Thursday, January 17, 2013

Books with Recipes and Food

Sunrise is at 7:55, sunset will be at 4:42. Saturday, January 12, 2013.

Cold, mostly blue sky, low sunlight (both in brightness and height; slanted yellowish light).  Not very pretty out there, today.  Everything is dun and sage, covered in frost but the frost just makes things look dull.  Everything is crunchy but the leaves are all rubbery.  I had to cover the daphne but I despair over its being alive for much longer.  It lost about half of its leaves last year in all the frost and snow and I am hoping the branches that still have leaves will have blossoms.  February is the month in which the pink tips start to show.  I'll cross my fingers, keep the towel over it, and hope for the best!

Does anyone out there in Seattle know what  this is?  This photo was taken on the pedestrian bridge to (and from) the ferry dock.  They are all locks, some are painted, some have initials, hearts, all are  locked, with no attached keys, to the fencing.  It's like a secret language, a story only known to a very few select people.  It's kind of cool and weird.  I'd love to know more but I've never seen anyone put a lock up here, bikes aren't attached to them, and there doesn't seem to be a rhyme or a reason. I'll continue to monitor the situation; maybe they come and go with the seasons.

Teachers and librarians often look for books with recipes in them.  It's a good way to teach multiculturalism, science, chemistry.  It's a good way to share character with the reader without having to use narrative. You know, if someone is a little kooky or nutty, they may get a box of cookies laden with almonds or pecans.  There's really great picture book out that takes place in an apartment building and someone on one floor is ill.  Everyone in the building comes by with their own culture's version of chicken soup.  It's a really cool book (if I can remember the title, I'll fill you in) and shows how much more alike we are than different.

There are also some fun books out that feature real recipes and cooking that older readers can follow and share with their friends:  The Bliss Family Series (by Kathryn Littlewood, HarperCollins) features a family with a magical cookery book that brings people together.  The Bliss kids have a nasty aunt who steals the book and leaves the children in a real mess.  I'm sure the third one will be out soon and I can't WAIT!

I just finished reading A Tangle of Knots, by Lisa Graff, a chapter book that features a twirl of relationships and cake recipes.  The story includes a lost suitcase and a slip of paper, a man who often seems like the white ball in a pool game, sending each character careening off into the next, and a little girl, an orphan who is able to match the perfect cake to the people she loves.  This is a book about loss and discovery, hope and desire, wishes and finding your heart's desire.  With cake.  It's a sweet thing, with lovely characters who are all looking for a home of one sort or another.  And did I say there's cake? Philomel.  $16.99.  Available in February.

More chapter books about cooking or with recipes:  Pie, by Sarah Weeks; Close to Home, by Joan BauerDumpling Days, by Grace Lin; It's Raining Cupcakes, by Lisa Schroeder.  This would be a fun list.  I'll keep adding to it as I come across more titles.  I'll do a picture book list, too- Thunder Cake, Everyone Eats Bread, Chicken Soup and Rice....

Thursday, January 10, 2013

January 10: Snow? No.

Sunrise wast at 7:56, sunset will be at 4:39.

The mornings are so much darker than they were; is it the cloud cover or what?  There may be more light, but it's gotta be at the other end of the day, the night end.  It's cold out, today, not rainy, yet, but cold.  There are little birds hanging upside down from the moss on the trees, picking at whatever seeds have lodged there. 

This is a video of the trip across the sound the other day, I think it was last Sunday when I went into work later than usual so there's daylight with which to see the ups and downs of the waves.  It's taken from inside so you may see my reflection in the window, the lights behind me, and the bird poop on the window (which I didn't see until I reviewed the video).  West Seattle is in the frame (to the left) and then Vashon Island and Blake Island off to the right.

In all the years of living on the Oregon coast, I don't think I was actually ever on a boat, in the water.  Once when I was really little I was on a fishing boat with my grandpa.  Weird.  All that water everywhere and I've only recently been on top of it.  And now I have a very vague idea as to why people become fishermen or ferryboat captains.  A couple of nights ago we were hit by crosswaves that let the ferry down in a hurry and everyone said, "OOH!"  and then laughed.  A little nervously.  It's an exciting trip every single time, always something new to see.  I'll post photos and videos of what I see on these trips.

One more grown up book:  Love Water Memory, by Jennie Shortridge, was a wonderful story about a woman who's lost her memory due to something traumatic in her life.  She ends up in San Francisco, but she was from Seattle.  When her husband finds her, they realize that she has no idea who he is or what their relationship was like.  As she gets to know him, sleeping in the guest room, wearing things she would have never previously chosen, they both question how they got to this point.  What caused this traumatic break in her reality?  It was a good story well told, it left me happy and glowy.  Definitely worth picking up and spending some time with.  Loved it.  Gallery Books.  $26.00.  Available April 2013.

Now, for a recent young adult novel:  If You Find Me, by Emily Murdoch.  I don't know where I actually got this book.  It looks like a St. Martin's adult title but it could be YA.  It's a difficult book to read, the children in it were not treated well nor were they safe, but the story and the characters are perfect for an older young adult audience (as well as for an adult one).  Carey and her little sister live in a run-down camper in the middle of a national park, well off the grid and path of anyone except for those who are looking to do harm. 

Carey and Jenessa have been living in this camper for many years, their mother an addict and alcoholic, a woman who uses the children in trade for drugs.  Carey has been Jenessa's caregiver and keeper since her birth, making sure her teeth are brushed and that she knows how to read and write.  Carey has inherited her mother's skill at playing the violin, and, luckily, very little else.  When they hear voices in the woods calling their names, Carey grabs the shotgun and sends her sister into the camper to hide.  Carey's father and a social worker have found the girls and have arrived to take them home, to a new family, and to society.

What an amazing adventure story this was!  Carey knows how to negotiate the woods and the wilds, she feels an immense affinity for the only home she remembers, but she has a need to make sure that Jenessa stays safe and has a real home to live in.  Jenessa has a slightly easier time of fitting in to this new world of warmth and food other than beans; Carey is a sophomore, dropped into a middle school full of all things middle school, with a step-sister who resents her, and a new friend who remembers her from the past.  A different kind of wilderness where the dangers are unknown.

Really well-written, compelling, I absolutely could not put it down.  I loved the characters, especially Ryan, Carey's rediscovered old friend.  I especially liked the very matter-of-fact way Carey approaches her worlds and their collisions.  It's a good thing she had something to hold onto, a reason for staying safe.  Definitely older young adults, maybe 14 or so, just for the brutality.  St. Martin's Press.  $9.99.  April, 2013.

Monday, January 7, 2013

More Books for Grown-ups

Sunrise today was at 7:57, sunrise was at 4:33.

View of Smith Tower from Yesler (Bail Bond Lane)
One of the things I see on my walk to the ferry is Smith Tower.  The beacon atop this historic building is something I aim for every morning; it makes me happy to see it, it's kind of comforting.  I can see it from our kitchen window, and it only blinks out of sight when I am behind a very few buildings along Rainier and when heading east up the start of the Yesler Street hill.

Smith Tower (for those of you who don't live in Seattle) was one of the first skyscrapers (at 42 stories), one of the tallest buildings in the world outside of New York City.  Granted, this was 1914 and a lot has changed since then.  It's a beautiful white terra cotta building with bronze window sashes and the best views of the city in the city.  Above the office building itself, there is a pyramid-shaped 4 story apartment, and above that is an immense globe with a light bulb.  It's a lot like a lighthouse:  a relatively small bulb reflecting in a glass globe to magnify its light.

Mostly it's white, sometimes it's purple (Go Dawgs), and for a good long time it's green.  I always look forward to the green season, the advent of the Christmas and winter holidays.  Usually, on the day after Thanksgiving, the big white star on the building atop Beacon Hill's Veteran's building is lit up and the light on the top of the Smith Tower becomes green.  I love that.

This year, I noticed on the Monday after Thanksgiving, that the light hadn't yet been lit, the bulb was dark.  I figured they must have been changing the bulb and looked forward to the later lighting of the globe.  Tuesday morning, still no lit light.  So, I ran into a man mopping the front entryway to the building and told him the light was out.  He looked at me as if I was a little crazy but said, "Okay.  I'll look into it."  Imagine what he'd have to go through to change the bulb!

The next day it was still dark, but that night, on the ferry going home, there it was!  All alight and green, floating above the skyline, slightly to the right of the rest of the city.  Finally! Yes, I am totally sure that I am the reason we had a green light for the holiday season.  

It's still up there, all green and beautiful, and I've never really noticed when it goes back to its "regular" color.  Maybe on the 12th day of Christmas?  Epiphany?  I'll notice this year!  It'll be the first thing I see standing in the dark windows, drinking my coffee.

A few more favorite books for grown-ups - again, they are listed in order of when read, not by how much I loved them.  To repeat something I wrote a very long time ago:  I don't write about books I wouldn't buy for my family.  I don't have the time (or the desire) to read something that doesn't captivate me immediately.  That's why it seems like I love (almost) everything I read; I just don't read the others! 

Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter, is a wonderful story of love and loss, landscape and beauty.  A young Italian innkeeper falls in love with a dying movie star taking refuge in his tiny town.  Years later, an elderly Italian man appears in a movie lot looking for the producer of the movie the starlet was in.  What happens between these two moments makes for a lovely and sweet story of lives lived, loved, lost and found. HarperCollins.  $25.99.  Available now.

Little Century, by Anna Keesey, is the story of Esther Chambers, a recent orphan in search of her single remaining relative, a cow-man living on the eastern Oregon frontier.  When Esther arrives, her cousin Ferris already has plans for her inclusion in claiming lands that hold a local watering hole, one that the local sheep ranchers use.  Esther is a woman with a strong sense of right and wrong and she very well could be the hinge of a range war between the cattle- and sheep-men.  Again, great landscape writing, really wonderful history, and great characters.  Farrar Straus and Giroux.  $26.00.  Available now.

Brain on Fire, by Susannah Cahalan.  Wow!  Talk about brain mysteries!  Susannah, a 24 year-old New York journalist, finds a couple of bites on her arm and begins to obsess over bedbugs and other insects in her apartment.  She starts putting things in bags, clearing her house, not making sense to her co-workers, insisting that people are all against her.  When she is taken to the doctor, she's diagnosed with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, both diseases that can appear in young adults of that age.  But, Susannah's problems just get worse.  She eventually has seizures that make her appear like a zombie and is hospitalized.  No one knows what's wrong with her and it isn't until an Indian doctor is brought onto the scene that her diagnoses are refuted and she is finally able to get healthy.  Brain on Fire is a great true mystery surrounding the most mysterious part of the body, the brain.  Lots of brain information, lots of history, too, and it was absolutely compelling.  Free Press.  $25.00.  Available now.

Maya's Notebook, by Isabel Allende.  I loved this book!  It would be a good cross-over novel for older teens, too.  Maya is a young woman who makes some not-so-great decisions and crosses the Las Vegas drug and money bosses and is sent into hiding.  This book is the chronicle of how she came to be living on the butt-end of a bunch of teensy islands hanging off the end of Chile.  Maya was a very loved child living with her grandparents.  When her beloved grandfather dies, she goes off the deep end drinking and drugging, eventually ending up in Las Vegas where she becomes involved with really bad people.  Eventually, her grandmother finds her and sends her to hide with her friends from the past, people who were involved in the Chilean civil wars.  More history!  More landscape!  More beautiful writing!  HarperCollins.  $28.99.  Available in May, 2013.

Okay, that's it for now.  There's been no recompense for these reviews. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Books for Grown-ups!

Sunrise is at 7:58, sunset will be at 4:31.

On the Yesler overpass looking south.
Walking to work every day gives me the chance to connect with nature in a way I haven't in a number of years.  When I worked at All for Kids, I would set out in broad daylight, reading as I went, it was a long walk and I didn't pay much attention to what was around me.

Now, I leave well before sunrise, walking along streets empty of people into the quiet heart of Seattle's Pioneer Square, then onto a ferry that sails across the Puget Sound. We board in the dark arriving on Bainbridge Island 35 minutes later in the clear early light of morning, Seattle shining against the Cascades, the snow on Rainier blush pink or steel gray depending on the weather. 

On the ferry looking back at the city.
This gives me time to watch the sunrise and sunset times, marking the moments they occur, looking to see where the sun lightens the sky between buildings or where the pinkening of windows begins as the sun sets.  Over the last couple of months I've watched the leaves start to fall and finally bare the trees, I've felt crispy air flick my lungs on the first step off the porch, and walked in deluges that filled my rain shell's hood and spilled out over my head when I bent to clear a drain.  Cold, bright days, pea-soup fog, leaves falling like snow, skyscrapers brilliant in both sun rise and set.  I watch the moon, I track the planets, I notice the flocks of birds heading away from the cold.

The world is an amazing place, the planet turns and rolls, the birds head south and the very universe changes above us.  We're lucky we evolved in such a way that we can so totally enjoy the journey.

I'm the new head buyer at Eagle Harbor (and one of the new owners.  Have I said that before?) and I've had to start reading more grown-up books.  I'm alternating reading one grown-up book with one YA/kid's book, so I may write about those every so often.  Books for adults are so much longer! There are so many more words written just to get to the end of the story.  That's not bad, just different.

Here are a few of my favorite recent books for adults (in order of date read, not favor):

Dolls Behaving Badly, by Cinthia Ritchie.  Funny, heartbreaking, it's a seriously good read about a woman who needs to make a change.  Carla lives in Anchorage, works as a waitress, has a gifted son, still sleeps with her ex-husband, and is absolutely broke.  She makes erotic dolls to keep herself above water and paints to keep her soul intact.  It's a big, messy story filled with big messy relationships and problems, a book I could definitely relate to.  I loved these characters, so very flawed and confused, and find myself thinking about them over and over.  Grand Central Publishing.  $13.99.  Available February 5, 2013.

Still Points North:  Surviving the World's Greatest Alaskan Childhood, by Leigh Newman.  What a book!  Still Points North is a memoir about growing up in the Alaskan wilderness and trying to find out where home really is.  Leigh grew up learning and mastering the skills it takes to survive in a world that seems to aimed at killing her:  fishing in rivers that toss bodies over rocks, bears wanting to eat her, and staying calm when the prop plane stalls out. Her life as a child was mostly a series of "Don't tell Mom" events.  When her parents divorced, she clocked many hours in flying back and forth between Baltimore and Anchorage.  When she became an adult, she was able to track tigers, swim with dolphins and face a mafia boss.  She can survive living off the land but not a relationship with the man she loves.  How do you learn to navigate the terrain of the heart?  How do you share a life with someone when you've always been alone?  Great read, great descriptions of landscape.  It's funny and sad and I dog-eared pages I wanted to re-read and post-it notes (with exclamation points!) stick out of the edges.  I am really hoping she'll be on tour!  Dial Press.  $26.00.  Available March 13, 2013.

Silver Linings Playbook, by Matthew Quick.  I love Matthew Quick's books.  He's written two books for middle grades and young adults (Sorta Like a Rock Star and Boy21) and this one for grown-ups.  Had to read it when Nancy Pearl said it was one of her favorites.  It's the story of two broken people trying to find their ways in a world full of hurt.  Pat has been in a mental institution and has come home to live with his family until the "apart time" with his wife is over.  Tiffany, a very odd woman, is also home recovering from a break with reality. The two of them are introduced and over the course of time become what I guess could be called friends.  It's actually a very sweet, endearing novel and I can't wait to see the movie.  Farrar Straus and Giroux.  $15.00.  Available now.

Go.  Read.  Enjoy.  Let me know what you think.  I'll add two more books for grown-ups in the next roundup.