30 January 2014

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: The Polar Vortex Edition

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

Freezing temperatures have kept me inside and away from my walks. Although I'm getting cabin fever, I've had plenty of time to listen to books, tackle some house projects, watch some teleision, and do some baking. Here's what caught my attention . . . or not.


Although I'm picky about the quality of my audiobooks, I usually have pretty good luck in my choices. Of course, luck usually doesn't have much to do with it, I know the narrators and the genres that will hold my attention. Unfortunately, I abandoned two audios this month. The good news is that I finally found a good one and could barely stop listening.

The Lion and the Rose by Kate Quinn (Penguin Audio) is historical fiction about the Borgias, a family and time period that I like. The plot and the writing, however, didn't hold my attention, despite the multiple viewpoints and cast of narrators (Leila Birch, Maria Elena Infantino, Ronan Vibert). I had high hopes for The Savage Fortress, by Sarwat Chadda (Listening Library), which is set in India and involves ancient legends coming to life in modern times. Sadly, I didn't connect to the brother and sister protagonists and felt that the plot was going to be predictable (read by Bruce Mann). Thank goodness I decided to switch from print to audio for North of Boston by Elizabeth Elo (Pamela Dorman Books), which kept me glued to the page and then to my earbuds (I'm giving away a copy of this novel). A lot of action and contemporary environmental issues to boot (Blackstone Audio, read by Marguerite Gavin).


I'm falling a bit behind on my print reading because I have declared 2014 to be my year of decluttering the house. So while I sift through drawers and closets and bookshelves, I'm listening to an audio instead of reading in print. Nevertheless, here are three books I finished recently.

After completing all the Jack of Fables spin-off books, I gave the Fables series a rest. Now I'm back to what's left of Fabletown and the Fable farm. Fables: The Great Fables Crossover, by Bill Willingham (Vertigo) and a host of artists, was not my favorite in the series. I'm glad that the Literals seem to be dealt with and Jack is no longer the star. I can't wait to get back to more of Bigby and Snow. I loved Karen Perry's The Innocent Sleep (Henry Holt), a mystery/thriller that will keep you guessing about the reliability of the narrators and the nature of a marriage. The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson is another winner from Amy Einhorn. It's set in the South after World War II; the world is not necessarily a pretty place for returning black veterans. Look for an upcoming Imprint Friday about this one.

Movies and TV

I have a ton of movies to review because we went on a marathon earlier this month and watched about a half dozen good ones. We have also been watching some great television. The first two we streamed, the third we're watching weekly

We were late to jump on the Longmire (A&E) bandwagon, but once it became available for streaming, we were hooked. We raced through season one and are looking forward to the day that season two is released for streaming. The setting, the story lines, the characters, the actors: all will draw you in. We just finished season one of The Vikings (History Channel). Wow! We love everything about this show. Fortunately we have to wait only a couple of weeks before season two starts up live. Finally, if you haven't been watching True Detective (HBO), then you've been missing out on some of the best television there is. I can't begin to summarize this mesmerizing miniseries (a mystery within a mystery set in the South), but Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are simply outstanding.

In the Stacks

The first quarter of the year is filled with so many great books, I hope I can put aside my decluttering for some quiet reading time. Here are just three that are near the top of my list.

Elizabeth Blackwell's While Beauty Slept is a fairy tale retelling, one of my favorite genres. It's gotten nothing but rave reviews and I can't wait to see for myself. Because it's an Amy Einhorn book, you'll see this in an Imprint Friday. This Dark Road to Mercy is Wiley Cash's latest (William Morrow) and involves children, hard times, and a questionable father. What I Had before I Had You by Sarah Cornwell (Harper) is about families and loss and is set on the Jersey Shore. I have the audiobook of this all set to go.

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

Click for more

29 January 2014

Wordless Wednesday 274

January Bloom, 2014

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

Click for more

28 January 2014

Today's Read & Giveaway: North of Boston by Elisabeth Elo

North of Boston by Elisabeth EloSuppose you survived an accident at sea but your friend did not. Would you feel obligated to help his widow (a childhood friend) and his son? How far would you go to learn the truth if you began to suspect that the shipwreck was in fact not an accident at all? That's what Pirio Kasparov must figure out.

"He was a loser," Thomasina says, head lolling. "But he was a good loser." A fifth of Stolichnaya has put her in a nasty, forgiving mood. I'm tempted to take a few shots myself to medicate my grief and survivor's guilt. But someone has to stay sober for Noah.
North of Boston by Elisabeth Elo (Penguin USA / Pamela Dorman Books, 2014, p. 1)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: current times, Boston area, the North Atlantic, northern Canada
  • Circumstances: Pirio and her friend Ned were victims of a hit and run by a freighter in the North Atlantic. Pirio miraculously survives, Ned does not
  • Genre: thriller / mystery
  • Added themes: the fishing industry, the environment, animal rights, perfume, shipping laws
  • Characters: Pirio, her father (a perfume magnate), and step-mother; Thomasina (Pirio's friend with a serious alcohol problem) and Noah (a brilliant boy and Pirio's godson); Russell (an investigative reporter with an interest in the case); various government & Navy personnel; people from Ned's past
  • What I know so far: the writing pulled me in and the characters are keeping me there; I've read only a few chapters, and I'm already curious about Pirio, Ned, and the accident
  • Recommended for: people who like a good balance between character-driven and action-driven novels; lovers of mysteries and thrillers
  • Extras: Elo grew up in a sailing family and once had a job working with dolphins; she's also writing a second Pirio novel; check out her website for photos, downloads, and more
The Giveaway

I hope I caught your attention because I think Elisabeth Elo has written a winner. And lucky for you, the nice people at Pamela Dorman Books have offered to send one of my readers with a U.S. mailing address a copy of North of Boston. All you have to do to enter for a chance to win is to fill out the following form. I'll pick a winner via random number generator on February 10. Once the winner is confirmed, I'll delete all personal information from my computer.

ISBN-13: 9780670015658
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

Click for more

27 January 2014

Review: The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly

The Gods of Guilt by Michael ConnellyAlthough I came late to the Michael Connelly fan club, once I read The Lincoln Lawyer, a few years ago, I was immediately hooked. Most mystery readers were introduced to Connelly via his superstar homicide detective Harry Bosch, who has appeared in eighteen novels.

I, however, started with Mickey Haller, Harry's half-brother, a defense attorney, who gained in popularity after The Lincoln Lawyer was made into a movie. Mickey is a bit unconventional and seeks his clients in the seedier parts of Los Angeles. Nonetheless, he works hard for the accused and makes sure they get their fair day in court. The Gods of Guilt is the fifth Haller book, and the lawyer's personal life is just as interesting as his firm's casework.

  • What's the story? Mickey takes on what appears to be a simple case of defending an online business manager (read: modern-day pimp) who has been accused of murdering one of his female clients (read: high-class prostitute) after a disagreement about money. Soon, however, it becomes clear that the case has deep and complex roots. It is linked to Mickey's past and maybe to someone who should be on the right side of the law.
  • The case: Mickey's team is working 24/7 to save not only the client but perhaps their own skins. Connelly has written some great courtroom action, throwing in enough potential setbacks to keep us invested. Mickey has a few new defense tricks up his sleeve, which he puts together with the help of his mentor and his support staff. His antics may toe the line of professionalism, but Mickey is serious about his role as a defense attorney.
  • Personal: Mickey is dealing with an estrangement from his teenage daughter, who stopped talking to him after he concluded a successful defense case and an unsuccessful campaign for district attorney. In other relationships, he is mentoring a young woman he's hired to help with the caseload, he is still visiting the man who inspired him to enter the law, and he may have met a woman who will stick around.
  • Do you need to start with book one? No you don't. You get a pretty good feel for Mickey from The Gods of Guilt. You would probably get more out of the story if you had read the series from the beginning, but you won't feel lost if you jump in here.
  • Recommendation: Good mystery with a great character, perfect for escape reading. Although there are dark moments in The Gods of Guilt, Connelly adds some comic relief. Mystery lovers who appreciate good writing and who like the legal subgenre will especially like the Mickey Haller books.
  • Audiobook: I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio, 11 hr, 49 min), read by Peter Giles, who has read four out of the five Haller books. Giles's inflections and characterizations augment Connelly's prose, pulling us into the story and keeping us there until the end. Well worth the listen.
  • Extra: Listen to a bit of the audiobook, embedded below. NB: The clip has a slow start; be patient, it begins after a few seconds of silence.

Hachette Book Group/ Little, Brown, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780316405546
Source: Audio: review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

Click for more

25 January 2014

Weekend Cooking : Winter Vegetable Dal

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.

On these cold, cold nights we've been craving soups, stews, and hardy meals. I bet everyone else in the northern latitudes has felt the same. Seriously, we've hardly gotten above 10°F, and the wind chills are well below zero.

So instead of a cookbook review this week, I though I'd share a winter-weather recipe that was hit for us. This vegetarian stew comes from Eating Well, a magazine I buy on occasion. I served this delicious dish with a tossed salad and some homemade flatbread (but not the recipe suggested by the magazine). My changes are in blue.

Winter Vegetable Dal
From Eating Well, January/February 2014, p. 67
Photo from the magazine's website, all rights remain with them.
Serves 6
  • copyright Eating Well2 tablespoons coconut oil or canola oil [I used olive]
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 12 fresh curry leaves or 1 large bay leaf [I used the bay leaf]
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 serrano chile, finely diced [I used 2 jalapenos]
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4½ cups water
  • 1½ cups red lentils, rinsed
  • 1 (14-ounce) can lite coconut milk
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2½ cups cubed peeled butternut squash [I bought already cut-up squash]
  • 2 cups cauliflower florets (1-inch)
  • 1 large Yukon Gold potato (about 8 ounces), cut into ½-inch chunks
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves (if using) and cook until the seeds begin to pop, about 20 seconds. Add onion, chile, ginger and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is starting to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add bay leaf (if using), water, lentils, coconut milk, salt and turmeric to the pot. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently to make sure the lentils don’t stick to the bottom. Add squash, cauliflower and potato; return to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just tender when pierced with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove from heat; stir in garam masala and lime juice.

Click for more

23 January 2014

Review: Inside Llewyn Davis (Movie)

Inside Llewyn Davis (film)I must be on a nostalgia kick. Earlier this week I wrote about a book that takes us back to 1963 and today I'm writing about a movie that returns us to 1961. The common tie? Music.

Although I like a wide range of music, I am and always have been attracted to acoustical music, including traditional songs and much of the folk music of the sixties. When I heard that the Coen brothers' latest movie was loosely based on Dave Van Ronk's early days in the Village, I knew I had to see Inside Llewyn Davis.

After I listened to some of the soundtrack, I was already in love. Among the performers are Justine Timberlake, Marcus Mumford, Oscar Isaac, and Bob Dylan. The music ranges from classical to traditional folk, with more contemporary songs written by artists such as Tom Paxon and the Reverend Gary Davis; some pieces (I think) were written for the film.

I'm a huge fan of the Coen brothers', who have written and directed some of my all-time favorite movies (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Fargo, No Country for Old Men, Miller's Crossing). Thus I entered the theater with high expectations.

Fortunately, the Coens didn't let me down. The movie is beautifully filmed, and the period details (cars, clothes, and so on) seemed perfect. Although Llewyn can be hard to like at times, he's young, talented, and hoping to make a living off his lifelong passion. If you have an interest in the early sixties and a love of the music, the movie is well worth your time.

As I noted, many of the details of Llewyn's experience as a budding musician in the West Village are based on Van Ronk's life (read his autobiography, Mayor of MacDougal Street; see the cover of his early album Inside Dave Van Ronk), but Llewyn seems more self-centered and less generous than Van Ronk was supposed to have been. On the other hand, the film focuses on just a few days in the life of a frustrated musician and wasn't intended to be strictly biographical.

To get a taste for the movie and the music, take a look at the trailer.

Click for more

21 January 2014

Wordless Wednesday 273

Winter Grass, 2014

copyright cbl for www.BethFishReads.com

Click image to see it full size. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

Click for more

Today's Read: 1963: The Year of the Revolution by Robin Morgan and Ariel Leve

1963: The Year of the Revolution by Robn Morgan and Ariel LeveCan you remember the year that changed everything in America, England, and around the Western world? A crazy-quilt of events were put in motion in 1963: skirts got shorter, hair got longer; music got louder, dance got freer; art got funkier, models got skinnier. Although they say if you remember the sixties you didn't live the sixties, dozens of movers and shakers beg to differ and have shared their memories of those heady days.

It remains a unique and prophetic coincidence—one that has gone unnoticed for more than fifty years. On January 13, 1963, in Birmingham, England, an attractive young boy band recorded its first appearance on British national television, dazzling viewers with an exuberant tune called "Please Please Me." That same night, viewers found a more cerebral experience on the BBC, then the only other TV channel in Britain, when an unknown, tousle-haired American musician made his broadcast debut by intoning a hymn entitled "Blowin' in the Wind."

Neither the Beatles nor Bob Dylan could have known it, but within the year their voices would enthrall millions of ears around the world. The Beatles would become the poster boys for a revolution, and Dylan would be come its prophet.
1963: The Year of the Revolution by Robin Morgan and Ariel Leve (HarperCollins / It Books, 2013, p. ix)

Quick Facts
  • Contents of the book: firsthand recollections of musicians, photographers, club owners, authors, fashion designers, filmmakers, and models who were on the forefront of sociocultural change.
  • Source of the material: Morgan and Leve taped interviews and then organized and compiled the stories into categories that take us through the months of upheaval (from "Awakenings" to "Aftershocks")
  • Who do we hear from? Eric Clapton (guitarist), Vidal Sassoon (hair stylist), Mary Quant (fashion designer), Terry O'Neill (photographer), Graham Nash (musician), Pattie Boyd (model), and many more household names
  • Genre: nonfiction, history, memoir, social commentary
  • Extras: three sections of period photographs
  • My thoughts: fascinating stories and memories of a truly revolutionary time in our recent history; loved remembering the music, art, and fashions of my youth (I had a Sassoon haircut in seventh grade!); loved the photos
  • Recommended for: baby boomers; children of baby boomers; lovers of music, fashion, history, sociocultural change, and modern history; note that the book can be read in bits and pieces or all the way through
Bonus Quote from the Introduction
This is the oral history of that year, told by the men and women who, with guitars, cameras, pens, brushes, scissors—and even mere notoriety—endowed youth with universal and democratic membership in a new meritocracy. In 1963, youth no longer waited, cap in hand, for an invite to the best tables—they simply built their own banquet hall. (p. xv)

ISBN-13: 9780062120441
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

Click for more

20 January 2014

Bullet Review: Underwire by Jennifer Hayden

Underwire by Jennifer HaydenNot all books written in graphic form are geared to a young audience or involve characters with superpowers. Over the years, I've read and enjoyed several graphic memoirs, so when I came across Jennifer Hayden's Underwire at my library, I thought I'd give it a try.

Underwire is a collection of thirty short autobiographical stories written in comic-strip form. Many of the pieces first appeared as part of Hayden's involvement with the ACT-I-VATE collective, which is a Brooklyn-based group of graphic artist and writers. Since the publication of Underwire, she's been working on other webcomics and a graphic memoir about her experiences with breast cancer.

  • What are the stories about? Hayden writes about everyday life: being a woman, a mother, and a wife; about marriage, family, and friendship. Sometimes Hayden tells us about life before kids or shares a dream or nightmare she's had. Don't expect crazy dysfunction; Hayden seems to have a decent marriage and a normal relationship with her kids. Do expect to nod in agreement and laugh along with her as she muddles her way through her many roles.
  • Underwire (c) by Jennifer Hayden, p. 1Stories I liked: My two favorites were a one-page story about Hayden and her husband celebrating their wedding anniversary and a longer story about when Hayden and her husband visit their alma mater, kids in tow.
  • General thoughts: As in any collection, there are stronger stories and weaker stories. I didn't love every piece in Underwire, but I did come away with an overall positive feeling, and Hayden had me chuckling or laughing in several places. The book may have a more direct appeal to baby boomers than to younger woman, but most adults will readily relate.
  • The artwork: The scan (click to enlarge) is from the first page of the book and gives you a good idea of Hayden's style and the general tone of the book. Hayden is quite good at conveying facial expressions and action, and I like her asides and footnotes. All the panels are done in pen and black ink.
Published by Top Shelf Productions, 2011
ISBN-13: 9781603090766
Source: Borrowed (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

Click for more

18 January 2014

Weekend Cooking: The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home by Nick Zukin and Michael C. Zusman

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.

The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home by Nick Zukin and Michael C. JusmanMichael C. Zusman and Nick Zukin's The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home is a salute to the modern delicatessen--no longer kosher and with vegetarian meals on the menu but still rooted in the immigrant foods of a hundred or more years ago.

Did you know that there was no Jewish cuisine before the end of the 1800s? It was only after European Jews settled into the tenements of New York City and started living side by side with immigrants from all over, that various Old World dishes were melded into what we now think of as classic deli. The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home explains this and much more about the history of the foods that have graced the tables of American Jews for well over a century.

Unfortunately, authentic delis have been on the decline as a result of a number of socioeconomic factors and because today's eaters are often hyper-aware of health issues. As a consequence, American delis have had to adapt or go under. Zusman and Zukin characterize current delis as being a combination of traditional and artisan, with vegetarian versions of meaty classics and the addition of more salads. The good news is that you'll still find pastrami and brisket on the menu as well as a full array of whole-grain breads.

The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home, p. 95 (c) Caren AlpertThe Artisan Jewish Deli at Home covers everything from little dishes like pickles to the ubiquitous rugelach that goes with your after-dinner coffee. You'll find recipes for baked goods, soups, sandwiches, slaws, spreads, and salads. I particularly love the number of variations that Zusman and Zukin provide, so once you've mastered how to make latkes, for example, you can try them crispy or fluffy and with peppers or zucchini.

Some recipes are modern versions of old standards, such as brisket roasted with cider and butternut squash; others hark back to my grandmothers' kitchens (who makes schmaltz anymore?). Don't worry if you've never had kreplach or knishes, Zusman and Zukin explain everything, providing clear directions and photographs. Plus you'll find informative features throughout the cookbook that fill you in on ingredients and techniques as well as the history of some of the recipes

Despite the Yiddish words, you don't need to go to a delicatessen to find most of the ingredients to make the recipes in this book. A well-stocked supermarket will have you covered. If you're stuck, however, turn to the back of the book for recommended online sources.

The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home, p. 150 (c) Caren AlpertWe loved the zucchini latkes, the bialys, and some of the soups and salads. I'm looking forward to trying the brisket variations (though I can't believe any would be better than my mom's!) and to bake more of the bread recipes. I don't think this cookbook has left my kitchen in a month; there are so many great choices for everyday eating and casual entertaining.

The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home presents the best that modern delis have to offer. Whether the recipes remind you of your childhood or you're relatively new to the cuisine, Michael C. Zusman and Nick Zukin have put together a one-stop resource for everyone who's ever craved a good Sunday morning blintz or a warm chocolate babka fresh out of the kitchen oven.

Note on the photos: The photos were scanned from The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home; all rights and copyrights remain with the photographer, Caren Alpert.

Recipes and more photos: Visit the Artisan Jewish Deli on Tumblr or Facebook.

Andrews McMeel, 2013
ISBN-13: 9781449420079
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

Click for more

17 January 2014

Imprint Friday: The Last Dead Girl by Harry Dolan

The Last Dead Girl by Harry DolanWelcome 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.

Because I loved the first two David Loogan books--Bad Things Happen and Very Bad Men--by Harry Dolan, one of the books I was most looking forward to this month was The Last Dead Girl, the third novel starring the mysterious Loogan. Before I tell you what I thought (hint: I wasn't disappointed), take a look at the publisher's summary:

David Loogan’s dark past is revealed in this prequel to Bad Things Happen—the critically acclaimed mystery that Stephen King called a “great fucking book.” On a rainy night in April, a chance encounter on a lonely road draws David into a romance with Jana Fletcher, a beautiful young law student. Jana is an enigma: living in a run-down apartment and sporting a bruise on her cheek that she refuses to explain. David would like to know her secrets, but he lets them lie—until it’s too late. When Jana is brutally murdered, the police consider David a prime suspect. But as he sets out to uncover the truth about Jana, he begins to realize he’s treading a very dangerous path—and that her killer is watching every move he makes.
Harry Dolan is a master of suspense, twists, noir, and creepy. Seriously, keep your shades drawn, don't talk to strangers, and never get in a car with someone you don't know.

The Last Dead Girl takes us to Rome, New York, where David Loogan still went by the name of David Malone. Only twenty-six and self-employed as a real estate inspector, David has trouble in love: His fiance cheated on him and the beautiful young woman (Jana) he then turned to was killed just ten days after he met her.

Driven not so much by a need to clear his name, David is instead obsessed with finding out who Jana was and why someone would want to kill her. The story switches among a few viewpoints and two time periods, as Dolan builds the tension steadily and carefully, planting clues and throwing us off track until David (and we) finally discover the murderer . . . just as he is about to strike again.

I loved this look at a younger Loogan and how he was swept up in danger, love, heartbreak, and death--by increments and without intention. Harry Dolan brilliantly filled in some of the missing back story of one of the coolest, darkest protagonists out there. Put the The Last Dead Girl on your must-read list and hope that Dolan has many more Loogan stories yet to tell.

If you're an audiobook fan, don't hesitate to pick up the unabridged edition (Tantor Audio; 12 hr, 53 min), read by Michael Kramer. Although I'm often thrown off when a series changes narrators (the first two Loogan novels were read by Erik Davies), Kramer did a great job capturing Dolan's style, both the humor and the noir.

To learn more about Harry Dolan,visit his website, where you can learn more about him and his Loogan books. You can also find Dolan on Facebook and Twitter. And don't miss his latest GoodReads interview.

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, 2014
ISBN-13: 9780399157967
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

Click for more

16 January 2014

Review: Savannah (Movie)

Savannah (movie)Based on a true story, Savannah (2013, directed, written, and produced by Annette Haywood-Carter) takes place in turn-of-the-century coastal Georgia. Ward Allen was born just before the Civil War, was educated at Oxford, and traveled some in Europe before returning to his birthplace.

Instead of taking over his inheritance, the remains of a southern plantation, he devoted his life to duck hunting, both for sale and as a guide. He was known as man who fought for laws that protected both the birds and the hunter. In addition, he was an early advocate for conservation.

The movie is told mostly in flashbacks and begins as changes are being made to the original Allen land in the early 1950s. The details from both time periods are nicely done, and the outdoor shots are simply gorgeous. The casting was perfect. Jim Caviezel played the sometimes cantankerous, sometimes charming Allen, and Chiwetel Ejiofor played his friend and partner, Christmas Moultrie. Jaimie Alexander, Bradley Whitford, Sam Shepard, and Hal Holbrook help round out the cast.

Although I'm recommending you add Savannah to your watch list, it was not without its flaws. My biggest complaint is that we never learn the ultimate fate of Allen's wife, Lucy. In addition, I would have liked to have learned more about Allen and Moultrie's back story, especially how they became friends. Despite these gaps, I enjoyed the film. If you like the setting, beautiful scenery, and true stories (and don't mind hunting), then look for Savannah on one of the streaming services.

Click for more

14 January 2014

Wordless Wednesday 272

January Walk, 2014

Click image to see full size. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

Click for more

Today's Read & Giveaway: Dead Man's Fancy by Keith McCafferty

Dead Man's Fancy by Keith McCaffertyWhat do you think about wolves? Perhaps you think they're beautiful creatures that hold spiritual significance. Now imagine that you're Montana rancher who depends on your stock to keep food on the table. Would you feel the same way about wolves if they threatened to destroy your livelihood? That's the tangle of issues confronting Sheriff Ettinger and part-time investigator Stranahan as they try to track down a flyfishing guide who has gone missing from a guest ranch.

At the sound, Martha Ettinger glanced from the trail, the brim of her hat rising to uncover the early stars. In the foredistance loomed the indigo silhouette of Papoose Mountain. Crooked fingers of pines groped toward the peaks and it was from one of those forests the howl had risen, a deep, sustained note haunted by a higher harmonic that now stirred to song other voices, the lament of the pack dying away to leave her in silence, feeling the beating of her heart.
Dead Man's Fancy by Keith McCafferty (Penguin USA / Viking, 2014, p. 1)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: current times, Montana mountain country and the Madison River Valley
  • Circumstances: a missing flyfishing guide, a murder, local politics surrounding wild wolves
  • Characters: Martha Ettinger, Hyalite Country sheriff; Sean Stranahan, former New England PI, flyfishing guide, artist; the missing woman and her sister; ranchers; tourists
  • Genre: police procedural mystery with a Western slant
  • What I know so far: love McCafferty's descriptions of the natural environment; sympathetic characters; murder mystery that revolves around current, relevant topics
  • Recommended for: If you like the Nevada Barr mysteries (Anna Pigeon series) or Craig Johnson's Longmire series, you'll likely love the Sean Stranahan mysteries
  • Extras: McCafferty is a veteran outdoor writer and avid flyfisher; Dead Man's Fancy (the third in the series) has gotten starred reviews and lots of praise within the mystery writers' circle.
The Gray Ghost Murders by Keith McCaffertyThe Giveaway

I can't wait to finish reading and find out what happens, not only with the mystery but in Sheriff Ettinger's and Stranahan's lives. I hope I've caught your attention because, thanks to Viking Books, I'm able to  offer one of my readers a two-book set of Keith McCafferty's novels: The Gray Ghost Murders, published last year, and Dead Man's Fancy, out just this month. All you have to do to enter for a chance to win is have a U.S. mailing address and fill out the following form. I'll pick a winner via random number generator on January 21. Once the winner is confirmed, I'll delete all personal information from my computer.

ISBN-13: 9780670014699 (Dead Man's Fancy), 9780143124382 (Gray Ghost Murders)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

Click for more

13 January 2014

Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. MaasI had high expectations for Sarah J. Maas's Throne of Glass: it was billed as high fantasy with great world building and complex characters. I was thinking Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones for young adults. Although there is a lot to like about this novel, it wasn't love at first sight for me.

Beautiful Celaena Sardothian began her training as an assassin when she was just eight years old. Within a decade she had become the most feared killer in Erilea--that is, until she was captured and sent to the salt mines, where it was expected she'd quickly die as a result of exposure, slave labor, and/or starvation.

Strong and resourceful, Celaena beat the odds, surviving months of ill-treatment until she was given a second chance by Crown Prince Dorian: Wealth and freedom could be hers if she could find a way to defeat twenty-three other criminals in a deadly competition and then serve as the king's personal assassin for four years. With nothing to lose, Celaena accepted the offer.

The bulk of Throne of Glass revolves around Celaena's training for the competition and her life in the castle. But Mass interweaves several additional story lines into the main plot, including the king's agenda and court politics. Although some of the story arcs were easy to figure out, others are more complex and some are left up in the air, presumably to be picked up in future installments in the series.

The side stories help create a full world in which people and places have a deeper history, which we discover slowly as the series develops. Most of the characters are multi-dimensional; though some of the bad guys are clearly bad and some are left flat (for example, Celaena's maid in the castle).

My principal issue with Throne of Glass is one that other reviewers see as a strong point. That's the personality of Celaena herself. It was extremely difficult for me to believe her to be a feared assassin. Yes, her mind is constantly looking for escape routes, weapons, and other people's weaknesses, just as you'd expect from a professional killer. On the other hand, she seems overly concerned with court affairs and fashions and soon finds herself in a love triangle. Would a trained hit man who had only one chance at regaining freedom really distract herself by mooning over the prince and sneaking into a court ball? I had trouble buying it.

I understand that Celaena is more than just a killer. I appreciated that she liked to read, that she was curious, and that she wanted to make friends. But something about the love triangle (Hunger Games or Twilight, anyone?) made me weary. Perhaps it was the timing. Let her have a conflicted heart only after the competition, when she finally has time to recuperate and contemplate her future. (This is not a spoiler, we're really sure from page one that she will live no matter what happens at the castle.)

It speaks to Mass's skills that, despite my reservations noted in this post, I am curious enough about Celaena and her world that I plan to read the accompanying Throne of Glass novellas. If they capture my full attention, I'll gladly give Crown of Midnight (the second in the series) a try. Furthermore, I'm really looking forward to Mass's 2015 A Court of Thorn and Roses books, which are targeted to an adult audience and involve myth and fairy tale retellings.

I listened to the unabridged audiobook edition (Audible, Inc.; 12 hr, 47 min) read by Elizabeth Evans, who is a veteran audiobook narrator but new to me. I thought she did a fine job building tension, rendering the snappy dialogue, and projecting the characters' emotions. Evans enhanced my enjoyment of the book; in fact, I'm not sure I would have finished it if hadn't been for her worthy performance.

Note that if you decide to listen to the book instead of reading it in print, you'll miss the map at the front of the book and the extras found in the paperback edition (pronunciation guide, additional scene, and author interview).

Published by Bloomsbury USA Children's, 2012
ISBN-13: 9781599906959
Source: Print: review; audio: bought (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

Click for more

11 January 2014

Weekend Cooking: The Kitchen Journals--The Year Ahead

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.

The Kitchen Journal (c) cbl for www.BethFishReads.comAs some of you may have guessed from my post last week, we've had a rough start to 2014. But I like to think that we've gotten the sad and bad out of the way early so the rest of year has nowhere to go uphill. Anyway, as a consequence, I have only just started getting back into post-holiday normal cooking and blogging.

Today I thought I share some thoughts about a couple of wines we enjoyed recently, some of my foodie plans for 2014, and what I have on tap to read and review.

Food Thoughts: What I'm Cooking & What I'm Looking Forward To

Currently. I don't know about you all, but as much as I love festive eating and drinking, I'm always thankful to return to our normal healthful habits. This week we ate grilled spice-rubbed salmon, had a nicely seasoned but simple pasta dish, and enjoyed a delicious lentil soup with sweet potatoes and greens. Add salads every night and the end-of-season clementines and we've been happy campers.

Future. As many of you know, we've been members of a CSA (community supported agriculture) for at least fifteen years. During that time, we've been with three different farms and had a great experience with each one. Through the years, our area went from having one very inconveniently located farmers' market to having five or six easy-to-get to markets every week. So this year, Mr. BFR and I decided to set ourselves free from the set weekly basket and shop on our own. I'm excited about this change, and I'm looking forward to more control over my summer cooking. I can't wait for the growing season to start!

New Wine and Beer

We love to shop the under $15 wines for our everyday drinking. We're fairly adventurous when it comes to trying new ones, so we're always experimenting. Two that we really liked last month were Apothic Dark, a nice red blend that was supposedly a limited edition. The other discovery was Lindeman's Bin 45 Cab, which is a super-good everyday table wine.

As Colleen from Col Reads mentioned last week, we met for lunch at a new brew pub in our area and we each ordered the seasonal beer, which was brewed with figs. I usually find fruit beers to be too sweet, but that one was excellent and the perfect complement to my gigantic ham and cheese sandwich. Colleen suggested I try Banana Bread Beer, but our Wegman's was out of it last week. I'm going to see if I can get a four-pack today.

Cookbooks and Food Writing

I have a number of really good cookbooks ready to review, and I'm looking forward to writing about them. I've also come across a few good recipes I think you'll like and will share them in the coming weeks. And I've read a couple of interesting books in the food writing genre, and those reviews are almost ready to be posted.

Way back in the 1970s and 1980s I read quite a lot of food writing: essays, memoirs, critiques, and more. I don't know why I've gotten away from food writing in the last few years, but I am determined to rekindle my relationship with good food writers in 2014. So I hope future Weekend Cooking posts will reflect this. One project I'm toying with is to revisit some of my favorite authors by rereading their books via audio. Not sure about this yet, but I'll keep you in the loop.

Meanwhile, I have a few fun foodie cozies on my reading stack, and all look fantastic. I love it that each book includes recipes and/or menus. Really, I can't resist a good food-related mystery. I'll end this long post by sharing five that caught my eye.

Murder Sends a Postcard by Christy Fifield, the fourth in the Haunted Souvenir Shop Mystery series, involves a deadly meal. The food may be suspect, but I love that the book is set in the Florida and includes a cat. Pecan Pies and Homicides by Ellery Adams is the fourth Charmed Pie Shoppe mystery. Take a trip to Georgia and enjoy this magical pie-filled story. Julie Hyzy's White House Chef Mysteries are always fun, and the newest is Home of the Braised. Politics and menus are center stage in this series. All three books were released on January 7 from Berkley Prime Crime.

Poison at the PTA by Laura Alden, the fifth in the PTA series, has so many cozy elements that appeal to me, including a bookstore owner, good friends, and poisoned food. This is a new-to-me author. I love the title of Lucy Burdette's fourth installment in her Key West Food Critic mysteries: Murder with Ganache. Cupcakes, weddings, and vacationers are on a collision course to murder. Both of these will be in stores on February 4 and are Obsidian Mysteries from Signet.

Click for more

09 January 2014

Bullet Review: The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Impossible Kife of Memory by Laurie Halse AndersonLaurie Halse Anderson is known for bringing important issues to the forefront, inviting discussion. In her just-released The Impossible Knife of Memory, Anderson addresses the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on contemporary families.

Much of what I loved about Anderson's Wintergirls (the only other book of hers I've read) is found in The Impossible Knife of Memory, especially the idea that regular people often face the seemingly overwhelming problems we assume happen only in the newspaper and on TV. For young Hayley Kincain, her father's PTSD is made all the worse because she is her father's only caretaker.

  • General plot. Hayley Kincain may appear to be a normal seventeen-year-old, but her life has been been anything but conventional. She's been living on the road with her father, Andy, who suffers from severe PTSD as the result of serving four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. When Andy decides to give up truck driving to settle down in his home town, he expects Hayley to attend the local high school while he looks for a job. Although Hayley's grown accustomed to watching her father's moods like a hawk, she is finding it increasingly difficult to manage him on her own. As Andy sinks deeper in drugs and depression, wracked with survivor's guilt and plagued by his actions in name of war, Hayley must work harder to hide her home life from concerned teachers and even from her friends.
  • Hayley. Hayley is one conflicted teen: Experience has taught her not to trust anyone because almost every adult she's known has either died or abandoned her, except her father, who is hardly a reliable guardian. Yet she still craves some kind of stability, so when friendship and even love is offered, she hesitatingly accepts them. At the same time, she remains very protective of her dad, even as she hates the shell of a man that he's become.
  • Overall thoughts. The title, The Impossible Knife of Memory, carries the meaning of the novel: We think we can decide what we choose to remember by cutting out parts of our memory, and yet the knife we use will not cut true or permanently. Memories swim to the surface, sometimes turning the knife around, cutting us to the quick. Laurie Halse Anderson has written a powerful, unforgettable look at the after effects of war on families, the strength of friendship, and the importance of never giving up hope.
  • The audiobook. The unabridged audiobook (Brilliance Audio, 9 hr, 10 min) is read by Julia Whelan with Luke Daniels. Whelan's performance enhances the emotional impact of the novel, with excellent pacing and consistent characterizations. Daniels reads the few sections from Andy's point of view. My full audiobook review will be available from AudioFile magazine.
Published by Viking Juvenile, 2014
ISBN-13: 9780670012091
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

Click for more

07 January 2014

Wordless Wednesday 271

Minimalist Landscape, 2014

Click image to see full size. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

Click for more

Today's Read & Giveaway: The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher

The Killing Woods by Lucy ChristopherWhat if you saw your father carry a body out of the woods? Would you believe he was innocent of murdering your classmate? What if he were suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome and had blackouts? Would you still fight for his innocence? That's what Emily Shepherd is up against.

I've seen something.

It's something far down the rock face, wedged between the jagged boulders. I'm trying to look for it again. But I'm scrambling, falling, grabbing at smooth stone. And I'm too late—I'm going over, over the edge of the Leap.
The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher (Scholastic / Chicken House, 2013, p. 294)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: contemporary; Darkwood; a military town
  • Circumstances: Who killed Ashlee Parker? Jon Shepherd who carried her body out of the woods; Damon Hilary, Ashlee's boyfriend who was also in the woods that night; or someone / something else?
  • Characters: the Shepherd family: Emily (who believes her father is innocent), her mother (who has taken to drink), her father (who suffers from PTSS); Damon (who has secrets and suffers from memory loss), townsfolk, Emily and Damon's classmates.
  • Genre / audience: thriller / mystery (action, dark, creepy); young adult audience
  • Miscellaneous: the story is told alternately from Emily's and Damon's views; the plot is twisty, gripping, and complex
Want to Know More?

In the following short video, the Lucy Christopher reads the opening paragraphs of The Killing Woods:

The book trailer sets the spooky mood:

Visit the Killing Woods website, the This Is Teen Facebook page, or Lucy Christopher's Facebook page.

The Giveaway

Thanks to Scholastic, Inc. I'm thrilled to be able to offer two of my readers one copy each of Lucy Christopher's The Killing Woods. All you need to do to enter for a chance to win is to have a U.S. mailing address and fill out the following form. I'll pick the winners via random number generator on January 17. Once the winners have been verified, I'll delete all personal information from my computer. Good luck!

ISBN-13: 9780545461009
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

Click for more

06 January 2014

Bullet Review: The Unwritten: Inside Man (Vol. 2) by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

The Unwritten: Inside Man (vol. 2) by Mike Carey & Peter GrossIn July 2012, I reviewed the complex and intriguing start to a literary graphic novel series: The Unwritten by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. I have no explanation for why I waited eighteenth months before reading volume 2. It's a shame because the premise is unique and the story is a genre-bending mix that has something for everyone.

In a nutshell, Tom Taylor's father, the world-famous author of the Tommy Taylor wizard books (kind of like Harry Potter), has disappeared. Although Tom has spent years living under the shadow of his namesake (some reviewers have said the inspiration is A. A. Milne's son, Christopher) and wants desperately to be treated as person separate from his father's fictional character, he also wants to find his dad.

This review doesn't spoil volume 2 but assumes you've read volume 1.

  • What happens? In Inside Man, Tom Taylor is transported to France, where he is imprisoned while awaiting his trial for the murder of six people (see the end of volume 1). Besides trying to avoid his enemies and hoping to be proven innocent of murder, Tom wants to resume searching for his missing father, abetted by Savoy (you'll find out who he is in the book) and Elizabeth Hexam, whom we've already met. In the midst of chaos, Tom discovers something startling about himself.
  • Thoughts on the plot. The story is not told in a linear fashion, and the plot backs up in time a couple of times to catch us up with the present so we understand what brought each character to the moment of action. Carey pulls this off well, and I was easily able to follow along. As with the first volume, Inside Man weaves real life with fantasy/magic, literary references, and historical events. I don't think the book is difficult to understand, but the complexity of the plot invites you to pause, so you can try to unravel the ultimate mysteries of the main story arc: who exactly is Tom Taylor and what happened to his father?
  • The Unwritten: Inside Man by Mike Carey and Peter GrossComment on reviewing. I realize you may be scratching your head, wondering what the Unwritten books are all about. That's because it's almost impossible to review these books without spoiling them completely.
  • Notes on the artwork. I like the muted colors and the expressive drawings, and I'm especially impressed with the way Gross's illustrations reflect the different aspects of Tom's adventures. For example, the style changes when the action moves from Tom's present-day situation to scenes that portray historical events. The pages that represent blog posts, a Twitter stream, newspapers, and a Web search have immediately recognizable looks and help create another layer to the novel. The scan is from Tom's introduction to prison and was picked to avoid spoilers (click to enlarge).
  • Recommendations. Although Unwritten is not a particularly deep series (at least not so far), it requires some attention, so don't pick these graphic novels expecting a quick, light read. I recommend them for people who like books with interwoven layers, stories within stories, and stories about stories; mystery fans; and maybe even fans of Harry Potter. I'm hooked and have promised myself not to wait forever before picking up volume 3.
Published by DC Comics / Vertigo, 2010
ISBN-13: 9781401228736
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

Click for more

04 January 2014

Weekend Cooking: Dotty's Pound Cake

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.

Pound Cake, Southern LivingToday's post is in honor of my late-mother-in-law. For many years, until her eyesight finally failed her, Dotty would have a freshly made pound cake waiting for us every time we came to visit.

I think I will forever associate pound cake with her kindness, generosity, and love. She always made hers in a tube pan / angel food cake pan, like the one in the photo here.

I didn't have time to bake this week, so I am using an image from the Southern Living website. If you click on the link, you'll find the magazine's "10 Steps to the Perfect Pound Cake." I plan to study those tips, because my cakes are never quite as good as Dotty's were. That's probably because she put a lot of love into her baking.

Here is her recipe in her own words.

Dotty's Pound Cake
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
Melt butter in milk. Cream eggs and sugar. Add flour and milk mixture gradually. Add vanilla. Add baking powder last but do not beat hard.

Batter will be thin. I use an angel cake pan, but I think a Bundt would be good. Bake at 325F for 50 to 60 minutes. Test before removing.

Click for more

03 January 2014

Review: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk KiddWay back in 2000, I took a chance on a book called The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Although Kidd had written spiritual/religious nonfiction, this was her first novel. I fell in love with young Lily Owens and with the women who helped her find peace and love. Even fourteen years later, I still think about those characters and Lily's story.

I don't know why I never read Kidd's second novel, The Mermaid Chair, but when I had a chance to listen to The Invention of Wings (available in stores next Tuesday), I couldn't wait to get started. Kidd's latest work transports us to the early nineteenth century, when the winds of change began to strengthen in the young United States.

  • What's it about: Based on the life of abolitionist and women's activist Sarah Grimké, Kidd gives us two perspectives on the fate of women two hundred years ago. Through Sarah, we learn how a girl from a privileged Charleston family grew into one of the most outspoken women of her time. Through the slave Handful, we learn how black women managed to find pieces of self-worth, even as they were abused.
  • The two women: Kidd started with the facts of Grimké's life to create a powerful story of the cost of civil disobedience. It was no easy thing for a single woman of little personal means to leave the comfort of her home and find the strength and courage to stand up for what she believed: that slavery was wrong and that women would remain powerless as long as they lived under the thumbs of men. Handful, born into slavery and as a possession of the Grimkés, fought for a different kind of independence. Witness and victim to the cruelties of her white masters, she nonetheless tried to hold on to the dream of freedom and to remember her mother's stories.
  • Sarah Moore Grimke, in the public domainThe wonderful: Kidd made the relationship between Handful and Sarah fairly realistic, which not only kept me invested in the story but allowed each woman to have her own voice. Although Handful is the product of the author's imagination, she shares some similarities to one of Grimké's first maids. A number of historical people appear in The Invention of Wings, and it's fascinating to read about them through Sarah's eyes.
  • The odd: I don't know why Kidd gave Sarah a token that was to symbolize, um, I'm not quite sure: her freedom, her future, her self-worth, her hope of education? At one point the silver button becomes Handful's, who also believes it holds some deep importance or maybe some kind of spiritual power. Later the button is returned to Sarah, who still treasures it. I admit that the point of the button was lost on me, and I found it a bit distracting.
  • My overall thoughts: I predict that Kidd's latest novel will be one of the hot book club picks of the year (Oprah already tapped it). Major discussion topics are sisters, friendship, slavery, women's issues, Quakers, abolitionists, freedom, independence, education, and living according to one's convictions. The Invention of Wings is a well-researched and accessible look at one of the important social activists of the pre–Civil War era.
  • The audiobook: Jenna Lamia and Adepero Oduye share the narration of The Invention of Wings (Penguin Audio; 13 hr, 46 min). Do not miss their stellar, heart-felt performances. My full audiobook review will be available through AudioFile magazine.
  • Note on the photo: Sarah Moore Grimké; from Wikimedia Commons; in the public domain in the United States. Click image to see full size.
Penguin USA / VIking, 2014
ISBN-13: 9780670024780
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

Click for more

02 January 2014

Past and Future: Some Stats, Some Goals

copyright cbl for www.BethFishReads.comI always love to read everyone's end-of-the-year wrap-up posts. Most years I track my reading very closely but something happened in 2013; I kind of forgot to fill in my database. I even failed to add reviews to my review index here on the blog. Ooops!

Thus this is a quick-and-dirty wrap-up post, that's very light on details. Besides my few lame stats, I want to share some of my thoughts on how my blog has changed and what you can expect in the year to come.

And I promise to catch up on my review index and my recipe index just as soon as I find some of that mythical free time I've heard tales about.

Lame Stats

First and last reviews: My first review of 2013 was an audiobook for middle grade readers: Gingersnap by Patricia Reilly Giff. My last single review was for the final entry in a beloved cozy mystery series: Tomb of the Golden Bird by Elizabeth Peters, also an audiobook.

Audiobooks: I listened to more than 70 audiobooks in 2013 for a total of about 970 hours.

Print books: I have no idea how many I read.

Most comments: My 5-year blogoversary post received the most comments this year. Thanks again to everyone who took the time to stop by and say yay!

Changes, Goals, and the State of the Blog

Reviews: Slowly over the last few months, I've eased up on my self-imposed pressure to write detailed, analytical, critical reviews of every single book I read or listen to. This one change has made my life, both on and off line, less stressful. Although I'm still motivated to write full, formal reviews of many of the books I read, I love the freedom to write about books in a variety of styles.

My reviews currently take several forms: full (formal) review, Bullet Review, quick review as part of Today's Read, in-progress review as part of Thursday Tea, and short grouped reviews (when I need to catch up). If my stats are any indication, you all like the variety, and the shorter reviews are gaining in popularity.

Challenges: I have given up hosting all challenges expect for the perpetual Amy Einhorn Books Reading Challenge. The link-up page for all AEB titles can be found on the gateway post.

New Types of Posts: In 2013, I wrote my first product review (for a phone case), introduced new features (for example, Who's Birthday Is It?), and reviewed more movies than in other years. Although I don't write a personal blog (and don't want to), I'm considering making my Stacked-Up Book Thoughts a weekly feature and using it to share some thoughts on my reading life in general (kind of like the Sunday Salon meme, which is now closed to new members).

After a week of best-of posts, photos, and wrap-ups, you can expect a book review tomorrow and Weekend Cooking on Saturday, as the familiar rhythm of Beth Fish Reads returns for another year. Happy New Year to all of you!

Click for more

01 January 2014

Wordless Wednesday 270

End of a Day, End of a Year, December 2013

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

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