All posts by Laurie C

I'm a public librarian in Massachusetts who loves to give reading suggestions, whether asked-for or not, a specialty known in library jargon as "reader's advisory". I read a lot -- mostly literary, genre, and young adult fiction, but also short stories and memoirs -- and listen to a lot of audiobooks. Newer favorites include Patry Francis, Donna Tartt, Meg Wolitzer, Lev Grossman, Jennifer Egan, Laurie R. King, Lionel Shriver, Carolyn Parkhurst, Penny Vincenzi, Michael Connelly, Alexander McCall Smith, Orson Scott Card, Patrick Rothfuss, Martha Southgate, Jennifer Haigh, Zadie Smith, and Louise Penny. Some older favorites are Lorrie Moore, Anne Tyler, Ian McEwan, Susan Howatch, and Connie Willis.

Weekend Cooking: Honey Beer Chicken, Pinterest, and Me

Weekend Cooking image

Looking through other Weekend Cooking posts the weekend before last, I came across a recipe for Honey Beer Chicken I thought I’d try. It was described in a post titled Weekend Cooking – Pinterest Testing Three Chicken Recipes written by Diane on her blog, BookChickDi. The chicken looked delicious in the photo, but I read through the post again because I couldn’t find the recipe or the link to the recipe. Then, I realized that was because it was somewhere on Pinterest. (Should I say “in” Pinterest or “on” Pinterest? Could someone clue me in?)

Ugh. I’ve been resisting Pinterest for many months. Literally don’t want to go there. Don’t want to join another social media site. Don’t want another space on the Web to maintain. Etc.

But the chicken looked good and I had defrosted chicken breasts sitting in the fridge. Still, I couldn’t see how to get to the actual recipe. So I went to Diane’s Pinterest page (called a “pinboard”) and looked through all these attractively organized recipe categories like Main Dishes, The Lighter Side, etc. (Also got sidetracked into looking at Beverages, Appetizers, and Side Dishes because of all the pretty pictures, but of course didn’t find the chicken recipe in any of those categories either.)

Falling back on good old Google, I found this recipe for Chicken with Honey-Beer Sauce on the So, How’s It Taste? blog that looked pretty much like the one, and which I followed exactly. Except that I over-salted the chicken by accident (not the recipe’s fault), the dish came out really well.

photo of Honey-Beer Chicken (oversalted but you can't tell from the photo)

I credit BookChickDi for the original inspiration (and her photo looks much better than mine.)

But I really needed to figure out how Pinterest worked, so I went back to BookChickDi’s Weekend Cooking post and there it was, in tiny print, but right under the photo of the Honey-Beer Chicken: Source: betsylife.com via Diane on Pinterest. Click on betsylife.com and you go straight to the recipe. It was the same recipe I followed, posted on a different blog, with credit in both places given to a recipe printed in the September 2012 issue of Cooking Light.

So I think I finally get it. Pinterest is basically a visually appealing update of the old “Cool Links” page you can still find on Web sites that haven’t been redesigned in the last ten years. Instead of plain old text links, pretty pictures on Pinterest draw you further in and keep you clicking.

But, no, this is not an announcement of my new Pinterest pinboard. I still haven’t joined the in crowd. I do, however, plan on doing more “research” into Pinterest to see how libraries are using it for reader’s advisory. Hmmmm. Where can I find the time for that? I guess I’ll stop trying out recipes and just read them online and look at all the pretty photos instead!

Weekend Cooking is a weekly feature hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Click here to check out all Weekend Cooking blog posts.

 

Readers Imbibing Peril the Third: The Mist by Stephen King (AUDIO) #RIPVII

The Mist by Stephen King was originally published in 1985 as a novella in the collection Skeleton Crew, which I haven’t read. It has been made into a horror movie, which I haven’t seen, and published in a separate volume as a novella, which I haven’t read. I chose to experience the terror of a catastrophic event in a small Maine town in this full-cast audio dramatization of The Mist, which runs just over an hour. The morning after a violent storm has knocked out power and destroyed property, Mist main character David Drayton ventures out for supplies along with his son and a neighbor and becomes trapped in the town supermarket with not just other locals but also summer residents. (The horror!) No one can leave the building without dying a horrible death from unknown causes.

Before the audio drama starts, there’s a track explaining that the recording was produced using Kunstkopf Binaural 3-D sound technology and a warning that for the optimal listening experience, you need to use high-quality headphones. The Mist definitely would have been better and probably more chilling that way. Listening to it on a car stereo, I had to stop and start it to catch sounds or dialogue that I couldn’t hear.

The audio production was good; the screams and many of the other sound effects were very effective at sending a chill down my spine. Sometimes leaving something to the imagination is scarier than seeing it done with actors and special effects in a movie. Overall, though, I wouldn’t recommend this production except for die-hard fans who want to experience the entire Stephen King oeuvre.

Listening to something that’s like old-fashioned radio drama, you expect some dialogue to sound a little unnatural, because the listener has to hear something other than screams, clunks, and dragging sounds to know what is going on and most people don’t normally describe what they’re seeing in detail to someone who is standing right there with them. But some of the actors delivered their lines so woodenly that it sounded even more unnatural. Also, it was unfortunate that so many lines were given to the son of the main character, because they didn’t come to life at all.

The audio dramatization also had so many distractingly prominent mentions of the particular product brands that the characters trapped for days in a small-town Maine market were eating that I didn’t know if it was supposed to be spoofing company-sponsored radio drama of the past (in which case, it was just about the only humor in the whole story) or if those references were in the original story and should have been edited out. (NOTE: I’ve now skimmed through the actual story and these conversations about brand-name snacks seem to have been inserted into the audio drama.)

I’ve mostly read Stephen King’s recent novels (starting with Cell in 2006), and only one of his earlier ones (The Stand), so I don’t really know how The Mist compares to the rest of his earlier work. But even for a straightforward horror story where readers don’t care about character development or a final explanation of events as long as they get scared, this audio production doesn’t satisfy. The story sets up a disaster scenario and then abruptly ends. To me, it seemed like the beginning of a novel that the author decided not to go on with. You don’t find out what actually happened to the wife of the main character, David Drayton; what caused the disaster; the scope of the disaster is; or even what the mist has to do with anything. (But we do learn what brands of snacks David Drayton’s son likes and doesn’t like.)

After writing the above, I’ve checked the original story, and it definitely develops the characters and makes the characters’ behavior seem more natural. In the story, time passes, societal norms break down, people start to go crazy, etc., but in the audio dramatization events are condensed and people change too suddenly. Maybe the story wasn’t well suited to radio-style drama because it takes place over several days instead of all in one day. Stick to reading this story yourself, or listen to it as a traditional audiobook instead.

This review is part of the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII event hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings, who says:

The purpose of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII is to enjoy books and movies/television that could be classified (by you) as:

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.
Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.

Visit the RIP VII review site for hundreds more book reviews for Halloween reading and beyond.

Disclosure: I borrowed this audiobook through my public library network.

Reading a Classic with Ralph Cosham: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (Audio)

Cover image of David Copperfield audio editionThe Blackstone Audio edition of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, narrated by Ralph Cosham, comes close to being a perfect audiobook! Actually, I can’t think of anything wrong with it except that I listened to it too soon after The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny, also narrated by Ralph Cosham. The voice of Mr. Murdoch (a bad guy) in David Copperfield sounded just like the voice of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache (a good guy) in The Beautiful Mystery, which threw me off during the parts near the beginning of David Copperfield where the bullying Mr. Murdoch appears.

Listening to the audio edition read by Ralph Cosham, I felt as though I were sitting by an English fireside listening to the story of the early life of this engaging young man, David Copperfield, read aloud to me by a skilled storyteller, even though I was mostly driving in my car to and from work. It amazed me that a book first published in 1850 is still so engaging to a modern reader. Each time I had to stop listening, I could sympathize with the original readers who read it in serialized format and had to wait impatiently for the next installment.

I don’t think I’d read David Copperfield before, but many of the characters were familiar from hearing about them over the years: Uriah Heep, the ‘umble, obsequious sneak; Betsey Trotwood, David Copperfield’s formidable aunt; and, of course, the perpetually penurious and unemployed Mr. Micawber, who’s always waiting for “something to turn up.”

Since David Copperfield is written in the first-person, as if it were a memoir, it is already one of my favorite kinds of audiobooks. A first-person story with a believable narrator eliminates that stumbling block that some readers have with the first-person voice: How did this book come to exist as a physical book if we readers are supposed to believe in this narrator as a real person? It seems easier to suspend those niggling thoughts when you can just allow the voice of the audiobook narrator to become the story’s narrator in your mind. David Copperfield is supposed to be the most autobiographical of Dickens’ novels and his personal favorite, so it was no surprise that the character David Copperfield has a difficult childhood and eventually becomes an accomplished writer, which had the added bonus of explaining how the main character was able to write such a detailed and skillful “memoir.”

If you have somehow missed out on reading David Copperfield, like me, I highly recommend listening to this audio edition. It was so long it had to go on three MP3-CDs, but I was sorry when I came to the end.

David Copperfield
Charles Dickens, author
Ralph Cosham, narrator
Blackstone Audio, 2012
978-1-4551-3606-3
approx. 34 hours, on 3 MP3-CDs
$59.95 list, on sale at $26.99

Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this audiobook from the publisher through Audio Jukebox.