Monthly Archives: November 2015

SIX CHARACTERISTICS TO APPLAUD: THE MOCKINGJAY- PART II

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama, Action/Adventure, Fantasy
Directed By: Frances Lawrence
Written By: Danny Strong, Suzanne Collins, Peter Craig
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Julianne Moore
Runtime: 137 minutes

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1. Costume Design
2. Special Effects
3. Jennifer Lawrence is amazing in her leading role.
4. The romance between Peeta and Katniss continues and the triangle with Gale is resolved.
5. A Satisfying conclusion to the tale with a beautiful epilogue.
6. Strong themes that resonate in current culture.

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This final movie in the series (books and films) is an important wrap-up to what is arguably the defining series of our time. The story delivers a heft and a cohesiveness that is unusual in the action/adventure genre. All actors give strong performances. Jennifer Lawrence is, if possible, even better here than before. It is not surprise that she gravitates to other strong women. It is most exciting to see the actress Patina Miller speak to masses of people of every gender and color with power and persuasion.

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The images and the artistry as well as the characters will live on in the viewers’ memories in a good way for a long time. This movie seems to set the standard for excellence in a series.

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU AND YOURS

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Time to give thanks for so many blessings. So grateful for the support of family and friends. Family is not quite the same with our beloved Jerry not with us. And yet, there are new things, grandchildren one year older and enjoying the holidays, wonderful children and other family members to come together. He would be so proud of all of them.

We join in wishing you and your friends and family good travel, good times, and much love.

To blog readers sincere appreciation. There would not be a blog without you. You keep me going!

And to the people who share our world near and far, we wish the very best.!!

Praying and thanking God!

FIVE QUOTES TO PROPEL YOU THROUGH THANKSGIVING WEEK

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“There is no safety.” Amy Clampitt from “Black Buttercups”

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“That was the past…and it cannot be rescued.” Colm Toibin from Nora Webster

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You can drink excellent Sonoma cabernets for about half of what Napa charges.” Wine Spectator

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“at 160 out of the oven, it will go to 165 while resting” Mario Batali on Twitter

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Ree Drummond’s Lemony Green Beans from her new cookbook are the best I’ve ever prepared and eaten.” Paulette Lein (recipe available on-line)

ARE YOU READY FOR A NEW THRILLER?

Listed below are six recently released mysteries, all highly rated by internet sources. What are you real readers reading? Do tell! We want to know your pleasure and your poison!

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Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham (Oct. 2015)
Sebastian Rudd is the outrageous defender helming this tale.

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The Girl In the Spider’s Web by David Langercrantz (Sept. 2915)
More with Lisbeth Salander

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The Crossing by Michael Connelly (Nov. 2015)
Another story featuring Harry Bosch.

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The Lake House: A Novel by Kate Morton (Oct. 2015)
Set in Cornwall, England, this intricately plotted story sounds too good to miss.

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All Dressed In White by Mary Higgins Clark (Nov. 2015)
This novel is second in the Under Suspicion series.

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Guilty by David Baldacci (Nov. 2015)
Will Robie goes overseas on a critical mission.

A THOUGHTFUL TIMELESS TALE TOLD IN AN ANCIENT PLACE

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The Cleaner of Chartres
Author Salley Vickers
Genre: Novel
Publisher: Penguin 2012
Paperback Edition: 298 pages
Source: Personal copy

A medieval cathedral, completely rebuilt after a fire in 1194, is located in the old French town of Chartres. The author Salley Vickers transports readers to this place and as we live in the story she tells, we come to know something of this interesting building with its fascinating details.

Her heroine, a special woman named Agnes Morel cleans the famed place and does other odd jobs in the community. We spend time with her and learn her rather desperate story in bits and pieces. We meet some of the townspeople and so come to know her community. Agnes’ story of loss, confusion, and despair is rendered more mysterious by the author’s use of time and place. Like the details of Agnes and her experiences, time and place are not ordered as we might expect. This is both illuminating and confusing.

An orphan, Agnes is a character who climbs into the reader’s heart. One wants to touch and mend her like the Doll Doctor fixes a broken doll in the story. This novel demands careful reading. Pay attention to the many minor characters. The wise writing requires thoughtfulness. It is not a long tale and is written lightly, the better to deal with its profound themes: anger, terror, confusion, despair, loss and grief. Though Agnes is a character unable to read, she asks profound questions. “Is it because death is good that God allows it?”

Ordinary people fill this tale. No one is larger than life. In spite of a beautiful old cathedral and a mysterious crypt, the story is not other worldly. Its despairs are all too real. As such, it is an entirely thought-provoking tale. I look forward to hearing the author speak about the book at the Festival of Faith and Writing next spring. There is so much more to know.

MATCH GAME/WIN A BOOK

Independent bookstores are often featured on readeatlive/blog
Match these pictures to the names of the bookstores featured on this blog.

This is a new contest. Five winning entries will receive a fiction book. In the comment sections, replies, match the letter of the picture group to the number of the bookstore name. If there are more than five winners, names will be drawn to determine who receives a book. There are five combinations to match.

Contest will close at midnight Monday, November 16.2015

Let’s see how this goes. Have fun!

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B.

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C.
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D.
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E.

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1. McLean and Eakin, Petoesky, MI
2. Bookbeat, Oak Park, MI
3. Prairie Lights, Iowa City, Iowa
4. Downtown Books and Purl, Apalachicola,Florida
5. Maleprop Bookstore, Asheville, North Carolina

FIVE NEW COOKBOOKS: A QUICK SURVEY

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MICHAEL SYMON’S FIVE IN FIVE FOR EVERY SEASON by Michaeal Symon

Why I Like Michael Symon: Recipes are fast and easy. He cooks like I like to eat, often with a protein and a vegetable, easy sauce. He’s the nicest guy on the planet, love him on The Chew, and I met him and interviewed him for the blog at the opening of his Rochester Michigan restaurant, B Spot!
What Caught My Eye: Orecchiette with Sicilian Tuna. These items are in my panty. Comfort food at its best!
Time to Explore: How to warm up my winter cooking. Scallops, Beef Tri-Tip, Squash with Couscous, Mint and Almonds. Sounds good! I’d like to try it with Quinoa.
Extras: Pantry List. Mine needs an update!
Link: Michaelsymon.com

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THE PIONEER WOMAN COOKS DINNERTIME by Ree Drummond.

Why I like Ree Drummond: Her food is always a hit with the people I feed, and I love her photographs!
What Caught My Eye: How could I pass up that red cover? Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce. The sauce is whisk and slurp and makes the chicken something to love. (Yes, I steal food words from her. Thanks Ree)
Time to Explore: Veggie Sides and Quick Desserts. Honestly she doesn’t fix anything that doesn’t taste good. I can’t wait to fix her Roasted Carrots with Vinaigrette. My dessert offerings are so paltry. I must find one I can produce.
Extras: First of all her cookbook offers so many recipes she doesn’t need extras, but pictures of food and ranch life in Oklahoma are indeed an added bonus!
Link: thepioneerwoman.com I’m still getting use to her updated website and blog.

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EVERYONE IS ITALIAN ON SUNDAY by Rachael Ray

Why I Like Rachael Ray: She is so upbeat, and she cooks fast!
What Caught My Eye: Butternut Squash Galette. So beautiful and yummy looking with a good blue cheese.
Time to Explore: Polenta Recipes such as Polenta With Tipsy Mushrooms, Poached Eggs and Green Salad. Maybe I’ll try the Caponata. Will I ever like eggplant?
Extras: She gives substitutions if items are less readily available. There are probably more, but I haven’t purchased this one, yet?!
Link: www.rachaelray.com

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THE SANDWICH BIBLE: 90 BEST SANDWICH RECIPES IN THE UNIVERSE by Julie Hatfield

Why I Like This One: No need to look for a perfect sandwich, I like so many! I’ve always wanted a sandwich cookbook.
What Caught My Eye: A large selection of vegetarian sandwiches. Spinach with caramelized onions. How does that sound?
Time to Explore: The relationship between the elements of a sandwich.
Extras: Many recipes for spreads to compliment sandwich ingredients.
Problem: Only the Kindle edition is available on Amazon. What’s up with that?

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Essential Emeril: Favorite Recipes and Hard-Won Wisdom From My Life in the Kitchen by Emeril Lagasse

Why I Like Emeril: On TV he makes cooking look fun, interesting and not too complicated.
What Caught My Eye: Short Ribs with Mascarpone Polenta. Creamy polenta and deeply flavored beef. What a combination! Cheddar, Bacon, Apple, and Pecan Spoonbread.. Oh, my I believe him when he says “it is insanely good served with any kind of poultry.” I don’t think the poultry is necessary to the goodness of this spoonbread!
Time to Explore: There is tremendous variety. The soup section will be the first I will study.
Extras: Some recipes have an inset with additional info. For example. chorizo and chourico on p. 75 with a recipe for caldo verde, a traditional Portuguese soup. A side bar often tells the reader what Emeril has learned and where he learned it. He warns of problems, too, such as when he says “don’t use a blender or food processor to mix dough for gnocchi or you’ll end up with a gummy mess.” He also has sections for the pantry and other kitchen essentials.
Problem: The recipes are more complicated than I expected. Example: citrus salt-crusted snapper with chimichurri sauce. Looks so good, but probably too complicated for me. And gnocchi. I don’t think I’m up to that! But, I must say there are wonderful pictures and plenty of advice.

I do believe that part of the appeal of cookbooks, at least for me, is the endless learning they offer. Always something new on the next page, or the next. And so much of it is so beautiful!

Last night I made Ree Drummond’s carrots, roasted with vinaigrette. I learned I need to keep uniform size, not too skinny since they are roasted, and go easy on the mustard in the vinaigrette. It doesn’t take much to deliver the desired tang. Yes, they looked beautiful, a bit browned and glossy with the dressing. The result of efforts with food usually yields one kind of surprise or another. I will make this recipe again, delicious and beautiful. I think my grandkids will like it! Better than raw which is a favorite of theirs.

DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE COLD

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Fourth of July Creek
Author: Smith Henderson
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2014
Genre: Fiction
Paperback Edition: 467 pages
Source: Personal copy

This debut novel has received much critical acclaim. “Not-to-be-missed”, “best book I’ve read this year,” “impressive”. Superlatives and praise from every corner have continued since the hardcover publication. It seemed to this reader that I was drowning in the calls to read this book. When I saw it out in paperback at McLean and Eakin, I decided I’d better dive in. I found the water very cold.

Yes, there are important themes: freedom, morality, poverty, the care of orphaned children, children of dysfunction. We see rural America in a somewhat painful light. The writing is face-paced, energetic, beautiful. Often I read books about the west because I want to travel to places like Montana that hold a certain mysterious geological beauty. The Bitterroots, Missoula, Route #2 are all of that. The writing here is enthralling, but I would not call it satisfying in the conventional sense.

In a recent interview, Gloria Steinem uttered a sentence that stopped me in my reading tracks. She was discussing the last piece of writing she had read that made her furious, an article about American soldiers in Afghanistan. This is the line that grabbed my attention: “By allowing massive child abuse, we are creating the next generation of vengeance.”

Reading that sentence, the social worker Pete, lead character in this story, grows in heroic stature for this reader, in spite of the fact that much of his behavior seems anything but. And yet one thing this book is very much about is how none of us can know the grief and loss that others face, nor can we fully understand the ways anyone might deal with such. Pete is heroic because he tries so valiantly to stop child abuse, because he deals with the fact of how pervasive it is in our society even in the beauty of western forests, mountains, creeks, and human quiet.

The rock-hard beauty of the prose kept me going through this book. This commentary is more personal than I would like. But it is a personal read.

As a life-long educator, I thought I knew something about the inhuman ways we treat children right here in America. No need to go to Afghanistan, Syria or anywhere else in the world. But the children and the events of this story astonished me. One wonders how things can go so wrong in a world of people striving for right. The writer Elizabeth Strout advised writers to take your story to the wall. Smith Henderson did just that.

Take a deep breath and dive into this book. The water might not be as cold for you as it felt to me. Bottom line: I’m glad I didn’t miss this read.

READER INTERVIEW WITH NEW YORK READER BERNADETTE MAINZER

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Reader Interview is a popular feature on this blog. Here is a next installment. Thanks to Bernie Mainzer for sharing her thoughts as a reader. She’s easy and enjoyable to listen to as she tells us about some of the books she loves. She grabs your attention with her enthusiasm for reading!

Tell us about the books you have been reading.

I have read mysteries, summer beach reads, historical fiction and non-fiction. I belong to a book club and we try to read different genres.

It sounds like you read more genres than many of us. Do you have a favorite writer? Who are some of the best writers you have read?

I have read several by Elin Hilderbrand. I just finished Beautiful Day. Interesting about a very emotional family, with dysfunctional siblings, parents, and friends. A good read. I also like Lianne Moriarty, Big Little Lies. Lianne tends to write about teachers in Australia and being a teacher, I can relate to several of her problems in the books. Erik Larson – great for drama & Nora Ephron, when I need a smile on my face.

What genres do you especially enjoy? Which do you avoid?

I really like Historical Fiction & and mysteries. Not science fiction or fantasy so much. (But I loved Harry Potter. Could not get enough of them!!)

Yes, that series was phenomenal, wasn’t it? How do you decide what to read?

Book club dictates what I read monthly – more thoroughly to discuss in group. But I choose light fiction, or mysteries when I’m in a mood to think things out and solve a mystery. If I’m in a low mood, then I choose Nora Ephron. She is wonderful – I Feel Bad About My Neck – is especially fun. I choose books browsing bookstores, and from recommendations from friends. Also Best Seller Lists & newspaper suggestions.

Are there books we would be surprised to find on your shelves?

Maybe cookbooks by Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich, Ina Garten, etc.

Please share the title of books that come to mind as especially meaningful in your life.

On the Night You Were Born – Nancy Tillman. A beautiful book that describes how important it was on the night a child was born and how the animals all danced for joy. Stunning and meaningful to a toddler & Grandma.

Also, Mrs. Frisby & the Rats of NIMH. Read it to my 6th graders when I was teaching and they loved it. We did many writing & drawing exercises with the scenes and discussed so many topics. Super great book.

What book did you feel you were supposed to like, but did not. Perhaps, a book that disappointed you. Why?

Gone Girl, for sure. Heard a lot about it, so we as a club decided to read it. Found it to be about two dysfunctional characters. I did not care what happened to them and that did it for me. A waste of time.

When is the last time a book truly excited you?

I really liked The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein. Great book – and loved the style of writing. Heard the author in a lecture series and was quite impressed by him.

Tell us a bit about your reading habits: when, where, how, why do you like to read?

I read a lot since retirement. Have always been a reader – usually have 2-3 books going at one time. I am a retired reading teacher and read to my sixth graders books by A.A. Milne, Robert O’Brien (Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and all sequels), J.K. Rowling, (Harry Potter), and all forms of primary & intermediate children’s literature. We read all of them and the children loved them. I now have a 2 year old grandson, and we read Sandra Boynton, A.A. Milne, Peek-A-Boo books, Margaret Wise Brown, Eric Carle (one of his favorites), Dr. Seuss…way too many to tell.

Where? I read on a couch, on the deck, in bed, near the fireplace, almost anywhere. I love hard-cover books, but own a Nook and take it with me on trips. Just returned from a river cruise through Germany & France and took the Nook. Used it on the bus, ship, and just sitting on a bench on the Champs Elysees Concorde. Good times.

Wish we had pictures of all the great places to read you must have encountered while on your European trip! Tell us more about yourself as a reader.

I think I have just become comfortable with reading what I want to read and not what is expected of me to read. I enjoy books that do not have excessive amounts of descriptions, but more dialogue. I also like to imagine the characters as real people I can relate to – such as Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, etc. I am right brain, for sure, and it makes the book more enjoyable for me.

What do you plan to read next? And why?

I am reading The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. Now on p. 50. It is a book club selection by another member. Jury is still out on this one.

Another one I’m reading now is Elizabeth Adler’s Meet Me in Venice, good mystery.

Note from Paulette: I expect blog readers enjoyed Bernie’s insights as much as I did. She prompts me to think more about why I like certain books and why others interest me less.