Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Sunday Salon: BookPage

(March 2010 Edition)

I look forward to reading the monthly BookPage newspaper magazine that is chock full of bookish news and information. This is a FREE magazine that is available at most libraries and  bookstores (although personally, I have only found it at indie bookstores). I anxiously await each months edition and pick up a copy at my local library. What I love about Bookpage is that it is fun to read and full of interesting bookish news.  There are several features that I love to read: Buzz Girl (publisher info on authors and upcoming books & news), Meet an author-one for adult fiction & one for childrens fiction. This is a fun column where a featured author hand writes answers to questions and the childrens authors usually adds drawings and illustrations. There is also a  book club and cooking columns. I have to say I read this magazine cover to cover as it highlights so many different books..fiction, mystery, childrens, teens, memoirs, travel, romance, and more. I always find books to add to my wishlist. Here are some that caught my eye from the March edition:

House Rules: A NovelMaking ToastThe Journal Keeper: A MemoirFavorite Food at Home: Delicious Comfort Food from Ireland's Most Famous Chef

House Rules by Jodi Picoult: From reading the article in BookPage, it has me interested. I haven't read the last few books by Picoult but this one sounds like a story that I want to read.

Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt: This sounds like a touching memoir about life and family and I love the cover art.

The Journal Keeper by Phyllis Theroux: This grabbed my interest as it is about mothers and daughters,  journal writing, writing, spiritual growth and more.

Favorite Food at Home by Rachel Allen: I am always looking for new cookbooks and this one sounds great. Rachel Allen is a TV cooking star in Ireland and England and has "an easy comfortable way with food" and the cookbook is described as "Real food for all occasions". Sounds good to me!

If you haven't read BookPage, I'd highly recommend you look for a copy at your local library. You can also check out the BookPage website where you can read the current issue online, read about books and authors, book news, enter contests, and they also have a blog and much more.

If you have read BookPage can you share what you like about it and where you're able to find a copy?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Weekend Cooking: Tortellini Soup & Beer Bread

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and 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. To see who else is participating go to Beth Fish Reads, Weekend Cooking, here.

I love to make hearty soups in the winter and there's nothing better than a warm & hearty soup with a side of crusty bread. One of my favorite soups to make is Tortellini Soup and I serve it with a crusty bread or Stacy's Pita Chips, my favorite is Tuscan Herb. I found this recipe for Tortellini soup in a magazine years ago and I make it often in the fall and winter.

Hearty Tortellini Soup

2 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped fine
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 (13 1/2 ounce cans) Chicken or Beef Broth OR 1 32 ounce Container of Broth
1 (8 ounce or larger...use more broth) fresh, frozen or dry cheese tortellini
1 (10 ounce) package fresh or frozen spinach, thawed
1 (16 ounce) can diced tomatoes (I like to use the flavored garlic&herbs)
   or can stewed tomatoes, undrained and coarsely chopped
Grated Parmesan Cheese

In large saucepan, over medium-high heat cook garlic in oil for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add broth and tortellini, heat to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes.  Add spinach and tomatoes; simmer 5 minutes more. Serve topped with cheese, if desired.  Serve with a crusty bread or pita chips. Serves 6 or more.

( I tend to have to add more broth as the tortellini seem to absorb the broth).

Beer Bread


3 cups flour (sifted)
3 teaspoons baking powder (omit if using Self-Rising Flour)
1 teaspoon salt (omit if using Self-Rising Flour)
1/4 cup sugar

1 (12 ounce) can beer
1/2 cup melted butter (1/4 cup will do just fine)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix dry ingredients and beer.
Pour into a greased loaf pan.
Pour melted butter over mixture.
Bake 1 hour, remove from pan and cool for at least 15 minutes.

UPDATED NOTES: Sifting flour for bread recipes is a must-do. Most people just scoop the 1 cup measure in the flour canister and level it off. That compacts the flour and will turn your bread into a "hard biscuit" as some have described. That's because they aren't sifting their flour! If you do not have a sifter, use a spoon to spoon the flour into the 1 cup measure. Try it once the "correct" way and you will see an amazing difference in the end product.

*I haven't made this Beer Bread recipe (found at  Recipezaar) but I plan to make it.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Finds: February 26th

What great books did you
hear about/discover this past week?

My Finds:

About The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks from Rebecca Skloot's website:

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the effects of the atom bomb; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia—a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo—to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live, and struggle with the legacy of her cells.

Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family—past and present—is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family—especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother’s cells. She was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Did it hurt her when researchers infected her cells with viruses and shot them into space? What happened to her sister, Elsie, who died in a mental institution at the age of fifteen? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance?

I think that this book sounds fascinating and very interesting. A book that will make you think and it sounds like it would be a great book to discuss with a book club. The author will be in my area next month and I plan to go to her book signing and discussion.

*For more Friday Finds go to Should be Reading, here.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Review: The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker

Ted Dekker's newest  book is The Bride Collector which will be available on April 13, 2010. This is the first book that I've read by Ted Dekker and I have to say that he packs a powerful punch in this novel. Here is a description of the book from Hachette Book Group:

FBI Special agent Brad Raines is facing his toughest case yet. A Denver serial killer has killed four beautiful young women, leaving a bridal veil at each crime scene, and he's picking up his pace. Unable to crack the case, Raines appeals for help from a most unusual source: residents of the Center for Wellness and Intelligence, a private psychiatric institution for mentally ill individuals whose are extraordinarily gifted.

It's there that he meets Paradise, a young woman who witnessed her father murder her family and barely escaped his hand. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, Paradise may also have an extrasensory gift: the ability to experience the final moments of a person's life when she touches the dead body.

In a desperate attempt to find the killer, Raines enlists Paradise's help. In an effort to win her trust, he befriends this strange young woman and begins to see in her qualities that most 'sane people' sorely lack. Gradually, he starts to question whether sanity resides outside the hospital walls...or inside.

As the Bride Collector picks up the pace-and volume-of his gruesome crucifixions, the case becomes even more personal to Raines when his friend and colleague, a beautiful young forensic psychologist, becomes the Bride Collector's next target.

The FBI believes that the killer plans to murder seven women. Can Paradise help before it's too late?

My Thoughts:

Dekker has written a novel with strong main characters that are well developed throughout the book. Brad Raines, is the FBI agent, who fights to the end to find the Bride Collector and in doing so faces his own demons. Paradise is a likeable character, she is a patient at the psychiatric institution that has suffered through a horrific childhood and has a psychic gift that she learns how to tap into. She has not left the institute for seven years and has felt unloveable and ugly. Her character develops like a butterfly and it's interesting to watch her grow and develop and fight the battles within her own mind. The Bride Collector was an evil character and you could feel the depth of his despair and twisted mind,even though he was a very intelligent person. Dekker shows in his writing that intelligence and mental illness can be a battle that can manifest itself in a positive way or negative way. This story shows the reader that those who suffer from mental illness are intelligent people who often have can have gifts that can be tapped into so that they feel like productive members of society. They are much more than the mentally ill who are just trapped in their own world. 

This is definitely a fast paced novel that will hold your interest if you are a fan of mystery thrillers. There is violence and darkness in this novel so be prepared. There is nothing gentle about this book. It shows how evil can manifest itself in the mind of a killer and how it can be twisted and turned to justify the end results. I found  that the Bride Collector was able to get away with too much without being caught and at times it seemed very unrealistic. It actually started to annoy me near the end as it seemed highly unlikely and far fetched that a killer would not have been caught by someone or have more close calls when he was being sought after. That he was able to dupe so many people and outsmart the FBI so well, seemed a stretch to me. The author may have been making a point that his intelligence allowed him to do this but it really seemed unrealistic to me. I wanted to read this book to broaden my reading scope and read different genres. I enjoy reading a mystery now and then but thrillers are more rare for me to pick up. This wasn't my cup of tea and for me, I realized that I'll stick to reading more of the cozy mysteries and detective style mysteries.

If you are a fan of Ted Dekker's books and mystery thrillers you will definitely want to pick up a copy of this book.

I read The Bride Collector for Ted Dekker's Pre Publication Blog Tour with Hachette Book Group. The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker will be released on April 13, 2010. It can be pre-ordered here in the U.S. You can check out Ted Dekker's Website, here.

Click on the information below in the Countdown/Sweepstakes Widget:

to read more about The Bride Collector, read more about the authorread an excerpt and enter the Sweepstakes to win a copies of Ted Dekker's books.

Disclosure: An Advanced Reading Copy of this book was provided for review from Hachette Books. I am an Amazon associate.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we are eagerly anticipating.

My "can't wait to read" selection is:

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

(Publication Date: April 14, 2010)

In Caitlin’s world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad. Anything in between is confusing. That’s the stuff Caitlin’s older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon’s dead and Dad is no help at all. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger’s, she doesn’t know how. When she reads the definition of closure, she realizes that is what she needs. In her search for it, Caitlin discovers that not everything is black and white—the world is full of colors—messy and beautiful.

Kathryn Erskine has written a must-read gem, one of the most moving novels of the year.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mailbox Monday~ February 22, 2010

Mailbox Monday is a fun meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share books that came into our house by mail.

Here is what arrived in my mailbox:

Origin: A Novel

Origin by Diana Abu-Jaber from Paperbackswap

Artichoke's Heart

Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee from Paperbackswap

Alice I Have Been: A Novel
Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin won from Peeking Between the Pages

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Salon: Weekend Cooking: Book Club Favorites

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and 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. To see who else is participating go to Beth Fish Reads, Weekend Cooking, here.

My book club meets monthly and we always have wine, appetizers and dessert. You can tell that we like to read, have great discussions about books and eat good food. One book club member had a wonderful idea to share our favorite recipes that we make for book club and for our families. She created individual cookbooks for each of us in three ring binders where we could add recipes. She prints out our new recipes for us and we add to the cookbook once a year. I'm going to share a few of my favorite recipes that I've served at book club and have added to our  book club cookbook.

Black Bean Corn Salsa

8 servings
Makes about 3 1/2 cups

2 cups drained and rinsed black beans
1 16 oz can whole kernel corn, drained
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/4 cup minced green onion
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes

Mix first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until cold. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead: keep refrigerated) Mix tomatoes into salsa and serve with tortilla chips.


May add 1 chopped avocado just before serving.

You can also omit the oil if you prefer.

If you like it hot, you can add 1 Tablespoon Minced Jalapeno Pepper.

You can add one red bell pepper, chopped instead of the green onion.

Great on grilled beef, fish or chicken.
I like the leftovers rolled up in a tortilla for a simple lunch.



1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the glaze:

1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.

*I served this with blackberries and raspberries on the side.

Do you have any favorite recipes that you serve at your book club or great recipes that would be good to serve at a book club? I'd love to hear about your favorite recipes.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Review: The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon


The Crimson Rooms is set in post World War I London, England in the year 1924.  Evelyn Gifford is haunted by the death of her cherished brother James, who died in the Great War. Evelyn is stunned when a young woman named Meredith and her 6 year old son Edmund show up on the families doorstep. Meredith who is a nurse, claims that Edmund , conceived in a battlefield hospital, is the son of her brother James. The family take Meredith and Edmund in but they are still grief stricken from James death as well as the recent death of Evelyn's father.

Evelyn is 30 years old, unmarried and lives with her mother, grandmother and Aunt Prudence and supports her family. This is quite unusual as Evelyn is one of few female lawyers and is struggling in a field that is dominated by men and a society that is not accepting of female lawyers. Most women of this time do not attend college and have their own careers. They are to focus on finding a husband and starting a family.

Evelyn is soon swept up in two legal cases that effect her life in many ways. One case concerns a young mother whose children are taken away from her because she is poor and she cannot care for them. Evelyn learns about the plight of the poor in London and uncovers some unknown secrets about what happens to some of the children who are being taken care of by these charitable organizations. In another case, a man that is an acquantance of her boss is charged with the murder of his wife but won't speak to anyone. Evelyn meets and falls for a lawyer that appears to show interest in her and the murder case she is working on.

Evelyn must deal with a shocking allegation that Meredith claims about her brother James. It shatters her perceptions of her brother and she uncovers the layers of deception within her own family. Meanwhile, Evelyn must contine to fight for recognition and respect in her role as a female lawyer while trying to help these two cases. Both cases end with drama and mystery with some unexpected twists at the end.

Ms. McMahon skillfully builds a story that is complex and layered with great detail. There is great depth to the story as McMahon builds strong characters and a complicated plot. At first, the story seems a bit mired in detail but I soon realized that the depth and detail was needed to weave the story that would unwind at the end.  I enjoyed the historical aspects to the story which seemed to capture the spirit of this time period of London in the 1920's. There is murder mystery, courtroom dramas, social history and even a bit of love and romance mixed in. Highly recommended for those who enjoy historical fiction with a dash of mystery and romance worked in.

Katharine McMahon is the author of the critically-acclaimed novels The Alchemist's Daughter and The Rose of Sebastopol.  For more information, visit Katharine McMahon's Website, here.

The Crimson Rooms was just released on February 18th by Penguin Books.
The book is available at the following Online Retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders and Indiebound.

Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a blog campaign by MotherTalk on behalf of G.P. Putnam's Sons / Riverhead and received an advanced copy of the book to facilitate my candid review. Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate. I am an Amazon and Indiebound Associate.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Book Spotlight: An Irish Country Girl by Patrick Taylor

Readers of Patrick Taylor’s books know Mrs. Kinky Kincaid as the unflappable house-keeper who looks after two doctors in the colourful Irish village of Ballybucklebo. She is a trusted fixture in the lives of those around her, and it often seems as though Kinky has always been there.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Some forty-odd years before and many miles to the south a girl who would someday be Kinky Kincaid was Maureen O’Hanlon, a farmer’s daughter growing up in the green hills and glens of County Cork. A precocious girl on the cusp of womanhood, Maureen has a head full of dreams, a heart open to romance, and something more: a gift for seeing beyond the ordinary into the mystic realms of faeries, spirits, and even the dreaded Banshee, whose terrifying wail she hears on a snowy night in 1922…

As she grows into a young woman, Maureen finds herself torn between love and her fondest aspirations, for the future is a mystery even for one blessed with the sight. Encountering both joy and sorrow, Maureen at last finds herself on the road to Ballybucklebo—and the strong and compassionate woman she was always destined to become.


I am going to use this feature to spotlight books that I've bought or received that may take me awhile to get to. I have several books ahead of this to read but I wanted to bring it to the attention of my readers. I am looking forward to reading An Irish Country Girl as it sounds very interesting and I enjoy reading books based in Ireland. Have you read this book or any of the other Irish books that Patrick Taylor has written? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks to Authors on the Web for sending me a review copy of this book.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Review: I am Ozzy by Ozzy Osbourne (Audiobook)

Reviewed by my husband Greg:

This review is for the three disk abridged audio book "I am Ozzy" by Ozzy Osbourne. Since I have a forty-five minute commute each way to work, it only took me a few days to listen to the entire audio book in my car. I will say that there was enough unusual material here to hold my interest and I can't say that I recall feeling the urge to yawn at any point. Roughly, the book is organized into five parts, the early years, lead singer in the band Black Sabbath, Ozzy strikes out on his own, the Osbournes, and finally concluding with an interview of Ozzy.

As expected, we learn about Ozzy's humble beginnings in a poor, yet large working class family, and his relationships with other family members, especially his father. We then learn about school life and how he gravitated to the role of crazy class clown which ultimately led him down the path of becoming the lead singer for the rock band Black Sabbath. Admittedly, I'm old enough to have been a fan of Black Sabbath in the early 70's so I found some of the folklore and trivia surrounding the formation and creative aspects of the band quite interesting. Ozzy has much to say about the dynamics of the various personalities in the band, including himself, along with the excesses that ensued.

Following the breakup of the band, Ozzy underwent some tough personal times. After meeting future wife Sharon, the daughter of a record producer, Ozzy rises again to musical success on his own culminating in "Ozzfests". Sharon is credited for managing Ozzy better than he manages himself. However, the drug and alcohol ridden lifestyle continues. The details of the animal head biting events are revealed as well.

Ozzy's career continues with the development of the TV show "The Osbournes" which boosts his popularity even further as he becomes a household name. His new popularity leads to appearances at events held by such figures as George Bush and the Queen of England. Yet in classic Ozzy style, he continues to act outrageously and once again, we see that Sharon is the main driving force behind promoting his success.

Ultimately, Ozzy seeks recovery, but it is a long process. He openly regrets the huge cost of his actions and even expresses a certain amount of amazement over his own survival. The book ends with an interview of Ozzy where he discusses the book and reflects on his life. You may have to listen carefully to understand what he's saying though. I should mention that the book itself is narrated by Frank Skinner who has a pleasant and understandable British accent which seemed fitting for this audio book. In the interview, Ozzy definitely shares some personal information, bares his soul a bit, and offers a precautionary perspective on the consequences of living, well to put it lightly, an indulgent lifestyle. Overall I found the audio book to be a quick and interesting listen which offers a personal glimpse into the legendary life of Ozzy.

Enter to win one of three copies of the I am Ozzy Audiobook, through my giveaway. Ends March 1st.  Click to Enter here, or click on the I am Ozzy picture to the left in the sidebar.


Disclosure: Thanks to Hachette Books for providing a copy of the audiobook for review. I am an Amazon associate.