30 September 2017

Weekend Cooking: Hot Mulled Cider

Hot mulled ciderI live in apple country and am lucky to be able to buy apples from family-owned fruit farms, pick wild apples, and gather apples from friends' and neighbors' yards.

We eat apples out of hand, turn them into applesauce, add them to savory dishes, and (of course) bake them up into sweet desserts. Another fall treat is fresh, locally produced apple cider.

Yes, you can drink cold cider right out of the bottle, but on a cool night sitting by the fire or after a fall hike in the woods, there's nothing so warming and comforting as hot spiced cider. Sometimes we even spike it with a little rum. Yay for October, sweater weather, and warm adult beverages.

Here's the recipe I use, which was based on one I found at the Pioneer Woman site, which in turn was adapted from a recipe on AllRecipes.

Hot Mulled Cider
8 cups

  • Hot mulled cider4 whole cinnamon sticks
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 12 whole allspice berries
  • Peel from one orange (orange part only)
  • Peel from one lemon (yellow part only)
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 8 cups (1/2 gallon) apple cider
  • Rum to taste (optional)
Place all ingredients, except the rum, in a large saucepan and bring just to the boil over medium-high heat. Ladle through a strainer into mugs. Add rum to taste, if desired.

Strain the remaining cider and refrigerate the leftovers for about a week. Reheat on the stove top or in the microwave.

NOTE: Mr. Linky sometimes is mean and will give you an error message. He's usually wrong and your link went through just fine the first time. Grrrr.
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.

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29 September 2017

Review & Giveaway: The Wizard of Lies (HBO Movie & Book)

On December 11, 2008, at the end of an already disastrous financial year, investment icon Bernie Madoff was arrested for fraud and for what would turn out to be the largest Ponzi scheme ever exposed. Not only did Madoff bilk his savvy investors but he also bankrupted his family, charities, companies, and thousands of people's retirement funds and legacies.

In 2011, financial journalist Diana B. Henriques published her well-received book The Wizard of Lies, which tells Madoff's story and how his crimes undermined the country's trust in our financial system and devastated the lives of his victims. Henriques, an experienced investigator, combined research with interviews to uncover not only Madoff the master criminal but also Madoff the man.

What emerges is a mixed picture of a convicted criminal who appears to have little to no remorse.

The 2017 HBO original movie The Wizard of Lies (directed by Barry Levinson) is based on Henriques's book and stars Rovert De Niro as Bernie Madoff and Michelle Pfeiffer as his wife, Ruth. The Madoffs' sons, Andrew and Mark, were played by Nathan Darrow and Alessandro Nivola, respectively. I was able to watch the Blu-Ray edition of the movie thanks to HBO's publicists.

I have two primary takeaways from the film production. First, the acting is outstanding. De Niro and Pfeiffer are riveting; they are believable, look comfortable in their parts, and have a great chemistry. Darrow and Nivola add a layer of emotion--anger, sadness, disbelief--to the movie, drawing viewers in.

Second, I was left with a disturbing and creepy feeling of seeing Madoff in two lights. He is absolutely a horrible man who seemed not to care about the people he scammed. What's more, he made no effort to clear the names of his sons, wife, and brother, and as far as I could tell, he made no sincere apologies to his clients and friends.

The Wizard of Lies also shows the charming side of Bernie Madoff, which I'm sure he used to dupe so many people out of so many billions of dollars. When I saw what happened to his children and his wife, I started to feel sorry for him. Very tricky how De Niro's acting and the work of screenwriters Sam Levinson, John Burnham Schwartz, and Samuel Baum were able to create a thin veil of sympathy before I remembered how many lives were destroyed by the Ponzi scheme, and I got a hold of my senses.

Note that The Wizard of Lies is not about the investment world, it's about Bernie Madoff and focuses primarily on his arrest, his family, and the aftermath of the scandal. Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro are a joy to watch as their lives and future unspool before their eyes.

The Blu-Ray / DVD edition of The Wizard of Lies will be released on October 3 and includes a key for watching via digital download. Take a look at the trailer:

The Giveaway Thanks to the nice HBO publicists I'm able to offer one of my readers a copy of the Blu-Ray/Digital HD edition of HBO's The Wizard of Lies and a copy of Diana B. Henriques's book (movie tie-in edition). All you have to do to be entered for a chance to win is to have a USA mailing address and to fill out the following form. I'll pick a winner via a random number generator on October 12. Once the winner has been confirmed and his or her address is passed along to the publicist, who will mail out the disk and book, I'll erase all personal information from my computer. Good luck.

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27 September 2017

Wordless Wednesday 465

Fall flowers, 2017

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26 September 2017

Today's Read: Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

All about Genuine Fraud by E. LockhartWhat would you do if you were a scrappy, poor orphan who was mistaken for a rich orphan who had all the resources in the world? For Jule, there's no question about taking advantage of her good luck. The question you should probably be asking is this: Was it good luck or manipulation that gave Jule a taste of the good life?

Chapter 18
Begin here

It was a bloody great hotel.

The minibar in Jule's room stocked potato chips and four different chocolate bars. The bathtub had bubble jets. There was an endless supply of fat towels and liquid gardenia soap. In the lobby, an elderly gentleman played Gershwin on a grand piano at four each afternoon. You could get hot clay skin treatments, if you didn't mind strangers touching you. Jule's skin smelled like chlorine all day.

The Playa Grande Resort in Baja had white curtains, white tile, white carpets, and explosions of lush white flowers. The staff members were nurselike in their white cotton garments. Jule had been alone at the hotel for nearly four weeks now. She was eighteen years old.
Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart (Delacorte Press, 2017, p. 1)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: modern times, United States, the UK, Mexico
  • Circumstances: Two orphans, two very different lives, one friendship. Jule, willing to do what it takes to escape her lowly background and hide her insecurities, becomes a master of disguises and accents. Imogene, an heiress, is taking time off from college, supposedly living carefree on a journey of self-discovery. Who are these women and whose is telling the truth?
  • Genre: thriller
  • What makes this novel different: The novel starts with the final chapter, and the story, which takes place across the globe and over about a year, is told in reverse. The plot is, in fact, unraveled rather than knitted. Jule's and Immie's lives are twisted and tangled together, and it's difficult to tell which young woman is in control.
  • Reviews: Genuine Fraud has earned several starred reviews. Kirkus says: "This thriller . . . will challenge preconceptions about identity and keep readers guessing." Publisher's Weekly notes that the novel "will keep readers on their toes, never entirely sure of what these girls are responsible for or capable of." School Library Journal recommends the book "for teens and adults who love twisty mysteries, stories about class conflict, and tough-as-nails teen girls"
  • Why I want to read it: I'm intrigued by a thriller that is told in reverse and I've read nothing but praise for the book. I hope to read it this week.
  • Extras: Author E. Lockhart talked to B&N about some of her favorite books starring difficult women and to Bookish about antiheroes and action movies.

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25 September 2017

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: Fall Book and Television Recommendations

Fall Book and Television RecommendationsWhat a crazy week. I thought for sure we were beginning to ease on into fall but those cool nights now seem like only a dream. We're back to record highs, though the leaves have started to show some color and the birds are fattening up for their migration south.

Just a couple of heads-up on movies. Last week I reviewed Loving Vincent, a gorgeous movie you must add to your list. Later this week I'm reviewing The Wizard of Lies (starring Robert De Niro) complete with a giveaway (USA mailing address only) of the DVD/digital download plus movie-tie in paperback. (Thanks HBO!)

What I Read Last Week

Review: The Summer before the War by Helen SimonsonThe Summer before the War by Helen Simonson (Random House Audio; 15 hr, 47 min): In the months leading up to World War I, the village of Rye hires its first female Latin teacher, takes in Belgium refugees, contends with local gossip, and fosters budding romances. Full of charm and great characters, The Summer before the War captures the waning innocence of Britain's privileged gentry and the waxing opportunities of its unwashed masses. I loved the characters and the bittersweet choices the young adults make while weighing their personal desires against cultural expectations. The plot is realistic enough to keep the novel from being sappy, and humor helps mitigate the tougher issues. I can clearly see why many reviewers compare the novel to Downton Abbey, because they cover similar issues and time periods. Narrator Fiona Hardingham's lively performance is engaging, setting the perfect emotional atmosphere for Simonson's novel. Although her male characterizations are less distinct than her female voices, I never felt lost. Recommended in print or audio. (I also recommend Simonson's Major Pettigrew's Last Stand.) Review copy provided by the publisher.

Review: Caroline by Sarah MillerCaroline by Sarah Miller (William Morrow): If you're a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan than you must read Miller's new novel, which tells some of the Little House story from Ma's perspective. I recognized many of the episodes from the original story and loved how the meaning and significance shifted as we move from a little girl's viewpoint to that of an educated woman who not only has her own opinions but must must weigh her reactions against her roles as wife and mother. I've read quite a few diaries and other firsthand accounts of what it was like for women pioneers, and Miller presents these issues realistically without taking away from the magic of the Little House series. In an insightful author's note, Miller discusses how and why she strays from Wilder's novels. The unabridged audiobook (Harper Audio; 13 hr, 35 min) was read by Elizabeth Marvel. Her performance was solid with good pacing and consistent characterizations. Pa's fiddle music was one of the Ingalls family's joys, and it was lovely to hear Marvel sing the hymns and other songs that kept Caroline grounded in times of trouble. I alternated reading and listening to Caroline and can recommend both media. I bought the hardback, but the audiobook was provided by the publisher.

Review: The Child Finder by Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder by Rene Denfeld (Harper): The premise of Denfeld's mixed-genre novel is that a survivor of a child abduction grows up to become an expert in finding other lost children. Part thriller, part mystery, and part fairy tale retelling ("The Snow Child"), the novel explores Naomi's strategies as she agrees to take on the case of Madison Culver, who disappeared in the snowy Oregon woods three years earlier, when she was only 5 years old. Although law enforcement believes the girl died of exposure within days of wandering off, Naomi is undeterred because she sees her job as tracking down the child, dead or alive. Interwoven into the investigation, we learn Naomi's backstory and hear from Madison herself. The novel pulls you in gently, as you piece together the different plot lines and get to know the people involved. As with her The Enchanted, Denfeld doesn't hesitate to reveal what can and does happen to children in the bad, bad world. Although some of the subject matter may be disturbing, The Child Finder should have a place on your reading list. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Review: Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie SpenceDear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence (Flatiron): The subtitle to Spence's book is it's best description: "A Librarian's Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life." Written with sharp wit and intelligence, the dozens of letters included in this collection are fun to read. I like the way Spence's reactions to The Time Traveler's Wife changed on a reread. I loved her impassioned letter to Misery (including the use of her name for the main character). I laughed at her start and stop and start reading of The Hobbit (she finished because she was supposed to be buddy reading with her nephew). The second part of the book consists of several short essays that focus on what it means to be a reader. I loved "I'd Rather Be Reading," which provides a series of excuses you can use to turn down social invitations when all you want to do is stay home and read. Among the other pieces are annotated lists, such as "Blind Date: Good Books with Bad Covers" and "Readin' Nerdy: Books About Librarians." Although I didn't read every one of Spence's letters, I enjoyed my time with her. I recommend borrowing Dear Fahrenheit 451  from the library, although it would make a great gift or stocking stuffer.

What's on Television?

We started HBO's new series The Deuce. I'm reserving judgment and will give the show a couple more episodes. I know it's been getting decent reviews, but so far it's not clicking with me. Set in the 1970s in Times Square, the show follows twin brothers who become involved in the very lucrative porn business. It is supposed to be based on true stories, although not every event is real.

I can't remember which of my Twitter friends told me about Mozart in the Jungle but I am so grateful. It's been really difficult not to simply binge watch all available seasons in one sitting. The show explores the behind-the-scenes world of the New York Symphony, including musicians, musician wannabes, administrators, fund-raising, conductors, drugs, sex, and more. I was quickly invested in the characters and love the music too.

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23 September 2017

Weekend Cooking: 3 Recipes, 3 Books: Food for Body & Soul

3 recipes, 3 books: food for body and soulHappy fall! I say that, though I think the temperatures were in the upper 80s when I was writing this. In fact, it was too hot for a evening outdoor fire.

Despite the warm weather, I've noticed the change at the farmers' markets. Apples and winter squash are kings, and I think I bought the last of the season's tomatoes. On the other hand, I'm ready for soups and stews, and I've already made pulled pork (in the slow cooker).

This week's post is a little of this and little of that, which seems to suit my present mood. (Okay, okay, I admit I was too lazy to write a formal post.)

What I Cooked Last Week

I don't know why but September has been filled with all kinds of appointments, from doctors and dentists to the car mechanic and hairdresser. As a consequence, we're off our usual schedule. Regardless I still put dinner on the table every night. (Oh, and can I say yay for leftovers?)

  • Nachos I made ground beef nachos, more or less following Cooking Light's Sheet Pan Beefy Nachos recipe. Here's what I changed: I did not make the cheese sauce; instead I simply topped the dish with store-bought pregrated Mexican cheese mix. I used undiluted full-fat sour cream instead of the yogurt and included chopped avocado as one of the toppings.
  • Lasagna I tried a vegetarian skillet lasagna recipe I had cut out of a magazine a few years ago. I've wanted to try this variation on a classic because the finished dish simmers for only about 20 minutes on the stove before you slip the skillet under the broiler to brown the top. The dish tasted fine (it's lasagna!), but I won't be making it again. We found it difficult to serve (we ended up just spooning it onto our plates), and we missed the crusty top and developed flavors of a traditional lasagna that has been baked in the oven.
  • 3 recipes, 3 books: food for body and soulTomato soup I bought a ton of Roma tomatoes at the market, and thus I was inspired to make this Garden Fresh Tomato Soup recipe from All Recipes. As always, I made a few changes: I added a chopped jalapeno and 2 garlic cloves. I left out the whole cloves (the spice) and the sugar and used an immersion blender to smooth out the soup. I skimmed off some of the tomato skins but didn't bother to strain the soup. I added a nice sprinkling of chopped basil as well. This was delicious, and I plan to try it again with tomatoes from my freezer or even canned.
  • Grilled cheese What's tomato soup without a grilled cheese sandwich? I went the extra mile and made this Croque-Monsieur recipe from Bon Appetit (see photo, which is from their site). I followed the recipe, substituting Black Forest ham for the Paris ham called for. OMG this is so good. Every time I make it, I wonder why I don't make it all the time. We heat up the leftover sandwiches (in the toaster oven) the next day for lunch. Yum!
3 Foodie Books on My List

3 recipes, 3 books: food for body and soul
  • Simple Fare: Fall/Winter (Abrams, Sept. 19) by Karen Modechai is one of the books I received as part of the Abrams Dinner Party. I haven't had much time to explore it yet, but now that fall has officially started, this cookbook will find its way into my kitchen. The recipes look like they take everyday ingredients to new levels: The charred purple cabbage with tahini would be the perfect go-with for a roasted chicken. I'll report back when I've had time to read through the book. (The scan is from the book: daal over rice. Isn't it gorgeous?)
  • 3 recipes, 3 books: food for body and soulIn Coming to My Senses (Clarkson Potter, Sept. 5), chef Alice Waters shares the sometimes rocky journey that took her from a fairly conventional childhood to innovative restaurant owner before she was 30. Waters talks about life in Berkeley in the turbulent 60s; her experiences in France when she was still a college student; her brief stint as a teacher; and her myriad relationships with friends, lovers, family, and the famous. I'm looking forward to learning more about the woman who helped changed the face of American cuisine.
  • In The Comfort Food Diaries (Atria, Sept. 26), freelance food writer Emily Nunn talks about how becoming a cook helped her overcome a patch of personal losses and setbacks and come to grips with her difficult childhood. Nunn talks frankly about her downward spiral after her bother's suicide and how friends, rehab, and time in the kitchen provide a path to healing and peace. Publisher's Weekly called the memoir "gorgeous and moving," and I'm looking forward to getting to know Nunn. Recipes are included.
NOTE: Mr. Linky sometimes is mean and will give you an error message. He's usually wrong and your link went through just fine the first time. Grrrr.
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.

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22 September 2017

Review: Loving Vincent (Movie)

Review: Loving Vincent (movie)After viewing only 30 seconds of the trailer for Loving Vincent (written and directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman), I knew I had to see this unique and wonderful film.

The entire 94-minute movie (65,000 frames) was hand painted by a team of more than a hundred artists, who mimicked Vincent van Gogh's style and brushwork and relied on the famous artist's color palette and existing paintings.

Most people remember van Gogh as an early modern painter who cut off his ear. Some may have learned that the artist died at the age of 37 from suicide. The story of van Gogh is much more complicated than those two sentences imply, and the circumstances of his death have remained shrouded in mystery.

Directors/writers Kobiela and Welchman focus on the last months of van Gogh's life and shed light on just how the painter ended up with a bullet wound to his abdomen.

The characters and settings in the movie are all subjects of van Gogh's paintings, which were brought to life by a combination of live action, animation, and oil paintings. The story takes place a year after the artist's death, when Armand Roulin (played by Douglas Booth) is asked to deliver an unsent letter Vincent wrote to his brother Theo. Armand's journey takes him to Paris and then to the village of Auvers-sur-Oise, where Vincent lived during the last weeks of his life. The more Armand talks to the people who knew Vincent, the more he sympathizes with the painter and the more he questions the nature of van Gogh's death.

Review: Loving Vincent (movie)

Loving Vincent (produced by BreakThru Films & Trademark Films) is absolutely stunningly gorgeous. I could barely take my eyes off the screen as the colors and brushstrokes shimmered and changed with the action. When the people Armand meets begin to tell him stories of van Gogh's past, the paintings turn to black and white and look almost like pencil or charcoal drawings. While watching the film, you feel as if you were inside van Gogh's paintings, transported to a different world. The actors were carefully picked not only for their talent but also for their resemblance to the real people whom van Gogh painted, increasing the sense of authenticity.

The movie took eight years to create. Every frame in Loving Vincent was hand painted, and over the course of the film, 125 Vincent van Gogh paintings are featured, in full or in part. The black and white sequences are all original artwork, and they blend in well with the van Gogh oils. The story itself is teased out from the painter's letters and other contemporary accounts of his life and death.

Review: Loving Vincent (movie)

The principal cast includes Douglas Booth (Jupiter Ascending), Eleanor Tomlinson and Aidan Turner (both were in Poldark), John Sessions (Gangs of New York), and Jerome Flynn (Game of Thrones), all of whom do an amazing job. Loving Vincent opens tonight in New York and then in Los Angeles on the 29th, and finally across the country. The theater dates for the United States are available at the Loving Vincent website. The movie has already won awards and accolades across the globe.

Loving Vincent stands in a class by itself. Do not miss this film, which breaks new ground in concept and technique and is utterly beautiful to watch. You'll also learn a lot about Vincent van Gogh the man. (Thanks to the publicists for access to the digital screener.)

Below you'll find the trailer and a short film telling you more about the making of Loving Vincent.

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20 September 2017

Wordless Wednesday 464

Morning Glory, 2017

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18 September 2017

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: 2 Great Audiobooks and a Book in Print

2 Great Audiobooks, 1 Good BookThe joys of getting a new computer spilled over in other improvements. I now have a second monitor (swoon, why did I wait so long to do this?) and new computer speakers. I think that's going to be it on acquisitions for the office for a while.

In other news, we're starting to feel the hints of fall, with cooler weather and some changing leaves. The garden is winding down as well, though I'm keeping the annuals on the deck well watered, so they should last until the first frost. We took advantage of the beautiful Saturday afternoon to hike at a local nature preserve.

As I write this, we're looking forward to watching Ken Burns's newest PBS series on the Vietnam War, which premiered last night. I hope it's as good as the behind-the-scenes video.

What I Read Last Week

Review: A Column of Fire by Ken FollettA Column of Fire by Ken Follett (Viking, Sept. 12). If you like really well written and well researched historical fiction with characters you can fall in love in with, then you really need to read Ken Follett's Kingsbridge series. The first two books were set primarily in England in the 1100s and the 1300s, respectively, and this installment takes us to Elizabethan times, where we see how the town and cathedral have fared over the centuries. Follett seems to know his history, and I love the details of daily life. The intertwining of local families through love and hate, cooperation and competition plus the seesaw of Protestant, Catholic, Protestant trends (including the violence of the St. Bartholomew massacre and the failed Gunpowder Plot) drive the many-layered novel. From Bloody Mary through James I, English family fortunes and prospects hinged on the monarch's religion and level of tolerance, often influenced by the politics of Europe. If you're an audiobook fan, then you must spend 30+ hours with John Lee (Penguin Random House Audio). His consistent accents, solid characterizations, and impeccable sense of timing bring the book alive. I fully recommend this book in whatever medium you pick. (review copy provided by the publisher)

Review: Click'd by Tamara Ireland StoneClick'd by Tamara Ireland Stone (Disney-Hyperion, Sept. 5). This contemporary middle grade novel is about a young girl who attends a summer educational camp, where she develops a friendship app while perfecting her coding skills. Impressed with Allie's creativity and initial success, the judges of a teen coding competition invite her to enter the contest. While preparing for the competition, Allie decides to test her app during the first week of middle school by encouraging her classmates to download the game, which promises to find each player ten perfectly matched friends. The app takes off like wildfire, until a damaging flaw threatens to reveal private photos from participants' phones. Can Allie fix the code before she's barred from the contest and loses her best buddies? I enjoyed getting to know Allie and found the lessons she learned about friendship, asking for help, and facing setbacks to be nicely presented. The geeky girls were well-rounded: they were smart and capable but still giggled about their early teen crushes. I'm not quite sure the technological details of the app are realistic, but I still wanted to see if Allie was able to set things back on track. Middle grade readers will like this book more than adults. (review copy provided by the publisher)

Review: The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay MooreThe Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore (Knopf Books for Young Readers, Sept. 19). I don't claim to be any expert in what it's like to live in Harlem, but Moore's debut novel for older middle grade and young adult readers left me with a deeper understanding. At just 12 years old, Lolly has already experienced a lot of life's harshest realities: his older brother was killed as a result of gang violence; his parents are divorced; he's afraid to walk along certain streets, even in his own neighborhood; and he and his mother live in the projects, complete with broken elevator, urine-scented stairways, and unexplained power outages. The story begins at Christmas, just six weeks after Lolly's brother's murder, and follows the boy as he comes to terms with his grief and makes choices that will either pull him deep into gang life or offer him a way out of the projects. The characters speak in dialect, and the level of help (or not) that Lolly receives seems to be realistic. My heart went out to him, and I hoped the young boy would find a safe path. Other themes are friendship, creativity, LGBTQ, learning disabilities, and coming of age. This is a powerful story with wide appeal across the generations. Moore, who spent some time in Harlem as an adult, writes with authority and frankness. The audiobook (Listening Library; 6 hr, 19 min) was brilliantly read by Nile Bullock. His youthful voice and respectful rendition of Harlem dialect pull the listener into the story, and the emotional impact of his performance makes this a must-hear audiobook. (review copy provided by the publisher)

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16 September 2017

Weekend Cooking: The Science of Cooking by Stuart Farrimond

Review: The Science of Cooking by Stuart FarrimondI don't just like to cook and bake, I like knowing the hows and whys of creating successful dishes. I've owned and read a few books that delve into the mysteries of culinary chemistry over the years, but none was as fun and accessible as Dr. Stuart Farrimond's The Science of Cooking: Every Question Answered to Perfect Your Cooking (thanks to the publicist for a review copy).

The book is published by DK (out on September 19), so you know it's going to be a joy to read, with fantastic photos and great graphics. The Science of Cooking consists of page after page of cool kitchen stuff (note my sophisticated language). I can't get enough of this book.

One of Farrimond's goals was to separate cooking lore and culinary folk beliefs from the actual science of cooking by answering 160 kitchen questions and explaining everything from how many times it's safe to reheat rice to the physics behind various cooking methods. You might think the information would be dry and scholarly, but you would be wrong. Check out the following spread, which tells us all about steaming:

Review: The Science of Cooking by Stuart Farrimond

Besides cooking techniques, The Science of Cooking includes "myth buster" features, which reveal the truth behind common kitchen wisdom, such as never opening the oven door when baking a cake (in some cases it's okay). The "in focus" features concentrate on a specific ingredient, like eggs, four, and chocolate. Other sections explain things you've always wondered about--for example, why saffron is expensive (see scan; click to enlarge), the difference between wild salmon and farm-raised salmon, and how to get the most flavor out of your spices. (Proper storage plays a big role.)

Review: The Science of Cooking by Stuart FarrimondThe Science of Cooking covers how to buy kitchen equipment and ingredients, why different techniques work, what happens when you whip eggs, how to make the perfect rice, why gluten-free bread doesn't rise as high as wheat bread, and how to tell if your steak is ready to come off the grill.

This is the kind of book you'll want to flip through a little at a time. Curious about cooking fish in parchment? Farrimond has you covered (ha!). Want to know why different colored bell peppers taste different? Read about it here. (Sugar content is part of the story.) There is so much information packed into these pages, it's impossible for me to tell you everything. Although I've gone through the entire book, there are plenty of sections I want to study more closely. From meat to dairy, from veggies to chocolate, The Science of Cooking has the inside scoop.

If you're curious about what goes on in your kitchen, then you'll love Stuart Farrimond's The Science of Cooking. The book is a great addition to any cookbook collection and would make a fabulous present. Buy or borrow The Science of Cooking, pour your favorite beverage, and settle in for hours of informative entertainment. You'll be a more savvy cook and may even up your trivia scores.

Here's a quote I won't soon forget:
To your brain, physical burning and chile heat are identical sensations.
Yikes! (Tip: According to Farrimond, grab some dairy or mint to cool down your mouth.)

Note: The scans were used in the context of this review; all rights remain with the original copyright holders.

NOTE: Mr. Linky sometimes is mean and will give you an error message. He's usually wrong and your link went through just fine the first time. Grrrr.
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.

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15 September 2017

4 New Novels Set during World War II

Even more than 70 years after V-J Day, there seems to be no end to the stories told about World War II. Books about the war range from the examination of military tactics to true-life tales of heroism and terror. September brings four historical novels set during the war years, one takes place in Poland and is geared to middle grade readers, and the other three involve immigrants fleeing to safety.

4 new novels set during World War II

The Dollmaker of Krakow by R. M. Romero (Delacorte Press for Young Readers, Sept. 12): Set in Poland during the German occupation, this novel is based on the familiar folk tale motif of a toymaker whose toys come to life. The story of the reclusive Dollmaker and Karolina, the talking doll who brings him out of his shell, gives middle grade readers a look at the horrors of the war while also helping them learn that even one person can make a difference in the world by being brave enough to protect his friends. (First line: "There once was a little doll named Karolina, who lived in a country far from the human world.")

The Way to London by Alix Rickloff (William Morrow, Sept. 19): Sent from Singapore to live with an aunt in England, Lucy escapes one war to live a country battered by another. Always reckless, Lucy agrees to help a young man travel to London to find his mother. When the two cross paths with a soldier Lucy knew in Singapore, she begins to worry that her well-guarded secrets may be exposed. (First line: "Troop movements. Battles. Sinkings. Bombings. Russia resisting. England persevering. Japan rattle sabers. America dithering.")

We Were Strangers Once by Betsy Carter (Grand Central Publishing, Sept 12): In the 1930s, Manhattan was the destination of many Jews fleeing Europe ahead of trouble. This novel explores the story of how such immigrants fared in a city where they may been safe from concentration camps but were in constant danger of destitution, loneliness, and deportation. (First line: " 'Remember, he's a busy man. No idle talk. And don't forget to wear your gloves.' "

When It's Over by Barbara Ridley (She Writes Press, Sept. 26): Lena is one of the lucky ones, escaping Prague to settle in England, away from Nazi rule. London, however, is hardly a haven, and as she hopes for news of the family she left behind, Lena focuses her energy on forging a better future for her adoptive country while making sure she survives the Blitz. (First line: "Lena Kulkova stood at her tiny fifth-floor window, surveying the rooftops of the foreign city that she had come to love but was being urged to leave.")

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13 September 2017

Wordless Wednesday 463

Aster, 2017

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11 September 2017

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: Books I Loved, Books I Didn't

Books I Loved, Books I Didn'tFor everyone who lives in Florida or the Caribbean, my thoughts are with you. I hope your homes, your family, and your pets are safe and sound. The photos and videos look so scary. I can't imagine what you all are going through.

Some of you know that I've been on a great organize my books project. My ultimate goal is to put all my unread books--print, e, and audio--into a single database. I've been keeping up with my print books for months now, and as of Sunday morning, I'm totally up to date with my audiobooks. My big stall is the eBooks. I'm not sure why, but I just haven't gotten a handle on them. I'll figure it out one of these days (I hope).

I had an "interesting" workweek getting used to my new computer and Windows 10, but I love my new machine and my productivity is speeding up.

What I Read Last Week

Review of Leigh Bardugo's The Language of ThornsLeigh Bardugo's The Language of Thorns (Macmillan, Sept. 26) is a collection of three dark fairy tales or fables that involve trickery and magic. I loved the stories, the haunting world, and the beautiful illustrations that accompany the text. One story involves a clever fox, another a witch in the woods and a mystery, and the final story is about rich man and his daughter. As all good tales, each one teaches a life lesson. I read a review copy from the publicist and am a little confused because the back cover mentions six stories, although my advanced reader copy contains only three. Regardless, I always like Bardugo's work and can highly recommend this collection to her fans and fans of newly minted fairy tales.

review of Celeste Ng's Little Fires EverywhereCeleste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere (Penguin Press, Sept. 12) is going to be on everyone's best of 2017 list. Set in the Cleveland-area community of Shaker Heights, the novel exposes the glossed-over underbelly of a small upper-middle-class neighborhood of privilege and expectations. Ng nails the dialogue, the sociocultural mores, and the consequences of meddling in other people's business. Race, class, education, family, dreams, life choices -- so many fires with such far-reaching destruction. A starkly truthful story that grabs you by the collar and pulls you in close. Run out tomorrow and buy this book. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Penguin Audio, 11 hr, 27 min) read brilliantly by Jennifer Lim, who erased the wall between listener and earbuds. It was near-impossible for me to hit that stop button. (audio review copy from the publisher)

Review of Marta McDowell's The World of Laura Ingalls WilderMarta McDowell's The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Timber Press, Sept. 20) should be on your holiday gift list for Little House fans of all ages. There is so much to love about McDowell's examination of Wilder's connection to the natural environment. Wilder fills her work with references to the flowers, wild fruits, garden produce, and cash crops that sustained her family on their journeys back and forth across the Great Plains. It's a delight to see the links between episodes in the beloved books with the realities of farming or buying seed or foraging that the Wilders and other families like them contended with. The style is down to earth and respectful and the full-color illustrations (some from various editions of Wilder's novels), maps, and photographs really bring the text to life. Biographical and historical details inform the botanical information, helping us see a fuller picture of Laura Ingalls Wilder's universe. The last part of the book includes information for visiting places where Laura lived, seeing period gardens, and for creating your own little prairie. Plant lists and resources round out the book. I picked up an advanced reader copy at BEA but have preordered a finished copy because this is a book to treasure.

Books I Broke Up With

Two Books: Solar Bones / The Blade ItselfI had high hopes for Solar Bones by Mike McCormick (Soho, Sept. 12), but the one long mostly unpunctuated sentence was just too much for my editor's brain. I may give it a second try, but I kind of doubt it. Everyone else seems to love this Irish story, and the novel was long-listed for the Booker Prize. The Blade Itself by Joe Abercombie (Orbit, Sept. 2015) has been on my audiobook list for a couple of years. It's billed as epic fantasy with plots of war, politics, and conspiracies. I wanted to love this, but I just didn't. I'm not sure if the issue was Steven Pacey's performance or the book. Or maybe it just suffered from being next after Little Fires Everywhere. I plan to try again in a few months. (both books were provided to me by the publishers)

What I'm Reading Now

Ken Follett's A Column of FireI'm currently listening to Ken Follett's newest entry in his Kingsbridge series, A Column of Fire (Penguin Audio; 30 hr, 19 min). I adore this series, which is set in a cathedral town in England. This installment takes place during Mary Tudor's reign, and religious turmoil is coloring our favorite characters' everyday life. Thank goodness the wonderful John Lee has returned to perform the audiobook. I love his characterizations, accents, pacing, and level of expression. I can tell already that this long audio is going to be worth every minute of your time. It comes out tomorrow.

I'm in between print books as I write this post, and I'm not exactly sure what I'll read next. I think I'll pick either a contemporary thriller or a contemporary middle grade novel. I have several books in mind in each category, and I think either would provide a good contrast to Follett's historical fiction.

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09 September 2017

Weekend Cooking: F*ck That's Delicious by Action Bronson

Review of F*ck That's Delicious by Action BronsonOkay, so I admit was skeptical about a cookbook by a hiphop artist foodie. I was wrong to question, however, because Action Bronson grew up in a cooking/baking family, enjoying Albanian food at home and a world of flavors at friends' and neighbors' houses in his native Queens. Later he attended cooking school, worked in his father's restaurant, and of course made music.

In his cookbook F*ck That's Delicious, Action Bronson shares recipes for some of the most delicious foods he's eaten at home and around the world. We get the stories, the photos, and the cooking methods. (Note: I received this cookbook as part of the Abrams's Dinner Party; click link for info.)

Just as Bronson is not your typical chef, F*ck That's Delicious is not your typical cookbook. The three dozen or so formal recipes are interwoven with stories of Bronson's travels, descriptions of his favorite food pairings, tributes to the global cuisines of Queens (that rhymes!), colorful photographs of people and places, a graphic guide to toothpicks, the joys of an ice cream cookie sandwich, a whole section on fried chicken, and much, much more. The book is just plain fun to read.

Review of F*ck That's Delicious by Action Bronson

Some of the recipes are for simple comfort food, like bagels with melted cheese (see the scan; click to enlarge), complete with an encyclopedia of bagels from around the world. Others are for more involved dinners, like the recipe for barbecued ribs, which is accompanied by tales of Jamaica.

I want to bake Chocolate Chip Cookies and Salted Honey Butter. I love it that Bronson roasts his cauliflower almost exactly like do (I add fresh whole sage leaves, which crisp up deliciously). His two-minute tomato sauce looks like a life-saver after a busy day, The oxtail topped flat bread is so on my winter dinner list, and that chocolate raspberry coffee cake from Bronson's mother looks heavenly. The spaghetti shown in the scan below was a huge hit in my house, though I substituted jalapenos for the Italian chiles called for.

Review of F*ck That's Delicious by Action BronsonA couple of points: This is a cookbook / foodie memoir to read. Yes, you'll likely want to try some of the recipes, but you'll also want to take note of Bronson's favorite pizza joints so you can try them yourself next time you're in New York. Don't expect polite language (the title of the book should have been your first clue), but do expect Bronson's sincere gushing over everything he's included between the covers, from eating cold cereal over the kitchen sink to enjoying a leisurely meal of eggs, pasta, madre de sagrantino, and wine in the beautiful Umbria countryside.

Granted F*ck That's Good is not for someone simply looking for new recipes to add to the family meal plan. It's really a book for people interested in fully savoring the food they eat—fancy to plain—and indulging in food that tastes utterly amazing. And what makes food taste f*cking good? Sometimes it has little to do with the ingredients and a whole lot to do with memories, good friends, beautiful surroundings, and a hearty appetite.

In the following 7½-minute video Action Bronson gives us a quick overview of F*ck That's Delicious and shows us how easy and quick it is to make a good chicken Parmesan. Both his engaging personality and his love of food and eating come shining through. (Warning: Contains adult language.)

NOTE: Mr. Linky sometimes is mean and will give you an error message. He's usually wrong and your link went through just fine the first time. Grrrr.
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.

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08 September 2017

12 True Stories to Read in September

Hello fans of the true story. Whether you like history or biography, memoir or science, this month's new book releases include a host of great nonfiction titles. It's been difficult to narrow down the books I'm adding to my "hope to read it" list. Here are 12 I don't want to miss.


12 true stories to read in SeptemberIn The Best of Us (Bloomsbury, Sept. 5), Joyce Maynard shares the joys of finally finding her true soul mate, the heartbreak of losing him before they had barely begun a life together, and the struggle to find her new place in the world after his death.

In Fire in the Heart (Arcade, Sept. 5), Mary Emerick tells us about her life as a forest-fire fighter, including the physical demands, the life-threatening dangers, and the friendships. After the death of a fellow firefighter, Emerick began to reassess her career path.

In Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies (Atria, Sept. 12), journalist Michael Ausiello uses humor to temper the darkness in this unforgettable tribute to his beloved late husband. Reviewers have commented on the emotional impact of Ausiello's story.


12 true stories to read in SeptemberIn Alone (Liveright, Sept. 19), Michael Korda turns his careful attention to the story of Dunkirk, both the horrors and death and the amazing British spirit that ultimately let to victory in Europe. His own childhood memories inform this well-researched account.

In Bloodlines (Ecco, Sept. 12), Melissa del Bosque tells the fast-faced story of how two FBI agents took on a major Mexican drug lord by going after his money-laundering scheme, which was set in the world of American Quarter Horse racing.

In The Templars (Viking, Sept. 19), Dan Jones explores the spectacular rise of a band of crusading knights to a position of wealth and power, until a king of France plotted to bring them down in a single day: Friday the 13th in October 1307. The legacy of the Templars is still felt today in the West's relationship with the Mideast and Islam.


12 true stories to read in SeptemberIn Darwin's Backyard (Norton, Sept. 5), James T. Costa reveals the personal side of the father of natural selection, who had a lifelong curiosity about the natural world. The book includes experiments you can conduct in your own backyard.

In The Disappearance of Emile Zola (Pegasus, Sept. 19), Michael Rosen explores the novelist's life, politics, and passions while in exile from France in the aftermath of the Dreyfus Affair. Zola's story is relevant in  light of today's sociopolitical climate.

In The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Timber Press, Sept. 20), Marta McDowell anchors the Little House books in the natural world of Laura's life and travels through the open prairies. Illustrations, photographs, maps, and botanical information round out this unique biography.

Other True Stories

12 true stories to read in SeptemberIn Clockwork Futures (Pegasus, Sept. 5), Brandy Schillace looks at the roots of Steampunk technology--from flying machines to automatons--including the impact the inventions and inventors had on the greater society.

In Koh-i-Noor (Bloomsbury, Sept 12), William Dalrymple and Anita Anand trace the history of one of the world's most celebrated diamonds. From the East India Company's acquisition of the jewel, the Koh-i-Noor has been steeped in controversy and myth and for some has symbolized the worst of colonialism.

In The Last Castle (Touchstone, Sept. 26), Denise Kiernan takes us inside the walls of Biltmore House to show us the world of the rich and famous who built the mansion and graced its halls. At 175,00 square feet, the chateau is the nation's largest single-family dwelling.

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06 September 2017

Wordless Wednesday 462

Fall fruit, 2017

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04 September 2017

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: 3 Audiobooks, 3 Lists, 1 Video

3 Audiobook ReviewsHappy September! I started out the month with the delivery of my new computer. It came just in the nick of time, and now that I have a machine that works smoothly, doesn't crash, and allows me to do more than two tasks at once (yes, it was getting that bad), I can rejoin social media on a more regular basis.

I spent the week preparing myself for the switch from Win7 to Win10. That's a big jump. Thus the bulk of my reading involved the exciting world of computer books. Yay me.

The weekend has been all about transferring files, customizing the new computer, and downloading programs. It's a huge job. I feel lucky to have finished two audiobooks and to have started a third. No print or e- reading got done at all. The good news is that I'll be all set to get back to work tomorrow.

For those who are celebrating Labor Day (USA, Canada) or Father's Day (Australia), I hope you're indulging in some holiday fun.

What I Listened to Last Week

3 Audiobook Reviews
  • I loved the third entry in N. K. Jemisin's Broken Earth series, The Stone Sky. The books are a kind of mix of fantasy and science fiction and are quite good. The plot lines and characters in this entry were consistent but not predictable. A reveal and a twist took me a little off-guard (in a good way), and I was satisfied with the ending, though already impatient for more. The audiobook was read by Robin Miles, who is a-maze-ing in giving voice to the characters, picking up on the emotional atmosphere, and keeping me glued to my earbuds.
  • I listened to Jillian Cantor's The Lost Letter, which is set Austria in the 1930s and in California in the 1980s. I enjoyed both time periods and was relieved that this wasn't just another WWII book. It's much more a story about two young people and how greater world events affected their relationship and who they became as adults. The uniting thread of the books involves the world of stamps (collecting, engraving). The audiobook was primarily read by Allyson Ryan and George Newbern. Although my full audio review will be available through AudioFile magazine, I can say two things here: I was not sorry to have listened to the book instead of reading the novel in print, but the performances were only so-so. I'm not discouraging you from trying the audiobook, I just can't enthusiastically recommend it. (review copy for a freelance assignment)
  • I started listening to Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer on Sunday. OMG, I'm so totally hooked and why did I wait so long to give this series a try? I don't quite know exactly what's going on, but there's a region of the world that's blocked from the public. Our hero, a woman biologist, is on a government-sponsored mission to investigate Area X, along with three other professional women. The time period is fairly contemporary, but I can't tell if the world has undergone a major environmental disaster or if only this particular place is, well, not normal. Carolyn McCormick isn't the strongest narrator I've listened to, but I'm not turning off my phone. On the other hand, I may switch to print for the rest of the series because McCormick isn't winning me over. In either medium, I know I'll be zipping through the Southern Reach trilogy.
Book Lists

In other book news, I've found two good reading lists for books that have been or will be published this year, plus a bonus list.
  • Southern Living's list contains many expected books (Little Fires Everywhere) and some surprises (Perennials).
  • Popsugar's list is a little more predictable, but it contains solid recommendations.
  • Bonus list: Real Simple has a list of books to read before they head to the small screen. Even if you don't care about the television adaptations, most of the books are well worth your while.

I am counting the days (6 to be exact) until this:

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02 September 2017

Weekend Cooking: The Abrams Dinner Party

As I type this, I have my fingers crossed my computer will last one more day. Well, actually, just a few more hours. My new laptop is on a UPS truck somewhere nearby, and I can't wait to get it and set it up.

What does this have to do with Weekend Cooking? I decided to give myself a break this week and tell you about an exciting opportunity I have to work with Abrams Books over the next year.

I've been invited to the Abrams Dinner Party! I'm thrilled to have the chance to share their entire food and drink catalogue for an entire year. I won't necessarily be posting a detailed review of every book, but each one will be featured here, on Twitter, on Instagram, on Facebook, and/or on Litsy. I have permission to share scans of photographs and recipes from the books, and I'm looking forward to a year of learning and discovery.

So how does this affect my opinions and reviews? Don't worry, I'm not getting paid, and I fully intend to provide you with my honest opinion of any book I review, whether here or on Litsy. Because of FTC rules, whenever I write about an Abrams Dinner Party book or post a photo on any social media, I am required (by law) to disclose my association with Abrams. I've  decided to use the suggested hashtag #ad because it's small and unobtrusive.

Remember: #ad means I received the book because I'm a member of the Abrams Dinner Party program. I'm not getting paid, and I will always give you my true opinion.

The first book this year is Acid Trip: Travels in the World of Vinegar by Michael Harlan Turkell. This is a beautiful book with matte pages that's part cookbook, part culinary history, and part travelogue. There's a ton to read and absorb, and I've only cracked the surface. Quite a few of the recipes call to me, such as Tomatoes with Raspberry Vinegar (perfect for right this moment), Old Dog Shandy (a drink for a football weekend), Brown Butter Balsamic Mushrooms with Hazelnuts and Sage (holiday dinner fare), and Chimichurri (fire up the grill!).

I love to try new dishes, but I'm really looking forward to making homemade flavored vinegars. Many years ago I experimented with concocting my own herbal vinegars and found it easy to do and fun to use and give as gifts. Here's a simple recipe from Acid Trip you could make tonight.

Apple Vinegar
From Derek Dammann, Maison Publique, Montreal, Canada
Makes about 3 cups (720 ml)

  • 2 Gravenstein apples
  • 2 1/2 cups (600 ml) rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Cut the apples into quarters and place them in a nonreactive container. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Pour the hot liquid over the apples and place a plate on top of the apples to keep them completely submerged. Cool to room temperature and store covered in the refrigerator for at least 6 weeks before using.

In Acid Trip, the vinegar is then boiled down to make a variation on snow candy. If I make the vinegar this month, it will be ready use when the snow starts falling. If you can't wait for snow or live in a warmer local, you can crush ice into a fine powder and use it as substitute.

I'm looking forward to sharing more recipes and books and photos with you over the coming year. Welcome to the Abrams Dinner Party!

NOTE: Mr. Linky sometimes is mean and will give you an error message. He's usually wrong and your link went through just fine the first time. Grrrr.
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.

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