Jan 19, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: Janeology

I love Tuesdays because we get to share a piece of the books we are reading this week. It's fun to sample all the wonderful books out there. Since I'm still reading the same book as last week, I'm taking my teasers from the second book I'm reading, which I started just last night. It's Karen Harrington's JANEOLOGY . . .

So Dave's bad gene theory marched forth. But the journey to creating this defense, well, it didn't include merely my own memories of Jane. To find those errant genes, I would soon learn, we had to climb up and down her family tree, a feat that was somtimes as bizarre as Jane's crime itself. ~ page 56

For more Teasers, visit MizB at Should Be Reading.

Jan 18, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I didn't get as much reading done last week as I'd hoped so I didn't finish a book. However, I did have author Jennie Shortridge as a guest last Monday. [You can read it here] She wrote a very interesting piece about food and how it has played a part in her books. Since my blog is a mix of food and books I thought it was great of her to write such a post. I'm believing this week will be a more productive reading week though. I'm pretty excited about the books I'm reading. . .

I'm in the middle of Karen White's THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET and it is proving to be as good as I'd hoped it would be. I've never before read anything by this author and I'm asking myself Why? I love her writing, with its wit, that I didn't expect in this book. I will definitely be back-tracking and reading her other novels.

The other book I picked up Saturday and will begin reading this week is JANEOLOGY by Karen Harrington. I don't know why it's taken me so long to read this book, but I'm really looking forward to it, especially since her second book is just around the corner!
Well, that's what I have planned for the week and I don't see it changing. What are your reading plans for the week? This weekly meme is hosted by J. Kaye's Book Blog, so be sure to pop over there to see what other book lovers are reading this week!

Jan 16, 2010

Saturdays in the Kitchen: Southern Chess Bars

Today I'm going to share a recipe that I got from one of my dearest friends, Brenda, that was passed down from her mother, a wonderfully crazy South Carolina woman. Shirley used to make this delicious dessert bar every year during the holiday season. Now that Shirley is no longer with us, Brenda has taken over the tradition. I made it the other day and it was so good, I thought I'd pass it along.
(Not a great picture, but at least you can tell what they look like!)
Chess Bars are a sweet, rich southern pastry, sometimes called Chess Pie or Chess Cake. They are so simple and quick to make yet they pack a lot of flavor and literally melt in your mouth. There seems to be a lot of speculation about the name Chess Bar. Some food historians think the word 'chess' is actually derived from the word 'cheese'. Chess Pie has an ancient tradition of puddings and pastries with the rich mixture of cheese. The Chess Bars are made with eggs and cream cheese, also making a custard-like filling.

Here is the recipe:

Southern Chess Bars

1 Boxed butter yellow cake mix
1 Egg
1 Stick of butter (softened)
1/2 chopped pecans (optional)
1 Box Confectioner Sugar
3 eggs
8 oz cream cheese (at room temp)

In large mixing bowl mix cake mix, 1 egg and butter. Mix well until combined. Spread and pat dough into bottom of 13 x 9 pan. At this point, you could add the pecans if desired. In same bowl, mix confectioner sugar, eggs and cream cheese until blended well. Pour mixture over crust and smooth out any bubbles. Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes. Allow to cool before cutting. They taste great with a cup of hot coffee!

OK, I realize that its the beginning of a new year and everyone wants to lose those holiday pounds and here I've gone and given you a delicious and not-so-fat-free dessert recipe. So, to make up for it, here's a link that I found on the Southern Living website. It's their Healthy and Light page. On there, you can find several ideas and recipes perfect for eating lighter foods and less calories. One section that caught my eye is the Ladie's Luncheon. There are twenty light recipes to try, like Chunky Chicken Barley Soup. This soup is full of flavor and only has 208 calories and 3.9 grams of fat per serving. I am a big soup fan so I'll be making this one for sure.

Thanks for coming and visiting today and I do hope you get the chance to try these wonderful Chess Bars and if you do, please let me know how you liked them. See you next Saturday in the kitchen!

By the way, today is the first time I'm participating in Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking Series, so pop on over and check out all of the great food-related items being featured on the blogs today! If you're a chocolate lover, you should definitely check it out - remember, Valentine's Day will be here before you know it! (hint, hint)

Jan 13, 2010

"Waiting On" Wednesday

"Waiting On" Wednesday is hosted weekly by Jill at Breaking The Spine. It is a great way to find out about new books that are are soon to released.

This week my can't wait to be released title is . . . THE WIFE'S TALE by Lori Lansens. It is set to be released in February. If you get a chance, you should really check out Lori's website - it's terrific. But in the meantime, here's what Publisher's Weekly has to say about THE WIFE'S TALE:

Lansens's hopeful and gentle third novel (after The Girls), opens in the same fictitious Ontario county as its predecessors, but the heroine's journey takes her to a vastly different landscape, both literally and spiritually. In Leaford, Mary Gooch's life is strictly circumscribed-she's even worn a rut in the carpet between the bed and the kitchen, so often has the 302-pound woman made the trip. So when Mary's handsome husband disappears on the eve of their silver wedding anniversary, Mary wonders whether her size or her aversion to adventure chased him off. With few clues, Mary leaves her small town for one of the first times in her life, venturing first to Toronto and then to the suburbs of Los Angeles, where a series of encounters with strangers shakes her out of her lethargy.... She's a wonderful character, and Lansens's handling of her eventual transformation into someone capable of compassion and acceptance is handled with a light but assured touch.

Jan 12, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: 01.12.10

It's Tuesday and that means it's time for a Teaser Tuesday hosted by MizB! !If you'd like to play along,follow these simple rules:
  • Grab your current book
  • Let it fall open to a random page
  • Pick two teaser sentences, being careful not to include any spoilers
  • Be sure to include the name of the book and page you got your teasers from
It's that easy! Now on to the fun . . .

This week, I'm taking my teasers from THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET by Karen White. I haven't gotten as far with the book as I'd hoped, with everyday life getting in the way of my reading time, but I am really enjoying this book. So, lets get to my teaser . . .

I studied Jack's face in the dim light of the single bulb, seeing his chiseled features and sad eyes, and listened as the house breathed around us, as I reconciled myself to the fact that I needed to find not one missing woman, but two. I told myself it wasn't to right old wrongs, or grant an old man's dying request: It had everything to do with getting the dead people to leave me alone. ~ pages 149-150
To read more fun teasers, visit Should Be Reading

Jan 11, 2010

Guest Post: Jennie Shortridge - Author of When She Flew

I am so thrilled today to welcome Jennie Shortridge to Books and Cooks! I recently read her latest book, WHEN SHE FLEW and reviewed it here. It was an interesting book on so many levels, one being that it was based on actual events. Today Jennie is going to talk a bit about the book and also about the role food has played in her earlier books. Take a look . . .

. . . In my first three novels, food played an important (if sometimes minor) role in unveiling the emotional states of the characters. In Riding with the Queen, a runaway daughter comes home to find her bipolar mother doing better on medication, and cooking up big family meals. In Eating Heaven, a food-obsessed food writer cooks for her terminally ill uncle and untangles her own emotions about eating. In Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe, a middle-aged mom comes to terms with her less than perfect family and life while cooking her grandmother’s recipes for the clientele of the Coffee Shop at the Center of the Universe.

With my fourth novel, When She Flew, I knew I was embarking on a different kind of story, one actually based on true events that took place in Portland, OR in 2004. Police found a Vietnam vet raising his daughter in the woods. I decided to fictionalize the story and tell it from the viewpoint of Lindy, a 13 year old being raised in the woods by her Iraq vet father, and Jessica, one of the police officers who goes in after the father and daughter. The bulk of the story is told in a quickly paced action packed 24 hours, and I thought there’d certainly be no room for food, but as usually happens, it found it’s way into the story at just the right times.

There are many issues with living an outdoor, off the grid life, and eating. How do they acquire their food, what can they afford to buy? How much do they forage and grow for themselves? Lindy’s life changes forever on a day when she is off foraging for mushrooms and spies a great blue heron, one of her favorite birds, and follows it too far into civilization. On a journey to find sustenance, she finds instead the real world, and ultimately, her place in it.

After the police have taken the pair out of the woods, they are taken in by a kindly and grandmotherly pastor, who makes them scrambled eggs with real cream in the middle of the night, knowing they’ve been through a harrowing ordeal. The comfort and richness of the creamy eggs is a surprise to Lindy, as she’s only eaten eggs fried in the same oil they use to cook everything back in their camp. The comfort of home, of loving kindness, is a revelation.

And when the father and daughter find a home living with a farm couple, Lindy imagines the omelets that will be made from fresh chicken eggs, the meals they will have at a real kitchen table, and realizes how badly she wants these things.

None of these scenes were written with the intent of revealing anything other than to just keep the story moving, but we all harbor deep emotions about food and nourishment, about being fed, about feeding others. The joy I get from writing novels is uncovering these little gems as I sit, day after day, in front of a computer screen, letting a story unfold.

When She Flew is Jennie’s fourth novel. She lives in Seattle, WA, and is working on a new book that is also inspired by true events. Jennie has a terrific website that is filled with information about her books and what is happening in her career. All Jennie Shortridge fans should check it out!

Jennie, I'd like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to include Books and Cooks in your promotional tour. And I'd also like to wish you continued success with your books. I am looking forward to going back and reading your other books. Needless to say, I am a forever fan of Jennie Shortridge!

Take a look at Jennie's books:

Jan 10, 2010

The Sunday Salon: it's Winter in Florida!

Hello Saloners! I realize the rest of the country has seen winter for weeks now, but it has finally reached Florida in a BIG way! Usually this time of year it gets cold at night, but this is crazy! When I woke up this morning it was 19 degrees with a wind chill making it feel like 16. Yesterday it was sleeting here in Ocala where I live but they actually had snow flurries in Daytona Beach, which is an hour to the east of me. I don't really mind the cold as long as I'm not out in it very long. In fact, I've been enjoying it for the most part. It's perfect weather to cozy up with a book and a cup of something hot. And that is exactly what I intend to do today.

Since its been so cold out, I've also been spending more time on the computer catching up on my blog reading and reconnecting with everyone after my brief hiatus last month. I also celebrated my 2 year Blogoversary last week and posted about it here. I still can't believe its been TWO years!

But as for today, I'm going to grab a couple books and curl up on my sofa in my Snuggie and spend the day reading and watching football. Sounds like a perfect Sunday to me! I started reading THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET by Karen White the other day and I immediately was drawn to the writing. The first paragraph of the first page was wonderful and I read it three times before continuing on with the book. Here's what I'm talking about -

Pewter reflections of scarlet hibiscus colored the dirt-smudged windows of the old house, like happy memories of youth trapped inside the shell of an old man. The broken pediments over the windows gave the house a permanent frown, yet the leaf-filtered sun against the chipped Tower-of-the-Winds columns lining the side piazzas painted the house with hope. It was almost, I thought, as if the house were merely waiting for a miracle. ~page 1

I just love that! I don't know if it's because I've worked in the custom home building business for so long or that I've always loved old houses, but I enjoy reading books about people and old houses and all of the discoveries found inside, both tangible and intangible. There's also another paranormal element to this book that piques my interest. I believe this book is going to be a real treat and I can't wait to get further into it.

That said, I'm off now to get settled in and begin my reading adventure. What plans do you have for your Sunday? Are you spending it with a book or are you braving the cold and going outside? Whatever your plans are, I hope your day is a good one!

Jan 9, 2010

Saturdays in the Kitchen

In the past, whenever I've shared a cooking blog or website, the response has been amazing. You've told me that you love those posts and to keep them coming. So, I'm going to do just that. Each Saturday I'm going to spotlight a new-to-me foodie blog or website. And I'll even share some of my favorite recipes too. A lot of you are like me - you enjoy cooking and are always on the lookout for new ideas for the kitchen. I think this will be fun and hopefully you'll enjoy it as well. Feel free to leave me comments and share foodie sites that you've found too!

So to get things started, today I am going to share with you a blog that I've found recently that features Southern cooking. Believe me, you don't have to live in the South to cook Southern food. The name of the blog is Southern Plate and is hosted by Christy Jordan. Like many of us book bloggers, Christy started her blog as a hobby because she loves to cook and she grew up watching her grandmother cook and share stories. Over the last year, her blog has blossomed into one of the most amazing and informative food blogs I have ever visited. In fact, Southern Plate was recently named Best Food Blog by Cotton Spice Quilting Magazine. (Which is a great magazine by the way). Hosting this blog isn't the only thing that keeps Christy busy. She also writes articles for different magazines and newspapers. She has really made a great success of her hobby. I encourage you strongly to take a few minutes and stop by this impressive blog. I guarantee you will find something that catches your eye. Be sure to click on the 'About' tab to read Christy's back story and to learn where some of her inspiration comes from.

Today on Southern Plate you will find a delicious recipe for Simple Tomato Soup. She takes a regular ole can of Campbell's Tomato Soup and turns it into a bowl of wonder by adding just a few simple ingredients. I know I will be trying that recipe very soon!

I really hope you do get the chance to visit Christy's blog and I'd love it if you came back and told me what you think of Southern Plate. I'm looking forward to continuing this Saturday feature on Books and Cooks and sharing my love of food and cooking with you. Bon appetite!

Jan 7, 2010

Friday Finds: 1.8.10

Friday Finds is a weekly meme hosted by MizB where we get to share books that caught our eye this week, whether they be new or not-so-new. I really like this meme even though it causes my TBR pile to wobble. Here is my find for the week:
THE TIN BOX by Holly Kennedy was her debut novel in 2005, although I just found out about it while reading the blogs this week. (Forgive me but I neglected to take note of whose blog I saw it on). It's the story of a motherless girl living in Canada, whose alcoholic father dies and she is taken in by neighbors. It follows her through her college years and to a secret that could destroy her family. This book received a lot of praise when it came out and I've added it to my list of 'must reads'. Have you read this book? If so, I'd love to know what you thought of it. What books did you find this week?

Booking Through Thursday: Gifts

Since this is the first BTT for the new year, today's question is a perfect way to kick it off. Barbara wants to know...

What, if any, books did you get for Christmas last month? (Or whatever holiday you celebrated last month) Do you usually ask for books on gift-giving occasions or do you prefer to buy them yourself?

Typically, since most of my family and friends are not big readers, I usually don't expect books as gifts. That said, my mom is familiar with Amazon and she knows about my Wish List on that site that has many books on it that I would love to have, but most of the time, I buy my own books. This year was the first year I received a gift card to a book store. It was from my sister and I was truly surprised. Linda is not a reader and like many other non-readers, books aren't something that comes to her mind when gift-giving. But I was thrilled to get it! Honestly, I don't think she realizes how much I love books and reading. She also made the comment one day that I get so many books from publishers and authors that I probably don't need to buy any books. But I quickly explained to her that although, yes, I do get many books that way, they aren't all necessarily what I would choose for myself. She hadn't thought about it that way and I think that's what prompted her to reconsider the book store gift card.

So yesterday, I went to the book store and I used my gift card! They had tables and tables of books on sale and I perused them for almost an hour - it was HEAVEN! Since I'm not able to drive, I rely on others to take me places, so I don't get many opportunities to spend a lot of time browsing for books. But I did come home with three that I am so excited about. They are . . .
  • ON AGATE HILL by Lee Smith - a post Civil War Historical Fiction book that I have wanted to read for awhile. (I may dive into this one first)
  • THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET by Karen White - Not only do I love the cover of this book, I've had my eye on it for some time.
  • THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE by Heather Gudenkauf - I saw this book on the blogs recently and knew I must read it.
When leaving the book store, my sweet mother saw John Grisham's FORD COUNTY and said, 'Oh, you had that on your list and I meant to get it for you and I totally forgot!' I smiled and said, 'That's OK Mom, I have a birthday coming in March!' as we went laughing out of the store.

What books did you get for Christmas?

Jan 6, 2010

Today Is My Blogoversary!

I can't even wrap my head around the fact that I've been blogging for two full years as of today! The decision I made back in January of '08 to create a blog centered around something I love to do - reading and talking about books - is one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life. But I have to admit that back then, I didn't have a clue about blogging! (I didn't even know what a 'comment' was!) And I most certainly didn't have a clue about all of the extraordinary people that were going to come into my life because of blogging. I consider myself very lucky to have stumbled into something that has brought me so much joy, not to mention many wonderful friendships.

In December of 2007, after hearing more and more about blogs on the internet, I got curious and decided to create one of my own, but I had no idea what I should write about, so that's when I started nosing around. I remember the actual day I ran across a book blog for the first time. It was Books On The Brain hosted by Lisa M. I remember I was at work (I know, my bad!) taking a break from what I was supposed to be doing, and somehow I landed on Lisa's blog. My first thought was 'WOW! THIS IS SO COOL!' I was so impressed with the professionalism of her blog, the amount of books she read, her wonderful reviews (and of course, her great sense of humor!) and all of the regular visitors that came and left comments for her on a daily basis. Obviously, I had been living with my head in the sand and had no idea of this whole other world out there. I knew then what I wanted to do. I started visiting her blog every day and I slowly began to learn. I learned about comments and blogging etiquette and through reading all of the other comments, I discovered other book bloggers who were doing the same thing Lisa was doing! It was FABULOUS! I had finally found my home on the internet!

I know I've said this before, but I have to say it again - THANK YOU LISA! You will always be #1 in my book. Whenever I had a question, Lisa graciously helped me and offered invaluable advice. I'd also like to thank all of you who stop by and visit my blog regularly. I know that I'm not the most current blogger who reads all the latest releases and I don't read a massive number of books each year, but I do love sharing what I do read and I appreciate all of you and I love reading your comments. They make my day!

I'd like to wish everyone a belated Happy New Year and wish you all the best in 2010!

Jan 5, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: 1.5.10

Teaser Tuesday is one of my favorite memes of the week. I haven't participated in several weeks so I'm glad to be back and sharing my books again. By now I'm sure you know the rules, but here they are just in case...
  • Grab the book you're currently reading
  • Let if fall open to a random page
  • Choose 2 consecutive sentences to share, being careful not to include any spoilers
  • List the title of the book and the page you took your teasers from
Today my teasers are from CLUB DEAD, the third installment of the Southern Vampire Mystery Series by Charlaine Harris. I was going to use another book I'm reading, but honestly, I was having a hard time getting into it and decided to go with the book I'm really enjoying instead. I'm sure most of you are familiar with this series, so I'll just get right to the teaser...

Engrossed in my unhappy thoughts, I didn't recognize trouble when it was standing right beside me. Until it grabbed me by the arm. ~ page 103

For those who don't know, Sookie, the main character in the series, is a human with the ability to read people's thoughts. This, as they say, can be a blessing and a curse. This ability, however, is useless with her vampire boyfriend, Bill. You see, Sookie can't read the minds of vamps, which is a good thing most of the time. In this installment, Bill comes up missing and Sookie fears vampires from another area are trying to kill him - for real.

If you'd like to read more fun teasers from other readers, visit MizB at Should Be Reading. She hosts this event each week and anyone is welcome to play along. It's a great way to peek into some really great books.

Jan 4, 2010

Musing Mondays: Reading Resolutions

Today's Musing Mondays post is about New Year reading. . .

With the New Year here already, do you have any reading resolutions or goals (challenges aside) for 2010? Perhaps a new author? Genre? Want to read more non-fiction? Want to write more reviews?

I do have a few reading goals for this year - I don't like to use the word 'resolution' though. That sounds too formal for me. The main goal is to spend more time reading the books from my own shelves. I have some terrific books there and I need to get busy reading them before buying any more or borrowing from the library. A couple in particular are THE POISENWOOD BIBLE, THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE and of course, THE BOOK THIEF, which I bought recently. Sounds like a good start to 2010 to me!

I'm also planning to finish the Southern Vampire Series by Charlaine Harris that I am really loving. Who knows, I may even break down and start reading the Twilight series. There are a few non-fiction books I have my eye on that sound interesting. One in particular is David Sedaris' ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY. I've had a few friends tell me it is really funny. I think I'm going to get the audio version as I've been told it is great.

I haven't completed my 2009 wrap-up post yet (I'm a little late to the party on that one!) but I plan to have that in the coming days. Last year I read a lot of debut authors and I think this year I want to read some authors that are not new, but are new to me. For instance, Elizabeth Berg, Beth Kephart and Michelle Moran to name a few.

I have noticed that there are so many challenges out there it must be hard to keep them all straight. Luckily, I don't have to. I don't do challenges. It's simply too much pressure for me. I don't plan my reading out that far in advance to know what I'm going to read a head of time. My reading choices change with my mood and I don't want to feel obligated to read a book simply because I joined a challenge. What I mean to say is, if I'm reading a book that I'm not really in the mood for, but feel I have to, I will more than likely not have as good a reaction to the book, than if I read it simply because I was in the mood for that book. I hope you can make sense of what I am trying to say. I don't mean to be a challenge snob, they are just not for me.

I'm looking forward to 2010 and all the wonderful stories that await me. Do you make reading resolutions? What plans do you have for this year? Musing Mondays is hosted weekly by Rebecca at Just One More Page. You can click here to find out what reading resolutions other book lovers have made.

Jan 2, 2010

[TSS] When She Flew by Jennie Shortridge

Here's a brief synopsis, being careful not to give too much away:

Jessica Villareal is a cop. She's also a mother but she considers herself a better cop than parent and whenever she talks to her daughter she's reminded of her motherly shortcomings. Regret has a big part in Jess's life. She regrets many things, but mostly the over-protectiveness of her daughter as a teenager that eventually pushed her to go live with Jess's ex-husband, taking her young grandson with her. She would give anything to go back and do things differently. But when you're a cop and you've seen the things Jess has seen, its easy to become obsessed with protecting your family.

WHEN SHE FLEW by Jennie Shortridge is a fictionalized story taken straight from actual events that asks the question What makes a good parent? Is good parenting determined by following societies interpretation of what acceptable parenting should be? Or is it a case by case basis taking individual circumstances into account? Is it illegal to go against the grain of society and do what you think is right for your child no matter what? And should you be persecuted for not conforming to 'normal' social practices?

These are the questions that Officer Villareal faces when she meets Lindy, a thirteen year old girl and her father, an Iraq war veteran who is down on his luck and living in the forests of Oregon. When Lindy is spotted near a wildlife preserve, and takes off running when she realizes she's been seen, fear for her safety becomes paramount. The police assemble an all out man hunt to find this supposed 'lost' child. What they find instead is a father and daughter living self sufficiently in the forest at a camp with sparse, but clean living conditions, a garden of fresh food and no evidence at all that the girl is being harmed in any way.

Things begin to get complicated when Jess learns more about Lindy's family life and disagrees with the actions of social services. As she gets to know Lindy and her father, she begins to understand the choices he's made. Her mothering instincts come out and at the same time she can't help reflecting on her relationship with her own daughter. Jess has always been a follow-the-rules kind of cop but she soon finds herself making decisions that could not only put her job in jeopardy, but also land her on the wrong side of the law.

Jennie Shortridge does an amazing job of telling this story in a way that unfolds beautifully and realistically while bringing to the forefront the different perceptions of the proper way to raise a child. It is told in alternating voices between Jess and Lindy, giving deep insight to each character. We learn that although Jess has made mistakes in her personal life, she is trying hard to make amends yet still stick to her principles. In Lindy, we discover a thriving, smart, teenager who, thanks to her father, appreciates the natural world around her. A girl who as she begins to mature is not naive to her circumstances. She realizes she has dreams of her own and that the situation with her father is unique. She is a young lady with a soul much older than her years, which in this case, is not necessarily a bad thing.

I was lucky enough to receive an early review copy of this novel and I knew once I read the first few pages I was going to like it. Not only did I like Jess right off the bat, I fell right into the groove of Shortridge's wonderful writing style. It was a very pleasurable read and now I'm looking forward to reading her previous book, LOVE AND BIOLOGY AT THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE that I've heard so much about. For more information on Jennie, her books and latest news, click here to visit her website.

Author: Jennie Shortridge
Publisher: NAL Trade
Published: November 2009
Pages: 352
Ratintg: 4.5/5 Stars