Category Archives: Book Reviews

What Fall Means to Me: Readers Imbibing Peril #ripxii

Whenever I take on a reading challenge (e.g. read x number of books in y amount of time), I fail. Miserably.

This goes for Readers Imbibing Peril, too – the challenge to read a certain number of horror or suspense titles from Sept. 1st to Oct. 31st. So I wasn’t signing up this year.

Nope. Can’t.

Don’t have time, and never follow through, anyway. Just make a fool of myself saying I’m going to read this and that and then don’t.

Now that we’re into October, though, and it feels like fall, it couldn’t hurt to peek at Stainless Steel Droppings to see what’s happening with Readers Imbibing Peril…and what do I find out?

Yup. I’m in!


#somepeopleneverlearn

 

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Favorite Summer Cookbooks #weekendcooking @BethFishReads

Summer zoomed past with nary a Weekend Cooking post from me, so even though it’s fall now, I wanted to tell you about some of the cookbooks I cooked from (or wanted to cook from) this summer. We’re in the midst of a tropical heat wave as I write this, so it still feels like summer here in New England!

Two of the cookbooks are by mother-daughter team Linda Greenlaw and Martha Greenlaw. Linda Greenlaw is famous for being the country’s only female swordfish boat captain (She wrote The Hungry Ocean: A Swordfish Captain’s Journey) and has written several memoirs and started more recently to write mysteries. Martha Greenlaw also sounds like a captain, although she runs a different kind of tight ship – her kitchen.

The Maine Summers Cookbook
by Linda Greenlaw and Martha Greenlaw
Avery, 2011

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Recipes from a Very Small Island
by Linda Greenlaw and Martha Greenlaw
Hyperion, 2005

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These two were our main/Maine cookbook club selections this month, and they were universally liked. The funny and moving stories they contained of life in Maine  – especially on Isle au Haut, tiny island off the coast, where they are now permanent residents – made several cookbook club members go looking for Linda Greenlaw’s memoirs. I borrowed these from the library, but there were a lot of recipes I still want to make, especially after tasting a dozen different recipes at cookbook club.

As an example of Linda Greenlaw’s humorous writing, here’s a brief excerpt from the section on clambakes (she’s not a fan) titled The Beginner’s Guide to Clambakes or How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Lobster:

In preparation for a clambake, the following will be needed: lobsters, clams, corn on the cob, butter, hot dogs, marshmallows, two huge galvanized washtubs – one for the corn and one for the shellfish – firewood, several cases of beer, and as many ill-behaved children as you can find.

The first, and perhaps most critical, step toward a successful clambake is choosing the right location. Theories vary on this, but in my experience it is proper to choose a spot along the beach that is most uncomfortable. Make sure that your selected site meets at least two of the following criteria:

  1. There is absolutely nowhere to sit down.

  2. The beach is comprised of round rocks that shift when stepped on to ensure poor footing.

  3. There are sheer, jagged cliffs in the area for children to play on.

The recipe I made was simple and delicious – Smoked Salmon Spread with (Wasabi) Rice Crackers. It came from The Maine Summers Cookbook: Recipes for Delicious, Sun-Filled Days. It called for smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers, minced red onion, and lemon juice. It’s a great gluten-free appetizer – for people who like smoked salmon, anyway – and can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to two weeks, which makes it a good party recipe.

The real hit of the night, though, was the Tomato, Caramelized Onion, and Brie Galette, followed closely by the Wicked Good Lobster and Black Bean Chili (not pictured.) I used a blue plate for my salmon spread and crackers contribution, thinking it looked so Maine, but didn’t notice until dessert that everything had slid to one side! #presentationfail

My personal favorite of the night was the Key Lime Rum Cake. One of the best-tasting cakes I’ve ever had! More lime flavor than rum.

All of the above recipes came from The Maine Summers Cookbook, but the cookbook club prize for most impressive recipe (if we gave out prizes) would have to go to Crab Madeleines with Citrus Tartar Sauce from Recipes from a Very Small Island.

The next one on my list is by Liz Barbour, a New England chef who has done two cooking demos at our library.

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Beautifully Delicious
by Liz Barbour
Photographs and design by Celeste Guidice
Creative Feast, 2017

Beautifully Delicious: Cooking with Herbs and Edible Flowers seems expensive if you look at price vs. number of pages (only 56) but the gorgeous color photography (what you’re paying for) is truly an integral part of the book. There are step-by-step photos of many of the recipes, as well as of the end results. The book is also packed with hints and recipe variations, so even though it seems short, there’s a lot there!

Because of the edible flowers and recipes like Honeydew Cilantro Salad (Liz made this for us at the library – delicious!) and Sparkling Basil Lemonade, I think of Beautifully Delicious as a summer cookbook, but most of the recipes don’t actually require edible flowers and fresh herbs and produce are available year-round. I made the Butternut Squash with Arugula and Sage and could easily see it (or its variation, Butternut Spinach Salad) as a fall recipe. The recipes are simple and don’t require the talents of a chef to prepare.

Beautifully Delicious is formatted as a high-quality ring binder with pages that turn easily and stay open at any point in the book. You can sample Liz’s recipes on her blog, but I believe the recipes in the cookbook aren’t available online – for obvious reasons!

I didn’t get to make many recipes from this last one on my favorite summer cookbooks list, but there’s always next summer!

Summer Cocktails
by María Del Mar Sacasa
Quirk Books, 2015

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I have other cocktail books which I also don’t get to use often enough, but being someone who likes to know the proper season for things, I liked having so many light, summertime drinks collected for me in one place.

I borrowed Summer Cocktails from the library, also, but it’s going on my birthday/Christmas present wish list. The pictures are pretty; the text is entertaining; and the book opens up and lies flat. If I owned this book, it would be a keeper!

P.S. My birthday’s coming up next month and I just found out that there’s a Winter Cocktails book, too!

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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.

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Glass Houses and Readalikes for Louise Penny

cover image of Glass Houses audiobookGlass Houses by Louise Penny is #13 in the Armand Gamache series, and the books have become enormously popular. I’d like to think I was an early adopter, but #1 came out in 2006, and I can’t say for sure I’ve been pushing these books for 11 years!

If you haven’t heard of Louise Penny, you must not avoid anything that even remotely resembles crime fiction. She was even on CBS Morning America last month:

https://www.cbsnews.com/videos/louise-penny-on-her-new-inspector-gamache-novel-glass-houses/

Glass Houses might be a hard one to jump into the series with, because the series is so far along, but I think the book succeeds both as a stand-alone title and in moving the characters forward in the series. The author does very well bringing in enough backstory for new readers (or to remind regular readers of the series) to grasp the personalities and motivations of the main characters and the essential peacefulness of the village of Three Pines, which manages to remain undisturbed despite the disturbing number of violent murders that happen there!

In an interview recorded with the audiobooks’ new narrator, Robert Bathurst, at the end of Glass Houses, Louise Penny says her books aren’t crime fiction. With the main character the Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec, the police department for the whole of the province, and with a murder mystery at the center of just about every book, it seems like plain old genre prejudice to claim the books aren’t “crime fiction”.  But they definitely do fall at the literary end of the crime fiction spectrum, with themes for each book and thematic explorations of ethics and morality running throughout the series.

With characters who grow and change over the course of the series; the author’s fondness for word play and her often poetic language; and the rigorous intellectual, philosophical, moral, and cultured scaffolding every story is mounted on, these books will probably not appeal to readers looking for a straightforward murder mystery.

I’ve tried before on this blog to come up with a list of authors to try if you like Louise Penny, and I still think Jane Langton’s Homer and Mary Kelly mysteries are the closest match for style. But here is a list of other books that might hit the spot while fans of Louise Penny-style literary crime fiction (Shhh, don’t tell the author I said crime fiction!) wait for next year’s Armand Gamache book.

(I’ve listened to all of the Armand Gamache books on audio, as I do most of my crime fiction, so all of the books on this list are also recommended as audiobooks.)

Jasper Fforde
Thursday Next series
Less serious and with fantasy elements, the word play and humor of these books might appeal to readers who find the banter of the residents of Three Pines one of the best parts of this series.

Jane Langton
Homer and Mary Kelly series
The author imbues her mysteries with history and culture with deftness and humor. The marriage of Homer and Mary Kelly is reminiscent of the Armand and Rene Marie Gamache partnership.

G.M. Malliet
Max Tudor series
Classic village mysteries with a handsome, unmarried vicar in the lead role, these stories have the wit and ironic self-regard seen in the lighter books in the Armand Gamache series.

Inger Ash Wolfe
Hazel Micallef series
Darker in tone than even the darkest of the Armand Gamache books, the Hazel Micallef books may appeal to readers looking for literary crime fiction with realistic characters set in Canada.

 

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