30 July 2016

Weekend Cooking: Homemade or Store Bought?

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. 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.

The other day I was talking to a friend about needing to put together a wholesale food order (something my neighbors and I do a few times a year) because I was running out of oatmeal. "Oatmeal?" she asked. "Why not get it at the grocery store?"

I explained that I buy it in large quantities because I make all our granola. She was surprised but then understood. That conversation got me thinking about the food items I always make, sometimes make, and never make. Oh and those things I used to make and no longer do.

I'm curious if my lists look anything like yours. Let me know. If you want recipes for anything, just ask and I'll incorporate them into future Weekend Cooking posts.

Always (or at Least Almost Always)
  • Salad dressing
  • Granola
  • Pasta sauce (basic red sauce)
  • Roast chicken
  • Pesto
  • Guacamole
  • Tapenade
More Often Than Not
  • Bread
  • Beans
  • Crackers
  • Chicken broth/stock
  • Ricotta
  • Ice Cream
  • Salsa
Used to but Not Now
  • Yogurt
  • Jams / jellies
  • Sprouts
  • Pie crust (the bane of my kitchen existence)
  • Tortillas
  • Pizza sauce
  • Mayonnaise

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29 July 2016

Reading on Topic: New Fantasy / Speculative Fiction

5 fantasy / speculative books to read in 2016Why is it that summer is the time for escape reading? Perhaps it's the heat or the pleasure of an afternoon relaxing poolside that requires lighter books with engaging characters and story lines. Whatever the reason, I am currently on a fantasy kick for my downtime reading.

Today I'm featuring five books in my current to-read stack. I've limited the list by three criteria: published in 2016, first in a series or standalone, and I own a print copy. Have you read any of them? Which one should I start with?

Dragons . . .

5 fantasy / speculative books to read in 2016
  • The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan is the first installment in a fantasy / alternate history (Europe) series that involves spies, politics, pirates, dragons, and adventure. Some reviewers have also mentioned a strong steampunk bent to the novel. I'm on the fence because I've seen the book compared to the Eragon series, which I was only meh about, but The Waking Fire has dragons and pirates and strong female characters, so I need to give it a try. (Ace Books, July)
  • The Summer Dragon by Todd Lockwood is first in an epic fantasy trilogy starring a young female dragon breeder. The story includes a classic battle of good versus evil, myths, imaginative creatures, and good action. Reviewers mention the intense emotional impact of the book and the realistic, smart main character. Lockwood's beautiful black-and-white illustrations bring his fantasy world alive. (Daw, May)
. . . And Other Worlds

5 fantasy / speculative books to read in 2016
  • Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan is the first in a new epic fantasy series that is set in the same universe as the author's Riyria Chronicles, although in a different time period and with new characters. The fantasy world contains several familiar creatures (elves, talking trees) and involves a struggle between two realms, one populated by the powerful bad guys and the other by the down-trodden good guys. Despite the expected plot elements, reviewers have generally given this book two thumbs up. (Del Rey, June)
  • The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye is an alternate history / fantasy story set in Imperial Russia and involving a competition to the death between two contenders for the court's head magician. The story is told from different points of view and is based on a solid historical foundation sparked with magical details. Reviewers mention the nicely complex plot, unique take on magicians, and the terrific character development. Although the prospect of a love triangle is a bit off-putting, I'm interested in this promising story. I can't tell if the novel is the first in a series or a standalone. (Balzer + Brray, May)
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill is a middle grade (with adult cross-over) standalone fantasy with fairy tale elements. I love so much about the premise of this book: a misunderstood forest-dwelling witch makes a mistake and infuses a baby with magic. To protect the child, the witch raises her as her own. As the girl grows up and into her great power, we begin to wonder who is protecting whom from the outside world and the true evil one. I've read nothing but praise for this imaginative and beautifully written coming-of-age story. (Algonquin Books for Young Readers, August)

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27 July 2016

Wordless Wednesday 404

Wildflower, 2016

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26 July 2016

Today's Read: The Singles Game by Lauren Weisberger

The Singles Game by Lauren WeisbergerHow far would you go to make it to the top of your sport? Charlie Silver was ranked 23rd before an injury at Wimbledon sidelined her. Is she willing to put her entire life in the hands of a famous coach, in the hopes of upping her world standings?

It wasn't every day a middle-aged woman wearing a neat bun and a purple polyester suit directed you to lift your skirt. The woman's voice was clipped. British proper. All business.

After glancing at her coach, Marcy, Charlie lifted the edges of her pleated white skirt and waited.
The Singles Game by Lauren Weisberger (Simon & Schuster, 2016, p. 1)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: contemporary times; various places, on and off the tennis court
  • Circumstances: After recovering from an injury, Charlie Silver is determined to hit the women's single tennis circuit with all she's got and with the help of her new coach, Todd, known for his tough stance on training. Will diets, makeovers, high-profile PR, and court time take Charlie to the top of competitive tennis or to the depths of personal despair?
  • Genre: contemporary general fiction; summer escape reading; pre-Olympics read
  • Themes: finding out what's important in life; inside look at competitive/elite tennis
  • Characters: Charlotte (Charlie) Silver, professional tennis player; Marcy, her friend and original coach; Todd, her new coach; Marco, her love interest; various other people in Charlie's personal and professional life
  • Why I want to read it: I like to watch tennis, and between this month's Wimbledon tournament and the up-coming summer Olympics, I'm in the mood to pick up a novel set in the tennis world. The Singles Game looks like a fun way to learn more about the sport. Reviewers have commented on the good pacing, believable characters, fun romance, and interesting details about tennis.
  • Something to know: Author Weisberger also wrote The Devil Wears Prada

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25 July 2016

6 Books to Read This Summer (the 24in48 Edition)

This past weekend was the 24in48 Readathon (try to devote 24 hours to reading over the course of two days). I didn't track my reading stats, but I think I read about 8 hours a day over the weekend. I'm still (and ever) in the middle a few books, but here's what I finished.

6 Books to Read this SummerDave Goulson studies bees for a living--he's a biologist--and has a fascination with the natural world, from the smallest bugs to the largest mammals. In his second book, A Buzz in the Meadow, he invites us to the French countryside where he and his family have restored a rundown farm with the goal of providing a rich environment to a variety of plants wildlife. I love his intimate, conversational style and enjoyed seeing the farm from his point of view. More important, I liked learning about how easy it is to become a steward, protecting the often-forgotten species of insects and plants that inhabit our planet. (Picador, May 2016--paperback edition)

6 Books to Read this SummerFaith Erin Hicks's Nameless City is the first in a new graphic novel / comics series that stars an unlikely couple: a well-off young boy who has been sent to the city to become a warrior, although his true love is books, and a homeless girl who knows how to negotiate the city and who is tough, smart, and resourceful. The story has a medieval Asian feel and involves politics, class differences, and the winds of war. The story hints at a deep past and a changing future and sets the stage for the rest of the series.The artwork is engaging, and its earthy colors resonate with me. You can easily get a feel for the action and the facial expressions are clear, and full of emotion. (First Second, April 2016)

6 Books to Read this SummerI've been curious about Mona Awad's 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl not only because it won several awards but also because it received glowing praise from readers and bloggers. Perhaps I simply wasn't in the mood, but I had only a so-so reaction. There are certainly some emotionally intense and painful moments in the book as Elizabeth matures from teen to adult and struggles with her self-image and her relationships--with her mother, other women/girls, men/boys, store clerks, and others. In the end, though, I wanted something more, although I couldn't tell you what the more might be. It's a quick read and may resonate more deeply with you than it did with me. (Penguin Books, February 2016)

6 Books to Read this SummerAs many of you know, I love books in verse, so Sharon Creech's Moo was on my list. The story follows a young family that decides on a whim to move to Maine and start over when the parents lose their jobs after the big-city (New York?) newspaper they work for downsizes. The contrasts between city and country life are exemplified in how Reena and her little brother adjust to the freedom of being able to roam around outside without an adult. After their parents volunteer them to help an elderly woman take care of her cow, the siblings learn the less romantic side of rural living. Zora the cow has a mind of her own! I laughed out loud and I shed a few tears and I absolutely loved this book. ((HaperCollins, August 2016; Middle Grade)

6 Books to Read this SummerOver the weekend I decided to read a short story or two in between the bigger books and picked Bonnie Jo Campbell's Mothers, Tell Your Daughters to do the job. I haven't finished the collection, but the stories I've read so far are emotionally strong and revolve around women in tough situations and tough relationships: marriage, sex, family, jobs, abuse, death. I might not be like many of the women I read about but I could easily connect to their issues and choices (or lack thereof). Of course, I liked some pieces more than others, but can recommend the collection for those of you who like to read short stories. My approach, as I noted, is to read only one or two pieces at a time; I'll finish the book over the next day or so. (Norton, October 2015)

6 Books to Read this SummerOne of my most anticipated books of the summer was Jacqueline Woodson's Another Brooklyn, and I was not disappointed. This amazing novel starts in contemporary times and with a funeral but quickly takes us back to the 1970s and focuses on a Southern, motherless black family who relocated to Brooklyn. Woodson captures the time period--the changing neighborhood, the drugs, the violence, the few choices, the difficulties of being young and black and female and poor.  Female friendships, death, family, choices, trust, religion . . . this slip of a book gave me so much to think about. I am a bit older than August, the protagonist, but I remember the era. Despite the immense differences between August's life and mine, we still share the universal experiences of being female in America. (Amistad, August 2016)

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23 July 2016

Weekend Cooking: 4 Good Summer Recipes

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. 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.

Even though it has not gotten cooler, not even by a little bit, I'm back to cooking. All the great produce at the farmers markets are calling to me and I can't resist. Besides, we went camping last weekend, and after few days of eating all kinds of good, but not so good for you foods, I was ready to reset our diet.

Here are a few of the recipes that were hits this week. I took the cake camping, but the other dishes were served with or as dinner. All come from either online sources or from magazines (which I get through that magazine app Texture, which I've talked about before). Rather than type out the recipes here, I've pinned them all to my Tried and Like board on Pinterest, that way you (and I) can find them when you're ready to give them a try.

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cake: Every year the people we camp with count on me to bring a breakfast or snack cake. I pretty much always make an apple cake. But this year I had a zucchini I wanted to use up before we left, so I checked out the King Arthur Flour site. I made two of these dead-easy (and no-dairy) cakes, which remained moist and good for the whole weekend. Despite the chocolate, they were eaten at breakfast and throughout the day. I read the reviews of the recipe and decided to listen to the people who suggested cutting the amount of chocolate chips in half. I'm glad I did because the cake really didn't need more. I will be making this one again and again.

Tomato Gratin with Sweet Onion and Balsamic Vinegar: The tomatoes are just coming into season here in central Pennsylvania and I had a craving for a baked dish. I thought about making the slow-roasted toms from What Katie Ate but then saw this recipe on Pinterest, which I think is from Weight Watchers. I had everything in the house so I went with it. It was delicious hot served alongside grilled salmon and tasted good cold for lunch the next day. The recipe calls for either parsley or basil, and I used the basil.

Corn-and-Zucchini Orzo Salad with Goat Cheese: Hey, it's zucchini weather! Summer squash is plentiful and inexpensive right now, so, yeah, I bought some more. This Food & Wine recipe was delicious, and served as as our main dish for dinner during the week. The recipe says you are to freeze the goat cheese and then shave it, but I forgot to pop the cheese into the freezer, so I just crumbled it up and mixed it into the salad. This was supposed to be fast and easy. It was easy. It didn't take a ton of time, but it did take both of us and was a bit much on weeknight. Mr. BFR took care of grilling the veggies and I did the rest. I'd make this again on weekend, but it was too fussy for after work.

California Salad with Hard-Boiled Eggs: I found this one over at the Food Network site. I wanted a cold dinner that required very little prep and this fit the bill. I followed the directions pretty closely, but I added a red bell pepper and a poblano pepper to the salad . . . just because. We had this last night, so I can't tell you if it held up for lunch today, but I have high hopes. This was pretty and perfect for a hot summer evening.

In case you're curious, tonight's dinner will be Gingered Vegetable Curry and Sunday's is Sloppy Joes with Honey and Spice "Pickles." Both came from my magazine app. If the dishes are keepers and I can find the recipes online, I'll add them to my Pinterest board next week. I plan to make both of these in my pressure cooker, so I don't heat up the kitchen too much. The curry will be served over brown rice and I have fresh garden beans to go with with the sandwiches.

Note on the photos: the cake photo is my own, but the others come from the recipe sources.

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22 July 2016

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: Odds & Ends

A personal note: Life has taken a crazy turn, and it seems as if I haven't had a free weekend for months on end. Not that anything bad is going on, we've traveled, we've camped, we've had holidays, we've socialized. I'm ready for a few days of just relaxing at home.

That isn't likely to happen until next weekend, but at least I have something to look forward too.

Last weekend was our annual camping trip with good friends. I loved getting a chance to catch up on gossip, congratulate new parents (and grandparents!), celebrate up-coming weddings, and enjoy being in the great outdoors.

Although not a lot of reading took place I spotted a handful of books: The City of Mirrors, Voyager (Diana Gabaldon), The Boys in the Boat, Woman in Cabin Ten, 11/22/63, and Flags of Our Father. I'm sure there were many more books, but I didn't notice . . . the beer and wine and good food and good people held my attention.

Listening and reading: I'm currently listening to The Bourbon Kings by J. R. Ward. It's a little soap-opera-y, but the audio is a good match for my current mood. It's a family saga that takes place in Kentucky: whisky, horses, and a whole lot of money. When I finish that one, I'll be back to listening to books for freelance reviews. I'm (as always) in the middle of a handful of print books, but The Hike by Drew Magary is at the top of my list. I started it Wednesday night and hope to have finished it by the time you read this. It's so weird -- but I mean that in a good way. A guy goes for a short hike in the woods and strange things happen. I'm not sure how this is all going to end up, but I have to find out!

Coming up: I've fallen behind with my reviews but plan to catch up with a series of quick takes, so look for those next week. I also have some themed lists in the works and a look at books you won't want to miss. As for the  weekend, I'll be working Saturday and Sunday mornings, but I do plan to participate in the 24in48 readathon as much as I can. It's not too late to sign up (I jumped in at 5pm last night!) and you don't need a blog to join in the fun. Click the link and check it out.

What are you reading (or listening to)? Anything I must add to my list?

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20 July 2016

Wordless Wednesday 403

Clouds at Dusk, 2016

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19 July 2016

Today's Read: Paradime by Alan Glynn

Paradime by Alan GlynnSay you're down on your luck, your relationship is crumbling, and you're suffering from PTSD thanks to your military service. What woud you do if you met your doppelganger, who just happens to be one of the rich and famous?

There's no app for this.

Though I seem to have one for nearly everything else. I can track my movements over the course of a day, every footstep, every heartbeat. I can monitor my stress levels, boost productivity, enhance cognition.

But relieve anxiety? Eliminate dread? Not a chance.
Paradime by Alan Glynn (Picador, 2016, p. 3)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: New York City; in the near future (?)
  • Circumstances: Danny Lynch has returned home from Afghanistan, traumatized by what he's seen. While working as a prep cook in a Manhattan restaurant, he notices Teddy Trager, who looks enough like Danny to be his twin. As Danny becomes obsessed with the other man, he begins to take on his mannerisms, eventually fooling people into believing he's Teddy. Can an ordinary guy pass for a world-famous technology genus? 
  • Genre: reviewers have called this novel everything from dark comedy to conspiracy theory, futuristic Gothic, and psychological thriller
  • Characters: Danny Lynch, a veteran with PTSD; Kate, his girlfriend; Teddy Trager, a billionaire techy; and (according to reviews) a handful of real people.
  • Why I might read it: A review in Publishers Weekly mentioned that the novel was a take on The Prince and the Pauper, but I'm under the impression that only one of the men is actually playing the game. From the Kirkus review, I'm expecting a fast-paced story with a few twists. Something about the premise has grabbed my attention, although I'm still on the fence.

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18 July 2016

3 Recommended Books Set in Imaginative Worlds

I've been doing a lot of reading and listening this summer, but not much review writing. Here are three books I can recommend.

3 Books Set in Imagitive WorldsThe Crimson Skew by S. E. Grove: I've written about the Mapmakers Trilogy before (The Glass Sentence, The Golden Specific), and I still have nothing but praise for the incredibly original world Grove created in her alternate history universe. About 200 years ago, the chronology of Earth shattered, resulting in a planet in which different regions exist in different time periods: from the prehistoric Ice Age to the faraway future. Our heroes are from 1890s Boston, and their adventures take them on dangerous journeys through other ages, as they pursue personal missions and get caught up in global politics. I love the imaginative beings, the flawed and sympathetic main characters, and the unique way maps are created and used. The Crimson Skew satisfactorily closes the trilogy but (yay!) leaves the door open for additional installments. The audiobook is from Listening Library (13 hr, 15 min) and is beautifully read by Cassandra Campbell. The print version was released last week from Viking Books for Young Readers.

3 Books Set in Imagitive WorldsMonstress by Marjorie Lu: I've gotten away from comics series lately, but when I saw the cover art of this collected volume of Monstress issues, I jumped in with both feet. This is an alternate history universe, set in Asia, with a mix of medieval and steampunk technology (may sound odd, but it works perfectly). The plot involves an ongoing clash between two species or cultures. As I said on Litsy, the comic features bad-ass women, an intriguing world, great art, and good action. I love the characters and the story line and the way the past doesn't quite stay in the past. The artwork by Sana Takeda is stunning, with a wonderful earthy color palate. Despite some violent scenes, there is a strong sense of humor running throughout. I'm not yet sure whom our hero, Maika, should trust, but I love her strength and loyalty both to an absent childhood friend and to two companions she's picked up on her travels. This is from Image Comics and will be released tomorrow. Don't miss it.

3 Books Set in Imagitive WorldsFeed by Mira Grant: Yes it took me six years and some prodding from friends to finally get around to reading this first book in the Newsflesh series. Feed is a dystopian novel set in the very near future. The world's population has been depleted after being infected by a virus that turns its hosts into flesh-eating zombies. Wait! Don't turn away yet, this is more than a walking dead story. It explores the shape of the Internet, news, and politics in the years to come. The main characters are a brother-sister blogging team who have been given exclusive coverage of a presidential hopeful's campaign. Double-dealings, good action, and some unpredictable twists make this an absorbing read. I loved the amazing details of the surprisingly believable world, from the weapons to the everyday concessions people undergo to ensure their safety from the zombies. Published in 2010 from Orbit. The audiobook (Hachette Audio; 15 hr, 10 min) was read by Paula Christensen and Jesse Bernstein, who keep the action pumping and the emotions high.

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16 July 2016

Weekend Cooking: The Irish Pub (Documentary)

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. 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.

The Irish Pub: Documentary Film Review
July: When it's too hot to cook in an un-air-conditioned house. That's me right now.

After a week of salads and grilling, I don't have any recipes or cookbooks to share today, but I did watch a delightful documentary from Alex Fegan called The Irish Pub. Ahhh to have a cold pint with good friends and let the conversation turn to something innocuous like the weather.

In The Irish Pub, we travel around Ireland meeting pub owners and their customers and visiting the ubiquitous community gathering place. I loved this look at Ireland, and I learned quite a bit too.

For example, do you know what a snug is? Were you aware that many pubs owners are multifuncitonal, serving up pints as well as acting as undertakers and grocers? Do you know what makes a good pint?

The Irish Pub: Documentary Film ReviewAlthough some pubs started to modernize in the 1960s, many traditional family-owned businesses stayed the same, and their patrons are thankful. The Irish Pub makes it clear that the village pub is one of the most important links in connecting a community and is a place where young and old can meet to discuss whatever is on their minds. Some pubs are the keepers of local history; others foster local music and musicians. All offer friendship and support.

Oh how I wish I lived in a community with a local hangout. Instead my town has a transient nature, and we lack a pub, where "everybody knows your name." Most Irish towns and cities, however, still harbor traditional establishments, many of which have stayed in the same family for generations.

Pour yourself a Guinness and download The Irish Pub from your favorite streaming service. It's a wonderful and charming look at one of Ireland's long-standing traditions. (Note: you might want to put on closed captioning if you're not used to an Irish brogue.)

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14 July 2016

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: 2 Apps for Book Lovers

2 Apps for Book LoversSince my last Stacked-Up Book Thoughts I've been playing around with ways to keep track of my entire to-be-read book collection. I have explored several options, but I still haven't found the ideal solution.

My main wishes are the following: I want to see the publisher's summary when I click on the book title. I want to be able to add my own tags. I want to be able to sort by tags, publishing month/year, and medium as well as by the usual (genre, title, author). I want to know the medium of the book at a quick glance. I want a cross-platform app.

Although LibraryThing and GoodReads both allow some of these things, neither gives me everything on my wish list. I'm especially annoyed that I have to click to different screens to see the publisher's summary--I want to see what the book is about while I'm browsing my collection.

I explored two other apps in depth, and here are my thoughts.

Collectorz Book Collector: I bought the pro edition of this collector database to keep track of my audiobooks back in the days before I started blogging. I liked how easy it was to add books, customize the fields, and write up my thoughts and reactions to the book.

I stopped using Collectorz when I began to record my reading life here on Beth Fish Reads. Recently I decided to update my Collectorz software and see if I could use it to consolidate my audiobooks, print books, and eBooks. The answer is yes and no.

2 Apps for Book LoversThe Good

  • The program is still easy to use and visually pleasing (click through to the site for screen shots)
  • The cloud syncing is cross-platform so my PC laptop and iOs mobile devices work together.
  • When I click on a book title, I can see all the information I want.
  • I love the dedicated icons that tell me at a glance whether the book is audio, eBook, hardcover, or paperback (see the scan of my trial collection; click to enlarge)
  • I can customize fields, add my own tags, and sort in a number of ways.
The Bad
  • When I first bought Collectorz, it used a variety of databases, such as Library of Congress, Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, and World Cat. Now it uses only its own database. This means pretty much none of my books will scan in accurately.
  • Yes, you can manually add information, but really?
  • When a book cover doesn't download automatically the built-in search is just a Google images search. Jeez.
  • If you want to catalog more than 100 books you have to pay for the program. If you want to use both a desktop/web and a mobile app, you have to pay for the mobile app separately. It can be costly.
Bottom Line: Collectorz Book Collector is not worth the cost or the hassle to add books. If the book isn't already in their database, you have to enter all information by hand. Even if the book is in their database, the information is only what someone else bothered to type in, and there is no guarantee of accuracy. I can't recommend Collectorz for book lovers at this time.

Libib: I recently discovered Libib, which is available free for Web and mobile devices and is cross-platform. I haven't had a lot of time to play with this app, but here are my first impressions.

2 Apps for Book LoversThe Good
  • The free version allows you to enter up to 100,000 books.
  • Libib has a clean, streamlined look.
  • The app accurately recognizes books based on ISBN and provides publishing data plus book covers.
  • I had no problem adding books that haven't yet been published.
  • I can see the publisher's summary as soon as I click on the book title (click through to the site to see screen shots; the shot here is from my phone).
  • The mobile and web versions sync quickly.
  • I can add my own tags to books, which I can use to indicate medium, among other things.
The Bad
  • Libib doesn't automatically record month of publication, which is important to me. Of course, I can add that by hand as a tag.
  • There is no immediately visible icon to indicate medium, though I can tag books by medium. But see next item:
  • You can sort books by tags on the Web, but I didn't see how to do that on the mobile app.
  • If you care about this kind of thing, the "purchase" icon goes to Amazon, and I didn't see choices for IndieBound.
  • The paid version of Libib promises "expanded searching" and more editing options. Note, however, that the app isn't a pay once and you own it, it's a monthly or yearly subscription, which is one of my pet peeves.
Bottom Line: So far Libib has the most potential of giving me my wish list. I can make my library private, which means I am spared yet another social media site to maintain. I can also import collections if they are in a csv file, which is nice, although I'd have to manually add tags for print and eBook (sigh). For the moment, I'm recommending Libib as being worthy of investigation.

If you have iOS everything, you might want to look at Book Crawler. It isn't cross-platform, so I didn't give it a whirl. It's gotten decent reviews.

I would love to have all my wish list items in one easy-to-use database so I can merge my entire TBR/TBL list. Libib might be a good-enough answer for now, and I'm considering trying it out for all new acquisitions starting August 1. If I find any other decent programs/apps, I'll let you know.

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13 July 2016

Wordless Wednesday 402

Greenhouse, 2016

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12 July 2016

Today's Read & Giveaway: Baby Doll by Hollie Overton

Review: Baby Doll by Hollie OvertonSuppose you were kidnapped at age sixteen and held captive for eight years in a dark basement. Then one day your prayers are answered, and you can escape, taking your six-year-old daughter with you. What would you find in the outside world and how would ever feel safe again?

A dead bolt has a very specific sound. Lily was an expert at recognizing certain sounds—the creak of the floorboards signaling his arrival, the mice scurrying across the concrete in search of food. But Lily always braced herself for the sound of the dead bolt, listening as metal scraped against metal. The lock was beginning to rust, so it always took him several tries. But inevitably, she would hear the click, the sound that meant they were trapped for another week, another month, another year. But tonight, she heard nothing. Only deafening silence. Hours passed, and she couldn’t stop thinking about the lock.
Baby Doll by Hollie Overton (Redhook Books, 2016, p. 1)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: Crested Glen (not yet sure of the state), modern times
  • Circumstances: Lily escapes her abductor only to discover she was held captive for eight years a mere five miles from her family home. Although finally free, nothing is how Lily imagined it would be. The world and people she remembers have changed, and her daughter is scared and confused. Will Lily's abductor remain behind bars? Can she ever find peace and hope to live any kind of normal life?
  • Genre: psychological study
  • Characters: Lily, who was kidnapped and escaped; Abby, Lily's twin sister; Rick, the abductor (we meet him almost immediately); Eve, Lily's mom; Sky, Lily's daughter; other people from Lily's past; the police
  • What I like so far: Here's my best recommendation at this point—I picked up the book intending to read only a little bit to get a feel for it, and I was on page 40 before I knew it. So far, it's not as much of a thriller as it is an examination of coping in the aftermath of the kidnapping. I plan to keep reading. Also, the story is told from different viewpoints, which I almost always enjoy. My initial impression is that it's going to be a quick read.
  • Learn more: To read an excerpt and to learn more about Hollie Overton, visit her website, like her on Facebook, and/or follow her on Twitter. To learn more about the novel, which will be on bookstore shelves today, follow #BabyDollBook on your social media. To buy the book from an independent book store, visit IndieBound.
The Giveaway
Thanks to the nice people at Redhook Books, I can offer one of my readers a copy of Hollie Hoverton's Baby Doll. All you need to do to be entered for a chance to win is to fill out the following form and have a USA mailing address. I'll pick a winner via a random number generator on July 21. Once the winner has been confirmed, I'll delete all personal information from my computer. Good luck!

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11 July 2016

6 Books for Nature Lovers: Reading on Topic

This year has been a good one for nature-loving readers. A number of excellent books have come to my attention, among them the following recommended titles, which I present in no particular order. What 2016 books would you add to this list?

6 Books for Nature Lovers
  • On Trails by Robert Moor: An experienced backpacker ponders the nature of foot travel and the evolution of established trails from animal traces to named byways. This worldwide exploration promises to be fascinating. Opening line: "Once, years ago, I left home looking for a grand adventure and spend five months staring at mud." (Simon & Schuster, July)
  • Vitamin N by Richard Louv: Although this book is geared to getting your kids outside, it offeres great advice and encouragement to anyone who wants to reap the many benefits of spending time in nature. Louv provides a range of suggestions for all kinds of would-be adventurers. Opening line: "Is nature time absolutely necessary for a healthy, happy, fulfilling life?" (Algonquin, April)
  • And Soon I heard a Roaring Wind by Bill Streever: You can't see it, but you can feel it and sometimes you can see the results of its power. Using his own sailing experiences as a foundation, Streever studies wind through the lenses of history and science. Opening line: "Aboard the sailing yacht Rocinante, the north wind shrieks through the rigging." (Little, Brown, July)
6 Books for Nature Lovers
  • Sixty Degrees North by Malachy Tallack: This is a gorgeously written series of essays about the author's journey around the world at the 60-degree latitude line, which crosses his Shetland home. Recommended for those of us who love the northern climes, the outdoor life, anthropology, and history. Opening line: "I can remember the day: silver skied and heavy with rain." (Pegasus, July)
  • The Wander Society by Keri Smith: A fun guide to enhancing your ability to wander and observe. As useful to urban dwellers as it to wilderness adventurers. Opening line: "About two years ago, I was browsing in a favorite dusty old bookshop, one that I frequent when I am in need of a random book find." (Penguin, March)
  • Under the Stars by Dan White: Most kids and many adults love going camping, and this has been the case in the United States throughout its history. Mixing personal experience with a historical and sociocultural perspective, White explores the camping movement from the nineteenth-century Transcendentalists to today's RV'ing. Opening line: "I love camping." (Henry Holt, June)

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09 July 2016

Weekend Cooking: The Vegetable Butcher by Cara Mangini

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. 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.

Review: The Vegetable Butcher by Cara ManginiOne of the best kitchen resources I've come across in a while is Cara Mangini's The Vegetable Butcher. This A to Z guide to buying, storing, prepping, and cooking vegetables will give you confidence in the store, at the farmers' market, and in the kitchen. It may also encourage you to try vegetables you've never eaten or cooked before.

Because the book is published by Workman, you know it will be a pleasure to use. The Vegetable Butcher is filled with gorgeous photographs, useful icons, and well-edited recipes. This is a book I am unconditionally recommending to everyone, from experienced cooks to beginners.

Each chapter of the book offers a comprehensive guide to a different vegetable (or vegetable family). Clear photos and easy-to-understand text illustrate exactly how to prepare, trim, and cut the veggie. In addition, you'll learn when and how to buy it, how to store it, and how to cook it. Mangini answers all the vegetable questions you've been afraid to ask, such as
  • Do I need to peel eggplant?
  • Can I eat the carrot leaves?
  • How can I reduce the sliminess of okra?
  • What do I do with crosnes (and what the heck are they anyway)?
The range of vegetables covered are all the common ones, of course, plus some that might be new to you, like scorzonera, and some that you may have been mystified by, like sunchokes. There is also a section on buying and using fresh herbs as well as information about tools and pantry items. See the scan (click to enlarge), which shows the opening page of the cauliflower chapter, to get an idea of what to expect in The Vegetable Butcher.

The recipes require a range of skills, from very simple techniques like sauteing and grilling to making pizza, pot pies, vegetable steaks, soups and stews, and savory crepes. What's more, Mangini hasn't forgotten your sweet tooth, and you'll find desserts such as muffins, cakes, and crumbles. All the recipes are vegetarian (at least I don't remember seeing any meat) and many are also vegan.

I particularly like the two levels of recipes found in The Vegetable Butcher. Naturally, you'll find detailed recipes with step-by-step directions, but you'll also find short recipes that are written in a more conversational manner. These informal recipes are meant to bridge the gap between offering a simple basic cooking method and providing a specific recipe. As you build up confidence in the kitchen (or if you're already there), these latter recipes will serve as springboards to creativity and personalizing your dishes.

I've marked a number of recipes to try, including sweet potato tacos, zucchini olive oil cake, marinated peppers, Swiss chard crostata, shredded Brussels sprouts with Manchego cheese, and Turkish potato salad. I'm also making a promise to myself to learn all about buying and using some of the vegetables I generally bypass at the market, like cardoons and sunchokes.

As I said at the top of this post, I am recommending Cara Mangini's The Vegetable Butcher to all cooks, no matter what your skill level. This is a great resource for people who want to explore new vegetables, learn new techniques, eat more healthful foods, and add more vegetarian meals to their rotation. I will be turning to this book over and over again. For more on Magini and some recipes, visit her website.

Note: All photos are from the book and are used in the context of a review. All rights remain with the original copyright holder(s).

Published by Workman, 2016
ISBN-13: 9780761180524
Source: review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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07 July 2016

Sound Recommendations: 4 Audiobooks for Summer Listening

review: Sweetbitter by Stephanie DanlerSweetbitter by Stephanie Danler: This novel is a frank and sometimes graphic look at the life of a woman backwaiter in an upscale Manhattan restaurant. I loved this book, which earns its authenticity from the author's own work experiences in New York. Alex McKenna's performance was brilliant, picking up on the lead character's complex personality and the loss of her Midwestern naivete after being immersed in the tough restaurant culture. (Random House Audio; 12 hr, 24 min)

review: Everybody's Fool by Richard RussoEverybody's Fool by Richard Russo: I'm stealing part of this brief review from my Litsy post: Author Richard Russo + narrator Mark Bramhall = marriage made in auidobook heaven. I loved revisiting North Bath, New York, and seeing how Sully and friends were getting on. Russo's spot-on humor and amazing ability to draw us into his characters' stories makes him one of my favorite authors. Bramhall's work on this novel is not to be missed. (Random House Audio; 18 hr, 52 min)

Review: Raven King by Maggie StiefvaterRaven King by Maggie Stiefvater: Thank God Will Patton was able to return to narrate the final installment in the Raven Cycle series. I can't imagine anyone could do a better job on these books. As for the book itself . . . sob that we're saying good-bye to Blue, Gansey, and the rest, but put me in the camp of loving this series and this conclusion. Stiefvater pulled at our emotions as we rooted for the relationships among the friends and the future of their dream worlds. (Scholastic Audio; 11 hr, 51 min)

Review: The Girl in the Well Is Me by Karen RiversThe Girl in the Well Is Me by Karen Rivers: This is a contemporary story of what happens to an eleven-year-old girl after she falls down a well and must count on the class mean girls to go for help. I loved Kammie's thoughts and the ultimate positive messages of the book. Narrator Michele O. Medlin is fantastic. Her voice was believably youthful and so engaging that I couldn't stop listening. This would make a great family listen for a road trip. (Recorded Books; 4 hr, 30 min)

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06 July 2016

Wordless Wednesday 401

Pale Coneflower, 2016

This looks better if you click the image to enlarge it. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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05 July 2016

Today's Read & Giveaway: Toasting Up Trouble by Linda Wiken

What would you do if you were accused of a murder you didn't commit? If you were a character in a cozy mystery, you'd turn to your friends and a cute PI, just like J.J. Tanner did:

"You know, it doesn't count if you eat a truffle on Friday. Calorie-wise, that is. Especially if it's the first Friday of the month."

J.J. Tanner grinned at her friend and colleague, Skye Drake, then popped the chili dark chocolate truffle into her mouth. She closed her eyes as she chewed and finished it off with a long sigh. "What about eating two truffles?"
Toasting Up Trouble by Linda Wiken (Berkley Books, 2016, p. 1)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: Vermont, modern times
  • Circumstances: Event planner Jennifer (J.J.) Tanner is heard arguing with a snooty chef over the bill and their contract in the wee hours while J.J. was cleaning up after a successful party for a rich client. The next morning, she's taken to the police station, accused of murder. As J.J. works to prove her innocence—helped by a cute private detective—some of her friends are marked as potential suspects. Meanwhile, J.J.'s organizing events for other clients as well as hosting a meal for her Culinary Capers dinner club. Will she manage to get everything done, find the real killer, and not become a victim herself?
  • Genre: cozy culinary mystery; first in a new series
  • Characters: J.J., accountant turned event planner; Skye, her friend and new boss, Ness, her ex-policeman neighbor; Ty Devine, a private investigator; her friends and fellow members of the dinner club; various clients, townsfolk, and police officers
  • What I liked: Fun culinary cozy with good characters who have each other's back. I enjoyed getting to know the people in J.J.'s life, and I loved all the food references. There is a lot of setup in this book because it's the first in a series, but the plot moved along well. The murder mystery itself was complex while still being light, and I liked the tie-in to the local Italian community. I also liked the hint at a possible relationship for J.J. in future installments in the series.
  • Recommendation: Perfect for beach reading, though you might end up being a little hungry by the time you finish. Fortunately, Wiken includes a few recipes at the end of the book, so you can head to the kitchen and make your own Italian dinner. Toasting Up Trouble is a promising start to the new Dinner Club mystery series and a good choice for cozy fans who like to cook.
The Giveaway

Thanks to the nice people at Berkley Prime Crime, I can offer one of my readers a copy of Linda Wiken's Toasting Up Trouble. All you need to do to be entered for a chance to win is to fill out the following form and have a USA mailing address. I'll pick a winner via a random number generator on July 15. Once the winner has been confirmed, I'll delete all personal information from my computer. Good luck!

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04 July 2016

Reading in under an Hour: 5 Picks from around the Web

5 articles to read at lunchtimeIt's a holiday weekend in North America! Canada Day was Friday and U.S. Independence Day is today. I sure hope everyone is celebrating in whatever way makes them happy.

It's been a really long time since I posted some of the short pieces I've read during my lunch hour or while taking a quick break from work. Sometimes I include magazine articles and short stories, but today's Reading in under an Hour focuses on articles I found across the Internet.


Personal Productivity:
8 Habits of Incredibly Interesting People (found on Entrepreneur Media)
This list is spot-on and earned a page in Bullet Journal.

Cultural Quirks:
Right for Men, Left for Women (found on Motherboard)
Ever wondered why we have gendered buttoning? I did.

The Brain:
The Enormous Power of the Unconscious Brain (found on the BBC)
That moment when I was in awe of a ten-year-old. Be sure to watch the videos.

Cool Career:
Interview with a Modern-Day Independent Mapmaker (found on the Atlantic)
Crap, why didn't I think of this 30 years ago? (I actually love my job, though.)

Something I Already Knew:
This Is What Happened to My Brain When I Spent More Time in Nature (found on Fast Company)
I'm pretty outdoorsy so, there weren't many surprises for me, but if you need incentive, here it is.

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02 July 2016

Weekend Cooking: Ingredienti by Marcella Hazan

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. 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.

Review: Ingredienti by Marcella HazanI've noticed several new A to Z-type cooking references being published this year, and two in particular caught my eye. Today's Weekend Cooking is all about Marcella Hazan's Ingredienti. I'll talk about the second one next week.

Even if you haven't heard of Hazan before, I bet you've heard of her famous, simple pasta sauce. It's the one that incorporates butter. If you click on the link, you'll be taken to the New York Times site and the recipe for the deceptively simple three-ingredient sauce (see the photo from the NYT).

Anyway, I've always liked Hazan's down-to-earth approach to cooking the everyday food of her native Italy. When she died in 2013, I was sorry that we had lost her voice. Thus it was a true treat to discover that in the last years of her life, she had written Ingredienti, a guide to buying and using her favorite ingredients.

The heart of the book: Ingredienti is divided into four main parts--fruits and vegetables, pantry items, and pork--and ends with a guide to online sites if you want to mail order any of the ingredients you can't find at local markets. Note that the book does not include any recipes per se, but Hazan does provide cooking tips and describes the ways she incorporated the ingredients into her cooking.

Review: Ingredienti by Marcella HazanThe first section is a guide for buying, prepping, and storing Hazan's favorite fruits and vegetables. We learn, for example, that there are two common types of garlic and the difference between them. She talks about how she likes to prepare cauliflower, the best way to grill eggplant, how to choose a bell pepper, and so on.

Then Hazan turns to pantry items. Here, she talks about pasta, oils, vinegars, and herbs, including brand names and when to splurge on the best and when to save money. I learned a few surprising things in this section, such as which herbs are actually better to use dried instead of fresh.

The final section of Ingredienti focuses on pork, especially the famous Italian hams. I can't help but wonder if she had planned red meat, poultry, and fish chapters as well.

Not all facts: The text is filled with Hazan's personal stories. I love how her enthusiasm for cooking and eating really shines through. She talks about the food she ate when she first got married in the 1950s and foods she ate in grandmother's kitchen when she was a child. We also learn about how she adapted her ingredients when she and her husband moved to America. Ingredienti also covers some of the difference between U.S. and Italian tastes. The book is a true delight to read and is almost as much memoir as it a useful reference.

Two things to know:
  • Ingredienti was never meant to be comprehensive. It's a celebration of the foods Hazan loved and relied on and has a distinct Italian bias.
  • The book is filled with fantastic information and cooking ideas but you need to keep in mind that there are no actual recipes.
Recommendation: I loved Marcella Hazan's Ingredienti and am happy to give the book some shelf space (or, in my case, eBook space). Fans will enjoy the essays and having one last visit with the lovely Hazan. On the other hand, I totally understand that for many of you Ingredienti would be a library pick. In either case, I'm recommending Ingredienti as an informative kitchen guide and a quasi-memoir from a beloved cookbook writer.

Published by Scribner, 2016
ISBN-13: 9781451627367
Source: review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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