Saturday, September 29, 2012

Review Monsieur Pamplemousse Investigates



Michael Bond is best-known for his beloved books about Paddington Bear. But he has also written a series of 16 mystery novels featuring the gourmand sleuth, Monsieur Pamplemousse, and his faithful hound, Pommes Frites.

Monsieur Pamplemousse Investigates is the sixth book in the series and finds Pamplemousse trying to thwart a plot to humiliate his boss, the editor of France's premiere restaurant guide, and ruin the company. He is helped along the way by his clue-sniffing dog and an attractive computer expert who can cook a pot-au-feu just like his mother (including plugging the bones with potatoes to keep the marrow in).

The humor is a little silly (Pamplemousse loses his clothes and has to go in drag, for instance) and the computer crime so dated as to be incomprehensible, but the book has a decently puzzling plot and the charm needed to make a successful cozy, plus a Paris setting and plenty of food talk. Perfect for a chilly autumn afternoon.

OTHER REVIEWS

If you would like your review of this or any other books in the Monsieur Pamplemousse series, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.

NOTES

This counts as one of my books for the Foodies' Reading Challenge.



WEEKEND COOKING






Friday, September 28, 2012

Book Beginnings:


Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author's name.

TWITTER: If you are on Twitter, please tweet a link to your post using the has tag #BookBeginnings. My Twitter handle is @GilionDumas.

MR. LINKY: Please leave a link to your post below. If you don't have a blog, but want to participate, please leave a comment with your Book Beginning.



MY BOOK BEGINNING

 

"Is this seat taken?" I asked the attractive young woman sitting by herself in the lounge.

-- The General's Daughter by Nelson DeMille.  It's a clever beginning, really, because he is approaching an ex-girlfriend who he hasn't seen in a year and he knows won't be happy to run into him.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: The Tangled Bank




To many, a squirrel is a squirrel and by any other name is still just a squirrel. . . .  They are also capable of ravaging birdfeeders worse than jays,  though their brilliant acrobatics to defeat "squirrel-proof" feeders are surely worth the price of a bag or two of the best black sunflower seeds.
-- from "Squirrel Tales" in The Tangled Bank: Writings from Orion by Robert Michael Pyle, published by OSU Press.

Charles Darwin contended that the elements of a tangled bank are endlessly interesting, ever evolving, and can explain the entire living world.  These essays were originally published in Pyle's monthly column for Orion and Orion Afield magazines.  They cover topics from Mexican monarchs to bookstores to the love of hops.

I love that the author's back-cover biography says, "He is often associated with butterflies, slugs, and Bigfoot." That is priceless! Especially when accompanied by a photo of Pyle in a moss coat:


For those in the Portland area, there is a book event for Pyle this Sunday: A conversation, reading, and book launch with Robert Michael Pyle and Orion editor Jennifer Sahn.  Sunday September 30, 7:30 pm Heron Hall, Portland Audubon, 5151 NW Cornell Road, Portland, OR.

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



Monday, September 24, 2012

Mailbox Monday



Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday! MM was created by Marcia, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring event (details here).

Kristen at BookNAround is hosting in September.  Please visit her terrific blog for reviews of her favorite types of books, mostly contemporary/literary fiction, historical fiction, young adult, narrative non-fiction (travel, cooking, etc.) and memoirs.

I got one book last week:



The Writing on the Wall by W. D. Wetherell.

From the Publisher's Description:

When Vera decides to travel to an old house in the New England countryside for a month-long escape from some devastating news about her daughter, Cassie, she has no idea her life is about to change forever.  It begins innocently enough—peeling the old wallpaper from the walls as a favor to the house’s owner.  What she discovers underneath—written in India ink on the very walls of the house by a woman named Beth, in 1919—is the beginning of the reader’s unsettling crossing into the unknown world underneath the paper.

Wetherell won the Michigan Literary Fiction Award for his earlier novel, A Century in November, which I reviewed here.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Book Beginnings: The Tangled Bank


Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author's name.

TWITTER: If you are on Twitter, please tweet a link to your post using the has tag #BookBeginnings. My Twitter handle is @GilionDumas.

MR. LINKY: Please leave a link to your post below. If you don't have a blog, but want to participate, please leave a comment with your Book Beginning.



MY BOOK BEGINNING




For Christmas, Thea gave me a children's book titled The Riverbank, beguilingly illustrated by Fabian Negrin, with words by Charles Darwin.
The Tangled Bank: Writings from Orion by Robert Michael Pyle, published by OSU Press.

This is a collection of essays, originally published in Orion and Orion Afield magazines, exploring Charles Darwin’s contention that the elements of a tangled bank, and by extension all the living world, are endlessly interesting and ever evolving. The essays cover topics from squirrels to bookstores to the love of hops.

I want to read this mostly because the author's back-cover biography says, "He is often associated with butterflies, slugs, and Bigfoot." That is priceless! Especially when accompanied by this photo:



Thursday, September 20, 2012

State of the Blog: Part One, The Lists



Four times a year, I take a look at what books I've read to that point and see what kind of progress I've made on my books lists and reading projects.  I do it mostly to force myself to update my lists, not because these are particularly interesting posts.

This is the first of three quarterly blog assessment posts.  This first part addresses the book lists. Part Two, coming soon, will take a look at the author lists.  Part Three will deal with the challenges I joined this year.

My book lists are over in the right-side column. These are now divided into Prize Winners and "Must Reads" and include lists of books I have read or intend to read for some reason or another. Also in the right-side column are lists of my favorite authors. I add to these lists of lists from time to time.

I only listed a list below if I read a book from it this year.


NOTE: If you are working on any of these lists, please leave a comment here or on the post for the list (click on the title below or in the right-hand column) and leave a link to any related post. I will add the links on the list post. 

THE PRIZE WINNERS



Books read in 2012: A Case of Need by Micheal Crichton (as Jeffery Hudson)



Books read in 2012: The Mandelbaum Gate by Muriel Spark (reviewed here; read for my 2011 Battle of the Prizes, British Version, challenge).  I need to get chopping on this to read two for the 2012 Battle.


Books read in 2012: The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson (reviewed here)


Books read in 2012: three, two for for the 2012 Battle of the Prizes, American Version

Books read in 2012: Mr. Sammler's Planet by Saul Bellow (reviewed here)


Books read in 2012: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun


Books read in 2012: two, both for for the 2012 Battle of the Prizes, American Version

THE "MUST READS"


This list is from 99 Novels: The Best in English Since 1939 by Anthony Burgess, which I reviewed here

Books read in 2012: The Mandelbaum Gate by Muriel Spark (reviewed here; read for my 2011 Battle of the Prizes, British Version, challenge).


Books read in 2012: two


Books read in 2012: two


Books read in 2012:


Books read in 2012: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré (reviewed here)


This is a new list that I just created in 2011. I made more progress in 2012 when I participated in the Venice in February Challenge.

Books read in 2012:


Books read in 2012: one, The Man With the Golden Arm by Nelson Algren

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Pure Beef


The first recipe in each chapter is a learning recipe for those who are new to cooking with grassfed -- or any -- beef and want to follow a foundational recipe such as meatloaf, grilled steak, stir-fry, roast beef, or stock. The recipes that follow within each chapter illustrate technique variations for the appropriate beef cut.

-- Pure Beef: An Essential Guide to Artisan Meat with Recipes for Every Cut by Lynne Curry.

The title says it all -- this is an essential cookbook for anyone trying to eat more grassfed beef.  Curry has all kinds of great information in addition to good recipes.

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



Monday, September 17, 2012

Mailbox Monday


Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday! MM was created by Marcia, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring event (details here).

Kristen at BookNAround is hosting in September.  Please visit her terrific blog for reviews of her favorite types of books, mostly contemporary/literary fiction, historical fiction, young adult, narrative non-fiction (travel, cooking, etc.) and memoirs.

I got two books last week, with an Eastern European theme:



The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer. I've read a couple of his earlier books and thought they were great. This one is supposed to be even better.

 

Three Stations by Martin Cruz Smith. I am a big fan of his Arkady Renko series so am looking forward to this one.



Friday, September 14, 2012

Book Beginnings: Pure Beef


Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author's name.

TWITTER: If you are on Twitter, please tweet a link to your post using the has tag #BookBeginnings. My Twitter handle is @GilionDumas.

MR. LINKY: Please leave a link to your post below. If you don't have a blog, but want to participate, please leave a comment with your Book Beginning.



MY BOOK BEGINNING



On a clear September afternoon, I mingled with a crowd dressed in skirts and khakis in an open pasture beneath snow-rimmed mountains.

-- Pure Beef: An Essential Guide to Artisan Meat with Recipes for Every Cut by Lynne Curry, from the Introduction: How a Former Vegetarian Came to Write a Beef Cookbook and Why it Had to be Written.

Pure Beef is my new favorite cookbook.  I have a freezer full of grassfed beef and need some pointers for how to cook it right.  Curry explains everything from the cuts, to how to thaw it, to how to cook it and what to cook with it.  

Lynne Curry also has a terrific blog, Stories that Feed You, that is chock-o-block full of all kinds of interesting recipes and information about many sorts of food. 



Thursday, September 13, 2012

Favorite Author: Charles Dickens



Charles Dickens may be the best-known novelist of all times.  Probably everyone has read at least one of his books or at the very least seen a screen adaptation.  He lived from 1812 to 1870 and published 20 novels, as well as short stories, a few plays, non-fiction books, and even some poetry.

I read several of Dickens' more famous novels by the time I finished college, but have been in the mood to read the rest and start re-reading ever since I got a lovely matching set a couple of years ago. 

Dickens' novels are listed below. Those I have read are in red (although I may like to re-read some of them); those on my TBR shelf are in blue.


The Pickwick Papers (1837)
Oliver Twist (1838)
Nicholas Nickleby (1839)
Barnaby Rudge (1841)
Master Humphrey's Clock (1841)
The Old Curiosity Shop (1841)
A Christmas Carol (1843)
The Chimes (1844)
Martin Chuzzlewit (1844)
The Cricket on the Hearth (1845)
The Battle of Life (1846)
Dombey and Son (1848)
The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain (1848)
David Copperfield (1850)
Bleak House (1853)
Hard Times (1854)
Little Dorrit (1857)
A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
The Uncommercial Traveller (1860)
Great Expectations (1861)
Our Mutual Friend (1865)
The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Tough by Nature


This is 134-year-old tradition in our family -- not for the women necessarily to be part of it, but my dad was blessed with nine children, six of which were girls. So his cowboy crew was made up of daughters.
-- from the chapter on Sara Shields  Tough by Nature: Portraits of Cowgirls and Ranch Women of the American West by Lynda Lanker, published by the Jordan Schnitzer Museum and distributed by OSU Press.

Tough by Nature is a first-rate, gorgeous coffee table book filled with portraits of 49 real women ranchers of the western United States.  Each portrait is accompanied by a  short biography of the woman portrayed. 

Artist Lynda Lanker.  Spent close to 20 years on the portraits and stories that went into this book.  She worked with oil pastels, pencil and charcoal, egg tempura, plate and stone lithography, engraving, and drypoint to capture the personalities of her subjects -- the matriarchs of the West. 

The book features a foreword by Larry McMurtry, an introduction by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and an afterword by Maya Angelou.

Tough by Nature would make great Christmas or other gift for anyone with a love of the American West and its feisty, independent people.


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






Monday, September 10, 2012

Mailbox Monday


Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday! MM was created by Marcia, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring event (details here).

Kristen at BookNAround is hosting in September.  Please visit her terrific blog for reviews of her favorite types of books, mostly contemporary/literary fiction, historical fiction, young adult, narrative non-fiction (travel, cooking, etc.) and memoirs.

Three books came into my house last week:



Room at the Top by John Braine. This is on Anthony Burgess' list of his favorite 99 novels, so I've been looking for it for years.  Mine doesn't have the cool Penguin cover.



My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather. I really like Willa Cather, but forget to read her books. This is a novella, so it may get me back into practice.

 

Chocolat by Joanne Harris.  This has been on my French Connections list for a long time. 



Saturday, September 8, 2012

Review: Swan Peak




Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcel can never escape their pasts or the angry demons in their heads, even to do a little fishing in Montana. Mobster Didi Gee died in a suspicious plane crash years before, but when his goons turn up in Montana, working for a pair of oil baron brothers, Dave and Clete get sucked into a whirling vortex of violence, sex, booze, and vengeance.

Swan Peak is the 16th book in James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux series and exemplifies everything that is good and bad about the long-running saga. Burke is the best there is at writing literary, atmospheric mysteries peopled with complex characters and glorifying their settings (usually Louisiana, occasionally Montana). The stories are dark, sometimes a little twisted, and always exciting, with multi-faceted plots addressing important social issues.

But sometimes Burke lays it on with a trowel, and he does in Swan Peak. In addition to mobsters and crooked oil barons, there's a sadistic prison guard tracking an escaped convict, a self-medicating adulterous wife, a charlatan preacher with an eye for teenage girls, a porn producer and his call girl companion, and a vicious serial killer. That's a lot of bad guys crowded into the Bitterroot Valley. And all of them are deformed, addicted, damaged, particularly cruel, or otherwise extra creepy.

Swan Peak is a page turner, but may leave the reader needing to take a Burke break.

OTHER REVIEWS

My review of Crusader's Cross is here
My review of The Tin Roof Blowdown is here

If you would like your review of this book or any other JLB book listed here, please leave a comment with a link.

NOTES

Swan Peak counts for my "topographical" choice for the What's in a Name Challenge, and as another book for the Mt. TBR and Off the Shelf Challenges.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Book Beginnings: Tough by Nature


Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author's name.

TWITTER: If you are on Twitter, please tweet a link to your post using the has tag #BookBeginnings. My Twitter handle is @GilionDumas.

MR. LINKY: Please leave a link to your post below. If you don't have a blog, but want to participate, please leave a comment with your Book Beginning.



MY BOOK BEGINNING


If you've lived in ranch country much, you can tell a ranch woman by the wrinkles -- shallow at first but deepening into arroyos, gullies, little canyons as the wind and sun work on them.
-- from the Foreword by Larry McMurtry to Tough by Nature: Portraits of Cowgirls and Ranch Women of the American West by Lynda Lanker, published by the Jordan Schnitzer Museum and distributed by OSU Press.
Lynda Lenker's book, Tough by nature, is a colorful and impressive look at forty-nine women in our country who have lived their lives is ranchers.
-- from the Introduction by Sandra Day O'Conner.
We was laughing just the other day about when I was sixteen, in the rodeo at Homedale, and my first bareback horse that day stomped on my leg and stomach.
-- from the first chapter, a portrait of National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame inductee, Jan Youren.

Tough by Nature is a gorgeous coffee table book filled with portraits of 49 real women ranchers of the western United States.  Each portrait is accompanied by a  short biography of the woman portrayed. 

The book represents close to 20 years of effort by artist Lynda Lanker.  She worked with oil pastels, pencil and charcoal, egg tempura, plate and stone lithography, engraving, and drypoint to capture the personalities of her subjects -- the matriarchs of the West. 

The book features a foreword by Larry McMurtry, an introduction by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and an afterword by Maya Angelou.

Tough by Nature is a first class production and is going straight to the top of my gift-giving list this Christmas. Even if I narrowed my list to spirited, independent women friends with a connection to the American West and a penchant for art, I could come up with over a dozen possible recipients. 

Anyone in Eugene, Oregon this weekend can see the Tough by Nature exhibit at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum.  Sunday is the last day.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

GIVEAWAY Winner: Public Trust




I hosted a giveaway for three copies of Public Trust by J. M. Mitchell.  This is mystery with a National Park story-line, a romantic angle, and some great adventure.

Thanks go to book publicist Mary Bisbee-Beek for my copy, and copies for the giveaway!

THE WINNERS

This was a "leap-frog" giveaway, meaning I had three copies to giveaway to Rose City Reader readers.  Mary extravagantly threw in another copy, for a total of four! And each winner will get to host another giveaway for an additional copy

Harvee Lau at Book Dilettante
this little life of mine
Sandy & Sandra at I.O.U. Sex (no, it is not a porn site)
Aloi at Guiltless Reading

Congratulations!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Fortune's Deadly Descent

 


We finally wrench to a stop in a village so remote it appears unreachable except by train.  A sign reads "Saint-Corbenay" above a vacant concrete platform.
 --  Fortune's Deadly Descent by Audry Braun.  She really knows how to set a scene!

This is the second book in a series featuring Celia Hagen that started with A Small Fortune.  Braun is the pen name of novelist Deborah Reed, author of Carry Yourself Back to Me, a Best Book of 2011 Amazon Editors' Pick.

PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: Memories of her dire past fade as Celia Hagen enjoys life in Switzerland as a best-selling author, surrounded by an extended family, her beloved Benicio, and their imaginative young son Benny. But when Benny disappears from a train during an unexpected stop in the French Provencal countryside, Celia suspects her past may not be buried after all. With Benny gone, she quickly realizes her life wasn’t nearly as idyllic as she believed. Infuriated by the unorthodox search efforts of Interpol and the French police, Celia, along with her older son Oliver, undertakes her own search, only to find that the village where Benny vanished has its own chilling history, and her interference in the case will have grave and irreversible consequences.

In the follow up to Audrey Braun’s best-selling debut, A Small Fortune, Celia discovers just how quickly everyone she loves can spiral toward a life—or death—that none of them could have seen coming.



MORE LINKS

My Rose City Reader review of A Small Fortune
My Rose City Reader review of Carry Yourself Back to Me
My Rose City Reader interview of Audry Braun
The Deborah Reed/Audry Braun website

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



Happy Labor Day!


"Labor is life" is my motto today, since I am traveling to Boise for work today. Not much of a holiday weekend, I'm afraid.

Mailbox Labor Day


Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday! MM was created by Marcia, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring event (details here).

Kristen at BookNAround is hosting in September.  Please visit her terrific blog for reviews of her favorite types of books, mostly contemporary/literary fiction, historical fiction, young adult, narrative non-fiction (travel, cooking, etc.) and memoirs.

I got two books last week, both with Northwest connections:



Pure Beef: An Essential Guide to Artisan Meat with Recipes for Every Cut by Lynne Curry.

I've had my eye on this one because I have a freezer filled with grass fed beef.  It promises to help me cook this entire cow: "With chapters organized by cooking methods and corresponding beef cuts, its 140 recipes are customized for leaner, heat-sensitive grassfed beef and model a healthful and sustainable approach to meat eating."

Lynne Curry is a food writer and former vegetarian who now lives in Joseph, Oregon, in the Wallowa Valley -- one of my favorite places in the world. 



The Tangled Bank: Writings from Orion by Robert Michael Pyle, published by OSU Press.

This is a collection of essays, originally published in Orion and Orion Afield magazines, exploring Charles Darwin’s contention that the elements of a tangled bank, and by extension all the living world, are endlessly interesting and ever evolving. The essays range from hops to independent bookstores to the monarchs of Mexico.

I want to read this mostly because the author's back-cover biography and picture compel me to:
Robert Michael Pyle dwells with his wife, Thea, a botanist and weaver, in an old Swedish farmstead in southwest Washington. His sixteen books include the John Burroughs Medal-winning Wintergreen, The Thunder Tree, Sky Time in Gray’s River, and Mariposa Road. A Guggenheim Fellow and founder of The Xerces Society, he is often associated with butterflies, slugs, and Bigfoot.
 "He is often associated with butterflies, slugs, and Bigfoot."  That is priceless! Especially when accompanied by this photo:



Saturday, September 1, 2012

Review: Extra Virginity

 

Extra virgin olive oil is the gateway drug to great food, as many a foodie has discovered. But in Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, Tom Mueller explains that what consumers around the world accept as EVOO usually isn’t.

The standards for what makes olive oil “extra virgin” are both objective and subjective. EVOO is supposed to come from fresh pressed (or centrifuged) olives maintained at relatively low temperatures, without heat or chemical treatment. Various regulations govern the chemical makeup of EVOO. The EU, for example, sets limits on the amount of free fatty acids and peroxides that can be in olive oil and still be called EVOO.

On the subjective side, the flavor of the oil determines whether it is “extra virgin.” EVOO should have a balance of fruity, bitter, and peppery flavors – a combination that can be challenging to those more used to softer, sweeter olive oil. Bitterness and pepperyness indicate the presence of antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and other “minor components” of top-quality olive oil that make it so healthy.

Mueller argues that most of the oil sold in Europe and America does not meet the definition of EVOO, for three main, sometimes interrelated, reasons. The first two are objective – the oil exceeds regulatory standards for free fatty acids, peroxides, or other elements, or the oil had been adulterated. Adulteration has been a problem with EVOO since ancient times. Oil has been labeled and sold as EVOO, even though it has been cut with seed or vegetable oil or with refined olive oil. Refined olive oil is the trickiest because it comes from olives, but has been processed with heat or chemicals that remove bad odors or flavors, but also remove the healthy elements of the oil.

The third reason is harder to pin down because it depends on the flavor of the oil. If the oil does not have the flavor profile described above, it should not be called EVOO. It may have bad flavors, such as moldy, rancid, cooked, greasy, metallic, or cardboard, or it may just lack the bitter and peppery flavors EVOO should have. Mueller makes the case for intentional mislabeling on the part of olive oil distributors trying to tap into a huge and growing market that demands the “extra virgin” label.  That may be a big part of the problem, but flavor issues can also be the result of time. Olive oil is a natural fruit juice, so its flavor and aroma begin to deteriorate within a few months of milling, and quickly go downhill when the container is opened and the oil exposed to oxygen.

One drawback to Mueller’s book is a lack of organization. He combines chapters on the history of olive oil, the science and manufacturing of olive oil, recent olive oil scandals, and the current state of olive oil production in different countries. But he jumps around among these topics seemingly at random. Still, Extra Virginity is fascinating, argumentative, and enlightening. It will change the way you shop for and consume extra virgin olive oil.

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

Tom Mueller has a great website devoted to olive oil called Truth in Olive Oil where you can find all kinds of information of how to taste, buy, and use good quality EVOO.  

This counts as one of my books for the Foodie Reading Challenge, hosted by Margot at Joyfully Retired, the Non-Fiction, Non-Memoirs Challenge hosted by Julie at My Book Retreat and the Audio-Book Challenge hosted by Teresa at Teresa's Reading Corner.



WEEKEND COOKING






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