Oct 31, 2008

SEC Showdown!

For those of you who watch college football, you're already aware of the classic showdown happening Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida. It's the annual Georgia/Florida game! It's a huge rivalry and is always a great game to watch! My BFF is a diehard Georgia fan (but I love her anyway) and we like to watch the game together when we can.

In honor of this game, I'm going to share a recipe that I always serve during this match up. I've borrowed it from Ms. Paula Deen of The Lady & Son's fame from Savannah. It's called South Georgia Caviar and its the perfect tailgating munchie! Here's the recipe:


2 (15-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, drained

1 (15-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained

1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles (recommended: Ro-Tel)

2 cups chopped red bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped fresh jalapeno peppers

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 (8-ounce) bottle Italian dressing

1 (4-ounce) jar chopped pimentos, drained

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and stir gently to combine. Refrigerate mixture overnight. Serve with corn chips. Yield: 15 servings

I know, it sounds different with the black-eyed peas, but it is sooo yummy! It's salsa-like and it is so easy to make! You can serve it right after you make it, but its even better the next day. I'd rather eat this than regular salsa. It goes down good with a nice cold beer!

Is there a game you're excited about this weekend? Tell me about it!


Friday Fill Ins

Happy Friday Everyone!

1. My favorite food seasoning is curry.
2. The sound of the ocean is music to my ears.

3. Lucky is the name of the pony I had as a child.

4. The upcoming election is something I take very seriously.

5. Many people have already voted.

6. A new printer/scanner was the last thing I bought at the store.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to relaxing after a very tough week at work, tomorrow my plans include watching the Florida v. Georgia football game and Sunday, I want to read and blog!

Oct 30, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Conditioning

Mariel suggested this week’s question.

Are you a spine breaker? Or a dog-earer? Do you expect to keep your books in pristine condition even after you have read them? Does watching other readers bend the cover all the way round make you flinch or squeal in pain?

I try very hard not to break the spine of books I'm reading, although I'm not anal about it or anything. I'm also not a dog-earer unless it's something I really want to go back to and study more, but I don't do that too much. I do like to keep my books after I read them and try very hard to keep them in the best condition possible. I always have a book with me, so when reading a hardcover, I usually take off the dust jacket to keep it from getting worn while in my purse or bag. When I see people bending books back all the way or not paying attention to their appearence, I cringe, especially if its a book I let someone borrow. That makes me crazy!
What about you? Do you pay special attention to your books as well? For more Booking Through Thursday responses, click here.

Oct 29, 2008

"Waiting On" Wednesday - My First

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we share titles that are soon to be released that we can't wait to read! This is my first time participating and I'm very excited to share my pick.

My first 'can't-wait-to-read' selection is . . .

Author: Barbara Hall
Publication Date: February 9, 2009

From Amazon:

In The Music Teacher, a penetrating and richly entertaining look into the heart and mind of a woman who has failed both as an artist and as a wife, Barbara Hall, award-winning creator and writer of such hit television series as Judging Amy and Joan of Arcadia, tells the story of a violinist who has accepted the limitations of her talent and looks for the casual satisfaction of trying to instill her passion for music in others. She gets more than she bargains for, however, when a young girl named Hallie enters her life. For here at last is the real thing: someone with the talent and potential to be truly great. In her drive to shape this young girl into the artist the teacher could never be, she makes one terrible mistake. As a result she is forced to reevaluate her whole life and come to terms with her future.

Hall has crafted a thoroughly engrossing novel that examines the pitfalls of failure and holds up a mirror to the face of a culture that places success and achievement above all else

There are several reasons this book appeals to me. First, its publisher, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill is my favorite publishing house. I've read many of their books (i.e. MUDBOUND by Hillary Jordan and TOMATO GIRL by Jayne Pupek to name a few) and have been impressed with them all. Particularly because they publish wonderful books of southern literature which, as a Southerner, I'm drawn to.

Another reason is that music is near and dear to my heart. When I was young, I was involved in our school's music program and participated in our school band. It was a wonderful experience. There is something about the dynamic between teacher and student that is fascinating and it makes you want to try harder and be better.

Barbara Hall, the author, is another positive point. Not only is she an accomplished writer of television's Judging Amy, Joan of Arcadia, and the author of eight other published books, she also wrote for the show, Northern Exposure, which was one of my all-time favorite shows back in the mid 90's. I think it's one of tv's most underated programs - I loved the humor, the characters and the stories. And . . .

Lastly, I LOVE the cover!

So that is my first 'Waiting On Wednesday"' pick. What book are you excited about?

Oct 28, 2008

Tuesday Teasers

Each week TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Please avoid spoilers!

My teaser sentences come from page 123 of THE GUERNSEY LITERARY and POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

It was so fast - windows all over Guernsey shook and rattled from the explosions in France, and once the coast of France was gone, it was plain as day that England could not use up her men and ships to defend us. They needed to save them for when their own invasion began in earnest. So we were left to ourselves.

This from a letter written describing how it was to be in Guernsey in the Spring of 1940 while Hilter was moving through Europe 'like a hot knife through butter'.
(I know!! That's 3 sentences - but I couldn't leave the last one out!)

Oct 27, 2008

Musing Mondays: The Economy

Todays MUSING MONDAYS post is a question from “Scobberlotch” who asks:

How has the economy impacted your book buying? Do you think it’ll change the reading and book-buying habits of the country? Will it increase your library visits? Will it make you wait for the paperback edition instead of buying the hardcover?
Good question Karen and MizzB! My answer is simple. Yes, my book buying habits have definitely changed. Living in Florida and working as a bookkeeper in the construction industry, which is pretty much non-existent and has been now for a year, I have curbed all of my spending habits quite a bit. I do still buy books here and there, but I don't pay full price for new hardcovers. I wait for the paperback or I go to my local used book store and see what they have available. I'm also fortunate to have some authors send me copies of their books and that is a big help. I'm very grateful to them for that.
Recently, I've started buying books from Alibris, an online used book seller and so far I've been very pleased with them. You can get books for as low as $1.99! The books I've received appeared to be brand new and in excellent condition. I will also be heading to my local library as well. How about you? Are you visiting your library more? Has the economy changed your book buying habits?

Oct 26, 2008

The Sunday Salon: A Nip in the Air

Hello fellow Saloners and happy Sunday! I awoke to temperatures in the high 50's this morning with the sun shining! I got up long enough to make coffee, grab my book and climb back into bed. It was wonderful!! I love these brisk mornings of fall, which we don't get many of in October here in central Florida.
I stayed in bed reading until 9:00 so that I could finish TOMATO GIRL. Wow! What a story! I can't wait to get some time later today to begin my review. I'm so thankful to Jayne Pupek for sending me this incredible book. I don't want to say too much right now, so please do come back for that review.

This past week I mostly spent reading. I didn't get any new books. I've kind of banned myself from new books at least until I read a few of the ones I have already. They are piling up pretty high!

In non-book news, I did have a surprise from my dad this week. Some of you may remember that my house has been cursed by lightening strikes this past summer and I lost many of my electronics. In particular, my televisions. Well, I made out like a bandit with the replacements, however my new tv wouldn't fit in my entertainment center. (Truth be told, I hated that thing anyway!) I am blessed to have a very talented, thoughtful father and as an early Christmas present he made for me a new TV cabinet that matches all of the other furniture in my living room, some of which he's also made. When I came home from work the other day, I was surprised to find this beautiful cabinet underneath my new television!

That's about all of the interesting news I have for this week, so I'm off now to do some blog reading and later watch some football. I hope you all enjoy your Sunday and that you're having beautiful weather too! What are you reading today?

Oct 24, 2008

Friday Fill Ins

And...here we go! (My answers are in bold)

1. Right now, I'm feeling hungry.

2. Home is where I want to be.

3. How does one keep a positive attiitide with so much turmoil in the world?

4. A regular schedule keeps me on track.

5. Please don't mess with my head!

6. Playing with my kitten, Jax fills me with joy.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to finishing TOMATO GIRL, tomorrow my plans include beginning to convert 3rd bedroom to an office and Sunday, I want to read, blog and watch football!

This is my baby, Jax with his teddy bear! He's 9 months old now.

Oct 22, 2008

'Testimony' Giveaway at S. Krishna's Books!

I'm sure there are going to be a lot of people excited about this giveaway at S.Krishna's Books! There's been quite a lot of buzz about this book and I know I would love, love, LOVE to win! The contest runs through October 29th and she'll be drawing the winner on October 30th, so that gives you plenty of time to get entered. Be sure to read the rules - she's changed them up a bit to make it interesting! Click here for all the details and to get entered. Good Luck everybody!

Oct 21, 2008

Teaser Tuesdays

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.
Let the book fall open to a random page.
Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Please avoid spoilers!

My teaser sentences today are from page 126 of Jayne Pupek's TOMATO GIRL

Talking about the dead baby gave me a sick feeling, but talking about Daddy and Tess was worse. That hurt went all through me like a dull butter knife.

This from 11 year old Ellie, trying to cope with things a child shouldn't have to know about.

Oct 20, 2008

Musing Mondays - My First!

MizzB poses this question today:

((side note: yes, I’m going to be using your suggestions, don’t worry! Look for next week’s MM post!))

THIS week’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about a “reading” survey, and what it had to say…
I recently read an article (
here), that I found through BiblioAddict’s blog, that talked of “why women read more than men“. In it, author Ian McEwan is quoted saying:

“When women stop reading, the novel will be dead.”

Do you believe this to be true? Why, or why not?

So, what do you think of this article and its claims?
Well, I think this is very interesting. First of all, when I think of a person being an 'avid' reader, I think of someone who reads more than 9 books a year! I realize that's an average, but that statistic doesn't sound accurate to me. My BFF probably reads close to 9 books a year, but I don't consider her to be an AVID reader. I, too would like to know where these surveys are taking place. Secluded villages? Mountain Tops?
I also don't think I agree with Ian McEwan's statement either. Granted, most of the men I know who read, read non-fiction, but I know there are other men who do enjoy novels as well. If women did stop reading novels, it would make a huge impact, but I don't think the novel will be dead. Romance novels would probably take a big hit, but not all novels.

Oct 19, 2008

Book Review: Last Night at the Lobster

From the inside cover:
Perched in the far corner of a run-down New England mall, the Red Lobster hasn’t been making it’s numbers and headquarters has pulled the plug. But manager Manny DeLeon still needs to navigate a tricky last shift. With only four shopping days left until Christmas, Manny must convince his near-mutinous staff to hunker down and serve the final onslaught of hungry retirees, lunatics, and holiday office parties. All the while, he’s wondering how to handle the waitress he is still in love with, his pregnant girlfriend at home, and where to find the present that will make everything better.

Stewart O’Nan’s LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER is a different kind of story. It’s not a big book, only 160 pages. Some call it a novella. It’s simply told with easy characters, yet the story finds a place in your heart. At least it did for me. Maybe it’s because when I was younger I worked as a waitress for a chain steakhouse, so many of the issues and tribulations Manny dealt with, I could relate to. Reading this story brought back fond memories of that time for me. If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, you know that the employees become a family of sorts. There’s a camaraderie that is different than other places of work. Unless you’ve been there, its kind of hard to explain.

As you follow Manny through that last day, it becomes clear that he is a man who takes his responsibilities seriously and it doesn’t matter that it’s the last day the doors will be open. He will not compromise the restaurant at all. As the day goes on, Manny becomes nostalgic and finds that he is more attached to his life at the Lobster than he realized.

O’Nan does a wonderful job of exploring and expressing the somewhat mundane habits of a regular, working class guy who is a manager of a restaurant. It’s not glamorous work, but its honest and necessary and its also probably overlooked by a lot of customers who patronize these eateries. Someone has to be there to get things cranked up in the morning, to make sure the employees show up and do their jobs with a minimal amount of bickering and not too much horsing around. And Manny DeLeon is that guy.

I enjoyed this book and I liked the character of Manny. He’s a likeable guy who is just trying to make it through the day and not ride anybody’s case too hard, but still make sure things get done. He’s just a good guy. This is the kind of book you might choose to read in between others with intense subject matter. With only 160 pages you can read it in a day. For me, this was an enjoyable book that looks at an everyday guy’s life. This is the first of Stewart O’Nans books I’ve read and I will definitely be picking up another.

Author: Stewart O’Nan
Publisher: Viking Penguin Adult
Published: November 2007
Pages: 160
Rating: 4 our of 5 stars

The Sunday Salon

Hello fellow Saloners on this beautiful day! I've waited through a long hot summer for this weather we are being blessed with here in central Florida. It's 73 degrees and sunny outside, perfect for just about anything!

I've spent most of my day so far with my nose stuck in Jayne Pupek's new novel TOMATO GIRL. I received my signed copy from Ms. Pupek this week and I would like to say Thank You to her for sending it. I just started reading it yesterday and although I'm only about 70 pages in, I'm already loving it. Her writing style reminds me of Sue Monk Kidd's and that is no small statement. The story is set in Virginia and is told by 11 year old Ellie Sanders, which brings an innocence that only adds to the story. I can hardly wait to get back to it. But I had to stop just long enough to write this post and to put on a pot of chili for supper later.

This past week was a great book week for me! Not only did I get my signed copy of TOMATO GIRL, I also got a few other books I'd ordered and an ARC from AuthorsOnTheWeb to review for them. The ARC is MAN OF THE HOUSE by Ad Hudler and the two I'd ordered are THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER and THE GUERNSEY LITERARY & POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY. There's been so much buzz about both of those, I couldn't resist getting them.
I posted a review last week of Catherine Ryan's Hyde's THE DAY I KILLED JAMES. You can read it here. I also finished Stewart O'Nans book LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER and will have that review in the next day or so.
I hope all of you Saloners are also enjoying your Sunday and have your nose buried in a great book too! Tell me, what book are you reading today? Do you choose a different book for Sundays or do you stick with what you're currently reading?

Oct 17, 2008

The Secret Life of Bees in Theatres Today!

If you're like me and you loved Sue Monk Kidd's THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES novel, then today is an exciting day! The film version is coming out today on the big screen! The movie, starring Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah and many other wonderful actors is sure to be a real treat!

I normally don't get overly excited about movies, but I loved this story so much and I have been anxiously waiting for this interpretation of the book. If you're unfamiliar with the book, click here to read my review of the book from earlier this year.
Click here to see the movie trailer in case you haven't seen it on tv. If you plan on seeing it, but sure to come back and leave a comment and tell us what you thought of it.

Oct 16, 2008

Book Review: The Day I Killed James

I generally don't read many books in the Young Adult genre, but I was happy to read THE DAY I KILLED JAMES by Catherine Ryan Hyde, especially after reading another of her books recently, CHASING WINDMILLS and liking it so much.

This is the story of Theresa, a senior in high school who lives with her father. Her mother took off long ago, so it's been just the two of them for awhile. They're relationship is a bit strained, mainly because her father is pretty much absent, emotionally and physically due to all the time he spends at his girlfriend's house. Theresa has a boyfriend, Randy, who she fights with, then breaks up with, then gets back together with on a somewhat regular basis, but everyone is pretty much used to the pattern. Only this time is different.

There's a party at a friend's house and Randy tells Theresa he's bringing somone else. In retaliation, Theresa invites her neighbor, James to be her date to the party. James is a few years older, good looking and is infatuated with Theresa, which does make her a little uneasy about the situation. Theresa's plan to make Randy jealous works, maybe a little too well. At the party, James walks in on the two of them 'making up' and takes off on his motorcycle. That is the last time anyone sees James.

In the months following the accident, Theresa makes decisions based on the blame she puts on herself for being responsible for what happened. First, she tries to cope through a journal she keeps at the insistence of her therapist. She chronicles her feelings and actions, although not really thinking it would do much good. Then she tries re-inventing herself and her life. Guilt does funny things to people and we all handle it very differently and she is very matter of fact at how she punishes herself for that guilt.

During her time of self-punishment she meets Cathy, an 11 year old girl who has a tragic story of her own and the two form an odd sort of bond. As much as Theresa tries to separate herself from people, she is pulled into helping this young girl. The result is that in trying to help Cathy, Theresa is able to face her own demons and deal with the fall-out of her own choices with the help of someone unexpected.

I've never read a book quite like this. It's daunting and sad to see how Theresa punishes herself for not realizing the power she had over James and for not being careful with his heart before it was too late. As a result of that neglect, she feels undeserving of anyone's love because she was wreckless with his feelings. At first, I didn't care much for the character of Theresa simply for that reason, but as I kept reading, I realized that's how young people are in many cases. Theresa was so consumed by her relatonship with Randy, she didn't consider anything else. If I'm honest, I could say I can relate to that. When I was a teenager, I probably acted much the same way.

THE DAY I KILLED JAMES is an interesting read that moves quickly and makes you want to keep turning to the next page. Parts of the book are her actual journal entries which make it very real and insightful to her feelings. The writing is direct and at times a bit raw, which makes it all the more convincing. I did find it difficult to accept the circumstances surrounding Cathy, the young girl Theresa befriends. Probably because my childhood was drastically different than hers and I didn't want to believe situations like that exist. But my feelings about it didn't take away from the story at all.

I feel that THE DAY I KILLED JAMES is a realistic account of what could happen in young lives if they are oblivious to others around them. Maybe not exactly the same way the story played out, but certainly there are lessons that could be learned. Theresa's story could play an important role in teaching young adults about being aware of choices and consequences. Although tragic, this could be a learning experience for young readers.
If you'd like to learn more about Catherine Ryan Hyde and her other books, please visit http://www.cryanhyde.com/ or check out her My Space page here.
Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Published: May 2008
Pages: 217
Rating: 3.75 (Recommended)

Oct 14, 2008

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:

Grab your current read.Let the book fall open to a reandom page. Share with us two (2) sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given! Remember, don't include any spoilers!

This week my teasers come from page 69 of Stewart O'Nan's LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER.

He wants to shake Nicolette's hand, as if to settle things between them, but she just takes the check, slips it in her bag and pulls on her gloves. Like Fredo, she has to make the trek to the bus stop, and she's already bundled up.

Oct 12, 2008

The Sunday Salon: Ahhh . . . Normalcy!

It is so nice to be back! I missed the last two weeks of The Sunday Salon, first because of computer troubles, then last week I came down with a bad flu bug. However, my computer and I both seems to be back to normal.
Unfortunatly, I was so sick I didn't even feel much like reading, so I wasn't able to take advantage of all that down time like I would've liked. The only thing I was able to accomplish was finishing THE DAY I KILLED JAMES, a young adult book by Catherine Ryan Hyde of PAY IT FORWARD fame. I'll have that review in the coming days.

I did do some online book shopping though at Alibris. If you're unfamiliar, that's a bookseller where you can get really good deals on used books. I picked up some great books at ridiculously low prices! For instance, I got Stewart O'Nan's book LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER for $1.99! It arrived yesterday and even though it was listed as 'used', the book looks brand new! The other two books I chose were WHISTLING IN THE DARK by Lesley Kagen and ALL HE EVER WANTED by Anita Shreve. I got all three for under $20.00 including shipping!

The most exciting thing that happened this week, was actually just last night. I got an email from Jayne Pupek, the author of TOMATO GIRL asking if I'd like to read and review her book here at Books & Cooks! I've heard so much about this first time novelist's release and I was thrilled to hear from her personally! Isn't it nice that authors are so accessible? Anyway, she will be mailing me the book this week and I am really looking forward to reading it, so look for that review coming soon. In the meantime, Jill over at Breaking The Spine recently reviewed it and you can catch her review here.

TOMATO GIRL was published by Alongquin Books of Chapel Hill who also published Hillary Jordan's MUDBOUND back in March, which I thought was fantastic, even though the subject matter was daunting. Alongquin has released some really great Southen Fiction books. Like MUDBOUND, TOMATO GIRL is not a happy story, but a sad tale of a young girl forced to grow up too fast because of circumstances beyond her control. According to the publisher, its a story about betrayal and childhood lost.

There was a time when I read mostly legal thrillers, but more recently I enjoy reading books about southern people and the twists and turns their lives take. I guess partly because I am a southerner. I tend to gravitate towards books with a southern theme that tell stories of family, loyalty, love and even betrayal. What genre of books do you consider your favorite? Or do you go through phases?

Oct 9, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Book Meme

I’ve seen this series of questions floating around the ‘net the last few days, and thought it looked like a good one for us!

What was the last book you bought?
I bought three books yesterday: Last Night at the Lobster by Stuart O'Nan; All He Ever Wanted by Anita Shreve; Whistling In the Dark by Lesley Kagen. All were recommendations from fellow book bloggers from their reviews. (Books on the Brain, J.Kaye and Booking Mama respectively)

Name a book you have read MORE than once.
I typically don't re-read books so I can't even think of one!

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?
Yes, a non-fiction book called Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer helped me through a difficult time and changed not only the way I look at life, but also the way I want to live my life. It is a very positive book and I will always keep it close for whenever I need it.

How do you choose a book? eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews?
Usually by recommendations of fellow book lovers. The cover design does add to it, but never determines if I'll read it or not. Many times if there are mixed reviews on a book, it will make me want to read it more to find out where my views stand.

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?
I enjoy reading fiction more, but I generally have a non-fiction book going at the same time, but it takes me longer to read non-fiction because I only read a little at a time.

What’s more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?
Well, beautiful writing is always a pleasure to read, but if the plot isn't interesting I'm not going to enjoy the book as much. Maybe that's not the answer writers want to hear, but I think in a perfect book, good writing and a captivating plot go hand in hand.

Most loved/memorable character (character/book)
Gus McCrae from Lonesome Dove is one of my favorite characters because he was a good man and always a gentleman with women. Although he never could have the one woman he truly loved, he still treated all women with respect.

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?
Matrimony by Joshua Henkin, Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson; The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton and The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

What was the last book you’ve read, and when was it?
The Day I Killed James by Catherine Ryan Hyde. I just finished it this week.

Have you ever given up on a book half way in?
Unfortunatly, yes there have been a few. The Constant Gardener and Middlesex. I do plan on finishing them both, especially Middlesex because I do think it will be a great read. I just wasn't in the mood for it at the time I started it.