31 May 2014

Weekend Cooking: Coffee Bars

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've talked about King Arthur Flour many times on Weekend Cooking. I love their products and their recipes. Beside perusing their website for recipes, I also subscribe (print and digital) to their quarterly Baking Sheet.

Don't those danishes on the cover of the spring 2014 issue look wonderful? I haven't made them. I did, however, bake dessert a few weeks ago, and the recipe came from this issue. I picked the Coffee Bars because I find it hard to resist recipes that include coffee as an ingredient.

I was worried that they might be too sweet, especially with the icing; but, in fact, they were perfect. Very moist and good. These would be a hit at a pot luck or for any informal entertaining. Oh, and they're great with a cup of coffee in the afternoon.

Note: I scanned the photo from the newsletter. The spots are proof that I actually cooked from the print edition. One way I can tell if I've made a recipe is if I find crumbs and oil spots on the page.

Coffee Bars
Makes 4 dozen (umm, we cut ours bigger than that)

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c warm, strong coffee
  • 1 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Caramel Icing
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9 by 13-in pan.

Cookies: Mix the sugar, butter, and oil until well combined. Mix in the eggs and vanilla thoroughly and then mix in the coffee.

Whisk the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and add to the sugar mixture. Stir in the raisins and nuts.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until the edges just begin to pull from the sides of the pan. While the bars are baking prepare the icing

Icing: Combine the brown sugar, butter, and cream in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and gradually add the confectioners sugar, beating constantly. If the icing is not smooth, place over low heat, stirring constantly until lumps of sugar disappear.

Remove the bars from the oven and immediately spread the icing over the top. Cool completely before slicing.

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29 May 2014

Reading on the Train

As many of you know, I'm in New York this week at Book Expo America, a huge publishing industry event. Here's what I took to read on the train.

Hexed by Michelle KrysHexed by Michelle Krys is a YA book (Delacorte Press, ISBN-13 9780385743372) that will be available in stores on June 10. Of the three books I'm taking with me, this is the only one I've already started. Instead of carting the hardcover with me to New York, though, I've switched to the audiobook. So far, I'm enjoying the story of Indigo Blackwood, who at age sixteen learns that members of her family were witches. She won't know if she's inherited the witch gene until her 200th full moon, coming up in just a couple of days. The time period is now; the city is Los Angeles. There is a cute guy, but Indigo isn't even sure she likes him. And don't let the fact that she's on the cheerleading squad get in the way; she's quick to point out that she has the third highest GPA in her high school. Can't wait to see how it all plays out.

Little Mercies by Heather GudenkaufLittle Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf is an adult book (Mira Books, ISBN-13 9780778316336) that hits the stores on June 24. I haven't started it yet, but I'm taking the paperback with me on the train. Here's part of the publisher's summary; doesn't it sound great?

Veteran social worker Ellen Moore has seen the worst side of humanity--the vilest acts one person can commit against another. She is a fiercely dedicated children's advocate and a devoted mother and wife. But one blistering summer day, a simple moment of distraction will have repercussions that Ellen could never have imagined. . . .

Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but irresponsible father since her mother left them, sleeping on friends' couches and moving in and out of cheap motels. When Jenny suddenly finds herself on her own . . . the last thing she wants is a social worker. . . .

A powerful and emotionally charged tale about motherhood and justice, Little Mercies is a searing portrait of the tenuous grasp we have on the things we love the most, and of the ties that unexpectedly bring us together.
Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen HarringtonFinally, Karen Harrington's Sure Signs of Crazy is a middle grade book (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, ISBN-13 9780316210492) that's just out in paperback and audiobook. I've had this one on my reading list for almost a year, and for some reason I just didn't get around to it. I have the audio edition loaded up on my phone for the train ride home. Again, I haven't started this yet, so I'll leave you with the publisher's summary; you gotta love a character who collects words:
You've never met anyone exactly like twelve-year-old Sarah Nelson. While most of her friends obsess over Harry Potter, she spends her time writing letters to Atticus Finch. She collects trouble words in her diary. Her best friend is a plant. And she's never known her mother, who left when Sarah was two.

Since then, Sarah and her dad have moved from one small Texas town to another, and not one has felt like home. Everything changes when Sarah launches an investigation into her family's Big Secret. She makes unexpected new friends and has her first real crush, and instead of a "typical boring Sarah Nelson summer," this one might just turn out to be extraordinary. 
I'll let you know what I think after I finish reading or listening. What are you reading this week?

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28 May 2014

Wordless Wednesday 291

Wheel & Rail, 2014

copyright cbl for BethFishReads.com

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26 May 2014

Review: The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler

The Hypnotist by Lars KeplerIf you like Scandinavian mysteries and thrillers then I'm sure you've heard of the author Lars Kepler (really the pen name for a Swedish couple). I had too, but I was slow to start this series starring police inspector Joona Linna.

However, I gave a copy of the first Linna book, The Hypnotist, to my father and both he and my niece made a point of telling me that they liked it. So on that double recommendation, I decided to give the audiobook a try.

In short, Kepler had me on the edge of my seat. I was even talking to the characters: "No, don't go down in the basement!" "Watch out!" I mean it, I was totally invested.

  • The plot. When Joona Linna takes on a case involving a teenage boy, Josef, who barely survived when his family was murdered by a knife-wielding intruder, he calls on Erik Maria Bark, a psychologist who once used hypnosis as therapy for traumatized patients. For reasons we learn only later, Erik has vowed to never hypnotize anyone ever again. Joona, however, talks Erik into helping Josef remember what happened to his family, hoping that the boy will reveal the killer once he's under hypnosis. That one act sets off a whirlwind of events that profoundly affect Erik and his family. There seems to be no way out of the disastrous situation.
  • The good and the bad. The Hypnotist was a slow start for me. There are several things going on that concern both Joona and Erik together and separately and it took me a while to get a handle on the characters and their personalities. But once the action started (a couple of hours into the audiobook) I was suddenly sucked right into the story and couldn't leave. Some of the action is startling, some scary, and some disturbing (in a good thriller kind of way). I don't want to tell you exactly what happens because I don't want to take away from the shock value, but if you stick with this story through the setup, you will be amply rewarded. My only other complaint was that one of the plot lines seems to have been dropped, but I got over that.
  • The cover. Once you've read the book, you will find the cover to be really, really creepy!
  • The audiobook. The unabridged audiobook edition (Blackstone Audio, 17 hr, 28 min) was read by Mark Bramhall, who did a good job, although I was bothered by some odd pronunciations of a couple of English words. On the other hand, he distinguished the characters enough so I could tell them apart and excelled at adding to the thriller/tension part of the story. I won't hesitate to listen to the next book in the series, also read by Bramhall.
  • Recommendation. Despite a slow start, I became fully invested in the story and recommend Lars Kepler's The Hypnotist to anyone who likes psychological thrillers, Scandinavian mysteries, and semi-scary escape reading.
Published by Farrar, Straus & Girous / Sara Crichton Books, 2011
Source: Bought (audio) & review (print) (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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24 May 2014

Weekend Cooking: Pork and Zucchini with Orzo

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.

Last weekend I visited my local library's website and checked out the digital edition of the June 2014 issue of Food Network Magazine. If you haven't discovered the joys of Zinio, you might want to take a moment to see if your library offers this service.

Anyway, I was browsing through the magazine to get ideas for dinners and this grilled pork and zucchini recipe looked too good to resist. I'm so glad I gave it a chance because it was the best dinner of the week. Not only is it really pretty on the platter but the flavors were excellent and the meal couldn't have been easier to put together.

I did make a couple of changes to the recipe, so be sure to see my notes (in boldface). The photo was taken by Antonis Achilleos and all rights remain with him and/or the Food Network.

Pork and Zucchini with Orzo
Serves 4
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large pork tenderloin (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and crosswise
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus 3 more tablespoons
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon, juice of a second lemon, plus wedges for serving
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped (I used equivalent in grape tomatoes)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (I used fresh basil)
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Butterfly the pork: Slice lengthwise down the center, stopping about 1/2 inch before cutting through the meat. Open the pork like a book and flatten slightly with your hands. Lay a piece of plastic wrap on top and pound with the flat side of a meat mallet or a skillet until 1/2 inch thick.

Put the pork and zucchini in a large bowl. Add 2 (3) tablespoons olive oil, the lemon zest, the juice of 1 lemon, cumin, coriander, 1 teaspoon salt, and the cayenne and toss; let sit 10 minutes. I whisked the marinade before I put in the pork and zucchini.

Meanwhile, add the orzo to the boiling water and cook as the label directs. Drain and rinse under cold water. Transfer to a bowl; add the tomatoes, parsley (basil), the juice of 1 lemon, the remaining 1 (3) tablespoon(s) oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt; toss.

Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium high. Grill the pork and zucchini, flipping once, until the pork is cooked through and the zucchini is tender, about 12 minutes for the pork and 14 minutes for the zucchini. Slice the pork on an angle and serve with the zucchini, orzo and lemon wedges.

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22 May 2014

Review: The Arsonist by Sue Miller

The Arsonist by Sue MillerI've been a fan of Sue Miller's for, well, years. I haven't read her entire body of work, but I've always felt she has an innate sense of family dynamics and a candid view of relationships.

Her newest novel, The Arsonist, out next month, takes place in a community in crisis. But instead of focusing on the obvious issues associated with arson, Miller uses the unease, the fear, and the almost surreal circumstances to examine four people whose connection to the town is difficult to define.

This haunting, introspective story will burrow into your mind, leaving you to ponder some of life's difficult questions.

General situation: When a serial arsonist targets summer homes in Pomeroy, New Hampshire, just as the season begins, everyone feels afraid. While townsfolk and land-owning vacationers debate safety measures and discuss suspects, four members of the community face life-altering issues of their own.

The characters in limbo: Although Sylvia Rowley's grandparents lived in Pomeroy full-time and Sylvia spent her senior year in high school there, she has really never been more than a summer visitor until recently. Now that she and her husband, Alfie, have retired from university life, they've modernized the old family farmhouse and hope to find a permanent place in the community.

Forty-something Frankie Rowley, on leave from relief work in Africa, is home for a visit. Burned out on her job, feeling shattered from a broken relationship, and taken by surprise at how much her parents have aged since she last saw them, Frankie is unsure where she belongs.

A couple of years earlier, Bud Jacobs, a hot-shot, inside-the-beltway political journalist, bought the Pomeroy weekly, hoping to set down roots and make a difference in people's lives. Although he hasn't second-guessed his decision to run the newspaper, life in New Hampshire isn't quite what he's used to.

Themes and what I thought about: Miller has the inside scoop on the unique issues associated with midlife relationships. Although older couples can still get hot and heavy and can even hope for a happily ever after, they bring a lifetime of experience and expectations with them. They have careers and personal goals, aging parents and families, and a host of concerns that kids half their age barely even think about. I am still blown away by Miller's ability find the core of a mature relationship: not devoid of romance but colored by reality.

In a similar vein, Miller cracks open the outer shell of a long-term marriage and what she sees inside is the sometimes ugly truth. Retirement is not always the heaven that people dream of: Without the focus of work and a daily routine, some couples begin to flounder. Add in the general problems of aging, moving to a new home, and living on a fixed income and it's no surprise that older spouses begin to wonder who exactly it was they married all those years ago.

Besides relationships, Miller explores the politics of place, small-town life, aging, life changes, and the meaning of home. Further topics for thought or for book club discussion can be found in the excellent Reader's Guide on the Random House website.

General thoughts: Despite its title, The Arsonist is less about the burning of houses than it is about the burning of the past and where one goes from there: retreat and rebuild or move forward on a new path? Few authors capture family dynamics and mature love as brilliantly as Sue Miller does.

Published by Random House / Knopf, June 24, 2014
ISBN-13: 9780307594792
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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21 May 2014

Wordless Wednesday 290

Reflections: New Orleans, 2014

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20 May 2014

Guest Post: Beth Hoffman on Women and the Power of Friendship

Looking for Me by Beth HoffmanWhat can I tell you about Beth Hoffman? She is not only an amazing author but a warm and generous woman whom I proud to call a friend. I loved and have written about both her novels and even hosted a guest post in honor of Oletta Jones, one of my favorite characters in Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.

Today I'm celebrating the recent paperback release of Beth's second novel, Looking for Me, which I reviewed when it first came out. I concluded my review by saying that Beth "writes from the heart and with such an authentic voice, we come by our love for her work as naturally as if we were reading about our own kin."

I'm so pleased to welcome Beth back to Beth Fish Reads and am thrilled that her post is about women and friendship, which are strong themes in her work.

Women and the Power of Friendship
by Beth Hoffman

The formative years of my childhood were lived on my grandparents' farm. It was a rural area, and there weren't any kids to play with. I was raised among the easy, unhurried ways of older women. From my garden-loving grandma, to the elderly widow who lived up the road and created handmade paper dolls, each woman made a powerful impression upon me.

I was exposed to the simple yet remarkable words of wisdom that came from interacting with women who had lived through decades that encompassed everything from the unspeakable hardships of the Great Depression to the unexpected joy of learning to drive a car at the age of 72. Those daily observations and interactions gave me a foundation that has held me up ever since. Never have I heard more profound truths than those that were spoken in my grandmother's kitchen during the hot, humid days of canning season.

Then came the day that I entered first grade. From the moment I took my seat in that tiny classroom, I felt uncomfortable and awkward. Who were these squealing little people in lace-topped socks and crisp gingham dresses, and what on earth did I have in common with them? I was so accustomed to interacting with older women that the giggling language of girls my own age left me tongue-tied. It took me a long while to adjust to my classmates, and even after I did, I was always glad to return to my grandmother's kitchen where, as far as I could tell, things just made a whole lot more sense.

When I left my career in interior design and set out to write a novel, it never occurred to me that I would draw so heavily on the simple but rich experiences I had with my grandmother and her friends.

An e-mail was forwarded to me not long ago, and as I read it, I kept nodding in agreement. I have no idea who wrote it, but it sums up so much of what I feel about friendship, and I'd like to share it.

Time passes.
Life happens.
Distance separates.
Love waxes and wanes.
Hearts break.
Careers end.
Parents die.
Colleagues forget favors.
Marriages collapse.

But . . .

Girlfriends are there no matter how many miles are between them. A girlfriend is never farther away than needing her can reach.

When you walk that lonesome valley and you have to walk it for yourself, your girlfriends will be standing on the rim, cheering for you, praying for you, and waiting with open arms at the valley's end. Sometimes, they'll even break the rules and walk beside you. Or, they'll come in and carry you out.

The world wouldn't be the same without them, and neither would I.

When we began this adventure called womanhood, we had no idea of the incredible happiness and sorrows that lay ahead. Nor did we know how much we would need each other.

Every day, we need each other still.
Thank you so much for stopping by today, Beth. Where we all be without our women friends? I too was blessed to know my grandmothers well, and some of my fondest memories are the hours I spent in their kitchens.

Beth Hoffman is the internationally bestselling author of Looking for Me and Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. Before beginning her writing career, she was president and co-owner of an interior design studio. Beth lives, along with her husband and their four-legged fur-kids, in a historic Queen Anne home in Kentucky. Her interests include the rescue of abandoned and abused animals, nature conservancy, birding, historic preservation, and antiquing. To learn more about Beth, visit her website and like her on Facebook. You'll also find her on Twitter as @wordrunner.

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19 May 2014

Review: The Sylo Chronicles by D. J. MacHale

Sylo by D. J. MacHaleWhen my niece was reading middle grade books, she introduced me to D. J. MacHale's Pendragon series, which follows the adventures of fourteen-year-old Bobby Pendragon as he and his friends fight the evil Saint Dane in this world and other dimensions in an effort to save humankind from total destruction. My niece loved the books and couldn't wait to talk about them.

Now that she's in college (yikes!), I have to discover middle grade books all on my own. Recently I read the first two books in MacHale's newest trilogy, Sylo and Storm, and am happy to report that he hasn't lost his touch with writing compelling action-adventure stories. Here are my thoughts in a bullet review.

  • What's the trilogy about? Fourteen-year-old Tucker Pierce lives on an island off the coast of Maine. Tucker, who was born off-island, feels at home in the small community and, unlike his friends, is not counting the days until he can leave. But when mysterious deaths, military personnel, and strange lights in the sky disrupt the status quo, Tucker is forced to take stock of himself, his family, and his country, especially when the island is cut off from the rest of the world. Mustering up courage and relying on teamwork, Tucker and four friends attempt a daring escape to the mainland. What they find there will change them forever.
  • Genre, audience, similarities to other books. Did you like the Tomorrow series by John Marsden? You can think of the Sylo Chronicles as being in the same vein but geared to a slightly younger audience. Tucker is not Ellie, but he and his friends keep a cool head and manage to find a way to stay alive, even as others die and they find themselves separated (for various reasons) from their parents. The trilogy is not dystopian; it's alternate history. The kids learn that the U.S. government has high-tech weapons and vehicles and some scary drugs, but the books are not sci-fi. Instead, Sylo and Storm offer an action-packed look at a different kind of America.
  • Storm by D. J. MacHale
  • There's a lot to like. Besides the general adventure and the inventive technology in the books, it was MacHale's characters that drew me in. The teens have distinct personalities with unique upbringings and family situations. They don't always like each other, don't always make the right decisions, and are not invincible. It's a dangerous world out there, and people (teens and adults) can get hurt and can die. I love that there are several factions and groups, and it's not at all clear which one is made up of the good guys. Maybe there aren't any good guys. It's hard to tell, and that is one of the major problems Tucker and his friends must solve.
  • Things to know.  Sylo and Storm both earned starred reviews from Kirkus and were recommended by EW, Publisher's Weekly, and the School Library Journal. Although Tucker is at the center of the books (and tells the story), there are tough, smart girls in the group, and the adventure should appeal to both boys and girls. The audience is clearly middle grade readers, but the themes and situations are sophisticated and muli-layered.
  • General recommendation. In the Sylo Chronicles, D. J. MacHale has created an exciting, sometimes-scary, heart-pumping story with complex, believable characters; surprising twists; and plenty of puzzles. Like Tucker Pierce and his friends, you'll find it difficult to decide whom to trust, and you'll second-guess yourself with each new bit of knowledge. I can't wait to see how Tucker's story is going to end.
  • The audiobooks. I listened to the unabridged audiobook editions of Sylo (10 hr, 42 min) and Storm (12 hr, 12 min), both published by Penguin Audio and read by Andrew Bates. Bates does a great job amping up the tension and conveying the teens' full range of emotions. His reading has a touch of earnestness to it that took a little getting used to, but soon I found it difficult to stop listening and went right from book one directly to book two, something I don't often do. But seriously, I couldn't wait to find out what happened next.
In the following short video, author D. J. MacHale talks about the Sylo Chronicles and what they're about. Don't worry, there are no spoilers!

Published by Penguin Group USA / Razorbill, 2013 & 2014
ISBN-13:9781595146656 & 9781595146670
Source: Bought & review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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17 May 2014

Weekend Cooking: The Restaurateur (Film)

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 Restaurateur (documentary)Although some of you may have heard of Danny Meyer only recently as the brains behind the wildly popular Shake Shacks, he actually made his name in the fine dining arena, with restaurants such as the Union Square Cafe.

When looking around for a good food-related movie, I found the short (58 min) documentary The Restaurateur (directed by Roger M. Sherman), which follows the conception, building, and opening of two of Meyer's restaurants (Eleven Madison Park and Tabla) near Madison Square Park (in the Flatiron district) in New York City. The film won Best Documentary--Food at the Sonoma Film Festival, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

Here's the studio's summary:
A film about the grueling construction of not one but two world-class restaurants. We follow Danny Meyer, arguably the most successful restaurateur in America. Our cameras follow the creation of Eleven Madison Park and Tabla during the hellish eleven-month construction process. Meyer imparts his business and restaurant philosophy while trying to keep his cool. Jumping back to the future, 2009, we learn how the restaurants have evolved, EMP receiving a coveted four stars by The New York Times.
Although I can't say this was an exciting movie to watch, I interested in what it took to create a restaurant from the ground up. The documentary starts with Meyer walking through the gutted space of the 1929 Metropolitan Life Building on Madison Square, talking about his vision for the establishments he planned to open.

The film takes place in 1998 and focuses on how Meyer overcame building code restrictions, a lack of available staff, and a change in chefs and how the concepts of the restaurants came into fruition. I loved how he embraced the building's historical elements (protected by law) and how he had a eye for the littlest of details (such as the placement of each and every chair in the restaurant).

Besides discussing the concerns of the restaurants themselves, Meyer reflects on general good business practices, such as making sure the staff is comfortable and well trained and understanding the needs of the clients. I loved his philosophy of hiring and being a boss; for example, he wants to be surrounded by people he would welcome to his own dinner table and wants his staff to feel challenged and to be given the opportunity to grow. Make no mistake, Meyer is a businessman, but he understands the need to build loyalty and respect.

There is a lot to admire about Danny Meyer, who managed to remain fairly calm during the stresses of putting together the restaurants. The documentary aired on PBS in 2010 and is available from a number of streaming services. Set aside some time to learn about a man who seems to be equally at home founding elegant four-star restaurants and popularizing park-side burger joints.

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16 May 2014

Imprint Friday: What's Hot at Ecco

Imprint Friday: EccoWelcome to a special edition of Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint Ecco. Although my usual format for Imprint Friday is to introduce you to a single title, Ecco has so many great books coming out this season, I decided to highlight six titles I'm particularly excited about.

One reason I love the Ecco imprint is the great variety of genres they bring to press. The group I highlight here spans most of their range, meaning you're sure to find at least one book to call your own.

Probably Not Your Reality

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean GreerAndrew Sean Greer's The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, now available from Ecco in paperback, was an Indie Next pick for July 2013. Grieving the loss of her twin brother and the breakup of a long relationship, Greta Wells undergoes treatment for depression. One surprising result is the fracturing of her psyche into three different lives: the woman she thinks she is, a sexy 1918 bohemian, and a devoted World War II wife and mother. As Greta learns the pros and cons of each situation, she is left with the haunting question of what will happen if her treatment is successful: Who is the real Greta Wells? This novel explores depression, choices, homosexuality, social norms, and love.

The Bees by Laline PaullOut just this month, The Bees by Laline Paull imagines the ebb and flow of life in a regimented bee hive. Flora 717 was born a sanitation bee but manages to rise through the ranks from nursemaid to queen's attendant to forager. The journey is not easy, and Flora must fight not only the strict class system and social expectations but attacks from wasps and mice before she finally understands her true destiny. This novel will appeal to animal lovers, fans of books like Watership Down, and anyone looking for an entertaining read. Paull explores individuality, repressive societies, bravery, sisterhood, and fulfilling one's dreams. I favorably reviewed the audiobook edition (read by Orlagh Cassidy) for AudioFile magazine, so don't hesitate to listen.

It's a Man's World

Nothing Gold Can Stay by Ron RashTwo years ago, I couldn't say enough good things about Ron Rash's The Cove. I'm so pleased that Ecco is continuing to work with Rash, and I was happy to see that the paperback edition of his Nothing Gold Can Stay is now available. If you haven't yet read Rash, you won't go wrong starting with this short story collection. Most of the pieces share both their setting (Appalachia) and the exploration of violence or trouble, but the time frames range from contemporary back to the Civil War. The plots include misplanned get-rich-quick schemes, elopement, life on a chain gang, hunting, depression, racial issues, culture clashes, and war. Although the themes have a definite dark side (but some are funny), Rash's characters and descriptive prose are not to be missed.

The DiMaggios by Tom ClavinAs you know, I love biography, and I can't wait to sink my teeth into The DiMaggios by Tom Clavin. I got a hint of the personalities of two DiMaggios when I read The Kid because of their association with Ted Williams. Almost all of you will remember Joltin' Joe, but did you know that Dominic (the Little Professor) was an All-Star player for the Boston Red Sox and that Vince also made the All-Star team and played for the Pittsburgh Pirates? Clavin, a journalist, introduces us not only to the brothers' lives as ball players but also to their relationships within the family and with America as a whole. I love the period photographs and the fact that Clavin relied on as many firsthand sources as possible, including the DiMaggio family. You don't have to be a baseball fan to appreciate this examination of three talented brothers.

This and That

A Bintel Brief by Liana FinckDid you know that Ecco publishes graphic novels? I was fascinated with Liana Finck's A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York, a graphic novel about emigration, old New York, and the struggles of making a new life while having to leave loved ones behind. Finck drew on letters submitted to the advice column of The Forward, one of the world's leading Yiddish newspapers of the turn of the last century, to write a series of graphic short stories. She imagines that the ghost of the paper's editor has been awakened and begins to remember the letters. The topics cover a wide range of issues: love, parenting, life in America, faith, and stretching a dollar. This is a touching look at tenement life in the Lower East Side.

Visitation Street by Ivy PochodaVisitation Street by Ivy Pochoda, just out in paperback, is a Dennis Lehane book, an imprint of Ecco. This Brooklyn-set novel is high on my must-read list. The mystery focuses on the disappearance of a fifteen-year-old girl and eventually involves many members of the local, multi-ethnic community. Two girls take a nighttime raft trip into the bay but only one returns, washed up on the shore. I'm intrigued because reviews indicate that the story focuses more on the citizens of Red Hook than on the investigation, giving us a look at a neighborhood in transition as professionals and foodies set up household in the traditionally blue-collar town. The novel has earned several starred reviews and has been praised for its beautiful prose. This is at the top of my summer reading list.

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15 May 2014

Review and Giveaway: Mouseheart by Lisa Fiedler

Mouseheart by Lisa FiedlerUnder the streets of Brooklyn lies the vibrant kingdom of Atlantia, complete with a royal family and sword-wielding knights, and even guard cats. Above ground, Hopper and his siblings live in a pet shop under the care of the Keeper. When the store mice learn they are soon to be snake food, they succeed in pulling off a daring escape.

Unfortunately, timid Hopper gets separated from the others, ending up in the subway tunnels about to be squashed by a train. Saved by Prince Zucker, Hopper is introduced to glamorous life at court. But Hopper quickly learns that Atlantia may not be the utopia it claims to be. When he's captured by a group of rebel mice, known as the Mus, he sees a different face of the kingdom.

As a rebellion is about erupt, whom is Hopper to trust? Will he find his courage, meet his destiny, and stand up for what he believes is right?

from Mouseheart; copyright Vivienne ToMiddle grade readers (and adults!) will love Mouseheart, an exciting start to a new adventure series. Author Lisa Fielder has created a rich world with a deep history and great characters. Boys and girls alike will fall for Hopper, wanting him to discover his strength and do the right thing. Although a chapter book, the novel includes charming pencil drawings by Vivienne To, which bring the action to life. (Click the image to see it full size.)

For more about Mouseheart and to read an excerpt and see more drawings, visit the Simon & Schuster's website. A dedicated Mouseheart website, with bonus material, games, and more, will go live when the book is released on May 20. For even more news and to keep up with the adventure, be sure to follow SimonKIDS on Twitter and/or search for the tag #Mouseheart and like them on Facebook.

The Giveaway. Thanks to Simon & Schuster, I'm able to offer one of my readers with a U.S. mailing address a terrific three-book prize pack.The lucky winner will receive a copy of Mouseheart along with two other fun middle grade books: The Search for Wondla and Belly Up.

All you have to do win this awesome prize pack is to fill out the following form. I'll pick a winner via random number generator on May  23. After the winner has been confirmed, I'll delete all personal information from my computer. Good luck!

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14 May 2014

Wordless Wednesday 289

Lungwort, 2014

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12 May 2014

Review: You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz

You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff KorelitzI was reminded the other day of how much my reaction toward a book can be affected by the audiobook narrator. An outstanding performance can make me love a book I would have probably abandoned in print. Of course, the opposite is also true, and believe me, I've listed to some painful audios that simply ruined the story for me.

I'm not quite sure, but You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz may fit into the former category. I was totally captivated by the audiobook, but I wonder if I would have been as fully invested if I had read this one in print instead. Here are my thoughts about the book in general and then about the audiobook.

  • The general story: Couples therapist Grace Reinhart Sachs couldn't be more content. She has a successful New York practice; a talented, sweet son; a respected pediatric oncologist husband; and even a book deal. She loves the rhythms of her life in the city and considers herself one of the lucky ones. That is, until the day she learns something that changes her perceptions in unimaginable ways.
  • Plotting and Grace: Because there is quite a lot of foreshadowing in this book, I expected few surprises and thought I'd ultimately be disappointed. But once I understood that Korelitz hadn't intended her novel to be a mystery as much as an examination of how Grace reacts as her world crumbles around her, the book held more promise. Grace's self-perception and her relationships with friends, family, and even New York City change as her reality becomes clearer. Although I liked Grace right from the beginning, my sympathy for her grew steadily as she faced her altered circumstances.
  • Genre and themes: I want to call You Should Have Known a psychological thriller, but that's not really right. Perhaps a character study with a creepy side is a better description. Besides Grace's growth, Korelitz examines self-perception, friendship, marriage, motherhood, and parenting. She also makes us wonder how much we really know about the people we bring into our personal sphere and how we can judge who is telling the truth.
  • Factor in the audiobook: I'm sure Christina Delaine's excellent performance on the unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio; 16 hr, 32 min) colored my overall positive reaction to You Should Have Known. The story was taken to a higher level thanks to her expressive characterizations. Delaine perfectly captured the personalities and emotions of Grace and her family, and her vocalizations for everyone--male and female, young and old--were believable and really brought the story to life. This may be a case in which the narrator drew me in but I may have given up if I had read the novel in print. (My full audiobook review will be available through AudioFile magazine.)
  • Recommendations: If you approach Jean Hanff Korelitz's novel as a character study instead of a mystery, you'll likely be caught up in Grace's emotional journey as she learns to cope with painful truths. If you're so inclined, I suggest picking up the audiobook instead of reading the novel in print.
Published by Hachette Book Group / Grand Central Publishing, 2014
ISBN-13: 9781455599493
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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10 May 2014

Weekend Cooking: The Greek Yogurt Cookbook by Toby Amidor

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 Greek Yogurt Kitchen by Toby AmidorLike many of you, I almost always have a container of Greek yogurt in my refrigerator. I've been a fan for decades (back in the 1970s we made our own and called it dripped yogurt). Although I still make many of my own foods from scratch, I've long since simply added Greek yogurt to my weekly shopping list, happy that it's now so readily available.

When Toby Amidor discovered Greek yogurt eleven years ago, she became an immediate fan. Not only did she love the taste but the clinical dietitian in her loved the nutritional profile. As her writing career started to take off, it seemed only natural that she'd eventually write a cookbook focused on one of her favorite ingredients.

The Greek Yogurt Kitchen, out just this week in time for Mother's Day, is a collection of 133 kid-tested, family-friendly recipes that is sure to find a permanent place on your cookbook shelf. Through research and experimentation, Amidor found the perfect proportions for substituting Greek yogurt for part of the fatty ingredients found in recipes from baked goods to sauces and from salads to main dishes.

She also answers the question of why you would want to add Greek yogurt to your recipes. Compared to regular yogurt, common cheeses, oils, butter, and dairy products, Greek yogurt generally has less fat, less lactose, less sugar, fewer artificial ingredients, and more protein. At the same time, however, Amidor is interested in good flavor and thinks food should be as much about enjoyment as it is about health. Thus many of her recipes still call for a little heavy cream or soft cheeses. The Greek yogurt is used to lighten up dishes, not to take away from their deliciousness.

Besides the great range of baked goods (from breakfast scones to carrot cake), the recipes in The Greek Yogurt Kitchen include stuffed acorn squash, fish, sandwiches, and even pizzas. I made the turkey tacos shown here (photo was scanned from the book; it's not mine) and the spinach macaroni. Both dishes were flavorful, easy to make, and pretty on the plate.

As we head toward summer, I'm looking forward to trying the salads and cold soups and plan to make some of the dips for our evening drinks and snacks on the deck with friends. I am also drawn to these recipes because Amidor includes useful nutritional information with each one. Whether you're watching calories, protein, carbs, or sodium, you'll know exactly how much you're consuming with each serving.

The directions are clear and well written, and I predict that pretty much everyone will see success with these recipes. I love the prep and and cooking times, so I can tell at a glance if a recipe will fit into a busy day's schedule or if it's better for a holiday or weekend. In addition, I like the useful tips and hints that are scattered throughout the book. Some of these let you know if a recipe can be made ahead; others offer storage information, advice on techniques, and health data.

 Because I always have Greek yogurt in the house and because all the ingredients in The Greek Yogurt Cookbook are readily available, I know I'll use this book often. It's clear that Toby Amidor cooks for real people: Her recipes may be a little lower in fat than your grandmother's but they offer plenty of flavor and retain their appeal to even picky eaters. This is a cookbook you can use every day; your family and your friends are sure to ask for seconds.

Here's a quick dip that Amidor uses with raw veggies, but I think it'd make a great pita filling too, topped with a summer tomato, cucumber, and greens.

White Bean Dip
Prep time: 5 minutes; cook time: 0 minute
Serves 4
  • 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
 Place the beans, olive oil, yogurt, and salt in a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer the puree to a serving dish and sprinkle with the paprika. Serve immediately, or cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Published by Hachette Book Group, 2014 (May 6)
ISBN-13: 978145551200
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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08 May 2014

Review: Hidden by Loic Dauvillier, Marc Lizano, and Greg Salsedo

Hidden by Loie Dauvillier, Mare Lizano, & Greg SalsedoAlthough the official Holocaust Remembrance Day was April 27, we shouldn't need to mark our calendars to remember the millions of people killed in war, in concentration camps, and on the streets of Europe in 1930s and 1940s.

Last month, First Second published Hidden, the English-language version of Loic Dauvillier, Mare Lizano, and Greg Salsedo's moving story (originally written in French) about a young Jewish girl's experiences during the French Occupation.

Presented in the guise of a graphic novel and geared to early or middle grade readers, Hidden tells a personal story of confusion, fear, and loss but also of hope, kindness, and happy days, even in the midst of war.

Dounia Cohen, was in primary school when she was forced to wear the yellow star that her father told her would make her a sheriff. Although she is too young to understand everything, Dounia is quick to realize that her father didn't tell her the truth. She also soon learns how lucky she is to have adults around who are willing to help and protect her.

She tries not to cry when her parents are taken away in the night and knows not to argue when her name is changed to Simone and she is told to call a neighbor lady "mama." Secreted off to the countryside, where she learns to milk cows, go to mass, and play in the sunshine, "Simone"--and her new mother--survive the war in good shape.

After France is liberated and the war ends, the two return to Paris and begin the heartbreaking search for Dounia's parents.

Dauvillier, Lizano, and Salsedo do not lose track of their intended audience. The horrors of the war are seen through the eyes of the child, so, for example, the particulars of the concentration camps are not discussed. At the same time, the story is not sugar-coated or dumbed down for young readers. The authors clearly depict Dounia's humiliation and fear after the occupation and how much she misses her parents after she's been separated from them. She is also aware of the city around her and sees ugly graffiti on the street and witnesses some of the violence.

copyright Lizano, Dauvillier, Salsedo, Le LombardHidden also delivers on the message that we can all make a difference in other people's lives. We can open our hearts and homes to those in need, we can resist prejudices and corrupt governments, and we can find love and hope even in the darkest of times.

Beautifully illustrated with appropriately muted colors, Hidden is a wonderful place to start having discussions with your kids about important issues. If children are not too young to experience war and hate firsthand, they are also not too young to learn about it and to understand that they don't have to accept it.

Note: The scan is from page 42 (click to enlarge) and shows one of the more violent scenes, so you can have an idea of what to expect. Note too that Dounia is telling her story many years later to her little granddaughter, so young readers already know that she survived the war. All rights remain with the copyright holders.

Published by Roaring Brook Press / First Second, 2014
ISBN-13: 9781596438736
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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06 May 2014

Wordless Wednesday 288

Apple Tree, 2014

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Today's Read and Giveaway: A Cookbook Conspiracy by Kate Carlisle

A Cookbook Conspiracy by Kate CarlisleWhat if your sister asked you to repair a valuable antique for her ex-boyfriend, who was a total jerk? Would you do it? Brooklyn, professional bookbinder and book restorer, reluctantly agrees to repair the 250-year-old The Cookbook of Obedience Green so her sister Savannah can give it as a gift. Being invited to a fabulous restaurant opening gala might have had a little something to do with Brooklyn's decision.

I don't mind admitting I'm a little obsessed with food. A childhood spent competing with five brothers and sisters at the dinner table will do that to you. I grew up loving good food as much as I love old books, which is saying a lot since I'm a bookbinder and old books are my life's blood.
The Cookbook Conspiracy by Kate Carlisle (Penguin Random House / Obsidian, 2014, p. 1)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: San Francisco & Sonoma wine country; modern times
  • Circumstances: During the highly touted opening of his Mission District restaurant, Baxter Cromwell is found dead in his kitchen, Savannah is found holding a bloody knife, and the rare cookbook is nowhere to be found. Can Brooklyn clear her sister's name and track down the book before someone else is killed or Savannah goes to jail?
  • Characters: Brooklyn Wainwright, bookbinder and amateur sleuth; Brooklyn's sister Savannah, professional chef and restaurant owner; Brooklyn's live-in boyfriend, Derek, who works in security; Baxter, chef, Savannah's ex-boyfriend, victim; Derek's brother, Dalton, who likes solving puzzles; various chefs and restauranteurs; Brooklyn's family members and friends in the book world
  • Genre: Cozy mystery
  • All the good: I loved the great combination of books and food. Poor Brooklyn: she loves to eat but can barely boil water; it's fun to watch her try to learn to cook following Obedience Green's handwritten recipes. This book has a murder mystery and a puzzle associated with the missing rare book; I enjoyed trying to solve them and figuring out if they were connected. I also liked the food and wine descriptions; very tasty reading.
  • Who would like this book: food lovers; book lovers; mystery lovers; anyone looking for a good, light read
  • General thoughts: The Cookbook Conspiracy had everything a good cozy mystery should have: lots of suspects, a good puzzle, a plot with surprises, and a great main character
  • What you need to know: This is the seventh installment in the Bookbinder series, but it was my first introduction to Brooklyn Wainwright. Carlisle provided enough background so I didn't feel lost, but now I want to read the series from the beginning. Don't miss the recipes at the back of the book, they look good and are connected to the story. This book was published in hardcover last year.
The Giveaway

Thanks to the good people at Obsidian, I have one copy of The Cookbook Conspiracy to giveaway to one of my readers. All you have to do to enter for a chance to win is to have a U.S. mailing address and to fill out the following form. I'll pick a winner via random number generator on May 16. Once the winner has been confirmed, I'll delete all personal information from my computer. Good luck!

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05 May 2014

Review: Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine ProseFrancine Prose's latest novel, Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, takes us to the underbelly of the City of Light from the end of the Jazz Age to the end of the war. The story, loosely based on real people and real events, introduces us to an eccentric mix of individuals, whose lives intersect at the infamous bar.

The novel is told from several viewpoints, which are based on a variety of fictitious sources (newspaper articles, memoirs, a biography, and letters, for example). At the hub of the group is Gabor Tsenyi, a Hungarian photographer, who captures the seedy nightlife of Paris on film, and one of his most intriguing subjects, Lou Villars, a cross-dressing lesbian whose checkered history would make her a household name.

Lovers at the Chameleon Club is a complex novel with deep themes, made all the more interesting because so much of what Prose writes about really happened. For example, Gabor Tsenyi is based on the photographer Brassaï, whose photograph Lesbian Couple at Le Monocle inspired the title of the novel. Lou Villars's story parallels the real-life Violette Morris, who indeed transitioned from athlete to dancer to race-car driver to spy. American journalist Lionel Maine is supposed to be author Henry Miller, whose early novels were banned in the United States for being pornographic.

It's hard to describe what Lovers at the Chameleon Club is all about, but one of the primary threads is an examination of love (and betrayal) in all its guises. Not even Paris offered much understanding and safety for the LBGT community in the 1930s. For example, women could be arrested for wearing men's clothing, and upper-class gay men sought understanding or naive women, hoping their paper marriages would maintain their respectability.

Prose also writes about the irresistible draw of following your passion and grabbing at the chance to live life as your truest self, no matter the cost. Gabor sacrifices his relationship with his parents to pursue his vision in Paris. Lionel leaves his wife in the States to find a place where he can write in his own voice. And Lou does the unthinkable for the implied promise that she will be able to fulfill her dreams.

A third aspect of the novel that stands out is the rise of Hitler and the effects the occupation had on all the characters and on Lou in particular. Adversity makes people do surprising things, and it's not always easy to determine who will flee, who will resist, who will succumb, and who will survive. Although Lovers at the Chameleon Club is not a World War II novel per se, the war, of course, had long-lasting repercussions for everyone who lived through it.

One of the ways Lovers at the Chameleon Club rises above other such character studies is the way in which the story is told. Multiple viewpoints and multiple sources mean we experience events from different perspectives: what one character sees as loving, another may see as manipulative; what one person praises as being for the greater good of humanity, another despises for its repression. In addition, we're treated to accounts that were written at different times: Gabor's letters and Lionel's dispatches have an immediacy, but the memoirs and biography offer a more historic interpretation.

Don't be thrown off by the multiple layers and deep themes. Lovers at the Chameleon Club is beautifully written, easily accessible, and ultimately unforgettable.

A note on the audiobook: My full audiobook review of Lovers at the Chameleon Club (Harper Audio; 18 hr, 14 min) will soon be available from AudioFile magazine. In a nutshell, I am recommending that this book be read in print.

Published by HarperCollins / Harper, 2014
ISBN-13: 9780061713781
Source: Review (audio) (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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03 May 2014

Weekend Cooking: Delcious! by Ruth Reichl

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.

Delicious by Ruth ReichlI know I don't have to introduce you to Ruth Reichl. Even if you haven't read any of her memoirs (Not Becoming My Mother, for example) or her restaurant reviews (for both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times), you're likely to be familiar with her work as the last editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine.

I have always liked Reichl's style: I enjoyed all her memoirs and looked forward to every one of her editorials in Gourmet. When I heard she turned her hand to fiction, I was already predisposed to like it. I'm so glad I managed to find the time to read Delicious! I loved seeing the New York food scene through the young protagonist's eyes.
  • The general plot: Billie Breslin leaves college and her California birthplace to take a shot at being a food writer in New York. She is thrilled to land a job at Delicious! magazine, even if one of her major tasks is fielding the recipe hotline. When the magazine closes down, Billie's job is the only one to survive; after all, people are still cooking out of old issues and still have questions. When she and a colleague visit the magazine's long-abandoned library after the demise of Delicious!, they uncover a secret that involves a famous chef (James Beard!), a young girl, and World War II intelligence. Will they be able figure out the entire story before the building is sold?
  • What I liked: It was so much fun to read about Billie's adventures in the city and to meet the people she befriends: a cheese shop owner, a restaurant chef, a travel writer, the cooks in the test kitchen, and so on. I liked the mix of plot lines too. Besides figuring out the James Beard World War II mystery, Billie is coming into her own as an adult, gaining self-confidence and even finding a little romance. I rooted for Billie and smiled as she began to embrace her personal style.
  • For food lovers: My mouth watered at the descriptions of the foods: cheeses, cakes, succulent meats, wines, and pastas. When combing through the library at Delicious!, Billie comes across all kinds of fascinating advice for how to cook and eat during times of rationing; did you know that parts of milkweed are edible?
  • General thoughts: Reichl held her own as a novelist. She gave Delicious! a strong foundation in what she's familiar with: the food scene in New York and life after the death of a magazine. Sure, there were few surprises in the romance department. but the library mystery was little more difficult to figure out. The characters are well constructed, and I love any novel that makes me want to spend time in the kitchen. Think of Delicious! as a relaxing weekend read, and you won't be disappointed.
  • Audiobook: I listened to the unabridged audiobook edition (Random House Audio; 12 hr, 58 min), read by one of my favorite narrators, Julia Whelan. Whelan did a fine job keeping me fully engaged in the novel. Her voice was perfect for the twenty-something Billie, and although Whelan doesn't overly dramatize each individual character, I had no trouble figuring out who was doing the talking. Whelan's a little weaker on some of the accents, but I still recommend the audiobook for those who want to listen instead of read.
Published by Random House, 2014 (May 6)
ISBN-13: 9781400069620
Source: Review (print & audio) (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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01 May 2014

Review: This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko TamakiWhen I was growing up in the Midwest, instead of going to the beach in the summer, most of the families I knew went to a lake. Some families went for the entire summer, and others for just a couple of weeks. Whether on a small lake or a Great Lake, vacation in my part of the country involved some combination of swimming, sailing, fishing, and water skiing.

In This One Summer, a graphic novel by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, Rose Wallace and her parents arrive at the lake for their annual vacation. Awago Beach has always been a happy place, but this year Rose is growing up, and not even lazy days with her summer friend Windy can keep the adult world at bay.

  • The plot. Rose is on the brink between being a kid and being a teen, and everything is changing. Her parents aren't getting along, and Windy, who's a year younger, can be a little babyish. To make matters worse, Rose has a crush on the older boy who works at the local store, but she doesn't quite know how to approach him. Before the two weeks are up, Rose learns some hard lessons about boys, relationships, her mother, and what it means to be a woman.
  • What I loved. This One Summer is a coming-of-age story that's easy to relate to. Even though I haven't faced many of the issues confronting Rose, I remember what it was like to be an adolescent. That summer Rose dealt with much more than hormones. Her relationship with Windy was jeopardized because of their age difference, her mother always seemed to be sad and Rose didn't know why, and the real-world problems of the local teenagers were confusing and scary. Through words and drawings, Tamaki and Tamaki brought Rose to life, and my heart went out to the young teen.
  • Issues and themes. The story touches on growing up, friendship, women, mothers and daughters, children and motherhood, relationships, responsibility, depression, traditions, and family. Although This One Summer is a quick read and a graphic novel, it could easily be a book club selection for either teens or adults. There are a number of specific issues that could generate a good discussion, but I'll leave them for you to discover so I don't spoil the book.
  • The artwork. The black-and-white drawings range from as simple as the cover art to detailed scenes in the store, in the woods, or on the beach. The facial expressions and body movements convey much of the emotion, which helped solidify my connection to Rose. To see inside the book, visit Macmillan's website (note that the artwork looks blue on their site).
  • Bullet take. In This One Summer, Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki tapped the emotional vein of adolescence that still runs in all of us to create an enduring coming-of-age-story.
First Second, 2014
ISBN-13: 9781596437746
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

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