Monthly Archives: May 2011

Paris in July

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In addition to the Agatha Christie Summer Celebration that I want to take part in, I am also signed up for the 2nd Annual Paris in July, hosted by Thyme for Tea and Book Bath.

Paris in July 2010Given my penchant for reading books set in France or Paris, this should be a piece of cake, or rather a piece of eclair, a roll of croissant, etc.

I spent 6 days of my honeymoon in Paris this April. I spent a grand total of 9 days in France when you include the weekend stay in Arles in Provance. I am desperate to get back, and Paris in July is a wonderful way for me to relive my days in Europe.

I even have plans to attend the 24th Annual French Festival in Santa Barbara this year. Paris in July is a month long blog-love for all things French and Parisian. It will run from July 1st to July 31st this year and the rules are fairly simple:

There will be no rules or targets in terms of how much you need to do or complete in order to be a part of Paris in July – just blog about anything French and you can join in. Some ideas for the month might include:
– Reading a French book – fiction or non-fiction
– Watching a French movie
– Listening to French music
– Cooking French food
– Experiencing French art, architecture or travel (lucky Tamara!)
– Or anything else French inspired you can think of…

I hope you will sign up with me for this fun event!!

An Agatha Christie Summer Celebration

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Agatha Christie has always been one of those authors that I see in every nook and cranny of a library and bookstore. Dozens of books shelved in no particular order on the shelf, TV shows, movies and serials devoted to the much popular books.

Other than seeing the author’s name everywhere, I never really gave her much though until I got this e-mail, discussing all the awesomeness of this summer event. I plan on signing up for the Miss Marple feature, hosted at The Sunday Book Review.

Which will you join?

Book Club Girl, Booking Mama, Linus’s Blanket, The Sunday Book Review and Devourer of Books are proud to announce our Agatha Christie Summer Read-Along and invite you to join us!

Spend the Summer with Agatha – Cool Down with AC!

The read-along kicks off today and runs through Labor Day weekend – we’ll cap it off with a Book Club Girl on Air show with some special to-be-announced guests! Full details at this link: http://tinyurl.com/3bhnn9o

Julie from Booking Mama will explore the world of Hercule Poirot, Melissa from The Sunday Book Review will delve into the mysteries of Miss Marple, Jen from Devourer of Books will focus on Christie’s standalone novels and Nicole from Linus’s Blanket will focus on the four new Masterpiece Mystery films that will air on PBS this June and July. I will focus on Book Club Girl on her acclaimed short stories.

You can sign up at any one of our blogs and grab the overall tile ad and the one for Short Stories at Book Club Girl. You can pick up the individual tile ads that focus on the Marple, Poirot, Standalones and Masterpiece films read-alongs (or watch-alongs) at each of these blogs below!

Booking Mama – Hercule Poirot Mysteries
Devourer of Books -Standalone Mysteries
Linus’s Blanket – Masterpiece Mystery Movies on PBS
The Sunday Book Review – Miss Marple Mysteries

We hope you’ll join us for all or part of the read-along – the full schedule is below:

Short Story!
June 6th: “The Tuesday Night Club” on Book Club Girl

Marple!
June 13th-June19th: 4:50 From Paddington: A Miss Marple Mystery on The Sunday Book Review

Poirot!
June 20th-June 26th: Three Act Tragedy: A Hercule Poirot Mystery on Booking Mama

Movie!
June 20th-June 26th: Three Act Tragedy airs on PBS June 19th on Linus’s Blanket

Standalone!
June 27th: Endless Night on Devourer of Books

Movie!
June 27th-July 3rd: The Clocks airs on PBS June 26th on Linus’s Blanket

Short Story!
July 5th: “Three Blind Mice” on Book Club Girl

Movie!
July 4th-July 10th: Hallowe’en Party airs on PBS July 3rd on Linus’s Blanket

Marple!
July 11th-July 17th: A Miss Marple Mystery on The Sunday Book Review

Movie!
July 11th-July 17th:  The Pale Horse airs on PBS July 10th on Linus’s Blanket

Poirot!
July 18th-July 24th: Murder on the Orient Express: A Hercule Poirot Mystery on Booking Mama

Standalone!
July 25th: And Then There Were None on Devourer of Books

Short Story!
August 1st: “Witness for the Prosecution” on Book Club Girl  

Marple!
August 8th-August 14th:  A Miss Marple Mystery on The Sunday Book Review

Poirot!
August 15th-August 21st: The A.B.C. Murders: A Hercule Poirot Mystery on Booking Mama

Standalone!
August 22nd: Ordeal by Innocence on Devourer of Books

Wrap Up!
August 29th-September 4th: Book Club Girl on Air Show to be announced!

Weekend Cooking 5/28/2011 – Substituting Ingredients

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Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: For more information, see the welcome post. 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Substituting ingredients : the A to Z kitchen reference

This is quickly becoming one of my favorite and most frequently used book on my cookbook bookshelf. Although by no means comprehensive, this A to Z guide does offer appropriate substitutions for the most basic and frequently used food items in recipes.

This is a $10 resource that I bought at Borders when they were going out of business at the mall. I always beeline straight for the cookbooks when bookstore go out of business because those are some of the most expensive, reusable books in the industry. This inexpensive find is definitely a great resource. I can’t tell you how often I have to leave food on the hot stove to look up substitutions on the Internet. Usually in that time, something either burns, or overcooks. This way, if I stumble upon an ingredient and come short, or am missing altogether, I can quickly assemble a respectable substitute without much haste. This is also a great way to use up the less frequently used items in my pantry.

Here are a few examples of the substitutions listed in this book.

Cloves, Ground
= allspice
= nutmeg
= mace
 
Oats, in baking 1 cup
= 3/4 cup white flour
 
Sour Cream
= 1 tbsp white vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup (let stand 5 minutes before using)
= 1 tbsp lemon juice plus enough evaporated milk to make 1 cup (let stand 5 minutes before using)
= 1 cup plain yogurt, especially in dips  and cold soups
= 7/8 cup cottage cheese blended to break up curds, mixed with yogurt if desired, and 2 tbsp milk and 1 tbsp lemon juice, blend well. 
= 6 oz cream cheese plus 3 tbsp milk
= 1/3 cup melted butter, plus 3/4 cup sour milk, for baking
 

This book is also reviewed as part of the Foodie’s Reading Challenge.
 
 
 
Book 1
 
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Substituting Ingredients: The A to Z Kitchen Reference
Becky Sue Epstein
Sourcebooks, 2010
ISBN 9781402239243
191 pages

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Find this book at your local library

Between Here and April – Review

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Between Here and April
Age: Adult
Genre: Fiction

Back cover synopsis:

When a deep-rooted memory sudden surfaces, Elizabeth Burns becomes obsessed with the long-ago disappearance of her childhood friend April Cassidy. Driven to investigate, Elizabeth discovers a thirty-five-year-old newspaper article revealing the details that had been hidden from her as a child — shocking revelations about April’s mother Adele. Elizabeth, now herself a mother, tracks down, one by one, the people who knew Adele Cassidy and who might give her the insight necessary to understand how a mother could commit that most incomprehensible of crimes. But answers are elusive and the questions raised lead Elizabeth deep into her own compromised life…

I wrote the back cover synopsis as a juxtaposition. The book is really not as thrilling nor as mysterious as it is made out to be. While reading this book, there were many elements that confused me, frustrated me, and just plain annoyed me. For one, I never really underst00d Elizabeth’s obsession with the disappearance of April Cassidy. The memory came about when Elizabeth went to see the play Medea, then soon started having feinting spells during anything that reminded her of the year April disappeared from class. The investigation was not all that interesting either. Elizabeth works as a journalist, so it was no problem for her to turn this obsession into a work assignment and be paid to go back to her hometown and interview old neighbors that hadn’t moved away.

One of the major disappointments in this book was learning about Adele Cassidy and how her side of the story would be developed for the reader. I felt it was a bit of a cheat to have 32 pages of a word-by-word transcript between Adele and her therapist. Although it showed a lot of insight into Adele and laid some foundations for why she did what she did, it still felt…too easy.

Another disappointment was with Elizabeth herself. I found her to make poor decisions throughout the course of the novel, and despite her husband’s random and new kinky sexual requests, I still don’t understand why she never told him about the one most traumatic moment in her life, which would explain why she’s so hesitant to play along with his requests. And for all her complaints about his as a neglectful and naive husband, she certainly did not act the saint in the relationship either.

All the men in this book were portrayed as egotistic, abusive, hyper-sexed and just naive and ignorant. There was not a single man with redeeming qualities in this book. Most of the women were portrayed as victims, or bystanders, held down and oppressed.

What I did like about the novel, yes there was something I liked about this novel, was Kogan’s descriptive writing and the ability to  create a sympathetic environment for a crime so heinous and disturbing. She really excelled when she began writing about war photography and war journalism. That was when I realized that her first book, Shutterbabe, is a memoir of her years as a war photographer.

I think fans of Alice Sebold, particularly Almost Moon, will really enjoy this book, due to the similar themes and topics of undetected and undiagnosed mental illnesses, and mother-daughter issues that haunt the characters.

Between Here and April
By Deborah Copaken Kogan
Algonquin Books, 2008
ISBN 9781565129320
280 pages
Book 22 of 2011
 
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Find this book at your local library
Between here and April : a novel
 
 

Foodie Reading Challenge

I hope I’m not too late in joining this challenge as the year is almost half over already! This seems like a lot of fun, and I go through cookbooks quite frequently.

I’m going to aim for the Glutton. I figure between this challenge and Weekend Cooking I’ll be able to  get through a number of cooking and food-related books.

How it works:

1. Decide how many food books you want to read in 2011 and choose your level of reading.  Keep in mind this is a challenge – a throw-down. Go a bit beyond what you think you can really do. Levels:

  • Nibbler: 1 to 3 books
  • Bon Vivant: 4 to 6 books
  • Epicurean: 7 to 9 books
  • Gourmet: 10 to 12
  • Glutton: More than 12

2. Grab the challenge button and write a post on your blog so we can spread the word. No blog? That’s okay. Sign up in the comments section.

3. As you read each book for the challenge, come back here and tell us about it. On January 1st I’ll provide pages so you can post links for your reviews. Non-bloggers will use the comment section.

Guidelines:

  • You don’t need a pre-selected list of books.
  • Crossing over with other challenges is fine.
  • Any book format is allowed (print, audio, ebook)

Prizes:

To encourage you to return here and tell us what you read, there will be a prize at the end of each quarter. I’ll use Random.org to select from all the books you tell us about. Each book read will be one more chance to win.

Sign Up Here: Sign in using Mr. Linky below. Put your name or blog name on the first line and your blog address on the second line. Non-bloggers will use the comment section.

Teaser Tuesday (5/24)

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
Grab your current read.
Let the book fall open to a random page.
Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
Please avoid spoilers!
You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

This teaser is from The Golden Gate: a Novel in Verse by Vikram Seth

From time to time Phil looks at Ed,
Who flushes a dark rapid red.
Paul falls asleep, still at the table.

Bossypants – Review

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Bossypants by Tina Fey
Age: Adult
Genre: Memoir

This memoir/autobiography by Tina Fey is really a series of essays detailing some of the more memorable akward moments in her life from  her childhood in Chicago to her rise in fame. Tina Fey takes us through the backroads of her life in and out of the spotlight. Written as a series of essays detailing various aspects of her life, Fey lets down her guard. Her breezy writing style, one-liner jokes and a slight spattering of childhood photos has the feel of an intimate side-by-side chat with the actress.

As much as I loved this book, there was still so much that I wanted after I finished each chapter. There were many hot button topics that she lightly brushed on with her trademark wit, but never really got any deeper than that. Although I felt like I was having a side-by-side talk with the actress when reading the book, I still felt like she was holding back.

I came across this breakdown on another review of this book on Librarything, and I thought it accurately captured the breakdown of Bossypants:

46% Celebrity memoir
28% Essay collection
12% Feminist manifesto
9% Stand-up routine
5% Self-help manual

Some of the topics that she covered in her book were homosexuality, her Sarah Palin impersonation, a honeymoon cruise from hell and the difficulties for female comedians in show business. I’m not really sure what the overarching message is from the book other than something close to “girl power.” There is no chronological order to the book, as each chapter jumps topics and is a mix of funny bits and stories. There were a few moments where I felt she dragged on certain topics and it came across as slightly preachy. There were moments in her career that I had hoped she would expand on, but never really got to, such as her work as a writer on SNL. As much as I admire Tina Fey’s hardwork climbing up the ladder to commercial success, this book still left me unsatisfied.

Bossypants
By Tina Fey
Little, Brown & Co, 2011
ISBN 9780316056861
277 pages
Book 21 of 2011
 
 
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Find this book at your local library
Bossypants
 
 

Weekend Cooking 5/21/2011

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Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

This is my first Weekend Cooking post, a fantastic meme run by Beth at Beth Fish Reads. 
 

For today’s post, I want to cover breadmaking. I am a novice to baking breads, although I excel at zucchini breads. Anything that involves using yeast, kneading and other methods is usually hit or miss for me.

My first attempt at bread making, I followed the New York Times No Knead Bread Recipe that I had read about in Cathy Erway’s Book: The Art of Eating In.

This is the result of that recipe:

It was delicious, light and fluffy and above all, it was well made bread.

So, being on a bread kick, I attempted to make more bread. Well, the next three batches ended up as bricks because the yeast wouldn’t rise. I have up on the No Knead Bread Recipe and found this wonderful book that has really been beneficial to my breadmaking experiments.

The bread book : the definitive guide to making bread by hand or machine

The Bread Book by Sara Lewis,  is an easy guide for breadmaking. It covers everything from loaves to bagels to non-yeast breads. What I really appreciate about this book is that each recipe is written for baking bread by hand, and for baking bread via a bread machine. I do not have a bread machine, but if I ever get one, I am already set.

The instructions are easy to follow, and the first section of the book covers has photographic instructions of how-to certain instructions; such as kneading the bread, folding it, and the different types of flour used in the book. Most recipes take about 4-5 hours (that involves all the hours that the bread has to sit on a shelf and rise). I’d say total prep time is usually about 30 minutes (mixing the ingredients, kneading the bread) the rest of the time is letting the bread rise, then putting it into the oven for another 30 minutes. Most of the recipes involve multiple ingredients that may be difficult to find at normal grocery stores, and by this I mean all the various types of flours and powders used.

From this book, I have made: A Quick White Loaf, Feta and Spinach Twists (big hit!) and plain baguettes.

Do any of faithful yet silent readers bake? What are some of your favorite bread making recipes, or books?

The Most Beautiful Walk In The World – Review

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The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris by John Baxter
Age: Adult
Genre: Memoir
On sale: 5/24/2011

Part memoir, part Paris guide book, John Baxter takes us through a year of his life in Paris as a literary tour guide through the city of light’s 6th Arrondissment, better known as The Latin Quarter.

Written as a series of essays, each chapter chronicles a different part of Baxter’s life that either lead to his career as a literary tour guide, or what followed as a result. What I liked about the book is that Baxter offered a lot of insight into the famed Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore, as well Paris itself. Many of his warnings and advice came in handy while I was there. The best time to read this book is either in Paris, or on your way to Paris because that is when you can see Paris through Baxter’s eyes. This is especially true of the Latin Quarter. Had it not been for this book, I would have missed the significance of much of this area of Paris in terms of its literary history. I loved that he included tips to get around the city in the back of the book. In fact, I had torn out these pages and carried them around me during my week stay. I liked that he complimented the narrative with quotes, songs and poetry, and that this wasn’t a typical chronological memoir.

What I didn’t like: Since this was an ARC copy, there were a few minor editing errors throughout the book (ie. William Faulkner being named twice in a list of authors.) I thought that it would help if the photos provided in the book had captions to help explain their significance. One chapter was missing a photo entirely and had an error message in the box. I also thought a nice added touch would have been for Baxter to create either a simple map or a reference guide for all the street names and their histories on one page. Something easy to refer to when trying to decide what spots to visit on a day trip.

Overall, this book was a great way to prepare myself for the literary side of Paris. Baxter’s writing style is very eloquent without being pompous, and his portraits of Paris at its best times and worst times are a great way to understand the mood of the city.

The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris
by John Baxter
Harper Perennial, 2011
302 pages
Via Harper Perennial
 
 Book 20 of 2011

Find this book at your local library

The most beautiful walk in the world : a pedestrian in Paris
 
 

Lost in a Good Book – Review

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Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde
Age: Adult
Genre: Mystery

Three months after Thursday’s Next’s adventures in the Eyre Affair, she is back for another round with Goliath industries. This time, she has to figure out a way to delve into Poe’s The Raven to rescue the Goliath agent she banished into the dismal poem in order to get her life back to normal and bring her husband back from eradication. With the help of various literary figures, Miss Havishamm and the Cheshire Cat, Thursday has to figure out a way to delve into literature without the prose portal and set things back in their proper order.

The Thursday Next series is one of the best books for literary nerds who love literary fiction. Although I enjoyed this book just as much as I did the Eyre Affair, I did have a few issues with the book. I think the biggest obstacle for me was the representation of Miss Havisham as anything other than doom-&-gloom matchmaker. It just didn’t sit write turning that character into a cartoon parody of herself. The plot and the writing overall is hilarious, especially for those with a soft spot for puns. Fforde has a huge imagination and he made no hints at reigning it in for this novel. Thursday is a strong character, full of spunk, insecurities, pride and morals.  Fforde also manages to cover some serious issues in a light way. Issues of cloning are apparent with the Neanderthal characters, fighting for their rights, despite being classified as something other than living, breathing beings. The ending of this novel sets itself up right away for the third installment of the Thursday Next series, Well of Lost Plots, one I can’t wait to start reading.

Lost in a Good Book
By Jasper Fforde
Viking, 2002
ISBN 0965752615
399 pages
 
Book 19 of 2011
 
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Find this book at your local library
Lost in a Good Book.