Thursday, July 31, 2014

Introducing... Killing Mister Watson by Peter Matthiessen

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

Sea birds are aloft again, a tattered few. The white terns look dirtied in the somber light and they fly stiffly, feeling out an element they no longer trust. Unable to locate the storm-lost minnows, they wander the thick waters with sad muted cries, hunting signs and seamarks that might return them to the order of the world.

-- Killing Mister Watson by Peter Matthiessen

Saturday, July 26, 2014

ON MY RADAR (7/25/14): Books that have landed on my radar

Here are some books that have recently hit my radar and set off my alarm bells...

Back Channel by Stephen L. Carter

October 1962. The Soviet Union has smuggled missiles into Cuba. Kennedy and Khrushchev are in the midst of a military face-off that could lead to nuclear conflagration. Warships and submarines are on the move. Planes are in the air. Troops are at the ready. Both leaders are surrounded by advisers clamoring for war. The only way for the two leaders to negotiate safely is to open a “back channel”—a surreptitious path of communication hidden from their own people. They need a clandestine emissary nobody would ever suspect. If the secret gets out, her life will be at risk . . . but they’re careful not to tell her that.

Stephen L. Carter’s gripping new novel, Back Channel, is a brilliant amalgam of fact and fiction—a suspenseful retelling of the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which the fate of the world rests unexpectedly on the shoulders of a young college student.

On the island of CuraƧao, a visiting Soviet chess champion whispers state secrets to an American acquaintance.

In the Atlantic Ocean, a freighter struggles through a squall while trying to avoid surveillance.

And in Ithaca, New York, Margo Jensen, one of the few black women at Cornell, is asked to go to Eastern Europe to babysit a madman.

As the clock ticks toward World War III, Margo undertakes her harrowing journey. Pursued by the hawks on both sides, protected by nothing but her own ingenuity and courage, Margo is drawn ever more deeply into the crossfire—and into her own family’s hidden past.


Hardcover, 464 pages
Expected publication: July 29th 2014 by Knopf
ISBN 0385349602 (ISBN13: 9780385349604)



The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

"I've been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don't know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she's scared. But I will."

Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia Dennett moves against the grain as a young inner-city art teacher. One night, Mia enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn't show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. With his smooth moves and modest wit, at first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia's life.

Colin's job was to abduct Mia as part of a wild extortion plot and deliver her to his employers. But the plan takes an unexpected turn when Colin suddenly decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota, evading the police and his deadly superiors. Mia's mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them, but no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family's world to shatter.

An addictively suspenseful and tautly written thriller, The Good Girl is a compulsive debut that reveals how even in the perfect family, nothing is as it seems…


Hardcover, 352 pages
Expected publication: July 29th 2014 by Harlequin MIRA (first published January 1st 2014)
ISBN 0778316556 (ISBN13: 9780778316558)



Lock In by John Scalzi

Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. Four percent suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And one percent find themselves “locked in”—fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.

One per cent doesn't seem like a lot. But in the United States, that's 1.7 million people “locked in”...including the President's wife and daughter.

Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can restore the ability to control their own bodies to the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, “The Agora,” in which the locked-in can interact with other humans, both locked-in and not. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, meaning that from time to time, those who are locked in can “ride” these people and use their bodies as if they were their own.

This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse...


Hardcover, 336 pages
Expected publication: August 26th 2014 by Tor Books (first published August 14th 2014)
ISBN 0765375869 (ISBN13: 9780765375865)



One Kick by Chelsea Cain

Kick Lannigan, 21, is a survivor. Abducted at age six in broad daylight, the police, the public, perhaps even her family assumed the worst had occurred. And then Kathleen Lannigan was found, alive, six years later. In the early months following her freedom, as Kick struggled with PTSD, her parents put her through a litany of therapies, but nothing helped until the detective who rescued her suggested Kick learn to fight. Before she was thirteen, Kick learned marksmanship, martial arts, boxing, archery, and knife throwing. She excelled at every one, vowing she would never be victimized again. But when two children in the Portland area go missing in the same month, Kick goes into a tailspin. Then an enigmatic man Bishop approaches her with a proposition: he is convinced Kick's experiences and expertise can be used to help rescue the abductees. Little does Kick know the case will lead directly into her terrifying past…

Hardcover, 320 pages
Expected publication: August 19th 2014 by Simon & Schuster (first published August 1st 2014)
ISBN 1476749787 (ISBN13: 9781476749785)



Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta

When 13-year-old Jace Wilson witnesses a brutal murder, he's plunged into a new life, issued a false identity and hidden in a wilderness skills program for troubled teens. The plan is to get Jace off the grid while police find the two killers. The result is the start of a nightmare.

The killers, known as the Blackwell Brothers, are slaughtering anyone who gets in their way in a methodical quest to reach him. Now all that remains between them and the boy are Ethan and Allison Serbin, who run the wilderness survival program; Hannah Faber, who occupies a lonely fire lookout tower; and endless miles of desolate Montana mountains.

The clock is ticking, the mountains are burning, and those who wish Jace Wilson dead are no longer far behind.


Hardcover, 400 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by Little Brown
ISBN 0316122556 (ISBN13: 9780316122559)



Euphoria by Lily King

It’s that moment about two months in, when you think you’ve finally got a handle on the place. Everything clicks and it all feels within your grasp …at that moment the place feels entirely yours. It’s the briefest, purest euphoria.”

From the critically-acclaimed author of Father of the Rain comes a breathtaking novel about three gifted and groundbreaking anthropologists of the 30s bound together by an all-consuming passion.

For years, English anthropologist Andrew Bankson has been alone in the field studying the Kiona tribe of Papua, New Guinea. Haunted by the memory of his brother’s public suicide, and increasingly infuriated with and isolated by his research, Bankson is on the verge of killing himself when a chance meeting with colleagues, the controversial and consummate Nell Stone and her wry Australian husband Fen, pulls him back from the brink. Nell and Fen have just finished their studies of the bloodthirsty Mumbanyo and, in spite of Nell’s ill health, the couple is ravenous for another new discovery. Together with Bankson they set out to uncover the Tam, a local tribe with an almost mythic existence. As the trio settle with the tribe in their paradisiacal surroundings, inspiration flows and mutual affections swell. In the midst of this new, unchartered territory, Nell, Bankson, and Fen must learn not only to adapt to their invigorating present, but to also confront their complicated and haunted pasts.

Set between two World Wars, and based on the adventures of revolutionary anthropologist Margaret Mead, Euphoria is a luminous and remarkable story of the power of possibility, imagination, and memory, from accomplished author Lily King.


Hardcover, 253 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by Atlantic Monthly Press
ISBN 0802122558 (ISBN13: 9780802122551)

Friday, July 18, 2014

MINI-BLOGGIESTA (July 2014)

I've decided to join in on my first Bloggiesta! I'm behind on some things on my blog and need to devote a little time to it. And this weekend is the start of my stay-cation. So this is a good time to take the plunge!

I have a long list of "to do" items, but essentially:
  • Catch up on reviews
  • Catch up on scheduling book introductions
  • Setup templates for some future reviews I'll be doing
  • Setup some blank "Mailbox Monday" templates for future use
  • Read some of the present and past mini-challenges
  • Create a schedule for scanning Twitter, Klout, checking some other book blogs and Facebook pages, etc.
  • Visit some new blogs
I have a full weekend planned, so we'll see how much I get accomplished. Here's wishing a productive weekend to all participating in the Bloggiesta!

UPDATE: I didn't get enough done through the official bloggiesta, but I'm on vacation this week, and I'll be continuing on throughout the week in trying to accomplish more of my goals.

ARTICLE SHARING: A Nonfiction Tour of America

50 Books for 50 States

Flavorwire is sharing a list of 50 nonfiction books for all 50 states, for those of us who are armchair travelers who don't get around much outside the bounds of a book. Check it out!

Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston (author of Their Eyes Were Watching God) is the pick for my home state of Florida.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

CHALLENGE: Clear the Shelf Challenge

I find month after month that books that I've been wanting to read "just for fun" are piling up. I buy them, but never seem to have time to read them. So I'm creating this challenge in an attempt to get myself to read some of those books. I've chosen 15 of my most desired books from my accumulating collection, and put them on a shelf. My goal is to clear that shelf! The question is how long it will take to do so? Many of the books are well over 500 pages long. I'm guessing it'll take me a couple of years at least. Even if I were able to do one a month (which I seriously doubt), I'd be looking at a year and a half.

The books on my list:

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

Can you commit the perfect crime?

Pilgrim is the codename for a man who doesn't exist. The adopted son of a wealthy American family, he once headed up a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. Before he disappeared into anonymous retirement, he wrote the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation.

But that book will come back to haunt him. It will help NYPD detective Ben Bradley track him down. And it will take him to a rundown New York hotel room where the body of a woman is found facedown in a bath of acid, her features erased, her teeth missing, her fingerprints gone. It is a textbook murder - and Pilgrim wrote the book.

What begins as an unusual and challenging investigation will become a terrifying race-against-time to save America from oblivion. Pilgrim will have to make a journey from a public beheading in Mecca to a deserted ruins on the Turkish coast via a Nazi death camp in Alsace and the barren wilderness of the Hindu Kush in search of the faceless man who would commit an appalling act of mass murder in the name of his God.



The Twelve by Justin Cronin

In the present day, as the man-made apocalypse unfolds, three strangers navigate the chaos. Lila, a doctor and an expectant mother, is so shattered by the spread of violence and infection that she continues to plan for her child’s arrival even as society dissolves around her. Kittridge, known to the world as “Last Stand in Denver,” has been forced to flee his stronghold and is now on the road, dodging the infected, armed but alone and well aware that a tank of gas will get him only so far. April is a teenager fighting to guide her little brother safely through a landscape of death and ruin. These three will learn that they have not been fully abandoned—and that in connection lies hope, even on the darkest of nights.

One hundred years in the future, Amy and the others fight on for humankind’s salvation . . . unaware that the rules have changed. The enemy has evolved, and a dark new order has arisen with a vision of the future infinitely more horrifying than man’s extinction. If the Twelve are to fall, one of those united to vanquish them will have to pay the ultimate price.

A heart-stopping thriller rendered with masterful literary skill, The Twelve is a grand and gripping tale of sacrifice and survival.



The Wall by Marlen Haushofer

“I can allow myself to write the truth; all the people for whom I have lied throughout my life are dead…” writes the heroine of Marlen Haushofer’s The Wall, a quite ordinary, unnamed middle-aged woman who awakens to find she is the last living human being. Surmising her solitude is the result of a too successful military experiment, she begins the terrifying work of not only survival, but self-renewal. The Wall is at once a simple and moving talk — of potatoes and beans, of hoping for a calf, of counting matches, of forgetting the taste of sugar and the use of one’s name — and a disturbing meditation on 20th century history.



A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.

Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.



Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes

Intense, powerful, and compelling, Matterhorn is an epic war novel in the tradition of Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead and James Jones's The Thin Red Line. It is the timeless story of a young Marine lieutenant, Waino Mellas, and his comrades in Bravo Company, who are dropped into the mountain jungle of Vietnam as boys and forced to fight their way into manhood. Standing in their way are not merely the North Vietnamese but also monsoon rain and mud, leeches and tigers, disease and malnutrition. Almost as daunting, it turns out, are the obstacles they discover between each other: racial tension, competing ambitions, and duplicitous superior officers. But when the company finds itself surrounded and outnumbered by a massive enemy regiment, the Marines are thrust into the raw and all-consuming terror of combat. The experience will change them forever.

Written over the course of thirty years by a highly decorated Marine veteran, Matterhorn is a visceral and spellbinding novel about what it is like to be a young man at war. It is an unforgettable novel that transforms the tragedy of Vietnam into a powerful and universal story of courage, camaraderie, and sacrifice: a parable not only of the war in Vietnam but of all war, and a testament to the redemptive power of literature.


Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother's death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.

Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.



The Intention Experiment: Using Your Thoughts to Change Your Life and the World by Lynne McTaggart

The book you hold in your hands is revolutionary, a groundbreaking exploration of the science of intention.Drawing on the findings of leading scientists from around the world, The Intention Experiment demonstrates that thought is a thing that affects other things. It is also the first book to invite you, the reader, to take an active part in its original research.

Using cutting-edge research conducted at Princeton,MIT, Stanford, and many other prestigious universities and laboratories, The Intention Experiment reveals that the universe is connected by a vast quantum energy field.Thought generates its own palpable energy, which you can use to improve your life and, when harnessed together with an interconnected group, to change the world.

In The Intention Experiment, internationally bestselling author Lynne McTaggart takes you on a gripping, mind-blowing journey to the furthest reaches of consciousness.As she narrates the exciting developments in the science of intention, she also profiles the colorful scientists and renowned pioneers who study the effects of focused group intention on scientifically quantifiable targets -- animal, plant, and human.

McTaggart offers a practical program to get in touch with your own thoughts, to increase the activity and strength of your intentions, and to begin achieving real change in your life. You are then invited to participate in an unprecedented experiment: Using The Intention Experiment website to coordinate your involvement and track results, you and other participants around the world will focus your power of intention on specific targets, giving you the opportunity to become a part of scientific history. A new Afterword by the author recounts the successes of the several Intention Experiments so far.

The Intention Experiment forces you to rethink what it is to be human. It proves that we're connected to everyone and everything -- and that discovery demands that we pay better attention to our thoughts, intentions, and actions. Here's how you can.



Hell at the Breech by Tom Franklin

In 1897, an aspiring politician is mysteriously murdered in the rural area of Alabama known as Mitcham Beat. His outraged friends -- —mostly poor cotton farmers -- form a secret society, Hell-at-the-Breech, to punish the townspeople they believe responsible. The hooded members wage a bloody year-long campaign of terror that culminates in a massacre where the innocent suffer alongside the guilty. Caught in the maelstrom of the Mitcham war are four people: the aging sheriff sympathetic to both sides; the widowed midwife who delivered nearly every member of Hell-at-the-Breech; a ruthless detective who wages his own war against the gang; and a young store clerk who harbors a terrible secret.

Based on incidents that occurred a few miles from the author's childhood home, Hell at the Breech chronicles the events of dark days that led the people involved to discover their capacity for good, evil, or for both.



The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy #2) by Douglas Adams

Facing annihilation at the hands of warmongers is a curious time to crave tea. It could only happen to the cosmically displaced Arthur Dent and his comrades as they hurtle across the galaxy in a desperate search for a place to eat.


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local "powhitetrash." At eight years old and back at her mother's side in St. Louis, Mayais attacked by a man any times her age-and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns about love for herself, and the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors ("I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare") will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned


We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen

It is an epic drama of adventure, courage, ruthlessness and passion by one of Scandinavia’s most acclaimed storytellers.

In 1848 a motley crew of Danish sailors sets sail from the small island town of Marstal to fight the Germans. Not all of them return – and those who do will never be the same. Among them is the daredevil Laurids Madsen, who promptly escapes again into the anonymity of the high seas.


As soon as he is old enough, his son Albert sets off in search of his missing father on a voyage that will take him to the furthest reaches of the globe and into the clutches of the most nefarious company. Bearing a mysterious shrunken head, and plagued by premonitions of bloodshed, he returns to a town increasingly run by women – among them a widow intent on liberating all men from the tyranny of the sea.


From the barren rocks of Newfoundland to the lush plantations of Samoa, from the roughest bars in Tasmania, to the frozen coasts of northern Russia, We, The Drowned spans four generations, two world wars and a hundred years. Carsten Jensen conjures a wise, humorous, thrilling story of fathers and sons, of the women they love and leave behind, and of the sea’s murderous promise. This is a novel destined to take its place among the greatest seafaring literature.



The Terror by Dan Simmons

The men on board HMS Terror have every expectation of triumph. As part of the 1845 Franklin Expedition, the first steam-powered vessels ever to search for the legendary Northwest Passage, they are as scientifically supported an enterprise as has ever set forth. As they enter a second summer in the Arctic Circle without a thaw, though, they are stranded in a nightmarish landscape of encroaching ice and darkness. Endlessly cold, with diminishing rations, 126 men fight to survive with poisonous food, a dwindling supply of coal, and ships buckling in the grip of crushing ice. But their real enemy is far more terrifying. There is something out there in the frigid darkness: an unseen predator stalking their ship, a monstrous terror constantly clawing to get in.When the expedition's leader, Sir John Franklin, meets a terrible death, Captain Francis Crozier takes command and leads his surviving crewmen on a last, desperate attempt to flee south across the ice. With them travels an Inuit woman who cannot speak and who may be the key to survival, or the harbinger of their deaths. But as another winter approaches, as scurvy and starvation grow more terrible, and as the terror on the ice stalks them southward, Crozier and his men begin to fear that there is no escape. The Terror swells with the heart-stopping suspense and heroic adventure that have won Dan Simmons praise as "a writer who not only makes big promises but keeps them" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). With a haunting and constantly surprising story based on actual historical events, The Terror is a novel that will chill you to your core.


One Foot in Eden by Ron Rash

Will Alexander is the sheriff in a small town in southern Appalachia, and he knows that the local thug Holland Winchester has been murdered. The only thing is the sheriff can find neither the body nor someone to attest to the killing. Simply, almost elementally told through the voices of the sheriff, a local farmer, his beautiful wife, their son, and the sheriff's deputy, One Foot in Eden signals the bellwether arrival of one the most mature and distinctive voices in southern literature.




The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale

The narrator of The Bottoms is Harry Collins, an old man obsessively reflecting on certain key experiences of his childhood. In 1933, the year that forms the centerpiece of the narrative, Harry is 11 years old and living with his mother, father, and younger sister on a farm outside of Marvel Creek, Texas, near the Sabine River bottoms. Harry's world changes forever when he discovers the corpse of a young black woman tied to a tree in the forest near his home. The woman, who is eventually identified as a local prostitute, has been murdered, molested, and sexually mutilated. She is also, as Harry will soon discover, the first in a series of similar corpses, all of them the victims of a new, unprecedented sort of monster: a traveling serial killer.

From his privileged position as the son of constable (and farmer and part-time barber) Jacob Collins, Harry watches as the distinctly amateur investigation unfolds. As more bodies -- not all of them "colored" -- surface, the mood of the local residents darkens. Racial tensions -- never far from the surface, even in the best of times -- gradually kindle. When circumstantial evidence implicates an ancient, innocent black man named Mose, the Ku Klux Klan mobilizes, initiating a chilling, graphically described lynching that will occupy a permanent place in Harry Collins's memories. With Mose dead and the threat to local white women presumably put to rest, the residents of Marvel Creek resume their normal lives, only to find that the actual killer remains at large and continues to threaten the safety and stability of the town.


Lansdale uses this protracted murder investigation to open up a window on an insular, poverty-stricken, racially divided community. With humor, precision, and great narrative economy, he evokes the society of Marvel Creek in all its alternating tawdriness and nobility, offering us a varied, absolutely convincing portrait of a world that has receded into history. At the same time, he offers us a richly detailed re-creation of the vibrant, dangerous physical landscapes that were part of that world and have since been buried under the concrete and cement of the industrialized juggernaut of the late 20th century. In Lansdale's hands, the gritty realities of Depression-era Texas are as authentic -- and memorable -- as anything in recent American fiction.



The Shining by Stephen King

Danny was only five years old but in the words of old Mr Halloran he was a 'shiner', aglow with psychic voltage. When his father became caretaker of the Overlook Hotel his visions grew frighteningly out of control.

As winter closed in and blizzards cut them off, the hotel seemed to develop a life of its own. It was meant to be empty, but who was the lady in Room 217, and who were the masked guests going up and down in the elevator? And why did the hedges shaped like animals seem so alive?

Somewhere, somehow there was an evil force in the hotel - and that too had begun to shine...



UPDATE: I think I am switching out The Shining with 11/22/63 instead:

 11/22/63 by Stephen King


Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away...but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke... Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten...and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.

REVIEW: One-Hour Cheese: Fresh and Simple Cheeses You Can Make in Your Kitchen by Claudia Lucero

Synopsis

It’s a DIY cook’s dream come true: It’s pizza night, and you’ve made not only the crust and sauce but the mozzarella, too. Or you're whipping up quesadillas for a snack, using your homemade Triple Pepper Hack. Or the dinner party's in high gear and out comes the cheese plate—and yes, you've made all the cheeses on it. Even better—you made them all earlier that day.

In a cookbook whose results seem like magic but whose recipes and instructions are specific, easy-to-follow, and foolproof, Claudia Lucero shows step by step—with every step photographed—exactly how to make sixteen fresh cheeses at home, using easily available ingredients and tools, in an hour or less. The approach is basic and based on thousands of years of cheesemaking wisdom: Heat milk, add coagulant, drain, salt, and press. Simple variations produce delicious results across three categories—Creamy and Spreadable, Firm and Chewy, and Melty and Gooey. And just as delicious, the author shows the best ways to serve them, recipes included: Squeaky “Pasta” Primavera, Mozzarella Kebab Party, and Curry in a Hurry Lettuce Wraps.


ISBN-13: 9780761177487
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
Publication date: 5/6/2014
Pages: 272


About the Author

Claudia Lucero is the entrepreneur behind UrbanCheesecraft.com and DIY Cheese Kits, which she sells through Etsy, specialty food shops, and select Whole Foods stores. She also developed the home cheesemaking kits for Williams-Sonoma’s Agrarian product line. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

Check out the author's website
Like them on Facebook
Follow them on Pinterest


My Thoughts

Claudia Lucero has a passion for cheese, and her passion shines through in this book. The author was first introduced to cheese making in her parent's Indian restaurant, where she'd made paneer (something I've never eaten!).

After she and her partner moved to Portland, she came across cheese recipes while seeking out ways to preserve the many veggies they were getting through their farm share, and that was the real beginning to it all. This sparked years of experimenting with different recipes, and not wanting to wait on cheeses to age in order to find out how successful she'd been, she gravitated toward soft cheeses that didn't require aging, like ricotta and mozzarella. 

Early on in the introduction, the author offers up an easy cheese recipe that you can make in under 30 minutes, and encourages you to take a break from reading to try your hand at making cheese!

First-Timer's Cheese in 5 Steps (20-30 minutes)

2-qt saucepan
Slotted spoon or small mesh strainer
1-qt bowl
4 cups (one quart) cow's milk, any type
1/4 cup vinegar, any basic variety OR 1/4 cup of lemon or lime juice
1/4 twp salt to taste (sea salt, flake salt, or any salt you like)
Ground pepper and/or herbs of your choice (dry or fresh will work)
  1. Pour the milk into the pot and heat it on medium as you stir. Look for foam around the inside edges of the pot as well as little simmer bubbles coming from the bottom-- not a rolling boil, but close.
  2. When you see the bubbles as described, start slowly pouring in the vinegar (you may not need it all) and stir gently to incorporate it until you see the clear separation of curds (white solids) and whey (clearish liquid). The separation you see is called coagulation.
  3. When you see coagulation and the liquid no longer looks like milk, turn the heat to low and stir the curds very, very gently as you cook them for 2 more minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and use the slotted spoon or strainer to scoop the curds into the bowl while leaving behind in the pot as much whey as possible. When you have all of the curds, drain any whey that has collected in the bowl.
  5. Add salt and pepper (and any additional herbs) to taste. Stir them into the curds evenly and...
Now as to my experience with this recipe, I wasn't sure what temp to turn the burner to for "medium", so I set it to exactly halfway on the dial. And after 20 minutes, I still wasn't at a simmering boil. So about 25 minutes in, I turned the heat up a notch. That did the trick! I finally got the foam and bubbles.

Then I added the small amount of vinegar needed, and the curds began to separate from the whey.

I strained out the curds, and I wound up with about a cup of this cheese. It was sort of a cross between cottage cheese and feta. And best of all, you flavor it however you wish! So it will be as salty as you wish, or flavored with whatever herbs you desire.

I was also left with several cups of whey. I still haven't figured out what to do with it, and I'm not sure how long whey stays "good".

I wound up eating my first taste of the cheese as the author recommended, which was on toasted bread with tomatoes. This was surprisingly good for something so simple!

This is a great little book, and a great introduction to making homemade cheese. The author talks about equipment needed and different techniques. She has a troubleshooting guide, for helping you figure out what went wrong in your batch, and she offers tons of encouragement! She even offers her email address, and says she loves a challenge. So you can email her with "problems" you've run into while exploring the world of cheese making! This is one of those books that I read through Netgalley, but I'll probably be buying it for my bookshelf. I found it that useful and well done!

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble
Amazon
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My Rating:







Disclosure:

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. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mailbox Monday (07-14-14 edition)

 Image licensed from bigstockphoto.com
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted here. I've received a few new books recently:

The Plover by Brian Doyle 
Received through LibraryThing

 Declan O Donnell has left Oregon aboard his boat, the Plover, to escape the life that’s so troubled him on land. He sets course west into the Pacific in search of solitude. Instead, he finds a crew, each in search of something themselves, and what at first seems a lonely sea voyage becomes a rapturous, heartfelt celebration of life’s surprising paths, planned and unplanned




We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
Received through Dewey's 24-hour Read-a-thon

Born in 1941, Eileen Tumulty is raised by her Irish immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens, in an apartment where the mood swings between heartbreak and hilarity, depending on whether guests are over and how much alcohol has been consumed.

When Eileen meets Ed Leary, a scientist whose bearing is nothing like those of the men she grew up with, she thinks she’s found the perfect partner to deliver her to the cosmopolitan world she longs to inhabit. They marry, and Eileen quickly discovers Ed doesn’t aspire to the same, ever bigger, stakes in the American Dream.

Eileen encourages her husband to want more: a better job, better friends, a better house, but as years pass it becomes clear that his growing reluctance is part of a deeper psychological shift. An inescapable darkness enters their lives, and Eileen and Ed and their son Connell try desperately to hold together a semblance of the reality they have known, and to preserve, against long odds, an idea they have cherished of the future.

Through the Learys, novelist Matthew Thomas charts the story of the American Century, particularly the promise of domestic bliss and economic prosperity that captured hearts and minds after WWII. The result is a riveting and affecting work of art; one that reminds us that life is more than a tally of victories and defeats, that we live to love and be loved, and that we should tell each other so before the moment slips away.

Epic in scope, heroic in character, masterful in prose, We Are Not Ourselves heralds the arrival of a major new talent in contemporary fiction.



A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Purchased from Barnes and Noble

An American classic and great bestseller for over thirty years, A Separate Peace is timeless in its description of adolescence during a period when the entire country was losing its innocence to the second world war.

Set at a boys boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.

A bestseller for more than thirty years, A Separate Peace is John Knowles crowning achievement and an undisputed American classic.


(This book is the November book choice for my book club. We decided to read a classic, and this was recommended by another member.) 

 Hope everyone enjoys their reads!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

My picks for great summer reads...

There are so many books coming out or recently released that have me salivating and wiggling in my seat with excitement! Here are my top 13 picks:

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Published February 4, 2014

In a small rural village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night and then set fire to her home. When their lifelong neighbor Akhmed finds Havaa hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will forever change their lives. He will seek refuge at the abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded.

For Sonja, the arrival of Akhmed and Havaa is an unwelcome surprise. Weary and overburdened, she has no desire to take on additional risk and responsibility. But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weaves together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate. A story of the transcendent power of love in wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a work of sweeping breadth, profound compassion, and lasting significance.


Why I'm loving it: I like "cultural" stories, occurring in places like Serbia, Nigeria, and Afghanistan. I like "quaint" stories that take place in villages and little cabins in the woods. And I like mysteries and breadcrumb trails of information. What's with the blue suitcase? I'm looking forward to finding out. This one is on the way to me.


The Bully of Order by Brian Hart
September 2, 2014

Set in a logging town on the lawless Pacific coast of Washington State at the turn of the twentieth century, a spellbinding novel of fate and redemption—told with a muscular lyricism and filled with a cast of characters Shakespearean in scope—in which the lives of an ill-fated family are at the mercy of violent social and historical forces that tear them apart

“The Bully of Order does what only the best works of fiction can do: it brilliantly imagines those parts of life that history all too often fails to record. This is a thoroughly engrossing story told in mesmerizing prose.” —Kevin Powers, author of The Yellow Birds

Keen to make his fortune, Jacob Ellstrom, armed with his medical kit and new wife, Nell, lands in The Harbor—a mud-filled, raucous coastal town teeming with rough trade pioneers, sawmill laborers, sailors, and prostitutes. But Jacob is not a doctor, and a botched delivery exposes his ruse, driving him onto the streets in a plunge toward alcoholism. Alone, Nell scrambles to keep herself and their young son, Duncan, safe in this dangerous world. When a tentative reunion between the couple—in the company of Duncan and Jacob’s malicious brother, Matius—results in tragedy, Jacob must flee town to elude being charged with murder.

Years later, the wild and reckless Duncan seems to be yet another of The Harbor’s hoodlums. His only salvation is his overwhelming love for Teresa Boyerton, the daughter of the town’s largest mill owner. But disaster will befall the lovers with heartbreaking consequences.

And across town, Bellhouse, a union boss and criminal rabble-rouser, sits at the helm of The Harbor’s seedy underbelly, perpetuating a cycle of greed and violence. His thug Tartan directs his pack of thieves, pimps, and murderers, and conceals an incendiary secret involving Duncan’s mother. As time passes, a string of calamitous events sends these characters hurtling towards each other in an epic collision that will shake the town to its core.


Why I'm loving it: I love books that take place in the Pacific Northwest, and I love stories of rugged life and "rabble-rouser" characters. This book is actually on its way to me.


Sinful Folk by Ned Hayes
Published January 22, 2014

A terrible loss. A desperate journey.
A mother seeks the truth.


In December of the year 1377, five children were burned to death in a suspicious house fire. A small band of villagers traveled 200 miles across England in midwinter to demand justice for their children’s deaths.

Sinful Folk is the story of this treacherous journey as seen by Mear, a former nun who has lived for a decade disguised as a mute man, raising her son quietly in this isolated village.

For years, she has concealed herself and all her secrets. But in this journey, she will find the strength to claim the promise of her past and find a new future. Mear begins her journey in terror and heartache, and ends in triumph and redemption. 


Why I'm loving it: I love "old-timey" books, taking place hundreds of years ago. Books of loss and trials, quirky twists like a nun "who has lived...disguised as a mute man". This one is also on its way to me. 


The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith
Expected release is August 26, 2014 

Set in a small coastal town in North Carolina during the waning years of the American Revolution, this incandescent debut novel follows three generations of family—fathers and daughters, mother and son, master and slave, characters who yearn for redemption amidst a heady brew of war, kidnapping, slavery, and love

“The best novel I have read all year. . . . The arresting prose, vividly original characters, and narrative drive with which Smith tells this story of desperate familial love on a long-ago coast provided this reader with several hours of pure pleasure and a rare glimpse of grace in a fictional world.”
—Anita Shreve

Drawn to the ocean, ten-year-old Tabitha wanders the marshes of her small coastal village and listens to her father’s stories about his pirate voyages and the mother she never knew. Since the loss of his wife Helen, John has remained land-bound for their daughter, but when Tab contracts yellow fever, he turns to the sea once more. Desperate to save his daughter, he takes her aboard a sloop bound for Bermuda, hoping the salt air will heal her.

Years before, Helen herself was raised by a widowed father. Asa, the devout owner of a small plantation, gives his daughter a young slave named Moll for her tenth birthday. Left largely on their own, Helen and Moll develop a close but uneasy companionship. Helen gradually takes over the running of the plantation as the girls grow up, but when she meets John, the pirate turned Continental soldier, she flouts convention and her father’s wishes by falling in love. Moll, meanwhile, is forced into marriage with a stranger. Her only solace is her son, Davy, whom she will protect with a passion that defies the bounds of slavery.

In this elegant, evocative, and haunting debut, Katy Simpson Smith captures the singular love between parent and child, the devastation of love lost, and the lonely paths we travel in the name of renewal.


Why I'm loving it: Coastal towns, marshes, slavery, loss. A haunting atmosphere. Sounds like my kind of story. And another one that is one its way to me. 


California by Edan Lepucki
Published July 8, 2014

The world Cal and Frida have always known is gone, and they've left the crumbling city of Los Angeles far behind them. They now live in a shack in the wilderness, working side-by-side to make their days tolerable despite the isolation and hardships they face. Consumed by fear of the future and mourning for a past they can't reclaim, they seek comfort and solace in one other. But the tentative existence they've built for themselves is thrown into doubt when Frida finds out she's pregnant.

Terrified of the unknown but unsure of their ability to raise a child alone, Cal and Frida set out for the nearest settlement, a guarded and paranoid community with dark secrets. These people can offer them security, but Cal and Frida soon realize this community poses its own dangers. In this unfamiliar world, where everything and everyone can be perceived as a threat, the couple must quickly decide whom to trust.

A gripping and provocative debut novel by a stunning new talent, California imagines a frighteningly realistic near future, in which clashes between mankind's dark nature and irrepressible resilience force us to question how far we will go to protect the ones we love.
 


Why I'm loving it: I'm a sucker for post-apocalyptic, man's survival-against-all-odds-type stories. What about that settlement? Can they be trusted? I spotted this one recently at the book store.


The High Divide by Lin Enger
Expected release is September 23, 2014

In 1886, Gretta Pope wakes one morning to discover that her husband is gone. Ulysses Pope has left his family behind on the far edge of Minnesota’s western prairie, with only the briefest of notes and no explanation for why he left or where he’s headed. It doesn’t take long for Gretta’s young sons, Eli and Danny, to set off after him, following the scant clues they can find, jumping trains to get where they need to go, and ending up in the rugged badlands of Montana.

Short on money and beleaguered by a treacherous landlord, Gretta has no choice but to seek out her sons and her husband as well, leading her to the doorstep of a woman who seems intent on making Ulysses her own. While out in the wilderness, the boys find that the closer they come to Ulysses’s trail, the greater the perils that confront them.

Enger’s breathtaking portrait of the vast Plains landscape is matched by the rich expanse of his characters’ emotional terrain, as pivotal historical events—the turmoil of expansionism, the near total demise of the bison herds, and the subjugation of the Plains Indians—blend seamlessly with the story of a family’s sacrifice and devotion. 
 
 


Why I'm loving it: I love stories about "the wilderness" and the mountains and the prairie. Stories that weave in our nation's history, and even our shameful moments. And then you've got this mystery surrounding why this man would just up and leave his family. 


The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan
Expected release is September 30, 2014

A young sheriff and a hardened killer form an uneasy and complicated bond in this mesmerizing first novel set on the plains of Montana

Steeped in a lonesome Montana landscape as unyielding and raw as it is beautiful, Kim Zupan's The Ploughmen is a new classic in the literature of the American West.

At the center of this searing, fever dream of a novel are two men—a killer awaiting trial, and a troubled young deputy—sitting across from each other in the dark, talking through the bars of a county jail cell: John Gload, so brutally adept at his craft that only now, at the age of 77, has he faced the prospect of long-term incarceration and Valentine Millimaki, low man in the Copper County sheriff’s department, who draws the overnight shift after Gload’s arrest. With a disintegrating marriage further collapsing under the strain of his night duty, Millimaki finds himself seeking counsel from a man whose troubled past shares something essential with his own. Their uneasy friendship takes a startling turn with a brazen act of violence that yokes together two haunted souls by the secrets they share, and by the rugged country that keeps them.

Why I'm loving it: I'm surprised to find as I get older that I like a certain kind of western. A literary-type of western. A hard western. The type where it's good vs. evil. This one seems to fit the bill! 


A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Expected release is October 2, 2014

From the acclaimed author of The Book of Night Women comes a masterfully written novel that explores the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in the late 1970s. 

On December 3, 1976, just before the Jamaican general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert, gunmen stormed his house, machine guns blazing. The attack nearly killed the Reggae superstar, his wife, and his manager, and injured several others. Marley would go on to perform at the free concert on December 5, but he left the country the next day, not to return for two years.

Deftly spanning decades and continents and peopled with a wide range of characters—assassins, journalists, drug dealers, and even ghosts—A Brief History of Seven Killings is the fictional exploration of that dangerous and unstable time and its bloody aftermath, from the streets and slums of Kingston in the '70s, to the crack wars in '80s New York, to a radically altered Jamaica in the '90s. Brilliantly inventive and stunningly ambitious, this novel is a revealing modern epic that will secure Marlon James’ place among the great literary talents of his generation.


Why I'm loving it: Bob Marley, assasins, machine guns blazing, Jamaica. What isn't there to love? The premise sounds fascinating!


The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
Expected release is October 28, 2014

Peter-devoted pastor, dedicated missionary, and loving husband to his wife, Bea-has just accepted a demanding and perilous new job. He's to travel to a new planet, Oasis, to work for a mysterious corporation called USIC. He's tasked with reaching out to the indigenous race, to make sure they are as peaceful as they seem. Resolutely devout and strengthened by his letters from Bea at home, Peter undertakes his job with complete focus. The Oasans are shockingly open to his teachings, but things start to unravel when Bea's missives from Earth take a dark tone. Earth appears to be coming apart at the seams: typhoons and earthquakes are devastating whole countries and governments are crumbling. Even the hospital where she works has ceased to function. Their unearthly divide is testing Peter and Bea's relationship to a startlingly degree. Peter is thrown into crisis. USIC might be hiding its true motives in developing Oasis, and the Oasans themselves are frustratingly opaque. Bea's desperate letters are only fomenting his doubt. Peter is suddenly faced with an impossible-and dangerous-decision: to follow his faith, or follow his heart. His life depends on it.

Why I'm loving it: This is another interesting premise. Sci-fi and religion and aliens and apocalypse? Yes, please! And it's getting pretty good reviews.


The Undertaking by Audrey Magee 
Published February 6, 2014

Desperate to escape the Eastern front, Peter Faber, an ordinary German soldier, marries Katharina Spinell, a woman he has never met; it is a marriage of convenience that promises 'honeymoon' leave for him and a pension for her should he die on the front. With ten days' leave secured, Peter visits his new wife in Berlin; both are surprised by the attraction that develops between them.

When Peter returns to the horror of the front, it is only the dream of Katharina that sustains him as he approaches Stalingrad. Back in Berlin, Katharina, goaded on by her desperate and delusional parents, ruthlessly works her way into the Nazi party hierarchy, wedding herself, her young husband and their unborn child to the regime. But when the tide of war turns and Berlin falls, Peter and Katharina, ordinary people stained with their small share of an extraordinary guilt, find their simple dream of family increasingly hard to hold on to...


Why I'm loving it: A hard storyline. War brings murder, brutality, rape and deprivation, but I'm still drawn to the story. I'm curious where the story goes, what happens with these two strangers who find themselves married to one another? 


Red Winter by Dan Smith
Published July 18, 2013

1920, central Russia. The Red Terror tightens its hold. Kolya has deserted his Red Army unit and returns home to bury his brother and reunite with his wife and sons. But he finds the village silent and empty. The men have been massacred in the forest. The women and children have disappeared.

In this remote, rural Russian community the folk tales that mothers tell their children by candlelight take on powerful significance, and the terrifying legend of Koschei, The Deathless One, begins to feel very real. Kolya sets out on a journey through dense, haunting forests and across vast plains against the bitter winter, in the desperate hope he will find his wife and two boys-and find them alive. But there are very dark things in Kolya's past. And, as he strives to find his family, there's someone-or something-following his trail . . .


Why I'm loving it: This is another one that caught my eye at the book store. (Why it was on the "new fiction" shelf when the publish date is 2013, I don't know!)  A deserter of the Russian Red Army returns to find his entire village empty, and his wife and children gone? There's a creepy desolation I find intriguing.


We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Published May 13, 2014

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.


Why I'm loving it: Because it's so vague. A little eerie, unsettling. Love and lies. I don't even know what it's about, and I still want to read it! They've done a great job at marketing it! 


Half a King by Joe Abercrombie
Expected release is July 15, 2014

“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver.

Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

The betrayed will become the betrayer.

Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper?

But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.
 


Why I'm loving it: It sounds very different from anything else I've ever read, and it's getting really good buzz. And as a Game of Thrones series fan, I can't dismiss the similarity to Jamie Lannister.