Friday, August 31, 2012


Woohoo!!! I've been thinking all week about Carl's upcoming RIP VII or R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII.  They aren't so much as challenges anymore as experiences.  I love this time of year - even more so since I've moved back to Las Vegas and summer just hangs on and on.  Even though it's still usually 100+ degrees here,  I can still grab a creepy  book and an (iced) cup of chai and escape.

But today it was gloriously raining and Carl just posted his annual RIP VII post. What are we ever going to do if he decides to stop, I have no clue.  This is my FIFTH year joining in on Carl's creepy autumn experience.  I so love picking out my stack of to-reads for the experience.  The first year I was very much into the classics. This year I have three ARCs and I am going to join along in one of the Read-a-longs that are fairly new to the experience. Here's my fun Instagram photo:

Shadow and Bone - Leigh Bardugo
The Dark Unwinding - Sharon Cameron
The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters
Advent - James Treadwell

I'm so excited about these choices.  I've already delved into the awesome Sharon Cameron story, The Dark Unwinding.  Think Jane Eyre --- and steampunk and romance -- so awesome.  Here's the non-ARC cover from Sharon Cameron's website:

I am so excited to hear that Andi and Heather of The Estella Society are doing a RIP Read-a-long for Sarah Water's novel The Little Strangers. I recently picked up the hard cover copy at a library book sale.  I've got a whole collection of her novels now and hate to say that I've not read them....yet. Can't wait to dig in!

I'm sure as the next few months progress I'll be sneaking in more choices.  But starting with these four I can say that I am doing

Peril the First:
Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature.
Remember, you don't have to have a blog or anything to join in the fun of Carl's RIP experience.  Just sit back, grab a creepy book, story, movie, or whatever strikes your fancy and have fun!
Head over to the review site to check out what everyone's doing throughout the next few months. 
My past RIP posts:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

South of Superior - Ellen Airgood

Title: South of Superior
Author: Ellen Airgood
Paperback: 370 pages (ARC)
Publisher: Riverhead Books/Penguin
Published date: June 2011
FTC: Received review copy from publisher

I'm not sure why I sat on this book for a whole year.  For some reason I never got around to it last summer and it just seemed liked it needed to be read in the summer.  Just look at that cover.  Covers can be deceiving though because while this is a great summer book, it could also be the perfect book to snuggle up to a fire with some warm cocoa.    And, for some reason, I kept thinking that the book should take place in the South -- even though it almost blatantly states the actual location, Lake Superior, Michigan.

Back of the book:

When Madeline Stone walks away from her Chicago life and moves five hundred miles north to the coast of Lake Superior, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, she isn't prepared for how much her life will change.  Charged with caring for an aging family friend, Madeline finds herself in the middle of beautiful nowhere with Gladys and Arbutus, two octogenarian sisters -- one sharp and stubborn, the other sweeter than sunshine. As she is drawn into the dramas of the small, tight-knit town, Madeline learns that it's a place where times are tough and debts run deep, but where friendship, community, and compassion run deeper.

A debut novel full of heart, South of Superior shows that there is a deep reward in caring for others, that one who is poor in pocket can be rich in many other ways, and that happiness often comes from the smallest gestures.

My thoughts:

What a beautiful and moving novel.  This is one of those books that's all about the characters and how they change and evolve throughout the story.  Madeline was a pretty great central character because while she had her flaws and made her mistakes, I kept seeing how she was struggling to do good and be happy and so I kept just rooting for her.  There are all sorts of side characters that just fill out the story and make it beautiful.  Gladys, who is so rough around the edges that she's completely believable; Arbutus, who just makes you smile as you read about her; Mary Feather, the eccentric elderly lady who lives on the outskirts of town and knows how to eek out a living out of nothing; Greyson, the adorable little boy who has a single mom he almost has to look after; and so many other characters.

I think Ellen Airgood captured the rawness and roughness of a small town -- how people struggle to make ends meet, how everyone knows everyone's business, and how when times get tough, people still watch out for each other.  This is the type of book that makes you slow down and just enjoy the pace of the book.  I fell in love with the entire town and wow, for a girl who's never had the urge to visit the Great Lakes area...I really now want to go.  I want to see this beautiful ocean of a lake that Ellen Airgood describes -- check out her website for a few awesome photos.  She's also got some other fun extras on her website like old photos which were her inspiration for Madeline's family, pictures of her inspiration for Gladys' and Arbutus' homes, and even Mary Feather's truck. I love when authors do stuff like that.

Also Reviewed By:

Kelly's [Former] France Blog

Friday, August 17, 2012

The School of Essential Ingredients - Erica Bauermeister

Title: The School of Essential Ingredients
Author: Erica Bauermeister
Published date: 2009
Publisher: Putnam
Hardcover: 240 pages
FTC: I won this from the author

Way too long ago I won this book from Erica Bauermeister.  I think I won it from her cool website but I can't really recall. I do know that the giveaway asked about family recipes or something and I mentioned how my husband turned me on to pasta sauce with jerk seasoning. Even now when I'm out of jerk, I'll do all the italian seasoning stuff and throw in some cinnamon.  Just because.

I remembered when this book came out and EVERYONE loved it.  I kept meaning to read it because it really isn't a long book but for some reason never got around to it. I even acquired her second book Joy for Beginners which has gotten raves too.  Recently I really needed a good comfort book and so this is the one I went to.  O my gosh. How perfect was for me at this precise moment. Why oh why haven't I read it before?

The back of the book:

Once a month on Monday night, eight students gather in Lillian's restaurant for a cooking class. Among them is Claire, a young woman coming to terms with her new identity as a mother; Tom, a lawyer whose life has been overturned by loss; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer adapting to life in America; and Carl and Helen, a long-married couple whose union contains surprises the rest of the class would never suspect.

The students have come to learn the art behind Lillian's soulful dishes, but it soon becomes clear that each seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. One by one they are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create, including a white-on-white cake that prompts wistful reflections on the sweet fragility of love, and a garlic and red sauce that seems to spark one romance but end another. Over time, the paths of the students mingle and intertwine, and the essence of Lillian's cooking expands beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of their lives, with results that are often unexpected, and always delicious.

My thoughts:

O how I needed to read this book right now in my life.  I love that the characters each had their own chapter which corresponded to a cook night.   The first character we delved into was Claire, the mom of two young children who is learning how to cope with this new dimension of her life. How I totally understood her.  As a stay-at-home mom, I am pretty much in charge of grocery shopping and feeding the family to help us stay within our budget.  I am learning so much lately of how to chop an onion quickly and well, what meals are my go-to meals, how to make sure my husband has food to take for lunch, how to have desserts once in a while, and how to enjoy this new aspect of my life.  I am starting to look at cooking as not another chore in my to-do list but as something I can enjoy.  And seriously, I don't know of a better smell than onion, garlic and thyme simmering.  Mmm.

Erica Bauermeister's writing is beautiful and so wrapped me up in the flavors, textures and all of the senses of cooking.  Of all the characters though, Lillian herself was my favorite. The book starts off by telling her back-story of how she got into cooking as a little girl.  My heart broke for this little girl who wanted to cook for her mother to help her mother get over her grief.  Later, as Lillian gives her cooking classes, she becomes more than a teacher or chef, but also a councilor and knows just what each person in the class needs.  Each person gets a recipe that becomes a balm to the wounds in their life.

How I enjoyed this book.  I kept wanting to write down all the "recipes" but it's so funny that in this book there really are no recipes as Lillian never uses them.  I unfortunately NEED them so I was so happy to find the recipes listed on Erica Bauermeister's website.  Go there now.


I'm going to include this awesome autograph Erica Bauermeister did for me.  At the time I received the book I was living in New York and she had just returned from a visit there as well.  How incredibly awesome is this?


I'll admit the cover of my copy isn't my favorite.  Kind of boring with the pears.  And I don't even remember there being any recipes with pears in the book. Hmm.  But I've found some other beautiful covers.

From Erica's website -- I love love this cover:

From Goodreads - the paperback with an alternate title:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Recent reads

I've been quite behind in writing up my book reviews and I was going to write up one now, but I felt a bit like blabbing about things in general.

I've been noticing a weird trend in my reading.  A lot of my ARC requests or books that I've been into lately have been quite historical fiction revolving around really tough periods in history - WWII gulags, the Armenian genocide, Nigerian refugees, etc.  Before I got my library/information degree, I got my BA in history so in general I'm fascinated with historical events.

My husband asked me the other day, so why are you reading about the Armenian genocide? And I had to ponder that question.  Basically it's because we have to remember.  We have to remember that things like that happened, still happen today, and will happen again.  And usually people came up with really good excuses for slaughtering a ton of people.

While we may feel far removed here in the United States from things that are going on in, say, Syria or Libya, we have to just look at the shootings here in movie theaters or places of worship to realize that people don't just have an "us verses them" mentality in foreign countries but it's horribly alive here in the States.

So while some of my book reviews might be on terribly sad subjects, it's been incredibly interesting and enlightening.  That said, when I'm going through these types of books I have to pair them with light "bubble bath" books.

Do you read any historical fiction, memoirs, or other types of books that deal with hard subjects? If so, what kinds of books and why?