Sunday, July 31, 2011

Opening Sentence of the Day: The Omnivore's Dilemma


What should we have for dinner?

-- from the Introduction to The Onmivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan.

Air-conditioned, orderless, illuminated by buzzing florescent tubes, the American supermarket doesn't present itself as having very much to do with Nature.

-- from the first chapter, "The Plant: Corn's Conquest."

Although it was enormously popular, I put off reading this because I feared political polemic over unbiased information.

But I am on a tear with food books now that I am on a Food Freedom campaign, so when I saw the audiobook at my library, I snatched it.

I am still in the first section on how corn has come to dominate America's food supply. It is fascinating! I'll reserve judgment on the political issues until I finish the book. So far, nothing is overtly political, so it is easy to keep an open mind.

THOUGHTS AND NOTES

This book inspired my former brother-in-law, Curt Ellis, to make the charming and quirky King Corn documentary.

This book, so far, has inspired me to stop by one of my favorite local markets,  Sheridan Fruit Company, and buy some local, grass-fed lamb chops for the grill last night. Delish!



WEEKEND COOKING



I have been reading food books because I am on a Food Freedom kick, which you can like on Facebook, or follow on twitter.

This counts as one of my books for the Foodie's Reading Challenge, hosted by Margot at Joyfully Retired.




Saturday, July 30, 2011

Author of the Day: Maeve Binchy



Maeve Binchy is an Irish author, born in 1940, who has written 16 novels and several collections of short stories. 

Every now and again I want to fall into a Binchy novel and live in it. This mood usually strikes when I am hectic at work or otherwise am feeling a bit overwhelmed. Her novels are dense with details of interesting, but ordinary, people overcoming difficulties. They restore me.

Below is a list of her novels.  Those I have read are in red; those on my TBR shelf are in blue.

Light a Penny Candle (1982)

The Lilac Bus (1984)

Echoes (1985) (reviewed here)

Firefly Summer (1987)

Silver Wedding (1988)

Circle of Friends (1990)

The Copper Beech (1992)

The Glass Lake (1994)

Evening Class (1996)

Tara Road (1998)

Scarlet Feather (2000)

Quentins (2002)

Nights of Rain and Stars (2004)

Whitethorn Woods (2006) (reviewed here)

Heart and Soul (2008)

Minding Frankie (2010)

NOTES

Last updated on April 19, 2012.

OTHER BINCHY FANS

If you have Binchy-related posts and would like them listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review of the Day: 42 States of Grace


Three years after her husband's sudden, accidental death, Maureen Hovenkotter decided to retire from her job as a Senator's aide and go on a spiritual journey, hoping to rediscover her authentic self.   A cradle Catholic with an open and curious mind for the sacred, one might expect Hovenkotter to spend time at a retreat center somewhere. Instead, she sold her house and most of her belongings, bought a large motor home, and set out for a year of "prayerful reflection" and cross-country travel.

From this very premise, it is easy to see why 42 States of Grace: A Woman's Journey is not your typical coming-of-New-Age memoir. Hovenkotter may be unusually adventuresome, but she had to undertake her pilgrimage the way a regular woman would have to – she he didn't get a six-figure book advance to let her eat, pray, and love her way around the globe; she paid her own way and drove a large RV around North America with her golden retriever Charlie.

It is this realistic normalness that makes the book so wonderful. Hovenkotter's self-analysis will strike a chord – and sometimes raise a chuckle – with most women, who will recognize something of themselves in her. She blends her spiritual musings with anecdotes about Charlie, her traveling companions, and the people she meets, and with travelogue describing the Maine coast, South Dakota's Black Hills, Sedona, Florida beaches, and other places she visits. She tries to use whatever comes her way – from bad weather, to impossible-to-negotiate-in-an-RV turns, to difficult boyfriends – as guideposts on her road to personal growth.

Hovenkotter shows by example how it is possible to find God's grace simply by stepping out of your normal routine so you have time and space to encounter God in the present moment, "in just being and waiting." She shares the lesson she learned during her year-long retreat that "life is truly beautiful and abundantly rich in opportunities, forgiveness and do-overs."

A good reminder, that. This is a beautiful book that reminds the reader, over and over, to look for -- or wait for -- God's love in ordinary, daily activities.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Opening Sentence of the Day: Very Bad Men



There's a necklace in my office, a string of glass beads.

-- Very Bad Men by Harry Dolan.

This is the second in a mystery series set, so far, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, featuring crime magazine editor, David Loogan.

I loved the first one, Bad Things Happen (reviewed here) and can't wait to dive into this one.  I've recommended the BTH to about 12 people who were just looking for something good to read.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: 42 States of Grace



I should know as well as anyone; life can be completely changed, for good or not so good, in one breath.  It is in the present moment that we encounter God, in just being and waiting.
-- 42 States of Grace: A Woman's Journey by Maureen Hovenkotter.

This is a beautiful book that reminds me over and over to look for -- or wait for -- God's grace in ordinary, daily activities.A good reminder, that.


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.




Monday, July 25, 2011

Mailbox Monday and GIVEAWAY


Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday! MM was created by Marcia at A girl and her books (fka The Printed Page), who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here).

A Sea of Books is hosting in July. Please visit Gwendolyn's wonderful blog for great books ideas.

I got one book in the mail last week, from Sasquatch Books, just in time for a quickie summer giveaway (see details below):

Oregon Trail: The Road to Destiny, a graphic novel by Frank Young and David Lasky (published by Sasquatch Books).



PRODUCT DESCRIPTION: Based on extensive research into personal accounts of the Oregon Trail, comic authors David Lasky and Frank Young have created a graphic narrative of one family's epic journey. The main character is an 11-year-old girl whose family is setting course for the west to seek new opportunities and to escape the "overcrowded and filth" of the eastern city where they had been living. Revealed is all of the planning, equipment, and logistics involved in such a trip. The book features a series of two-page spreads detailing a visual inventory of everything the family has with them — the parts of a covered wagon and a personal annotated map of the trail. Readers get a ground-level feel for what it was like to be part of this storied migration west — not a dry recitation of dates and facts, but an immediately memorable living history.

GIVEAWAY

This is a quick givaway.  If you have a blog that features children's or YA books and promise to review this one, please sign up to win.  Leave a comment with your blog link or email address.

Tomorrow morning, I'll randomly choose a winner using random.org.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review: American Terroir



"Terroir" means "taste of the place" and is a popular concept among wine enthusiasts. In American Terroir: Savoring the Flavors of Our Woods, Waters, and Fields, Rowan Jacobsen considers how the same ideas apply to a broad range of agricultural products.

Chapter by chapter, Jacobsen explains how certain combinations of geology, climate, and geography unite with human efforts to produce superior maple syrup, coffee, apple cider, honey, mussels, wild plants, oysters, avocados, salmon, wine, cheese, and chocolate.

The book is a thoroughly entertaining combination of food and travel writing, taking the reader from a Yupik Eskimo community in the Yukon to a remote Venezuelan village renowned for producing the world's finest chocolate. Jacobsen is witty, observant, and enthusiastic about his subjects.  He is also able to captivate his audience, even when explaining the science behind the story.

He focuses as much on the people involved as the weather and soil that create the raw materials, with interesting profiles of wild honey specialists, forest foragers, and avocado farmers capable of identifying which tree produced a particular avocado. As Jacobsen explains:
[Terroir is] a partnership between person, plant, and environment to bring something unique into the world. The soil and climate set the conditions; the plants, animals, and fungi respond to them; and then people determine how to bring out the goodness of these food and drinks.
Jacobsen and the people he writes about are not utopian food-fantasists -- the book also addresses the practical side of food production, especially in the chapters on biodynamic wine making and artisanal cheese production.  As Mateo Kehler, raw milk cheese guru from Jasper Hill Farm, told Jacobsen, "If it is not economically viable, it's not terroir. It's ego gratification."  That is a good lesson to remember.

American Terroir is a celebration of place and palate sure to inspire greater examination of ingredients often taken for granted. Jacobsen is sure to make food terroirists out of his readers.


OTHER REVIEWS

If you would like your review of this book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.

NOTES


WEEKEND COOKING



I have been reading food books because I am on a Food Freedom kick, which you can like on Facebook, or follow on twitter.

This counts as one of my books for the Foodie's Reading Challenge, hosted by Margot at Joyfully Retired.




Thursday, July 21, 2011

Opening Sentence of the Day: Uncle Tom's Cabin



Late in the afternoon of a chilly day in February, two gentlemen were sitting alone over their wine, in a well-furnished dining parlor, in the town of P__________ , in Kentucky.

-- Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

This is one of those classics I've never read, for one reason or another.  Even when I found the audiobook at the library several years ago, I loaded it on to my iPod and then ignored it.

But now's the time.  I am going to get this one finished, once and for all.  It shows up on several lists I'm working on: the College Board's Top 101, the Easton Press' 100 Greatest Books Ever, and the Daily Telegraph's 1899 List of 100 Best Novels in the World.

I'm now about a quarter of the way through it with mixed reactions.  One is how offensive it is to my modern sensibilities. I have a high tolerance for anachronistic literature, but Stowe's condescension is striking, no matter how well-intentioned.  My other reaction is how gosh darn entertaining this is.  Like any good potboiler, the action is non-stop.    

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: 42 States of Grace



Maybe those opportunities were there if I took the time to recognize them, reach out and grasp them.  Maybe it just required getting off the treadmill and stepping out onto the sand, being willing to get my feet wet, looking out at the vast and ever-changing ocean and realizing life is truly beautiful and abundantly rich in opportunities, forgiveness and do-overs.
-- 42 States of Grace: A Woman's Journey by Maureen Hovenkotter.

That concept of forgiveness and do-overs is wonderful. That last part has stuck with me since I read it last week.


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.




Monday, July 18, 2011

Mailbox Monday


Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday! MM was created by Marcia at A girl and her books (fka The Printed Page), who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here).

A Sea of Books is hosting in July. Please visit Gwendolyn's wonderful blog for great books ideas.

I got two books from the Friends of the Library book sale shelf at the Hillsboro, Oregon library:

Tooth and Nail by Ian Rankin (the third in his John Rebus series)



A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie



Saturday, July 16, 2011

Food Freedom!


I've been a little distracted from my books lately, and particularly slow with the book reviews. My mind has been busy thinking -- and my fingers typing -- about Food Freedom.  (For where my fellow book bloggers come in, see the end of this post.)

In particular, I have been developing a Food Freedom campaign for my law firm, because many of us in my office are interested in these issues, as are our clients.  We represent a lot of farmers, food producers, restaurateurs, trade associations, and other agricultural or food-related entities.

We also want to reach other potential clients to let them know we share some of their concerns and understand the issues.

So in the last week or so, I have set up a Facebook page for Food Freedom Oregon, got us going on twitter @FoodFreedomOR, and arranged to sponsor the Portland showing of Farmageddon on July 22 and 23.   

WHAT IS FOOD FREEDOM?

Food Freedom is the rallying cry for those committed to free choice in the foods we eat and feed our families.

The general idea is to keep all food choices legal – whether healthy, unhealthy, local, global, fresh, frozen, or french fried.  The goal is to limit government regulation that comes between your fork and your mouth.

Although the general idea is broad, supporters of Food Freedom tend to be particularly interested in certain issues, and these issues tend to focus on smaller producers and local markets.  These issues include:
  • RAW MILK: Each state regulates the sale and consumption of raw milk and raw milk products like cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc.
    • In Oregon, it is only legal to purchase raw milk directly from a farm (a farm with three or fewer cows and/or seven or fewer goats).  It is illegal to purchase raw milk from a grocery store, restaurant, farmers’ market, or other retail outlet.
    • Other states, such as California, allow the retail sale of raw milk and raw milk products.
    • It is the FDA’s position that all consumption of raw milk should be prohibited – no person should consume any raw milk or raw milk product, period.
  • FARM-DIRECT MEAT: Many people want to purchase meat directly from the farmers who raised the animals. Many of these are concerned about the treatment of animals raised at “industrial” facilities and the ethics of certain slaughtering methods. Many believe “farm-to-table” or “farm-to-fork” meat has superior flavor and quality.
    • In Oregon, it is illegal to buy meat slaughtered by the farmer and not at a USDA slaughter house. But it is the treatment and feeding of animals at the USDA slaughter house that farm-direct fans want to avoid. 
    • But, in Oregon, it is legal to slaughter your own animal for your own consumption. So consumers and farmers can get around these rules by colluding in the fiction that a consumer buys a percentage of a cow or a pig when it is alive and then, when the farmer slaughters it, the consumer is, in fact, eating his own animal.
  • PASTURED POULTRY: The idea of “pastured poultry” appeals to people who do not like the chicken factories that produce – in pretty disgusting conditions – most of our poultry.  Current regulations make raising pastured poultry difficult and expensive.  One-size-fits-all regulations are geared towards mega-producers to the disadvantage of smaller ag entrepreneurs trying different approaches.
WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH A BOOK BLOG?

Well, for starters, it is a bit of a distraction, like I said. But I hope to do a few tie-ins.  For instance, I am thinking about the following:
  • I am very interested to know what other book bloggers share some of these interests.  Which is why I am posting this on Weekend Cooking -- I figure this is a target-rich crowd.  If anyone is interested, please leave comments with blog links, twitter handles, Facebook pages, or book recommendations. Thanks!
  • Other ideas? 

WEEKEND COOKING




    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Opening Sentence of the Day: Decider



    OK, so here I am, Lee Morris, opening the doors and windows to gusts of life and early death.

    -- Decider by Dick Francis.

    Dick Francis is like book crack to me. I can't get enough of his books these days.  I particularly enjoy the audio versions, but I'll pack along a paperback as well.

    Love them.

    This one is about an architect who specializes in restoring ruins and renovating them into habitable, if unconventional, homes.  He finds himself in the middle of a dangerous family squabble among the heirs of a racecourse.

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    Opening Sentence of the Day: 42 States of Grace



    To paraphrase Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, the father of Taoism, the first step in my journey of 25,000 miles was a year of prayerful reflection.
    -- 42 States of Grace: A Woman's Journey by Maureen Hovenkotter.

    I wish I had gotten to this book sooner, because it is really beautiful and I am relishing every page.

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    Teaser Tuesday: American Terroir



    "If it is not economically viable, it's not terroir.  It's ego gratification."
    -- American Terroir: Savoring the Flavors of Our Woods, Waters, and Fields by Rowan Jacobsen, quoting Mateo Kehler, raw milk cheese guru from Jasper Hill Farm.
     
    I just finished this and loved it.  I am on a Food Freedom kick, which you can like on Facebook, or follow on twitter, and I would appreciate greatly!

    This counts as one of my books for the Foodie's Reading Challenge, hosted by Margot at Joyfully Retired.



    Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.



    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Mailbox Monday

    Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday! MM was created by Marcia at A girl and her books (fka The Printed Page), who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here).

    A Sea of Books is hosting in July. Please visit Gwendolyn's wonderful blog for great books ideas.

    Two books came into my house last week. One is a treat from my husband to distract me from the three new car manual books he bought himself.

    Playing With Books: The Art of Upcycling, Deconstructing, and Reimagining the Book by Jason Thompson.  Creative inspiration.




    Nat Tate: An American Artist: 1928-1960 by William Boyd. This is a reprint of a funny little book Boyd published as a spoof of the New York art world. I got it from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program



    Sunday, July 10, 2011

    Review of the Day: Locations



    I do not much like the songs of Edith Piaf, the boulevards of Baron Haussman, the furniture of Louis XIV, the sound of Gertrude Stein, the vainglory of Napoleon or the conceit of Charles de Gaulle. I distrust, at one level, people who turn ideas into movements; at another, ideas themselves too pressingly articulated.
    So begins Jan Morris's explanation of the "insular prejudices" that limit her visits to Paris. It is an example of what makes her travel writing so very, very good -- an extraordinary gift of analysis and observation and a willingness to express blunt opinions.

    Locations is a collection of previously published magazine pieces Morris wrote mostly in the 1980s. They are profiles of cities or other areas that highlight the character of the place as experienced by Morris. They are not travel guides, but ruminations on what makes the place itself, which is why they are entertaining and worthwhile even a few decades after they were written.

    Morris is best known for her encyclopedic history, The World of Venice. Her clear eye and deft wit let her put a finger on exactly what makes a place tick. She does love a list, which can start to seem a little lazy and irritatingly rhythmic, but so often one of her lists can make a reader laugh with delight for bringing together all the incongruous parts that illuminate the whole. Take, for instance, her observations of life in a Texas border town along the Rio Grande:
    The very presence of that southern bank, looking so often enough so much the same as the northern one, seems to speak of looser morals, freer ways, more bribable officials, less dependable mail deliveries, dirtier streets, better food, hotter sex, more desperate poverty, more horrible prisons, and an altogether better chance of adventure.

    It is writing like this that inspires travel, which is why Morris's essays will never go out of date.


    OTHER REVIEWS

    If you would like your review of this or any other Jan Morris book listed her, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.

    Saturday, July 9, 2011

    Opening Sentence of the Day: A Friend from England

     

    I first got to know Oscar Livingstone in fairly humdrum circumstances.

    -- A Friend from England by Anita Brookner. That makes me want to use "humdrum" at least once a day.

    I am getting in just under the wire to celebrate International Anita Brookner Day on July 16. The only "goal" of participating is to read one of her books and write about it. Share posts here.





    Thursday, July 7, 2011

    Review of the Day: The Rebel Angels

     


    The Rebel Angels is the first in Roberson Davies "Cornish Trilogy" of books with a connection to eccentric art collector Francis Cornish.

    In Rebel Angels, three university professors are appointed joint executors under Cornish's will, assigned to sort through Cornish's vast and ill-organized collection of art and manuscripts, overseen by Cornish's nephew and heir, Arthur Cornish. The three also share a connection with the beautiful and scholarly Maria Magdalena Theotoky, a half-gypsy graduate student who has them all mesmerized. Interfering with all is John Parlabane, an ex-professor and former monk now sponging off his friends and writing an incomprehensible tell-all novel.

    The cast is crowded and the ideas are big. This is a philosophical novel about philosophy – and theology, literature, heredity, scatology, physiognomy, love and academia. Despite the lofty themes, it is entertaining throughout, very funny in wit and imagery, and with lots of action.

    The action, unfortunately, includes perhaps the most perverse sex scene in modern fiction and a particularly cold-blooded murder. Neither are enough to preclude finishing the book, or reading it, but they overshadow the rest of the story.


    NOTES
    This book shows up on Anthony Burgess' list of the Best 99 Novels.

    OTHER REVIEWS
    If you would like your review of this or any other Robertson Davies book, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    Review of the Day: How to Find Morels



    Milan Pelouch is an 80-year-old mushroom hunter who, in his charming guide, How to Find Morels (subtitled Even as Others are Coming Back Empty Handed) teaches how to identify and locate his favorite morels.

    This slim volume is packed with practical information such as photographs identifying “true” and “false” morels, when to expect morels in different regions, and how to locate elusive morels by finding specific types of trees on which the mushrooms thrive. It is also full of folksy advice like the best way to carry morels while hunting (in a cloth bag) and the best way to store them (sauté in butter and freeze in plastic bags). He even includes several of his wife’s best morel recipes.

    The book is a refreshing exhortation to enjoy the healthy, educational, and tasty pastime of mushroom hunting. Even for an armchair forager, How to Find Morels is a delight. As Pelouch says, “In less than an hour you can gain the needed know-how and will be flashing a big smile on the way home from a successful hunt instead of stewing in frustration after being skunked once again.” You can’t beat that!

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    Teaser Tuesday: The Rebel Angels



    McVarish always reminds me of the fairy-tale about the girl out of whose mouth a toad leapt whenever she spoke.  He could say more nasty things in ordinary conversation than anybody I have ever known, and he could make poor innocents like Ellerman accept them as wit.
    -- The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies.  Ooooooh . . . it is that last little bit that makes this especially good. 

    This book shows up on Anthony Burgess' list of the Best 99 Novels

    Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.





    Monday, July 4, 2011

    Happy Independence Day!



    Mailbox Holiday Monday


    Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday! MM was created by Marcia at A girl and her books (fka The Printed Page), who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here).

    A Sea of Books is hosting in July. Please visit Gwendolyn's wonderful blog for great books ideas. She also has a GIVEAWAY going this week for a copy of




    When I was in Eugene last week for a mediation, I visited Smith Family Bookstore and picked up a short stack of books.  What a great store! They had tons of used books in very good condition and reasonable prices. The shelves overflow into stacks on the floor. I could have spent hours.

    I was most excited about a stash of William Boyd novels:

    An Ice-Cream War



    Stars and Bars




    The Blue Afternoon



    And also found a collection of essays by Christopher Buckley:

    Wry Martinis



    Sunday, July 3, 2011

    Opening Sentence of the Day: Treasure Hunt



    The day he found the body, Mickey Dade woke up under a tree on Mt. Tamalpias. 

    -- Treasure Hunt by John Lescroart. That's a great opening sentence. You just know there is a story coming.

    This is a break from his Dismas Hardy series and features private investigator Wyatt Hunt, along with many of the usual characters from the Hardy/Glitsky books.

    As always, I get sucked in immediately because Lescroart does such a good job of incorporating San Francisco as part of the story. 

    This one captured my attention from the get go when a dead body is found at the Palace of Fine Arts, which I considered my personal landmark when I lived in San Francisco because it was close to my flat in Cow Hollow. We even, kind of, had a view of it from our flat -- if we moved the lamp, stood on our toes, and waited for the fog to lift.

    Friday, July 1, 2011

    Opening Sentence of the Day: American Terroir



    My neighbor Paul has a field that grows great carrots.
    -- American Terroir: Savoring the Flavors of Our Woods, Waters, and Fields by Rowan Jacobsen.

    This has been on my LibraryThing Early Reviewer stack for a while.  It looks great and I am in such a foodie-book mood lately. 

    This will count as one of my books for the Foodie's Reading Challenge, hosted by Margot at Joyfully Retired.




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