historical issues won't be disappointed. The story touches on anti-Semitism, women's repression, scientific theories for mental illness, and class differences in Vienna. At the same time, the scope of the novel is quite narrow, and Hack and Kaufman do not transport us to the Austria of a hundred years ago. Instead we are invited into Freud's apartment and office, where we are given a glimpse of the private side of the man behind the Oedipus complex.

From the first chapter of Freud's Mistress, you'll be taken in by Minna's story. Is she to be pitied? Or was she content with her choices? You'll also wonder about Martha. Did she know about her husband and sister? And more important, did she care?

No need to take your place on the couch, unless it's with a glass of wine in hand and a sachertorte on the plate. In that case, you and your book club will be debating this triangular relationship, as well as the questions in the Reading Guide, long into the night.

To learn more about Karen Hack and Jennifer Kaufman, visit the Freud's Mistress website, where you can see photographs of Sigmund, Martha, and Minna and read an excerpt from the book.

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, July 2013
ISBN-13: 9780399163074
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

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18 July 2013

Giveaway: Celebrating Hallmark Channel's Cedar Cove

Cedar Cove on HallmarkHave you read Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove books? This best-selling series tells the story of the residents of Cedar Cove, Washington, one house at a time. At the core of each book is Olivia Lockhart, the town's judge.

Whether you are familiar with Macomber's work or not, you won't want to miss the new Hallmark TV series based on the books. Cedar Cove stars the beautiful Andi MacDowell as Judge Olivia Lockhart and Dylan Neal as newspaper editor Jack Griffith. It will air on Saturday evenings on the Hallmark Channel at 8 EST/7 CST beginning July 20.

Cedar Cove on the Hallmark ChannelI was so excited to be able to see a screener of the two-hour series premier. I liked it so much, I plan to watch the show again on Saturday. I don't want to give away any of the plot, but I can tell you that the setting and filming of Cedar Cove are beautiful. I want to move to that town!

Olivia is a great character, and MacDowell seems so natural in the role, you'd think she was meant to play the judge. Jack is a complex character, and Neal seems to have a handle on how to convey his character's many sides. The town is full of quirky characters, including Olivia's mother. The judge's ex-husband and daughter are also part of the picture, so you can imagine that there will be lots of family excitement as well as courtroom drama.

Oh and if you're wondering about the guys in your family, don't worry. The series has plenty to hold their interest, including all the screen time given to MacDowell. Here's the trailer to whet your appetite:

To learn more about Cedar Cove, like Cedar Cove on Facebook; watch the trailer, clips, and more on YouTube; and follow @CedarCoveTV on Twitter using the hashtag #CedarCoveTV.

Cedar Cove on HallmarkThe Giveaway: To help celebrate the launch of Cedar Cove, the Hallmark Channel is offering one of my readers with a U.S. mailing address the following fabulous prize pack. One lucky person will receive a $15 Amazon Gift Card to start the Cedar Cove book series, a recyclable shopping tote; Debbie Macomber's 16 Lighthouse Road book, and a micro-fleece winter beanie (total prize pack valued at $45).

To enter for a chance to win, simply fill out the form. I'll pick a winner via random number generator on July 26. As soon as the winner is confirmed, I'll erase all personal information from my computer. Good luck!

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16 July 2013

Wordless Wednesday 246

Smoke Bird, 2013

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Today's Read: This Is W.A.R. by Lisa Roecker and Laura Roecker

This Is W.A.R. by Lisa Roecker & Laura RoecherWhat if one of your friends were killed by the son of the richest, most powerful family in your community? Would you seek revenge? Justice? When Willa Ames-Rowan was found floating in the lake after an evening sail with James Gregory, her friends Madge, Lina, Sloane, and Rose vow to expose the murderer. Will they survive to reveal what they've uncovered?

Willa Ames-Rowan never thought she would die. She firmly believed white should be worn before Labor Day, champagne was best enjoyed on an empty stomach, and sleep was for the weak. If it weren't for the inky black water tugging at her limbs, clawing its way into her mouth, she might have welcomed the dark solitude of Hawthorne Lake. She might have floated on her back, counting stars, dreaming about what it would be like to wake up next to her future husband. What it might be like to marry James Gregory.
This Is W.A.R. by Lisa Roecker and Laura Roecher (Soho Press / Soho Teen, 2013, p. 1)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: Hawthorne Lake Country Club—summer hangout for the fabulously wealthy
  • Circumstances: Willa Ames-Rowan was murdered, probably by one of the Gregory boys; the Gregorys' money keeps the authorities quiet
  • Characters: James Gregory and his family; Madge, Lina, Sloane, and Rose, teens with deep bank accounts who vow to seek revenge
  • Genre: contemporary fiction; thriller mystery
  • Themes: friendship; teen life; what money can and cannot buy
  • Miscellaneous: told from the perspective of each of the girls; has been compared to the television show Revenge; the authors are sisters
ISBN-13: 9781616952617
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

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15 July 2013

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil GaimanMany  authors can write a good book, with believable characters and a well-developed plot. But only some are true storytellers, possessing the ability to create such a tangible world that I become lost in it, oblivious to my surroundings. Neil Gaiman is the latter sort of artist, and his The Ocean at the End of the Lane enchanted me from the start.

A man, back in his childhood town to attend a funeral, takes a seemingly aimless drive to clear his head before attending the reception. To his surprise, he finds himself stopped in front of a farmhouse at the end of a lane; it's where a friend of his from 40 years ago lived.

When he greets Lettie Hempstock's elderly mother, she encourages him to take a walk to the duck pond, the one he used to call an ocean. Sitting on a bench, he suddenly remembers a series of astonishing events that took place when he was seven and Lettie, eleven.

That's all I'm going to say about the plot of The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It's a magical book about childhood, love, friendship, and sacrifice. It's about the nature of memory and about the possibility of knowing everything and of choosing not to. But it's also just a wonderful tale; and, although it can be scary, you'll wish there were an ocean at the end of your lane. Maybe there is.

Do not miss Neil Gaiman reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Perhaps the best audiobook of the year (Harper Audio; 5 hr, 48 min). Here's a taste:

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

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
HarperCollins / William Morrow, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780062255655

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

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13 July 2013

Weekend Cooking: Relish by Daphe Oz

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend 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.

Relish by Daphne OzI hope you won't throw me out of foodland if I confess that I've never seen The Chew. It's on during the day when I'm working, and I've never thought to record it or look for streaming options. As most of you know, Daphne Oz is a co-host of the show, but you might not have realized she has a book out.

Relish is all about embracing life and creating your perfect environment and look. Oz notes that she wrote the book for busy people who want to eat better, be better organized, and have better relationships. At the core of it all, she relishes her kitchen and feeding her loved ones.

Thus Relish is more than a cookbook; it's also a guide to putting yourself on the path to your dream life. Besides food and recipes (which I'll get to in a minute), Oz gives us tips on how to achieve physical and mental health, how to apply makeup, how to make your home both personal and inviting, how to balance work and play, and how to be a better friend.

In the food department, she goes beyond providing recipes. Oz helps us stock our pantry, negotiate a grocery store, make sense of food politics and nutritional information, and throw a party.

Yes, there's quite a lot of information here and much of it is useful. For example, I plan to try some of her green cleaning ideas. On the other hand, I'm not likely to follow her beauty and makeup routine. Other tips are ones you've heard before, such as culling your wardrobe every season.

I picked up Relish because it contains some of Oz's favorite tried-and-true recipes. I liked that she cooks with real food and unadulterated ingredients and avoids convenience foods. One of her goals, she wrote, was to help busy people eat better on a daily basis, not just weekends.

Oz sure knows how to eat and entertain! I loved the sound of almost every dish, from blueberry sticky buns to roasted cauliflower grilled cheese with jalapeno aioli to the chile jam chicken. The food stylist and photographer deserves major applause; all the recipes look so appealing.

Unfortunately, Oz sends mixed messages, and that bothered me. For example, in the introduction she specifically states that she uses full-fat dairy, but several recipes called for 2 percent milk. Other dishes don't easily fit into a busy weekday schedule. Poached eggs and roasted asparagus on whole wheat toast (complete with bread recipe) is not going to be my Monday morning breakfast, but I'd consider it for a weekend.

In addition, I noticed a few recipes were introduced with phrases such as "ready in 10 minutes," but the first sentence in the instructions would say something like "let soak for 20 minutes to 2 hours." That 10 minutes was a little misleading. Finally, although all the recipes are easy enough for anyone with some kitchen experience, some of the instructions were not well ordered in terms of efficiency. For instance, a quiche recipe has you saute veggies and then prebake the crust; I'd put the crust in the oven and then use that time to cook the filling.

Despite those quibbles, I've flagged several recipes that I really want to try. Besides the ones I mentioned, there's a fresh corn succotash salad that uses wonderful summer vegetables and a champagne vinegar dressing. It looks beautiful, and I know we're going to love it. Another is the vegetarian enchilada recipe, which would be great for family or for a party.

I also really enjoyed reading Oz's personal stories, including her early struggle with weight. She offers great tips for getting more out of life and creating a beautiful personal environment. I loved the many photographs, some of which show Oz's home and friends and family. I think Relish would make a wonderful bridal shower or graduation gift. [Photos from The Chew website.]

Here's a video of Daphne Oz talking about Relish.

HarperCollins / William Morrow, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780062196866
Rating: B
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright 2013 cbl for www.BethFishReads.com

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12 July 2013

Imprint Friday: Ready for a Brand New Beat by Mark Kurlansky

Ready for a Brand New Beat by Mark KurlanskyWelcome 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.

It's no surprise to those of you who have been reading Beth Fish Reads that I'm a huge fan of Mark Kurlansky. I love his looks into the food world (Cod, Salt), environmental issues (World without Fish), and even baseball (The Eastern Stars) (click links for my posts). From the moment I heard about Kurlansky's latest work, Ready for a Brand New Beat, I knew it was book for me.

Before I tell you why, take a look at the publisher's summary:

Can a song change a nation? In 1964, Marvin Gaye, record producer William “Mickey” Stevenson, and Motown songwriter Ivy Jo Hunter wrote “Dancing in the Street.” The song was recorded at Motown’s Hitsville USA Studio by Martha and the Vandellas, with lead singer Martha Reeves arranging her own vocals. Released on July 31, the song was supposed to be an upbeat dance recording—a precursor to disco, and a song about the joyousness of dance. But events overtook it, and the song became one of the icons of American pop culture. The Beatles had landed in the U.S. in early 1964. By the summer, the sixties were in full swing. The summer of 1964 was the Mississippi Freedom Summer, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, the beginning of the Vietnam War, the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and the lead-up to a dramatic election. As the country grew more radicalized in those few months, “Dancing in the Street” gained currency as an activist anthem. The song took on new meanings, multiple meanings, for many different groups that were all changing as the country changed. Told by the writer who is legendary for finding the big story in unlikely places, Ready for a Brand New Beat chronicles that extraordinary summer of 1964 and showcases the momentous role that a simple song about dancing played in history.
First, a personal note. Being a baby boomer who grew up just across the state line from Michigan, about an hour from Detroit, means I have a soft spot in my heart for Motown. After all, I spent the formative years of my life falling asleep with a transistor radio (my generation's iPod) under my pillow. The station? CKLW, "Home of the Motown Sound." For years after I left Ohio, being in reception distance of CKLW, meant being close to home. In the early 1970s, on Christmas break from college, my brother, friends, and I even took a road trip across the Ambassador Bridge into Canada to visit the station. We were serious fans.

Mark Kurlansky's Ready for a Brand New Beat is a nostalgic and informative look at one of the pivotal years in terms of music, art, and politics for a country and a generation. Although those of us who remember Martha and the Vandellas, girl groups, Marvin Gaye, the British Invasion, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and the Freedom Summer may feel a natural connection to the book, Kurlansky's narrative is accessible to all generations.

One of the principal themes of Ready for a Brand New Beat is the transitional nature of 1964, especially the six months from the spring opening of the New York World's Fair to the fall student demonstrations at Berkeley. As Kurlansky notes:
By the end of the summer of 1964, the entire tone of the 1960s had changed: America was almost a different country, and "Dancing in the Street," born on the cusp, one of the few Motown songs that was not about love and heartache, was going to make the transition to the new and much more harsh America. (p. 156; uncorrected proofs)
Kurlansky covers quite a bit of material, but I was particularly interested in Martha Reeves's take on the song that made her famous. Protected in what was known as the Motown Bubble, Reeves was apolitical. She wanted to sing and entertain. She was less concerned about the activist civil rights movement than she was in bringing people together through her music. For her, "Dancing in the Streets" was a reminder of her childhood, it was call to neighborhood kids to get together on hot (pre-air-conditioning) nights to listen to music, dance, and have fun.

But with rioting in Watts, the deaths of some of the Freedom Riders, and America's growing involvement in Vietnam, the song might have had a very different meaning. Was it really a call to rise up against the government? Did the song affirm our parents' worries that "today's music is harmful to our children"? Kurlansky discusses the possible interpretations of the lyrics and how the song has been used by covering artists, the movie industry, and television over the last fifty years.

Ready for a Brand New Beat, however, is not just about a song. It's also about the growth and decline of the Motown label, the changing music scene, and the interplay between music and the other arts. In addition, Kurlansky writes about 1964 in terms of the links between popular culture and political movements, changing technology, race issues, and the increasing power of the country's youth.

Mark Kurlansky is a master at finding the most unexpected connections. For example, I was surprised to learn how Berry Gordy used lessons from the car industry when he started building his music empire, including the Motown label.

Ready for a Brand New Beat is written in Kurlansky's signature easy-to-read style. It's sure to appeal to anyone interested in music and civil rights. History and social commentary were never more entertaining and accessible.

Just in case you've never seen Martha and Vandellas sing "Dancing in the Streets," here you go:

For more about Mark Kurlansky, visit his website, where you can learn about his books, read his blog, and check out his tour schedule.

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: 9781594487224
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

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11 July 2013

Review: The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan

J. Courtney Sullivan The EngagementsFew people know the name Mary Frances Gerety, but almost everyone knows her work. In 1947, desperate for an ad campaign slogan for De Beers, Gerety scribbled down four words that would eventually affect marriages around the world: A diamond is forever.

Gerety's struggle to gain professional recognition for her clever manipulation of the buying public and women's expectations for diamonds forms the backbone of J. Courtney Sullivan's third novel, The Engagements. The body of the book consists of the stories of several very different couples from the 1940s to the present and the role marriage and diamonds played (or not) in their lives.

Although I enjoyed the stories of the various relationships--some volatile, some loving; some conventional, some not--I was much more taken by Mary Frances Gerety's life. Almost every step of her career and her social standing was colored by the fact that she was a single woman. Coming into adulthood in the postwar years, she was at odds with her generation. She played golf but couldn't join a club because she didn't have a husband. She was bright, hardworking, and creative, but she hit the brick ceiling quickly. By the time that barrier had turned to glass and the advertising business became centered in Manhattan, and Gerety was virtually overlooked for promotion and opportunities.

Yet she almost single-handedly changed the way we look at diamonds. Before the war, few brides-to-be wore diamond engagement rings, and most women married with a simple gold band. The link between diamonds and love hardly existed. In fact, most of you can thank the De Beers campaign, developed at N. W. Ayer & Son in Philadelphia, for your own diamond ring.

The other stories, about the couples and their unexpected links through time and place, were well developed and entertaining. I didn't love each couple, but I don't think that was Sullivan's intention. Through their relationships, she shows us the changing nature of love and commitment over the last seventy years. And, in turn, helps us understand the interplay between advertising and cultural norms.

J. Courtney Sullivan has given us a lot to think about in The Engagements. The novel will be a hit with book clubs, who will want to discuss the power of advertising, the controversial diamond business, and the very real limitations of women in the last century. And, of course, everyone will have opinions about the ups and downs of the couples and marriages we get to know intimately.

I should probably mention that The Engagements resonated with me on a personal level as well. My family was in the jewelry business for most of the twentieth century, which likely colored my reaction to the novel, explaining why the Gerety sections are the ones that stayed with me.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Random House Audio; 16 hr, 50 min) narrated by Kimberly Farr, who brought a good level of emotion to her performance, making it easy for me to connect to the characters. She handled the needed accents impressively and shifted seamlessly from male to female and young to old, creating an enjoyable audio experience.

Published by Random House / Knopf, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780307958716
Rating: B+ (audio edition)
Source: review (audio) (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

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09 July 2013

Wordless Wednesday 245

Garden visitors, 2013

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Today's Read: Death of a Dentist by M. C. Beaton

Death of a Dentist by M. C. BeatonWhat's a small-town copper to do?  Poor Hamish Macbeth has an abscessed tooth and the pain is killing him. But when he gets to the dentist's office, he discovers a real killing: the dentist is dead in his chair. Murder, a robbery, and some funny business with a young girl have Hamish stumped. How is he going to solve all those crimes when his tooth hurts so much he can barely think? Thank goodness a neighbor has taken pity on him and invited him home for tea:

The cats had followed Hamish from the bathroom. One began to affectionately sharpen its claws on his trouser leg and he resisted an impulse to knock it across the kitchen. Angela was very fond of her cats and Hamish was fond of Angela.
Death of a Dentist by M. C. Beaton (Hachette Book Group / Grand Central Publishing, 1998, p. 19 [originally published 1997])

Quick Facts
  • Setting: The Scottish highlands, mostly in the town of Lochbudh
  • Circumstances: Hamish has a murder and a robbery to solve while dealing with the town's tart and illegal whisky distillers; a second murder sends his investigation into another direction
  • Characters: Hamish, the village constable; the regular cast of characters from the town; other police from the nearby town
  • Genre: as cozy of a mystery as you can get: comforting, fun, and great escape
  • Subplots: Hamish is missing Priscilla, his on-again, off-again girlfriend, and seems to be going through a change; he isn't quite as cheery and easygoing as usual, adding interest to the book
  • Miscellaneous: this is the 13th installment in the series; best read in order because of the development of the characters, but you could jump in anywhere if you wanted
  • Multimedia: the British television show based on the series is not worth your time: it has none of the charm of the books; do not miss the audiobooks read by the fantastic Davina Porter: her narration is fantastic
ISBN-13: 9780446606011 
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

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08 July 2013

Spotlight and Giveaway: Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny ColganSummertime is the perfect time for light fun reading. Mix in some humor and baking, and I'm good to go. Jenny Colgan's Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe, which Kirkus called "A funny novel about friendship, food and love," is a great choice for poolside entertainment.

Lucky for you, I'm one of a handful of bloggers participating in a Sweet Sugary Spotlight of Colgan's "novel with recipes." Here's what this event is all about:

This summer, Colgan is bringing her hilarious and heartfelt stories—with a dash of deliciousness—to the United States! To celebrate, Sourcebooks is giving away copies of this book all month long!

Each day this month, look for opportunities to win a print copy of
Meet Me at the Cupcake Café with bloggers all over the book blogging community. Additionally, there will be a few guest blogs and interviews with Jenny sprinkled throughout—a great way to get to know a new author.

So what's Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe about? Take a look at the publisher's summary:

Baking is in Issy Randall’s blood. Growing up above her grandfather’s bakery taught Issy that a delicious pastry could make any day better. So when she’s laid off from her desk job—by the man she thought was her boyfriend, no less—Issy knows now is the time to start her own little café.

Armed with her grandfather’s tried and true recipes, as well as her own new dishes, Issy’s new dream job should be a piece-of-cake, right? But managing a café, delivering products on time and trying to have a new love life aren’t exactly going as Issy planned. And when her ex comes back into the picture, perhaps with his own motives, Issy’s search for the perfect pastry and a groundbreaking idea to save her café are much more than she bargained for . . .
I just love novels that have a foodie bent, and when they include recipes, it's even better. If you're like me, then you'll want a copy of Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe for your very own.

The Giveaway: Thanks to Sourcebooks, I'm able to offer one of my readers (with a U.S. or Canada mailing address) a copy of Jenny Colgan's new book. All you have to do to enter is fill out the form. I'll pick a winner using a random number generator on July 18. Once the winner is confirmed, I'll pass your mailing address along to the publisher and erase all personal information from my computer.

For even more chances to win a copy of Colgan's book, be sure to visit the participating blogs:
7/1 Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell
7/2 Celtic Lady’s Reviews
7/3 Books-N-Kisses
7/3 Chick Lit Central (with interview)
7/4 A Bookworm's World
7/5 Delighted Reader
7/8 Beth Fish Reads
7/9 Booking Mama
7/9 The Bookish Dame (with interview)
7/10 The Book Binge
7/11 Simply Ali
7/12 Debbie's Book Bag
7/15 The Bookish Babe
7/16 The Reading Café
7/17 Book Hounds
7/17 Cocktails and Books (with interview)
7/18 Peeking Between the Pages
7/18 Fresh Fiction (with guest post)
7/19 Jenny Loves to Read
7/19 Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
7/22 Anna's Book Blog
7/23 Ramblings from This Chick
7/24 Books and Quilts
7/24 A Bookish Affair
7/25 Broken TeePee
7/26 Thoughts in Progress
7/29 Books and Needlepoint
7/30 The Reading Reviewer
7/31 Reading Between the Wines
8/1 Book of Secrets
8/2 Luxury Reading
8/5 Radiant Light
8/6 Ruby’s Reads
8/7 Caffeinated Book Review
8/8 The Romance Dish
8/9 My Book Addiction and More

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06 July 2013

Weekend Cooking: The Kitchen Journals 11

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend 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.

I thought I'd take advantage of the holiday weekend (at least here in the United States) to dip into my Kitchen Journal and share some new discoveries and kitchen adventures. I also gave the Weekend Cooking button a makeover. Hope you like it.

Adult Beverages. In the heat of the summer we've turned to beer instead of wine on most nights. For some reason, we're on a German kick and are rotating among our three current favorites, a black larger and two dunkels. I first bought Kostritzer black lager to use in a short rib recipe, and we were pleased to discover how much we liked the beer.

As for the German dunkels, we can't quite decide if we like the Warsteiner or Spaten better, but we bought the Spaten for our Fourth of July of party. Our beer distributor (don't ask, this is Pennsylvania and we have weird liquor laws) has encouraged us to try the Spaten Octoberfest, and I know we'll buy it before the end of the month.

A new wine we like is Coppola Diamond Red Blend, which one of our guests brought to the Fourth party It's fruity without being sweet and went very well with our traditional cookout menu. We haven't been drinking much white wine lately, but I think crisp, dry whites are wonderful in the summer.

Blue Plate Special by Kate ChristensenCulinary Reading. I recently finished Blue Plate Special by Kate Christensen (Doubleday, 2013), in which the author explores her experiences with the intertwined connections among memory, emotion, and food. The autobiography deserves a full review, but I'm swamped with work, and I'm not sure when I'll get to it. In the style of M. F. K. Fisher, Laurie Colwin, and other great food writers from the last century, Christensen presents a startlingly frank look at her life, her search for love, her relationship with her mother and sisters, and her complex feelings about her father. Throughout it all, and despite a somewhat dismal beginning, she remembers the foods and meals that both comforted her and opened her horizons. Make room for her next to Elizabeth David, Ruth Reichl, and the rest, Christensen has (as I wrote for Bloggers Recommend) earned her place at their table.

What I've Been Cooking. The farmers' market and our CSA are both in full swing and our dinner table has been overflowing with fresh, wonderful veggies. We buy a full share, and even though there are only two of us, we manage to hold our own week after week. I tried two new recipes for our Fourth party; although neither uses those good CSA vegetables, each was a success.

Every year I make the same old baked beans and same old potato salad. Our guests like my classic versions, but I decided I needed to shake things up. So where to turn? Why America's Test Kitchen, of course. I looked through the Cook's Illustrated Cookbook and found their All-American Potato Salad, which was traditional enough to be a sure hit but included some ingredients I don't normally use. For once, I followed the recipe almost exactly. I loved that the salad was tangy and not mayo heavy. Our guests seemed to agree and helped themselves to seconds.

I knew I wanted to use my slow cooker for the beans, so I pulled out ATK's Slow Cooker Revolution and picked their Barbecued Beans. I did not follow their directions exactly, however. Here's what I did differently: I went ahead and fried the bacon and broke it into pieces. I didn't mind the extra pan and was happy not to have to fish out the limp bacon strips before serving. At the end of the recipe, I was generous with the mustard, and when I stirred it into the beans, I also added chipotle hot sauce and 1/4 cup of bourbon. Everyone loved this dish too.

What food or drink adventures have you had this week?

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