Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wordless Wednesday...Sea World

A Review of "The Calling" [85]

The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe
Mariner Books, ISBN 978-0156033985
May 19, 2009, 384 pages

When things are looking bad...they are probably going to get worse.
For Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef, the de facto head of the police force in Port Dundas, Ontario, things have been pretty bad recently. Her 40+ year marriage has suddenly ended in divorce, her back pain has reached the point of being almost disabling, her small police force is taxed to the limit and subject to cuts from the regional commander at every turn...and now her 87 mother has moved in with her and put her on a diet.
And her drinking problem is always lurking in the background.

But then things take an even more horrible turn. An elderly local woman is found murdered in her home, in a particularly gruesome way. Now, she happened to be terminally ill and there is some suggestion that it is a mercy killing but the horrible details make clear that something else is going on here. When Hazel finds another victim, also terminal, also killed in a particularly bizarre way, some distance east of their town, she feels they may have a serial killer on their hands, and a particularly twisted one, one who feels he has an appalling Calling.
"Murder, she thought. And not just murder, a lunatic murder....This was the stuff of movies, of third handed tales. Even as an end to it all (and unhappy end, it would appear) came closer, it seemed less and less real to her...Nothing, not even a life in law enforcement, could prepare you for the wild imaginings some people, in their passionate madness, could unleash."
This is a book that I liked a lot more before I started thinking about it a bit.

I am always up for a good serial killer. The book is well written, moves along at a good pace and has a number of characters that are quite interesting. But part of the problem is that does not include the main character, Hazel. I found her whiny and not very likable and perhaps worse of all, her actions quite unbelievable. Really this small town chief, with limited resources, is going to undertake an investigation that they suspect spans the breath of Canada? And then there are a number of questionable 'facts', especially regarding forensics. Wow, DNA results, where they separated out 15 different sources..in one day! The difference in appearances between arterial and venous blood..I am no expert but that mistake jumped out at me. Sadly, I could give a few more examples.

Then there is the issue of the author. See Inger Ash Wolfe is a pseudonym for a "North American Novelist". Maybe that would be OK if the author was a well known writer who wanted to write a book that took a different path from their previous books, but that is not the case it seems. I suspect it was just an attempt to generate a little interest. I just found it a trifle annoying.

I had read several rave reviews of this book and so, if it sounds interesting to you, you may want to head over to Book Blog Reviews and see what other bloggers have had to say. But for me this was not really a bad book...I finished it...but not one I can really recommend with much enthusiasm because of a few annoying flaws.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Weekend Cooking...Indian Pudding

Come the colder weather and the shorter days and my mind turns to all the things that my mother used to make....come the colder weather and shorter days. 
One rather unusual one was Indian Pudding. I say unusual because it is not something you are going to see on many menus, even in this Thanksgiving season. Maybe in a few New England restaurants, but that is about all, so I am not sure where my mother first got the recipe. And of course, she never wrote her recipe down, so I look around the Internet, took a few ideas here, a few there and tried to recreate it as best I could.
My brother has been begging for me to make this, so we will see how he thinks it turned out.

Cornmeal and lovely dark molasses and a fragrant mix of spices...well, no matter how it tastes, it sure smells good. "This warm and filling dessert is made with ingredients that would be familiar to any early settler: cornmeal and molasses. It is a wonderful choice for a Sunday supper in the heart of winter."

Indian Pudding 

Makes 8 servings
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cups molasses 
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon each of ground ginger and cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Butter a souffle dish or pudding mold. Bring a kettle of water to a boil to make a hot water bath for steaming the pudding.
  1. Bring the milk just to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the cornmeal gradually, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened, about 5–10 minutes.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the molasses and brown sugar. Let cool for a few minutes, then pour a small amount into the eggs to temper them, stirring well, then pour the entire egg mixture into the cornmeal. Lastly, add the spices and combine thoroughly.
  3. Pour this batter into the prepared, buttered dish and set it in a larger baking dish. Place the assembly on a rack in a preheated oven. Add enough boiling water to come up to the level of the pudding.
  4. Bake for about two hours or until the pudding is firmly set. Allow the pudding to rest for 30 min. Serve while still warm.

    Maybe not the most attractive looking dish but it is warm and cozy and really nice with ice cream!

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"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."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Review of "Dead Like You" [84]

Dead Like You by Peter James
Minotaur Books, ISBN 978-0312642822
November 23, 2010, 560 pages

It's New Year Eve in Brighton, England, a time for celebration and good cheer...and for the reappearance of a brutal, bizarre rapist. 12 years ago, 5, or perhaps 6, women were kidnapped and sexually assaulted by the criminal police dubbed the Shoe Man. He was called that because not only would he seek out woman who had very recently purchased very expensive designer footwear to wear to a special occasion as his victims but he would also use the shoe itself as an instrument of the attack.

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace soon realizes that the present crimes bear a remarkable similarity to those from years ago. It was a series of assults, including the disappearance and presumed murder of the last victim, that was never solved. Could it be a copycat or has the Shoe Man reappeared to once again terrorize the woman of Brighton?

We are presented with several possible suspects, showered with a number of hints that make one, then another, our number one candidate. In a series of flashbacks from 1997, we enter the twisted, perverted mind of perpetrator...but we also enter the mind and experiences of DS Grace and what happened leading up to the mysterious disappearance of his own wife a decade ago. He may not have been able to ever yet go of the cold case assaults and suspected murder, but it seems that at last he has moved on in his personal life, with a new, very pregnant, girlfriend.
And as I always enjoy, just when we think it is all wrapped up, the author slips in one more, totally surprising twist at the very end. Love it!

All in all, this is a very enjoyable book, the sixth in the series but the first for me and one that easily stands alone. Some very good characters, including the interesting Grace and his very understanding girlfriend Cleo, a riveting plot that holds the reader's interest and, while over 500 pages long, a book that moves along very quickly. I might complain that the 'hints' at times seem a bit overdone and I did have some issue with the flashbacks, for some reason finding them a bit confusing, but it was not a deal breaker. A good, well written story won out.
An engaging, rather disturbing thriller, especially recommended for fans of police procedurals.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!

"Hey...I think I may be in the wrong place.."
Did you find Tom Turkey? He might be safer to stay there today than with his turkey friends.

To all my readers, wishing you a Happy, Thankful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wordless Wednesday...Trail Cabin


A Review of "Blindsighted" [83]

Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter
William Morrow, ISBN 978-0688174576
September 4, 2001, 320 pages

In the little Georgia town of Heartsdale, Sara Linton, pediatrician and part time coroner, walks down to the diner to have lunch with her sister...and ends up being part of a truly horrific crime. In the restroom, she finds Sibyl Adams, raped...in a truly horrible way, and assaulted...in a  truly horrible way. The woman dies in her arms and Sara is drawn into the middle of a nightmare that is just beginning and will soon envelop the entire town. There is no way Sara can not be a part of it because not only is she a witness to the college professor's death and the coroner that must process her body, helping to search for clues, but her ex-husband Jeffery Tolliver, is the head of the local police department  and one of his detectives, Lena Adams, was the victim's sister.
And then for Sara there is a very personal tie to her own past as well. It is a past she would like to keep secret, a past she would life to forget. But as the postcard she received that very day reminds her, the twelfth making the anniversary of the event that changed her life forever, that will never happen. Little does she know though how close to home it is going to come once more.

This book, the first book written by Slaughter, is also the first book in her Grant County series and introduces us to a number of characters that will continue to populate her later books. And at that task, I think she totally succeeds. Sara, Jeffery, Lena and a number of minor characters are excellently painted and the reader can not help but want to read the next books in the series to find out more about them. Quite honestly, they are not always totally likable, but  I think that just adds to what makes them interesting.
The plot is fast paced and pretty smart, by which I mean that the characters did a minimum of really stupid things. It really is what you would call a page turner.
But...and you knew a but was coming, didn't you?...there is one big flaw with the book for me. The villain who has committed these unspeakable crimes is pretty darn obvious. As in not only do all the clues point to one person but we are not really offered anyone else in the story that it really could be. I like to guess who we are looking for, but ideally we are mislead enough by the author to turn out wrong. This time I was sadly, all too easily, right.

I must also warn potential readers that this is a pretty graphic book. The descriptions of the crimes are not for the weak stomached or overly sensitive. No, for all it setting in a quiet little southern college town, this is book contains some pretty gruesome descriptions. OK, for me that is not a negative thing, but I know not everyone shares my taste in what might be considered very uncozy mystery/thrillers.

This is not a perfect book, but I think that the negatives, mainly the obvious evildoer, are far outweighed by the positives. Great characters, a good, fast paced, engaging plot and a good setting are all factors that should recommend this book to readers looking for a great, entertaining series. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Musing Monday...What Is Truth?

Once again, we start our week with a musing from Miz B at  Should Be Reading...

This week’s musing is yet another read-and-respond! 
I was reading one of my favorite blogs, the other day, and came across a post that talked about truth vs. fact. Part of the post had this to say:
From my childhood on, I’d learned a lot of truth about the human condition from reading fiction. In many cases, I learned more from fiction than from observing my real world…
I think that people who discount fiction don’t really understand it–or haven’t read much of it. They don’t grasp the power of story to carry truth.
…Some truths are universal and timeless (like the lessons on friendship learned from Charlotte’s Web.)
My all-time favorite children’s book was Little Women. I learned a lot of important truths from the March family: how to love deeply, how to grieve a loss and go on, and how to feed the imagination…
At the end of the post, there is a question posed, and this is what I’m using for today’s MUSING MONDAYS: What truths do you remember learning in fiction?

My, these questions are getting longer and longer.
Soon they wil be longer than my rambling answers..lol

But Fiction and the Big Truths is an excellent question. It is a question that I think gets at the heart of  why people love to read fiction...and why some readers think...mistakenly...that non-fiction is more 'real' than fiction. As the blogger Kristi Holl, from whom this quote came, says and that  I have to agree with, people that think this either misunderstand fiction, or more likely, don't read it. Again, as she said, they don't understand the power of a story to convey truth.

Non-fiction is all well and good, but it is always limited by reality. Fiction is limited only by the imagination of the author.

What truths do I remember learning in fiction?
Well, really I would say that the question should be what truths do I not remember learning in fiction? 
And the answer would be none. 
Gosh, I have read so many books, of such a variety, since such a young age, that honesty, the line can get a little blurred between things you experienced in 'real life' and things you 'experienced' in a book. Am I the only one who has had the experience of thinking "Gosh, I know someone that happen to", only to realize that it was something I read about in a book? If it was very well written, if the author was very successful, then it can feel as real in a way for us as something that actually happen to us. I think the more fiction you read, the greater variety, from classics to contemporary, from all the various genres to literary fiction, the greater the view points on Truth you are exposed to. Now, that is not to say that all those viewpoints will agree, because they will not. They will be as varied as the authors that write them. Some we, as a reader, will find ourselves agreeing with and some will raise our hackles..but they will all make us think. 

Actually, the ones that explore those Truths in a more complex way are the most successful for me as a reader. I love mysteries and thrillers and one reason I do is how the genre deals with questions of Life and Death, Truth and Untruth, Good and Evil. But I don't want it all black and white and easy. I want the author to test the limits of these truths, to make us really question what we think, what we would do, what we think is 'right'. 

And I think fiction can do that in a way that non-fiction, limited by the reality of the situation, can rarely do. 
Not that I have lost touch with reality..yet...really!
But if a situation in a book is really well written, it can be so genuine, so tangible, that the truths we experience in a book can be 'real'.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sammy and Bandit..At Rest.

The Boys take a well deserved rest on their favorite spot after an exhausting outing to tag a Christmas tree.
They were out of the car, leaving their 'mark" on many, many trees!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wordless Wednesday...Mabry Mill





...as always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Musing Monday....With a Wave From The Mouse.

Late again.
But I have a good excuse.
That you will have to read on to find out.
But first, this week's question from MizB at Should Be Reading

This week’s musing is another read-and-respond!
I was reading Eleanor Roosevelt’s book, “You Learn By Living“, via Google Books the other day, and came across a quote that really struck a chord with me. The quote said this:

“What counts, in the long run, is not what you read; it is what you
sift through in your own mind; it is the ideas and impressions
that are aroused in you by your reading.”
(pg. 7-8, “You Learn By Living” by Eleanor Roosevelt)

What do you think about this quote? Do you believe this to be true? If so, why and how? And, if not, why not?

Oh my, this question may involve more thinking than I am up to at the moment. See, I wasn't going to mention it, but I am on vacation. 
Yes, this is my third vacation in as many months.
Which is why I wasn't going to mention it. But here is the problem. If I don't tell you, how am I going to share my picture with you on future Wordless Wednesdays?
So...first vacation I went north to Nantucket.
Second, I went a bit south, to Tennessee, North Carolina and Virgina.
This time I went even further south. I am visiting the Mouse...and those dangerous aptly named Killer Whales. Yes, Orlando.

So, I read the question this morning, figured I would think about it today...and had it pushed out by dancing dolphins and pink flamingos at Sea World. But as my feet rest, I will give it a go.

Actually, I am not sure I agree with Ms. Roosevelt!
Certainly, books have the ability to arouse ideas and impressions in our minds. I mean, really, isn't that why we read in the first place? Reading, as someone said, is interactive. It presents us with these stories and these views and these creations of the author and we view this creation through our own life experience and ideas.

But see, I do think it matters what we read. I have said it before, but I repeat that like many readers, I often stay in a little cozy comfort reading zone. What is relaxing, not too challenging, not too taxing on my diminishing number of brain cells. Sure, it is important that you sift it through your own mind, but if you are sifting the same stuff..well, ya ain't going to find much different are you. And if you read junk...hey, which is fine with me 'cause junk is in the eye of the beholder...I don't know that you are going to find much of great benefit.

I think that to really have "ideas and impressions that are aroused", especially new to us ideas, we have to challenge ourselves in our reading. Read something different, read something we are not sure we will enjoy, read something we are not familiar with. And I try. Since staring this wee blog I have read many books that I know I would not have read otherwise.
The world of books contains an infinite number of experiences and views of the world, both in fiction, literature and in non-fiction..but to find that, I think we as readers have to be more daring in our choices.
At least sometimes.

Ok, enough thinking. My feet are tired and now my brain is too.
I am actually just killing time in my hotel until Castle is on. :-)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Weekend Cooking...S.O.S aka Creamed Chip Beef

I am not sure why this simple dish gets a bit of a bad name.
Perhaps it is that name it picked up in the military... S*** On a Shingle. When my mom made it, that is not she called it.
Ok, maybe she actually did sometimes. lol
Oh, it may not be held in high esteem in some places, but for me, it is another one of those cherished comfort foods.

Unlike it's southern counterpart, sausage gravy, personally I don't really think of this as just a breakfast dish. No I think of it as being more of something for a lunch or even a fast dinner. But if you are able to find it in a restaurant, usually a diner in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic, it will be for breakfast.

Now, of course, the one thing you need is the dried beef. Here in the East it is available in jars, or in little bags in the refrigerated section of the supermarket and even, in some places, like our nearest Amish market, fresh. Well, fresh, if you can call a piece of dried, salted beef fresh. It has to be sliced very, very thin.

Which raises the issue of salt. Sometimes, depending on the brand, the beef can be very dry and salty. If so, just soak it in cool water for a bit or boil it in a little water for a couple of minutes before you add it to the sauce. That should draw out any extra salt and also rehydrate it and then you are good to go.
We always had it on toast, but it would be great on biscuits or even on a baked tater.

Creamed Chip Beef

* 2 tablespoons butter
* 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 cups warm milk
* 4 oz. dried beef
* 1 pinch cayenne pepper
* a dash or two of Worcestershire

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour to form a roux. Let it cook for a minute then whisk in the milk, a little at a time. Increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring, until thickened. Tear or cut up beef so you have small pieces. Stir the beef into the sauce and then add the cayenne and Worcestershire. Cook, stirring  for a couple of minutes until warmed through and serve.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"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."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bandit and Sammy...and a Raccoon!


Of course, it is only a toy and no Real Raccoons
were injured in the making of this photograph! 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Review of "Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter" [82]

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
William Morrow, ISBN 978-0060594664
288 pages, October 5, 2010

"The Rutherford Girl had been missing for eight days when Larry Ott returned home and found a monster waiting in his house."
Some 25 years ago, in the late 1970's, in rural Mississippi, the fact that Silas Jones and Larry Ott were friends was not something most people would have understood. That is if they had known about it, which they didn't, because the boys kept it a secret. Silas is the black son of a very poor single mother, the two of them barely surviving, living in a abandoned hunter's cabin with no electricity or running water. Larry, on the other hand, is the son of a white working class family, his father a popular mechanic in town, who actually owns hundreds of wooded acres, including the land where the cabin is.

But things are not always as they first seem and things don't always turn out like you might expect.
Silas, while poor, is popular in school, wins a baseball scholarship to college and returns to town some twenty years later to take a job as the local constable. It is a job paid for by the mill company that is the area's largest employer and that now owns most of the surrounding land. The mill owner is also the father of the missing girl, the Rutherford Girl, who set out to return to college more than a week ago and was never seen again.

Larry's life, on the other hand, took a far different course. A loner, consider rather strange for, among other things, his love of reading, he had never had any friends in school. Except, for that brief time, Silas. And then things get much worse for Larry.
When he was still in high school, a girl he had taken to a drive-in movie, his first date ever, was never seen again. They never found a body and there was no proof to charge him, but everyone thought he had killed the girl and they still think so today. He lives alone in the house he grew up in, no friends, no visitors. He runs the garage his father had owned, opening it every day, even though he never has any customers. His only source of income has been selling off to the mill the land his father once owned.
Now, when all these years later, a second girl goes missing, he is the first suspect in everyone's mind.
His old friend Silas may be the only one interested in finding out the truth.
If he can get over the secrets and lies in his own past.

I find this a rather hard book to categorize...perhaps I would call it a literary mystery woven through with a healthy dash of Southern Gothic. That sense of the south is as pervasive in the story as the kudzu that seems to swallow the landscape, as dangerous as the many snakes that slither through this story. But as central as the mystery, or rather the mysteries, of the missing girls are, the book is really about the characters. Larry and Silas are at the very center, but they are surrounded by a unforgettable crowd, in the present day and reaching back to the parts of the story told from decades ago. It is about friendship and family, cruelty and crushing loneliness, race and redemption. It is disturbing and heartbreaking sad and yet, ultimately, hopeful. 

The dialogue is excellent, the author's ear for the rhythm of southern speech feeling perfect. The story is very good, even if I must admit that for me it lagged a bit in the middle. But from there it raced to the conclusion, part of which I foresaw and part of which was a total surprise. I think it is a book whose story and characters will stick with you long after you finish the last page and close the cover.

By the way, if you too somehow miss the opening page as I did, and wonder where the title comes from, it is from the little saying that school children used to remember how to spell the state's name...
"M,I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, humpback, humpback, I."
Although there are a few more crooked things in this story than a few letters.

My thanks to Library Things Early Reviewers for a copy of this book.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Wordless Wednesday... Linville Falls

Linville Falls, North Carolina

...as always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

A Review of "Pray For Silence" [81]

Pray for Silence: A Thriller by Linda Castillo
Minotaur Books, ISBN 978-0312374983
320 pages, June 22, 2010

"At first he thought maybe a calf was bawling for its cow. Or maybe a dog had been hit by a car. But when the sound came again, he realized it wasn't either of those things. It was a man's scream. Looking out across the cornfield, he felt the hairs on his nape stand straight up."
A horrible, gruesome murder, with an entire Amish family killed, several of them tortured, is very bad for business.

Painters Mill, Ohio is a quiet rural town, with lovely farms, a significant Amish population and an 'English' community that counts on the tourism the the Amish bring.  But Police Chief Kate Burkholder, besides being concerned for the security and welfare of her town, also takes these murders very personally. Having grown up Amish and left in her teen years, she knows many in the community personally.
She is very also well aware personally of what it is like to be a victim of violence.

Why could anyone want to murder an Amish family, people that tend to stay very much to themselves and lead very peaceful lives? Well, it soon become apparent that not all the family members were content to be separate from the larger world. Kate discovers a diary, written by the youngest daughter, that makes it clear that she was involved with an older, non-Amish man, a man who took advantage of the young girl's innocence in a extremely distasteful way. But he was very careful to keep his identity secret. Will they be able to find him and can he, a local man, possibly be the one behind this slaughter? It is also clear that what happened may be part of something much larger, much more involved than Kate first thought, and that the lives of others, Amish and English alike, may be in imminent danger.

Back in the second book in the series, after the excellent Sworn To Silence, is Chief Burkholder, her on-again-off-again boyfriend, State Investigator John Tomasetti, still battling his own demons, and many of the great cast of her little police force. And, of course, we are back in the bucolic Painter's Mill, a lovely place for such a horrible crime. And I warn you, it is a horrible crime. The beginning of the book, that describes the murders, is not for the faint of heart. It is rather strong stuff. But then, I also found much of the rest of the story, as we find out what led up to he murders, very disturbing.
A cozy little mystery this is not. A great story it is.

That may make some reader hesitate, but for me, it was integral to the story. The juxtaposition between horrible acts, degenerate motivations, and the beautiful, peaceful setting, the close, principled Amish community, is at the heart of these two Castillo books. The way the author deals with the Amish, explaining their beliefs and lifestyle yet also presenting them as real, flawed and imperfect,  is fascinating.  Kate is a great character, complex and nuanced, driven and hard drinking...and always deeply involved. Her relationship with Tomasetti...well, it is never simple but always interesting.

Being pretty familiar with the area of Ohio where this story takes place, I love the setting. Rolling hills, dotted with tidy, well cared for farms, those so cute little Amish kids, the picturesque buggies, makes the thought of violent crime all the most shocking. But I must admit, mostly because I have so enjoyed these first two books in the series so much, that I am a little concerned with what that setting holds for the future. A small town like this can only absorb so many crimes before it reaches the point of being unbelievable and I would hate to see that. But Castillo is a fine writer and I trust it is an issue she will deal with in the future. Gee, I sure hope so...

This is a great story, well written and fast paced. I can't say I found the outcome totally shocking but there were certainly enough twists and turns, with a few red herrings thrown in, and a few surprises to keep it always interesting.
Castillo is, I must admit, one of my favorite mystery writers, and I anxiously await another journey to Painters Mill in the future. I loved the first book and would really recommend that you read it, but it is not necessary in order to enjoy Pray For Silence, and enjoy it I think you will.

My thanks to Library Thing's Early Reviewers for a copy of this book.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Musing Monday...Trendspotting From a Non-Trendy Person

"Today’s musing is a sort of “read and respond”…

A blog I frequent suggested I check out several articles of interest… one of them which happened to be this one: “Trendspotting: Readers’ Spending On Books“. So — being the avid reader & book junkie that I am — I couldn’t help but click over and read the short piece about readers’ current spending habits.

My questions for today are ones that are asked at the end of this particular article: What are your responses to this report? Does it match with what you –as a reader– have observed? With your own buying habits? When was the last time you bought a book? What did you buy and why?"

Of course, the bigger question raised by the post MizB, our always gracious host from Should Be Reading is..what is the future of books. Small bookstores...will they survive? Will Amazon take over the world? Will e-books be the future??

Ya know? I am not sure and I am not sure I really care. Because, in whatever form, there will be books and I will be buying them and I will be reading them. And I suspect many of you will be too.
Bottom line, the book industry is a business and like every business, to succeed it must provide a product that people want and it was do so at a price they will pay. The cost to them involves all sorts of things that they must consider. Payment to authors, the cost of editors and staff and the buildings they work in, promotion, printing, shipping, storage, profit....
They put that all together and decide on a price.
A little book store down the street has higher costs and less volume and charges more and Amazon has less and charges less and I, the customer decides which is worth it to me. Many small bookstores, like MANY small business of all sorts, will fail. They are not offering what the customer wants at a price they will pay. Others do..whatever it my be...great service, knowledgeable staff, good atmosphere, whatever..and will last.
The market will decide.

But...here is the thing about books. The demand for them will continue. Book readers love to read books. Not the person, who granted are many, who reads a book or two a year. Maybe the BIG book everyone is talking about. Or the people who never read. No, I mean you and me, people who read 50 or 100 or 200 books a year. We need our books and I for one will be buying them and reading them to the day I kick the bucket and someone will find a successful, profitable business plan to fill our need. I like 'real' books but if e-books take over, I will read them or have them beamed to my brain or whatever the technology may be in the future.
Because I am a reader!

BTW, to actually answer the question, the last book I bought was Called:The Story of a Mountain Midwife by Phyllis Stump. Why did I buy it? Well, it is based on a true story and I had just seen the cabin where the woman lived, on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Then I stopped and the author was in a store, selling and signing the books and I am a sucker for a signed book.
Besides, it sounded like a great story and it is all about a great story!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Weekend Cooking...The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery [80]

The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery edited by Linda Garland Page and Elliot Wigginton
The University of North Carolina Press, ISBN 978-0807843956
352 pages, October 31, 1992

No doubt, if you are a regular reader here, you will know that I took a little trip down south a few weeks ago, to Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. Just driving around, seeing the sight. But you know I could not make it home without a few books making their way into my car. One very nice entertaining and informative one that I picked up, in Dollywood by the way, was this cookbook.

Yes, it contains over 500 recipes, but so much more...
Mingus Mill
"A sampling of favorites includes rhubarb cobbler, sassafras tea, fried quail, Brunswick stew, angel flake biscuits, seven-day cole slaw, and lime pickles. The book also explains traditional methods of preparing and preserving food, including directions for making homemade yeast, curing pork, 'gritting' corn, canning foods, cooking with a wood stove or fireplace, and preparing wild game."
Yes, there is a delicious sounding recipe for old fashioned chicken pie, but the chapter starts with about four pages of pictures and text explaining how kill and 'dress' the chicken. I must say I liked the page about how to make fried chicken a bit more, but it is interesting! You never know when you might need to know these things. Yes, there are recipes for raccoon and possum and squirrel but also ones for cheese souffle, baked apples with honey and old time favorites like brown betty.

But perhaps most interesting, even more interesting than the recipe for pig's snout, are the chapters on things like how to cook in a fireplace or a wood cook-stove or how to 'put up' a batch of homemade sauerkraut or prepare a brand new cast iron pan for using the first time. These are illustrated by a huge number of wonderful black and white pictures and the contribution of almost 150 'contacts', who tell their fascinating stories about growing up and living in these mountains and the part food and it's preparation played in that life. Yes, without question, the best part are the countless wonderful stories...

When I first glanced at the book in the store, it happened to open to a recipe, a very simple recipe, that brought make memories for me, because it is something my mother used to make. And since I had bought a bag of freshly milled cornmeal back too, I was all set!

Cornmeal Much (from Ruth Holcomb)

1 cup cornmeal
2 cups water
pinch of salt

Sift meal. Bring water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt. Pour meal into the boiling water and continue cooking. Stir until thick. Put mush into a cereal bowl. Serve with sweet milk or buttermilk, and if desired, add butter and sugar.
Yield 3-4 serving

My mother would makes this frequency, but with an added step. She would fry it.
When the mush was cooked, you pour it into a loaf pan and cool over night in the frig. Then you can pop it out of the pan, slice it and brown in a frying pan.
Serve...as mom did...with maple syrup, for breakfast.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"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."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday....Monticello

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...as always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

a review of "Moonlight Mile" [79]

Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane
William Morrow, ISBN 978-0061836923
November 2, 2010, 336 pages

It was almost thirteen years ago when Amanda McCready, then just four years old, disappeared from her home. But investigator Patrick Kenzie found her, found the people who had kidnapped her and brought them to justice, returning little Amanda to her mom.
And every day since, he questions whether he made the right decision.

Now Amanda is gone again and her aunt, the only person who really seems to care about her, begs Patrick to find her once more. Amanda has had a rough time since her return because, you see, the mother she was returned to is a drunk and always tied to some very, very unsavory boyfriend. Nevertheless, it seems that Amanda has done her best to overcome her background and her best is very good. An outstanding student, remarkably self sufficient for her 16 years, on the path to a full scholarship at an Ivy League school, it seems impossible that she would just walk away.

Patrick has come a long way since 1997 too and the place he has arrived at is not all good. On the plus side, he is now married to Angela Gennaro, his partner in past books in the series, and they have a beautiful 4 year old daughter and a great marriage. The bad side is, since Angela is back in school, he is the sole breadwinner and the investigation business is not doing too well... and he has no idea how they will pay their Blue Cross bill, one in a big pile, due at the end of the month. Now is not really the best time to be taking a non-paying job but he feels he owes Amanda a debt. His guilt about the first outcome will mean he can't stay away, not until he finds out what happened to Amanda. But are he and Angela still up to dealing with meth dealers and Russian mobsters...or any more prepared to deal with the moral questions that will arise once again?

Unlike many of my fellow book bloggers, I must admit that I have never read a book by Mr. Lehane before. Not Mystic River, not Shutter Island, Gone, Baby Gone, the book that tells the story about the first time Amanda disappeared, not one of the previous books in the Patrick/Angela series.
But I do not think that decreased my enjoyment of this book one little bit, because enjoy it I did. The story is fast paced and engaging, the dialogue, smart and witty and very realistic. And the characters are very good. Yes, Patrick and Angela are very engaging and while this book may be, according to many, the end of the series, reading this book makes me want to go back and check out some of the previous books in the series. But by far, the best character in the book is the missing girl, young Amanda, even though it is well into the book before we even meet her. She puts a whole new twist on clever and is at the heart of many of this book's best twists and turns.
OK, maybe the story is at times a bit over the top, maybe a few of the characters verge on being a bit cartoonish. And maybe, according to some critics, this book does not have the depth or complexity that some of Lehane's books are know for. But it is very well written and totally enjoyable, a must read for fans of this series and a great standalone or series introduction to the rest of us.

My thanks to the folks at Harper Collins/William Morrow for an ARC of this book.