Category Archives: Book Reviews

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2-20-17 #IMWAYR

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It’s a beautiful, sunny day here in Massachusetts. It’s also Presidents’ Day, which is a holiday for me, so I’m looking forward to spending the day at home except for morning yoga class (my new exercise obsession) and a quick run to the supermarket this afternoon.

cover imageI’m currently reading Crosstalk by Connie Willis, and This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel (which I started when I couldn’t find my copy of Crosstalk.)

cover imageThey are favorite authors of mine, and I own both of these books. So I can read without worrying about the books expiring, which happened with the downloaded library audiobook I was listening to last week (The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close.)

audiobook cover image

While I wait to come to the top of the list to get The Hopefuls again to listen to the second half of it, two more audiobook holds came through from the library, including The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly, which I’ve been waiting a long time for and hope to get to listen to before it expires!

I audiobook cover imagestarted The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson, narrated by Cassandra Campbell first, to see what it was like; I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about this debut novel set in a private high school in an upscale suburb of San Francisco.

At first I thought I might not listen to it all the way through because the school bullying described in detail from an eighth-grade girl’s perspective, at the start of the book, made me so sad and angry. When the perspective switched to a new high school teacher’s three years later, I decided I’d give it a few more chapters to see if I could stomach the subject matter. By the time the perspective switched back to a student’s again –about a third of the way in – I was hooked.

Game of Thrones character "Brace Yourself, the President memes are coming.

Happy Presidents’ Day! What are you reading this week?


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (#IMWAYR) is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It’s a great post to organize yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment, and er… add to that ever-growing TBR pile! So welcome in, everyone. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at Book Date.

Recipes from My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl: Cookbook Club #weekendcooking @BethFishReads

Something I’ve always thought would be fun would be a cookbook club where everyone would try a recipe from a cookbook, bring it to the meeting, and the group would talk about the good and bad of the cookbook, the recipes we tried, and the recipes we still wanted to try.

So I got the Good Taste Cookbook Club started at my library last September, and it’s going strong! Except for meeting every other month instead of monthly, it’s just like any other library book club, except that the books we read are cookbooks. Oh, and we also eat extremely well at every meeting!

book coverMy Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl was the January selection. It’s a combination memoir/cookbook that the longtime restaurant critic ended up writing after Gourmet – the magazine she had edited for ten years – was suddenly shut down, with everyone on staff laid off. Its format, design, and recipe layout are unusual for a cookbook (e.g. loose, conversational-style, sometimes inexact, instructions; ingredient lists divided into “Shopping List” and “Staples”; personal notes woven into the recipe directions) which some of the group didn’t care for, but others enjoyed.

“For the past six months, cooking had been my lifeline, and I was grateful for everything I had learned in the kitchen. Most cookbooks, I thought as I reached for an orange and began to squeeze it for juice, are in search of perfection, an attempt to constantly re-create the same good dishes. But you’re not a chef in your own kitchen, trying to please paying guests. You’re a traveler, following your own path, seeking adventure. I wanted to write about the fun of cooking, encourage people to take risks. Alone in the kitchen you are simply a cook, free to do anything you want. If it doesn’t work out – well, there’s always another meal” – My Kitchen Year

I made Lemon Panna Cotta for my contribution to the meeting, which was a very simple recipe from My Kitchen Year, having just three ingredients: heavy cream, sugar, and three lemons. As an example of the inexact directions, the recipe calls for the juice and zest of three lemons, but doesn’t tell you approximately how much juice and zest you should end up with. So I wondered if I had it right as I mixed the lemon juice and zest together and plopped it all into the hot cream, but the recipe worked – simple as it was! Even people who don’t particularly care for lemon desserts raved about it.

I put the Lemon Panna Cotta into plastic shot glasses for individual servings, with the remaining amount filling two ramekins. During the meeting, we discovered that it would probably be best kept refrigerated right up until serving time, because it got a little soupy in the bottom of the shot glasses. (The thinner layers in the ramekins seemed to stay firm, though.)

Lemon Panna Cotta in shot glass-sized servings
Lemon Panna Cotta just after being poured into the ramekin

I also wanted to try the recipe for Food Cart Curry Chicken before the cookbook club met, but didn’t have time, so my personal chef (aka Mr. BaystateRA) kindly made it for me. My photo doesn’t do it justice, but it was delicious! Mr. B. complained about grinding spices when we had ground spices in the spice cabinet already, but I think the extra work – his, that is – was definitely worth it, for the flavor explosion.)

served in the pans

I’ve read many of Ruth Reichl’s other books, including the novel she also worked on during this year of unemployment (Delicious!). My Kitchen Year is divided into seasons – Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer – and chronicles her time spent in two residences, a New York City apartment and a country home, upstate.

My Kitchen Year happened to resonate with me, personally, because I had an unexpected six months of unemployment starting in the late fall of last year, which caused me to reevaluate my career and how I spent my time. Like Ruth Reichl, who found so much comfort in the kitchen during her year at home while looking for new employment, I did more cooking than usual during those months and also found it soothing. Although, unlike Ruth Reichl, I didn’t write a book (much less a cookbook AND a novel) during my time of unemployment, I discovered that preparing healthful meals can be as relaxing as baking, and got a lot more creative with salads, so I count that as an overall plus.

Now, settled happily into my new job, I’ve been finding less time to cook and had also been going to the gym less often, but thanks to New Year’s resolutions and the encouragement of Joy Weese Moll’s Readers’ Workouts, I’m getting back into a gym routine and have now finally gotten back to Weekend Cooking with Beth Fish Reads!

At our meeting to talk about My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl, we sampled:

  • Anchovy Bread
  • Tuscan Bean Soup
  • Perfect Pound Cake
  • Banana Bread
  • Applesauce
  • Khao Man Gai (Thai Chicken Rice)
  • Beef, Wine and Onion Stew
  • Gingered Applesauce Cake Glazed with Caramel
  • Lemon Panna Cotta
  • New York Cheesecake
  • Bison Chili
  • Fried Chicken
  • Chicken Pate
  • Potatoes au Gratin
  • Custard in a Crust (Quiche)
  • Pickled Red Onions

Click to enlarge the pictures:

Happy Weekend Cooking!

Weekend Cooking badgeLinked to Weekend Cooking, a weekly feature on Beth Fish Reads. Click/tap image for Weekend Cooking posts from other bloggers.My

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1-30-17 #IMWAYR

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I’m still reading Swing Time and The Bone Clocks! I realize they are taking me forever, but I am savoring them instead of devouring them. However, I need to pick up the pace with The Bone Clocks because the other #BoneClocks17 Readalong participants are way ahead of me!

So today I’m going to talk about my current audiobooks.

cover image of audiobook Memory ManI listened to Memory Man by David Baldacci last week because I have never tried reading one of his books and he is so popular at the library.

The main character in Memory Man, Amos Decker, has an altered brain due to an injury resulting in synesthesia and a photographic memory. In addition, he has suffered a hugely tragic loss, so he has the potential to be an interesting detective character and the book could go into some fascinating neuroscience digressions, but if you take away the action of the story, there’s not much else there, so I won’t be going on to #2 in the Amos Decker series (The Last Mile). Not right away, anyway.

Audiobook narrators Ron McLarty and Orlagh Cassidy are very good individually, and I like them both. but I didn’t like having Orlagh Cassidy pipe up only whenever a female character said something (even just in Amos Decker’s memory), when the bulk of the book was narrated by Ron McLarty. That was distracting!

cover image of audiobookThis week I’ll be listening to Wicked Autumn, an English village mystery, too dark to be a cozy, by G.M. Malliett, which is more my cuppa. The detective character, Max Tudor, is a tall, rangy, recently ordained Anglican priest who is a former MI5 agent. The village of Nether Monkslip, where he is the vicar, is full of promisingly quirky characters; one of whom is now dead. Next up will be A Fatal Winter (Max Tudor series, #2)!


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (#IMWAYR) is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It’s a great post to organize yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment, and er… add to that ever-growing TBR pile! So welcome in, everyone. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at Book Date.

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