Sunday, July 27, 2014

Weekend reads and starting the moving process...

We've finally found someplace to live, so we're really trying to start packing now rather than do it the night before. 

My wife was out-of-town this week, and I had some vacation days, so I spent most of my time deal with the 700+ books we culled from our library.  We sold about 200, mostly my wife's books from grad school, and we had friends adopt another 200.  (I spent my Friday mailing nearly two dozen packages of books to various folks, including a massive box to Amy of Passages to the Past!)  The rest were donated to a variety of places -- book clubs, a literacy program, a few libraries.  I can't believe how big my apartment looks!

My weekend read is Kate Quinn's Mistress of Rome -- earlier in the week I declared a Kate Quinn summer -- and so far, I am in love.  I need some juicy escapism right now, especially as the cardboard boxes stack up!

What did you read this weekend?  Any great moving tips you want to share?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Winner!

Another busy, lovely weekend, and I'm thrilled to be facing a week off to do some power writing on my novel (second draft, here I come!).

The winner of The Tilted World is ... Katherine of Historical Fiction Notebook!

No new giveaways at the moment and I'm not precisely sure when more will be coming.  I'm back to reading daily but still haven't hopped on a bunch of tours since I've no idea when this funk might return.

I have to mention that the website for the Historical Novel Society's 2015 conference is now live with some details.  I adored it when I went in 2013 -- my first time -- and I'm eager to go again. (I'm working on having my wife come along with Little Reader!) If you're a fan of historical fiction, consider attending -- it's incredibly reader friendly, comfortable and non-clique-y/snobbish, and fascinating.  Feel free to email me or leave any questions here if you want more details.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Weekend reads and being kitchen-y...

This weekend I'm reading A Triple Knot by Emma Campion.  I've stalled out on my reading once more -- I went on a refrigerator pickling tear earlier this week so at least I was productive!

We had a huge amount of produce from our CSA about to go off so I did some googling and discovered that a cup of white vinegar, boiled with spices, and poured over veggies makes an excellent pickle. (This recipe was my blueprint although I played fast and loose with amounts.)

I ended up making "traditional" pickles with dill, peppercorns, mustard seeds, and celery seeds, a more "Asian" inspired batch with ginger, mirin, and all spice, some garlicky greens with red pepper flakes, a pseudo-giardiniera, and my triumph, blueberries and white peaches pickled with cinnamon, clove, and honey.  The only problem: these pickles only last about ten days and it's waaaaay more than my wife and I can consume in that time.  (Here's hoping my friends enjoy them as I plan to spend the weekend foisting pickles on them!)

What are you reading this weekend? And do you have any ambitious kitchen/cooking plans?

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly

Title: The Tilted World
Author: Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 1920s / Mississippi / Natural Disaster / Prohibition / Marriage / Motherhood)
Publisher/Publication Date: William Morrow Paperbacks (6/10/2014)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Loved.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: A bootlegger and an IRS revenue agent cross paths in a small town on the Mississippi in 1927.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do but it really has nothing to do with the story!

I'm reminded of...: Ann Weisgarber, Jenny Wingfield

First line: Dixie Clay was squelching through the mud along the creek's swollen banks, shooing mosquitoes with her hat, when she saw a baby coffin bobbing against a sycamore snag.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy!

Why did I get this book?: I love me some 1920s!

Review: This delicious novel is penned by a novelist and poet, who co-wrote the entire thing, creating an atmospheric, emotional, and vivid story of love, place, betrayal, and violence. I apologize now if my review doesn't convey my deep like and enthusiasm for this novel -- writing reviews recently has been hard! (Pregnancy brain! and all that, right??)

Set in 1927 in a fictional town on the Mississippi, the story is split between Dixie Clay, a bootlegger who lost her son two years ago; and Ted Ingersoll, a IRS agent searching for two murdered revenue agents with his partner Ham Johnson. But the plot isn't precisely a cat-and-mouse tale, nor a will-they-or-won't-they love story, as the threat of the Mississippi flooding over its levees colors everything and everyone.

Ingersoll, a jazz-loving orphan who fought in Europe during World War I, stumbles upon an infant when he and his partner investigate the scene of a shootout. Loathe to leave the child at an orphanage, on the recommendation of a shop keeper he gives the baby to a young housewife, pretty Dixie Clay.

Dixie, still heartbroken over the death of her infant, clings to the new child, disbelieving -- and unwilling to give him up even when her good-for-nothing husband threatens her. While Ingersoll and his partner masquerade as engineers arrived to help fortify the levees against the swelling Mississippi, they quickly learn that Dixie Clay's swank and swaggering husband is an ambitious criminal, and Ingersoll has to reconcile his interest in Dixie with his desire to do his job well.

There's a love story in this novel that is predictable, but I didn't mind, as I just adored both Dixie and Ingersoll. The flood of 1927 was totally new to me, despite being considered by some to be the worst natural disaster to ever occur in our country, and the events and impact of the flood were fascinating and disturbing and made for a fantastic backdrop to this story.

I'll admit I was curious how coherent the story would feel with two authors. My apprehension was that the two viewpoints would be split between the authors -- Ingersoll penned by Franklin and Dixie by Fennelly -- and according to the Reader's Guide included with the novel, this was the original plan. In the end, however, both authors worked on both characters and sections, and the resulting prose is just gorgeous -- lyrical, poetic, rich, and action-filled.

As one who is going to give birth in a few months, I enjoyed Dixie's ruminations on motherhood and parenting -- I haven't been drawn to fiction around those themes for some reason, but welcomed them here. (Fennelly wrote Great With Child, a volume of letters she sent to a pregnant friend -- "These are letters I would have welcomed when I was pregnant," she said -- and if they're half as tender and thoughtful as her writing here, I'm going to love them.)

For those who enjoy Jazz Era-novels but want something different, consider this one -- I haven't stumbled over many novels that feature jazz fans and flappers that aren't set in a large urban center. Fans of fiction set in the South absolutely will want this book -- place is a very rich character here! Thoughtful and action-filled, this is a wonderfully escapist novel with two very appealing characters and an absorbing story.

*** *** ***

GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The Tilted World to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian readers, ends 7/18.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Weekend reads and I'm reading again...

I finished a book (albeit a short one) in a single night, and I swear, I feel like I can breathe deeply again!

For the last few months, reading has taken such effort, I've avoided it, but something just switched (thankfully!) and I'm hungering for the written word once more. 

Yesterday I started and finished Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. It's poetic dystopian-ish sci-fi, a little psychological, a smidgen confusing, and really gripping.  I was creepied out all night, and can't wait to get my hands on the sequel.

My weekend reads is Jaime Lee Moyer's Delia's Shadow, which is a historical mystery slash ghost story. It's light and fun, and I hope to finish it today as there are books I'm ready to dig into. I feel voracious now!

What are you reading this weekend?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Winner!

For those in the US, hope you had a safe 4th of July!  We've had a hectic weekend of apartment hunting and cleaning, and I can't believe I'm looking forward to work as it'll be more restful!

Just one giveaway winner this week:

The winner of Mrs. Poe is ... Diana S.!

Congrats to the winner!  I'll have more giveaways this week although with my life turmoil, I've cut down on accepting review copies.  Hope folks don't mind -- I'm in another reading rut, too, so apologies for the lackadaisical posting.  I hope to get my reading mojo back soon.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Midweek update

The one shot where he looked human!
I have to apologize for seemingly disappearing -- I know I've barely updated here and have virtually stopped visiting all of you -- and I'm sorry!

My personal life is just a bit emotionally tumultuous right now, and I'm having a v hard time pausing to read -- or focusing long enough to digest words on the page!  The biggest stressor has been a sudden need to find new housing -- we have to leave our apartment in August and it wasn't something we planned on doing.  Scrambling to find a place we can afford (and that can fit a us and a new baby!) is tough and not a stress I need right now!

In happy news, I'm at 21 weeks and things seem to be going really well.  I started to feel the Little Reader moving, which is pretty incredible.  But last Mon I had to euthanize my cat of 16 years and I'm still feeling heartbroken about that.  (I admitted to friends I'm devastated to learn I don't have reserves of steely resolve like a romance novel heroine; instead, I'm kind of like a bag of cotton balls, apparently. Wet ones.)

I promise to return to book reviews -- starting tomorrow, actually, with the fabulous The Tilted World.  I inhaled Sally Beauman's The Visitors, too, and will hopefully review it soon -- my list of to-be-written reviews gets longer and longer!

I've just started Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation -- speculative/sci-fi-ish-ness isn't always my thing (I'll admit, the science makes me cross-eyed) but I just love VanderMeer's stuff and I could use some serious escapist fiction right now.  Throw recs at me if you've got 'em -- what are you reading?