Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Pages in Between

A Jewish baby is born in a Polish ghetto in 1942. In an attempt to save her life, her father asks a Polish gentile woman to look after his young daughter, telling her that he'll be back after the war. Indeed he does return and these two are some of the only members of their family who survive the holocaust. The frightened little girl and her father, a stranger to her, go to Sweden for a few years and then on to the United States where this little girl grows up, marries, and becomes a mother.

Erin Einhorn, a reporter, must have known she had quite a story on her hands, or at the very least a fascinating family history, because the little girl in the story was her mother, Irene Rozenblum Einhorn. Despite her mother's long reluctance and disinterest in speaking of her past, Einhorn is determined to find out who this family is who saved her mother and made her own life possible. This story has become The Pages in Between, an honest and revealing memoir which winds up going in a direction that most holocaust writing does not. Einhorn moves to Poland and is surprised to find that in this country that was ten percent Jewish before WW2, Judaism has now become trendy. There are Jewish restaurants and trinket shops and tours one can go on.

Einhorn visits Bedzin, the previous home of her family, and quite easily finds the house they used to live in, and in it, the family that saved her mother's life, the Skowronskis. The woman who cared for her has died, but her son lives there with his family. He remembers the little girl he thought of as his sister whom they had always hoped would return for a visit. Einhorn visits the family multiple times, taking a translator with her, and over time some frustration on the part of the Skowronskis is revealed. Einhorn learns there is a problem with ownership of the house, and the Skowronskis want to collect on a promise made by Einhorn's grandfather during the war.

Einhorn tries to do what she can to help them, and it turns out to be a terribly complicated and potentially expensive legal matter. At the same time, Einhorn is struggling with the somewhat turbulent relationship she has always had with her mother as well as some life-altering news.

I found this to be a quite compelling story and I enjoyed Einhorn's personal tone throughout the book. I was very impressed with the degree to which she tried to assist the Skowronskis. I felt as though they were giving her a pretty hard time and it would have been easy for her just to walk away. It's an interesting question, really. After what happened in the Holocaust, do people really owe each other for saving a life, or was it just the right (and obviously brave) thing to do? Who should property belong to? The people it was stolen from over 60 years ago, or the people who have since made it their own?

I found this to be a fascinating and unique story and recommend it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


It occurred to me last night that what has been a pretty amazing week for me online and as a blogger has been completely overshadowed by my my fairly lousy 'real life' week.

Along with what went on last weekend (car accident, lying child) on Wednesday my hard drive crashed along with everything on it. We spent all evening on the phone with 2 guys from India (doesn't that sound like a movie?) and re-installed everything from the ground up. Fortunately we have an external hard drive. Unfortunately it hasn't been updated since May. So we lost a fair amount of music and possibly some photos. All in all, not so bad. I haven't gotten much (any?) reading done this week, in part from worrying, talking to folks in India, and reading Setting Limits with your Strong-Willed Child which should explain everything else. I recommend this title, by the way.

Whew. Enough of that. Let's look at the bright side.

I won two books from drawings this week! How amazing is that? I won Shoot the Moon from Bree and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society from A Reader's Respite. I also received the I Love Your Blog! award from Ti which touched my heart and I pass right back to all of you good people who have been giving support with your kind words.

I got a brand-new cookbook in the mail, In Season by Sarah Ravens, which is gorgeous, and has ribbon markers, and was free because I had gift cards from overstock.com!

I also received a couple of review copies of books, one of which is Immoveable Feast: A Paris Christmas. I think the gentleman who emailed me about this one read my mind: Christmas, cooking and Paris? What more could I want. Stay tuned, because there just might be a giveaway for this one.

Lots of books, and lots of blessings have filled my bookish and bloggish life this week, and I am grateful for that.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The 'Jects

In the late 1980's journalist Alex Kotlowitz researched one of the great stories of urban depression in our time. He befriended a family in Chicago's Henry Horner homes (HHH), the 'projects' or 'jects' as they were called. Along with other urban projects, the HHH were built in the late 1950s as a response to homelessness. They seemed nice when they were built but became run-down, gang and drug ridden, a neighborhood that police didn't even want to enter.

There Are No Children Here is the story of Lafeyette and Pharoah Rivers and their family, consisting of mother LaJoe, drug-abusing father Paul, their younger triplet siblings, their 3 older teen/adult siblings and a host of friends and family that pass through their first floor apartment of the HHH. Their apartment where the scalding hot water in the bathtub never turns off. Where there are no closet doors or proper beds. Where appliances break and never get fixed. Where they must run to the hallway to escape from gunfire. From where their mother looks for a job and cannot get hired. Where the only people that appear to be financially stable are involved with drugs and gangs.

This is the story of Lafeyette and Pharoah, boys of age 9 and 12, who are not, as the title suggests, children, for they have seen far too much to still have the minds and hearts of children. These boys see their own mortality at their young ages as they attend the funerals of young friends and neighbors. These boys have a bit of an escape in school, where Pharoah thrives, in a neighborhood that most people wouldn't drive though, their teachers leave valuables at home and hope for the best.

This is the story of life in the Chicago projects. It is not pretty. We do not want to believe that this goes on only blocks from where we live. We do not want to believe that children struggle so.

This is a difficult book to read, as my bookclub found when we discussed this book on Monday night. I veer from sadness to frustration to anger at this cycle that perpetuates itself. How badly these boys and their mother want to be 'normal' and live in a 'normal' home in a 'normal' neighborhood.

The fact that this book exists, that Kotlowitz got this story in the first place is truly amazing. The Henry Horner Homes are gone now, demolished along with other high rise projects. That does not make this story any less timely or important.

Above photo taken by Stephen Shames

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I am thrilled to be pairing up with Hachette Books again to give away THREE copies of Kate Atkinson's new book, When Will There be Good News? which is being officially released today.

I found this to be a fantastic read, and whether you've read Atkinson's work in the past or not, I know you're going to love this literary mystery.

The rules are simple. Just leave a comment on this post telling me what the best mystery/suspense book you've read so far in 2008 is. If you haven't read any, tell me something about yourself. There is one entry per person. You don't have to have a blog to enter, but please make sure I have a way to contact you if you've won. This giveaway is open to US and Canadian addresses only, sorry to those outside these areas. I will close the comments and draw the 3 winners on October 1. Good luck!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dear Sarah Waters,

I loved your book Fingersmith. In fact, I consider reading it one of the best reading experiences I've ever had. I have also enjoyed your books Affinity and The Night Watch. But I always avoided your first novel, Tipping the Velvet. It seemed so overtly...sexual. But one day I found myself in Half Price Books with a taste for a Victorian setting and holding a copy of Tipping the Velvet. Covered with praise from The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Publishers Weekly, and other reputable publications, I decided to give it a try.

I read it. Besides telling my readers that it is a well written coming-of-age story of a young woman who falls in love with another woman after which much drama ensues, there's not much I can say about it that wouldn't draw the wrong sort of traffic here. You see, I don't really consider myself a prude, I mean, I loved Slammerkin and The Dress Lodger, but this book is pretty much just s*x, s!x, s$x. With various people, in various places, with various methods of payment. I felt as though I were reading something not from the fiction section of the bookstore but from the erotica section. So I am sort of unable to recommend this book to people unless they're looking for some Victorian....s%x.

Thank you very much for your time. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for Tipping the Velvet, I will continue to seek out your work in the future.


Tara from BooksandCooks Blog

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Farmer's Market - September 20

I didn't buy very much this week, though you wouldn't have known it by the weight of my bag. We have lots of evening events this week so I won't be doing much cooking. We've already eaten a fair amount of this! The best find today was those apples. Those are not just any apples, those are honeycrisp apples. Developed here in Minnesota they are quite simply the best apples I've ever tasted. They are widely available here and we'll be devouring them until the stores run out. Try some, if you seem them in your market.

A car accident (not involving me or the girl and everyone is fine) which will require a new car being purchased and a child telling lies (and I'm open to advice on handling this) has left me feeling not so upbeat this weekend. I'll be around to see you soon.

Friday, September 19, 2008

An Award and Some Peppers

Wow! I'm really , really touched by my win in the BBAW Best Cookbook Blog category. Thanks to whomever nominated and voted, it is so very kind of you.

In the spirit of cookbooks, I thought I'd mention a recipe I made from this book, Vegetarian Suppers by Deborah Madison. I actually made that cover recipe, Yellow Peppers stuffed with quinoa, corn and feta cheese. I made some deletions and substitutions based on what I had in the house (monteray jack instead of feta, for example) and wound up with this (photo taken before they went into the oven) :

I thought they were very good. My husband liked the filling, not so much the idea of stuffed peppers. When pressed, he said if we were going to eat veg, he'd rather have the filling alongside black beans. I can see that. My daughter, quinoa lover that she is, was not super thrilled with all the additions, but wanted to eat the pepper.

Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Jackson Brodie, Part Three

Kate Atkinson has done it again with When Will There Be Good News?, and it's better than ever. Atkinson's latest novel involving soldier-turned cop-turned private detective-turned private citizen who never fails to find himself in the middle of a debacle- Jackson Brodie is being released next week and it is a smashing good read. Atkinson is a master at assembling a cast of many who are seemingly disconnected and bringing them all together in a climactic and explosive ending.

Besides Brodie, in this story we meet Dr. Hunter, a woman who lived through the greatest horror one could at only six years old, and her family - 'the baby' and her rather clueless husband. Detective Louise Monroe, an unhappily married newlywed, who has a history with Jackson. The Needler family, in which ex-husband David is stalking his ex-wife and children. A murderer, who has recently been released from jail. And last but not least, certainly not least, Miss Reggie Chase, nanny to Dr Hunter's baby, a 16 year old that looks 12, she is bookishly brilliant, but streetwise as well. She has formed a bond with Dr. Hunter and her son that will save them all. Reggie Chase is the best drawn character I've met in literature in ages. She is brave, strong, persistent, clever, and wise and she steals the show here.

How to define When Will There Be Good News? There is murder and there is mystery, but it is not a murder mystery. It is humorous in a very, very black way, yet it is very much a drama. I will not even attempt to outline the plot here - it's quite complicated, and frankly I think you're better off just diving in to this splendidly satisfying book. I couldn't recommend it more highly, yet do advise that it is not for the faint of heart.

There's more. To answer the question - When Will There Be Good News? - well, next week is the answer to that. If you come back and visit me you will find a giveaway for this very book compliments of Hachette Books. Giveaway will be open to US and Canadian residents.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Farmer's Market - September 14

The farmer's market is much less crowded on Sunday, as I noticed yesterday. This is a great time of year, with Summer veggies still being available, and all of the Fall items becoming available. Newly available items that I bought include cauliflower, parsnips, brussels sprouts and honey. The girl has been asking for cauliflower cheese pie, so we'll be having that this week.

The thing I've bought every week since July and didn't buy today is corn. I'm a little tired of shucking it and pulling all those strings off of it. I am beyond impressed with people that do this in large quantities and can or freeze it.


Thanks everyone for entering the giveaway for a copy of Matrimony! I was so pleased to be able to host this giveaway on behalf of Joshua Henkin.

I enjoyed everyone's comments about hardcovers vs. paperbacks! My favorite comment came from Bybee:

I prefer paperback to hardback because paperbacks smell a little different from hardcover books. It must be the different paper and different glue. With slight variations, new paperbacks (even the cheapola ones at the checkout counter) have a lovely scent reminiscent of pencil shavings with a delectable under-scent that is a little bit spicy.

I don't think I've ever noticed this, but I'll definitely being sniffing the books from now on!

I am a bit similar to many of you in that I prefer paperbacks - their size, their portability, their weight, their price(!). I do like how hardcovers look on my shelves but I do not prefer the actual reading of them and always take the dust jackets off.

But all this to get to the winner, I numbered the entries beginning with the first one, used the random number generator (my actuary was unavailable) and the winner is.............


Congratulations, Iliana, I'll be contacting you for your address. Thanks so much to everyone who entered. Do come back, as I'll be hosting another giveaway next week.

Edited to add: If you've read (or are about to read!) Matrimony, do check out lit*chick's most recent online bookclub - lots of great questions about Matrimony!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Books, Glorious Books!

Let's see what we have here, shall we?

I purchased these two books the same evening at a small independent bookstore. Jonis Agee, the author of The River Wife, is considered somewhat of a local author, having lived in Saint Paul for many years. Wave of Terror by Theodore Odrach has recently been translated into English; it is a novel of Belarus under Stalin. What really strikes me about these two books, and what I did not notice until I brought them home, is how very similar they look. Both have green as the dominant color, both have writing in white, both show water and branches across the cover.

The Bloomsbury World Fiction book was an impulse buy on the same evening I bought the books shown above. There's nothing I like more than a book full of lists of books. Naturally, I had to see if Bloomsbury had any other books in this vein, and promptly ordered the Bloomsbury Good Reading Guide from The Book Depository. Both are wonderful, though I prefer the World Fiction Guide. The entries are arranged by country, with short descriptions of each book, longer ones for others, and the books and authors are oftentimes not familiar to me - a plus.

The top three books in this stack were part of my Book Depository order. I've been eyeing Michel Faber's The Apple for some time now - it is a book of short stories based on the characters that appeared in The Crimson Petal and The White, a book I found absolutely delicious. The Sophie Hannah book came from a swap, and the other two books are about the neighborhood in Chicago where I used to live, Old Town.

Here we have some books I am meant to review. The 19th Wife was actually a prize from Allison's Attic.

Quite a lot of lovely new books here, now I need only the time to read them.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Reviews of the Week

When I read Tana French's first book, In the Woods, not long along ago, I was quite intrigued by the 'teaser' chapter at the end for her new book, The Likeness.

The Likeness focuses on detective Cassie Maddox, who has been moved from the murder investigation team after the debacle that occurs in In the Woods. Cassie, however, is called to the scene of a murder by Frank, her old boss when she worked as an undercover detective. When Cassie arrives at the scene, there is a dead woman who is a dead ringer for Cassie. Not only that, but the woman is identified as Lexie Madison - a name Cassie has used in the past as an alias when she was undercover. Intriguing, no? Frank's idea is to cover up the fact that Lexie has been murdered and send Cassie in to live as Lexie undercover, hoping the the murderer would reveal him or herself. This was the best part of the book, in my opinion. Between Cassie's emotions as an undercover agent, her relationships with her boss and her boyfriend, and the fascinating personalities she is living with, there is a great feeling of tension and suspense.

I really enjoyed reading The Likeness, and liked it more than In the Woods which I think bodes well for French's future writing. The only quibble I have is that French's books are awfully long, and I think it's a bit difficult to maintain suspense over such a long period of time/pages - the narrative could be a little tighter if that makes any sense. In any event, I would certainly recommend French's books and will be interested to see what she writes in the future.

When We Were Romans by Matthew Kneale is one of the most beautifully produced books I've ever seen. Under the dust jacket, the cover is a beautiful piece of art by Ian Dingman which you can see here. Do take a look, it is gorgeous.

When We Were Romans is a tale told by Lawrence, a 9 year old boy, whose mother Hannah believes his father is trying to hurt their family. Hannah decides on a whim that because she has friends there, Rome would be a good place to escape to, and loads Lawrence and his younger sister into the car for the adventure. Lawrence tries his very best to keep the peace and be his mother's ally, yet he is just a boy, and this comes though as well. We also hear about Lawrence's fascination with astronomy and Roman emperors, whose stories in a round-about way mirror what he is going through. Everything is not as it should be though, and as things become more clear this novel takes the reader to a rather horrifying place for Lawrence and his family.

The voice of Lawrence in this book is pitch-perfect, the narrative being full of run on sentences, misspelled words and the general inner workings of a young boy trying to make sense of the adults around him. It is fascinating to consider what goes on in the mind of a child and how they interpret the world around them with their limited experience. Despite the fact that I felt this was a very well written book and appreciated what the author was doing, I did not get that deep sense of satisfaction that I get from a really good book. I think this probably had to do with the telling of the story from Lawrence's perspective, I was never fully connected with him.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I'm just thrilled that I've had such a great response to this giveaway.

These names were chosen randomly thanks to a random number generator on excel produced by my extremely clever personal actuary (seriously).

So, without further ado, the winners are:




Congratulations! I will be contacting each of you for your contact information. Thanks to everyone who entered.

Don't forget to enter the Matrimony giveaway below!

Monday, September 8, 2008


I am thrilled to be posting my second giveaway, and especially thrilled that I am able to host this giveaway of one signed paperback copy of Matrimony on behalf of Joshua Henkin, author of Matrimony, which was recently released in paperback.

Matrimony was a New York Times Notable Book which I was fortunate enough to read and review back in July.

If you're interesting in learning more about Henkin, here is a wonderful post he wrote about book groups for Books on the Brain.

Here are the rules: leave a comment on this post, and since we are celebrating the paperback release of this book, tell me which you prefer: hardcover or paperback, and why, if you wish. There will be one entry per person. This giveaway of one signed copy of the new paperback edition of Matrimony is open to anyone, anyplace on the globe. I will be drawing the winning name on September 15. Good luck!

P.S. Don't forget to make sure I have your email address!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Farmer's Market - Week 10

The Republicans tried to keep me away from my vegetables last week, so I hit another local market. I found some great stuff, including some amazing local blue cheese, but I didn't get a photo.

Every week I feel as though I couldn't possibly carry one more thing, but the next week I bring more home. Any ideas on what to do with 8 peppers? I'm not an eggplant lover, but I'm going to try some sort of roasted eggplant dip later this week. I made pesto yesterday, and right now I have a terrific corn dish in the oven which I'll share soon. What was available that I didn't buy? Melons, winter squash, huge bags of potatoes, apples, and brussels sprouts. I'm not ready for some of these yet; I'm sticking with summer veggies for now.

Come back tomorrow for another giveaway!

Friday, September 5, 2008

First Soup of the Season

I just noticed that I was nominated for for Best Cookbook Blog over at My Friend Amy's book blog awards. Wow! That is really lovely, thank you to those who nominated me. I was going to review The Likeness by Tana French today, and post this next week, but in honor of this nomination, and visitors who may be looking for a cooking blog, I will offer this instead.

Have I mentioned that it's freezing here? Yesterday the high here was 64 degrees, and since I had a refrigerator full of vegetables, and plans to return to the farmer's market 2 days later, I decided to make soup. I was inspired by all my vegetables, as well as the chapter on Soups I'd been reading in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

If you want to be elegant you could call this soup Late Summer Vegetable Soup, or if you want to be more practical you could call it clean-out-the-refrigerator-soup.

First, I made a stock for this soup using Madison's instructions. I sauteed onion, carrot, garlic, the greens of leeks, and potato peelings in a bit of oil, then added water, bay leaf, salt, and peppercorns and simmered around 1/2 hour. Madison states that water is fine to use instead of stock but I just felt like trying this. The flavor was unexpectedly wonderful!

I then began the soup by sauteing onion, carrots, garlic, a poblano pepper (seeded) and leeks in butter and olive oil, then adding diced potatoes and zucchini. When everything was tender, I pureed a few cups of the soup to add body and added it back in along with some green beans. I was pretty impressed with the flavor of this soup. I didn't even add herbs because I was too lazy to go outside, so the only seasonings were salt and pepper. I think leeks add something really special to soups and other dishes and plan to use more of them in my cooking.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I've been tagged!

I am thrilled with the great response to the giveaway! Keep those entries coming.

The weather here is crazy. Tuesday was the first day of school, the air was humid and heavy, the classrooms stifling. A cold front moved in, and I had to pick up the girl with a sweater in hand. We've barely topped 70 since then, and the temperatures don't look as though they'll be rising too much. Is that it? No more tomatoes? Overnight lows in the 40s? Sheesh. That was quick.

Check out this guest post and watch the video about this most amamzing couple and their enourmous bookstore!

Gentle Reader from Shelf Life tagged me for a fun meme:

Here are the rules:

I am going to list three categories of books. 3 MUST Read Books, 3 Keep Your Eyes on These, and 3 Look For These Soon. Keeping with the theme, I am going to tag at least 3 bloggers. They should put these same lists on their blog but SUBTRACT one book from each list and ADD one of their own. Then they should tag at least 3 more bloggers. It will be fun to see how the lists change as they go around the blogosphere. Please come back to this post and leave a comment so I can see how the lists are changing. Since this is Book Buzz…please keep your lists to titles released in 2007-2009.

So, here goes…

[Stars are next to my additions]

3 MUST Read Books:

*Resistance by Alice Humbert
The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly
Black Swan Green, by David Mitchell

3 Keep Your Eyes on These:

Monique and the Mango Rains, by Kris Holloway
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer
*The Likeness by Tana French

3 Look For These Soon:

Home, by Marilynne Robinson
*When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson (review coming soon)
Indignation, by Philip Roth

3 Tags to keep this meme going:


Wednesday, September 3, 2008


I am positively thrilled and honored to be hosting this giveaway, which happens to be my first.

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent is being released today and is a fascinating historical novel about Martha Carrier who was found guilty of being a witch during the Salem Witch Trials and subsequently hung.

I read this book in July (review here) and began communication with Hachette Book Group whose representative generously offered THREE copies of The Heretic's Daughter to be given away here.

The rules are simple. Just leave a comment on this post, one entry per person. You don't have to have a blog to enter, but please make sure I have a way to contact you if you've won. This giveaway is open to US and Canadian addresses only, sorry to those outside these areas. I will close the comments and draw the 3 winners on September 10. Good luck!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Good things: Back to school and Margaret Atwood

It's hard to imagine how much anxiety I had last year over my daughter starting kindergarten. Especially considering with what zeal I dropped her off today for First Grade! In all seriousness though, my daughter seems to be one who thrives in a group setting (good thing I hadn't had plans to homeschool) and her behavior lately has indicated that she is ready to go back. We've talked about the fact that First Grade is going to be a big change from kindergarten, so I'll be interested to see how she handles that. I just can't wait already to pick her up and find out how things went!

I am still trying to get caught up with my reviews and I'm almost there. Last Monday evening, my book club got together to discuss The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. It wasn't until I reviewed The Blind Assassin here that I realized how strongly people feel about Atwood's writing. I personally began with her book Alias Grace just because I thought it sounded good and have gone on to read many of Atwood's novels. I don't think I ever felt intimidated by or scared of her writing as others have told me they are.

This was my second reading of The Handmaid's Tale and I definitely enjoyed it even more this time around. I think this book is best read when you don't know too much about the story. The main character, Offred, is a Handmaid under a regime that has stripped her of her family, her home, her job, her money, and her rights. Sound familiar? Offred has one role and one role only - to become impregnated and bear a child for an officer of this regime whose wife is unable to. As with all of Atwood's writing, every word counts. The first time I read this book I read so carefully, as Atwood revealed the layers of this story and we learn how Offred and the others came to be living in this way. The greatest horror of this story is that it seems so real, that this could really be carried out by a government, and in fact has (the Holocaust). The second time, knowing the storyline and not anticipating the ending so much, I was able to fully immerse myself, enjoying the black humor along the way. Really, what is the liklihood that there would be laughs in a book like this, but this is Atwood we're talking about.

After I finished THM this time, I went on to read some critical studies of it online which were fascinating, pointing out symbolism in the text that I hadn't noticed. I'm frankly surprised that this book never won any awards, at least as far as I am aware. The idea, the execution, and the characters are simply brilliant. Everyone in my book club enjoyed this book, except one woman who found it 'mediocre'. Hmm.

Do come back tomorrow, I am doing something for the first time, and there will be prizes!