Review: A Recipe for Disaster, by Stephen Phelps – with Giveaway

About the book, A Recipe for Disaster: Cooking up a Big Italian Idea

A Recipe for Disaster is a cookbook, a travelogue and the companion to Cookucina, a six-part TV series available on Amazon Video, iTunes and Google Play – see www.cookucina.com .

It’s also the entertaining journey of an Englishman struggling with the ups and downs of living in rural Italy. After giving up a successful career in television, Stephen found himself dragged back into a world he had happily given up when his neighbour, Lia, persuaded him to listen to her Big Idea – making a TV cookery series. But Lia speaks no English.

And Stephen’s partner, Tam, can’t cook. So, much against Stephen’s better judgement, the three of them embarked on a six-part series set among the rolling hills of the little-known, but spectacularly beautiful, Italian region of Le Marche. In the Cookucina TV series Lia teaches Tam to cook alla Marchigiana, while Tam translates. A Recipe for Disaster follows their many encounters with the real Italy – a world away from the picture-book ideal of summer holidays in Tuscany.

As the team try to construct a professional series with no funding they come to rely on the generosity of the Marchigiana people, while attempting to overcome the constant difficulties thrown up by those whose stubborn adherence to their age-old way of life is rooted in their beloved fields and woods. A Recipe for Disaster is a goldmine of simple yet delicious recipes, while peeling back the veneer of television professionalism and opening the door to a world of Italian surprise and delight.

A Recipe for Disaster comes with unique access to Cookucina, the final six-part TV series, so you can see for yourself how the team cracked their problems and (just about) held it all together in a blistering heatwave. Experience this contradictory world of vendettas and kind hearts through the laughter and frustrations of Stephen and the team, as you follow A Recipe for Disaster slowly coming to its surprising fruition.

Buy, read, and discuss A Recipe for Disaster:

Amazon (Paperback) | Amazon (Kindle) | iBooks | SmashWords | Goodreads


About the author, Stephen Phelps

Stephen PhelpsEducated at Oxford University, I began working with BBC Radio, moving to BBC TV where I launched Watchdog and produced the investigative legal series Rough Justice. In Hong Kong for BBC World Service Television I oversaw the start of BBC World. I then spent twelve years running my own TV production company, Just Television, specialising in investigative programmes in the field of law, justice and policing. In particular, Trial and Error for Channel 4 which exposed and investigated major miscarriages of justice, winning the Royal Television Society’s inaugural Specialist Journalism Award in 1999. Recently I have been working as a consultant for Aljazeera English on major documentary projects.

In 2002 I took an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. Writing credits include many plays for BBC Radio, my most recent being a drama documentary for the 30th anniversary of the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster. Books: The Tizard Mission published by Westholme Publishing in the United States, tells the extraordinary story of how Britain’s top scientists travelled in secret to America in the autumn of 1940 to give away all their wartime secrets to secure US support in WWII. A Recipe for Disaster is a book about living in Italy while trying to make a TV cookery series, Cookucina (now available on Amazon Video, Google Play and iTunes.

I have several other books and three screenplays in development.

Connect with Stephen:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Medium | Twitter


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellI love travelogues and cookbooks and true stories about people undertaking bold things. Under the Tuscan Sun and Peter Mayle’s Provence series are some of my favorite books in this genre. I read them, and I imagine leaving my cushy suburban lifestyle and relocating to Guadalajara, MX, or somewhere in Scotland.

Agreeing to read and review A Recipe for Disaster: Cooking Up a Big Italian Idea was obviously a no-brainer for me. I expected that I would enjoy Stephen Phelps’ story about living and cooking in Italy, especially when he has a non-cooking partner. (My own partner has a limited repertoire of boxed pudding, soup from the deli, and pasta with pre-made sauce, and I still have to walk him through the latter.)

What I did not expect was to fall in love with the book so hard that I paid the $12 to buy the series from Amazon. What I did not expect was to spend page after page laughing, crying, and drooling over Stephen, Tam, and Lia, the process of making a tv show, the process of learning to cook, and the shared experience of living in such a surreal bubble in time.

Reading this book makes you want to get your grandmother’s recipe box and systematically work through every family favorite you’ve ever known, but it also makes you want to start a restaurant, make a tv show, and learn to cook a new-to-you kind of food, or speak a new-to-you language.

At the same time, makes you want to run far away from all those things because each one has its own frustrations.

Candid, funny, sometimes poignant, A Recipe for Disaster is one tasty piece of fiction.

Goes well with any of the food mentioned in the book with a glass of a good Italian table wine. Need not be fancy. (I really want to make the roasted tomatoes (with breadcrumbs, baked herbs and orange zest).)


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Review: Understanding Cemetery Symbols by Tui Snider – with Giveaway

Understanding Cemetery Symbols

About the book Understanding Cemetery Symbols Understanding Cemetery Symbols

  • Series: Messages from the Dead
  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Castle Azle Press; 1 edition (August 19, 2017)

Graveyards don’t exist merely to shelter the dead. They also nurture the living. In fact, America’s garden cemeteries were our nation’s first public parks. People used to visit cemeteries not only to mourn the dead, but to have a pleasant day in nature with their family. “Understanding Cemetery Symbols” by Tui Snider helps history buffs, genealogists, ghost hunters and other curiosity seekers decode the forgotten meanings of the symbols our ancestors placed on their headstones. By understanding the meaning behind the architecture, acronyms, & symbols found in America’s burial grounds, readers will gain a deeper appreciation for these “messages from the dead.”

Buy, read, and discuss Understanding Cemetery Symbols:

Book ┃ Graveyard Journal Workbbook┃ Ghost Hunters Journal | Goodreads

Check out the trailer for Understanding Cemetery Symbols:

About the author, Tui Snider Tui Snider

Tui Snider is an award-winning writer, speaker, photographer, and musician specializing in quirky travel, overlooked history, cemetery symbolism, and haunted lore. As she puts it, “I used to write fiction, but then I moved to Texas!”

Tui lectures frequently at universities, libraries, conferences and bookstores. Her best-selling books include Paranormal Texas, The Lynching of the Santa Claus Bank Robber, Unexpected Texas, and Understanding Cemetery Symbols. She recently taught classes based on her books at Texas Christian University.

When not writing books, you can find Tui exploring the historic graveyards and backroads of Texas with her husband, Larry.

Connect with Tui:

WebsiteAuthor Facebook | Book Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

When I was given the opportunity to review this book, I didn’t merely sign up for it, I begged for the chance. Partly, of course, it’s because a lot of my writing lately is focusing on ghosts, but also it’s because the subject fascinates me. Maybe it’s because we don’t bury our dead in my family – we have them cremated and scatter the ashes somewhere meaningful – or maybe I’ve just read too many gothic novels with confrontations in family crypts, but graveyards have always intrigued me. In fact, one of the only things I remember from a clever gardening book I read several years ago, is that graveyard roses are the hardiest plants if you want to grow roses from a cutting.

Tui Snider’s book does not cover the best ways to filch roses from the dead, but it is a lot more than just a glossary of symbols commonly found on headstones.

In fact, Understanding Cemetery Symbols has several chapters explaining the history and trends of burial in America, including a rundown of different types of cemeteries and descriptions of the different words – such as burial ground, churchyard, graveyard, etc. – that were used in different eras and are still used in different parts of the country. (Confession: like the author, I agree that ‘graveyard’ is creepier than ‘cemetery.’)

Of course, it also explains the symbols the title references, but it does so in a way that is never dry or dull. Author Snider’s warm, witty style of writing feels more like a conversation with a friend than any kind of book, and I found myself both impressed with her research and eager to field-test her data.

Speaking of field-testing, my review copy also came with copies of Ms. Snider’s Graveyard Journal, for tracking the different graves you visit and what symbols are present, and her Ghost Hunter’s Journal, for those of us who have more than a passing fancy for the supernatural. Both of these supplementary books are well-designed, and now that the weather in Texas is cooling off I’m excited about doing some judicious exploration.

Understanding Cemetery Symbols is an interesting read even if you never plan to go tromping around old churchyards, but it’s indispensable if you do feel the urge to explore, and the two journals will only enhance your experience.

Goes well with tuna sandwiches and sweet tea, enjoyed on a picnic blanket in the middle of a cemetery.


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Grand Prize: Signed Copies of Understanding Cemetery Symbols + wGraveyard Journal Workbook + Ghost Hunters Journal 

2nd & 3rd Prizes: Signed Copies of Understanding Cemetery Symbols

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Tour Stops for Understanding Cemetery Symbols

18-Oct Excerpt 1 Texan Girl Reads
19-Oct Review Chapter Break Book Blog
20-Oct Guest Post 1 Books in the Garden
21-Oct Review The Librarian Talks
22-Oct Author Interview Books and Broomsticks
23-Oct Excerpt 2 The Page Unbound
24-Oct Review Forgotten Winds
25-Oct Top 5 List Syd Savvy
26-Oct Guest Post 2 A Novel Reality
27-Oct Review Bibliotica

Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Lone Star Literary Life

Review: The First Signs of April, by Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe

About the book, The First Signs of April

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: She Writes Press (September 5, 2017)

The First Signs of AprilWounds fester and spread in the darkness of silence. The swirling reds, oranges, and yellows of fall’s foliage dance alongside Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe like flames as she tears through the winding back roads of the Northeast Kingdom, Vermont. Desperate to outrun memories that flood her mind, no matter how hard she rolls her motorcycle’s throttle, she cannot escape them.

Shut down and disconnected, Briscoe has lived her life in silence in order to stay alive. Her grief is buried, and shame is the skin that wraps around her bones—but then, following the brutal murder of a local teacher, she is forced as a grief counselor to face her lifetime of unresolved sorrow. Will she finally be able to crack the hard edges of her heart and allow in the light of truth so real healing can occur?

Buy, read, and discuss The First Signs of April

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the Author, Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe

Mary-Elizabeth BriscoeMary-Elizabeth Briscoe is a licensed mental health counselor currently on sabbatical from her private psychotherapy practice in northeastern Vermont. She currently spends her time between Cape Cod, Vermont, and Ireland. She has a masters degree in clinical mental health counseling from Lesley University and is a licensed clinical mental health counselor and a Certified Trauma Professional. She has been a lecturer for Springfield College School of Professional and Continuing Studies St. Johnsbury, Vermont campus. She has contributed to Cape Woman Online and Sweatpants and Coffee magazine. This is her first book. 

Connect with Mary-Elizabeth

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI love memoirs, because I love to peek into other people’s lives, but I often feel weird reviewing them, because in a way, reviewing a memoir is like passing judgement on the writer’s life, rather than just their book.

In this case, I didn’t have that problem, because Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe’s memoir The First Signs of April, is so well written it feels like reading a novel. Her descriptions are vivid and realistic – I felt like I was on her motorcycle with her, or walking her dog, or any number of other places – and her voice is one of wit and candor mixed with hard-won self-awareness.

I really appreciated the way Briscoe alternated chapters set in the ‘present’ of her memoir – 2014 – with chapters in 2000 and 1982. It really felt cinematic experiencing her story that way, her growing up/coming of age, her early adulthood, and her more contemporary self, and it’s that juxtaposition that really made this book more than just a memoir, but something truly special.

True, there are some very dark moment in Briscoe’s story. There is blood and loss and heartache. Overall, though, I believe that this memoir has a note of hope running through it.

Goes well with sharp cheddar, fresh bread, and a nice red wine.


Tour Schedule:

Sept. 7: Teddy Rose Book Reviews and Plus More (Book Spotlight/Giveaway)
Sept. 20: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom (Review)
Sept. 28: Debra Smouse (Review)
Oct. 3: Soapy Violinist (Review)
Oct. 4: Diary of an Eccentric (Guest Post)
Oct. 18: The Book Connection (Guest Post)
Oct. 24: Bibliotica (Review)
Nov. 3: Life’s a Stage (Guest Post)
Nov. 4: Readaholic Zone (Review)
Nov. 15: Donna’s Book Reviews (Review)
 

Review: Equal Opportunity Hero by Phil Price

Equal Opportunity Hero

About the book, Equal Opportunity Hero: T.J. Patterson’s Service to West Texas

  • Texas Tech University Press (November, 2017)
  • 277 Pages

Equal Opportunity HeroOn April 7, 1984, T. J. Patterson became the first African American elected to the Lubbock City Council, winning handily over his four opponents. It was a position he would go on to hold for more than twenty years, and his natural leadership would lead him to state and national recognition.

Patterson grew up during a time of American social unrest, protest, and upheaval, and he recounts memorable instances of segregation and integration in West Texas. As a two-year-old, he survived polio when African Americans were excluded from “whites only” hospitals. When he attempted to enroll at Texas Tech after graduating from all-black Bishop College, he was not allowed even to enter the administration building–the president would speak with him only outside, and then only to say Patterson could not be enrolled. Two years later, his aunt would become the first African American to attend Texas Tech.

Patterson spent his whole adult life as a grassroots activist, and as a city councilman he understood how important it was to work in solid partnership with representatives from the predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods of the city. Over the years, Patterson took every opportunity to join African American and Hispanic forces, but with a few exceptions, the traditional geographic divide of the minority population limited his efforts–and yet Patterson never gave up. His brave public marches to homes of known drug dealers brought attention to their undesirable activities. Patterson also supported city investment in Lubbock history and culture, plus new development activity, from annexation to paved roads to water mains to fire stations. During his long career he truly was an equal-opportunity hero for all of Lubbock’s citizens.

Buy, read, and discuss Equal Opportunity Hero:

Purchase | Amazon | Texas Tech University Press | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


About the author, Phil Price

Phil PricePhil Price has been friends with T. J. Patterson for more than twenty years. Now retired, Price was President and CEO of a marketing and design agency. Over the years he has served the Lubbock Independent School District, the Lubbock Better Business Bureau, the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, and other city agencies. He lives in Lubbock USA, with his wife, Victoria.

 

 


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellAs someone who isn’t native to Texas, I always enjoy learning more about the people who helped to form the the state, or who were instrumental in its politics and culture over the decades. T.J. Patterson is one of the latter, and the author, his friend Phil Price, paints a picture of him that is vibrant and interesting, but also extremely real.

I appreciated that this biography was not a dry academic treatise, but a real glimpse into Patterson’s life, from his time at Bishop College (a black college) and beyond, Price shows him to be intelligent, witty, and somewhat self-deprecating, but also extremely self-aware.

Patterson is quoted extensively, to the point where it almost feels like his own voice outshines that of author Price, but maybe that’s how it should be. After all a biographer’s job is not to take the spotlight, but to put their subject in it. And in this book Patterson shines, not only in the glow of his own achievements but in the obvious affection and respect the author has for him.

As the child of activists, and someone who has been involved in her own causes since the age of twelve – not all the same causes, of course – I understand what it is to stand for the things you believe in, and I came away from this book knowing more about Texas, about how the civil rights movement was received in Texas, and about a fundamental player in recent Texas history.

Goes well with a tall glass of sweet tea and a baked potato stuffed with brisket.


CHECK OUT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

10/3 Promo Tangled in Text
10/4 Review Bibliotica
10/5 Promo Missus Gonzo
10/6 Review A Page Before Bedtime
10/7 Author Interview StoreyBook Reviews
10/8 Promo Texas Book Lover
10/9 Review Hall Ways Blog
10/10 Excerpt Texan Girl Reads
10/11 Review Reading By Moonlight
10/12 Promo Chapter Break Book Blog

Lone Star Book Blog Tours

 

Lone Star Literary Life

Review: It’s Messy, by Amanda de Cadenet

About the book, It’s Messy Its-Messy-cover

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Wave (September 19, 2017)

In this deeply personal collection of essays, creator of the The Conversation Amanda de Cadenet shares the hard-won advice and practical insights she’s gained through her experiences as businesswoman, friend, wife, and mother.

Amanda is on a mission to facilitate conversations that allow all women to be seen, heard, and understood. Through her multimedia platform The Conversation, she interviews some of today’s most bad ass women—from Hillary Clinton to Lady Gaga—in no-holds-barred conversations that get to the heart of what means to be female. Now, in It’s Messy, Amanda offers readers an extension of that conversation, inviting them into her life and sharing her own story.

From childhood fame to a high-profile marriage (and divorce) to teen motherhood to the sexism that threatened to end her career before it started, Amanda shares the good, the bad, and the messy of her life, synthesizing lessons she’s learned along the way. Through it all, she offers an original perspective as a feminist on the front lines of celebrity culture. Edgy, irreverent, poignant and provocative, It’s Messy addresses the issues, concerns, and experiences relevant to women today.

Buy, read, and discuss It’s Messy:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Amanda de Cadenet

Amanda-de-Cadenet-APAmanda de Cadenet is a creative force with a lifelong career in the media. She began as a host on British television at the age of fifteen and became a sought-after photographer shortly after—as a result her impressive photography career already spans nearly twenty years. She is the youngest woman ever to shoot a Vogue cover and has photographed many of the most influential figures in popular and political culture. As a media entrepreneur, Amanda is the creator of The Conversation, a series that showcases her in-depth interviews on real topics with celebrated women. Whether it’s in conversations with Lady Gaga, Sarah Silverman, Zoe Saldana, Chelsea Handler, or Gwyneth Paltrow, or in discussions with devoted followers of her social channels, Amanda delivers an honest and authentic voice. The series has aired in eighteen countries and is featured online, with over ten million viewers. In January 2016, Amanda conducted an exclusive one-on-one interview with presidential candidate Secretary Clinton. In February 2016, Amanda launched #Girlgaze, a digital media company utilizing user submitted content and highlighting the work of  Gen Z women photographers and directors.

Connect with Amanda:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I love collections of essays and short stories. You can pick them up and put them down, start from random points, if you’re of a mind to, and leave them in the bathroom for a week, to be read when you’re pretty much a captive audience. When such a collection is good, it hooks you, makes you think, makes you want to phone the author and gush over her words.

It’s Messy was good  – in that way – for me.

The author, Amanda de Cadenet is, like me, a solid GenXer. Okay, she’s British and comes from a famous family, and we had radically different lives, but she has a sensibility I really responded to – to the point where I was following my husband around our house reading bits of her essays out loud.

Here’s what I loved about It’s Messy: It’s candid – it’s candid in the kind of way I wish I was comfortable being. It’s not ha-ha funny, but there’s a wry undertone that runs through even the most poignant of pieces. I responded to that very strongly. And mostly – it’s universal. Sure, the details are specific to the author, but the emotional truths she shares, the life lessons she relates  – those apply to all of us.

I also liked – and this may seem a small thing, but in an age when we are just learning about intersectionality, it’s important – in her introduction she referred to “anyone who identifies as female.” As an ally, that phrase sold me on the entire book.

And, let me be clear, It’s Messy: Essays on Boys, Boobs, and Badass Women, is a great book. I laughed, I cried, I felt like I’d been having a two hundred-ish-page-long conversation with a dear friend, the kind who is insightful and blunt, but also caring.

Because people always want to know what our favorites are, I will call out two of the essays as things I responded to particularly. The first is “Life According to Little Amanda” which is sort of a bio, but a little bit deeper, and slightly less linear. While I’ve never sat down next to a member of Duran Duran and ended up dating him, or spend time in juvie, I know what it is to feel out of place, or like regular life just isn’t working.

The second which I particularly enjoyed despite the fact that I’m not a parent, is “How to Parent in the Time of Trump,” because it’s so very important that we nurture our younger generation but that we’re also honest with them. Many of my friends have kids who are asking the same sorts of questions Amanda’s kids are asking, and I feel like I should make copies of this essay and share it with all of them.

Naah… they all just need the whole book.

Goes well with a tall glass of milk (or your favorite milk-alternative) and a slice of leftover birthday cake.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, August 22nd: A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, August 23rd: Lit and Life

Thursday, August 24th: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, August 28th: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, August 29th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, August 30th: Comfy Reading

Thursday, August 31st: Book Hooked Blog

Friday, September 1st: The Geeky Bibliophile

Tuesday, September 5th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, September 6th: Wining Wife

Thursday, September 7th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Friday, September 8th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Monday, September 11th: Literary Quicksand

TBD: Books & Tea

Review: My Glory Was I have Such Friends, by Amy Silverstein – with Giveaway

My Glory Was I Had Such Friends About the book, My Glory Was I Had Such Friends

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Wave (June 27, 2017)

In this moving memoir about the power of friendship and the resilience of the human spirit, Amy Silverstein tells the story of the extraordinary group of women who supported her as she waited on the precipice for a life-saving heart transplant.

Nearly twenty-six years after receiving her first heart transplant, Amy Silverstein’s donor heart plummeted into failure. If she wanted to live, she had to take on the grueling quest for a new heart—immediately.

A shot at survival meant uprooting her life and moving across the country to California. When her friends heard of her plans, there was only one reaction: “I’m there.” Nine remarkable women—Joy, Jill, Leja, Jody, Lauren, Robin, Valerie, Ann, and Jane—put demanding jobs and pressing family obligations on hold to fly across the country and be by Amy’s side. Creating a calendar spreadsheet, the women—some of them strangers to one another—passed the baton of friendship, one to the next, and headed straight and strong into the battle to help save Amy’s life.

Empowered by the kind of empathy that can only grow with age, these women, each knowing Amy from different stages of her life, banded together to provide her with something that medicine alone could not.  Sleeping on a cot beside her bed, they rubbed her back and feet when the pain was unbearable, adorned her room with death-distracting decorations, and engaged in their “best talks ever.”  They saw the true measure of their friend’s strength, and they each responded in kind.

My Glory Was I Had Such Friends is a tribute to these women and the intense hours they spent together—hours of heightened emotion and self-awareness, where everything was laid bare. Candid and heartrending, this once-in-a-lifetime story of connection and empathy is a powerful reminder of the ultimate importance of “showing up” for those we love.

Buy, read, and discuss, My Glory Was I Had Such Friends

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes &  Noble | Goodreads


Amy Silverstein AP Photo by Deborah FeingoldAbout the author, Amy Silverstein

Amy Silverstein is the author of Sick Girl, which won a “Books for a Better Life Award” and was a finalist for the Border’s Original Voices Award. She earned her Juris Doctor at New York University School of Law, has served on the Board of the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS), and is an active speaker and writer on women’s health issues and patient advocacy. She lives in New York.

Connect with Amy:

Website | Facebook


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Memoirs are always tricky things to review, at least for me, because it feels a little like you’re judging the author’s life, rather than their writing and storytelling skills. In the case of My Glory Was I Had Such Friends, though, I had to keep reminding myself that this is a memoir, because the writing is so tight, the voice so consistent, and the storytelling so well-paced that it reads like a novel.

Silverstein is candid in telling her story. I haven’t read her previous book, Sick Girl, but I’m guessing her tone was similar in that: upbeat, despite the description of sometimes-grim events, a little bit snarky, a little bit self-deprecating, a lot poignant…

What really struck me, though, is that Silverstein’s book is full of joy.

Obviously when writing a story about life-threatening heart issues and the race between remaining beats in your existing heart and time to be hooked up with a new organ ready for transplant, you’re going to be joyful just for having survived it (spoiler: she lived, and wrote this book). But the sense of joy I felt while reading this was more than that. It was the sense that every friend mentioned in this memoir, these women (including one actually called Joy) who took chunks of their lives to support the author through a harrowing experience, both gave Amy strength and comfort, but also received the same.

It is my hope that most of us will never have to get so close to a ‘premature’ death that we’re not just looking it in the eye, but smelling its foul breath (seriously, does death floss?) , but if we do, we should all be so lucky as to have friends like Amy’s, and like Amy herself, because it’s clear from this memoir that her friendships go both ways.

Goes well with banana pudding with ‘nilla wafers.


My Glory Was I Had Such Friends Giveaway

One lucky reader in the US can get a copy of this book. How? Leave a comment on this post (make sure you put a valid email in the box for it) telling me about your best friend. (You can also find my tweet about this post, and retweet it for a second entry – I’m @melysse.)

Deadline is 11:59 PM CDT on Thursday, July 20th. Winner will be notified by email.


TLC Book ToursTour Stops

Tuesday, June 27th: Leigh Kramer

Wednesday, June 28th: Becklist

Thursday, June 29th: Tina Says…

Friday, June 30th: Openly Bookish

Monday, July 3rd: StephTheBookworm

Tuesday, July 4th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, July 5th: BookNAround

Thursday, July 6th: Bibliotica

Monday, July 10th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Tuesday, July 11th: Literary Quicksand

Wednesday, July 12th: The Desert Bibliophile

Thursday, July 13th: Sara the Introvert

Monday, July 17th: She’s All Booked

Tuesday, July 18th: Everyone Needs Therapy

Wednesday, July 19th: Jathan & Heather

Thursday, July 20th: Wining Wife

Review: All Our Waves Are Water, by Jamail Yogis – with Giveaway

All Our Waves Are Water coverAbout the book All Our Waves Are Water

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Wave (July 4, 2017)

In this meditative memoir—a compelling fusion of Barbarian Days and the journals of Thomas Merton—the author of Saltwater Buddha reflects on his “failing toward enlightenment,” his continued search to find meaning and a greater understanding of the Divine in the world’s oceans as well as everyday life.

For Jaimal Yogis, the path to enlightenment is surfing. Between water and air, between control and surrender, between the tangible and intangible realities of life, the spiritual can be found. Born to a family of seekers, he left home at sixteen to surf in Hawaii and join a monastery—an adventure he chronicled in Saltwater Buddha. Now, in his early twenties, his heart is broken and he’s lost his way. Hitting the road again, he lands in a monastery in Dharamsala, where he meets Sonam, a displaced Tibetan.

To help his friend, Jaimal makes a cockamamie attempt to reunite him with his family in Tibet by way of America. Though he does not succeed, witnessing Sonam’s indomitable spirit in the face of failure offers Jaimal a deeper understanding of faith. When the two friends part, he cannot fathom the unlikely circumstances that will reunite them.

All Our Waves Are Water follows Jaimal’s trek from the Himalayas to Indonesia; to a Franciscan Friary in New York City to the dusty streets of Jerusalem; and finally to San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. Along his journey, Jaimal prays and surfs; mourning a lost love and seeking something that keeps eluding him, until he ultimately finds what he’s been looking for—that the perfect ride may well be the one we are on right now.

The poet Rumi wrote, “we are not a drop in the ocean. We are the ocean in a drop.” All Our Waves Are Water is Jaimal’s “attempt to understand the ocean in a drop, to find that one moon shining in the water everywhere”—to find the Divine that unites us all.

Buy, read, and discuss All Our Waves Are Water:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Jaimal Yogis AP Photo by Peter DawsonAbout the author, Jaimal Yogis

Jaimal Yogis is an award-winning writer, outdoorsman, and frequent teacher. He is the author of the memoir Saltwater Buddha, which has been made into a feature documentary film, and The Fear Project: What Our Most Primal Emotion Taught Me About Survival, Success, Surfing, and Love.

A graduate of Columbia Journalism School, he has written for ESPN: The Magazine, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, San Francisco magazine, Surfer’s Journal, and many other publications.He lives in San Francisco with his wife, Amy, and their three sons.

Connect with Jaimal:

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Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Defining Jaimal Yogis’ most recent book, All Our Waves Are Water, proved difficult for me. As I was describing the book to friends and family, I said, “well, it’s kind of a travel memoir, but it’s also about spirituality and physics  and neuroscience and surfing.” The truth is, that book is all of those things, but it’s also the perfect example of a finished product, a whole work, being much greater than the sum of its parts, because it’s also about creativity, finding your own path, and practicing self-care.

I don’t surf (I swim recreationally), but I eagerly read about surfing, because I share that connection to the water. That’s what initially drew me to this book, but all too quickly I found myself sharing bits of it that resonated with me with my husband, my friends, and my social media followers. I even tweeted the author as I was beginning to read it, sharing that I was hooked from the first page. (He was very kind in his response.)

I love it when a book grabs me like this, when it makes me think, examine, ponder, and then – because it’s the way I’m wired – pick up a notebook and pen and write something of my own. The first passage I quoted at people, I actually turned into a jpeg so I could put it on Instagram, with credit of course:

“The paths are simply fingers pointing at the moon, rafts across the ocean of suffering, different strokes for different folks. Or to use my favorite metaphor, the paths – like all things subject to birth and death – are waves.”

“God is the sea.”

And it went on from there.

Yogis’ writing is sophisticated, but still accessible. He’s sometimes funny, but his humor is the organic kind that is inspired by ordinary life. He’s candid, but never treads into TMI territory, and when he does discuss deeper subjects he does so in a way that is both informative and insightful. He never panders, but assumes that his audience can keep up with the shifts between tone and topic.

If you’re looking for a smarmy attempt to convince you to learn surfing and take up meditation – you won’t find it in All Our Waves are Water.

But… if you want to spend a few hours feeling like you’re having a conversation with a man who’s sharing some of his own experiences and life-lessons, you should read this book. No, you should devour it – absorb it the way I did.

Goes well with a mug of hot coffee and fresh scones, preferably enjoyed on a chilly coastal morning, while gazing at the ocean.


All Our Waves Are Water coverGiveaway

One lucky reader in the US can get a copy of this book. How? Leave a comment on this post (make sure you put a valid email in the box for it) telling me about your best friend. (You can also find my tweet about this post, and retweet it for a second entry – I’m @melysse.)

Deadline is 11:59 PM CDT on Friday, August 4th. Winner will be notified by email.


Tour StopsTLC Book Tours

Tuesday, July 4th: Bibliotica

Monday, July 17th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Tuesday, July 18th: Openly Bookish

Thursday, July 20th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Monday, July 24th: Toning the OM

Thursday, August 3rd: The Desert Bibliophile

Friday, August 4th: Everyone Needs Therapy

TBD: Jathan & Heather

TBD: Breezes at Dawn

TBD: Girl in a Boy House

Review: Breakfast in Texas, by Terry Thompson-Anderson

Breakfast in Texas Blog Tour

Scroll down for Giveaway information!

About the book, Breakfast in Texas Breakfast in Texas

  • Genre: Cookbook / Southwest Cuisine
  • Publisher: The University of Texas Press
  • Date of Publication: April 18, 2017
  • Number of Pages: 312

Texans love the morning meal, whether it’s bacon and eggs (often eaten in a breakfast taco) or something as distinctively nontraditional as saag paneer omelets, pon haus, or goat curry. A Lone Star breakfast can be a time for eating healthy, or for indulging in decadent food and drink. And with Texas’s rich regional and cultural diversity, an amazing variety of dishes graces the state’s breakfast and brunch tables. The first Texas cookbook dedicated exclusively to the morning meal, Breakfast in Texas gathers nearly one hundred recipes that range from perfectly prepared classics to the breakfast foods of our regional cuisines (Southern, Mexican, German, Czech, Indian, and Asian among them) to stand-out dishes from the state’s established and rising chefs and restaurants.

Terry Thompson-Anderson organizes the book into sections that cover breakfast and brunch libations (with and without alcohol); simple, classic, and fancy egg presentations; pancakes, French toast, and waffles; meat lover’s dishes; seafood and shellfish; vegan dishes and sides; and pastries. The recipes reference locally sourced ingredients whenever possible, and Thompson-Anderson provides enjoyable notes about the chefs who created them or the cultural history they represent. She also offers an expert primer on cooking eggs, featuring an encounter with Julia Child, as well as a selection of theme brunches (the boozy brunch, the make-ahead brunch, New Year’s Day brunch, Mother’s Day brunch with seasonal ingredients, teenage daughter’s post-slumber party breakfast, and more). Sandy Wilson’s color photographs of many of the dishes and the chefs and restaurants who serve them provide a lovely visual counterpoint to the appetizing text.

Buy, read, and discuss Breakfast in Texas:

University of Texas Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Terry Thompson-Anderson Terry Thompson-Anderson

Terry Thompson-Anderson is the author of nine previous cookbooks, including Texas on the Table: People, Places, and Recipes Celebrating the Flavors of the Lone Star State, which was a finalist for the 2015 James Beard Book Award for American Cooking.

Connect with the University of Texas Press:

Connect with The University of Texas Press:

WebsiteFacebook  | Twitter  | Instagram


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’m a bit of a foodie, and breakfast and brunch are my favorite meals, so when I was offered the opportunity to review a cookbook that was all about breakfast food, you can bet I jumped at the chance.

Subtitled “Recipes for Elegant Brunches, Down Home Classics, and Local Favorites,” this book, Breakfast in Texas is a treasure trove of recipes and commentary. In reviewing this book, I picked one recipe that I thought everyone in my house would eat, and would also teach me a new skill. I ended up making the Egg Breakfast Casserole from the A Place in Time Bed and Breakfast in Fredericksburg, where I’ve never been, but have a sudden yearning to go.

It’s a fairly basic sausage, mushroom, egg and cheese casserole, but the spin that makes it special is that you make your own whole-milk ricotta to go in it. Now, while I currently live near Dallas, I come from a New Jersey Neapolitan family, so the ricotta I grew up with is not from whole cow’s milk, it’s whey-based ricotta, usually made with goat or sheep milk. But the commercial ricotta most of us buy from the store is whole cow’s milk ricotta, so if you aren’t in the mood (or not great at planning far enough ahead) to make your own, you can use store-bought and no one will know.

Author Terry Thompson-Anderson doesn’t go into the chemistry of curdling milk to make ricotta but her instructions are simple, and the end result was a good deal creamier than what you can find at the store.

Similarly, the rest of the book is full of interesting twists on basic ideas, as well as elaborate suggestions for fancier menus. One thing I really appreciated was the first chapter, which was all about “libations.” I’ve recently been re-introduced to that old-school brunch favorite, the Bloody Mary, so you can imagine my glee to learn about breakfast cocktails featuring, not tequila or vodka, but legal Texas Moonshine.

I never even knew that was a thing!

Of course, one of the bonuses of any cookbook is the art, and Breakfast in Texas does not disappoint. Sandy Wilson’s photographs are worthy of being framed, and give a good idea of what finished dishes should look like.

At 312 pages, this cookbook is pretty hefty – you’ll want one of those plastic cookbook protector-stands to keep it upright and clean while you use it – but I promise you, whether you want to create an intimate breakfast for yourself and your romantic partner, or host a brunch for fifteen, there is something in this book that will intrigue, inspire, and entice you into the kitchen.

Goes well with coffee, and a pen and notepad for meal planning and making a grocery list.


Giveaway

The publishers of this book are hosting a giveaway. To enter, click the image below, or follow the text link below the image.

Breakfast in Texas Giveaway

Click to enter!!!

This giveaway is open until June 13th.


Breakfast in Texas Tour Stops Lone Star Literary Life

5/30 Promo Hall Ways Blog
5/31 Review StoreyBook Reviews
6/01 Sneak Peek 1 Momma On The Rocks
6/02 Review Books in the Garden
6/03 Book Trailer 1 My Book Fix Blog
6/04 Promo Syd Savvy
6/05 Review Bibliotica
6/06 Book Trailer 2 Texas Book Lover
6/07 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
6/08 Sneak Peek 2 Forgotten Winds
6/09 Excerpt Missus Gonzo
6/10 Review Books and Broomsticks
6/11 Promo The Page Unbound
6/12 Author Interview CGB Blog Tours
6/13 Review Reading By Moonlight

Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Review: The View from the Cheap Seats, by Neil Gaiman

About the book, The View From the Cheap Seats The View from the Cheap Seats

• Paperback: 544 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 16, 2017)

The New York Times bestselling non-fiction collection, now in paperback, from the author of American Gods, now a STARZ Original Series.

An enthralling collection of nonfiction essays on a myriad of topics—from art and artists to dreams, myths, and memories—observed in #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman’s probing, amusing, and distinctive style.

An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. Now, The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Insightful, incisive, witty, and wise, The View from the Cheap Seats explores the issues and subjects that matter most to Neil Gaiman—offering a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.

Buy, read, and discuss The View from the Cheap Seats:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Neil Gaiman Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains; the Sandman series of graphic novels; and the story collections Smoke and Mirrors, Fragile Things, and Trigger Warning. He is the winner of numerous literary honors, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, and the Newberry and Carnegie Medals. Originally from England, he now lives in the United States. He is Professor in the Arts at Bard College.

Connect with Neil:

Blog | Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

With the exception of American Gods (I’m apparently the only person on the planet who didn’t like it, but I recognize that it may have come into my life at a bad time, and I’ll eventually give it another chance) I’m a big fan of Neil Gaiman’s work, so when I was offered the opportunity to review some of his non-fiction, I went over the wall and into the ocean (metaphorically) and ended up wishing I was young enough to be a Bard student so I could take this man’s class.

I was hooked on this collection from the moment I opened the book and read his preface (introduction, whatever – I don’t have the book in front of me because a friend pulled it out of my hands the second I declared “FINISHED!”), and while not every piece resonated with me the same way, I found myself entranced, intrigued, provoked, amused, moved, and amazed, sometimes alternately, sometimes all at once.

I tend to read books of essays and short stories in chunks. I keep them in the bathroom, either in a basket near the toilet (oh, come on, we all read there) or on the side of the tub and pick them up whenever I’m in the appropriate place. I don’t pick and choose the order, though sometimes I’m tempted by a title.

That opening piece, “Some Things I Believe,” is something I’ll re-read, likely often. The section on comic books (and comic book shops, and comic book artists’ influence on Gaiman) is something I appreciated as a casual comic book reader, but I know my husband and the friend who stole my book will love a lot.

The section about film was incredibly informative, but there are also essays devoted to ghosts, music, and even one on the political/cultural situation in Syria.

Reading this book felt like a conversation with an old friend, the kind that rambles from topic to topic, touching on recurring themes, offering new insights, and involves each of you making lists of Books You Must Read and Music You Must Hear.

It’s fitting, then, that Gaiman himself wrote, “Literature does not occur in a vacuum. It cannot be a monologue. It has to be a conversation, and new people, new readers, need to be brought into the conversation too.”

This book, The View from the Cheap Seats, is that conversation. Or at least, it’s an overture to starting it.

Goes well with Earl Grey tea and raspberry crumble.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, May 16th: G. Jacks Writes

Wednesday, May 17th: Vox Libris

Thursday, May 18th: Based on a True Story

Friday, May 19th: A Splendidly Messy Life

Monday, May 22nd: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Tuesday, May 23rd: Sapphire Ng

Wednesday, May 24th: Book Snob

Wednesday, May 24th: Man of La Book

Thursday, May 25th: guiltless reading

Friday, May 26th: Lit and Life

Tuesday, May 30th: In Bed with Books

Wednesday, May 31st: Real Life Reading

Thursday, June 1st: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, June 1st: Bibliotica

Friday, June 2nd: Bibliophiliac

 

 

Review: Signs & Seasons: An Astrology Cookbook, by Amy Zerner and Monte Farber with Chef John Okas

About the book, Signs & Seasons Signs & Seasons: An Astrology Cookbook

• Hardcover: 272 pages
• Publisher: HarperElixir (May 2, 2017)

Discover how to eat for your sign and nourish your soul in Signs and Seasons, the one-of-a-kind cookbook that pairs chef-driven seasonal recipes with deep insight into how astrology shapes our appetites, from iconic astrologer Monte Farber and artist Amy Zerner.

Food connects us to our families, history, culture, and to the natural world itself—to the seasons and the cycle of life. Just as our path around the sun—and through the Zodiac—dictates the seasons, the seasons dictate what will flourish, from the tender greens of early spring to late summer’s lush and impossible perfect tomatoes.

In Signs and Seasons, Farber and Zerner—along with chef John Okas—take home cooks through the four seasons and each of their astrological signs in over 95 tantalizing seasonal recipes that include starters; meat, seafood, and vegetarian mains; sides; and desserts for each sign.

Inspired by the cuisine of the Mediterranean, home of the Greco-Roman cultures that named the planets after their gods, Signs and Seasons teaches you how to:

·         Feed friends and loved ones based on their signs and the season

·         Deepen your understanding of Nature and the Universe

·         Discover how astrology shapes our personalities, tastes, and appetites

Whether exploring the “Twin nature” and “Mercurial spirit” of ramps (a spring delicacy well suited Geminis) in a recipe for Ramps al Olio or the historical association of saffron with Venus in the recipe for Roasted Corn Orecchiette, Signs and Seasons is the perfect guide for eating in a way that emphasizes both sensual nourishment and psychic satisfaction. Beautifully photographed in full color by Monte Farber and illustrated by Amy Zerner, Signs and Seasons is a one-of-a-kind source of inspiration for astrology enthusiasts and home chefs alike.

Buy, read, and discuss Signs & Seasons:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the Authors Amy Zerner & Monte Farber and Chef John Okas

Since 1988, AMY ZERNER, a U.S. National Endowment for the Arts award-winning fine artist, and her husband, author MONTE FARBER, have created what they call their family of “spiritual power tools,” including The Enchanted Tarot, Instant Tarot, Sun Sign Secrets, Karma Cards, Little Reminders: The Law of Attraction Deck, Chakra Meditation Kit, The Truth Fairy Pendulum Kit, The Soulmate Path and Quantum Affirmations. There are over two million copies of their works in print in sixteen languages. The couple lives in East Hampton, NY. They believe that adding love, light, and laughter to everything one cooks is essential to creating great meals and a great life.  More at www.theenchantedworld.net.

CHEF JOHN OKAS began his career in childhood, cooking alongside his Sicilian grandmother in their family kitchen. He has cooked at Paradox in Manhattan, Georgette’s in Easthampton, and the Captiva Inn in Florida. Under the pen name John Penza, he is the author of Sicilian-American Pasta and Sicilian Vegetarian Cooking. He currently lives in Bridgehampton, New York, where he is a personal chef and is also associated with the Highway Restaurant.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I don’t really believe in astrology except as a form of entertainment, but I love to cook, and I was curious about this book would work, so I asked to review it.

I was pleasantly surprised by the actual book.

First, it’s gorgeous. There are great pictures of the recipes included, the paper is good quality, and each section (beginning with Spring) is laid out with a table of contents divided by type (starters, salads pasta, seafood, meat, vegetarian, sides, and desserts), each labeled with the sign that is most likely to be represented by each dish. (I take issue with a watermelon dish being assigned to Leo only because I’m allergic to watermelon.)

Then, it’s well-written. It has a pleasantly spiritual tone, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s a section before the actual recipes that gives a breakdown of how each sign likes to cook, eat, and entertain. I read it out loud to my husband and a couple of friends and we all nodded and smiled (and sometimes grimaced) and admitted it was fairly accurate.

But of course, the real interest any of us have in a cookbook is the food, and this cookbook did not disappoint. While I did not have time to try every recipe, I’ve read through many, and marked them for future meals (there’s a red snapper dish I’m dying to try – this Leo is half mermaid and likes meat and fish in equal measure).

I’m an intuitive cook who thinks of cooking as “kitchen improv” and recipes as mere guidelines, and I love that these recipes are designed to give you a foolproof result if you follow them to the letter, but also serve as excellent jumping-off points.

Even though it’s not yet summer, I live in Texas, so I skipped ahead and made the Frittata Caprese, which everyone loved but I also had great success with a Spring selection: Couscous & Cracked Wheat Tabbouleh. I’ve only ever used the Near East boxed tabbouleh, or ordered it at restaurants so making my own – and loving it – was a pleasure and a thrill.

Whether or not you believe in astrology, if you’re a home cook looking for inspiration, I recommend Signs & Seasons. The recipes are fairly healthy (most of the desserts include fruit) and reasonably easy to prepare.

Your family and friends will thank you.

(And if you’re a Leo, like me, they’ll give you the applause you rightfully expect.)


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, May 2nd: Sara the Introvert

Tuesday, May 2nd: I Brought a Book

Wednesday, May 3rd: Wining Wife

Thursday, May 4th: Stranded in Chaos

Friday, May 5th: Bibliotica

Monday, May 8th: Mother’s Kitchen

Tuesday, May 9th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, May 10th: Becklist

Thursday, May 11th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, May 15th: Dwell in Possibility

Tuesday, May 16th: In Bed with Books

Thursday, May 18th: Unabridged Chick

Monday, May 22nd: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, May 23rd: The Cactus Chronicles

Wednesday, May 24th: Books & Tea

Thursday, May 25th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Tuesday, May 30th: Kahakai Kitchen