Friday, September 23, 2011

Guest Post with Kimberley Freeman author of Wildflower Hill




I'm pleased to welcome Kimberley Freeman, author of Wildflower Hill to Redlady's Reading Room. I posted a review and giveaway of Wildflower Hill, earlier this month. I enjoyed reading Wildflower Hill which is a wonderful family saga that is beautifully written revealing family secrets that lead to an amazing journey of self discovery and a testament to the power of love.





Kimberley Freeman shares her thoughts on writing Wildflower Hill:

Writing Wildflower Hill was a huge challenge for me, because part of it is set in the 1930s in Tasmania, which isn’t a place and time a great deal is written about. In many ways, it would have been much easier to set a book during the Regency period in England, because we’re all so familiar with what it looks like, what people wore, and so on. But I wasn’t even sure if the places I was writing about had electricity and gas. I wrote the whole story assuming they did not, but then a chance sighting of a 1930s photograph in a Hamilton pub (in Tasmania) had me rewriting the whole thing (there were visible power lines). In fact, the whole book was researched backwards for reasons beyond my control. 
I’d been to Tasmania a few times, and had planned a long trip to the area the book is set in for Easter of 2009. This was timed so I would be researching that part of the story directly before writing it; but then two days before we were due to leave (I was taking the whole family) my then 2-year-old daughter came down with a violent gastro bug. It was round the clock vomiting and diarrhoea for the poor thing, and it became apparent we couldn’t travel. She ended up being seriously ill for nearly a week, but when she was well again and I could turn my mind once more to the book, I realized I had done NO research and my deadline wasn’t going anywhere. We couldn’t re-book until July. The book was due in August. 
So I wrote anyway. I put square brackets in every time I hit a place where I’d need a detail, and I just kept going, writing furiously, to get a first draft completed before the trip. A blog entry from about two weeks after the aborted trip reads: “Some of the writing is horrendous, I must confess, but just yesterday as I was telling my mum about the story, I got a real sense of what the book is all about… Put simply, it’s a story about a girl who thought her grandmother was a nice old lady, and discovers–when she inherits her grandmother’s old house in Tasmania–that Gran was a lot more complex than originally thought.” The story gathered momentum and I finished the first draft in a white heat: “Some people compare writing a novel to giving birth. I usually roll my eyes when this happens, especially when men say it, because unless you’re squeezing a hardcover out your left nostril the comparison is flawed. But this close to the end of the process, there is the same kind of awful momentum, the same irresistible compulsion to get something outside yourself that has been growing within for a long time. I have lost the world; there is only the story. My family talk to me and all I hear  is ‘blah blah blah’ like the adults in Charlie Brown cartoons. My brain is finding the ends of threads and pulling them together, tying them, untying them, retying them different ways. I shouldn’t be allowed to drive.” 
Then I printed it out and took it to Tassie with me. We stayed on a working sheep farm in the midlands, and it was the middle of winter so utterly freezing. But beautiful and still and quiet. I duly wrote down bird and tree names, wove in descriptions of frost or the way the clouds made shadows on the rolling hills, and secured a key detail (about eucalypts!) that made a special thread of the book sing. I can’t imagine having written the book any other way now. I can procrastinate a lot in research, so doing it backwards worked beautifully (on this occasion anyway).

About Kimberley Freeman from her website:




Kimberley was born in London and her family moved back to Australia when she was three years old. She grew up in Queensland where she currently lives.
Kimberley has written for as long as she can remember and she is proud to write in many genres. She is an award-winning writer in children’s, historical and speculative fiction under her birth name Kim Wilkins. She adopted the pen name Kimberley Freeman for her commercial women’s fiction novels Duet and Gold Dust to honour her maternal grandmother and to try and capture the spirit of the page-turning novels she has always loved to read. Kim has an Honours degree, a Masters degree and a PhD from The University of Queensland where she is also a lecturer. She lives in Brisbane with her young family.

Check out my review of Wildflower Hill and to enter for a chance to win a copy of the book, HERE or click on the link on the left sidebar. Giveaway ends tomorrow, September 24th. 





Saturday, September 17, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Kathleen Flinn's Pasta Pomodora Recipe from The Kitchen Counter Cooking School



I have been spotlighting Kathleen Flinn's new book The Kitchen Counter Cooking School (to be released by Viking on October 3, 2011) in my Weekend Cooking posts this month. This week, I am spotlighting Kathleen's Pasta Pomodora recipe. It's my kind of recipe, quick and easy and it uses all natural ingredients. This is an easy alternative to opening up that jar of spaghetti sauce from the grocery store. I just went to a nearby farmer's market this morning and bought fresh tomatoes so I plan to make this tomorrow. 


Check out this cooking video lesson with Kathleen teaching how to make Pasta Pomodora from her upcoming book The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. 









Pomodoro (Fresh Tomato Sauce)

Be sure to have the pasta cooking and all the ingredients ready before starting the sauce; this is ready more quickly than you’d expect. Flavorful fresh tomatoes make all the difference here; cherry tomatoes work especially well and they’re available year-round. Just cut them in half. Carefully scoop out a bit of the pasta water to finish the sauce.

Makes enough for about 4 side portions or 2 main-dish servings

8 ounces dried pasta, such as penne or linguine, or 12 ounces fresh pasta
Coarase salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
About 12 ounces tomatoes, chopped
Handful of chopped parsley or basil
Pinch or two of hot pepper flakes
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Boil water for the pasta. Add at least 1 tablespoon of salt to the water; it should taste slightly salty. Cook the pasta according to the package directions; reserve about ½ cup of pasta water after cooking.

Meanwhile, add the olive oil to a sautĂ© pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute; be sure not to burn it or you’ll need to start over. Add the tomatoes, and any other vegetables (see below), and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 3 to 5 minutes for tomatoes on their own, longer if you add in other vegetables.

Add the reserved pasta water and cook until the sauce is reduced slightly and the rest of the ingredients begin to break down, about another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the cheese, red pepper flakes and fresh herbs (if using) several cranks of fresh black pepper, and salt if needed.

Consider adding the following:
Splash of cream at the end of cooking for a more creamy texture  
Handful of additional chopped vegetables, such as zucchini, artichokes, olives, and/or asparagus, to extend the sauce and offer additional flavor 
Shrimp or diced cooked chicken with the tomatoes (Shrimp can be added raw, but be sure to cook them thoroughly; they should turn white throughout and curl up tightly.)

©Kathleen Flinn, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, Viking/Penguin 2011







Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, go to Beth Fish Reads.




Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mailbox Monday






~Mailbox Monday~  
is hosted by Amused by Books during the month of September.
We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week. 

MAILBOX MONDAY
Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. (Library books don’t count, but eBooks & audiobooks do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here).


Here's what arrived in my mailbox this week:

The Widower's Tale: A NovelThe Writing ClassThe Winter SeaThe Calligrapher's Daughter: A Novel



The Widower's Tale by Julia Glass from a friend, Thanks Huxy!


From Paperbackswap:



The Writing Class by Jincy Willett


The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley


The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim





The Sunday Salon: Review & Giveaway Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman








About Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman (from Simon and Schuster/Touchstone):


Spanning three generations and half the world, WILDFLOWER HILL: A Novel (Touchstone Books/A Simon & Schuster Trade Paperback; August 23, 2011) by Kimberley Freeman is a sweeping story of two women who share a legacy of secrets, heartbreak, courage, and love.  In present day, Emma, a prima ballerina in London suffering from a broken heart and a career-ending injury, is at a crossroads both personally and professionally. Returning home to Australia, she learns that she has inherited a sheep station in isolated Tasmania from her grandmother, Beattie. Certain she has been saddled with an irritating burden, Emma leaves for Wildflower Hill to sell the estate. At Wildflower Hill, the two women’s stories become intertwined as Emma gradually uncovers the secrets of her grandmother’s history. In the 1930s, Beattie also found herself at a crossroads as a young woman - unwed and pregnant by a married man. 

My Thoughts:

I love immersing myself into a good family saga and Wildflower Hill fits the bill perfectly adding a historical perspective. Wildflower Hill was an engrossing novel that intertwines the stories of two women, a grandmother and granddaughter who are linked through a family bond as well as life events. The story unfolds beautifully, spanning three generations and in three countries that are worlds apart - Scotland, England and Australia. 

The story is told as a double narrative, through the perspective of two women, Beattie the grandmother and Emma the granddaughter. Beattie, who grew up in Scotland, tells her story starting in the 1920's when she is 18 years old and discovers she is pregnant with her married lovers child. She is disowned by her parents and she travels to Australia with her boyfriend to start a new life. Things don't turn out as Beattie dreamed although she is a strong woman who finds a way to survive. Emma tells her story in modern  day, after an injury changes her life as a world famous ballerina. She discovers that she has inherited her grandmother Beattie's sheep farm, Wildflower Hill, which is in Tasmania, Australia. Emma discovers  secrets held by her grandmother's past as she cleans out her grandmothers house. Secrets that unfold that force Emma to reevaluate her own life and what is important to her and her own future. 

Wildflower Hill is a family saga that is beautifully written, revealing family secrets that lead to an amazing journey of self discovery and a testament to the power of love. I enjoyed the differences between the two characters and  by separating the different eras and experiences between them helped to highlight their deep connection. The characters were well developed and easy to engage with as a reader. I enjoyed reading about the backdrop of Tasmania, Australia and  many scenes were so descriptive that I could imagine them in my mind. This was a book that was enjoyable to read and one that I couldn't wait to get back to when I was forced to put it down. The last chapter left things a bit undone and left me with the thought that there may be a sequel although after reading the conversation with the author at the end of the book, it sounds unlikely. The author did share a funny story about a reader who was upset that the author didn't tell exact details of what happens in the epilogue.  We don't always get the perfect wrap up in a book and this one leaves some things to your imagination. I highly recommend this thoughtful and enjoyable novel. 

Check out Kimberley Freeman's Website, HERE.


You can read the first chapter of Wildflower Hill,  HERE.

Find a Reading Group Guide  for Wildflower Hill, HERE. This includes a conversation with the author.


*GIVEAWAY DETAILS*


  
I have TWO copies of Wildflower Hill (compliments of Simon & Schuster) to give away to two lucky readers

For 1 Entry: All you have to do is leave a comment here and what you found interesting about Wildflower Hill. Make sure to include your email address (no email, no entry)

For a 2nd Entry (Separate Comment):  Follow my blog, you can follow through Google Friend Connect to the left in my side column. If you already do, thank you, and please  make sure to let me know in your comment so I can pass the entry on to you as well. Make sure to include your email address (no email, no entry).

For a 3rd Entry (Separate Comment): Spread the word about this giveaway and Retweet, retweet button below my name at the end of this post. Make sure to include your email address (no email, no entry).

*Open to US & Canada only.

Enter by September 24 , 2011






Saturday, September 10, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Demo videos on Knife Skills and Making Vinaigrette by Kathleen Flinn author of The Kitchen Counter Cooking School


In last week's Weekend Cooking post, I spotlighted Kathleen Flinn's new book, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School that will be released on October 3, 2011 from Viking and posted a book trailer. (Go HERE, to see the post) This week I want to spotlight two great cooking related videos by Kathleen Flinn where she teaches cooking lessons from The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. 

Learn Knife Skills Video

The first video is on learning knife skills where she shows you how to properly hold and use a chef's knife. I found this a helpful video for anyone who enjoys cooking and wants to learn more about basic knife skills. I've always wanted to know the "proper" way to cut an onion and Kathleen explains and demonstrates this well. I definitely plan to give this a try, although I need to find a better set of sharper knives. Kathleen makes it look pretty simple. 






Vinaigrette Lesson


The second video is on how easy it is to make your own vinaigrette salad dressing. I found this video to be very informative, I am definitely going to make my own vinaigrette salad dressing. I also learned that a simple balsamic vinaigrette has a longer shelf life unrefrigerated than I realized. Also, it is all natural and you can add different ingredients easily to make your own vinaigrette. 









THE KITCHEN COUNTER COOKING SCHOOL is essentially “What Not to Wear” meets Michael Pollan.  Inspired by a supermarket encounter with a woman loading up on processed foods, Le Cordon Blue graduate, and author of The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry, Kathleen Flinn decided to use her recent culinary training to help a group of nine culinary novitiates find their inner cook.  These students invited Kathleen into their kitchens where she took inventory of each person’s refrigerator, cabinets and eating habits.  After kitchen “makeovers” and a series of basic lessons where they learned to wield knives, trust their taste and improve their food choices, the women found a common missing ingredient—confidence.  In this new book, Flinn follows these women’s journeys and includes practical, healthy tips to boost readers’ culinary confidence, strategies to get the most from their grocery dollar and simple recipes to get readers cooking.   

From VikingOn-sale: October 3, 2011


* I would have loved to be part of this cooking school to learn culinary skills from Kathleen Flinn. I'll be posting a review closer to the release date of the book in October and have a great giveaway scheduled. I'm also going to post more Demo and shopping tip videos from Kathleen, recipes and information on the volunteers in my upcoming weekend cooking posts. 





Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, go to Beth Fish Reads.



Sunday, September 4, 2011

Mailbox Monday






~Mailbox Monday~  
is hosted by Amused by Books during the month of September.
We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week. 

MAILBOX MONDAY
Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. (Library books don’t count, but eBooks & audiobooks do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here).


Here's what arrived in my mailbox this week:


The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home CooksThe Lady of the Rivers: A Novel (The Cousins' War)



The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn From Viking/Penguin


The Lady of the Rivers by Phillippa Gregory complimentary advance copy from Touchstone Books 





The Sunday Salon: Review The Paris Wife by Paula McLain








About The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (from author website)
  
A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wifecaptures a remarkable period of time—Paris in the twenties—and an extraordinary love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.

In Chicago in 1920, Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and finds herself captivated by his good looks, intensity, and passionate desire to write. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group of expatriates that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
But the hard-drinking and fast-living café life does not celebrate traditional notions of family and monogamy. As Hadley struggles with jealousy and self-doubt and Ernest wrestles with his burgeoning writing career, they must confront a deception that could prove the undoing of one of the great romances in literary history.


My Thoughts:


I must admit that I have not read any of Hemingway's novels but am interested in his work and I have visited The Hemingway House in Key West, Florida. Despite this, the premise behind the novel The Paris Wife intrigued me as well as the setting of Paris. Paula Mclain does an excellent job of taking the reader to 1920's Paris featuring Hemingway's early career through the voice of his first wife Hadley Richardson. I found The Paris Wife to be a mesmerizing novel featuring the lost generation a  group of authors that included Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald who lived life in a frenzy of parties and volatility. The Hemingway's weren't prepared for the drinking, competition amongst their friends, open relationships and beautiful woman they would meet and become friends with. There was much creativity and freedom that allowed Hemingway to spread his wings and find his way as a novelist. Hadley had much to do with this through the inspiration and support she gave him. We know that Hadley was Ernest's first wife (he had 4 wives) so it was not a surprise when the marriage is challenged and crumbles but it was difficult to read. Hadley endured a great deal as she truly adored and idolized Ernest and believed in his writing and abilities. This novel captured the voice of Hadley beautifully and I often felt as if I was reading a diary or a biography experiencing their life through her eyes. 


There is an epilogue that explains what happens to Hadley and Ernest but I found myself interested in reading more and searching for more information about Hadley and Ernest's lives after their marriage ended.  I am definitely interested in reading more of Hemingway's work and plan to read A Moveable Feast, which is a memoir of Hadley and Hemingway's life in Paris which was not published until after Hemingway's death. 


Check out a recent guest post and interview with the author Paula McClain that I posted a few months ago.




Thanks to  Random House  for sending me an advance copy of the book for review. 




Saturday, September 3, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Spotlight on The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn







THE KITCHEN COUNTER COOKING SCHOOL is essentially “What Not to Wear” meets Michael Pollan.  Inspired by a supermarket encounter with a woman loading up on processed foods, Le Cordon Blue graduate, and author of The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry, Kathleen Flinn decided to use her recent culinary training to help a group of nine culinary novitiates find their inner cook.  These students invited Kathleen into their kitchens where she took inventory of each person’s refrigerator, cabinets and eating habits.  After kitchen “makeovers” and a series of basic lessons where they learned to wield knives, trust their taste and improve their food choices, the women found a common missing ingredient—confidence.  In this new book, Flinn follows these women’s journeys and includes practical, healthy tips to boost readers’ culinary confidence, strategies to get the most from their grocery dollar and simple recipes to get readers cooking.   

From Viking; On-sale: October 3, 2011


*This looks like a fabulous book and I would have loved to be part of this cooking school to learn culinary skills from Kathleen Flinn. I'll be posting a review closer to the release date of the book in October and have a great giveaway scheduled. I'm also going to post Demo and shopping tip videos from Kathleen, recipes and information on the volunteers in my weekend cooking posts. 




Check out the official Book Trailer:










Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, go to Beth Fish Reads.