Thursday, October 31, 2013

Introducing...Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

On the night of October 4th, 1966, Val and I, both in late middle age, attended the opening of Many Are Called at the Museum of Modern Art-- the first exhibit of the portraits taken by Walker Evans in the late 1930s on the New York City subways with a hidden camera.

-- Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Monday, October 28, 2013

Mailbox Monday (10-28-13 edition)

 Image licensed from
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted by a different blog each month. See the official list here. I've received a few new books recently:

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
Received through TLC Book Tours and the publisher

NOS4A2 is a spine-tingling novel of supernatural suspense from master of horror Joe Hill, the New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box and Horns. Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country. Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.” Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

Katie Gale: A Coast Salish Woman's Life on Oyster Bay by Llyn De Danaan
Received through LibraryThing Early Reviewers

 A gravestone, a mention in local archives, stories still handed down around Oyster Bay: the outline of a woman begins to emerge and with her the world she inhabited, so rich in tradition, so shaken by violent change. Katie Kettle Gale was born into a Salish community in Puget Sound in the 1850s, just as settlers were migrating into what would become Washington State. With her people forced out of their accustomed hunting and fishing grounds into ill-provisioned island camps and reservations, Katie Gale sought her fortune in Oyster Bay. In that early outpost of multiculturalism—where Native Americans and immigrants from the eastern United States, Europe, and Asia vied for economic, social, political, and legal power—a woman like Gale could make her way.

As LLyn De Danaan mines the historical record, we begin to see Gale, a strong-willed Native woman who cofounded a successful oyster business, then wrested it away from her Euro-American husband, a man with whom she raised children and who ultimately made her life unbearable. Steeped in sadness—with a lost home and a broken marriage, children dying in their teens, and tuberculosis claiming her at forty-three—Katie Gale’s story is also one of remarkable pluck, a tale of hard work and ingenuity, gritty initiative and bad luck that is, ultimately, essentially American.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Introducing...Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...


Andrew's plane landed at EZE, as promised, at seven a.m. local time. Outside the window, the sun was a hideous orb, bleeding orange light through wavering heat. Andrew was still woozy from his two Valiums and two glasses of wine, the bare minimum that he needed to fly these days-- to anywhere, for anything, though especially for here, for this. The irony of being a professor of international relations who was terrified of international travel was not lost on him (no irony was lost on him, ever), but it could not be helped. Neither could it be mitigated by the knowledge-- always understood but now finally believed-- that the things that go wrong are rarely the things you've thought to worry about.

-- Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: The Round House by Louise Erdrich


One Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. In one day, Joe's life is irrevocably transformed. He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared.

While his father, who is a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe becomes frustrated with the official investigation and sets out with his trusted friends, Cappy, Zack, and Angus, to get some answers of his own. Their quest takes them first to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. And this is only the beginning.

Hardcover, First Edition, 321 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Harper Collins (first published 2012)
ISBN 0062065246 (ISBN13: 9780062065247)

About the Author

Louise Erdrich is one of the most gifted, prolific, and challenging of contemporary Native American novelists. Born in 1954 in Little Falls, Minnesota, she grew up mostly in Wahpeton, North Dakota, where her parents taught at Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. Her fiction reflects aspects of her mixed heritage: German through her father, and French and Ojibwa through her mother. She worked at various jobs, such as hoeing sugar beets, farm work, waitressing, short order cooking, lifeguarding, and construction work, before becoming a writer. She attended the Johns Hopkins creative writing program and received fellowships at the McDowell Colony and the Yaddo Colony. After she was named writer-in-residence at Dartmouth, she married professor Michael Dorris and raised several children, some of them adopted. She and Michael became a picture-book husband-and-wife writing team, though they wrote only one truly collaborative novel, The Crown of Columbus (1991).

The Antelope Wife was published in 1998, not long after her separation from Michael and his subsequent suicide. Some reviewers believed they saw in The Antelope Wife the anguish Erdrich must have felt as her marriage crumbled, but she has stated that she is unconscious of having mirrored any real-life events.

She is the author of four previous bestselling and award-winning novels, including Love Medicine; The Beet Queen; Tracks; and The Bingo Palace. She also has written two collections of poetry, Jacklight, and Baptism of Desire. Her fiction has been honored by the National Book Critics Circle (1984) and The Los Angeles Times (1985), and has been translated into fourteen languages.
Several of her short stories have been selected for O. Henry awards and for inclusion in the annual Best American Short Story anthologies. The Blue Jay's Dance, a memoir of motherhood, was her first nonfiction work, and her children's book, Grandmother's Pigeon, has been published by Hyperion Press. She lives in Minnesota with her children, who help her run a small independent bookstore called The Birchbark.

Friend the author on Facebook

My Thoughts
Small trees had attacked my parents' house at the foundation. They were just seedlings with one or two rigid, healthy leaves. Nevertheless, the stalky shoots had managed to squeeze through knife cracks in the decorative brown shingles covering the cement blocks. They had grown into the unseen wall and it was difficult to pry them loose. My father wiped his palm across his forehead and damned their toughness.
On a reservation in North Dakota, a woman is brutally raped and beaten and nearly killed, but escapes her attacker. What follows throughout this story is a sorting-out, a coming-to-terms, and a desire for justice.

The story is narrated by Joe Coutts, a courageous thirteen-year-old Ojibwe boy living on the reservation. His family is “wealthy” by reservation standards, with a nice, but modest, home and plenty to eat. His father Antone is a tribal judge, and his mother Geraldine is something of a tribal genealogist-- it’s her job to keep track of family lines and name changes and the like.

Geraldine is the woman raped at the beginning of the story, and her son Joe must deal with the feelings this rouses in him, and must attempt, along with his father, to repair their fractured family.

The family is supported by Geraldine's sister Clemence, who lives nearby with their father Mooshum (Joe's grandfather), and her husband Edward. Also Geraldine and Clemence's brother Whitey lives on the reservation, and along with ex-stripper Sonja he runs a gas station on the reservation.

Joe is further supported by his group of friends. Cappy Lafournais is his loyal best friend, and like a brother to him. Zack and cousin Angus round out the group (Angus lives in abject poverty on the res, and it isn't uncommon to see him sporting a black eye or bruised cheek.)

This story shines a spotlight on the inability to prosecute many crimes committed against Native Americans, due to the convoluted maze of laws in regard to Natives, reservation grounds vs. non-reservation property, and who is even considered to be Native American (which has turned into a complicated formula of what percent you are this or that.)

The author points out in her Afterword some statistics she pulled from the 2009 Amnesty International report “Maze of Injustice”:
1 in 3 Native women will be raped in her lifetime (and that figure is certainly higher as Native women often do not report rape); 86 percent of rapes and sexual assaults upon Native women are perpetrated by non-Native men; few are prosecuted.
One thing I had difficulty with at times is the author's writing style. At times it is very clipped and staccato, which is always a bit of a put-off for me. And the dialogue doesn’t use quotations, which I always find a bit confusing, as it makes it difficult for me to discern dialogue from thought from narrative. But she definitely has a way with words, and at times I felt my mind say, "Oh!" at the way she expressed something.
Every night, Sonja gave me a pillow off her bed. The pillow smelled of apricot shampoo and also a dusky overtone-- some private erotic decay like the inside of a wilted flower. I buried my face to breathe it in. (p. 168)
The Creator made us for each other. Me here. Zelia there. Space was put between us by human error. But our hearts listened to divine will. Our bodies, too. (p. 312)
Overall I found it to be a powerful story, original and unembellished.

My final word: Part mystery and part family drama, it’s a tragic story, rife with poverty, abuse, alcoholism, death. But overshadowing it all is a sense of hope, of a people who hold a fragile grasp on all of the good that life has to offer, who suck the marrow from life. There is hope in this young boy Joe.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour! Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Tuesday, September 24th: Lavish Bookshelf
Wednesday, September 25th: she treads softly
Thursday, September 26th: The Lost Entwife
Monday, September 30th: Book-alicious Mama
Tuesday, October 1st: BoundbyWords
Wednesday, October 2nd: Booksie’s Blog
Thursday, October 3rd: Books Speak Volumes
Monday, October 7th: red headed book child
Tuesday, October 8th: The Blog of Lit Wits
Wednesday, October 9th: Lit and Life
Monday, October 14th: Dolce Bellezza
Tuesday, October 15th: guiltless reading
Wednesday, October 17th: Lectus
Monday, October 21st: Becca’s Byline
Tuesday, October 22nd: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, October 23rd: Turn the Page
Thursday, October 24th: Book Snob
Friday, October 25th: Book Addict Katie

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

Cover: B
Writing Style: B
Characters: A-
Storyline/Plot: A
Interest/Uniqueness: A

My Rating: A-


I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Mailbox Monday (10-21-13 edition)

 Image licensed from
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted by a different blog each month. See the official list here. I've received a few new books recently:

Hungry: Five Years in a Frat House Kitchen by Darlene Barnes
Won from Peppermint Ph.D.

Newly arrived in Seattle, Darlene Barnes stumbles on a job ad for a cook at the Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity on the University of Washington campus, a prospect most serious food professionals would automatically reject. But Barnes envisions something other than kegs and corn dogs; she sees an opportunity to bring fresh, real food to an audience accustomed to "Asian Surprise" and other unidentifiable casseroles dropped off by a catering service. And she also sees a chance to reinvent herself, by turning a maligned job into meaningful work of her own creation: "I was the new girl and didn't know or care about the rules."

Naively expecting a universally appreciative audience, Barnes finds a more exasperatingly challenging environment: The kitchen is nasty, the basement is scary, and the customers are not always cooperative. Undaunted, she gives as good as she gets with these foul-mouthed and irreverent--but also funny and sensitive--guys. Her passion for real food and her sharp tongue make her kitchen a magnet for the brothers, new recruits, and sorority girls tired of frozen dinners.

Laugh-out-loud funny and poignant, Hungry offers a female perspective on the real lives of young men, tells a tale of a woman's determined struggle to find purpose, and explores the many ways that food feeds us.

Bait by J. Kent Messum
Won from Tina's Book Review

No one is coming to your aid. We have ensured this.

Six strangers wake up on a remote island in the Florida Keys with no memory of their arrival. They soon discover their common bond: all of them are heroin addicts. As the first excruciating pangs of withdrawal make themselves felt, the six notice a yacht anchored across open water. On it lurk four shadowy figures, protected by the hungry sharks that patrol the waves. So begins a dangerous game. The six must undertake the impossible—swim to the next island where a cache of heroin awaits, or die trying. When alliances form, betrayal is inevitable. As the fight to survive intensifies, the stakes reach terrifying heights—and their captors’ motives finally begin to emerge.

The Darwin Elevator (Dire Earth Cycle #1) by Jason M. Hough
Won from No More Grumpy Bookseller
In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura.

Skyler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura’s edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped—along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma—to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity.

Strong Rain Falling by Jon Land
Jon Land's bestselling series featuring Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong continues in Strong Rain Falling.

Mexico, 1919:  The birth of the Mexican drug trade begins with opium being smuggled across the U.S. border, igniting an all-out battle with American law enforcement in general and the Texas Rangers in particular.

The Present:  Fifth Generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong and her lover Cort Wesley Masters both survive terrifying gun battles.  But this time, it turns out, the actual targets were not them, but Masters’ teenage sons.

That sets Caitlin and Cort Wesley off on a trail winding through the past and present with nothing less than the future of the United States hanging in the balance.  Along the way they will confront terrible truths dating all the way back to the Mexican Revolution and the dogged battle Caitlin’s own grandfather and great-grandfather fought against the first generation of Mexican drug dealers.

At the heart of the storm soon to sweep away America as we know it, lies a mastermind whose abundant power is equaled only by her thirst for vengeance.  Ana Callas Guajardo, the last surviving member of the family that founded the Mexican drug trade, has dedicated all of her vast resources to a plot aimed at the U.S.’s technological heart.

This time out, sabotage proves to be as deadly a weapon as bombs in a battle Caitlin must win in cyberspace as well.  Her only chance to prevail is to short-circuit a complex plan based as much on microchips as bullets.  Because there’s a strong rain coming and only Caitlin and Cort Wesley can stop the fall before it’s too late.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: Leaving Haven by Kathleen McCleary


Getting what you want is just the beginning. Now you have to discover what you truly need. . . .

Georgia Bing and Alice Kinnaird have always been there for each other. Eager to help her best friend have another baby after several miscarriages, Alice donates one of her eggs. When Georgia learns she's going to have the baby boy she's always wanted, she's thrilled—until a devastating discovery destroys her dreams.

While Alice is happy to help her friend get pregnant, she also feels a twinge of disappointment that her own life is missing something . . . something she desperately craves. On the surface, Alice has everything—a busy social life, a great job, a faithful husband, an amazing teenage daughter. But her well-ordered world is knocked off its axis when she's tempted by a forbidden passion that threatens the bonds of friendship, marriage, and motherhood that sustain her.

As the safety of their past is shattered, Georgia and Alice must embark on journeys of self-discovery—odysseys filled with surprising challenges that will test them and force them to confront the truth about their lives . . . and the choices they've made.

352 pages
Expected publication: October 1st 2013 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published September 3rd 2013)
ISBN 0062106252 (ISBN13: 9780062106254)

About the Author
from the book's back cover

Kathleen McCleary teaches writing at American University. A former columnist for, Kathleen's writing has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post, USA WEEKEND, Good Housekeeping, More, Health, and Ladies' Home Journal. She lives in northern Virginia with her husband and two daughters.

Check out the author's website
Friend the author on Facebook
Follow the author on Twitter

My Thoughts
Georgia sat up in her hospital bed, holding her baby. She studied his little face-- just visible beneath the striped blue and pink knit cap the nurse had pulled over his head after cleaning him off. She tried to remember how Liza had looked as a newborn, all those years ago. But this baby didn't look like Liza, maybe because there was nothing of her, Georgia, in this baby. 
Alice, a school teacher, is always so put together, in control, and health conscious. She didn't have a very good role model for motherhood growing up, so she feels inadequate as a mother, and is happy with her one daughter and desires no more children. Her husband, Duncan, is reliable, dependable, calm, patient. He's a good man, but has perhaps become a little too predictable.

Georgia is Alice's best friend. A cake maker, she is more easy-going and creative and free-spirited. She had a wonderful mother that she lost at a young age, and then became a substitute mother herself to her younger sisters. So she is confident in her role as a parent. However she yearns for another child and has been struggling to have one for years. Her husband John is a chef and restaurateur. He is passionate and unkempt, and seems perhaps a little uninvolved in the life of his daughter.

Alice and Georgia met when their daughters were babies, and they have been best friends ever since. After years of Georgia attempting to have another child, and failing, Alice offers up her eggs to help her friend achieve her dream. But shortly before the birth of the child, a shocking revelation rocks Georgia's very foundation, and everyone is left trying to navigate the confusion and pain in the aftermath.

This story is really character-driven. From the slow building of Georgia and Alice’s lives, and the dynamics between them and their husbands and with each other, to additional characters like Georgia’s sisters. The characters are what really make this story.

The story is psychological in nature, delving into the complexities of friendship, of lines crossed, of families fracturing. It really shines a light on a fascinating concept, which I don't want to divulge, for fear of giving too much away. But this story actually had twists that took me by surprise, and that is rare.

Told through alternating points of view, switching back and forth between Alice and Georgia, as well as through alternating times, from present to months before and back to a year before, you do need to pay attention to keep track of what is going on.

The book is divided into three parts. First the Prologue, which is present day.Then Part One, which flips around from present day to past, building up the storyline and characters a bit at a time. Then Part 3, which moves on from the present day.

My final word: This story was fresh and original. Like a bread crumb trail, it shares little tidbits, allowing the story to slowly build incrementally. Absorbing and emotional, I loved this one! It was able to reach deep within me on occasion and touch someplace precious, but perhaps more importantly, it was able to surprise me. That is something even more special. This is one of those books bound to be a favorite of 2013!

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour! Check out the complete tour schedule:

Tuesday, October 1st: Sweet Southern Home
Wednesday, October 2nd: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Thursday, October 3rd: Kritters Ramblings
Monday, October 7th: Book-alicious Mama
Tuesday, October 8th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, October 9th: BookNAround
Thursday, October 10th: Seaside Book Corner
Monday, October 14th: bookchickdi
Wednesday, October 16th:  A Novel Review
Tuesday, October 22nd: Reading Lark

Buy Now: 

Barnes and Noble

Cover: B+
Writing Style: A
Characters: A
Storyline/Plot: A
Interest/Uniqueness: A

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The copy that I received was an ARC, and any quotes could differ from the final copy.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Introducing...Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

They said I must die. They said that I stole the breath from men, and now they must steal mine. I imagine, then, that we are all candle flames, greasy-bright, fluttering in the darkness and the howl of the wind, and in the stillness of the room I hear footsteps, awful coming footsteps, coming to blow me out and send my life up away from me in a gray wreath of smoke. I will vanish into the air and the night. They will blow us all out, one by one, until it is only their own light by which they see themselves. Where will I be then?

-- Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

(Note: This book will be making it on to my Best of 2013 list! See my review here.)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

REVIEW: Mini Treats & Hand-Held Sweets: 100 Delicious Desserts to Pick Up and Eat by Abigail Johnson Dodge


Forgo the fork—and spoon! These delectable desserts are fun to make and easy to pick up and devour: the 100 recipes in Mini Treats & Hand-Held Sweets will have sweet lovers sneaking seconds . . . and thirds. In these pages, expert baker Abby Dodge whisks together step-by-step baking instructions, for a sweet-shop sampler of treats—from cookies, mini tarts, and hand pies, to ice cream sandwiches and candy. No-fail recipes for sugary delights (along with delicious drizzles and favorite toppings ) abound in this collection of perfectly sized, perfectly portable desserts.

Paperback, 224 pages
Published September 11th 2012 by Taunton Press
ISBN 1600854672 (ISBN13: 9781600854675)

My Thoughts

As someone who is always watching her weight, but who also has a big sweet tooth, I'm always looking for a way to get my dessert while cutting calories. And this book is a great way to do just that.

The book includes things like "Baking Wisdom", with pointers like "Get to know your oven" and "Measure carefully". It talks about common ingredients in baking, like flour, unsalted butter and eggs. Then the recipes are divided up into chapters: "Cookies", "Mini Pies & Slab Pies", "Whoopie Pies, Cake Bites & Mini Cakes", "Bite-Sized Treats", "Frozen Treats" and "Candies". It ends with chapters on "Essential Equipment" and "Metric Equivalents", and a handy index of recipes and ingredients.

The book is filled with beautiful pictures of snacks and desserts that you just want to dive into. I decided to try my hand at making Chunky, Chewy Brownie Drops.

Chunky, Chewy Brownie Drops
Makes 32 cookies

8 tbs (4 oz) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/3 cup (1 oz) unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups (5 1/2 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp table salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  1. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line three cookie sheets with parchment or nonstick liners.
  2. Put the butter in a medium saucepan and set over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until melted. Slide the pan from the heat and add the cocoa powder, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Whisk until no lumps remain. Set aside to cool, about 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt until well blended. Once the butter mixture has cooled, add the egg and vanilla and whisk until blended. Pour in the flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until blended. Stir in the chopped chocolate.
  3. Using a 1 tbs mini scoop, shape into balls and arrange about 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Using slightly dampened fingers, flatten each dough mound slightly, re-wetting your fingers as needed. Bake, one sheet at a time, until the tops look a bit dry but still glisten with moisture, 9 to 11 minutes (if the cookies are overbaked, they won't come out chewy). Move the sheet to a wire rack and let the cookies sit for 10 minutes and then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

  • Add 1/2 cup (2 oz) chopped walnuts or pecans along with the chopped chocolate.
  • Instead of using semi or bittersweet chocolate, sub in the same amount of white chocolate, butterscotch, milk chocolate, or peanut butter chips, or use a combination of some or all of them and pair the nuts accordingly.
Do Ahead:

Layer the baked and cooled cookies between parchment or waxed paper in an airtight container. They can be stowed for up to 5 days at room temperature or for up to 3 months in the freezer. There's almost no thawing necessary-- they're delicious even when very cold.

The cookies had pretty good flavor. However mine were not "chewy" at all. I probably cooked them for too long. I thought that my cookies were a little bigger than they were supposed to be (more like 1 1/2-2 tbs rather than 1), so I went ahead and cooked 2 batches for 10 minutes, and the last batch for only 9 minutes. Yet even the 9 minute cookies were a little dry. So I probably should have done 7-8 minutes on them.

My final word: This book is full of temptation. However what disappointed me was the fact that most of the recipes seemed too complicated and time-consuming for me. I don't generally have much patience when it comes to dessert. It would be a great addition to a baker's cookbook collection, but baking is something I am not overly fond of. I would rather make custards and puddings and the like, and this book is light on that sort of thing. Still it does what it does well.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

REVIEW: The Soup & Bread Cookbook: More Than 100 Seasonal Pairings by Beatrice Ojakangas


From one of America’s most prolific and beloved cookbook authors comes a compendium of unique recipes for a universally appealing subject. This broad collection of soups, broths, bisques, and chowders ranges from summer coolers and hearty, warming stews to smooth, creamy soups and fiery broths. Marked by their straightforward preparation, accessible ingredients, and original pairings, Ojakangas’s collection not only taps into her Scandinavian heritage but into flavorful soups from around the world—there’s Swedish Pea, Morroccan Vegetable, Borscht, and Chicken and Dumplings to Feijoida, French Onion, Italian Meatball, and Asian Lemon Ginger.The bread recipes alone could fill a cookbook. Loaves, buns, sticks, and flatbreads are here, along with pretzels, pitas, toasts and focaccias. Organized by season and complemented by evocative photographs, The Soup & Bread Cookbook is an ideal volume for anyone who takes comfort in the essential pleasures of a bowl of soup and warm bread.

Hardcover, 320 pages
Expected publication: October 8th 2013 by Rodale Books
ISBN  1609613627 (ISBN13: 9781609613624)

About the Author

Beatrice Ojakangas has a rich background in Scandinavian cuisines, traditions and history. She and her husband, Richard, are second-generation Americans. All of their grandparents came from Finland. As they visited in Finland, Beatrice, known as "Peaches" to her friends and relatives, became interested in the foods and traditions of all Scandinavian countries. She has a special knack for making friends, and now has many acquaintances throughout Scandinavia. She is known for the sumptuous smorgasbords she prepares and serves in her home. If you visit in northern Minnesota, you may find her teaching cooking classes in her large, well-stocked kitchen. Or she may be assisting with Scandinavian heritage-appreciation camps. Beatrice has authored a Finnish cookbook and numerous articles on Finnish and Scandinavian cooking.

My Thoughts

This book is a compilation of soup and bread recipes paired up as simple meals. The book is divided up by the seasons: Springtime, Summertime, Autumn and Winter. 

The book begins with the basics: Stocks, broths and "basic breads". Various tips for making broths, and tips for bread. It covers various seasonings and toppings for bread, how the different additions affect the bread flavor and consistency. Then it provides basic recipes for Fresh Baguette, A Basic Vegetable Soup, and Basic Home-Bakes Bread. This is the basis for what the rest of the book builds on. 

Spring brings pairings like Spicy Mango Melon Soup & Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins. Summer presents Lemon, Corn and Shrimp Broth & Asian-Style Flatbread. Enjoy Yam and Sweet Onion Soup & Buttermilk Corn Muffins in the Autumn, and snuggle under a blanket in Winter with some Onion Barley Soup with Mushrooms & Honey Bran Muffins.

Since I'm a pescatarian and only eat fish, seafood and veggies, I decided to make the recipe for Walleye Chowder, substituting tilapia for the walleye, and omitting the bacon. It was paired with Parmesan Garlic Bread.

Walleye Chowder
Makes 6-8 servings

8 slices bacon, diced (I omitted this)
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
8 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and diced (I used Yukon Gold)
4 cups chicken stock (homemade or store-bought) or water (I used homemade vegetable broth)
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups whole or 2% milk (I used a mixture of heavy cream, fat-free milk and almond milk)
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 cups frozen corn kernels (I used the corn off 2 fresh ears of corn)
1-2 tsp salt, to taste
Dash of cayenne pepper
2 pounds fresh or thawed frozen walleye pike fillets or tilapia, cut into about 1" cubes

Cook the bacon in a heavy 5-quart soup pot over medium heat until crisp. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat and set the bacon aside on a paper towel-lined plate.

Add the onion and celery to the pan and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and add the potatoes, broth and wine. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Stir in the milk, bell peppers, and corn. Simmer until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Add the salt, cayenne and fish. Simmer just until the fish is cooked through, no more than 3 minutes.

Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle with the bacon, and serve.

Parmesan Garlic Bread

Makes 6-8 servings

2 sticks (8 oz) butter, at room temperature
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley or 2 tbs dried
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 loaf (about 1 1/2 pounds) Italian bread or baguette, homemade or store-bought, cut into 1" thick slices

In a small bowl, mash together the butter, garlic, parsley, and Parmesan until well blended.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread both sides of each slice of bread generously with the butter and fit the slices together to reshape the loaf. Wrap in foil and bake for 15 minutes. Serve warm.

The soup was good, but it took much longer to cook than the recipe indicated. The potatoes that I used didn't want to cook. They were in small 1/2" cubes, and I brought the soup to a boil for a couple of minutes before simmering, and raised the temp again later when it seemed the potatoes weren't going to cook. I wound up cooking them for probably 25 minutes or better (rather than the 15 minutes indicated), and then I cooked the veggies and fish much longer than it said. Yet everything was still just slightly crisp and firm. The potatoes were fork tender, but not soft and near breaking down, as you prefer them. So next time I would cook the soup much longer and harder than I did. I would put the veggies in sooner next time, and perhaps before the fish and milk. (Of course, my broth came from the freezer and was still half-frozen. So I'm sure that slowed down the cooking process significantly.)

The bread was full of flavor, and my brother loved it. It isn't exactly healthful though! 

My final word: I love the idea of this book. I'm a big fan of soup and bread for dinner or lunch! There is a great variety of soups and breads to be found, and the book abounds with beautiful color photos. I also love the way that it is divided by seasons. That makes it so simple to pick something for dinner! This is a book I plan to purchase after it is released in October!

Pre-Order Now: 

Barnes and Noble

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.