Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wordless Wednesday...Shorebirds

Glossy Ibis...and a duck

Herons. A lot of Herons.

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

a review of "Damaged" [90]

Damaged by Pamela Callow
Mira, ISBN 978-0778327509
June 1, 2010, 464 pages

Still riddled with guilt about the death of her sister years ago, still afraid that people will find out about the criminal history of her father, Kate Lange is starting a new job at a prestigious Halifax law firm and with it she is hoping to turn a new page in her life. Promised by one of the partners who brought her into the firm that she would be able to work on the civil ligation cases that she craves, she is disappointed to find herself still stuck in what she sees as the female ghetto of family law cases. But she wants to prove she is a team player, so when managing partner Randell Barrett asks her to talk to a grandmother about a possible custody case involving her troubled granddaughter, Kate reluctantly agrees. She tells the woman there is nothing she can legally do, but when the girl first disappears and then turns up dead, Kate wonders if she did all she could have to prevent this tragic outcome.

Now, with a cloud hanging over her professional life, especially when it turns out the dead girl's mother is a very powerful judge, a personal cloud enters in the person of Ethan Drake, the police detective assigned to investigate the death...because he also happens to be Kate's ex-fiance. And the engagement did not end in a very nice way.
Another body of a young girl turns up, horribly mutilated as was the first, and police realize they may have a serial killer on their hands, a killer labeled the Body Butcher. When there seems to be some ties to a civil case that Kate is involved in, she starts following up a few leads of her own, a path that may lead her too into the bloody hands of thr Butcher.

In many ways this debut novel of Pamela Callow follows a rather predicable path. At times when I was reading it I felt that I had read this story before. A bit of legal thriller, a bit of serial killer, all topped off with a dash of romance and, at times, seemingly a bit confused as to which it was.
But, for a couple of reasons this book rises above the tried and true formula. First of all, it is well written, always a very good thing, I am sure you would agree. There are also some good characters, some, not all. Kate does get rather annoying and whiny at times. In fact, she is probably one of my least favorite characters, which is a problem since this is the first in a forthcoming series with her as the star. On the other hand, she has a wonderful dog, a white husky named Alaska who redeemed his owner in my eyes. A great dog goes a long way for me. Then there is that managing partner, Mr. Barrett, who it seems is being set up as a romantic interest for Kate in the future. Well, I assume so, even if his behavior and his thoughts that we share about Kate were more like lust than love and bordering on being quite creepy. Can anyone say potential sexual harassment case?

One other thing that made this a little more interesting than the average thriller for me was the setting in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I have been to Halifax several times and it is a nice city with a beautiful harbor. I hope in future installments, the author shares even more of the charm and beauty of the city with us. I think a great location, well presented, can really anchor a series

All in all, an entertaining thriller that surprising rises above a rather predictable formula.

My thanks to the author and Mira for a copy of this book.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Musing Monday...Knowledge Is It's own Reward...Right?

This week’s musing asks…

How often do you actually put into practice what you learn from reading nonfiction books (if you read nonfiction, that is)?

Ok, I think this question presumes that the non-fiction we are talking about is "useful" non-fiction. I mean, you could read a book about, say, the greatest battles of WWII or the history of streetcars and I am not sure how one would use that knowledge. Now, if it was a book about how to build a streetcar, yes, that might be something you could, however unlikely, put into practice.

I am a great believer in the idea that you can learn just about anything in the world you might want to from a book. Yes, practically, it might take some trial and error to get it right, but books offer us all this knowledge, just there for the picking. It is why giving someone the ability to read is so very important.
One summer, when I was in college, I completely redid a bathroom using one book for all my knowledge, The Reader's Digest Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual. Completely, from new water resistant green wallboard, new ceiling, tile floor and walls, new fixtures...all things I had never done before, using that one book. I have many 'practical' non-fiction books in my library, on gardening and cooking and birdwatching and star gazing and knot tying. Yes, knot tying
Yes, books can be very, very useful, very practical.

Now MizB, our host for Musing Monday at Should Be Reading makes an interesting comment in answering this question, to the effect of what use is all this stuff she reads, all this knowledge, if she does not use it?

Oh, that seems, somehow, such a modern idea, even a sad idea. Not uncommon certainly, but not one I like.
All knowledge must be useful or it has no value. Knowledge that is not used is a waste of time. Everything we do, everything we learn must be useful, practical, have some payout. Take my interest in lighthouses. I have had people, people I know in RL, ask me what is the point of reading about them, visiting them...what is the point? Can you write a book, can you make any money at it? I studied Greek, ancient Greek in college. It had no practical use, except that I enjoyed it. I enjoyed learning it, figuring it out, glimpsing, in a unique way, a culture that existed thousands of years ago. But no, it will have no payout. I like lighthouses. I think they are beautiful, often in beautiful places and that beauty is it's own reward. I think their history is often fascinating, the stories engaging, and that is it's own reward. It is uplifting, it is enriching, it is fun.
Knowledge, the desire to gain knowledge, the curiosity about things and the desire to get those answers is part of what it is to be human..even if we can't make a penny from it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Weekend Cooking- a review of "New Italian Kitchen" [66]

Ethan Stowell's New Italian Kitchen: Bold Cooking from Seattle's Anchovies & Olives, How to Cook A Wolf, Staple & Fancy Mercantile, and Tavolàta by Ethan Stowell
Tenn Speed Press, ISBN 978-1580088183

It seems that the author of this book is quite the up and coming young chef! He is the owner of a number of restaurants in the Seattle area, all those named in the title of the book. And I must say, they are some interesting names for a restaturant. Bon Appétit named his restaurant, Anchovies & Olives, one of the Best New Restaurants of 2010,  he was nominated for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: Northwest award, and he was one of Food and Wine magazine's 2008’s Best New Chefs. And now he is the author of a soon to be released cookbook, New Italian Kitchen.

From the book's description...
Ethan Stowell's New Italian Kitchen: Bold Cooking from Seattle's Anchovies & Olives, How to Cook A Wolf, Staple & Fancy Mercantile, and Tavolàta
"Welcome to Ethan Stowell’s New Italian Kitchen--not so much a place as a philosophy. Here food isn’t formal or fussy, just focused, with recipes that honor Italian tradition while celebrating the best ingredients the Pacific Northwest has to offer. We’re talking about a generous bowl of steaming handmade pasta--served with two forks for you and a friend. Or perhaps an impeccably fresh crudo, crunchy cucumber and tangy radish accenting impossibly sweet spot prawns. Next up are the jewel tones of a beet salad with lush, homemade ricotta, or maybe a tangle of white beans and clams spiked with Goat Horn pepper--finished off with a whole roasted fish that begs to be sucked off the bones. Oh, some cheese, a gooseberry compote complementing your Robiola, or the bittersweet surprise of Campari sorbet.

This layered approach is a hallmark of Ethan’s restaurants, and in his New Italian Kitchen, he offers home cooks a tantalizing roadmap for re-creating this style of eating. Prepare a feast simply by combining the lighter dishes found in “Nibbles and Bits”—from Sardine Crudo with Celery Hearts, Pine Nuts, and Lemon to Crispy Young Favas with Green Garlic Mayonnaise—or adding recipes with complex flavors for a more sophisticated meal. Try the luscious Corn and Chanterelle Soup from “The Measure of a Cook;” or the Cavatelli with Cuttlefish, Spring Onion, and Lemon from “Wheat’s Highest Calling.” Up the ante with a stunning Duck Leg Farrotto with Pearl Onions and Bloomsdale Spinach from “Starches to Grow On,” or choose one of the “Beasties of the Land,” like Skillet-Roasted Rabbit with Pancetta-Basted Fingerlings. Each combination will nudge you and your guests in new, unexpected, and unforgettable directions.

Every page of Ethan Stowell’s New Italian Kitchen captures the enthusiasm, humor, and imagination that make cooking one of life’s best and most satisfying adventures. It’s got to be good--but it’s also got to be fun."

Well, that sounds quiet interesting but does the book live up to it?
As far as the look of the book, something that is important in my enjoymant of a cookbook, it is hard to say. My copy is an ARC and all the photos, granted a very large number of photographs, are in B&W. Hopefully in the final book the photos will be in color. If not, that is a big negative.

But that is not my issue with the book. My issue are the recipes. Don't get me wrong...many sound wonderful, things I would love to try in one of his restaurants. Ones I would like to make myself, which is, after all, the point of a cookbook, right? But...many call for ingredients that would be impossible to find in my local area. Now I don't live in a metropolitan area but it's not really the sticks either. And I am sure I could find some of them if I drove an hour+ to Philadelphia..maybe. And it is not one or two recipes..it is many, many of them. Duck eggs, rabbit paws, nettles, alligator pears, ramps, skate wing, veal cheeks, pigs ears, maloreddus, quail, lambs tongue, live prawns, uni, wood sorrel...three recipes for geoduck!
Yes, I do know what geoduck is..I saw it on Dirty Jobs once. And maybe, just maybe it is available in Seattle, but I sure can not buy it at my local fish market. And we have lovely farms market around here, but I did not see any nettles for sale, and no ramps either.
I just do not think Mr. Stowell and I are shopping at the same stores.

It may be a lovely book filled with fascinating recipes and hopefully beautiful photographs and foodies will enjoy paging through. But for the average cook, even the most adventurous cook, there are a lot of pages you  might like to read..and then page on, looking for something you can actually make this weekend.

My thanks to the Amazon Vine program for an ARC of this book.
The book will be published by Ten Speed Press on September 21, 2010

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, August 27, 2010

a review of "Bad Boy" [65]

Bad Boy: An Inspector Banks Novel By Peter Robinson
William Morrow, ISBN 978-0061362958
August 24, 2010, 352 pages

What would you do if you found a loaded gun hidden in your daughter's bedroom?
It is certainly a dangerous and concerning thing, but also a very seriously illegal thing in the Yorkshire town of Eastvale, where gun possession is a very serious crime. Well, the mother decides to go to the local police station, hoping to talk to her old neighbor, Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks, back in this, his 19th book. But Banks is away on vacation in America and the matter is dealt with by his partner, Annie Cabbot. The official procedures are followed, an armed response team is called in and events end with one of the players dead and an even more deadly set of events set in motion. And unknown to Banks, his daughter Tracy will be at the very heart of it, caught up with a fleeing criminal , murder, drug smuggling and a psychopath who takes great pleasure in torturing people.

Banks returns home just in time to step right into the midst of the case, a case that will tie together his professional and personal life in a deadly way. It seems that in the past Banks has not been above taking a few liberties with police procedures to get results. But this time more is at stake than just solving his case or catching the 'bad boy'. This time the lives of those he loves are on the line.

I have not read any of the previous Books in this series and while this book seems to stand alone quite well, I think that if I had been more vested with the characters from having read some of the others, it might have made it even more enjoyable. Not to say I did not like this book, because I did. It was a nice, solid police procedural with some great characters, a good story and an ending just open ended enough to make you look forward to the next in the series.

Of course, it was not perfect. I am sorry, but the character of Tracy, Bank's daughter who has gotten caught up with the "Bad Boy" of the title, is sometimes too stupid to be believable. I get the whole rebelling against her father think...but really. Also, this is more a thriller than a mystery. There is really nothing to be figured out, no part of what is happening than we don't understand. There are a few slightly surprising twists and turns, but pretty much the facts are all out there. Which is not necessarily a bad thing..it just is the way it is.

I know, there are some one you screaming, "No, I can't start another series!" and yes, I feel you pain. Yes, I did say this was the 19th book in the series. But this book was just interesting enough that I think I may have to go back and check out some of the earlier books. And I think that you may want to too.

My thanks to William Morrow for an ARC of this book.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bandit Thursday...it is all so new...

Wee Bandit and The Niece have moved, to start the new school year in the Wilds of Pennsylvania...OK, the Main Line of Philadelphia.
The little feller looks just a bit bewildered.....poor little Bandit...I know you miss me...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wordless Wednesday- Farmer's Market

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

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

a review of "All Mortal Flesh" [64]

All Mortal Flesh: A Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mystery by Julia Spenser-Fleming
Minotaur, ISBN 978-0312312640
October 3, 2006, 336 pages

What can I say, I am hooked on this series. So we are back again, this time with the fifth book in this entertaining, addictive, mystery series. The TBR pile sits there while I run off to the library to take out another book in this series.

When last we left them in book four, To Darkness and to Death, Clare Fergusson, ex-army helicopter pilot, present Episcopal priest and Russ Van Alstyne, ex-Army and present day Sheriff of Miller's Kill, NY have come to a critical point in their relationship. They started as friends, with a lot in common, including a certain crime investigation interest. But in time it has grown into something else, something neither of them wants to be true, but can't help. Russ is married, and while he and his wife have some problems, he still cares deeply for her. And Clare is not about to get involved..or any more involved...with a married man.

So Clare decides that she will not see Russ again, unless in an official capacity and Russ decides that he will admit to his wife that he is in love with another woman. I am sorry Russ, but you know that is not going to go over well.
As the book opens, Russ has been thrown out of his house and is living in his mom's extra room, a bit embarrassing for a 50 year old man. Meanwhile, Clare is on retreat in a borrowed cabin, trying to deal with a broken heart. She comes back to town to find that her bishop, with whom she has had some issues, has appointed a deacon to assist her...or perhaps to spy on her.

We know things will not remain so calm for long in little Miller's Kill. The body of a woman is found in her kitchen by a friend, stabbed and her face horribly disfigured. A terrible thing.
But even worse is that Russ and Clare are the prime suspects.

This series is really about two things, the mystery and the relationship. In this book, the mystery is pretty darn good. There are parts I figured out and parts that totally surprised me. Add a rip roaring climactic scene and it is a great combination. Ok, at times it is rather annoying how Clare runs off by herself to get involved in things the local parish priest might best leave to the professionals, but given her military background, it is not totally unbelievable.And it is annoying that Russ can't seem to keep his mouth shut when he should..but again, not totally unbelievable.
My one concern is the Cabot Cove Syndrome, how little Miller's Kill can possible have so many murderers and psychopaths in the immediate area. Golly, the per-capital murder rate must be higher than Detroit. Now, I have one more book in the series to read, at least until the next book comes out next year, and a desire to widen the field, as it were, may explain the surprise ending of this book...which you will have to read yourself to find out.

Then there is the relationship.
Again, here we have the good and the slightly annoying. Without question, the author has created some very likable major and minor characters, who draw us back again and again. They are flawed, far from perfect, but we still like them. The relationship of Clare and Russ has been handled in a pretty intelligent and thoughtful way. These people have obligations, vows, and they take them seriously. That is the good part. Except for when they do some things that are very stupid. That is the annoying part.

At least Clare finally got some real boots and a car suited to the snow of the mountains of NY State. Even if she only did it because her last car was blown up. Now if Russ could just learn to stop losing his temper and shooting his mouth off I would be a bit happier. They say love is blind. In these books, sometimes love is just stupid. But then, sometimes so are real people and for all their flaws, we come to think of these as real people who we care about.
And you can't ask more of a book, can you?

This can be read as a standalone book, but I really would recommend starting at the beginning of the series for maximum enjoyment.
A must read for fans of the Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne series, a recommended series for lovers of entertaining mysteries with some great characters.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Musing Monday...My Precious

Today’s musing asks…as always courtesy of Should Be Reading...
If your house was burning down –and you could SAFELY grab a book on your way outside to safety– what book would you make sure you ‘rescued’? Why?
This is am impossible question! Really, it's like being asked which one of your children you would save.
So, let me think. Let me wander into the family room and take a look at my bookshelves and see if there is one, raising it's little bookish hand and shouting (in a high squeaky voice...because that is how books shout) .."Take Me! Me!" But there was none.

So, who to pick?
Well, there are the Dickens and Harvard Classics that I have, that belonged to my grandfather. But there are too many of them to pick just one. A Christmas Carol...A Tale of Two Cities...no, impossible.
Then there are my Easton Press books. My beautiful Easton Press books.  My Precious ....How about one of you? The Hobbit maybe, the first Easton book that  I ever bought and a book I love. But then, what about The Lord of the Rings, or Wuthering Height or Alice's Adventures in Wonderland? Oh no..
Or there, on the top shelf, is my high school year book. Maybe I should grab that, a priceless memento. No, I think I will toss that into the fire.

So what would I take? Well, after serious thought, I think I would most likely just grab the book I was reading at the moment. Or one sitting in the pile near the front door. I assume there is going to be a lot of waiting around, what with the fire trucks and all. And of course, I will be very upset, so I will need something to read, won't I.
Afterall, I might need a bit of a mental trip and "There is no frigate like a book, To take us lands away."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Weekend Cooking- a review of "The Perfect Scoop" [63]

The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments by David Lebovitz
Ten Speed Press, ISBN 978-1580088084
May 1, 2007, 256 pages

I am not a huge ice cream fan. Especially fruit ice creams. But it is peach season in New Jersey and how can you say no to some beautiful peaches at a lovely little farm market.?

Recently, I was done at the southern point of my fair state and visited a nice farm market, held in the late afternoon and evening every Tuesday in the borough of West Cape May. There were several stands there from local farms, each table of produce more lovely looking than the next. Yes, I need some more tomatoes..a few squash...and look at all those different peppers...

But the queen of the fair were the peaches. White peaches, yellow peaches, tree ripe peaches, baskets and baskets of wonderful smelling peaches. So I had to buy a basket. They were so pretty. Now what to do with them? Well, I peeled all of them and froze some of them, ready for when I need another peach fix. But the ones I kept...well, the perfect summer treat. Peach ice cream!

Now I have made ice cream in the past and actually own an ice cream maker, a rather old one. Electric, but one to which you must add ice and salt to chill it down. Ice..ok. Salt...ok. Recipe...hmmmmm.
So I looked about the Internet and saw a number of people refer to a book called The Perfect Scoop, saying how great the recipes were. Now, why did that sound familiar. Well, of course. Because I own it! So to the cookbook shelf I went and looked in the index for Peach Ice Cream and there was indeed a recipe.

Peach Ice Cream

1 1/3 pounds (600 g) ripe peaches (about 4 large peaches)
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
A few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice

Peel the peaches, slice them in half, and remove the pits.  Cut the peaches into chunks and cook them with the water in a medium, nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, covered, stirring once or twice, until soft and cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat, stir in the sugar, then cool to room temperature.
Puree the cooked peaches and any liquid in a blender or food processor with the sour cream, heavy cream, vanilla, and lemon juice until almost smooth but slightly chunky.
Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

I like that this was a Philadelphia style ice cream, as opposed to a French or custard type, the sort that contains eggs. Personally, I like the more simple Philadelphia type, both to make and to eat. And as I believe Mr. Lebovitz says, it allows the fruit to really shine. Supposedly, the French styles are richer, but this was plenty rich enough for me.
The sour cream was not an ingredient I have ever seen in an ice cream recipe before, but I think it was very nice, adding a slight tang. Nothing overpowering, just a hint. Also, I used 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of honey, because I had read somewhere that using some liquid sugar, like honey or maple syrup makes for a smoother product. I also used half and half instead of cream because I happened to have a quart in the frig. I also added 1/4 tsp. of almond extract as well, as well at the called for vanilla...just because almond and peach belong together.

If you are interested in making ice cream or sorbets or granitas, and need some information from the basics of equipment to a variety of sauces and toppings (salted butter caramel sauce, classic fudge sauce...),  add ins (spiced almonds, praline, stracciatella...) and 'vessels' like homemade cones, lemon-poppy seed cookie cups, just to scratch the surface, this is a book you will want to have on hand. He includes the recipes for some 80 ice creams from basic vanilla to the more unusual like Roquefort-honey, Vietnamese coffee and my next creation, tin roof....hmmm..maybe in a cookie cup, just to gild the lily.

The instructions are clear and through, with plenty of great photos, something I think every cook book needs.
A nice book to peruse, perhaps while eating a nice bowl of lovely peach ice cream, topped with a few black raspberries....just because they look so pretty.

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.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday- Day on the Delaware Bay

Ferry on a hazy bay

Not a laughing gull..but he's laughing

Over the dunes.

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

a review of "Signs and Mysteries" [62]

Signs and Mysteries:Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols by Mike Aquilina
Our Sunday Visitor, ISBN 978-1592764501
September 15, 2008, 192 Pages

For this review, we are going to step a bit away from the sorts of books I usually review. Not necessarily the books I read, but the ones I review. I received this book as part of The Catholic Company's reviewer program, and while I am bit tardy in my review, I would recommend this very nice book..and The Catholic Company web site as a whole, which is a great place to find some great books, as well as gifts and items of a religious nature.

The book attempts, and I think is successful, at transporting us back to the first four centuries of Christianity, a very different and very dangerous time and a time in which a variety of symbols, symbols often taken from the surrounding culture, were appropriated and given a new, deeper, Christian meaning. These have been discovered in the catacombs, the underground burial grounds of the early Christians, but they have also been found on many artifacts, mosaics and lamps, jars and coins and rings from the first several hundred years Anno Domini. Some of the 25 symbols will be familiar to us, some 2000 years later, those like the fish, the shepherd, and of course, the cross, although even here, drawing quotes from the Old Testament, the Psalms and the writing of the Church Fathers, our understanding will no doubt be deepened by what the author writes about them.

But Mr. Aquilina also explores a good many symbols that we may be only slightly, if at all, familiar with, especially explaining their connection to the early Christians. The ancient mythical Phoenix  is, as St. Clement of Rome wrote, "a wonderful sign" of the resurrection. Then there is the Dolphin, an animal the ancient people..and many even today...considered the sailor's friend, a guide that would lead ships in danger to a safe harbor. So it was not difficult for early Christians to see the dolphin as a symbol of the Christ, "rescuer, guide and friend." And you would have to know that one of my favorites, along with the anchor and the ship, was the lighthouse!
"The second century Roman layman Hermes describes a vision he was granted- of the building of a stone tower near the waterside. And he explains is as an allegory of the Church: built by the waters of baptism, reaching up to the heavens, constructed by angels, who fit together the 'stones' that are the apostles, bishops, martyrs, confessors, and saints,"
Each chapter is fairly brief and while the explanations may not be exhaustive, they are an excellent introduction to the subject. There are numerous, very nice, illustrations by Lea Marie Ravotti, in a brownish color that really makes them stand out clearly. Which leads to my only issue with this book. The text is set in the same brownish color, which I found fairly light and a slight bit hard on the eyes to read. Great for the drawing, not so much for the text.

Nevertheless, this is a very nice book, a fine introduction to an important subject and a book that would make a lovely gift. As Mr. Aquilina writes,
"Just after the turn of the second millennium, Pope Benedict XVI noted that "a highly technological age like our own...risks losing the ability to appreciate signs and symbols." he calls upon Christian authors and teachers to present "the meaning of the signs contained in the rites." And so we have- I, the author and Lea Marie Ravotti, the illustrator- in hope that you, in turn, will take up the task for your family, your parish, and your friends."

My thanks to The Catholic Company for my copy of this book to review.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Musing Monday..."When You Wish Upon a ....Lighthouse"

Oh, I am late this week, even later that when I am regular late. But then, so was Should Be Reading to post it. So it is not all my fault. ;-)

This week’s musing asks…
What books are you wishing for MOST right now?

After all that...I don't have an answer. Oh No.
See, I know lots of ya all, many book bloggers, watch and anticipate what will be coming out in the next few months, perhaps books by a favorite author, or a book that is getting a lot of buzz and you are looking forward to.
But really, I don't.
I am just not organized to even know what might be in the future, book wise.

On occasion, in the past, I may have finished a book in a series and then went online to see when the next might be out. But I don't keep a record (hmmm..maybe another use for that calender I discussed recently) but very shortly I will forget all about it, until I see an ad for it online.
Or someone else reviewing it.
Day late, dollar short.

Now, I will note one exception to that. I read, and loved, the first three books in Ann Cleeves' Shetland Quartet, Raven Black, White Nights and Red Bones. See, the whole quartet part made even me realize that there would be a fourth book. I went online and saw that the book, Blue Lightning was already published   in England, but not yet in the USA.
And the European edition had a lighthouse on the cover! I considered buying it online, as I did with the last Larsson book. Sometimes you just have to have it NOW.
But before I did, there was a miracle.
A very special lighthouse miracle. Like one of those Hallmark Christmas movies.

I got an e-mail from Ms. Cleeves, thanking me for my review of her last book, and I happened to mention how I was looking forward to the last book in the series. She commented on the lighthouses on my blog and told me that, sadly, the American edition cover would not have a lighthouse on it. How terrible, how disappointing. But don't despair. The story has a happy ending.
Very happily, and very kindly, she sent me a copy!
With the lighthouse.

I guess why that is why they call it a Wish List.
And sometimes wishes do come true.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

...With a beautiful view of the Maine coast!

Oh, no doubt, many of us have the dream. To live on the coast, with a beautiful view, the ocean near to our front door. Well, that dream could be yours, for a very reasonable price. True, there are a few drawback, as an article from the AP mentions.
"It's hard to get to, located on a wave-swept rocky ledge where landing a boat can be treacherous. Once there, a person has to climb a 30-foot ladder to get into the tower. Inside, the circular rooms are small and bare. The yard, if you can call it that, is a ledge that is underwater half the time whenever the tide is up.

But the views of the rugged coast, the nearby islands and the open ocean are to die for, and the lighthouse oozes history — a reminder of an era gone by, when lighthouse keepers lived in isolation manning kerosene lamps and foghorns to keep mariners out of harm's way."
Put in the winning bid and the picturesque Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse might be yours. The 72 foot tall tower, built in 1905, is a mile off shore, at the entrance to Portland harbor and is one of eight lighthouse being offered, at the moment, for sale by the U.S.Coastguard. And be aware that as owner, you will be responsible for maintaining the lighthouse while the Coast Guard will maintain the navigational aids, which include a light that flashes every six seconds and a fog horn that blares every 10 seconds.

Yes, a light every 6 seconds and a fog horn every 10 seconds. You might want to consider that.

On the plus side, there has only been one bid so far, for $10,000. Very reasonable for an ocean front house with a fantastic view.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Weekend Cooking...Tomato Redux

We are not quite done with the tomatoes yet, I realized this week. See, on Tuesday, I went to a farmers market down in West Cape May and happen to buy some lovely heirloom variety tomatoes. A pink one, a green one, a purple one, a yellow one..and a red one. The young man working at his family's stand told me the varieties, but honesty, I forget. All I know is, I had to think of some more, fairly simple tomato recipes. And then I remembered that I had neglected to share one of my grandmother's and mother's recipes favorite recipes for a nice ripe tomato..Fried Tomatoes.

Now we are not talking here about Fried Green Tomatoes, famous in the South and key to that great Fannie Flagg book. No, this is something different, something I always assumed was an Amish recipe.
My maternal grandparents were from the coal mining regions of Pennsylvania and the Penn. Dutch influence found it's way into a lot of my grandmother's favorites. So I googled it and yes, there it was, usually called Fried Tomato with Gravy or Fried Tomato Gravy.

Fried Tomato with Gravy
1 or 2 ripe tomatoes, cut thickly
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 TBS, chopped fresh basil
olive oil to lightly cover the bottom of a pan

While the oil in the pan is heating, mix the flour, salt, sugar and pepper together. Dredge the tomato slices in the flour. They will be moist enough to make the flour stick. Add the slices to the hot pan and saute until lightly browned, flip and brown on other side.
As soon as they are browned, remove the slices to a plate. There should be some flour left in the pan and brown bits in the pan..is there is not, add some of the leftover seasoned flour from the dredging, at least a good tsp. or so and cook for a minute in the remaining oil. If the oil is all absorbed, add a bit more oil, or even better, a bit of butter. When the rawness of the flour has cooked out, add a bit of milk and cook until quiet thick and bubbly. At the last minute, add in the chopped basil and pour over the tomato slices.

All those measurement are very loose, because I have never actually measured them
Also, the basil is my own addition, something my mother never added, but I love basil and nothing goes as well with a tomato as basil. Also my basil is doing very well in the garden this year.
Do not get upset if the slices fall apart, especially once you take them out of the pan and they sit a minute. That is what you get for using ripe tomatoes. They get very soft once they start to cook but it does not effect the flavor one little bit. And what a flavor it is!

This is excellent with a piece of broiled fish or a grilled chicken breast.
Or one of my favorite ways to eat it is just on top of some white rice.
Or just with a spoon.

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, August 13, 2010

a review of "Queen of the Night" [61]

Queen of the Night: A Novel of Suspense by J.A.Jance
William Morrow, IBSN 978-0061239243
July 27, 2010, 368 pages

We start with the murder of a young college student, on vacation with friends in San Diego 50 years ago. It is a murder still unsolved but not forgotten. Then we are transported to present day California, where a laid off bank officer kills his entire family, his wife and children and even the family dog, and then sets out to avenge others who he feel have wronged him. But while these crimes may start in California, it will be in Arizona, in the Tohono O'odham Native American reservation and Tuscon that the story will be played out.

Returning, in this 4th book in the series, will be Diana Ladd and her husband, former sheriff Brandon Walker, haunted, quite literally, by the ghosts of the evil men from her past. We will also meet their adopted Tohono O'odham daughter Lani, now a medical doctor who will face a critical decision that will influence the rest of her life. Then there is half Apache border patrolman Dan Pardee, who will come across four murdered people in the desert, and also a young girl still alive, missed by the gunman, who was a witness to what happened. And finally there is Pima County Homicide Detective Brian Fellows, the first investigator on the grisly scene, an investigation that may well cost him his life.

Now that may seem like a lot of characters and a lot of story lines. That is true..and I did not tell you a fraction of it. If this book has one big shortfall it is the vast cast of characters, a group whose back stories and interconnections I had a lot of trouble keeping straight, especially at the beginning of the book. I did something I can not remember ever doing before. I took an index card and wrote all their names down, little arrows showing their connections. I counter over 25 people introduced in the first 60 pages. Quite honestly, looking back, many of them could have been left out to the benefit of overall story. Then there is the fact that several of these characters have complicated back stories that the author tried to explains, something that did not really work and was quite confusing at time. The people and the stories really needed to be pared down.

And I wish they had, because if you can hang in there and wade through the crowd, there is a really good, interesting and, at times, quite touching story in here. All these people, all these stories, will be tied together by the time the book ends. A lot of interconnections, ones we know about and at least one that will be a nice surprise, will become clear. This book is not a mystery. Even though it is in the title, I would not really even consider it a suspense novel.

We follow each character as the story unfolds. We know who did what and why they did it, each from their point of view. Even the outcome is not terrible surprising. No, suspense is not the draw here...what will happen to these people we come to care about in a very short period of time is what keeps the reader interested. That is perhaps the strength of this book, that the author can make us really care about these people in a relatively short period of time, in the midst of a fast paced story. And it is an interesting story, especially some glimpses, good and bad, of how this Indian nation functions,  both within their community, and with some outside groups. Best of all, it exposes us to some of the legends and stories that shape their identity, including the one of the Queen of the Night. The Queen of the Night is a beautiful fragrant flower that blooms only one night of the year, a legend that gives the book it's title and is at the heart of the book.

Again I find myself saying that if you have read the previous books in this series, two of which I had some time ago, you will not want to miss the continuation of the story in this book. If you are new to the series, you may want to go back and start at the beginning, although it is possible to wade in and with some concentration...and maybe an index card or two... figure out and enjoy this one.

My thanks to Library Thing Early Reviewers for my copy of this book.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wordless Wednesday- A Trip to the Pinelands of NJ

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

a review of "To Darkness and to Death" [60]

To Darkness and to Death (A Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery) by Julia Spenser-Fleming
St. Martin's Paperbacks, ISBN 978-0312988876
May 30, 2006, 370 pages

As the autumn day begins in the small Adirondack town of Millers Kill, not everything is as peaceful as it might appear on the surface. One man sits holding his gun, thinking about how he is being forced to sell out his business, another rises from a sleepless night, in a cold sweat about what he must do that day and a young woman regains consciousness, to find herself gagged and bound and alone.

It is going to be a very busy day for the residents of Millers Kill, a day that will change the lives of many forever. The woods that surround the town, the woods that are at heart of the lives of so many, are about to undergo a huge change. The vast estate of the van der Hoeven family is about to be sold and then given to a conservation group that will stop the logging, the logging that provided the livelihood for many. This deal is to be formalized at a fancy dinner at the brand new local resort, an event that will be attended by many of our cast of characters. Not everyone is happy about this turn of events, and when the Reverend Clare Fergusson is awoken very early in the morning to join a search team for the missing Millie van der Hoeven, one of the three sibling heirs of the estate, it is impossible to not consider foul play. Clare's preparation for the arrive of a visit from her bishop that may determine her future in Millers Kill will just have to wait.

Meanwhile, her very good friend and local police chief Russ Van Alstyne, wants nothing more than to spend his 50th birthday in the woods with a friend, hunting. Well, at least until he has to change into an unaccustomed tuxedo and accompany his wife to the big party that night. But as the day tumbles on and several of our cast of characters get caught up in events...and get involved in making some very bad, very stupid decisions.. we know that is not to be. Blackmail, revenge, assault, lies, a death from decades ago and a present day murder, will be the order of the day. And of course, once more Clare and Russ will be forced to consider just where their relationship is heading. Yes, it is going to be one very busy day in this small town.

This is the fourth book in this series and while it was a pretty enjoyable book, I must say it is my least favorite of those I have read so far. The fact that the whole book takes place in one very long day and involves a very large cast of characters is, I think part of the problem. There are several sub-plots going on at once and the whole story get a little frantic and convoluted. And then there is the issue of the stupid decisions, the many, many stupid decisions, that a few of the characters make. And make. And make some more. Yes, stupid people, especially people under a great deal of pressure, do not always think too clearly, but it is carried to lengths that start to become unbelievable and annoying. This is not so much a mystery as a comedy of errors.

Now, that being said, those flaws being pointed out, this is still much I liked about this book. OK, let's be honest. The most interesting thing about this book is the chance to see where the relationship between Russ and Clare is going and in that regard, this book does not disappoint. Clare, ex-army helicopter pilot and the minister at the local Episcopal church, is a great character. Even though I was disappointed to see she has not let bought a sensible vehicle... Her relationship with the married chief of police, a friendship that has grown into something else, is fraught with problems, and I love that this series does not try to gloss over those issues or make them less than they are. Yes, sparks are a'flying and where there are sparks, there may soon be fire. And in a fire, real or figurative, people can get hurt.

This is a very good series, with some great characters and a great setting in the Adirondack Mountains of NY State. While I though this book was weaker than some of the others, for fans of Russ and Clare, it is a must read.