Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Heroines

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week we're talking about heroines - specifically kick-ass heroines. My favorites include:

Elizabeth Bennet 
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

Margaret Hale 
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Alexandra Bergson
O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

Isabel Archer
The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

Undine Spragg
The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

Jo March
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Olive Kitteridge
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Swan Lake
The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

Emily Maxwell
Wish You Were Here and Emily, Alone by Stewart O'Nan

Harriet M. Welsh
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Are any of these among your favorite heroines? Find more lists here.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Today I Am..

Drinking hot coffee... black.

Wearing black yoga pants and a comfy green sweater.

Reading The Submission by Amy Waldman for my book club and, on audio, The Bucolic Plague by Josh Kilmer-Purcell (Sandy convinced me).

Listening to Puccini and Pasta. I may be Puccini's newest fan.

Cooking Cider-Brined Maple-Glazed Turkey, because I hate to experiment on Thanksgiving. Yesterday I prepared the brine and herbed butter, brined the bird overnight, and will roast it today. Look for a Weekend Cooking post next weekend if it turns out.

Preparing for Hurricane Sandy/Frankenstorm. Gutters cleaned yesterday. Today we'll secure outdoor furniture or put it away for the winter. Supplies laid in just in case.

Worrying about relatives facing bad weather - Daughter #1 and Twin A awaiting Sandy, and a Tsunami warning in Hawaii for my brother's vacation.

Looking forward to Random House Open House on Friday, meeting some book blogging friends, and a visit with my daughters.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Author Birthday: Sylvia Plath

The Bull of Bendylaw

by Sylvia Plath

The black bull bellowed before the sea.
The sea, till that day orderly,
Hove up against Bendylaw.
The queen in the mulberry arbor stared
Stiff as a queen on a playing card.
The king fingered his beard.

A blue sea, four horny bull-feet,
A bull-snouted sea that wouldn't stay put,
Bucked at the garden gate.

Along box-lined walks in the florid sun
Toward the rowdy bellow and back again
The lords and ladies ran.

The great bronze gate began to crack,
The sea broke in at every crack,
Pellmell, blueblack.

The bull surged up, the bull surged down,
Not to be stayed by a daisy chain
Nor by any learned man.

O the king's tidy acre is under the sea,
And the royal rose in the bull's belly,
And the bull on the king's highway.

"The Bull of Bendylaw" by Sylvia Plath, from The Collected Poems. © Harper Perennial, 1981.

From today's Writer's Almanac:

It's the birthday of poet Sylvia Plath (books by this author), born in Boston (1932). She was an excellent student, and she went to Smith College with the help of a scholarship endowed by the writer Olive Higgins Prouty. One summer during college, she was chosen to be a guest editor for Mademoiselle magazine. She was only 20 years old, and she had already been published in Seventeen, Mademoiselle, The Christian Science Monitor, and other newspapers. Her summer started off well. She went to lots of parties and discovered that she loved vodka. But she was having trouble writing poetry and short stories, and she worried that she was a failure as a writer. Then she got notice that she had not been accepted for an advanced creative writing course at Harvard, taught by the writer Frank O'Connor. She was so depressed that she attempted suicide. Her benefactress, Olive Prouty, paid for her stay in a mental hospital and psychiatric care.

Plath returned to Smith and graduated with highest honors in 1955. She won a Fulbright scholarship to study at Cambridge University, and there she met and married the poet Ted Hughes. In 1960, she gave birth to a daughter and published The Colossus, the only book of her poems to be published during her lifetime. It got minor reviews in various British publications. In 1961, she was excited to find an American publisher; she wrote: "After all the fiddlings and discouragements from the little publishers, it is an immense joy to have what I consider THE publisher accept my book for America with such enthusiasm. They 'sincerely doubt a better first volume will be published this year.'" And on the date of its publication in 1962, Plath wrote to her mother: "My book officially comes out in America today. Do clip and send any reviews you see, however bad. Criticism encourages me as much as praise." But The Colossus was even less noticed in America than in England; there were only a handful of reviews, many of them just a paragraph long.

Plath decided to write a novel based on her experience during the summer when she worked at Mademoiselle. She referred to the novel as "a pot-boiler" to family and friends, but she had high hopes for it. She won a fellowship to work on the novel, and the fellowship was connected to the publishers Harper and Row; but once she finished it, the editors there rejected it — they thought it was overwritten and immature. The Bell Jar was published in England in January of 1961 under a pseudonym, Victoria Lucas. It got good reviews, but not great. A month later, Plath committed suicide.

Many people learned about Plath only after her death, reading her poems in obituaries and news stories. In the next couple of years, her poems appeared regularly in magazines like The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly. In 1965, a collection of poems called Ariel was published posthumously, and received major reviews in all the big papers and magazines. In Britain, Ariel sold 15,000 copies in its first 10 months, and Plath's popularity continued to rise. The Bell Jar was finally published in the United States and stayed on the New York Times best-seller list for six months.

Sylvia Plath wrote: "Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty (audio)

The Chaperone
by Laura Moriarty
Narrated by Elizabeth McGovern
Penguin Audiobooks, 2012
13 hours and 14 minutes
source: review copy

Publisher's Summary:

The Chaperone is a captivating novel about the woman who chaperoned an irreverent Louise Brooks to New York City in 1922, and the summer that would change them both.

Only a few years before becoming a famous actress and an icon for her generation, a 15-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita to make it big in New York. Much to her annoyance, she is accompanied by a thirty-six-year-old chaperone who is neither mother nor friend. Cora Carlisle is a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for making the trip. She has no idea what she’s in for: Young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous blunt bangs and black bob, is known for her arrogance and her lack of respect for convention. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will change their lives forever.

For Cora, New York holds the promise of discovery that might prove an answer to the question at the center of her being, and even as she does her best to watch over Louise in a strange and bustling city, she embarks on her own mission. And while what she finds isn’t what she anticipated, it liberates her in a way she could not have imagined. Over the course of the summer, Cora’s eyes are opened to the promise of the 20th century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive.

My thoughts: 

One summer can change a life. For Cora Carlisle, it was the summer of 1922 when she chaperoned a young Louise Brooks in New York City.

The Chaperone is a remarkable novel not only for its sense of time and place (New York City and Kansas in the early 20th century), but for its portrayal of Cora's personal growth and development as she searches for her roots, comes to terms with a loveless marriage, and begins to forge a new outlook on life. Her initial narrowness and naivete eventually give way to broader understanding, acceptance, and eventual happiness.

A beautiful novel - highly recommended.

A note on the audio production:

There's no good lead-in, so here it is:  I didn't love Elizabeth McGovern's narration of The Chaperone.

In fact, as much as I hate to admit it, her voice actually put me off in the beginning. The vast majority of listeners rave about this production, but McGovern's 'normal' accent seemed (to me) precious and affected at times, while her Kansas voice was simply grating. Do people really sound like that in Kansas? I don't know. However, by the end of the second CD, I'd grown accustomed to her narration (it's a far cry from Downton Abbey, folks) and settled in to enjoy the story.

 In the end, it was an average production of a superior novel.

Read or listen?
It's a toss-up. Either way, don't miss this book.

My rating:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Top Ten Books to Get into the Halloween Spirit

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week is all about books that remind us of Halloween, so let's get right to it. My ten favorite Halloween books, in no particular order:

The Virago Book of Ghost Stories, edited by Richard Dalby
Even the cover is scary.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
The best ghost story... ever.

And don't forget about The Lottery and Other Stories.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Just plain creepy. 

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again."

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Austen's gothic novel, and Jane at her funniest.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Nothing says Halloween like a good murder mystery.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Not quite up to The Time Traveler's Wife, but wonderfully weird.

Because it's Edith Wharton...

The Witch Next Door by Norman Bridwell
A throwback from second grade...

What are your favorite Halloween books?
More Top Ten Tuesday lists are here.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Blissfully Boring

Good morning and Happy Sunday. As I sit here sipping my coffee, reflecting upon the past week, I am struck by how quiet the house is with just three of us here. It hasn't been like this in five months. In addition, it's been a week where I haven't driven more than 30 minutes in any direction.  Will this continue? Probably not, but it has been a blissfully normal (some might even call it boring) week.

What have I done? Laundry, odds and ends around the house, fall clean-up outdoors, had my teeth cleaned, started stocking the freezer, walked the dog, watched baseball and high school football, and tried 5 new recipes for Trish's Pin It and Do It challenge. Like I said, blissfully boring. We'll see what the week ahead has in store.

Surprisingly, there was not much reading other than a few chapters of The Submission by Amy Waldman. This novel about building a 9/11 memorial is my book club's next selection. I can already tell that we're going to have a great discussion, but it looks like I might not make it to the meeting because...

Random House Open House in New York City is Friday November 2. Now that I have a place to stay in the city, I might just attend. Anyone else planning to go?

On audio, it's become clear that I can do nothing else while listening to Colin Firth read The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. I am riveted to his voice, of course, but the book is so depressing - not at all conducive to exercise, housework, etc. It's a short book but, at this rate, could take a month to finish.

In the car, I am listening to This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz read by the author... a book that is slowly growing on me, despite having more f-bombs than anything I've ever read!

Today we're seeing Syracuse Opera's production of Tosca, then celebrating my twin sisters' 39th birthdays, again! Hope it's a great day for you, too.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Weekend Cooking: A "Pinteresting" Week

Trish is at it again. Her now-famous Pin It and Do It Challenge is back for the month of October. Round 1 in May was a delicious, resounding success, but August passed in a blur and I totally missed the summer event. With time running short, the entire family was delighted when I announced my intention to cook 'pinned' recipes all week... and complete the challenge in a single post. Here are the recipes I selected:

Monday's recipe came from Peanut Butter Fingers. My oldest daughter follows this blog and I repinned the recipe after seeing it on her board. It was a quick and easy dinner, although a little bland - perhaps my palate missed the full-sodium soy sauce? The recipe calls for the shrimp to be broiled, but I sauteed them instead. Next time, I'll spice it up just a little more.

This recipe from BetsyLife came to me via bookchickdi (thanks, Diane!). I  used Heineken beer and followed the recipe exactly as written. It was delicious, and I was sorry there were no leftovers for lunch the next day. This recipe is a keeper.

Wednesday was vegetarian night... and the biggest success of the week. OMG, this was delicious! The recipe came from The Shiksa in the Kitchen. We topped our bowls with cheddar cheese, salsa, shredded lettuce, avocado, and fat-free sour cream. The photo above is from the original pin. Our bowls disappeared too quickly to snap one of my own!

Thursday I took the night off from cooking and served Sunday's leftover lasagna. I still wanted to try a 'pin' and settled on dessert. This recipe was mentioned on Audrey's blog, so I followed her link and pinned the recipe as it appears on Pinch My Salt. It was actually my second time baking the cake, which has earned a permanent place in my fall dessert repertoire. This is the photo from Pinterest - mine was not as clear, or as appealing.

To finish out the week, last night's dinner was pinned from Allrecipes.com. I used fresh haddock instead of cod. It was quick, easy, and tasty. If I make it again, I'll try reduced fat cheese.

Overall, another successful Pin It and Do It Challenge. Thanks, Trish!

Weekend Cooking, hosted at Beth Fish Reads, is open to anyone who has a food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up over the weekend.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

Oh, how I love a good family saga! Chapters told from alternating viewpoints by three generations of women, and a large summer home on the Maine coast only enhance the experience. Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan offers both, along with the requisite problems and drama you've come to expect in a multi-generational family story. Just don't expect it to be neatly tied up with a ribbon at the end... life isn't like than anyway.

For me, Maine  was absolutely the right book at the right time. It was the story I'd been craving all summer long, made even more special because it came from one blogging friend (thanks, Jennifer!) via another. I've already added my inscription to the inside cover and shipped it off with hope that the next reader loves it just as much.

A couple of favorite passages:

" You all seem to think that you should marry someone when you feel this intense emotion, which you call love. And then you expect that the love will fade over time, as life gets harder. When what you should do is find yourself a nice enough fellow and let real love develop over years and births and deaths and so on."
-Alice, family matriarch  p. 253

They hardly said a word to one another as they walked the path, humbled by the natural beauty. You couldn't come here and not be absorbed by it. Off to the left on the other side of the fence stood stately homes with big front porches and Adirondack chairs on the lawns. To the right there was nothing but the pounding surf below, crashing against the rocks, the tide swaying back and forth like a dance. It made you feel as though you were part of something more important than just you. Like even if there was no God there was always the ocean - before you and after you, breathing in and out for all eternity.  p. 257

My rating:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Oh, Deer!

The deer are so pretty, but you wouldn't believe the mess they're leaving in the yard this year!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuesday Intro: The Submission

"The names," Claire said. "what about the names?"
"They're a record, not a gesture," the sculptor replied. Ariana's words brought nods from the other artists, the critic, and the two purveyors of public art arrayed along the dining table, united beneath her sway. She was the jury's most famous figure, its dominant personality, Claire's biggest problem.
The Submission
by Amy Waldman

I don't read novels about 9/11, but The Submission by Amy Waldman is our book club's next selection. The jury mentioned in the above passage is assembled to decide on a memorial to be constructed at the World Trade Center site. I sat down to read the first chapter and ended up reading four - this has the potential to be a great book for discussion.

What do you think of the opening passage? Would you keep reading?

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening paragraph(s). Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

TSS: A Tale of Two Moving Days

Good morning and Happy Sunday. Lakeside Musing has been pretty quiet the past couple of weeks, but I'm happy to report that after much planning, shopping, and packing (and a few tears), The Big Move took place last weekend. Daughter #1, now an official resident of Manhattan, is happily settling into her new apartment, and I'm eagerly anticipating my next visit to the city.

But you know things rarely go exactly as planned around here. Just before heading to Manhattan, we received a call from Twin A - trouble in paradise. Remember the gorgeous dorm complete with private bath?

Well, a spot appeared on the ceiling over her desk. It appeared moldy-looking and grew quickly.

Plaster and paint chips began to  rain down.

Eventually the problem was deemed extensive enough to require re-housing Twin A and her roommate. First to a 'temporary' location and then, after many phone calls and two trips to campus, to a double room in a different dorm (alas, with no private bath this time).  Repairs could easily take the rest of the semester, but the question remains whether they will eventually return to the gorgeous dorm/private bath or stay put for the rest of the year. Let's just say I'm not moving anyone else until May!

With everyone finally settled, it's back to business as usual here at Lakeside Musing. Friday I finished reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce and loved it every bit as much as other bloggers. I've also started The Submission by Amy Waldman for book club and continue to enjoy Colin Firth's reading of The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. Could there be more audiobook narration in his future? I certainly hope so.

I still have quite a backlog of books to talk about. Yesterday I posted thoughts on The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan and will polish up a couple more reviews this week.

Yesterday was Read-a-Thon and, while I did not officially participate, I borrowed an idea from Staci and finally watched The Hedgehog. It wasn't nearly as good as the book (most of the philosophical ideas were lost), but I liked it. However, I recommend reading the book before viewing the film.

Do you have plans for today or is readathon recovery your top priority? It's dock removal day here - the task that officially ends summer and heralds the arrival of winter months (there was snow in the air Friday). My brother, brothers-in-law, and nephew will lend their muscles and I'll reward everyone with a lasagna dinner. Have a great week!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan

The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table
by Tracie McMillan
Scribner, 2012
336 pages
source: library book

Book Description:

When award-winning (and working-class) journalist Tracie McMillan saw foodies swooning over $9 organic tomatoes, she couldn’t help but wonder: What about the rest of us? Why do working Americans eat the way we do? And what can we do to change it? To find out, McMillan went undercover in three jobs that feed America, living and eating off her wages in each. Reporting from California fields, a Walmart produce aisle outside of Detroit, and the kitchen of a New York City Applebee’s, McMillan examines the reality of our country’s food industry in this “clear and essential” (The Boston Globe) work of reportage. Chronicling her own experience and that of the Mexican garlic crews, Midwestern produce managers, and Caribbean line cooks with whom she works, McMillan goes beyond the food on her plate to explore the national priorities that put it there.

Fearlessly reported and beautifully written, The American Way of Eating goes beyond statistics and culture wars to deliver a book that is fiercely honest, strikingly intelligent, and compulsively readable. In making the simple case that—city or country, rich or poor—everyone wants good food, McMillan guarantees that talking about dinner will never be the same again.  (from amazon)

My thoughts:

From California farm fields, to the produce department of a Detroit Walmart, and an Applebee's in Brooklyn, Tracie McMillan lives the lives of those who labor to put food on our plate. She experiences their struggle to eat healthy, fresh food (especially produce), on a paltry salary and shows why processed convenience foods are almost always cheaper and easier. McMillan also details her experiences, including practices and procedures encountered, at two American icons.

 The book is very well-written and I appreciated McMillan's weaving background information and facts together with her undercover experiences in food-related jobs. Overall, The American Way of Eating made for some interesting reading but, after bingeing "food books" a couple of years ago, I found nothing particularly groundbreaking here. It does provide plenty of food for thought (pun intended) and makes me even more thankful for readily available fresh ingredients (thank you Wegmans), as well as the time and money necessary to serve my family healthy, well-balanced meals.

An Interesting Statistic:
"Today, about 16 cents of every dollar Americans spend on food ends up back at the farm; the other 84 cents goes to the system that got it on our plates in the first place. The transportation, the packaging, the delivery, the supermarkets, even the cooks at the restaurants, get everything else. If we manage to free up just a few cents of that dollar - something that would be easier to do if we had affordable, public food infrastructure - it stands to reason that we could pay farmers more, and in turn give farm-workers reasonable wages, without seeing our food costs skyrocket." p.240
A Disturbing Conclusion:
"Geography and the minute variations between the lowest rungs of our economy change the details, but the healthiest route through the American foodscape is a steep and arduous path most easily ascended by joining its top income bracket. So far as I can tell, changing what's on our plates isn't feasible without changing far more. Wages, health care, work hours, and kitchen literacy are just as critical to changing our diets as the agriculture we practice or the paces at which we shop." p. 231
My rating:
3.5/5 stars

My daughter, Carrie, reviewed this book, too. Read her thoughts over at Fitness and Frozen Grapes.

Weekend Cooking, hosted at Beth Fish Reads, is open to anyone who has a food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up over the weekend.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Author Birthday: Graham Greene

From today's Writer's Almanac:

It's the birthday of novelist Graham Greene (books by this author), born in Hertfordshire, England (1904). He's the author of such novels as The Power and the Glory (1940), The End of the Affair (1951), and Our Man in Havana (1958). 
The End of the Affair was inspired in part by Greene's own extramarital affairs. His London home was bombed one night during the Blitz. Greene would surely have been killed — except that he was spending the night with his mistress. As his wife later remarked, "His life was saved because of his infidelity."

This author birthday is especially notable since I have just started listening to The End of the Affair narrated by Colin Firth. The novel was a book club selection nearly ten years ago, but it didn't leave much of an impression. The audio is a different experience entirely!


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