Monthly Archives: May 2014

IF THERE IS A PERFECT NOVEL, THIS MAY BE THE ONE

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Shotgun Lovesongs
Author: Nickolas Butler
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (2014)
Genre: Novel
304 Pages
Source: Library Copy

Many men will tell you the friendships they make in high school are some of the best of their lives. In this story readers come to know the importance of such friendships. This group of characters from small town Wisconsin includes Lee, the one who becomes a famous rock star, Henry, the local farmer, Ronny, an injured bull rider, and Kip, a commodities trader interested in making money and being noticed, along with a supporting cast of guy friends, wives, and girl friends.

These characters love each other; their secrets and desires ricochet through events, women and disaster, as they try to figure out what they want and how to move toward it. The narrative is likely to reach deep into the hearts of many readers, and certainly many mid-westerners. Neither fierce winds nor bone-chilling cold can move this story from its solid grounding in the fictional small town of Little Wing, Wisconsin.

This writer evokes the spirit and reality of the Midwest as well as any writer ever. Whether a description of Main Street in Little Wing or viewing life from the top of the feed mill, “better than any telescope, better than the planetariums”, or what the famous Lee sees when he returns to his home near Little Wing, “summer grasses and raspberry bushes…yellow-brown in patches”, the descriptions of the town, its parts and the surrounding countryside are deep and pure, a kind of truth hard to come by in fiction. A reader can exist in the landscape and sink into its soft, hallowed ground.

The people are just as true. They fill up the reader as easily as the land. Mexican workers eating huevos rancheros at the kitchen table of an older woman who rents out rooms, Henry’s father milking fifty Guernsey and Jerseys, and city-girl Felicia blowing up at the grocery market are examples. Because small town folks often believe in the possibilities out there in the big world, as well as at home, a reader can believe Ronnie on the Rodeo Trail, Lee’s break through to fame, Kip’s restlessness and Henry’s steadiness. Henry and wife Beth walk fast on Main Street in the Wisconsin winter. In a scene at the café, people and surroundings are so carefully drawn the reader knows almost all there is to know about Little Wing, and there are so many spcific places and people, all carefully painted. This is how a writer shows you the truth and depth of community.

There’s conflict and love running through every strand of this story. The voices of the characters tell it true. It’s a remarkable story––well-told. This novel deserves the highest rating and legions of readers.

MICHAEL SYMON BRINGS B SPOT BURGERS TO THE “D”

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The atmosphere was electric at the opening of B Spot Burgers last Saturday. Chef Michael Symon is known for award-winning burgers at locations in the Cleveland area. Now these burgers are here for you in Rochester Hills with more locations in the works.

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Wish I’d taken this picture, a welcome to B Spot Burgers. It shows a side view of the restaurant. Thank you B Spot Burger Facebook Page. But the welcome you don’t want to miss is inside.

We drove over in mid-afternoon. The place was hoppin’ and Chef Symon worked the kitchen and the crowd. He was courteous, fun and, as you might expect, knowledgeable and passionate about the food offered at B Spot: fantastic burgers, brats, beer and much more.

Come along and join the fun.

We ate burgers, stacked with great flavor. My Skinny Lizzie was luscious, cooked to perfection, jazzed with pickle choices and Lola Ketchup. Jerry enjoyed the New Jack City Burger with chorizo sausage, avocado, salsa verde, red pepper, onion and pepperjack cheese.

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Those crunchy onion rings were packed with flavor and if you want additional tangy layers of taste, try the coffee BBQ sauce. Jerry said it was definitely the sauce for the rings. And he is an expert on Onion Rings and BBQ sauce, or perhaps I might say, he is very experienced.

You may want to sauce you burger. Sauces at your service.

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I liked Lola ketchup. I dressed my Thin Lizzy with assorted pickles including a slice of pickled green tomato.

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Yes, there’s a pickle bar. Don’t miss it.
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Burgers are cooked to order: well, mid well, medium, mid rare and rare. In our chat with Chef Symon he talked about the quality products so important to his kitchen and the food he serves. Meat is ground from large muscle and the journey from source to plate is known. The cuts used include brisket. The menu lets customers know burger beef is Pat La Frieda’s custom grind. Chef Symon’s one-of-a-kind smile broadens and brightens when he talks about the magic of brisket. (You may wonder if that’s possible, but it is.)

The menu is filled with fun and the promise of all the foods and combos I might try next time. I can’t wait for a second visit. If you are not sure about the burgers on the menu, build your own. There’s also bologna and brats, salads, shakes, fries and more.

Here’s the wall of beer cans behind the bar with its big B. The drinks menu is extensive.

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Find complete menus at www.bspotburgers.com Follow them on facebook and twitter.

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Chef Symon bestowed his smile on all who entered. He was welcoming and friendly as he mingled with the crowd. It was easy to see his passion for the food and the restaurant.

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Staff was focused and working hard. This was after all the opening day. Our waitress was attentive and accommodating. The place looked like it was running smoothly, with lots of people moving this way and that to satisfy the customers who were coming in a steady flow in the late afternoon. No doubt evening was even busier. But I expect that the food continued to be the best.

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These burgers have been voted best burgers in America at the Sobe Burger Bash, 2010, 2012, and 2014. I challenge you to find a better burger in Detroit. I’d be very surprised. My Thin Lizzy lived up to the hype. I’ve not tasted better in this city. This place is definitely the new favorite for Jerry and I.

Location: the Village of Rochester Hills, a retail center located in the suburban Rochester Hills north of Detroit near the corner of Walton Road and Adams Road. Learn more about B Spot and the shopping area at www.thevorh.com

Check out B Spot. You won’t be sorry. Loose meaty grind, juicy, luscious, cooked-to-perfection, all the trimmings and a tasty bun that stands up to meat. How could you want more?

See you there, the place where burgers are crazy fun!

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5 NOT-TO-BE-MISSED SUMMER TV SHOWS

The Escape Artist. This three-part BBC thriller about a London barrister begins June 15 on PBS.

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Freedom Summer. June 24 on PBS this documentary for the “American Experience” series is from Stanley Nelson known for “The Murder of Emmett Till” and “A Place of Our Own.” The new program deals with the movement to register black voters in Mississippi in 1964.

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The Honorable Woman. Another thriller mini-series this time starring Maggie Gyllenhaal with a top-flight cast will begin airing on Sundance on July 31. She stars as a woman appointed to the House of Lords. Much of the cast is British and the show also airs on the BBC.

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Orange Is The New Black. Season 2 of this women’s-prison dramedy goes up on Netflix in its entirety on June 6. You all know this by now. But just in case, I thought I’d add it to the list.

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The Outlander. Based on the novels of Diana Gabaldon, this time-travel series arrives on Starz Aug. 9.

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Mark your calendars! Summer fun awaits!

FOOD TRUCKS AT MOTOR CITY STREET EATS

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Where can you eat smoky BBQ, pizza, hot and cheesy, tacos of various variety, burritos, scrumptious Mac and Cheese in reincarnations you’ve never heard of, creamy home-made ice cream, and more?

Late on a Wednesday afternoon in the Royal Oak Farmer’s Market barn-like building, Detroit food trucks gather offering good eats. Detroit BBQ Company sets up by the west entrance. Admission and entertainment are free. Festive lighting and upbeat music adds to fun. What really lights up the place is food, freshly prepared, hot and smelling like you want to sit down and eat right now. There are plenty of tables and chairs.

Here’s the line-up:

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Rollin Stone Wood Fired Pizza
This truck is set up at the south end of the market. With the hot oven they are parked so the truck is partially outside. The pizza makers toss the dough and pile on the fix-in’s. The pizza baker carefully loads his oven. Margherita pizza is one of their best sellers, but they have a tasty line-up. Those pizza savory aromas draw a crowd. Pizza is popular and I watch folks eat it with relish. It looks so good I can almost taste it.

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This truck gets around––Royal Oak, Howell, Eastern Market to name a few recent stops. Check their website to find them. Next time I see them, I’m having Margherita. Jerry will have Classic Pepperoni. I talked to some people who were smiling and chewing happily with their Chicken Mediterranean, and in fact, I felt I could fill up on the cheesy smell alone.

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Here’s the link. www.rollinstonewoodfiredpizza.com Find them on Facebook.

El Guapo Fresh Mexican Grill

www.elguapogrill.com is the link for this truck. It is a terrific website with pictures, the schedule and more. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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Several customers told me that this was the best place for Mexican-type food. And the steady line seemed to prove them right. The staff is especially friendly and hard working. Here you find specialties like Lucky Day Burritos with chicken, chorizo, beans and rice, cheese and guapo sauce, salsa, jalapenas and guacamole. WOW! Sounds good, looks good, and I saw folks with one piled high about to tell me it tastes good, or so I imagined as I watched them turn from the truck window to find a seat while carefully balancing the hugh burrito.

What a crew!

What a crew!

Mac Shack

Here customers lined up for macaroni and cheese delights with names like Papa Smurf, Cluck Like a Buffalo, Bacon Made Me Do It and the like. Papa Smurf was a big hit. It features mushrooms, parmesan cheese and caramelized onions.

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I asked a handsome young man, named by others as one of the most experienced eaters of food truck food what he liked best. He could hardly decide. Her named Paper Smurf, Shrimp and Cheese, Buffalo Chicken and Bacon Made Me Do It. I didn’t see the shrimp, so not sure about that. The crowd at the truck grew, and I didn’t have a chance to ask. Then he started saying what was great from other vendors: ribs, Swedish fish ice cream and bulldog chuck tacos. Wait, where were those? Maybe my hearing lapsed?

Mac Shack also featured something called poutine, described as beef brisket gravy and cheese sauce over fries topped with a fried egg. If you live for smothered fries, this is the dish for you.

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I saw some great looking food come out of this truck, and the line was long and steady.
Here’s their link: www.macshackmichigan.com. Check it out.

Jacques’ Tacos

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At this truck you will find tasty tacos and an unbelievable line-up of hot sauces. But for me, the best sauce was served on the taco, sauce vert made from cilantro and tomatillos and drizzled generously on my shrimp taco. With crispy shrimp and light and delicious slaw, the taco had good crunch and amped-up flavor, likely celery salt and some type of vinegar dressed the slaw. I loved it. Jacques served all kinds of tacos. Oh! Here’s the bulldog taco which is chicken according to the website. So I was hearing correctly. Check out their website and menu.
www.jacquestacos.com. Follow them on twitter and facebook.

Detroit BBQ Company

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Jerry was part of the long line for BBQ. He had enough for two meals, one to eat and one to take home. Brisket and pulled pork with cole slaw he labeled extremely good. He couldn’t dig into that succulent meat fast enough. He’d love to go back and buy more! They feature a variety of BBQ meats: beef, pork, chicken.

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Treat Dreams

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Salty Caramel was the choice. It was creamy, salty with just the perfect caramel taste.
This is homemade ice cream. And yes, they had Swedish fish ice cream. I’ll lieave you to figure that one out, or maybe you have an inkling. Creamy cool ice cream was the hit of the evening after spicy tacos, BBQ or pizza as far as many were concerned. YUM!
Check them out at www.treatdreams.com

BACK AT ELLEN’S

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Back at Ellen’s, this time for lunch.

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Silky smooth lobster bisque with large chunks of lobster. It was exquisite: the taste, the feel of it on your tongue, the aroma. What a way to start a meal!

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The menu here will draw you into a memorable eating experience. There are too many good things to list. Here’s the link to their website and complete menu.

www.ellensbakeryandcafe.com

We shared a crisp, hearty chef salad, so fresh, and an egg salad sandwich on toasted sour dough, the best of this type of bread I’ve eaten. The house-made ranch dressing at Ellen’s is indeed a special treat. At Ellen’s you can eat smart and eat well.

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What bread to buy is always a hard choice. We opted for hamburger buns this time, and they did not disappoint: toasted and delicious for our fish sandwiches at supper. We also took home some crisp, tangy coleslaw to go with the fish sandwiches.

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The bakery counter displays tempting sweets like cakes, muffins, éclairs, well you can see for yourself. This time, with much effort, we exercised restraint. But I dreamed of the almond apricot muffin I did not buy all week-end. That’s a reason to hurry back!

If you live anywhere in the Detroit area, don’t miss a chance to eat here. If you live far away, dream of finding a bakery as good as this one.

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INSPIRATION FROM HISTORICAL FICTION: WHO IS OUR NEIGHBOR?

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Sentinels of Andersonville
Author: Tracy Groot
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Tyndale (2014)
Hardcover edition: 368 pages
Source: Personal copy

How are some of the ordinary citizens of Americus, Georgia affected by their proximity to Andersonville Prison late in the Civil War? And what of the soldiers assigned to duty there? Some of these characters refuse to walk on by and are drawn into a fight against the inhumane conditions there.

In recent posts on this blog, we’ve talked about the personal and the passionate when it comes to reading choices. For me, this book is the most enjoyable read so far in 2014. Yes, I like historical fiction and especially the Civil War era. And, I’m a pushover for characters trying to do the right thing. The unforgettable heroine Violet Stiles is not a sentimental Southern girl, but one who is fierce and feisty.

This book is much more than just a read I enjoyed. It is more than a personal choice of material, no matter the passion.

Christy Award-winning author Tracy Groot asks some important questions with her engrossing story and memorable characters. How do we show mercy? Who is your neighbor? What happens when one finds that a situation is not as it seemed? When faced with a seemingly unsolvable dilemma: what are you not doing that you wish you would? What will a person dare in the name of what one believes?

She provides some answers with a heart-warming, engrossing story. It reminds readers the importance of kindness and compassion. We see something of how ordinary citizens are affected by Andersonville Prison, allowed to become a killing ground, located only ten miles from their homes. And we meet soldiers that serve there and watch the horror?

The clarity of her believable plot holds suspense at every turn of the page. The characters are finely drawn. Violet and her family face accusations of treason as they try to bring to light the awful conditions at the prison. Every character is distinct and believable. The dialogue is some of the best I’ve ever read. It carries the story and takes the reader inside the characters, male and female, old and young.

I highly recommend this extraordinary story and what it says about history and human nature. But lessons and philosophy aside, the book is relaxing and fun. Yes, there is romance, too. It is a most enjoyable read.

More about Tracy Groot at her website www.tracygroot.com

I didn’t get a chance to meet this author at the Festival of Faith and Writing last month, but I did pick up her book. She lives in Michigan, and I hope another opportunity to meet her comes along. This is the first I’ve read her work, and I can’t wait to read another of her books. As always, please share your comments.

WHICH BOOK INTERESTS YOU: TEN INTRIGUING CHOICES

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WHICH BOOK INTERESTS YOU: TEN INTRIGUING CHOICES

So many interesting books out there means choices about what to pick up next. Have fun deciding what you might add to your reading pile. Here’s ten books you may want to carefully consider.

1. The Accidental Feminist: The Life of One Woman through War, Motherhood, and International Photojournalism by Toby Molenaar. (2014) Memoir. Her adventures, her husbands, her revinventions: learn about history, travel and photography.

2. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, (2014) Novel. Can persons be good to one another? We want to believe that. A blind heroine named Marie-Laurie negotiates her life during World War II. Her story converges with the story of a German orphan when they come together in Saint-Malo, France.

3. The Discovery of Middle Earth: Mapping the Lost World of the Celts by Graham Robb. (2013 History. Available in paperback. Travel across Europe discovering the ancient secrets of the Celts.

4. Everybody’s Got Something by Robin Roberts. (2014). Memoir. This book debuts in third place on the NYT Nonfiction Best Seller List. Readers will likely continue to want to listen to her upbeat, optimistic voice. She usually delivers with dignity and this book is likely no exception.

5. The Gold Finch: A Novel by Donna Tartt. (2013) Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and 27 weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers List for Fiction. The story of a thirteen-year-old boy, tragic loss and a missing painting make for a thrilling mystery.

6. The Last Kind Words Saloon by Larry McMurtry. (2014) Novel. There’s nowhere I’d rather be than back in the Old West with Larry McMurtry telling the story.

7. Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby. (2014) Biography. This book has received high praise as fascinating and intelligent.

8. My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer. (2013) Essays. The poet and editor of Poetry Magazine reflects on language and difficult life experiences. He finds beautry in what we cannot understand.

9. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin. (2014). Humor, romance and suspense plus a strong recommendation from a friend of mine who is a knowledgeable reader. And, its about a bookstore––a topic to make me want to read it as soon as possible.

10. Unexploded by Alison MacLoed. A thoroughly researched historical novel set in the British seaside resort of Brighton during the early years of World War II.

Please comment. If you have read one of these, give us your opinion. And do tell us which one most interests you. As always, thanks for sharing your ideas and opinions.

MOTHER-DAUGHTER READER INTERVIEW

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Reader Interview with Abby Adair and Kim Bowden-Adair
Conducted April-May, 2014

1. Tell us about what you are reading.
Abby: Right now I’m in the middle of reading the last Harry Potter book. I never read the whole series as a kid––the fantastical names like Dumbledore and Severus posed too much of a challenge to my second grade mind, plus my brother loved them; and it was not cool to like anything that your brother did. (It still isn’t!)

The Harry Potter series definitely gives me a much-needed break from the academic reading I do for my history major. I’ve been working my way through the series sporadically between other novels over the past four years.

Kim: Right now I’m, reading This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Trotter. I’m about to start The Bone Yard: A Body Farm Novel by Jefferson Bass. I just finished Orange Is The New Black by Piper Kerman.

2. Do you have a favorite book of the last year?
Abby: Well, much of 2013 I spent reading Under the Dome by Stephen King. It’s about 700 pages long and was very good but took forever to read! I wouldn’t call it my favorite, but it is what I spent most of my time with. Right after I finished, I read The Fault In Our Stars by John Green in about four days. I highly recommend it. I actually cried reading it. I didn’t know it was possible to cry from a book but this brought me to tears. I believe the movie is coming out in a few months. Read the book first!

Kim: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

3. What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
Abby: Right now I have about 30 books (not exaggerating) out from the library about World War I and its aftermath. I just finished writing my undergraduate thesis about how the American press reacted to the fact that the Allied powers continued to blockade Germany, cutting off all food and raw materials for nine months after the war ended. I just turned the 80-page paper in on Monday and even though I’m done writing, 30 books is a lot to carry and I can’t bring myself to return them just yet.

Kim: The Hunger Games Trilogy and several of the Shopaholic series. I’m a bit sheepish about admitting to reading such trivial books and to be honest because of my book clubs, I don’t have a lot of time to wallow in mindlessness.

4. What authors, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?
Abby: Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, Steig Larson, author of the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series, and Curtis Sittenfeld, author of American Wife. These authors have written the books that I am most fascinated with. They all feature female characters who achieve great amounts of success, and I do not think there is enough of that in what people read these days. They empower me and make me dream and aspire to new heights. I think that every young girl should be reading books like these because they need something to look up to, something more than romance and marriage that you find so often in young adult and popular novels.

Kim: Jen Lancaster, Pearl Buck, Ann Patchett

5. Is there an author you wish more people would read.
Abby: I don’t have an answer to this. I just wish more people read. I know a lot of people, especially college students, who never read for fun because they don’t have enough time. I’ve found that making time for reading for fun is essential. It keeps you relaxed and feeling like a normal person, and not like everything is spiraling out of control (college does that to a person sometimes!) If more people read something they actually enjoyed even five minutes a day then maybe they would be happier, smarter, more thoughtful, empathetic, and imaginative.

Kim: I don’t have a suggestion. To me book selection is very personal. What inspires, intrigues, draws me in, may not be what does that for someone else.

6. Do you have a favorite genre, or not?
Kim:
Being part of two book clubs I’ve had the opportunity to read a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction, and while I tend to like fiction more, book clubs have provided me the opportunity to read a wider selection of books than I would normally. Having said that, I like reading books with strong female protagonists.

Abby: I like a lot of different things: historical fiction, thrillers/mystery, love stories, books with strong female leads.

7. What book was a disappointment and why?
Kim:
A particular book title doesn’t come to mind. At one time once I started a book I finished it whether I liked it or not, no matter how long it took me to read it. However, about ten years ago I made the decision to let myself not finish a book if it wasn’t engaging me after 50 pages. Sometimes it takes effort to wade through the start of a book to really get the author’s intent so I give them 50 pages!

Abby: The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. I got this book two or three years ago and I just can’t get into it. Every time I finish a book I try to go back to this one, but something else always grabs my attention and I set the Power of One back on the shelf. It’s a disappointment because I hardly ever start a book and not finish it. So, it’s always looming in the back of my mind as unfinished business.

8. Why do you read?
Kim:
My love of reading was instilled in me by my parents, who both loved to read. One of my earliest memories is my Dad and I reading the funnies in the newspaper. I also remember bringing home my first Scholastic Book Club book order when I was in first grade and just loving the fact that the books belonged to me, and I didn’t have to return them to the library. I spent a lot of time at the library.

Abby: Reading brings a sense of normalcy into my crazy life. Ever since I can remember I have read every night before I fall asleep. Being able to keep that routine is something that is very important to me because it is relaxing and helps me to forget everything I’m stressed about and prepares me for a good night’s sleep.

9. Where do you read?
Kim:
My favorite place to read is in bed. I usually read 20-30 minutes before I fall asleep. There is no place that I don’t read really, at my desk during lunch, in the car when we’re traveling, outside, etc. That’s the greatest thing about the Kindle; it fits in my purse and I can take it anywhere.

Abby: The majority of my reading takes place in my bed. Sometimes I can only get through one or two pages before I fall asleep though! During the summer I might read on the beach on vacation or on my porch on a day with nice weather.

10: What books are in your waiting-to-be-read pile?
Kim: The Clifton Chronicles by Jeffrey Archer, Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier and selections from the book clubs.

Abby: The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouack, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

11. How do you decide what to read?
Kim:
Mainly book clubs, there’s usually some discussion around several authors and then a decision is made. Also, book reviews, newspaper or magazine articles, the website Good Reads, or Amazon, and, good old fashion bookstore or library browsing.

Abby: I look at reviews, usually. A lot of times I’ll just go on Amazon and look at their featured book lists and pick from there. When I decided to read Under the Dome, I was looking for a long and relatively cheap book so I could get more bang for my buck which I definitely got! Also, I see what my mom is reading/has read as well. She’s in a few book clubs so she’s always reading something new.

12. And from Kim to close out the interview:
Recently a number of women in my neighborhood started a Mystery Book Club where we read only mysteries or detective novels. So far my favorite author is Elmore Leonard. We read City Primeval. I read him for the first time last fall after his death. I went to the estate sale at his house, not to buy anything, but out of curiosity. I wanted to see his environment. I was impressed as to the level of the outdoors he brought inside.

I love to read. It’s truly a part of me. It was pure pleasure introducing my kids to reading. I’m proud to say they are avid readers themselves.

Note from Paulette: This busy college student who is a recent University of Michigan honors graduate and her working Mom, who volunteers endlessly, have important things to say about reading. I deeply appreciate the willingness of these two Michigan readers to respond to interview questions and share a bit of their reading lives. Abby is one terrific cheerleader for reading! Don’t miss her response to question number 5. I want to give her a big fat hug. She will carry my reading torch through this century.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there, and especially to all the Mother-Daughter readers. This is your time to shine!

FOOD FLICKS COMING THIS SUMMER

Are you hungry for a good food flick? Reading advance notices and listening as I research basics, it sounds like these films are a feast for the eyes. Laughter, relaxation and maybe some thought-provoking moments are in store for food movie buffs. Enjoy.

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Chef. This one is a comedy written and directed by Jon Favreau and is winner of 2014 Tribeca Film Festival Audience Award. It stars Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johannsson, Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Downey Jr. That’s quite a cast. Summaries sound like Follow the Food Truck Meets Four-Star Food. Coming soon.

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Farmland. Directed by Oscar winner James Moll, this documentary takes a look at the lives of the people who grow our food. It tells stories from across the county about folks in the farming business. It premiered at the Atlanta Film Festival and is an official selection at a number of other festivals. Opening soon.

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Fed Up. A documentary narrated by Katie Couric, written and directed by Stephanie Solchtig with Laurie David as producer. Do we get sick from the food we eat? Why are so many American children obese? Food for thought on these issues. Pun intended. Opening in theaters now.

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Land Ho. Two retirees road-trip through Iceland. What will they eat there? According to advance word, this comedy travelogue-type movie boasts excellent performances by Paul Einhoorn and Earl Lynn Nelson and is directed by Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz. The film was a pick at the Tribeca and Los Angeles Film Festivals. It opens July 11.

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Le Chef. This French comedy stars Jean Reno. In a crisis, folks head for the kitchen. This movie is set to open in June. Advance reviews call it essentially light-weight but fun.

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The Hundred Foot Journey. In this movie by noted director Lasse Hallstrom, the story is about restaurant wars in the South of France. Helen Mirren stars. The release date is sometime in August. The film was shot in France and India; the production company is Dreamworks Studios. We are bound to hear more about this one.

Would you rather cook food, read about food, or see a food movie? All three can be fun. Let us know which movie you might choose.

AMERICA’S OLDEST SPORT: DERBY DAY, SCANDAL AND 5 BOOKS ABOUT HORSE RACING

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The Kentucky Derby is upon us. I write this on Derby Day. I’m thinking of jockey Rosie Napravnik, the weather, and the controversies surrounding the sport of horse racing. Images from my visits to Saratoga Race Track fill my head.

Horse racing is beautiful. I love to see these gorgeous animals as they run. They deserve the best treatment. I fear a significant some are not treated as they should be. People ask me if I ever write about sports. In spite of the fact that one of my best-loved books is Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand, I have to say, “not often.”

Today, in honor of Derby Day, here are five books for readers to consider reading or rereading.

1. Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand. (2002)

2. Secretariat by William Nack (2010)

3. Horse Heaven (novel), by Jane Smiley (2001)

4. The Horses of Oak Valley Ranch Series, (novels for fifth graders and older) by Jane Smiley

5. 150 Years of Racing In Saratoga: Little-Known Stories and Facts from America’s Most Historic Racing City. By Allen Carter and Mike Kane (2013)

To my surprise, I was unable to find books about the current state of the horse racing industry, not did I find any in-depth magazine pieces. Either they must be there and I didn’t look hard enough, or sports writers need to seriously consider the subject. What books are published suggest readers are more interested in betting and winning than in the treatment of horses. Scandal and undercover investigations by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) are ongoing. There’s plenty of information and controversy out there.

I admit images of these marvelously beautiful animals in pre-race parade and pounding down the track are tarnished, even blackened, by those who believe multiple painful drugs are necessary to win races.

When will we see real drug reform in horse racing?

At present, I don’t find an answer to this question.

I flip the coin to the hopeful side. I hope your favorite Derby contender has a good run. I hope sports-writers will continue to keep the important issues of the sport before the public. I hope more horse owners and trainers will put animal well-being before winning. I, for one, would be more likely to wager or attend races if I believed my favorite jockey was on a well-cared-for horse rather than one who might been mistreated.

If you have ever visited a race track, watched a horse race on television or read Seabiscuit, please comment. And if you shun this sport, tell us why.