Monday, August 29, 2011

Mailbox Monday - August 29th

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week.  Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Created by Marcia at The Printed Page, Mailbox Monday, now has its own blog. Hosting duties are being rotated every month.  August is the month for hosting by Staci of Life in the Thumb.  She's not only hosting, but she's got some great giveaways going, so stop on over there after you're done here.

This week, I got some really exciting books:
From Simon and Schuster, I received an ARC:
 A Thousand Lives, the untold story of Faith, Deception, and survival at Jonestown by Julia Scheeres
In 1954, a pastor named Jim Jones opened a church in Indianapolis called Peoples Temple Full Gospel Church. He was a charismatic preacher with idealistic beliefs, and he quickly filled his pews with an audience eager to hear his sermons on social justice. After Jones moved his church to Northern California in 1965, he became a major player in Northern California politics; he provided vital support in electing friendly political candidates to office, and they in turn offered him a protective shield that kept stories of abuse and fraud out of the papers. Even as Jones's behavior became erratic and his message more ominous, his followers found it increasingly difficult to pull away from the church. By the time Jones relocated the Peoples Temple a final time to a remote jungle in Guyana and the U.S. Government decided to investigate allegations of abuse and false imprisonment in Jonestown, it was too late.

A Thousand Lives is the story of Jonestown as it has never been told before. New York Times bestselling author Julia Scheeres drew from thousands of recently declassified FBI documents and audiotapes, as well as rare videos and interviews, to piece together an unprecedented and compelling history of the doomed camp, focusing on the people who lived there.

The people who built Jonestown wanted to forge a better life for themselves and their children. They sought to create a truly egalitarian society. In South America, however, they found themselves trapped in Jonestown and cut off from the outside world as their leader goaded them toward committing "revolutionary suicide" and deprived them of food, sleep, and hope. Yet even as Jones resorted to lies and psychological warfare, Jonestown residents fought for their community, struggling to maintain their gardens, their school, their families, and their grip on reality.
Then DownEast Books, our own world class publishing house here in Maine sent me another two of their latest.  They have really been putting out some awesome books lately, and I'm truly honored to get advanced copies of these two:

Port City black & white - Gerry Boyle
A Brandon Blake Mystery
Brandon Blake, the tough and resourceful kid from the Portland waterfront, has made it. He’s been hired by the Portland Police Department, partly as payback for stopping a vicious cop killer in Port City Shakedown. But the newest rookie on the night shift isn’t pulling any punches. And when a drug-addled mom can’t find her baby, Blake—
whose mother left him and was killed when he was a toddler— comes down on her hard. Except the baby really is gone. Was he stolen and sold? Traded for drugs? Blake and his partner, the take-no-crap triathloner Kat, join the rest of the force as they search for the missing child. They are up against city gangs, working families who think the
city is going to hell, and the media—pressing the police to find the child, dead or alive, blaming Blake for setting off a chain of events that includes suicides, home invasions, and demonstrations in the city’s streets.
Meanwhile, Blake’s girlfriend, aspiring writer Mia, sees Brandon drifting into the world of cops and crime and leaving her behind. He doesn’t fit in with her hip friends and is particularly uncomfortable around her best friend Lily, a trust-funder, and Lily’s partner, the handsome Winston from Barbados, who runs a trendy Old Port restaurant.
Brandon’s relentless search for the child brings a load of trouble down on him, threatens his career, his life, his relationship. Will he end up alone on his old cabin cruiser Bay Witch? Or worse?
Maine's Most Scenic Roads
25 Routes off the Beaten Path
by  John Gibson
Tucked away among Maine’s blue highways are stretches of road that are beautiful, and a joy to discover. In this fully updated edition of Maine’s Most Scenic Roads there are trips that are close by, or just far enough away to fit whatever kind of escape you’re looking for.

Maine’s Most Scenic Roads offers a selection of the best drives in all areas of the state, including loop routes, as well as point-to-point. Each can also be worked into a larger itinerary. Thorough directions and easy-to-follow maps ensure that the reader can relax and enjoy the view.
 I'm definitely going to put this one on the guest room night stand!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Winners and a Review : Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer

Author: Jeffrey Archer
Publisher/Format: ARC bound galley St Martin's Press 400 pgs
Year of publication: 2011
Subject: Class struggles, family secrets
Setting: England 1920-1939
Series: The Clifton Chronicles
Genre: historical fiction; family saga
Source: Review copy from publisher

The three lucky people listed below are in for a treat.  I haven't read Jeffrey Archer for years, and now I wonder why.  This new series featuring Harry Clifton, son of a dockworker (or is he the son of an upper crust owner of a huge shipping line?), and his climb through the British public school system is going to be a delight if this first one of five is any indication.  Make no mistake, this is not a Pulitzer, but it is good, solid storytelling, with bold characters, a world wide setting, and a story that has enough twists, turns, and sneaky heart-stoppers to definitely merit the label "page turner."

The story involves Harry, as he grows from an angelic choirboy into an intelligent, hardworking young man faced with the difficult choice of going to Oxford upon graduation from the US equivalent of high school, or joining the armed forces as Britain enters the war against Hitler.  His romance with the sister of his best friend, together with some of the aforementioned story twists makes his choice even more difficult.  Harry's mother, a hard-working widow, who takes a series of back-breaking jobs to help with Harry's expenses, is harboring a secret about Harry's parentage.  This secret, if revealed could destroy lives, and Archer skillfully weaves his story around it.

My only problem with the book was the absolutely sucker punch ending.  I was left gasping, yelling "Don't do that to me!!."  I will be among thousands lined up to get my hands on the second book in the series to find out what happens next.  The Clifton Chronicles promises to keep us all enthralled for several years to come.

So without further ado, here are the lucky winners:
 Sheila K

They've been sent an email notifying them and have until Wednesday August 31st to get me their mailing addresses or we'll have to pick another winner.

If you didn't win, there's still time to enter the giveaway at Peeking between The Pages.  The deadline there is Sept 10th.  Good Luck.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

More on Abandoning a Book

Last weekend, I published some thoughts about "The Borrower", an audio book I had abandoned.  That non-review generated quite a few very well-expressed comments from all of my friends in blog-land.  So rather than bury my reactions and additions in the comments section, I thought it appropriate to continue the discussion here.

Normally, I truly enjoy audio books but I recognize that the narrator can make or break the audio version.  I'm always careful in my reviews to note whether or not I 'read' the book in print or audio format.  Often I listen to a book AND read the book.  My right/left brain finds it easy to go back and forth, and I find I am able to continue reading when my eyes and hands are otherwise occupied.

In this particular case, I was sent this book IN AUDIO FORMAT by the publisher with the specific expectation I would review it AS AN AUDIO.  The Early Reviewer Program of LibraryThing is a wonderful program that puts books in various formats (print, ebook, and audio) into the hands of serious readers and asks only that a review be written in exchange.  In fact, they did not necessarily expect a blog post, but I always post my reviews on LibraryThing and on the blog.  Because I couldn't finish it, I felt obligated to write something saying that this was the case and to explain why I couldn't get through the book. I specifically said it wasn't a review. Even when I finish and review a book I don't care for, I try to say what it is that turned me off, because I recognize that each of us has different expectations, preferences, and values that will color our perception of anything we read.

That said, many of your comments have made me open to taking a look at the work in print format to see if I have a different take.  If the book is supposed to be the reminiscences of an older librarian looking back on a very inappropriate behavior, then those of you who noted that made a very valid case for the audio being a dud.  The narrator absolutely sounded like a 12 year old, and I think that's what gave me such a negative feeling.  I never would have gotten a mature look-back from that voice.

So I'm willing to give it another look, but I think I'm going to have to let some time elapse before I will want to try to re-evaluate given my negative feelings at present.  I did give the book to our children's librarian, who also likes audio books, and asked her to have a go.  I did not give her any indication of how I felt, nor has she read the blog.  It will be interesting to see if she has the same take. 

So thanks for a good discussion, and by the way...I do think in many instances that author does have some say about who will or will not narrate.  Even if they don't, shame on a publisher for not considering the appropriateness of a voice for a narration.  It's a shame to spoil a good book by having the wrong person reading it.  Emily Bauer's reading is clear and well inflected, but, if I hear those who read the print version correctly, her voice is the wrong voice for the story.  And that is a disservice to the author and the readers. 

Narration aside, I found the plot to be one that didn't draw me in either, and felt that by listening to at least 1/2 the book, the plot should have grabbed me by then.  I'll reserve judgement and let you know if that feeling changes on a later re-read.

Lastly, I will say that there are books that have taken me two or even three tries before they 'clicked' with me.  Three of my best all time life-time reads are in that category:  Olive Kitteridge, Cutting for Stone, and Cloud Atlas all took me three reads, and a group book discussion (either online or at the local library) before I fell in love with them.   I listened to and read each of them, and they remain among my favorites to this day.  So there's hope for Miss Makkai.  I'll let you know.  In the meantime, keep those comments coming in.  You make blogging fun.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mailbox Monday - Aug 22nd

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week.  Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Created by Marcia at The Printed Page, Mailbox Monday, now has its own blog. Hosting duties are being rotated every month.  August is the month for hosting by Staci of Life in the Thumb.  She's not only hosting, but she's got some great giveaways going, so stop on over there after you're done here.

Two weeks ago I entered a Facebook contest sponsored by Picador Books.  I sent an email as instructed, 24 hours later a reply came saying "You Won!"  and one week later Michael Cunningham's book By Nightfall arrived at my front door.  I've never read anything by this author, but the publishing blurb is certainly tempting me:
 Peter and Rebecca Harris: mid-forties denizens of Manhattan’s SoHo, nearing the apogee of committed careers in the arts—he a dealer, she an editor. With a spacious loft, a college-age daughter in Boston, and lively friends, they are admirable, enviable contemporary urbanites with every reason, it seems, to be happy. Then Rebecca’s much younger look-alike brother, Ethan (known in thefamily as Mizzy, “the mistake”), shows up for a visit. A beautiful, beguiling twenty-three-year-old with a history of drug problems, Mizzy is wayward, at loose ends, looking for direction. And in his presence, Peter finds himself questioning his artists, their work, his career—the entire world he has so carefully constructed.

Like his legendary, Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, The Hours, Michael Cunningham’s masterly new novel is a heartbreaking look at the way we live now. Full of shocks and aftershocks, it makes us think and feel deeply about the uses and meaning of beauty and the place of love in our lives.

Has anybody read this author?  What do you think?  Help me out here by voting in the box on the sidebar.  My readers have a pretty good feel for what appeals to me, so here's your chance to chime in!  And you can certainly enhance your vote with a comment too.  Happy Monday!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Abandoned Book - The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

Abandoned Book The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

Normally, I'd never post a review for a book I haven't finished. However, this one is so far beyond belief that I cannot bring myself to listen any further. I received an audio copy of this from the Early Reviewers program, so I really tried and tried and tried to listen to the whole thing.  Normally I really enjoy audio books, and had been looking forward to this one.'s what the publisher wants us to get excited about:
Lucy Hull, a young children’s librarian in Hannibal, Missouri, is unsure where her life is headed. That becomes more than a figure of speech when her favorite patron, ten-year-old Ian Drake, runs away from home and Lucy finds herself in the surprise role of chauffeur.

The precocious Ian is addicted to reading, but needs Lucy’s help to smuggle books past his overbearing mother, who has enrolled Ian in weekly anti-gay classes with celebrity Pastor Bob. Lucy stumbles into a moral dilemma when she finds Ian camped out in the library after hours with a knapsack of provisions and an escape plan.

The odd pair embarks on a crazy road trip from Missouri to Vermont, with ferrets, an inconvenient boyfriend, and dubious family history thrown in their path. But who is actually running away? And from what?
I disliked both main characters--I found them cardboard, stereotypical, and just plain unbelievable. If I were the President of Holyoke College, I'd be disavowing any knowledge of Lucy the librarian as a graduate. A college graduate? Really? My 4th grade granddaughter has more common sense and brains than this one! This girl (and she's a girl -- a stunted, stilted non-adult) is vapid and locked in a dreamworld.

The child Ian is a manipulative brat,  and his mother is certainly an obnoxious, moronic religious fanatic, but.............that is no reason to glorify his running away and Lucy's kidnapping him and letting a 10 year old run her life. Can you say arrested development?   Trying to sugar coat this exercise in juvenile delinquency in a cocoon of children's stories that are more suitable to pre-schoolers than a 10 year old and a mid-20 year old, only adds insult to the reader's already bruised intelligence.  I simply could not continue with this one.  I finished 4 of 8 discs, but it was just too painful to read more.

I suppose if you're into fantasy you might like this one, and maybe someday I'll be able to bring myself to finish it, but for now, the pragmatic math major adult in me just couldn't finish this one.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Not Quite a Cozy - Review of Artistic License by Julie Hyzy

Author: Julie Hyzy
Publisher/ Format: Smashwords edition, NOOK, 623 pages
Year of publication: 2010
Setting: Chicago
Genre: cozy mystery with romance
Source: Barnes & Noble Nook download

I had been led to believe that Julie Hyzy was a cozy mystery writer, so I wasn't expecting the well written romance blossoming within the rather sophisticated cozy setting that Artistic License presented me.  I got this from one of Barnes and Nobles' free book offers and figured I'd see if Hyzy was an author I wanted to pursue.  She is. 

She starts us right off with Annie Callahan, the protagonist, crying her eyes out because she's just discovered she's pregnant.  Obviously, since her divorce from the baby's father is about to be finalized, she is anything but happy.  Life goes downhill from there.  At 623 pages, this one is much longer than your average cozy, but my interest was cemented so well at the beginning, that I never wanted to put the book down.  I was thrilled that I had this on my NOOK, because toting around a 600+ pager would not have been very convenient.  As it was, I read several hundred pages at the beach, another 200 hundred while chaperoning the g-babe's wild spree through "bracelet day" at the fair, and finished it up that night.

I loved the characters.  Annie, a mural artist, is trying so hard to be self-sufficient, but hasn't quite learned yet how to follow through on resolutions of independence.  The villains are realistic enough to avoid being stereotypes, the lackless husband and his dum-dum buddy are perfectly scripted to be hateful, and the romantic lead Sam is one of those tender-hearted men any woman would love to have in her household.  And then there's Annie's Uncle Lou,  retired journalist, who can provide just enough private eye expertise to help out.

Without spoilers, the plot involves a Durer drawing stolen from the Chicago Museum of Art, a crooked attorney, bratty kids, and an unwitting Annie caught in the mess.  It's a delightful story with a plot that moves forward nicely, and a different setting (Chicago) for me.  I'm definitely going to be reading more of Julie Hyzy's books.  Her style is perfect for me.  I've already downloaded another on my NOOK for later this year.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Audio Book Review: Burnt Mountain by Anne Rivers Siddons

Author: Anne Rivers Siddons
Publisher/Format: Hachette Audio approx 9 hrs
Year of publication: 2011
Subject: Love lost and found
Setting:North Carolina mountains, Atlanta and environs
Genre: southern fiction
Source: Hachette Audio

Anne Rivers Siddons is one of my favorite authors.  Her writing is some of the best in southern fiction today.  Audio is one of my favorite formats for fiction, so when Hachette Audio offered me the chance to review this one in audio, I jumped at it.

The story took a while to develop.  Reminiscent of some of her others, and of Pat Conroy's southern angst, Siddons defines her characters by their relationships to family, and by their adherence to that ancient Southern code of manners, high society, and propriety.  We see our protagonist, Thayer Wentworth, as she struggles with tom-boy-ism to thwart her mother's attempts to turn her into the Southern Belle she (mom) never had the chance to be. And although it took awhile to get going, along the way we watch as Thayer finds her first love at summer camp, is betrayed by people she trusts, endures loneliness upon leaving home, and ultimately finds love in the arms of a charming Irishman.

Now here's the only part I personally had trouble with.  If you're into Irish mythology and poetry, you will love this book. If dark handsome studs wallowing in magic spells is your cuppa tea, you will love this book.  The rest of us have to suspend our disbelief a bit and continue on.  In the end, Siddons gives us an exceptionally well-written character study with an ending that had two different paths she could have taken.  Some will like the way it ends, others I'm sure would have preferred the second option.  Either way, it's a good solid romance that will add to the author's stature.

Kate Reading does an outstanding job narrating.  Hachette has another winner on its hands.
Thanks to Mitch at Hachette for the chance to review it.

Back to School --- Time for a great giveaway!

Now that the wee ones are returning to school, many readers hope to find a bit of breathing time to settle down with a good book and enjoy the "piece of quiet".  Just in time for that quiet week coming up sooner than you think we have two copies of the newest Barbara Delinsky novel: "Escape" thanks to Liz at Doubleday/Random House.

Publishers Weekly states it perfectly,

"Delinsky nails it in her trademark latest, a captivating and moving story about a woman who's had enough of her life and wants a fresh start. . . . "

Emily Aulenbach is thirty, a lawyer working in Manhattan. She had once dreamed of representing victims of corporate abuse, but she spends her days talking on the phone with vic­tims of tainted bottled water. And it isn’t only work. It’s her sister, her friends, even her husband. She doesn’t connect to much in her life, period.

Emily leaves work early one day, packs her bag, and takes off. She heads north toward a New Hampshire town. During her college years, she spent a summer here. Painful as it is to return, she knows that if she is to right her life, she has to start here.

Sounds Great doesn't it, so let's get this one out there for a September read. Rules are the usual:
  • two copies available,
  • US mailing addresses only (no PO Boxes)
  • Deadline to enter : September 1st
To enter:
  • Leave me a comment  saying whether you've read anything else by Barbara Delinksy (if you haven't -you should!
  • Fill out the form.

Just that easy.  Good luck, and stay tuned for my review.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cozy Time: More Miss Julia

Author: Ann B. Ross
Publisher Format: Recorded Books, 10 hrs
Narrator: Cynthia Darlow
Year of publication: 2005
Subject: southern manners, marriage, beauty pageants
Setting: Abbotsville, NC
Series: Miss Julia
Genre: southern fiction, humor
Source: Net Library download

Well, Miss Julia has gone and done it this time! She and her long-time friend, mentor/attorney Sam Murdoch have eloped to a marriage mill in Tennessee and honeymooned at Dollywood. Shortly after their return to town, but after they'd already hired carpenters who had demolished half Miss J's house to fit it out so everyone (Julia and Sam, Hazel Mae and little Lloyd) could live under one roof, they discover that the "reverend" who officiated at the nuptials may not in fact have been a rev at all, and their marriage may not be legal.

Naturally Miss Julia's southern sense of properness and morality is totally in chaos; she banishes Sam to a separate bedroom, refuses to go through with another ceremony (that would announce to the world that they'd been living in sin!!!!) and sends Sam off to "fix it."  At the same time, Hazel Marie decides to hostess a beauty pageant, Julia's best friend wants to throw her a wedding reception, and poor Miss Julia just can't seem to handle it.  As usual, Ann B. Ross does a wonderful job of keeping us guessing about the outcome of all these challenges and manages to give us some tension, some concern, and plenty of humor as the various characters work through life.

These are fun stories.  Miss Julia has just the right amount of ditziness and brains to make them believable and Hazel Mae adds the perfect foil of fun loving devil-may-care to counter Miss Julia's prissiness. Think Golden Girls with Betty White as Miss Julia and a young Rue McClanahan as Hazel Mae.  I'm not sure I could take these as a steady diet, but they are certainly well done - - especially in audio.

Recorded books has done a wonderful job with the various accents in these and I have no trouble following who is speaking or narrating with the excellent narration of Cynthia Darrow.  Her ability to present different voices is exceptional and well suited to this story.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mailbox Monday - August 15th

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week.  Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Created by Marcia at The Printed Page, Mailbox Monday, now has its own blog. Hosting duties are being rotated every month.  August is the month for hosting by Staci of Life in the Thumb.  She's not only hosting, but she's got some great giveaways going, so stop on over there after you're done here.

This week brought two books I got from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  One was a book from June which finally arrived, the other from the July list which just closed over last weekend.  The book arrived within 48 hours of my being notified.  Both are absolutely going onto the sooner rather than later pile.

Train of Small Mercies
by David Rowell
In haunting and crystalline prose, The Train of Small Mercies follows six characters' intrepid search for hope among the debris of an American tragedy.

In New York, a young black porter struggles through his first day on the job-a staggering assignment aboard Robert F. Kennedy's funeral train. In Pennsylvania, a woman creates a tangle of lies to sneak away from her disapproving husband and pay her respects to the slain senator, dragging her child with her. In Maryland, a wounded young soldier awaits a newspaper interview that his parents hope will restore his damaged self-esteem. And in Washington, an Irish nanny in town to interview with the Kennedy family must reconcile the lost opportunity and the chance to start her life anew.
In this stunning debut, David Rowell depicts disparate lives united by an extraordinary commemoration, irrevocably changed as Kennedy's funeral train makes its solemn journey from New York to Washington.
About the Author
David Rowell is an editor at The Washington Post Magazine and has taught literary journalism at American University in Washington, D.C. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland. This is his first novel.
Then I received an advanced copy of The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai.  This one is an audio book, one of my favorite formats.
Lucy Hull, a young children’s librarian in Hannibal, Missouri, is unsure where her life is headed. That becomes more than a figure of speech when her favorite patron, ten-year-old Ian Drake, runs away from home and Lucy finds herself in the surprise role of chauffeur.

The precocious Ian is addicted to reading, but needs Lucy’s help to smuggle books past his overbearing mother, who has enrolled Ian in weekly anti-gay classes with celebrity Pastor Bob. Lucy stumbles into a moral dilemma when she finds Ian camped out in the library after hours with a knapsack of provisions and an escape plan.

The odd pair embarks on a crazy road trip from Missouri to Vermont, with ferrets, an inconvenient boyfriend, and dubious family history thrown in their path. But who is actually running away? And from what?

It was a great week.  What came in your mailbox this week?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Weekend Cooking and a Cookbook Review - Cucina Povera

Beth Fish Reads sponsors this weekly meme where we foodies can chat about cookbooks, cooking gadgets, recipes, or anything else gustatory. Be sure to stop over there to find other terrific weekend cooking posts.

This week I got a notice from NetGalley that they had some cookbooks available for pre/review.  I don't usually like cookbooks in an e-format, particularly since I don't have a color e-reader.  However, I went to browse through the list to see if anything jumped out screaming "buy me buy me!!"  I am so glad I looked.

In spite of what Andrews McNeel Publishing says, I think this one was edited in heaven by my Nona and her son, my father.  I am positively drooling over this book, and have already sent an email to my daughter strongly suggesting that this one appear in my stocking from Santa later this year (it's not due for publication until next month.)

Cucina Povera
Tuscan Peasant Cooking
Author: Pamela Sheldon Johns
Photographs by Andrea Wyner
Publisher/Format: egalley 192 pages
Year of publication: 2011
Subject: Tuscan Peasant cooking
Genre: cookbook
Source: e-galley from publisher via NetGalley

Publisher's blurb: Italian cookbook authority Pamela Sheldon Johns presents more than 60 peasant-inspired dishes from the heart of Tuscany inside Cucina Povera. This book is more than a collection of recipes of "good food for hard times." La cucina povera is a philosophy of not wasting anything edible and of using technique to make every bite as tasty as possible. Budget-conscious dishes utilizing local and seasonal fruits and vegetables create everything from savory pasta sauces, crusty breads and slow-roasted meats to flavorful vegetable accompaniments and end-of-meal sweets.

The recipes inside Cucina Povera have been collected during the more than 20 years Johns has spent in Tuscany. Dishes such as Ribollita (Bread Soup), Pollo Arrosto al Vin Santo (Chicken with Vin Santo Sauce), and Ciambellone (Tuscan Ring Cake) are adapted from the recipes of Johns' neighbors, friends, and local Italian food producers. Lavish color and black-and-white photographs mingle with Johns' recipes and personal reflections to share an authentic interpretation of rustic Italian cooking inside Cucina Povera.
I found many of the recipes to be familiar from my childhood, others exotic but with ingredients that had me making a market list to try them as soon as I can get my hands on the real book.  In fact, my sister, who is also an excellent Italian cook, was just visiting last week, and we had a discussion over whether or not one could substitute olive oil in a cake recipe that called for vegetable oil.  The recipe for Ciambellone (Tuscan Ring Cake) on page 156,  left no doubt that olive oil was quite acceptable. In fact, that cake looked so good, I may just have to move my laptop to the kitchen and bake it tonite to serve with some fresh Maine blueberries.  Because, you see, the secret of Cucina Povera, in fact the secret of all good Italian cooking, is to use the fresh ingredients one has on hand, to make simple, elegant, wholesome, healthy food.

The cover recipe "Pomidori, Fagioli e Cippoline" (Roasted Tomatoes, Beans and Onions) p. 135, makes me wish for a cold rainy day to come quick.  My family was quite fond of our Nona's gnocci - they were her specialty.  But I was quite taken with a dish I'd never seen before "Gnudi" on pg.90.  Literally meaning "nudes", they are spinach and ricotta dumplings - similar to the filling found in ravioli, but without the pasta shell.  On a bed of homemade tomato sauce, they would be worthy of royalty.

The book is well laid out, has an excellent index, and although the e-galley is lacking a table of contents, each section has an individual TOC.  The photography is spectacular...if you had a fork and spoon, you'd feel you could dive right in. The actual recipes don't start until page 43, but you don't mind because Johns takes us on a pictorial and memory tour of the area, introducing us to locals who have been cooking and growing these foods for all their very long lives.  She gives us introductions to herbal remedies handed down by the monks in a local monastery, explains why basic ingredients are so important, and how and where they're produced.  In short, we get culture, history, geography and cuisine all in one small volume.  It's a winner.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Winners! The Things We Cherished by Pam Jelloff

We have winners!!! This World War II story is definitely turning out to be a good read.  I haven't had time to finish it yet, so you'll have to wait for my review, but that's no reason to keep the winner's of our giveaway waiting.  Thanks to Liz at Doubleday, we have two copies to bestow and they are going to



Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cozy Time: Murder with Puffins

Author: Donna Andrews
Publisher/Format: St. Martin's Paperbacks (2000), 311 pages
Subject: more murder, different birds
Setting: Matinicus Island, off the coast of Maine
Series: Meg Langslow Mysteries
Genre: cozy mystery
Source: my own shelves (years ago - book sale?)

I can't believe I've waited so many years to enjoy the adventures of Meg Langslow.  I now know that I can grab one of these delightful Donna Andrews cozies at any time, settle down for a few hours, and emerge from any kind of bad mood, reading funk, headache, fight with the family, etc., in a much better mood.

I normally dislike amateur sleuths who put themselves in harm's way, who dismiss competent law enforcement's efforts, and who think only they can solve the case.  Meg Langslow can demonstrate all of these unprofessional attributes, but even while she's getting herself into a mess, her brain is at least kicking in to say "BAD IDEA- GET OUT OF HERE" and she has the soothing help of her developing romantic interest -- the handsome Michael.  I just wish her ditzy father has more of the same impulse control----but then----it wouldn't be a good story.

This one has everything I need for escapist lit....a great setting (can you beat a lighthouse, a Maine Island, and those darling cute puffins?), some more of the same loonie-toon characters (including her parents!!), a cast of possible suspects with just enough doubt cast on each to keep you guessing, and good writing.  The dialogue is realistic, and while I realize that not everyone has the option of seemingly unlimited financial resources so they can just take off for an entire summer to traipse around to various venues on vacation, the plot itself is also reasonably believable, particularly if you live in coastal Maine and are familiar with stories of life on Matinicus.

While this one was published over 10 years ago, the entire series is standing up well, and the newest one has just come out.  I'm glad I finally got to them, and can't wait to sprinkle several others into my reading life for the foreseeable future. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review: Governor's Travels by Angus King

 Governor's Travels
How I Left Politics, Learned to Back Up a Bus, and Found America
Author: Angus King
Publisher Format:Down East Books (2011), Paperback, 128 pages
Subject: Traveling Through America with family
Setting: broad spectrum of US visitor attractions
Genre: memoir
Source: Review copy from the publisher

Such a fun book!  I wanted to run right out, buy (or at least rent) an RV and start driving.  Angus King, former governor of Maine, walked out the door of the Governor's mansion, went "home", finished packing, and took off in a 40 foot RV with his wife, a 12 year old son, and 10 year old daughter on a six month adventure across the US.  Now right there is a recipe for disaster!  The King family however, turned it into a luxurious episode of learning, loving and living.

The book is loaded with pictures, and uses them to tell the story with well-written captions, along with some thoughtful essays by the author offering reflections on the environment, family dynamics, friendship, the beauty of the US, aging, politics (not too much) and educating our children. It's an easy read (about 2 hours), a great conversation starter, and a book that begs to be shared.

It definitely brought back memories for me of a trip my family took back in the late 60's.  My mom and dad loaded their 4 daughters (ages 20,17,14, and 11) into a 1964 Dodge Coronet (no A/C in July), put five suitcases and four "train cases" into the trunk (back then the trunk was the size of a small aircraft carrier) and headed west from Baltimore.  In 27 days we saw something like 18 states, visited the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, LosAngeles, Disneyland, San Franciso, Reno, Yosemite and Yellowstone Parks, the Corn Palace, the Badland,  Mt Rushmore, saw friends in Lincoln Nebraska, and Cincinnatti OH.  We had no Ipods, no personal computers, no airbags, no shoulder belts, no GPS and no satellite radio --in fact, if I remember correctly, we didn't even have FM radio.  We were NOT allowed to eat in the car.  We had maps (and learned to read them), we each had a book, and we fought to sit in the front seat between my parents, or to get a window seat in the back. We became best friends and built memories that have lasted our entire lives.

The King family had a self-contained world inside their RV -satellite TV, internet, cooking, bathing, etc, but did not allow those modern devices to interfere with their experience of and appreciation for the sheer majestic beauty and diversity of the US.  I think this was the best gift they gave each other and the strength of the book: by letting us join in the experiences of his family, Angus King shows us our country, shows us that while "there's no place like home," we have so much else to be thankful for.  His descriptions and reflections certainly show why the US is never to be taken for granted.

This is a book to be shared, to be out and available for visitors.  If you only buy a few books a year, get this one.  It's the real deal - - one of those books that is going to keep print books on real paper from dying. 

Many thanks to Judy Paolini at DownEast publishers for making a review copy available.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cozy Time: Two Series by Charlaine Harris

As the summer cozy-thon continues, I've been catching up on a favorite author: Charlaine Harris. Each of her  series has a  diffferent protagonist, setting, and plot premise that keeps them all separate, and prevents them  from running together. Last week, I reviewed her Lily Bard mystery "Shakespeare's Landlord" and have been looking forward to these two.  Harris has developed some excellent female characters, some interesting side characters in each, and plausible, intriguing plots.  I read both of these earlier last week and look forward to having more of both these series on my nightstand, or my MP3

Title: Grave Sight
Author:  Charlaine Harris
Publisher/Format: Recorded Books, audio 12 hours, 310 page equivalent
Narrator: Alyssa Bresnahan.
Year of publication: 2006
Subject: extra-normal abilities; murders
Setting:  Sarne Arkansas (fictional town)
Series: Harper Connelly mysteries
Genre: cozy mystery,  paranormal detecting
Source: public library

Harper Connelly was struck by lightening as a teen and lived to tell about it.  In fact, as a result of the electric bolt, she now can find others who have died and by being near the bodies, determine how they died, although she can't see the murderers when foul play is involved. With the help of her "brother" Tolliver Lang, they hire out across the country to assist in locating missing persons.  In many cases, they provide information to local law enforcement personnel often giving them a different take on how the victims died.  In Grave Sight, Harper not only finds the body of a murdered missing young lady, but also establishes that her dead boyfriend, originally ruled a suicide, did not in fact kill himself.  She and her brother are held in town until the local sheriff and police can solve the mystery, in spite of Harper's insistence that she can't "see" the identity of the perpetrator.

It's a pleasant read, and the reader has a fairly good inkling about 1/2 way through of who dunnit, but the story is so well written,  it's easy to continue to the end to see if the hunches are correct.  This the first book in the series and I can't wait for the rest.

Title: Three Bedrooms, One Corpse
Author: Charlaine Harris
Publisher/Format: Recorded Books audio, 6hr, 45 min;  310 pages equivalent
Narrator: Thérèse Plummer
Year of publication: 2010
Subject: amateur sleuthing-murder
Setting: Lawrenceton GA (fictional town)
Series: Aurora Teagarden mysteries
Genre: cozy mystery
Source: public library

I was immediately drawn to this series when I saw that the protagonist was a librarian!  Of course, Aurora (Roe) Teagarden is also an heiress, and decides she doesn't need to be a librarian anymore so she is now working on becoming a real estate agent, following her mother's footsteps.  While showing a client a three bedroom house, they discover the body of a fellow agent dead in the master bedroom. The story ramps up from there, another body is found, and Aurora discovers not only that she may be the object of a killer's search, but also the new love in her life (a real hunk who will certainly satisfy the romance readers who pick this up) may in fact be a suspect in the case. 

Great fun, tightly woven plot, interesting and engaging characters make this series one I'm going to continue.  This one is the third I've read, and I expect the next five to be just as much fun.

I can certainly recommend any of these series to those of you who are lovers of the cozy genre.  And if you are a vampire fan, don't forget her Sookie Stackhouse series.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mailbox Monday - Aug 8th

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week.  Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Created by Marcia at The Printed Page, Mailbox Monday, now has its own blog. Hosting duties are being rotated every month.  August is the month for hosting by Staci of Life in the Thumb.  She's not only hosting, but she's got some great giveaways going, so stop on over there after you're done here.

Only one book this past week, but what a fun one!  Down East Books sent

Governor's Travels
by Angus King

I'll be posting a review later this week, so I'll just tantalize you now by saying that Angus King is a previous governor of this great state, now teaches at nearby Bowdoin College, and he's given us a delightful afternoon of reading in this pictoral journal sub-titled
How I left Politics, Learned to Back up a Bus, and Found America.

Stay tuned's a winner!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

More Life as it should be - Maine Hospitality

Down East Magazine, one of my favorite publications, posted this on their Facebook page yesterday.  It so captures the essence of the Maine sense of humor, hospitality, and general love of life that I had to share it with you.  They do a great job at Down sure to grab a copy at your newstand to see more of life as it should be.

P.S.  I'm posting a copy of this one in my guest room!!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer in Maine - Life as it was meant to be!

Summer in Maine often provides a little glimpse of heaven--blue skies, sea breezes, fairs and festivals, sailboats, enough fog to set off the haunting sound of the lighthouse's fog horns at night, fresh tomatoes and corn, wild blueberries, clams, lobsters, beach roses, and of course lots and lots and lots of visitors.

We live on the MidCoast - that area that divides the state into two Maines...the south and west with the wide sandy beaches of Kennebunk, Ogoquit, Old Orchard Beach and the gorgeous lakes in the western mountains and DownEast from here to the eastern border into Canada with wide craggy rocky beaches, lots of lobster and cooler days and nights.  Not a scientific description, but we'll settle for being right in the middle of both.

We've had an abundance of visitors so far, and are expecting more.  The highlight of course has to be the annual visit from the granddaughter who started coming here for a few weeks in the summer when she was only 4 1/2/.  Now at nearly eleven, and nearly as tall as her Tutu, our visits have evolved from lots of story reading and trips to see wildlife to shopping expeditions, her teaching Tutu about various new teen-age 'persons of importance', how to use an Ipod Touch, and beating Tutu and Tampa (that's "grampa" in her original baby-talk) at the Wii.  Of course, she now times her visits to be able to go to the most fun event of the summer around here: The annual Lobster Festival in Rockland. She's even old enough to be able to appreciate some of the science exhibits such as the mako shark shown here, in addition to the rides and eats.

Earlier this week we spent a glorious day at Reid State Park  - beautiful beach on the tip of Georgetown Island with fun tidal pools, rocks for climbing, enough breaking surf to be able to "jump the waves" and a gorgeous open ocean view of some of the outer islands.  On our way home, we stopped at my sister's recently acquired little beach cottage to try out her hammock.  It was pronounced more than slightly acceptable.

Later today our son (grandbaby's father) will arrive and we'll really get down to having even more family fun.  It will also be Mr. & Mrs. Tutu's 44th wedding anniversary and being able to celebrate it living in Maine where we spent our honeymoon so many years ago makes it even more special.  Our daughter and son-in-law will be up for a visit sometime later this fall.

Don't worry, I'm still reading.  Today, while g-babe was running around the festival going on vertigo inducing rides of all kinds, Tutu was sitting on a bench in the shade reading from her Nook.  I actually got over 250 pages read before she announced she was ready to go home.

I can actually still remember when I had that much energy.  In the meantime, it's time for Maine blueberry ice-cream or a scoop of Moose Tracks.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A new series and a giveaway : Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer

As I mentioned in Monday's Mailbox, this month St. Martin's Press is releasing the first volume of five of Jeffrey Archer's newest family saga "Only Time Will Tell".  It is going to be a great way to kick off the fall reading season. Here's the publisher's blurb:

The "Clifton Chronicles" is Jeffrey Archer's most ambitious work in four decades as an international bestselling author. The epic tale of Harry Clifton's life begins in 1920, with the chilling words, 'I was told that my father was killed in the war'. But it will be another twenty years before Harry discovers how his father really died, which will only lead him to question: who was his father? Is he the son of Arthur Clifton, a stevedore who worked in Bristol docks, or the first born son of a scion of West Country society, whose family owns a shipping line?

"Only Time Will Tell" covers the years from 1920 to 1940, and includes a cast of memorable characters that "The Times" has compared to "The Forsyte Saga". Volume one takes us from the ravages of the Great War to the outbreak of the Second World War, when Harry must decide whether to take up a place at Oxford, or join the navy and go to war with Hitler's Germany. In Jeffrey Archer's masterful hands, the reader is taken on a journey that they won't want to end, and when you turn the last page of this unforgettable yarn, you will be faced with a dilemma that neither you, nor Harry Clifton could have anticipated.
St. Martin's has graciously offered us 3 copies to giveaway.
It's even opening this one to our readers in Canada.
No PO Boxes, but anything US or Canadian with a street address can enter.
Just leave a comment AND fill out the form.
Deadline is August 25th.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review: Grace of Everyday Saints by Julian Guthrie

Subtitle: How a Band of Believers Lost their Church and Found their faith
Author: Julian Guthrie
Publisher/Format: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt : e-galley 292 pages
Subject:  Closure of Catholic parish, Catholic church politics
Setting:  San Francisco
Genre:  Non-fiction
Source: Net galley from publisher

This was a so-so read I got it as an e-galley from the publisher. I found it enlightening but tedious. Due out sometime this month, I won't be rushing to put it on my 'gotta have' list. Although well-written, it reads like the series of newspaper articles that gave birth to the project. If you are from the San Francisco area, and are interested in local history, it will appeal to you. If you have an ax to grind with the Catholic church, it will appeal to you. If you're looking for intelligent decision-making, and/or happy endings, don't get your hopes up.

Essentially, the story centers around a small group of people who refused to accept the inevitable -- a building that had served as their physical place of worship was going to be closed down by their religious superiors.  They acknowledged that "church" meant the worshiping community, but did not seem able to separate the community from the building.  A lot of time, energy and money spent to get them through the trauma to a reluctant acceptance. SAD.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Upright Piano Player - we have winners!

This is a very unique character study.  David Abbott writes in a very clean and concise prose that allows the reader to enter into the depths of loneliness, despair, and unhappiness being experienced by Henry, the main character.  The story is a non-story, the only plot the day to day plodding life of Henry who must deal with an ex-wife dying of cancer, a son from whom he is not quite estranged, a grandson who died tragically and for whose death Henry may or may not feel some guilt, and a stalker who appears to want to make Henry's life as miserable as possible.

Throughout all this dark tragedy, Henry seems unable to rouse enough "get up and go" to do anything to change his circumstances.  It is impossible for this reader to even get a grip on whether Henry even cares.  I suppose one could play amateur psychologist and diagnose severe deep depression, but no one in Henry's life seems to be able to bring him to that realization.

It's not a book for everyone, but if you like dark character studies, if you can handle a book that gives you the ending at the beginning, and you like slow, steady prose with no exciting moments, this is the book for you.  Abbott writes well, and I'd be willing to read one more book of his, but I don't think I could take a steady diet of Henry.

Now, it's time to give two loyal readers a chance to see how they felt about Henry's story. has chosen our winners, and they have been notified by email to get me their snail mail address by Wednesday the 3rd.  The winners are

Karen B and Sandra K

Congratulations to both of them!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mailbox Monday - Aug 1

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week.  Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Created by Marcia at The Printed Page, Mailbox Monday, now has its own blog. Hosting duties are being rotated every month.  August is the month for hosting by Staci of Life in the Thumb.  She's not only hosting, but she's got some great giveaways going, so stop on over there after you're done here.

This week brought a true bonanza to my mailbox.  Hachette Book group is having a summer audio review special, so they sent me 4 audios:

I'm going to have to roll the dice to see which one I pick up first because they all look so good.  Every one of these authors, Anne Rivers Siddons, David Baldacci, Elin Hildenbrand and Nelson DeMille are favorites, and each of these promises to be just enough different from their general writing (particularly for Baldacci) that I'm really intrigued.  Thanks've certainly given me something to look forward to for August.

Then, from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via Net Galley this Boston Red Sox fan was thrilled to get an egalley of
Fenway 1912 by Glenn Stout
here's the blurb on this one due for publication in October (just in time for the World Series?)
For all that has been written in tribute to the great Fenway Park, no one has ever really told the behind-the-scenes true story of its tumultuous yet glorious first year. Nineteen twelve was a leap year, the year the Titanic sank, but also the year baseball’s original shrine was “born.” And while the paint was still drying, the infield grass still coming in, the Red Sox embarked on an unlikely season that would culminate in a World Series battle against the Giants that stands as one of the greatest ever played.
Fenway 1912 tells the incredible story – and stories – of Fenway, from the unorthodox blueprint that belies the park’s notorious quirks, to the long winter when locals poured concrete and erected history, to the notorious fixers who then ruled the game, to the ragtag team who delivered a world championship, Fenway's first. 
Drawing on extensive new research, the esteemed baseball historian Glenn Stout delivers a rollicking tale of innovation, desperation, and perspiration, capturing Fenway as never before.
And as the final icing on this week's many tiered yummy book cake, St. Martin's Press sent me an ARC of

ONLY TIME WILL TELL, volume 1 of Jeffrey Archer's new saga of the Clifton family.  Due out in September, I'll have a giveaway posting for this one later this week.  Keep checking back.  I have 3 copies, and we can even open this to our readers in Canada.  I'll give you more details when I post the giveaway.