30 November 2017

6 Books for Young Readers on Your Holiday Gift List

When shopping for the younger people on your list, don't forget books, which make lasting gifts that never go old and offer a lifetime of entertainment and education. As proof, I feature two beautiful editions of classic tales, newly packaged for modern readers. For kids who like true stories, I suggest four books that will inspire their futures and expand their horizons.

Classic Tales in New Clothes

Penguin Classics: Anne of Green Gables by L. M. MontgomeryThrow the words Prince Edward Island into any conversation and I guarantee the instant response will reference Anne with an E, otherwise known as Anne of Green Gables, brought to life by PEI native L. M. Montgomery 100 years ago. This new Penguin Classic edition (2017) has a modern, colorful cover designed by artist Siobhan Gallagher, showing Anne with her red hair, the fields of Avonlea, and recognizable icons and familiar quotes from the novel. Besides the complete text of the beloved story, this beautiful deckle-edged edition includes a foreword by best-selling author J. Courtney Sullivan, an introduction by scholar Benjamin Lefebvre, selections for further reading, and a short additional piece by Montgomery. This would make a treasured gift for any Anne Shirley fan, young or old.

Rosemary Sutcliff's Black Ships before TroyMany young readers are fascinated with mythology from different cultures and traditions around the world. Some stories, such as Homer's Illiad, can be difficult to access, even for adult readers. Rosemary Sutcliff's Black Ships before Troy (Frances Lincoln, reissued 2017), takes the mystery away without losing the wonder and magic. This prose version of the Iliad is written with children in mind but is not a childish version of the tale. The language is poetic and follows the original story from Peleus's wedding to end of the battle, with Troy in ruins and Helen boarding a ship to return to Greece. This edition is beautifully illustrated by Alan Lee, winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal. The full-color drawings enliven the classic tale, showing action, emotion, and period details. This lovely book belongs on every family bookshelf.

Books for Curious Readers Young and Old

David Long's Survivors: Extraordinary Tales from the Wild and BeyondIs there an age limit to being fascinated by true-life survival stories? I think not. David Long's Survivors: Extraordinary Tales from the Wild and Beyond (Faber & Faber, 2017) is chock-full of stories of people going to the limits to overcome unbelievable odds and walk away from death's door. Long introduces us to adventurers of the past like Hugh Glass and Ernest Shackleton and to Johann Westhauser, a German caver whose brush with death took place only a few years ago. Other stories involve plane crashes, avalanches, shipwrecks, sporting accidents, and more and occur in countries around the world. Each tale is illustrated by Kerry Hyndman, whose drawings evoke the environmental and other hazards faced by the hero. These inspiring and exciting stories will appeal to a range of young readers. The book won a Blue Peter Book Award.

HMH Books for Young Readers has several excellent series for young readers who are into science and history. The first two books featured here were released in paperback this year and all three books represent my own interests. If your young reader has different scholarly leanings, then be sure to check out HMH's catalog to find the perfect book for your child.

  • Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled by Catherine ThimmeshScaly Spotted Feathered Frilled: How Do We Know What Dinosaurs Really Looked Like? by award-winning author Catherine Thimmesh brings us up to date on the latest in a tricky aspect of dinosaur research. Although fun to read and amply illustrated, this book presents the science of how paleontologists have figured out what dinosaurs looked like. Thimmesh describes the process from fossil to habitat, locomotion, and environment. In addition, she talks about the problem of deciding on color and the level of speculation. Fascinating reading for the whole family.
  • Bodies from the Ash by James M. DeemBodies from the Ash: Life and Death in Ancient Pompeii by James M. Deem. Anyone who's heard the story of Pompeii and how the ashes and lava seemed to preserve a moment of ancient time will love this book, which summarizes archaeological research of the town over about 100 years, starting in the 1880s. The drawings and photographs capture our imaginations, and the text explains how scientists were able to make casts of the victims and how they interpreted the data to try to reconstruct details of daily life at the time of the eruption, including what some of the people were eating before they were overcome by the volcano's outpouring. Hours of reading for any budding archaeologist.
  • Life on Surtsey by Loree Griffin BurnsLife on Surtsey: Iceland's Upstart Island by Loree Griffin Burns is a new entry in HMH's fantastic Scientists in the Field Series. In this book, Burns takes us to what may be the newest land formation on earth, a volcanic island that formed off the coast of Iceland in 1963, where we meet Erling Olafsson, who has studied "the arrival and survival of insects" on the island since 1970. This beautiful book, complete with maps and photographs, gives us a realistic idea of what it's like to be an entomologist conducting research in a unique environment. The text and photos help us understand Erling's daily research routines and living conditions and how he shares resources with other scientists on the island working in different fields of inquiry. The book ends with a glossary and list of additional sources. Perfect for armchair travelers and scientists as well as young people dreaming of making their own great discoveries.

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29 November 2017

Wordless Wednesday 474

November Walk in the Woods, 2017

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28 November 2017

7 Books for Adults on Your Holiday Gift List

Need I remind you that the holidays are quickly approaching? Do you have friends and family with distinct tastes? Are there people on your list who are just plain difficult to buy for? Here are seven books that could solve some of your shopping problems. I hope you find just what you were looking for.

Lorraine Geiger's Fashion Fads & Fantasies: Three Decades of Outrageous Dressing For People Interested in Art, Fashion, and Culture

Lorraine Geiger's Fashion Fads & Fantasies: Three Decades of Outrageous Dressing (Wisdom House Books, Aug.) Artist-designer Greiger has a passion for street fashion. Born out Grreiger's habit to sketch the people and clothing she sees on the streets of New York and everywhere she travels, this collection of affecting drawings and paintings document not only the fashions and hairstyles of the 1970s through 1990s but also the people and attitudes of an ever-changing society. You'll recognize yourself on many of the pages, but you'll also have many wow and ha-ha moments as you re-live three decades of fashion history. (review copy from the publisher)

Jody Long's Contemporary Cables For the Knitter

Jody Long's Contemporary Cables (Dover, Sept.) Do you have a yarn lover on your list? Knitters of all skill levels would be thrilled to have this collection of 21 cabled projects. Besides stylish sweaters for both men and women, the book also includes several smaller projects, like shrugs, a beret, a tote, mittens, and more. There's a cozy wrap as well as a long scarf to keep winter's cold at bay. The introduction helps crafters pick yarns and follow the instructions, which are presented in both charts and written form. Each project is rated by skill level and is accompanied by one or more full-color photos. (review copy from the publicist)

Jay Jorgensen and Manoah Bowman's Grace Kelly: Hollywood Dream GirlFor the Film Buff

Jay Jorgensen and Manoah Bowman's Grace Kelly: Hollywood Dream Girl (Dey Street, Oct.): Before Princess Di, the world had Grace Kelly. Everyone was enthralled with her transformation from daughter of American businessman to Hollywood star and then to real-life princess. This collection of photographs, costume sketches, and Hollywood memorabilia is a gorgeous tribute to Kelly's life and work. The book concentrates on her film career and is organized by movie. The images include some of the more familiar publicity shots of Kelly with her directors and costars, but you'll also find reviews, contact sheets, candid shots, and a look behind the scenes of the movies that made her famous. (review copy from the publisher)

Alex Prud'Homme and Katie Pratt's France Is a Feast: The Photographic Journey of Paul and Julia ChildFor the Food Lover, Photographer, or Francophile

Alex Prud'Homme and Katie Pratt's France Is a Feast: The Photographic Journey of Paul and Julia Child (Thames and Hudson, Oct.) Everyone knows who Julia Child is but few know much about her husband, Paul, who was--among other things--a serious photographer. Fortunately for us, the Childs' great-nephew got together with Pratt, a photography curator, to compile this stunning collection of Paul's black and white photos taken in France after the war. Among Child's subjects are, of course, his famous wife and the beautiful French countryside, but he also focused his lens on street scenes, architecture, and everyday people. His talent for capturing light and mood is breathtaking.

Anna Katz's The Nasty Woman Journal: A Journal for Women Who Refuse to Sit Down (or Shut Up!)For the Feminist Thinker, Writer, and Activist

Anna Katz's The Nasty Woman Journal: A Journal for Women Who Refuse to Sit Down (or Shut Up!) (Weldon Owen, Aug.) This colorful, lined journal can be used to capture daily thoughts, plot ideas, and record dreams. However, the quotations from strong, independent women from throughout history and the prompt questions that appear on many of the spreads can serve as inspiration to form and solidify thoughts on feminism and social activism. This journal can help channel reactions to the daily doses of news, inspiring us to stay strong and never give up. The back of the journal includes organizations and resources for getting involved in a number of social issues, including climate change, women's health, and immigration. (review copy from the publisher)

Stocking Stuffers for Book LoversTwo Stocking Stuffers for the Bookish

  • Faber & Faber's Poetry Planner 2018 (Aug) is perfect for the organized poetry lover on your list. This beautifully constructed weekly planner includes a poem or book cover art for every week. The layout is simple, making this a good choice for those who want an uncluttered place to record their appointments. The poetry is a mix of classic and more contemporary. (review copy from the publicist)
  • Joelle Herr's A Far, Far Better Thing to Do: A Lit Lover's Activity Book (Running Press, Sept) is small collection of fun puzzles, word games, coloring pages, and quizzes for book lovers of pretty much all ages.  Activities cover the Harlem Renaissance, Shakespeare, classic literary romantic couples, pen names, and more. (review copy from the publicist)

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27 November 2017

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: 3 Hits, 1 Miss

4 Short Book ReviewsHello Monday and back to real life for those of us in the USA who are coming off an extra-long weekend. I really planned to read, read, read, but ended up with a bad cold. I was in that frustrating state of being too sick to read but not sick enough to sleep. Short stories and audiobooks came to my rescue.

Besides listening to books, cooking, and resting, I spent a whole day trying to get the book stacks out of the living room. It may not bother us much in everyday life, but I like a cleaner space for holiday entertaining.

I ended up with several bags of books for charity and a new supply of books slated for my neighborhood book bin. Best of all, I rediscovered some books I really want to read.

This coming week is going to be all about gift-giving and holiday reading, so look for lists on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

What I Read Last Week

Review: Skating on the Vertical by Jan English LearySkating on the Vertical by Jan English Leary (Fomite, Nov. 1). The stories in this collection focus mostly on women who are at turning points in their life: a change in circumstance, a move to a new country, a death. The stories had a big emotional impact, even when the protagonist (as in “Skin Art,” about a former cutter) and I shared little. The stories aren’t easy, but they each embraced me fully. I especially liked the story "Mother's Helper," about a teenage babysitter helping out after the death of a client's infant daughter. The title story was about a young boy struggling with self-identity when his family life is upended. I didn’t read this collection straight through, instead I read only one or two pieces a day, giving myself time to absorb the words and think about each main character. (review copy provided by the publicist)

Review: Body Music by Julie MarohBody Music by Julie Maroh (Arsenal Pulp Press, Nov. 14). Love comes in many forms and has many stages. The graphic short stories in this collection look at all kinds of relationships: missed love, broken love, love on fire, love on a break, love to last. The characters represent a range of sexual and gender identities across the heterosexual and LGBTQ spectrum, and their experiences and relationships are utterly relatable for everyone. Maroh's use of a muted gray–pink palette lets the expressions and emotions of her characters take center stage. Read in order, the collection takes us on a journey from first meetings to "Togetherness with a Captial T." This is a must-read book. The stories are all set in modern-day Montreal and were originally written in French. (review copy provided by the publicist)

Review: Hum If You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca MaraisHum If You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais (Putnam, July 11). I really wanted to love this book set in Johannesburg in the aftermath of the 1976 Soweto Uprising. The themes of acceptance and equality are important, but much in this book just didn’t sit right with me. The story is told from two points of view: 9-year-old white Robin, whose parents were killed in the riots, and middle-aged Beauty, a traditional Xhosa who travels to the city to search for her daughter who went missing during the uprising. I found Robin’s observations to be too precocious, and although I understood that her story was told in retrospect, the girl’s voice still didn’t ring true. In addition, it seemed that each character was created to represent a specific issue in the fight for equality (LGBTQ, Jewish, black angel, single woman, white angel); the novel would have been stronger if it had stuck primarily with Apartheid. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Penguin Audio; 14 hr, 25 min), which was read by Katharine McEwan and Bahni Turpin. Each narrator read with good expression, but each performance had issues (for example, McEwan’s pronunciation of common Yiddish and Hebrew words). My full audiobook review will be available via AudioFile magazine.

Review: Fasting and Feasting by Adam FedermanFasting and Feasting by Adam Federman (Chelsea Green, Sept. 8): I loved this well-researched biography of food writer Patience Gray. If you don’t recognize Gray’s name, you may have heard of one of her two most well known cookbooks: Plats du Jour or Honey from a Weed. Barring that, you know her through her influence on the slow food movement and the farm to table movement. She led an unconventional life at a time when it was difficult for women to break the bonds of social expectations, especially in England. From the time she graduated college in the late 1930s until her death early in this century, she wrote, created, loved, and lived in the way that suited her best. Even if you have little interest in food writers, you will be fascinated by Gray’s fierce independent streak and her insistence on sticking to her principles; for example, she and her partner, the sculptor Norman Mommens, moved to a remote area of southern Italy in the 1960s and lived without electricity or running water and grew the bulk of their own food well into their old age. Her Honey from a Weed is one of the best cookbooks ever written and was one of the first to combine memoir with food writing. Gray was not without her critics, however (including Elizabeth David), and after finishing this biography you too may not agree with all she did. Still, her Honey from a Weed will always have a permanent place in my house. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (13 hr, 42 min) wonderfully read by Naomi Frederick. My full review will be available at AudioFile, but I have nothing but good to say.

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25 November 2017

Weekend Cooking: Try a Cuppa Plum Deluxe Tea

Review: Plum Deluxe TeasHappy Thanksgiving weekend for those of you in the United States. I hope your holiday was wonderful.

I ended up with a bad cold, and spent most of the week drinking gallons of tea. Although you might think it was bad timing to feel sick during a holiday, I was actually a little lucky.

A few weeks ago, Plum Deluxe Tea asked me if I'd like to sample some of their blends. I checked out their website and was impressed that their teas are both organic and fair trade.

I had a hard time deciding what kind of tea I wanted to try, but Plum Deluxe was nice enough to send me three different blends of black tea, my preferred brew. Note, however, the company sells green tea, white tea, herbal tea, chai, and a couple of others. Here's what helped me survive my holiday cold.

  • Review: Plum Deluxe TeasThe Mindful Morning Black Tea is Plum Deluxe's take on Earl Grey. The blend contains the expected bergamot oil as well as vanilla, blue cornflowers, and orange peels. They suggest a quick steep, which is what I did. This was definitely a brighter Earl Grey, and I admit to adding a shot of whiskey--just to help take the edge off my cold.
  • I couldn't resist trying Heritage Blend Black Tea, which Plum Deluxe describes as Scottish Breakfast tea. I love breakfast teas of all sorts, and this one stood out with its touch of maple syrup and flowers. It was, however, a little more bitter than I was expecting, but some honey smoothed out the brew.
  • Finally, the tea I was most looking forward to trying was the Brunch in Paris blend. This one was by far my favorite. It smelled so good, even before I poured boiling water over the leaves. Blended with the black tea foundation are cocoa nibs, orange pieces, and honeybush tea (see the photo at right). This could easily become a household staple.
Plum Deluxe had plenty of other organic tea blends that caught my eye. I mean, who can resist a tea called Reading Nook Blend? It contains black tea, rose petals, lavender, chamomile, and vanilla essence. The Gingerbread Chai Tea looks perfect for the holidays, and some of herbal blends also sound good.

If you're looking for a gift or want to treat yourself, check out Plum Deluxe's organic tea of the month clubs. They also sell gift sets and tea accessories.

Whenever possible, I like to buy organic, fair trade, and non-GMO, and Plum Deluxe meets all those requirements. In addition, they donate a percentage of their profits to, as they say, "making the world a better place." I love companies that give back to communities and projects in need.

Thanks to Plum Deluxe for the chance to try their teas. The photos are from their website, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.
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.

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.

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24 November 2017

A Bookish Way to Help Hurricane-Devastated Communities

Help Build Libraries in Hurricane-Devastated CommunitiesRemember hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria? Those devastating storms may be out of the news but recovery for hard-hit areas is far from complete. Have you been looking for a way to help?

Zulily has teamed up with Penguin Random House to celebrate Family Literacy Month and to make it very easy for all of us to give much needed assistance to children, schools, teachers, libraries, and students in hurricane-affected communities. Please don't delay, the program ends on December 10.

There are two ways you can contribute to relief efforts right from the comfort of your home. People in the Gulf states, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean nations are still struggling to return to normal after the destruction from flooding and winds, and I encourage you to do one or both of the following. Note that the second method won't cost you a cent -- see, I told you it would be easy to help.

Help Build Libraries in Hurricane-Devastated CommunitiesMethod 1: Visit the zulily website and go to their Buy One, Give One page. For every children's book you buy from this program, a book will be donated to a school in need. The choices range from board books like Good Night, Thomas (the Train) to classics like Little Women. There are Lego books and pirate books and Peter Rabbit books. There are chapter books and books boxed with extra goodies (like a stuffed animal). The prices range from about $6 to about $12, and I'm sure you'll be able to get some great holiday gifts for the young readers in your life. You'll find more information here: Buy One, Give One program.

To participate in the program through the zulily website, just be sure to look for the blue and white BOGO banner, like that seen in the picture to the right. Buy your book and zulily will take care of the rest.

Method 2: Don't have a young reader in your life? Counting your pennies? No worries, zulily understands. Here's another way to make sure schools will still be able to provide their students, teachers, and communities with the gift of reading. This one is so easy. Just visit the zulily Facebook page and leave a comment telling them about one of your favorite childhood books. For each such comment, zulily and Penguin Random House will make a book donation to a school affected by one of the three destructive hurricanes of the 2017 season.

It is truly that simple to help a school library rebuilt its stacks: Pop on over to Facebook (you're there a million times a day anyway, right?) and gush about Anne of Green Gables, The Hobbit, Mother Goose, The Hungry Caterpillar, or whatever is near and dear to your heart.

I want to thank zulily for sponsoring this post, but I also want to make it clear that all words and opinions expressed here are my own.

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22 November 2017

Wordless Wednesday 473

November Woods

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20 November 2017

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: 2 Nonfiction Recommendations

2 books for nonfiction fansHappy Thanksgiving week for those who live in the States. A short workweek is always a mixed bag of scrambling to get work done before the holiday and then enjoying a few days out of the office to relax with friends and family (and a few books!).

Finishing Up the Year

I cringed a little when I typed that heading. Yes, we're actually into the last weeks of the year, and I still have a lot I want to get done here on Beth Fish Reads.

Coming up in November, you can expect several posts with gift ideas, a bookish way to help hurricane victims, and a new tea company I discovered, along with my usual photographs, cooking posts, and roundups. Over on the AudioFile blog, you'll find the first post in my series featuring audiobook narrators (available on Nov. 23).

During December, I'll continue with gift suggestions, my best of 2017 lists, some audiobook-specific posts, a couple of movie reviews, at least one year-end wrap up post, and of course book reviews.

What I Read Last Week

If you recall, I spent some much-needed R&R time with my women friends, so I didn't have a lot of reading time. I did manage to finish one nonfiction audiobook and a graphic nonfiction, and I've started a fiction audiobook, a short-story collection, and a fantasy.

  • 2 books for nonfiction fansThe Gourmands' Way: Six Americans in Paris and the Birth of a New Gastronomy by Justin Spring (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Oct. 10). Focusing on the lives and work of A. J. Liebling, Alice B. Toklas, M. F. K. Fisher, Julia Child, Alexis Lichine, and Richard Olney, Spring explores America's relationship with French wine and food from the 1930s, through the war, and into the late twentieth century. I loved this well-researched look at some of the classic early food writers, especially because Spring colors his account with gossipy bits and doesn't strive to always paint a pretty picture. It was fun to get a glimpse of the real people behind the curtain of white-washed fame. This is a must-read for all foodies. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Blackstone Audio; 13 hr, 30 min), performed by Bronson Pinchot. My full audiobook review will be available through AudioFile, but here's the short take: I was for the most part impressed with Pinchot's accents, although his delivery could have been smoother. Still, you won't be sorry if you choose to listen instead of read.
  • Saigon Calling by Marcelino Truong (Arsenal Pulp Press, Oct. 17). This is a moving and not always easy to read (emotionally) account of the Vietnam War years as seen through the eyes of a family who managed to escape to London before American involvement escalated hostilities. Truong, whose father was a Vietnamese government interpreter and whose mother was French, writes about how immigration and the war affected his family. His father struggled to find a new identity after leaving the embassy, while his mother had issues with bipolar disease. Marco and his siblings had trouble finding a place in an increasingly hip London and in their French school. And all were worried about family and friends who remained in Vietnam during the war and after the fall of Saigon. The artwork is expressive, with life in England and France rendered in vivid colors and scenes of the war colored mostly in browns. This is the second of Truong's memoirs, but I didn't feel lost starting with this book.
What I'm Reading Now

My thoughts so far: I love City of Brass, I have mixed feelings about Hum if You Don't Know the Words, and I'm enjoying the stories in Skating on the Vertical. More about these books next week.

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18 November 2017

Weekend Cooking: Dinner in an Instant by Melissa Clark

Review: Dinner in an Instant by Melissa ClarkNew York Times columnist Melissa Clark developed her love for the electric pressure cooker honestly. After having given the Instant Pot a try so she could "see what all the fuss was about," Clark was surprised to find herself turning to it again and again, even after her article for the Times had already been published.

The purpose of her Dinner in an Instant (Clarkson Potter) is to highlight the kinds of dishes the electric pressure cooker excels at. She wasn't interested in tricking the machine into overcoming its weaknesses (roasted whole chicken); instead she wanted to explore what the Instant Pot does best: transforming long, slow weekend treats into quick mid-week standards.

One thing to note right off the bat: The recipes will work in any brand of electric pressure cooker. Don't be thrown off if you own a Breville instead of an Instant Pot.

If you're relatively new to the pressure cooker (or are thinking of getting or giving one for Christmas this year), you'll be happy to know that Clark walks you through the machine's cycles and parts and suggests some accessories you'll want to have on hand. She also provides a number of great tips and tricks for getting the most out of your cooker. In addition, Clark includes recipes for all kinds of eaters: vegans and vegetarians as well as those who follow a paleo or gluten-free diet.

So what kinds of recipes will you find in Dinner in an Instant? Here's what caught my eye:

  • Review: Dinner in an Instant by Melissa ClarkDairy and vegan yogurts
  • Leek frittata
  • Osso buco
  • Mac and cheese
  • Moroccan chickpeas
  • Bone broth
  • Italian green beans
  • Maple sweet potatoes
  • Cheesecake
The recipes themselves are what you'd expect from a veteran cookbook author like Melissa Clark. The directions are clearly written and easy to follow, the flavors are varied (Thai, Italian, Mexican, African), and pretty much every recipe comes with serving tips. The collection includes a solid combination of familiar dinners (chicken and dumplings) and more exotic (Green Persian Rice with Tahdig).

Best of all, however, the recipes are adaptable, teaching techniques as much as specific dishes. This means that soon, instead of following one of Clark's recipes for steamed pudding, you'll be adapting one of your own favorites for the pressure cooker.

And that brings me to the heart of this book. Dinner in an Instant is geared to a specific audience: cooks who are still new to pressure cooking but who are now ready to expand their horizons. The book is not meant to be a lifetime kitchen companion (like Lorna Sass's books); instead Melissa Clark has provided a bridge from the basic to the wider world of possibilities.

I am happy to have bought my copy of Dinner in an Instant, but I think many of you would be satisfied to look for the book at your library, cook from it for a few weeks, and then follow Melissa Clark's pressure cooker recipes at the New York Times. I, however, am happy to have her recipes for steel-cuts oats, polenta, ricotta, and creme brulee sitting safely on my bookshelf.

Here's a recipe for citrus-infused carrots, which would make an awesome addition to any holiday table. (This is a scan from the promotional material, thus the missing page number for pressure cooker ricotta.) For a better view, click the image to enlarge it.

Review: Dinner in an Instant by Melissa Clark

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.

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.

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16 November 2017

7 Books for Speculative Fiction Fans

November is a great month for speculative fiction fans. Nothing is better than escaping to another world when pre-holiday stress gets to be too much. Here are seven recent and forthcoming fantasy and science-fiction books to ease you into the end-of-year shopping and socializing frenzy.

  • 7 Books for Speculative Fiction FansArtemis by Andy Weir (Crown, Nov. 14): The first city on the moon is dominated by the rich and richer, so what's a lowly porter to do? Jazz supplements her resources by smuggling and taking odd (illegal) jobs, one of which exposes her to information that threatens her life and could change the power structure of the lunar settlement.
  • City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty (Harper Voyager, Nov. 14): In the Ottoman Empire, family-less street urchins must get by as best they can, and Nahri earns her keep by reading fortunes, healing the sick, and indulging in a little thievery. She has plans for a better future, until she unwittingly awakens a djinn and discovers she can't escape her past or her fate.
  • The Complete Sookie Stackhouse Stories by Charlaine Harris (Ace, Nov. 21): Whether you're a fan of the original books or met Sookie through the HBO's True Blood, you'll love revisiting Bon Temps, LA, for more fun with your favorite not-quite-human friends. The ten stories are gathered into a single volume for the first time.
  • Jade City by Fonda Lee (Orbit, Nov. 7): In an alternative Chinese world, jade is the key to magical abilities, and families vie for control, especially after the development of a power-enhancing drug. This adult fantasy involves clan wars, family loyalty, and life outside the law. Kirkus made comparisons to the Godfather books.
  • 7 Books for Speculative Fiction FansOtherworld by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller (Delacorte, Oct. 31): Billed as a kind of Westworld for teens, this science-fiction thriller explores the future of full-experience gaming, in which players believe they face no limits or consequences. Instead of the Wild West, expect familiar fantasy elements, such as dragons and wizards.
  • This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada (Simon Pulse, Nov. 7): When a devastating plague hits a high-tech future world, a teenage gene hacker races to find, understand, and produce her late-father's potential vaccine. The lines between friends and enemies, truth and fiction blur in this action-adventure science fiction tale.
  • The Wild Book by Juan Villoro (Restless Books, Nov. 14): Who can resist a story in which books (literary) come alive, moving on their own and stealing from each other. This coming-of-age story for middle grade readers is set in Mexico and will appeal to book lovers and fans of magical realism.

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15 November 2017

Wordless Wednesday 472

Fall Reflections, 2017

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14 November 2017

Today's Read: A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashey Hay

Review: A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley HayWhen you move to new digs, do you wonder about the people who lived there before you? As Lucy Kiss is settling her young family into their new house, Elsie Gormley is trying to let go of the place that holds most of her fondest memories.

It was early on a winter's morning when she fell—the shortest day of 2010, the woman on the radio said. From where Elsie lay, quite still and curled comfortably on the thick green carpet between the sofa and the sideboard, she could see how the sun coming in through the back door made a triangle on the kitchen floor. The light caught the pattern on the linoleum and touched the little nests of dust that her broom had missed under the lip of the kitchen cupboards.
A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley Hay (Atria / Simon & Schuster, 2017, opening lines; eARC)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: Brisbane, Australia; modern times
  • Circumstances: Two women making new starts: Lucy is getting used to being a stay-at-home mom, being a homeowner, and living in a new city. Elsie is adjusting to assisted living and the loss of the house in which she raised her children. As each woman copes with changing circumstances, their stories begin to interweave.
  • Characters: Lucy Kiss and her husband and infant son; Elsie Gormley and her late-husband and grown twins.
  • Genre: literary fiction, women's fiction
  • Themes: family, motherhood, marriage, making a lasting life, coping with change
  • Why I want to read this novel: The answer to my opening question, for me, is yes. Every time I've moved, I've wondered about the people who lived in my home before me, especially if they've left something behind to give me a clue. I enjoy character studies and am looking forward to meeting Lucy and Elsie. I also like the idea that the two women are at opposite ends of their adult family life, yet are facing similar issues, such as loss of independence and changing self-images.
  • What reviews have said: Kirkus: "slow-moving, yet profound." Publishers Weekly: "a rich dual character study." Australian Book Review: "holds powerful truths, simply told."

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11 November 2017

Weekend Cooking: In Search of Israeli Cuisine (Film)

Review: In Search of Israeli CusineI had other plans for today's post, but after I stumbled across this documentary about Israeli food, I decided I didn't want to wait to share it with you. (Available on Netflix and Amazon)

In Search of Israeli Cusine, written and directed by Roger Sherman, follows award-winning chef Michael Solomonov (of Philadelphia's Zahav restaurant) on a journey through Israel to discover the defining flavors and dishes in that country's kitchens.

Let's start with the basic question of the film: What exactly is Israeli food? The word I remember most from the movie is complex. To say the country's food is global is a bit of an understatement. The cuisine has been influenced by thousands of years of indigenous peoples and cultures, by twentieth-century immigration, and by modern-day newcomers. The resulting dishes aren't what one would consider to be fusion, but something wholly different.

For such a small geographic area, Israel is a land of great diversity, from desert, to coastline, to lush hillsides and cold mountains, and each region has its own ingredients and traditions. In addition, you cannot talk about any aspect of Israel without taking politics and religion.

Review: In Search of Israeli CusineAs other reviewers have noted, In Search of Israeli Cuisine doesn't give us a definite answer, but through Solomonov's adventures and interviews, we discover the incredible variety of foods to be found throughout Israel. We visit cheese caves, wineries, tomato farms, fruit orchards, olive presses, and fishing villages. We learn the differences between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and how cultural and religious traditions affect the food choices in those cities.

I particularly liked meeting the people, including growers / producers, chefs, food writers, and merchants. I was surprised to learn that religious dietary laws are not particularly strict and that politics and cultural issues can have a strong affect on the fate of restaurants. I hadn't realized that Israel was on the cutting edge of a new kind of global cuisine.

In some ways, Israel is not all that different from other immigrant countries: People bring with them the traditional foods of their homelands. Yet in America, cooking the dishes from home can be comforting, whereas in Israel in the mid-twentieth century, foods from Europe were a reminder of hardships, war, and persecution. Still, it's difficult to shed the culinary expectations set in one's childhood. Thus Israelis have a unique perspective on their country's cuisine or lack thereof.

Review: In Search of Israeli CusineMichael Solomonov has a relaxed, natural screen presence, which makes the film easy to watch. He doesn't have the slick, broad vocabulary of a Food Network star, and--frankly--I find that refreshing. We aren't subjected to a drawn-out assessment of each dish; instead Solmonov often gives us just a simple, "That's delicious."

The filming of In Search of Israeli Cuisine was nicely done, showing us the scenery, the food, and the people with equal attention.

Even though the search may have left more questions than answers, I can recommend In Search of Israeli Cuisine to anyone interested in how a country or region comes to be identified with a particular palette of flavors. Politics, religion, immigration, environment, and culture all play a part in defining the dishes coming out of Israeli kitchens. Here's the trailer:

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.

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.

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08 November 2017

Wordless Wednesday 471

November Grasses (from the archives)

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

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07 November 2017

Today's Read & Giveaway: Eaves of Destruction by Kate Carlisle

Review: Eaves of Destruction by Kate CarlisleImagine you're up to your eyeballs in contract work, getting ready for a major competition, organizing several work crews, and supporting your new hires. It's tough, but you think you've got it together . . . until one of the houses you're working on becomes a murder scene, and you and your employees are prime suspects. Welcome to Shannon Hammer's life.

I really love my job. But I've got to admit, some days are better than others.

I've been working on construction sites since I was eight years old and my father started taking my sister, Chloe. and me to work with him. Our mom had died a month earlier and it just made sense for Chloe and me to hang out with Dad after school instead of going home to a big, sad, empty house.

Chloe and I thrived around the construction workers, who took us under their wings. They bought us little pink tool belts and hard hats and showed us all kinds of cool stuff make.
Eaves of Destruction by Kate Carlisle (Penguin Random House / Berkley Prime Crime, 2017, p. 1)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: Lighthouse Cove, a fictional town in northern California; modern times
  • Circumstances: As Lighthouse Cove is preparing for its Victorian Home and Garden Tour, competition is already heating up as contractors, workers, and homeowners vie to win the coveted Best in Show award. Shannon Hammer has her hands full, juggling several projects, but feeling in control. Then one of her job sites becomes a murder scene and the authorities begin to suspect Shannon or her crew. After a second victim is found Shannon and her friends sort through the clues to find the killer before he or she can strike again.
  • Characters: Shannon is a well-respected contractor who has been around construction sites all her life. Her women friends include small business owners (of a B&B and a quilt store, for example), and then there's Mac, a famous thriller author who is becoming more than a friend.
  • Genre: Cozy mystery
  • All the good: One of the most important elements of a good cozy (besides the mystery) is its protagonist. Shannon is smart, tough, sane, and professional and a good friend to boot. She runs a profitable construction business that proves women belong in the trades as much as men. The details about old houses and dealing with renovations are fairly accurate and the characters are multilayered with believable personalities. Finally, the mystery itself (along with a few twists) is well plotted and fun to try to figure out.
  • Something to know: Although this is the fifth installment in the Fixer-Upper series, you can jump in here. As the opening lines prove, Carlisle fills in the background so you won't feel lost. Though once you meet Shannon and Mac, I bet you'll want to go back and read the other books in the series. (Thanks to Berkley Prime Crime for the review copy)
  • Wait, there's more! The Fixer-Upper series has been picked up by Hallmark Channel's Movies & Mysteries. The two movies made so far, Framed for Murder and Concrete Evidence, star Jewel and Colin Ferguson as Shannon and Mac. See the following video.
  • A few links: Kate Carlisle's website includes a brief introduction to the Fixer-Upper series. Kings River Life magazine has a great interview with Carlisle that focuses on the series and Hallmark movies. Finally, the Hallmark site has more videos, photos, and information about Framed for Murder.

The Giveaway

Thanks to the good people at Berkley Prime Crime, I have one copy of Eaves of Destruction to giveaway to one of my readers. All you have to do to enter for a chance to win is to have a U.S. mailing address and to fill out the following form. I'll pick a winner via random number generator on November 30. Once the winner has been confirmed, I'll delete all personal information from my computer. Good luck!

NOTE: Google forms is acting up. If there is no form, please provide your email address in the comments and I will make sure you're entered for a chance to win.

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06 November 2017

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: Reading from the (Recent) Backlist

Reading from the BacklistEveryone get ready to repeat after me: Crazy Busy. Now say: Worth It.

That's because I'm getting ready for my annual five-day women's getaway to the Poconos. We spend the weekend eating, drinking, gabbing, and making lace! I may take my knitting this year instead of my lace stuff, but either way, it's a lovely, lovely break from real life before the holidays descend with a vengeance.

The downside is being too focused on catching up with and getting ahead on work to spend much (any?) time visiting blogs and hanging out on Twitter and Litsy. Ah well.

My New Gig

I mentioned last week that I had a new sideline job. I'm excited to announce that I am now a contributing editor at AudioFile magazine. I'm thrilled to have expanded my relationship with the magazine; everyone there is a joy to work with. Besides my regular audiobook reviews, I now have a column at the AudioFile blog. It's called "Take 5 with Candace," and my first post will be published on November 8. Stop by every other Wednesday to see which five audiobooks caught my eye that week and why. For my introductory post, be sure to visit the AudioFile blog on Wednesday and see what I'll be up to.

What I Read Last Week

Review: Rules of Magic by Alice HoffmanI finished Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman (Simon & Schuster, Oct), which I enjoyed but didn't love. It was fun to learn the backstory of Practical Magic and the Owens family, although I found some parts difficult to believe (and I don't mean the magic / witch parts). For example, the children have a crazy amount of freedom to wander around New York at all hours of the day and night. On the other hand, the 1960s details are recognizable, and the family curse seems to be running strong. In addition, the novel gives us domestic drama and a few surprises. I'm not a big fan of magical realism, but I do like witches and like seeing how their lives and abilities play out in more modern times. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Simon & Schuster Audio; 10 hr, 58 min), read by Marin Ireland. Ireland varied her tempo, volume, and cadence, capturing my attention and enlivening the story. (review print copy from the publishers)

Review: Jason Reynolds's Long Way DownI read Jason Reynolds's Long Way Down (Atheneum Books, Oct) twice. Yes, you heard me correctly. This powerful novel in verse explores the perpetuation of gun violence and gang affiliations, as fifteen-year-old Will comes to terms with the shooting death of his older brother. Most of the story takes place in a second-by-second account of a one-minute elevator ride in which Will is confronted by the ghosts of family and friends who were also victims of gun violence. The words on the page hit hard, in their meaning and in their form, and you could stop right there and have much to talk about in terms of family, loyalty, and the difficulty of breaking dysfunctional cycles. I went one step more and immediately listened to the unabridged audiobook (Simon & Schuster Audio; 1 hr, 43 min), read by the author. Poetry is meant to be heard and (as Reynolds himself says) is best read by poet himself. Reynolds's performance intensifies the emotional impact of Long Way Down, bringing out the nuances of the characters and providing layers of context. Will's future hangs in the balance as the elevator slowly descends to the lobby, what will he do when he steps through those doors? Don't miss this book in either medium. (review print copy from the publishers)

What I Gave Up On

The Templars:The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God's Holy Warriors by Dan Jones. I've always been drawn to the story of the Templars, so I'm not sure why I just didn't feel the love here. I tried it in print (Viking, Sept), and I tried it in audio (Penguin Audio; 15 hr, 35 min). Argh! Neither medium held my attention. The book wasn't bad, so perhaps I just wasn't in the mood for Crusades and the Church, politics and battles this week. The audio is read by the author, who does an only okay job, and I found my mind wandering as the audio played on. (Thanks to the publisher for both print and audio review copies)

What's on Beth Fish Reads This Week

Because I'll be traveling at the end of the week, I will not be posting my usual weekly roundup. Instead, I have a giveaway tomorrow for a fun cozy mystery, a photo on Wednesday, and my usual Weekend Cooking on Saturday. I'm not sure I'll have Monday post next week, but we'll see what I have time for.

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04 November 2017

Weekend Cooking: Wd-50 by Wylie Dufresne

Review: Wd-50 by Wylie DufresneDid you know that Anthony Bourdain had his own imprint over at Ecco Books? Well he does, and his list brings attention to great chefs, great restaurants, great food, and cutting-edge culinary trends.

Wylie Dufresne's Wd-50 (named after his now-closed restaurant) is a book that embraces all four focus points.

Who is Dufresne? He's a James Beard Award-winning, Michelin-Star chef who is known for his innovative style of cooking. Some may call it molecular gastronomy, but as the chef himself notes, his style of cooking is not so much "mad scientist in the kitchen but "look what cooking can be."

Wd-50 is full of gorgeous photographs that show off the chef's incredible creativity and talent. Although I know I'll never cook from this book, I enjoyed reading about the art (pretty much literally) of plating, Dufresne's stand against salad, the yeas and nays of eating bread before the meal, how to make cubes out of Hollandaise sauce and noodles out of tofu, and the trick of creating edible eggshells, which are formed around balloons.

Review: Wd-50 by Wylie DufresneI love mix of fun and sophistication of Defrensne's dishes (see the photos; click to enlarge): The fried eggs in the skillets are made from carrots and a coconut-based puree. The little bagel is really a kind of frozen concoction similar to ice cream. The gorgeous brown ribbon dish is chicken liver pate with melon cubes, pickled onion, and more.

Finally, the chef's take on the s'more is much more complex than it looks: The marshmallow is formed from meringue ice cream; the flavors in one sauce are black current and mezcal; standing in for the candy bar are bitter chocolate with chili, crispy chocolate, and ganche; the base is a modern take on graham crackers; and the edible stick is made from beer. Each element is carefully layered and placed on the plate, giving us a very grownup version of a campfire favorite.

As I said, I will not be cooking from this book, but I absolutely loved reading it. Dufresne's style is friendly and personal and I almost believe I could pull off one or two of his tricks. Alas, I'm a lazy cook at heart, but I bet if you had the resources and were willing to invest in the uncommon ingredients you too could transform food into delicious works of art.

My recommendation is to borrow Wd-50 from the library. After you've had a chance to read all the techniques Wylie Dufresne has so generously shared, you can decide how far you're willing to walk down the path to becoming a kitchen scientist. For more on Wylie Dufresne, see this interview with GQ.

Photos: The photos were scanned from an advanced reader's copy provided by the publisher (Ecco Books) and are used here in the context of a review. All rights remain with the original copyright holder, likely photographer Eric Medsker.

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.

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.

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02 November 2017

5 Audiobooks for a Road Trip + Giveaway

Voices on the Road Blog Tour & GiveawayHello November! I can hardly  believe we're already on the verge of the holiday season. And you know what comes with holidays? Travel. Often lots of it.

Whether you're driving or flying, traveling across town or across country, nothing makes the time go faster than a good audiobook.

I used to consider the transportation part of a journey to be something to grin and bear until I got to my destination. Since becoming an audiobook fan (way back in the last century), however, I think of the journey as prime listening time. Car trips zip along, and annoying seatmates on a plane, train, or bus just melt into the distance when I become absorbed in my book.

As we enter the annual holiday and travel season, the Audio Publishers Association (APA) and 10 major audiobook publishers want to help you de-stress by getting lost in a good book. A good audiobook, that is.

Don't know what you want to listen to? Have no fear, I can help you find the perfect audiobooks for you and your family, thanks to the APA and their Voices on the Road Blog Tour & Giveaway.

  • Each day in November, one blogger will be recommending five audiobooks to brighten up your holiday road trip. You can find the list of participating blogs at the APA site.
  • In addition, each blog post will also include a chance for one reader to win a prize pack consisting of 10 audibooks from major audiobook publishers (details below).
Not planning to travel? No worries. Listen to your audiobook when wrapping gifts, when baking cookies, when dashing out to the store for more tissue paper, when addressing holiday cards, and when sipping hot chocolate with the kids on a Saturday afternoon.

So What Books Am I Recommending?

Here are five great audiobooks to take on your holiday travels. For more information about each book, click the link to my review.

Audiobook: About Alice by Calvin TrillinIf you have a short trip and like a true story, then you have to listen to About Alice by Calvin Trillin (Penguin Random House, 1 hr, 18 min), read by the author. Here's what I wrote in 2009:
[The essay consists of] Trillin's memories of his forty-year marriage to the brilliant, eccentric, and stunning Alice Stewart Trillin. In truth, it is the most personal and emotional love story I have ever read. Although sprinkled with Trillin's characteristic humor, the memoir is beautiful and heartbreaking.
I've listened to this at least 6 times over the years and break down in tears each time. Trip Tip: Listen in the car (preferably alone) so no one can see you cry.

Audiobook: Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum If you like a many layered novel with a secretive protagonist, then you'll like Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum (Random House Audio; 9 hr, 43 min), read by Mozhan Marno. Here's what I wrote in 2015:
The combination of Mozhan Marno's sensitive performance and Jill Alexander Essbaum's unforgettable story of a woman's struggle to understand herself and her place in the world make Hausfrau one of the year's best audiobooks.
The story is set in Zurich, and Marno handles the many needed accents beautifully. Trip Tip: For mature audiences; listen through earbuds on the plane.

Audiobook: Juniors by Kaui Hart HemmingsIf you like a realistic contemporary young adult novel without a love triangle, then you'll enjoy listening to Juniors by Kaui Hart Hemmings (Listening Library; 8 hr, 55 min), read by Jorjeana Marie. Here's what I wrote in 2016:
Marie does a fantastic job channeling her inner teenager, hitting the cadences and emotions perfectly. I loved her expressiveness and characterizations and that she made it so easy for me to relate to and root for Lea. Highly recommended.
I loved the Hawaii setting and that Lea's conflicting wants were so universal. Trip Tip: Listen in the car with your teenagers.

Audiobook: Child 44 by Tom Rob SmithIf you like a very creepy mystery / thriller you'll like Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith (Hachette Audio; 12 hr, 24 min) read by Dennis Boutsikaris. Here's what I wrote in 2014:
I loved everything about Boutsikaris's outstanding performance: the pacing, the tone, the subtle drama, and the characterizations. Because my grandfather was a native Russian speaker, I'm fairly sensitive about western Russian accents; fortunately, I found Boutsikaris's accent and inflections to be very believable.
The details about life in the Soviet Union in the 1950s were both eye-opening and fascinating. Trip Tip: Listen on a long car trip with your significant other; involves a serial child killer.

Audiobook: Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNealIf you like coming-of-age stories with quirky characters, then listen to Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal (Penguin Audio; 11 hr, 12 min) read by January Lavoy. Here's what I wrote in 2014:
Levoy's performance is nothing short of brilliant. I love her characterizations and that she changes her tone so we can tell that Ibby is growing up. I can't distinguish among Southern accents, but I think Levoy does a great job with the various Louisiana dialects.
The novel is set in New Orleans during the civil rights era and is an excellent period piece. Trip Tip: Listen on the train or plane with earbuds or in the car with teens.

The Giveaway

Thanks to the generosity of Galaxy Press, Hachette Audio, Harper Audio, High Bridge Audio, Macmillan Audio, Penguin Random House Audio, Post Hypnotic Press, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster Audio, and Tantor Audio one lucky reader of this post will receive a prize pack of 10 audiobooks (titles to be announced). All you have to do to be entered for a chance to win is to have a USA or Canada mailing address and fill out the following form. I'll pick a winner via random number generator on November 30. Once the winner has been confirmed, I'll erase all personal information from my computer. Good luck! And don't forget: for more chances to win, be sure to visit the other participating blogs.

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