Feb 28, 2009

Gettin' Toasted: Breakfast Anyone?

Who doesn't love eggs? They're full of protein and there's so many ways to cook them. For example, today I'm making another of chef Eric Ripert's toaster oven dishes featuring the egg and it is so easy and delicious. I've already made this particular recipe several times and each time I change it up a bit. There's just so much you can do with it. When cooking, keep in mind that you don't have to follow a recipe to the exact degree, part of the fun of cooking is changing it and making it your own - the way you like it.

Today's recipe is Zucchini Mint Parmesan Frittata. Let's watch the video:

Zucchini Mint Parmesan Frittata (Serving Size: 1)

2 large eggs
1/2 zucchini, julienned
2 tablespoons Parmesan, freshly grated
3 mint leaves, shredded by hand
1 tablespoon olive oil
fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat toaster oven to 400°.
Place the eggs in a stainless steel bowl and whisk well.
Add the zucchini, Parmesan and mint.
Season with salt and pepper.
Brush the gratin dish with olive oil and pour the egg mixture into the dish.
Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the eggs are just set, and lightly browned.
Let stand 2-3 minutes and serve warm (can also be served at room temperature).

As I mentioned earlier, there are so many ways to change this recipe. For instance, I don't particularly care for the mint, so I used basil instead. One time I julienned some cooked ham and added it to the egg mixture for an even fuller taste. I will also say that I used cooking spray instead of olive oil to coat my dish, because the eggs still clung to the dish a little when I used olive oil.

I hope that you will try this recipe and love it. It has become a regular in my kitchen. I even made one for dinner one evening, when I added potato instead of zucchini. (I did partially cook the diced potato before adding it to the egg mixture to ensure it cooked all the way in the toaster oven. If you do try this recipe, please come back and let me know how you liked it! I just love to cook and I've really enjoyed sharing this series with everyone. So for now, I'm off to go make breakfast!

Feb 27, 2009

Murder Melts In Your Mouth by Nancy Martin

Nora Blackbird’s best friend Lexie Paine, is suspected of murdering her long-time business partner after discovering he embezzled millions of dollars from their brokerage firm and Nora won’t rest until she proves her friends’ innocence. The question is - did Lexie do it?

Society newspaper reporter and amateur sleuth, Nora Blackbird has a knack for getting to the truth of such crimes. It helps that she comes from a prominent family with ties to wealthy people in and around Philadelphia. But Nora is no stranger to scandalous families. Her own parents cheated the IRS and then scammed their friends in order to skip the country over two years ago, leaving Nora and her two sisters to bear the fallout, both personally and federally. However, Libby and Emma, Nora’s quirky sisters are usually too wrapped up in their own drama to be much help to their more responsible sibling. Nora’s on-again off-again boyfriend, Michael Abruzzo tries to help, but with his family’s mob connections, sometimes he does more harm than good, simply by his presence.

MURDER MELTS IN YOUR MOUTH is the seventh book in the Blackbird Sisters Mystery Series by Nancy Martin. The series got kicked off in late 2002 with HOW TO MURDER A MILLIONAIRE. Each cleverly titled book involves a murder that Nora usually finds herself or her friends smack in the middle of. Even though these are fun, light mysteries, the stories are always interesting and the plots always have a twist But most of all, Ms. Martin introduces new supporting characters with each new book that are quirky and likeable that keep things interesting all while staying true to existing characters. She also throws in just the right amount of romance to heat things up a bit. I never tire of the books in this series. I first came across Nancy Martin’s Blackbird Sisters back in 2006 and I was hooked. I started from the beginning and read them all. Here they are in order:

If you’re in the mood for something different and entertaining, you should try one of these books. You don’t necessarily have to start at the beginning, but it’s even better if you do. Nancy Martin has a terrific sense of humor which is apparent in her writing. She also is one of five authors, including Sarah Strohmeyer, the author of SWEET LOVE, who hosts a grog called The Lipstick Chronicles, that I read almost daily. You never know what random thing is going to be discussed, but you can bet you’ll get a kick out of it.

I only have one regret about these books: I’ve read them all and now I have to wait for the next one! By the way, the paperback of this book came out in January for those who prefer them to hardcover!

Author: Nancy Martin
Publisher: NAL Hardcover
Published: March 2008
Pages: 288
Rating: Loved it!

Feb 26, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Collecting Books

This week's question concerns book collecting and asks Are they:

Hardcover? Or paperback?
Illustrations? Or just text?
First editions? Or you don’t care?
Signed by the author? Or not?

I don't consider myself a book collector even though I have a lot of books. When I think of a book collector, I think: signed first additions, rare books etc and that's not me. Although I take good care of my books, I prefer them to look like they've been read. To me, that's the sign of a loved book. A little wear and tear is not a bad thing. My books look 'gently used' and if someone wants to pick one out from the shelf and flip through it I'm not gonna freak out! I like when people look at my books.

Although most of my books are hardcovers, I have quite a few paperbacks as well. I do prefer the trade paperbacks to the mass market type simply because they hold up better. In fact, a lot of times, I prefer the trade size paperback to a hardcover. They're much easier to take along in my purse and if its a big book, they're not a clumsy to hold while reading. I do, however, stick to the hardcover if it's one of my favorite authors, especially if I own all of their books.

The bottom line for me is if I really love an author's books I'll keep them for my home collection, but I do trade books that I'm not in love with. I just don't have the room to keep every single book I read, altough it would make for an interesting library.

Are you a collector of books? If so, do you have certain guidelines? To play along this week visit MizB at Should Be Reading or to read more responses to this question, click here.

Feb 25, 2009

These Books Were Made For Walking #2

Strumpet's Life is the host for this fun monthly meme about books and travel. Every third Wednesday of the month, she'll pose a question for the meme. There's no pressure to post on that day, as long as it's in the current month, so play along!

This month's question is:

Is there a place that you have always dreamed of visiting specifically because of a book you read? It can be any kind of book: fiction, non-fiction, travelogue, you name it. If you have been to the place, did it live up to your expectations? If you haven't been, do you think you'll ever make it there?

Years ago I read a book by Jimmy Buffett called WHERE IS JOE MERCHANT? It was such a fun book with a crazy story and much of the book took place in the Carribean. I enjoyed that book so much and the whole time I read it I wished I could just run off to the islands, live in a grass hut on the beach and eat great seafood for the rest of my life! OK, not to realistic, but that book just made you want to be there. I did, finally get the chance to go to the Carribean on a cruise ship and although I didn't have all the adventures the book had, I had a wonderful time with my sister. It was just as beautiful as I imagined it would be.

More recently though, I read THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY taking place on the Island of Guernsey in the English Channel. I was drawn to the locale, even getting out maps and looking up all the places close to it and looking up pictures on the internet. I learned so much about the area both through the book and online. Guernsey is this teeny, tiny little island paradise. I'll probably never get to visit there, but I'd sure love to.

Is there any special place you'd like to visit because of a book you've read?

Feb 24, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays: Jane Eyre

Each week, TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
  • Grab your current read:
  • Let the book fall open to a random pageShare with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • 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!

This week I'm sharing two sentences from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. This is my first time reading this classic novel and I'm really enjoying it.

This wa a demoniac laugh-low, suppressed, and deep-uttered, as it seemed, at the very key-hole of my chamber-door. The head of my bed was near the door, and I thought at first, the goblin-laugher stood at my bedside-or rather, crouched by my pillow; but I rose, looked round, and could see nothing; while, as I still gazed, the unnatural sound was reiterated; and I knew it came from behind the panels. ~ page 113

If you'd like to read more teasers from other bloggers, or if you'd like to participate click here.

Feb 23, 2009

Musing Mondays: Library Visits

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about the library…

How often do you visit the library? Do you have a scheduled library day/time, or do you go whenever? Do you go alone, or take people with you?

I'm ashamed to say I only started visiting my library regulary a little over a year ago. I seem to run hot and cold with it. However, being as broke as I am and not sure how much longer I'll be able to keep my job, the library is fast becoming my best friend. I just can't afford to buy any books right now. Honestly, I have enough books at home and on my library list to keep me busy for several months, but I have no will power when it comes to books, especially when my favorite authors have new ones come out!

Because I work weekdays, I usually go to the library on Saturdays. However, ff there's a book that's being held for me and I am not looking for anyting else, I'll run in on my lunch hour to pick it up. The library isn't far from my office, which is nice.

Because of my eye disease, I always have someone with me because sometimes I need assistance. It's just so much easier and quicker to have someone along instead of me fumbling around, bumping into everything on the way in. However, I'm planning to spend more time browsing, which I don't get a chance to do, this summer and I'll be dropped off and picked up later when I'm ready to go. Our library is only about 4 years old so it's really nice and roomy. Believe it or not, the building used to be a big grocery store and when I was 16 I used to work there after school! How funny is that?! I'm looking forward to spending more time in my library this year.
How much time do you spend at your library? Do you like your library? For more responses to this musing, visit Just One More Page or click here. Thanks go to Rebecca for hosting this weekly event.

Feb 22, 2009

[TSS] Book Review: Testimony - Anita Shreve

When TESTIMONY by Anita Shreve came out last October there was so much talk about it all over the internet. I’d never read any of her books and I was anxious to get the book and read it. However, I only got a chance to do so last month and I kind of feel like I’m the last person to read it.

For those who don’t know the premise, the story is set in Vermont at a prestigious private school during the winter months. One fateful night after sneaking liquor onto campus and getting massively drunk, three male students and one very young female student made choices that would forever change not only their lives but the lives of so many people, possibly even the whole small town they lived in.

The book starts explosively, getting right into what created so much havoc for these four students and ultimately their community. You don’t have to wait long to find out what has happened. The story unfolds through individual accounts being told by a researcher from Vermont University two years later. Each person has a different perspective of what happened that night and the subsequent consequences with respect to their lives and that of their families.

What this book shows is how what appears to be a simple act by one or two people can become somewhat of a chain reaction which could prove devastating for others around them. Further, the person committing this act may not even be aware of the effect it had on others right away, or maybe not ever.

In the story, we meet three young men with great potential, all of whom were brought up differently, and one very young girl who, depending on your stance, is either a tragic victim or a willing participant. We also meet adults - parents, teachers, family friends - who also play a huge role. Each of these people handle the outcome very differently with varying emotions. Among them are defiance, disbelief, guilt, embarrassment and in some, overwhelming shame. But what lead each to this act?

I don't want to go into too much detail about the story itself because I don't want to give anything away for people who haven't yet read it. Personally, I’ve never read a book quite like this one. Having read many reviews, I was prepared for what I already knew was a shocking storyline. I appreciated Anita Shreve’s bold writing and her development of the story. However, what took some getting used to was the abrupt changes of narration from chapter to chapter, although they were not listed as chapters per se, but rather different conversations. Each one was strikingly different - meaning some were told in the first person, some in the third and then some perspectives were as if the narrator was talking to the particular individual. It was hard for me to get used to. That, along with the very short ‘chapters’ made for a choppy, staccato-like writing style. There was no ebb and flow for me. Unfortunately, this left me feeling disconnected from the characters and not really ever bonding with them. I can’t even say that I liked the characters very much, with one exception. I did like the character of Silas, who I felt was the most innocent of all.
That being said, I did enjoy the book and I’m glad I read it. Anita Shreve is known for her bold writing and to-the-point storylines. Since this was my first book of hers to read, I’m looking forward to reading her other books for comparison. I have on my nightstand ALL HE EVER WANTED and I also want to read THE PILOT’S WIFE, which I hear is very good . Just because I didn’t love this book, doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it and look forward to more from her. This was just a very different book for me.
Have you read this book? And if so, where do you stand? Is it one of those that you either love or hate? Or is is more complicated than that? I’d be interested to know. Here are just a few other reviews by fellow bloggers you might like to read:

The Book Lady’s Blog
She Is Too Fond of Books
Peeking Between the Pages
Book-Fan Mary
She Reads and Reads

Author: Anita Shreve
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Published: October 2008
Pages: 320
Rating: Liked it but didn’t love it

Feb 21, 2009

Gettin' Toasted: Herb Roasted Chicken Tenders

It's Saturday already and that means its time for another one of my recipe results from chef Eric Ripert's toaster oven series from his website, Avec Eric. Today I'm featuring the Herb Roasted Chicken Tenders. Cooking with a toaster oven is so quick and simple and this recipe is one that you can do a lot with.

I prepared this recipe a couple of different ways. Half of the chicken I made as chef Eric suggested and the chicken came out very tender and juicy and the honey mustard dipping sauce was so tasty being made fresh. The rest, I prepared using Panko breadcrumbs to make a crunchy coating on the chicken. I dipped the tenders in an egg bath, then seasoned and rolled them in the breadcrumbs. I did not drizzle olive oil on those. They came out nice and crunchy. I didn't make the salad but made a side dish of seasoned rice and steamed winter veggies for a quick meal that was also healthy.

Herb Roasted Chicken Tenders Serves 2
6-7 ounces chicken tenders
1 tablespoon olive oil
fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
½ teaspoon herbes de Provence
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey

Heat toaster oven to 450°. Drizzle half of the olive oil over the toaster oven tray.
Season chicken with salt, pepper and herbes de Provence.
Arrange the chicken in a single layer on the tray and drizzle the remaining olive oil over the seasoned chicken.

Bake for 6-7 minutes, until tender.
While the chicken is cooking, stir together the Dijon mustard and honey. Serve on the side. Alternately, serve on skewers as an appetizer or with an arugula salad. Toss together 1 bunch arugula, 1 tsp Balsamic vinegar, 2-3 tsp Olive oil, salt and pepper.

Next week I'll be making another of chef Eric's recipes, so please come back for more ideas on how to get the most out of your toaster oven!

Feb 19, 2009

10 Things I Love Featuring the Letter . . . I

There's been this fun letter meme going around and I decided to play along. After reading her meme, I asked Anna at Diary of an Eccentric to assign me a letter and the letter I got was I, so here we go! It's a lot harder than you think. Here's my list of 10 things I love beginning with the letter I, in no particular order:

1. Italian Food – especially anything with alfredo sauce! Yum!
2. Ipod – I love music and I think the Ipod is one of the best inventions ever!
3. Ian Ziering (aka Steve Sanders) – OK, I know I was a bit old to watch 90210 when it was on, but I always thought he was the cutest guy on that show and I’m usually attracted to dark-haired guys. Go figure!
4. Ice Cream – need I say more?
5. Ina Garten’s Herb Dip – This stuff is delicious! It’s the perfect light spring and summer dip. I make it all the time and its become a favorite in my family. It's great for dipping veggies!
6. Isabelle – I always wanted to have a little girl named Isabelle. Though it never worked out for me, I still love the name.
7. Il Divo – These men are fabulous singers! I love listening to them!

8. Internet – I’d be lost without it!
9. Irish coffee – being born on St. Patrick’s Day, this is a must!
10. Ireland – I’ve always wanted to visit there.
OK, so that's my list! I'm not going to tag anyone, but if you'd like a letter to play along, leave me a comment and I'll get one to ya! Thanks Anna for my letter - I think it turned out ok! ; )

Feb 17, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: In Cold Blood

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.

  • 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 teasers today are from Truman Capote's IN COLD BLOOD.

Afterward, as he crossed the darkening courthouse square, pensively scuffing through dry mounds of unraked leaves, Dewey wondered at his lack of elation. Why, when he now knew that the suspects were not forever lost in Alaska or Mexico or Timbuctoo, when the next second an arrest mightg be made-why was it he felt none of the excitement he ought to feel? ~ page 198
To read more teasers visit MizB at Should Be Reading or click here.

Feb 16, 2009

Musing Mondays: Book Reviews

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about book reviews…
Do you read any non-blogging book reviews? If so, where (newspaper, library etc)? Do you have any favourites sources you'd like to share?
I do read a few non-blogging reviews, but not too many. I read Publishers Weekly reviews and a few others, but I don't have a favorite. I rely mainly on blogger reviews. Much of the time, the books I'm interested in reading don't have their reviews published in the larger markets, and I know I can always find reviews on book blogger sites because of the wide variety of books read. You can find reviews on more than the NYT Bestsellers if you look on the book blogs. I can also get a better feel for what the average reader would think of the book. A lot of times, I'll read a book that a mainstream reviewer has raved about and after reading the book, I didn't feel at all the same way about it. It's funny...I'm the same way with movie reviews. If a critic hates the movie, I generally really like it and if they love it - I usually don't. I prefer to take book recommendations from everyday people who love to read and will write an honest review. I know I'm getting dangerously close to another topic that was discussed thoroughly not long ago, so I'll stop there. : )

Feb 15, 2009

[TSS] My Week In Review

I've had a productive reading week, which always makes me feel good. I've got back into the habit of reading for an hour or so in the afternoons when I get home from work. It's amazing what a difference that makes. This week I managed to finish TESTIMONY by Anita Shreve (I'll have my review in a few days) and I also reviewed a book that came out Tuesday called BOUND SOUTH by Susan Rebecca White. That review is here.

I'm almost finished reading MURDER MELTS IN YOUR MOUTH by Nancy Martin. It's the 7th in a series from the Blackbird Sisters Mysteries. They're fun, light who-dun-its that I got hooked on a few years ago. Nancy Martin has a witty writing style that she incorporates into murder mysteries and even manages to maintain a love story that adds just the right amount of romance. I've read that this book is the last of this series, but I hope its not true.

I'm real excited about a new series I've started on Saturdays called Gettin' Toasted. One of my favorite chef's, Eric Ripert, has a video series on his website, Avec Eric, featuring meals cooked in a toaster oven. Yes, a world renowned chef cooking in a toaster oven! These are simple, quick recipes perfect for 1 or 2 servings. Each week I make one of his recipe and post my results on Saturday. Yesterday I featured Mustard Crusted Salmon Fillet.

My local library held a book sale today and I came away with some good reads. I got two Patricia Cornwell books, one from Stuart Woods and The Da Vinci Code. I was pretty happy with my finds and look forward to reading them.

Well, that's about it for me and my books this week. In the week ahead, I'll have a few reviews and another recipe from chef Eric. I hope all of you had a productive week in books too. I'll be going now to catch up on some blog reading and then its back to the books! Have a wonderful Sunday!

Feb 14, 2009

Gettin' Toasted Recipe Results: Mustard Crusted Salmon Fillet

Welcome to my test kitchen! Last Saturday, I posted about chef Eric Ripert’s new-ish website called Avec Eric, featuring some recipes using none other than a toaster oven! I thought it was pretty ingenious considering that is an appliance that sits around on a lot of countertops not being used to its full capacity.

Chef Eric is calling this video series ‘Get Toasted’ and you can find the link on the right side bar of his website. I’ve decided to try one of his recipes each week and post my results on Saturdays. I hope you’ll join me in my culinary adventures and even try them yourself. They’re very simple yet yummy-sounding dishes. Keep in mind these recipes are for 1 or 2 servings, so adjust the recipe according to your needs. So, here we go with the first recipe.

I chose the Mustard Crusted Salmon first because it was such a simple recipe and I love salmon. It’s very good for people with high blood pressure and that’s me! I prepared the fish with a few minor changes. I used regular black pepper and since I couldn't find crème fraiche in my supermarket, I used sour cream. I did use Japanese Panko breadcrumbs and they were fantastic. Much crispier than regular bread crumbs.

I cooked the fish about 7 - 8 minutes and it came out perfectly cooked. I’m not a big fan of Dijon mustard, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved the flavor of it with the fish. The sauce on the side was a nice compliment as well. While my fish cooked, I quickly stir-fried some Asian veggies and made some rice pilaf. It was a perfectly light, tasty meal. I’ve included the recipe below for your convenience.

I’m anxious to try more recipes from this series. It’s perfect for people who live alone or even for 2 people. If you decide to try this recipe, please let me know how you liked it. I know I’ll definitely be making it again and again. Next week, I’ll be making the Herb Roasted Chicken Tenders. So come back next Saturday for my results!

Mustard Crusted Salmon Fillet

1 6 oz. Salmon fillet
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp bread crumbs
1 tsp chives
2 tbsp crème fraiche (or sour cream)
½ lemon

1. Heat toaster oven to broil. Line a toaster oven tray with foil.
2. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and spread the Dijon mustard on top. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the mustard and bake for about 5-6 minutes until the salmon just becomes opaque and the crust is toasted.
3. While the salmon is cooking, stir together the chives, crème fraiche and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve salmon with lemon-chive crème fraiche.

Feb 12, 2009

BTT: Author Blogs

Suggested by Barbara H.:

Do you read any author’s blogs? If so, are you looking for information on their next project? On the author personally? Something else?

Barbara - that is a great question! Yes, I do read several authors' blogs. The first one I started reading was The Lipstick Chronicles. Actually, its a grog. Its hosted by 5 very talented authors, aka The Book Tarts, who take turns posting each day on any topic that pops into their heads. They are: Nancy Martin - who writes the Blackbird Sisters Mystery Series I spoke about yesterday in my post; Sarah Strohmeyer - the author of SWEET LOVE among others; Harley Jane Kozak; Elaine Viets and Michelle Martinez.

These ladies are a riot and I can always count on them for a laugh and some interesting topics. I love their grog! I also read Mary Kay Andrews' blog. She's one of my favorite writers of Southern Fiction and she has such a sharp wit, and warm personality, she makes you feel like you are her friend. She shares photos of her beach house, The Breeze Inn, named after her book, Savannah Breeze, on Tybee Island in Georgia and she holds contests for getaway weekends. She's so down to earth, you feel like you 'know' her. Jess Riley (Driving Sideways) has a great blog too. Its' called Riley's Ramblings and if you thought her book was funny, you'll love her blog. Karen Harrington's blog, Scobberlotch, is one I never miss. Of course, you know her as the Janeology author. She always offers insight into the world of writing. She has a terrific sense of humor. I love reading about her book-signing adventures and all the conferences she goes to and what she learns. I find it all very interesting. Those are just a few of the writer's blogs I visit regularly.

Along with finding out ideas for future projects, I like getting to know their personalities. If I'm taking the time to read their blogs, its obvious I like their work and reading their blogs helps me to get to know them a little better - what influences them, what authors they learn from etc. That is interesting to me.
So, do you read blogs of your favorite authors?

Feb 11, 2009

Library Loot - Feb 11 - 17

I found this neat weekly meme while visiting Dar at Peeking Through the Pages. Since I've started using my library more I thought it was perfect timing for me to play along! it's hosted by Eva and Alessandra and I'm sure it'll be fun!

Here's my loot that I brought home from the library this week:

Murder Melts In Your Mouth by Nancy Martin - This is the 7th and I think final book in the Blackbird Sisters Mystery series. I discovered these fun, light mysteries a few years ago and have loved them all!

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote - After watching Capote starring Philip Seymour Hoffman over the weekend, I just had to get this book. He deserved that Oscar he got for this movie. He was AMAZING!

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - In my quest to read some classics this year, I've started with a book everyone loves! I've been reading it online at Literature.org until I could get to the library. As we've all said, There's nothing like a real book in your hands - especially a classic!

So did you bring goodies home from the library this week?

Feb 10, 2009

Bound South by Susan Rebecca White

There are two things I love. Reading new authors and southern fiction. So you can bet I was elated when I was asked to review BOUND SOUTH by Susan Rebecca White. I stumbled across her book online a couple months ago and was intrigued by its premise. From Simon and Schuster:

By turns hilarious and poignant, the lives of three vibrant and unique Southern women -- a proper Atlanta matron, her rebellious teenage daughter, and their housekeeper's young daughter -- intersect in unexpected and extraordinary ways in this richly compelling debut novel of family, friendship, and folly.

Louise is the mother of two children, living a cushy life in Atlanta with her lawyer husband and two children. Caroline is Louise's teenage daughter with a mind of her own. Missy is the young daughter of Louise's housekeeper who has her own ideas of how one should live their life. It's interesting to follow the lives of these three southern women through what becomes eight very important years in each of their lives.

As Louise's children are growing up, she realizes that her life is also changing. She begins to look back on the choices she has made, sometimes feeling regret. At the same time we learn a lot about her childhood and how she became the woman she is today. We meet Caroline when she is seventeen years old, very headstrong, thinking she has the world figured out. As the story unfolds we see her grow into a responsible adult and in her relationships even seemingly moving backward towards some of the patterns she used to criticize her mother for. Missy was very young when her father walked out on her and her mother without ever looking back. She always had the idea that one day he would come back and the bond between them would never again be broken. Missy's quest to find her dad is enlightening for her.

This is a book I enjoyed very much. Each cleverly titled chapter is written in the first person alternating between each of our three protagonists. This gives you a sense of who will be telling that part of the story. The year is also given to indicate how much time has passed since we last heard from them. This enables the story to move through time smoothly and without slow parts. This technique works wonderfully for this book. The story begins in 1999 and ends in 2008.

One of the things I liked about this book was the beautiful cover. It's vibrant colors and the femininity of the barefoot woman in a sundress carrying her high heel is appealing. They used the technique of the 'headless' girl, which is very popular with publishers these days. It gives an anonymity to the character, allowing the reader to form their own images in their minds eye.

I also liked the characters, but my favorite is Louise. I liked the way she dealt with the changes in her life as her children grew up and she realizes that there's more to her than being a mother and a wife. She's not afraid of new challenges. My favorite thing about this story is the bond that forms between Caroline and her mother. Louise wants Caroline to be true to herself and not sacrifice her dreams for someone else. She and Caroline also discover qualities in each other that were always there, but were skewed by normal parent/child conflicts.

This is a great book for anyone who loves southern fiction with equal parts of drama and humor. It's a quick read that I really enjoyed, mainly because I liked the characters. I wanted to keep reading to see what happened to them. I also liked the ending. I could picture it in my mind and I felt happily content upon finishing the book. This is Susan Rebecca White's first novel and I think it is very good. I will not hesitate to pick up her next book. She will always have a spot on my bookshelf.

Author: Susan Rebecca White
Publisher: Touchstone
Published: February 10th, 2009
Pages: 368

Feb 9, 2009

Musing Mondays: Bookmarks

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about bookmarks…What do you use to mark your place while reading? Do you have a definite preference? Do you use bookmarks, paper, or (gasp) turn down the pages? If you use bookmarks, do you have a favourite one?

My response: Yes, I always use something to mark my pages. It may not be a regular bookmark, but I NEVER turn down the corner of a page! That's a big no-no! Although I do have many bookmarks, most times I use business cards. At my job (General Contractors office) I come in contact with a lot of people and they're always handing me their business cards. So I never have a shortage of them. I even use my own. I read during my lunch hour, so if I lose my bookmark, I just grab one of mine from its holder on my desk.

Am I picky about what I use? No, but lately I've been using a BookMooch card. I swapped a book awhile back and inside the package was a stack of these cards. They're plastic so they don't bend and they look really cool. Whenever I'm reading in a public place, someone always picks up the card and makes a comment about it. I guess you could say its my favorite.

What's your favorite bookmark? To read more responses to today's musing, go to Just One More Page or click here.

Feb 7, 2009

Gettin' Toasted!

Now that I have your attention - How many of you have a toaster oven sitting on your counter that never gets used? If you do, this is your lucky day! You all know my passion for books but I also have another passion and that is cooking . . . and eating, but for now I'm only talking about cooking. I love to try new dishes and try to experiment at least once a week with something I've never made. I'm not talking about the fancy, shmancy recipes that require you to go to specialty stores, spend gobs of money and buy things you'll never use again. I'm talking about simply prepared food that looks great and taste even better with not a lot of foo foo.

I love watching cooking shows and one of my favorite chefs is Eric Ripert, Executive Chef at Le Bernardin in NYC. His specialty is seafood and being such a seafood lover, I always enjoy watching him cook on tv. By the way, he has a show starting in the fall on PBS!

This is where your toaster oven comes in! Last year he started a new website called Avec Eric (which is french for 'With Eric'). There are some very nice features on his site including great recipes (check out the Lemon Tart with Whipped Cream!). But the thing that really drew me in was his video series on cooking with a toaster oven. Yes, I said toaster oven! Here we have a world renowned chef' and he's going to cook with a toaster oven?! Since my house got struck by lightening last year - twice - I've been without an oven since August, so this is an answer to my prayers! I have a nice toaster oven that I use for many things and I love it, but I don't have many specific recipes for it. Until now!
Like Chef said, if you live alone like me, there's no reason you shouldn't enjoy a nice meal, especially when it only takes minutes to cook. These are simple, delicious recipes that anyone can make. To check them out, go to Avec Eric and look for the 'Get Toasted' link or just click here. Over the next several weeks, I'm going to be making some of the featured dishes and rating not only how they taste, but how easy (or hard) they were to make. Each Saturday, I'll post my results. This week I think I'll start with the Mustard Crusted Salmon. I hope you'll check back and see how I'm doing. This should be fun!

If you're really into all things food and cooking, you might be interested in Chef Ripert's new book On The Line. It's a behind-the-scene look at what goes on at Le Bernardin along with some yummy recipes.

Feb 6, 2009

Online Reading - Are You Doing It?

I've been wondering - do you ever read books online? One of my goals for this year is to read classic literature. I decided to start with Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. I watched one of the movie versions (1996 with William Hurt as Mr. Rochester) last year and knew I'd love it. I definitely want to add a copy of this book to my home library, but in the meantime I wanted to get started reading. I was snooping around online and came across a site called Literature.org. I typed in a search for 'Jane Eyre online' and there it was! I'm sure some of you already know about this useful site but I still thought it was worth mentioning.

This site is the perfect answer for me. Since I don't drive, with the help of this site, I can read a book without actually having it. Reading online is not my first choice, but until I can get to the bookstore or library, this is a good substitute. I don't know if I'll read the entire book online, but at least I'll have a headstart.
Another useful aspect of this site is that it enables you to check out a book to see if it's something you'd like to read. For instance, I've never read any Dickens or Faulkner and I've heard many readers say they don't care for their work. Well, I can go to this site and see for myself without leaving my home. If I see that its something I'll enjoy, on my next trip to the library, I'll get the book.

Another cool site I recently discovered from another blogger (forgive me - I can't remember who) is DailyLit. . It's similiar, but you sign up to receive installments regularly, either through your email or an RSS feed. You can even decide how often you want to receive them. It may take awhile to read, say Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, (over 400 installments, I believe), but it is a way to get access to the book for free.

I know most of you prefer to have an actual book in your hand, but I can see where these types of sites could be very helpful to some. How do you feel about online reading? Have you used sites like these? And if so, what were the circumstances. I'd be interested to know how popular they are. Please leave me a comment and tell me your thoughts.

Feb 5, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: TMI (Too Much Information!)

For those who may not already know, BTT is a weekly event hosted by MizB and this week's question was suggested by Simon Thomas:

Have you ever been put off an author’s books after reading a biography of them? Or the reverse - a biography has made you love an author more?

This is an interesting question. Let me start by saying how much I've always enjoyed reading biographies. I love learning about where people come from and how they got to where they are. So now, to answer the question:

No, I've never had a biography change the way I feel about an author's books. If anything, it makes me more intrigued after learning about their life. However, I have been very disappointed after seeing an author interview that made me buy their particular book. Fortunately, it hasn't happened often, in fact, only once that really stands out in my mind. I don't need to go into detail and name the author, but suffice it to say that I had a very strong negative reaction to the book that left me questioning my interpretation of the interview I saw. I don't know if it made a difference that the book was non-fiction, but I was really surpised at how much I wanted to like the book, but actually ended up hating it.
How about you? Has a biography changed your perception of an author's books, or does it enhance your appreciation of them? Leave me a comment and let me know. For more comments on this question, click here.

Feb 4, 2009

"Waiting On" Wednesday: Sarah Addison Allen

"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!

My pick for this week's can't wait to read title is Sarah Addison Allen's new book, THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON. Here's a description from Amazon:

In her latest enchanting novel, New York Times bestelling author Sarah Addison Allen invites you to a quirky little Southern town with more magic than a full Carolina moon. Here two very different women discover how to find their place in the world…no matter how out of place they feel. Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. For instance, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? Why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew—a reclusive, real-life gentle giant—she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life.Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes.Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson’s cakes. She offers them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth and in the hope of bringing back the love she fears she’s lost forever. In Julia, Emily may have found a link to her mother’s past. But why is everyone trying to discourage Emily’s growing relationship with the handsome and mysterious son of Mullaby’s most prominent family? Emily came to Mullaby to get answers, but all she’s found so far are more questions.

Is there really a ghost dancing in her backyard? Can a cake really bring back a lost love? In this town of lovable misfits, maybe the right answer is the one that just feels…different.

THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON will be published by Bantam Books on May 12, 2009.

Feb 3, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: Testimony

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.
  • 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!
Here are my teasers from the book TESTIMONY by Anita Shreve.

"Rob signed a written confession," the headmaster explains. "This will be presented on Friday in lieu of testimony or the need to view the tape inself." ~ page 152

I heard so much about this book when it first came out and I've been looking forward to reading it ever since. This is my first Shreve book, however, I also have ALL HE EVER WANTED and plan to read it soon. I only started TESTIMONY Saturday night, but it grabbed me from the very beginning with its staccato-like writing. The author doesn't waste time getting right into the story. I hope you enjoy my teaser sentences.
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly event hosted by MizzB at Should Be Reading.

Feb 2, 2009

Musing Mondays: Book Buying

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about book stores…
How do you choose what do buy from your local bookstore? Do you have a list, or just browse? What is the selection in your book store like? Do you find what you're looking for? Do you feel pressured to buy the kind of books the store makes prominent? (question courtesy of

I live in a small town, even though it is growing by leaps and bounds, there still is not a lot to choose from in the way of booksellers. Of course, we have the big stores, Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million, but the small independant stores are practically non-existant. This limits my book buying options. There is a used book store I go to, but they don't carry any new books. There is another one that opened up recently ,but I haven't checked it out yet. I intend to do that very soon.

Nowadays, I'm more of a list person than a browser when I visit a bookstore. The main reason is that someone has to drive me and I feel funny taking up their time while I browse, so I make sure I know what I want, I get it and then we leave. I would love to be able to just browse. When I was married, my husband and I would go hang out at the bookstore for an hour or so on a weekend evening. I always enjoyed that.

For the most part, I'm usually pretty satisfied when looking for a book in the store. Since most of the time I go to one of the bigger named stores, they usually have what I'm looking for. If it's an older book I'm after and especially a classic, I always check my used bookstore first. I've had really good luck there. I remember last year looking for a used copy of GARDEN SPELLS by Sarah Addison Allen and the lady that works there told me they had just sold the only copy, but she offered to put my name on a list for the next one that came in. I really didn't hold out a lot of hope that it would happen anytime soon. But low and behold, two days later I got a call saying they had just gotten one in and it was mine if I wanted it! I was thrilled! I called my friend and she drove me over immediately! (I very much wanted to read that book!)

I don't feel pressure of any kind to buy the books the bookstore displays prominently as you come in the doors. Naturally, they're going to display the NYT Bestsellers, but that's typically not what I'm looking for. I read a lot of debut authors and books that have been out awhile, so they're further back in the store. The stores certainly don't dictate what I'm going to read.

I've made a decision to utilize my public library more this year, mainly because of the economy and also because I'm hoping to read some classics and they will definitely have them there. I will at the same time, however, keep my eye out for them at the used book store for my home library.

Well, I certainly didn't intend for this to be such a long response, but I think I've answered all the questions posed. If you'd like to participate or read other responses to today's musing, click here to go to Rebecca's Just One More Page, our host for this weekly event.

Feb 1, 2009

[TSS]: The Thirteenth Tale

One of the things I was drawn to when I first saw this book was the beautifully rich cover. Usually, I don't base my reading choices on that critiria, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't factor into it. I had read some reviews from other bloggers and it was apparent that it was a well received book, but when I started reading Diane Setterfield's THE THIRTEENTH TALE, I had no idea how much I was going to love reading this story. And what a story it was!

There are two protaganists in this book; Vida Winter, the elderly, most famous novelist in all of England and the amateur biographer she commissions to write her life story, Margaret Lea. The problem for Margaret is that 19 previous biographers had been hired by Ms. Winter to write her life story and they all turned out to be just that - stories. How would Margaret know if she was being told the truth?

Naturally, Margaret is very skeptical of Ms. Winter but reluctantly decides to take the job. She moves into Ms. Winters house and as the days pass she delves into the life of this mysterious woman. She learns some astonishing things about her - and is surprised to find parallels to her own life. She soon finds herself being pulled into the story and the more she investigates, the more questions she has.

One of the most impressive things about this book is the writing. It is amazing. In my opinion, it is hard to believe this is Diane Setterfield's first novel. I was so caught up in her words, I felt like I was there with Margaret trying to figure things out. This book holds a mystery that has many twists and turns and continues to unfold right up until the very end. I was engrossed by the unique and unusual cast of characters that were very well developed. Though the author doesn't smother the reader in descriptive details, she still creates a mental image that is so vivid, you can almost smell the old books of the library, where much of the story takes place. However, the exact year is purposly not revealed, leaving the reader wondering even more. But this is about so much more than a mystery. There's a gothic element that brings a ghostly feel, secrets of a family that seem to never end, and the sadness of truth that make this an incredible read.

I carried this book around with me everywhere I went hoping for a chance to read a page here or a page there. I didn't want to put it down. I read many books, but I consider THE THIRTEENTH TALE a great story. Some people just have natural storytelling talent and Diane Setterfield certainly is one of them. She completely engrosses you on so many levels. I just love this book! My only disappointment is with myself that I waited so long to read it. If you haven't read it, I can't encourage you enough to do so. I promise it will be time well spent.
I will say, however, that I did come across some reviews of this book while snooping around on GoodReads that surprised me. Some reviewers didn't like the book or felt the story was too drawn out. I never felt that way. I was never bored with the story or felt like I was being led around needlessly. To those people, I say 'Were we reading the same book?' I adored this book and wish that every story I read had the imagination, creativity and writing skill as Ms. Diane Setterfield. Many of the negative reviews I read seemed to pick apart certain aspects that were part of the 'make believe' element of the story. I believe, they missed the point. This is one of those books that you simply can't take too seriously. If you've read this book, please leave me a comment and let me know if you liked it or not.

Here are some reviews from other book bloggers you might like to read:
Final Haven
Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Author: Diane Setterfield
Publisher: Atria Books
Published: September 12, 2006
Pages: 416
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars: Excellent!