BookBitch Diary: June 1, 2023

June 1, 2023
rabbit, rabbit, rabbit

June first is the official start of hurricane season. I live in southeast Florida, and we have been very, very lucky the past several years – but other areas haven’t been as lucky. Storms have landed on the west coast of Florida or up the coast to South Carolina, North Carolina, and even up to New Jersey and New York. That being said, I’m so sorry that anyone has to deal with these massive storms. And even though we haven’t taken a direct hit these last few years, we always take precautions.

Several years ago, a new product came out – windows that are strong enough to withstand hurricane-strength winds and rain. But they are very expensive; a friend told me it cost her $70,000 to update her 6 sliding glass doors (I have 7!) plus windows last year. I’m a librarian, and my husband is an engineer; we do not have that kind of money lying around! My husband is looking into doing it himself, it brings the cost down considerably, and Home Depot and Lowes both sell the windows and sliding glass doors we need.

Meanwhile, at least for this season, it looks like we will use the hurricane shutters we’ve used for years, if necessary. The good thing about hurricanes, if there can be a good thing, is that we always get advance notice that one is coming. It may or may not hit us, but we usually have enough time to store extra water, and canned goods, charge up the phones and portable phone chargers, gas up the grill and the cars and the generator, and, of course, clear the yard of everything and put up the shutters. It’s a big pain in the butt and worth it, even if the storm passes us by. Hell, some years, it’s the only way I can get my husband to clean out the backyard!

We were spared when Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992, but a week later, a small tropical storm blew through my neighborhood, and we were without power for almost a week! (Hurricanes are often followed by tropical storms, they are like the remnants of a hurricane.) My daughter was just a few weeks old, and my next-door neighbor had lent me a baby carriage – the kind the English call prams. It was bigger than the bassinet but on wheels, so I could always keep her with me. I remember the hospital had given me cases of formula & diapers, and one of my neighbors was collecting stuff to take to Miami, which was devastated by the storm. I sent everything I had. I could go to the store and get more; they didn’t have that option for weeks.

We had several hurricanes that came close after that, but we didn’t take a direct hit until 2005. Hurricane Wilma hit us dead on – we lost the roof of our house, the fence around our yard, the screening around the porches, and our power and water for several days. But the house stood, and we were luckier than many others. Hurricane Ian hit the west coast of Florida last year, and they are still trying to recover from it. I’ve lived through many hurricanes over the years, and I am so grateful I am still here to tell you about it. You just never really know what will happen, but at least we can be prepared. Here’s hoping for a mild storm season!

Book News

The Publishing Community Should More Actively Oppose Book Bans

With a lawsuit filed last week, Pen America, Penguin Random House, authors, and parents began fighting book bans. Other publishers should help. (Scholarly Kitchen)

Notes from Prince Harry’s Ghostwriter

Illustration by Simone Massoni

Collaborating on his memoir, “Spare,” meant spending hours together on Zoom, meeting his inner circle, and gaining a new perspective on the tabloids. Work with Prince Harry on the book proceeded steadily—until the press found out about it. In The New Yorker. By J. R. Moehringer

I subscribe to the Washington Post Book Club Newsletter, written by Ron Charles. They recently did an informal survey of their readers, asking them about “the best movie made from the worst novel.” I was happy to see my number one choice made the list: The Devil Wears Prada*. I loved the movie and hated the book. I quibble about The Godfather and Jaws – I loved both of those books and while The Godfather (I & II) are incredible films, I am not a horror movie fan. My husband, who was my boyfriend when the film came out, insisted I would love Jaws, the movie. I went and ended up hiding under a jacket, occasionally peering out through the sleeve, until I finally fell asleep. Not for me! I would never defend either of those books as great literature, but they were exciting, fast-paced reads. I read The Godfather several times, but I’ve seen the films even more – if I’m flipping channels and run across either Godfather movie or TDWP, I will watch it, no matter where in the story it is.

The other books that made the bad book, good movie list: Forrest Gump by Winston Groom, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. Apparently, someone actually nominated Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, but that was just ridiculous, which Charles acknowledged. There have been many remakes/updates of the book and several films based on the book, and while I may enjoy the more modern-day versions, I also deeply respect the source. As Meg Ryan’s character noted in “You’ve Got Mail,” I, too, love the language. As far as I’m concerned, Austen invented the romance genre, but feel free to disagree!

Food News

The Food of Portugal!

In April, my husband and I visited Portugal. One of the things we were looking at was affordability for our retirement. We spent almost two weeks exploring Portugal from Lisbon north to Braga and east to Coimbra. We drove around the various towns that we had discovered online and in YouTube videos. I fell in love with Braga, about thirty minutes north of Porto. It was important to me that we be near a major city and airport. This is the downtown pedestrian walkway through the main street of Braga and one of the many cafes in the area.

My husband liked Castelo Branco, but it is over two hours from Lisbon and such a small town that when we tried to Uber back to our hotel after dinner, there were no drivers available! The hostess at the restaurant called us a cab, which was quick (and even cheaper than Uber,) but the fact there were no drivers made me uncomfortable. On the bright side, it was our best meal in Portugal, at AKASushi!

Many of the towns and villages we visited have amazing green markets with lots of local produce, fresh fish and meat, and flowers. I loved checking out the supermarkets, too. There are a few different chains there – Lidl, Aldi, and Continente are the biggest, and a new chain from Spain, Mercadona, is starting up in Portugal. I didn’t go to any Aldis because I go to them here, and while their prices are good, what they have in stock is always a crapshoot. I go there occasionally without a list because I cannot count on them to have what I need, like cucumbers or lemons or cornmeal or sugar. Instead, I view Aldi as a serendipitous shopping adventure; I go, wander around, and buy whatever looks good.

We went to one Lidl and weren’t impressed. It didn’t have that great a selection of produce or fish or meat, and didn’t seem quite as clean as some of the other markets we went to. They have opened several stores in the US along the east coast from Georgia through New York, but not in Florida yet. If you have been to a Lidl in the US, I’d love to hear what you think!

Continente was definitely my favorite. They had a beautiful bakery, produce section, and fish and meats. At first, I thought the fish wasn’t priced as low as I had thought it would be. Shrimp were €8-15, depending on size, sea bream was €12, cod was about €8 fresh, less for the famous bacalhau (salt dried cod available everywhere) so maybe a few dollars less than here. But then I realized those prices weren’t per pound but were per kilo – 2.2 pounds, and that made a big difference.

They also love their canned fish there – not just tuna, anchovies. and sardines, but cod, octopus, squid, clams, mackerel, mussels, and more. They are often packed with more than just olive oil, too; some have tomatoes, spices, etc. You can get squid in a sauce based on tomatoes, onions, peppers, and olive oil in a can. The supermarket had an entire row of canned fish. We even saw some canned tuna with gold leaf in it for €20 a can, but that was in a touristy canned fish store.

This is an interesting little video about one of the canning fisheries in Portugal.

There was a pretty large selection of wine (and hard liquor) and it was very well priced. I don’t think we spent more than $20 on a bottle of wine while we were in Portugal, and those were restaurant prices. The supermarket had lots of bottles for under $5! I fell in love with Vinho Verde, a lightly sparkling white wine that goes great with all the seafood. Other items of interest: the eggs and the milk are mostly shelf stable. They don’t process their eggs the same way we do in the US, so they don’t need refrigeration. They use a different type of pasteurization of the milk, which lets it last longer and doesn’t require refrigeration either. The only things that were comparably priced to the U.S. were paper goods (paper towels, toilet paper) and cleaning supplies, most of which are imported, I guess.

Most Portuguese follow what we think of as a Mediterranean diet – lots of fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, walnuts and almonds, and olive oil is king! It seems like most home gardens have a few olive trees and some fruit trees. It is amazing to me that the same garden can grow almonds, walnuts, oranges, apples, cherries, grapes, and olives, not to mention all the usual salad greens, herbs, and veggies. Oh, and lest you think it is an entirely healthy diet, pretty much every dish we ordered in every restaurant came with fries, and most came with fries and rice! They do love their carbs. They also love their pastries – there are bakeries and cafes everywhere. Their most famous dessert is the Pastel de Nata, which is delicious! Trader Joe’s sells frozen ones they call Portuguese Custard Tarts which come pretty close, especially if you heat them in the air fryer – get them while they last! It is not something they stock year-round.

They have lots of other pastries, too; croissants, brioche croissants, and something called travesseiro. It’s a cigar shaped pastry made from phyllo dough wrapped around a sweet egg filling. Not my favorite – I hate eggs! We didn’t notice many cookies though. Most bakeries also sell these savory stuffed brioche; some have ham & cheese, or just one or the other, or prosciutto, but my husband’s favorite was a “pizza” stuffed brioche. He said it was like the best “hot pocket” ever!

Portugal is also famous, especially in Porto, for the francesinha sandwich. Eater has a great little video about Porto, and included a good description of the francesinha: “the traditional francesinha sandwich manages to stuff two types of homemade sausage, ham, steak, bologna, and cheese between two thick layers of bread; that’s then topped with a fried egg and beer gravy” and served with fries intended for dipping. The sauce is a bit spicy and the sandwich truly requires a fork and knife to eat!

Other News

*I was assigned The Devil Wears Prada for review in Library Journal back in the day. Here is my review:

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger: This chic read is sure to take the fashion world by storm, although the literary world may find it lacking. Weisberger, former assistant to Vogue editor Anna Wintour, has created a fictionalized tell-all à la Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus’s The Nanny Diaries. Andrea is a nice Jewish girl from suburban Connecticut who, as Weisberger repeatedly tells us, lands “a job a million girls would die for” – assistant to Miranda Priestly, the imperious editor of “Runway” magazine. But the job is more like indentured servitude with a one-year contract; 14-hour days are de rigueur and encompass such delights as sorting Miranda’s laundry, fetching her lunch, and responding instantly to such commands as “Ahn-dre-ah, hand me a scarf.” The carrot at the end of the stick is the promise of a dream job with The New Yorker, which somehow makes palatable the ensuing downhill slide of Andrea’s personal life. This fast-paced black comedy has enough dirt to please any fashionista, but should serve as fair warning for every girl who dreams of working at a fashion magazine. Despite the pedestrian writing, the prepublication buzz on this novel is big, so buy for demand. Copyright © 2003 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

Part two, The Devil Wears Prada: I was working for the public library when I reviewed TDWP. Several months later, I was sitting at the checkout desk on a very quiet weeknight. I was reading a galley, an advanced reader copy of a book I would be reviewing. This couple came up to the desk to checkout, and I swiped their library card and proceeded to check out their books.

The woman says to me, “Is that a review copy?”

I said, “Yes, I review for my blog and for Library Journal.”

Then she says, “Oh, are you going to review the new Lauren Weisberger book?”

I replied, “Not if I can help it.”

Then the husband says to the wife, I don’t think she looked at the screen to see our name, so of course I looked. Sure enough, it was Weisberger – they were Lauren’s parents! That was one of my top two most embarrassing “reviewer” moments. If I had noticed the name, I would have been much more diplomatic (I hope!)

As always, thanks for reading, and stay safe.

Thanks to The New York Times for allowing me to “gift” my readers with free access to these articles, a lovely perk for subscribers.

BookBitch Diary: May 1, 2023

May 1, 2023


Douro River Valley Wineries Tour

The bad news: my husband came down with Covid two days after we got home. Then 5 days later, I tested positive. I’ll be stepping back from this blog until things are controlled and we are on the mend. I hope you understand.

As I mentioned in my last diary entry, my husband and I planned this trip to Portugal because we were thinking about retiring there. After this trip, we are firmly decided. We loved the country and the people and the lifestyle and the food! And the wine – An American in Portugal: I live where wine is cheaper than water.

Now the planning begins in earnest.

I have always been a proud American, until 2016 when this country started straying from its democratic roots into the wannabe autocracy Trump promoted. The death of democracy seems almost inevitable, which I find incredibly sad. I always identified with that opening scene of The Godfather, that first line – “I believe in America.” No more.

My husband’s main reason for wanting to retire to Portugal is that the cost of living is so much lower than it is here. Honestly, we could not afford to retire in this country. at least not if we want to have any sort of fun in retirement. We could probably survive, but that would be it, and frankly, surviving is not how I want to spend my remaining years.

I am also inclined to move for the cost of living, but for so much more. I am sick of the politics in this country. I cannot stomach all the mass shootings and the complete takeover by the NRA in regard to our gun laws – or lack thereof. I am sick of Republicans’ “thoughts and prayers” while the governor of the state I live in just signed a truly reprehensible gun law. It goes into effect on July 1 and means anyone who can legally own a gun in Florida can carry a concealed gun in public without any training or background check.

Portugal is ranked as the 6th safest country in the world, according to the Global Peace Index. There were 35 homicides in Portugal in 2021. Yes, you read that correctly. And that includes all kinds of homicide, not just guns. This is a great piece about retiring to Portugal: In my new home, Portugal, gun violence is not a constant worry. If you didn’t know, I live only a few miles away from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, home to one of the worst mass shootings in American history.

Portugal ranks 22nd worldwide in health care, with a hybrid public-private health insurance system, according to the Legatum Centre for National Prosperity and clearly illustrated in this data chart from Statista. The U.S. excels in research rather than actual health care.

The weather is fairly temperate all year round, especially in the south but even in the north, the winters are quite mild which works for me. Most people speak English, especially in the bigger cities, but I will learn Portuguese. It only seems right. Americans are welcome there, and there are about 10,000 already living there – retirees and digital nomads. There are beautiful beaches along the entire west coast of the country, plus river beaches more inland, with lots of beautiful parks and all sorts of terrain for hiking. Plus thousands of years of history! It is about a six hour flight to New York, and with the lower cost of living, I am hopeful that we will be able to travel more than we can afford to here. Not to mention all of Europe is easily traversed!

These are just some of my reasons for wanting to retire to Portugal – and U.S. News & World Report ranks Portugal as the 4th best country for Americans to retire to: Best Countries for a Comfortable Retirement

Book News

Let’s file this under “Should this be happening?”

And on a lighter note…

Food News

7 Myths About Cooking With Salt

by Becky Krystal April 6. 2023

“Salt has been essential to cooking — and the human existence — for thousands of years. Our bodies can’t function without it. Our food is often tastier with it.”

Interesting article that may allay some fears people have about salt, while also explaining why it is so important in the various ways we use it in cooking.

I made this Chocolate Hazelnut Macaroon Torte for Passover, a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It was so good I took half of it to work so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat it all!

Other News

A really smart friend of mine started a new business called Rise & Hedge, a twice-monthly financial literacy email newsletter. I think it is perfect for the young adults in your life, high school and college students, even middle-schoolers, not to mention anyone else who struggles with what to do with their money, how to grow it, and how to protect it. This is from their “About Us” page:

Rise & Hedge was created for one simple purpose:

To provide FREE financial literacy and investment education, with actionable ideas, to those who need it the most. 

Financial literacy education is mandated in fewer than half of America’s states, and innumerable people either don’t have an online brokerage account or don’t know what to do with it if they do. We’re here to change that.

Our team is comprised of educators, instructional designers, investment publishing professionals and digital marketing experts who aim to create best-in-class content and get it in front of your eyes, so you can make informed investment decisions that benefit the wellbeing of your personal finances. 

Learn more about how we achieve this by signing up for our FREE newsletters, which deliver how-to lessons and investment ideas to your inbox twice a month.

As always, thanks for reading, and stay safe.

BookBitch Diary: April 1, 2023

April 1, 2023

Welcome, and Happy April Fools’ Day!

One of my favorite April Fools Day jokes happened several years ago when the library where I worked was closed for renovation. I posted on early social media that the library was getting rid of all the books and using the space for additional computers. Well, people lost their minds over that! Today, I figured it would be met with a shrug. But then this happened…

Vermont State University’s ‘All-Digital’ Library Fiasco

A merged institution born out of financial strain seeks to balance cost with quality, while also reaching more rural residents. But its botched announcement led to an outcry, an apology and a no-confidence vote.

I’ve always loved books. I like how they feel in my hand. I like how they smell. I love the dust jackets, the covers. Since I was a young child, and at that time, at least in my neighborhood, hardly anyone owned books. My mom had a few antique editions of Shakespeare that the decorator placed in the corner of an antique writing desk with a turquoise glass obelisk sitting on top of them, in the living room where I was not allowed to step foot. We had an old edition of The Canterbury Tales, not an antique but maybe from my father’s brief foray into higher education, that I struggled to read through first and second grade. One of my mother’s friends gave her a copy of The Female Eunuch, by Germaine Greer, which she struggled with and gave up on but I devoured.

Eventually, we got a World Book Encyclopedia set, which I constantly browsed, and in 6th grade, I won my own copy of Roget’s Thesaurus in an oral reading challenge. I bought books from Scholastic when I was in elementary school, one or two at a time as that was all we could afford. For every birthday or Hannukah, I asked for books, eventually accumulating almost all the Nancy Drews, a few Cherry Ames, a couple of the Hardy Boys (stolen from my brother who had learning challenges and hated reading,) and a few childhood favorites – Dr. Suess, The Phantom Tollbooth, Harriet the Spy, which I read over and over again. My mom gave away all my books to a friend of hers from high school who didn’t have much but had two kids, the oldest a year or so younger than me. I was pissed, but tried to be magnanimous. When I went to live with my father and his wife, I was in high school and my stepmother was a voracious reader. She gave me her first edition of Gone With the Wind that her high school boyfriend/first husband had given her. Then I found Marjorie Morningstar, Valley of the Dolls, The Godfather, and fell in love with horror – Jaws, The Exorcist, Stephen King; then thrillers, The Boys from Brazil, The Bourne Identity, The Day of the Jackal. I was always a fast reader, usually reading a book a day, and read many of these favorites repeatedly. Between reading the book and watching the Godfather movies (first 2) so many times, I can quote most of it from memory and point out the digressions from book to film.

After I was married, my husband and I moved to Dallas, Texas. We spent our weekends haunting this small chain of used bookstores, Half Price Books, I think there were maybe 10 stores or so – now well over 100 – and hitting area thrift stores. There were several that we visited regularly, and six years later when we moved back to Florida, we moved with 80 cartons of books. A collection was born.

When my children were born, the collection expanded exponentially to include children’s books. When I started working at Borders Books, we got a book allowance each month, I think about $40 to spend on books in addition to a staff discount. We also got in boxes of galleys, paperback editions of books that would be coming out, usually a few months off. Staff could take what they wanted, and surprisingly, many of the staff didn’t really care. I was happy to take any that were left over at the end of the month. Borders was also where I discovered remainders, new books that were marked down tremendously. I was in book heaven.

That was then, this is now. Twenty-some-odd years later, I have given away at least half of my books, probably more. I pretty much saved all my signed books, books in series that I love (Diana Gabaldon, Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Janet Evanovich, Stephen King, David Rosenfelt,) classics, a small nonfiction collection of about 300 books, and I still have a serious cookbook collection of about 250 books (that was pared down significantly.)

To be honest, I read almost exclusively on my iPad or Kindle now. I have some severe eye issues, and that is the most comfortable and easiest way for me to read. When the Kindle first came out, my husband bought me one, and I thought, what am I going to do with this? It was pretty much a paperweight for a long time. Well, I’m on my fourth Kindle now, and my husband just gave me an “I told you so.”

The first person I knew who was reading on a Kindle back when they first came out was a friend of my mom’s who had macular degeneration. He subscribed to the New York Times and was only able to read it on his Kindle. That was my first inkling that this e-reader was going to be a success, but I never dreamed I’d be someone who would need that technology. At least not until I was much older!

At first, I started using it for travel and even doctor visits. I was that weirdo who if I only had a chapter or two left of a book, would take two books to the doctor. Heaven forbid I ran out of reading material and be forced to read old People magazines! I took three books with me to jury duty, and read them all. I’ll say one thing about readers; we never mind waiting for anything – at least I don’t. I read during traffic jams, while waiting in line anywhere, at any appointments where I have to wait, while I’m cooking & waiting for the water to boil, the oven to preheat, and, well, you get the idea. I am a reader, and damn proud of it. Welcome to my world!

We flew to New York a few weeks ago for my grandson’s second birthday. No more baby – he is a toddler for sure. We had such a great time – and his oh-so-talented mama made him a Very Hungry Caterpillar birthday cake! His language skills are incredible; he repeats everything he hears and retains it, be it in English or Spanish, and now a bit of Hebrew, too! He tells us Shabbat Shalom, asked for hamentaschen on Purim, and read us his book on Passover; he sang the beginning of Dayenu and the four questions. I am so sorry I won’t get to spend the holiday with them, but maybe next year.

We usually go up during the summer to see them, but we have a big trip planned to Portugal* later this month, so not sure how much vacation time I’ll have left after that. It’s hard when family is so far away; we are in Florida, his other grandparents are in Chicago, and he lives in Brooklyn. Now I know how my mom felt when my son was born in Texas; I would say she’s sitting up in heaven saying I told you so, but that was never her way.

Food News

I celebrated Mardi Gras this year by baking a King Cake, with a little help from King Arthur Baking. If you are not familiar with their website, they are not just about selling the best ingredients and bakeware, they have tons of recipes – and those are all free! They have a blog, which is awesome. Recent posts include 20 spring celebration bakes for Easter, Passover, Ramadan, and beyond; A guide to different types of sugars, how to use them, and when to substitute; and Ask the Bread Coach: My dough isn’t rising — what now?  If you like to bake, or want to learn (!) this is your best bet for foolproof recipes and tips and tricks. This recent post was a real eye opener to me – if you’ve ever struggled with folding beaten egg whites into a batter using a large spatula, as I have always seen it done, be it into pancake batter or, in my most recent case, tiramisu, there is a better way! It’s tricky folding enough to not have any more white streaks but also not deflating the batter. The solution was so simple I was just gobsmacked: Things bakers know: Why a whisk (not a spatula!) is the best tool for folding. (I don’t make a dime from KA, in case you were wondering why I keep bringing them up – it’s purely my need to share good stuff!)

My husband 3D printed me a baby Yoda to hide in the cake!

Book News

First there was this, which made me so angry! I posted it on Facebook (because I’m old!)

Again I ask, why does one parent get to decide what every child reads??? If you don’t want your child to read this book, that is your choice and your responsibility. It is not your choice or responsibility to force my child to abide by your decisions. Fuck off.

Michigan prosecutor mulls charging Lapeer library over LGBTQ book

Lapeer County Prosecutor John Miller says he may file criminal charges against employees or officials of the Lapeer District Library if an LGBTQ-themed graphic novel isn’t removed from the shelves.

Some good news!

When Missouri Proposed Library Censorship, Librarians Got Organized

The librarians’ partial victory shows how pro-worker, anti-censorship organizing can work even in a conservative state. Missouri lawmakers on March 23, 2023, moved to strip state funding from public libraries in retaliation for a lawsuit challenging a new state law that bans certain materials in school libraries.

Over the 30-day comment period, Missouri residents registered more than 18,000 comments, comprising a stack of more than 20,000 pages, that forced Ashcroft to withdraw and revise the rule. It was a win for Missouri librarians and for intellectual freedom.

Be still, my heart!

Bookstore Marriage Proposal: The Strand

Other News

My husband and I are planning a trip to Portugal this spring. This is more than a tourist visit; we are thinking about retiring there in a few years. (Well, he wants to retire – I want to find some kind of part-time remote work. The thought of not doing anything at all just freaks me out!) I’d love to hear from anyone who has visited or lived there. Thanks!

As always, thanks for reading, and stay safe.

BookBitch Diary: March 1, 2023

March 1, 2023

Welcome! This year is moving fast, I feel like I just stopped saying Happy New Year and here we are in March.

My grandson turns 2 on March 3, and I can’t wait to see him! He had his first haircut recently, is learning his letters and counting, knows his colors and so many animals. He knows a bit of sign language, understands Spanish and English, and is learning to speak both. It’s completely exhilarating seeing how fast he absorbs everything. I love Facetiming with him, although his new favorite thing is to say “Jonah hold it” and when he grabs the phone or the Macbook, he invariably ends the call. Hopefully, he’ll figure that out soon enough. He also demands to see Papa, Auntie, and Loki when he calls. We’ve had to squish together so he can see us all at once. Yes, we do anything he asks! That is the joy of being a grandparent.

Jonah loves helping in the kitchen!

Book News

Up Close: Elle Cosimano

An interview with one of my favorite authors, courtesy of the International Thriller Writers “Big Thrill” newsletter.

Read my reviews of this series:

1. Finlay Donovan is Killing It

2. Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead

3. Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun


Debut Spotlight: Rachel Koller Croft, via the International Thriller Writers “Big Thrill” newsletter. (I loved her book, Stone Cold Fox!) Plus, it’s being adapted for TV, so read the book first.

“Conning and scheming and extorting and doing down-right dastardly business is not for the faint of heart… Most people are trusting. Their first mistake.”

Dictionaries lined not only the shelves she had specially built for them but every surface in her sizable two-bedroom apartment. Drawers were pulled out to make more surfaces on which to stack books, which also lay atop the refrigerator and on her bed. Books stood in towers along the floor, with narrow passageways to ease through. “It’s the biggest collection of dictionaries, period,” said the lexicographer Jesse Sheidlower, author of The F-Word, a history of that verb. Sheidlower is one of a cohort of lexicographers who knew Kripke and used her books, and her knowledge, to inspire their own work. Of her collection, “it’s better than what’s in the Bodleian and the NYPL combined,” he said, referring to libraries at the University of Oxford and in New York City.

Note: You have to sign up for a free account at The Chronicle of Higher Education to read.

Mistress of Slang

Food News

And last year…

I love meringue, especially meringue cookies. I used to make lemon meringue pie, my favorite pie, but the last two times I made it, the meringue “weeped,” a problem, I’m told, due to Florida’s humidity. Reading these articles has prompted me to try it again – maybe for Pi Day (3/14).

Here’s an interesting tip for bakers: when you have to fold egg whites into a batter, I’ve always used a large rubber or silicone spatula. Turns out I should have been using a whisk! Courtesy of the King Arthur Baking Company.

Things bakers know: Why a whisk (not a spatula!) is the best tool for folding – Turns out, it’s better at incorporating beaten eggs without deflating them.

Other News

My husband and I are planning a trip to Portugal this spring. This is more than a tourist visit; we are thinking about retiring there in a few years. (Well, he wants to retire – I want to find some kind of part time remote work. The thought of not doing anything at all just freaks me out!) I’d love to hear from anyone who has visited or lived there. Thanks!

As always, thanks for reading, and stay safe.

Thanks to The New York Times for allowing me to “gift” my readers with free access to these articles, a lovely perk for subscribers.

The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered

February 28, 2023

I learned about remainders when I was a bookseller for Borders, 20+ years ago. This poem makes it personal.

Remainders are printed books that are no longer selling well, and whose remaining unsold copies are liquidated by the publisher at greatly reduced prices.

Copies of remaindered books may be marked by the publisher, distributor, or bookseller to prevent them from being returned. “Remainder marks” have varied over the years, but today most remainders are marked with a stroke with a felt-tipped marker across the top or bottom of the book’s pages, near the spine.

The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered

–Clive James (1939-2019)

The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am pleased.
In vast quantities it has been remaindered
Like a van-load of counterfeit that has been seized
And sits in piles in a police warehouse,
My enemy’s much-prized effort sits in piles
In the kind of bookshop where remaindering occurs.
Great, square stacks of rejected books and, between them, aisles
One passes down reflecting on life’s vanities,
Pausing to remember all those thoughtful reviews
Lavished to no avail upon one’s enemy’s book —
For behold, here is that book
Among these ranks and banks of duds,
These ponderous and seemingly irreducible cairns
Of complete stiffs.

The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I rejoice.
It has gone with bowed head like a defeated legion
Beneath the yoke.
What avail him now his awards and prizes,
The praise expended upon his meticulous technique,
His individual new voice?
Knocked into the middle of next week
His brainchild now consorts with the bad buys
The sinker, clinkers, dogs and dregs,
The Edsels of the world of moveable type,
The bummers that no amount of hype could shift,
The unbudgeable turkeys.

Yea, his slim volume with its understated wrapper
Bathes in the blare of the brightly jacketed Hitler’s War Machine,
His unmistakably individual new voice
Shares the same scrapyart with a forlorn skyscraper
Of The Kung-Fu Cookbook,
His honesty, proclaimed by himself and believed by others,
His renowned abhorrence of all posturing and pretense,
Is there with Pertwee’s Promenades and Pierrots–
One Hundred Years of Seaside Entertainment,
And (oh, this above all) his sensibility,
His sensibility and its hair-like filaments,
His delicate, quivering sensibility is now as one
With Barbara Windsor’s Book of Boobs,
A volume graced by the descriptive rubric
“My boobs will give everyone hours of fun”.

Soon now a book of mine could be remaindered also,
Though not to the monumental extent
In which the chastisement of remaindering has been meted out
To the book of my enemy,
Since in the case of my own book it will be due
To a miscalculated print run, a marketing error–
Nothing to do with merit.
But just supposing that such an event should hold
Some slight element of sadness, it will be offset
By the memory of this sweet moment.
Chill the champagne and polish the crystal goblets!
The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am glad.

BookBitch Diary: February 1, 2023

February 1, 2023

A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times notified me that it was stopping its Virus newsletter. Things had normalized, more or less. Jonathan Wolfe said,

The acute phase of the pandemic has faded in much of the world, and many of us have tried to pick up the pieces and move on. We promise to return to your inbox if the pandemic takes a sharp turn. But, for now, this is goodbye.

Wolfe, J. (2023, January 25). A farewell, for now. New York Times.

On June 1st, 2021 I transitioned my Coronavirus Diary to Cerebration. What can I say, I truly am the eternal optimist. That spring had been good, the virus seemed to be abating. But boy, was I wrong! It came roaring back that fall and I switched it back. But now it seems like the time has finally come to put it to rest. I mean, if it’s good enough for the NYT, it’s good enough for me. So my ramblings on the first of the month will now be called the BookBitch Diary. Welcome!

Book News

Unbanning Books: LJ’s 2023 Librarians of the Year

In 2022 Brooklyn Public Library’s Books Unbanned Team began providing free ebook access to teens and young adults nationwide, defying rising book challenges across the country

Sorry, Twitter, but Florida’s war on books is no joke. Ron DeSantis wants to keep kids from reading

In Florida schools, every book is considered too “dangerous” until the censors have combed it over

Why You Should Always Put a Used Book in the Freezer Before Reading It

How to clean old books to get rid of dust, dirt, and grime

TikTok Figured Out an Easy Way to Recommend Books. The Results Were Dubious.

#EnemiesToLovers. #OnlyOneBed. #TheChosenOne. Is picking books by trope too easy?

Death of the narrator? Apple unveils suite of AI-voiced audiobooks

Exclusive: tech firm quietly launches new audiobook catalogue narrated by AI – but move expected to spark backlash

Food News

Have you seen The Menu? It’s a shocker! I was a little hesitant to watch it since it’s been classified in some places as horror, but I think it is more suspense/thriller than horror and I really enjoyed it. You can stream it on HBO Max if you are a subscriber, or rent/buy it from most streaming apps like Apple TV or Amazon Prime. Highly recommend!

Other News

Alec Baldwin was recently charged with involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. It seemed so improbable to me that an actor handed a prop would be held liable, yet here we are. Farhad Manjoo wrote an opinion piece that I thought was compelling and important, so I’m sharing it here. It boils down to this: always ask for a lawyer, and do not talk to the police under any circumstances.

As always, thanks for reading, and stay safe.

Thanks to The New York Times for allowing me to “gift” my readers with free access to these articles, a lovely perk for subscribers.

Coronavirus Diary: January 1, 2023

January 1, 2023

My favorite reads of 2022! Just in case you missed it –

Book News

There are always tons of best books of the year lists, so I thought I’d share a few. These are some of the books that appear on list after list:

Trust by Hernan Diaz

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (debut novel)

The New York Times Best Romance Novels of 2022: The genre has had an exceptional year — one of its best of all time.

The 10 Best Books of 2022 (New York Times)

Readers share their favorite audiobooks of the year (Washington Post)

The 10 best books of 2022 (Washington Post)

The best books of 2022 (The Guardian)

Best Books of 2022 (Library Journal) LJ offers their lists by genres – here are a few:

Best 20 Books of 2022 (Publisher’s Weekly)

Best Fiction Books of the Year (Kirkus)

The Best Books of 2022 (The New Yorker)

PEOPLE Picks the Top 10 Books of 2022

The best books of 2022 (Entertainment Weekly)

Vox’s 16 best books of 2022

The Best Books of 2022 (Vulture)

Amazon’s book editors announce 2022’s best books of the year

Best Books of the Year (Barnes & Noble)

Best Books for Adults 2022 (The New York Public Library)

Best Books of 2022 (Goodreads)

Other Book News

The Murky Path To Becoming a New York Times Best Seller (Esquire)

Rolling Stone

How Will BookTok Change Publishing in 2023?

Creators on TikTok are fighting for a more diverse book world — and running into some deep-seated problems in the industry

(Eliana Rodgers for The Washington Post)

We’re drowning in old books. But getting rid of them is heartbreaking.

‘They’re more like friends than objects,’ one passionate bookseller says. What are we to do with our flooded shelves?

Food News

Most years we make pizza for New Year’s Eve, so I was tickled when my son asked for a recipe for pizza sauce; I was happy to see him continuing our tradition! If you’d like to try making your own pizza, my favorite is Robert’s Pizza Dough recipe, courtesy of the NY Times, for Neapolitan-style pizza. King Arthur Baking has you covered for a Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza; Detroit-Style Pizza; Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza; Grandma Pizza; or one of my favorites, The Fastest Homemade Pizza Ever – great for busy weeknights! KA also has a free newsletter you can sign up for called Pizza School, that I highly recommend.

This is my standard pizza sauce recipe, good with any kind of pizza, even English Muffin pizza, and it’s my beautiful grandson Jonah-approved!

28 oz can whole Roma tomatoes, preferably packed in puree*

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

pinch oregano

few basil leaves, rolled up and sliced thinly or torn

salt & pepper

Heat olive oil on medium in a saucepan. Toss in garlic for about 30 seconds – you should smell it but it shouldn’t brown. Add the entire can of tomatoes with the puree or juice into the garlic, then add the oregano and basil. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Sometimes I throw in a pinch of dried red chili pepper if you want a bit of heat. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, just to meld flavors. Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce, but if you don’t have one, you can dump the sauce into a food processor or blender. Pizza sauce is usually fairly smooth rather than chunky, but you do you – enjoy!

*My favorite canned tomatoes are Nina, which Costco sells in a three pack. Other brands I like are Cento, Tutorosso, and Redpack. And if you want to spring for it, San Marzano tomatoes are beautiful but pricy, so make sure it says D.O.P. on the can or you are paying extra for no reason.

Wishing you all a very happy, healthy new year filled with love, joy, success, and good books!

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe.

*Thanks to The New York Times and The Washington Post for allowing me to “gift” my readers with free access to these articles, a lovely perk for subscribers.

Happy Holidays 2022!

December 24, 2022
Don’t know if you can tell but that Santa hat is courtesy of Maker’s Mark!

I am hard at work putting the finishing touches on my favorite books of the year list. I hope to have it posted in the next couple of days, hopefully before New Year’s!

My son, daughter-in-law, and grandson are due in this afternoon from New York. They had to cancel last year due to an upsurge in Covid cases, but this year they all had Covid a month or two ago, so that is no longer an issue (for now!)

Jonah is on his way to see Nana, Papa, & Auntie Auntie!

I’ll be posting next week my personal best books of the year list. Once again I thank you for your patience; I am visually impaired which has slowed down my reading and reviewing considerably.

I wish all who celebrate a very Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanza!

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe.

Coronavirus Diary: December 1, 2022

December 1, 2022

This is the time of year when I thank you all, my readers, for your support and your comments and emails. I don’t take a single one of you for granted! I appreciate your telling your family and friends about the site, and I hope you all have found great reads! I’m working on my favorite reads of the year and should have that posted shortly.

Whatever you celebrate, I hope you get to share it with family and friends. And I wish you every happiness for the coming year!

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe.

Coronavirus Diary: November 1, 2022

November 1, 2022

I am fully boosted, got my flu shot, and yet I was sick as a dog last week with terrible sinusitis. Every time I get sick, it hits my sinuses, and usually a few days of allergy meds, decongestants, sinus rinse (AKA what feels like waterboarding!) and Excedrin every six hours gets me through it. But this time instead of clearing up, a new symptom appeared – terrible dizziness, and at times, bed spins (which I haven’t had since my college drinking days and DID NOT MISS AT ALL!) If I turned my head too fast, well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. At one point, I heard what sounded like sloshing in my ear but then that went away. I was waking up during the night when I rolled over, which caused me to feel like the bed was spinning, which would cause me to wake up, curse, and grab onto the bed and/or my husband so I would stay grounded. No one got good sleep. I had some Amoxicillin in the house so I took that for a few days, and it didn’t seem to help much. Then I started getting worse again six days into this thing. I finally went to the doctor, and she prescribed a Z-pack (antibiotics) and a Medrol pack (steroids,) and 48 hours later I felt human again. The miracle of drugs! I also did a couple of Covid tests, just in case, but luckily they were negative.

All that said, there is always more to worry about:

Book News

New Right to Read Bill Expands School Library Access, Students’ Rights to Read [Book Riot]

The Trash Library of Ankara: Another unlikely library — this one made from books salvaged from the garbage of Ankara.

Food News

Two of my favorites have new cookbooks!

Smitten Kitchen Keepers: New Classics for Your Forever Files by Deb Perelman

BON APPETIT BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR! (preorder; available Nov. 15)

“For her third cookbook, Perelman has taken the wisdom she has accumulated in the 16 years since she created Smitten Kitchen and funneled it into “keepers,” i.e., recipes deserving of a place in her “forever files” and yours. That means, for example, a towering broccoli cheddar quiche baked in a springform pan, deli pickle potato salad that makes smart use of both pickles and brine, and chocolate peanut butter cup cookies that I can personally attest merit the “keeper” designation. Perelman, as is her wont, employs her trademark warmth and humor as she shepherds you from breakfast to dessert and beyond, making this both a fun and practical read.” –Rebecca Flint Marx, Eater

“Recipes become regulars when they’re fast, reliable, and deliciously worth the effort. In her third book, Smitten Kitchen founder Deb Perelman offers 100 recipes for oft-requested favorites like a fuss-free lemon poppy seed cake and “an epic quiche” sure to become some of the last you’ll ever need to learn.” –Jacqueline Raposo, Epicurious

 “Every cookbook creator makes a dish again and again so that we don’t have to, and Perelman ( Smitten Kitchen Every Day, 2017) just seems to have more fun doing so. With us strangers in mind…she shares recipes that withstand the most important test: folks will actually want to make and eat them over and over. For breakfast, a bodega-style fried-egg sandwich can be yours in three minutes, and a salad-topped frittata cooks entirely in the oven. Vegetables get their own chapters, organized by size…Meat dishes are balanced and homey, like a skillet-chicken parmesan that promises crispiness and sauciness and fail-safe, 10-ingredient pulled pork. Repeat-worthy cookies and unfussy cakes fill out the sweets chapter before Perelman invites readers to host more parties with a tight edit of crowd-pleasing drinks (alcoholic and non) and snacks. There’s a reason readers are still smitten, and this ode to “Weeknight Greatness” confirms it.” –Annie Bostrom, Booklist (starred review)

“In her third cookbook, Perelman returns with a gathering of the best versions of her key dishes—recipes that she has tested, trialed, and tweaked until they became what she wants her kids and readers to learn by heart and cook with delight…The book is a joy to read, with Perelman’s confiding, cheering voice showcased in short prefaces and recipe notes. She writes as if she were dashing off a recipe on a napkin for her best friend, while at the same time telling them what to do to really make it work. It is pure pleasure. The book covers breakfasts (which Perelman says are good at any time of day), salads, soups, vegetables, meats, sweets, and even a few drinks. Vegetarians and gluten-free eaters will find plenty of options and can adapt many of the other recipes…Essential for all collections. The cookbook, like the recipes it shares, is a keeper.” –Neal Wyatt, Library Journal (starred review)

Go-To Dinners: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten

America’s favorite home cook presents delicious, crowd-pleasing, go-to recipes that you’ll want to make over and over again! (available now)

Coming out of the pandemic with a renewed appreciation for dishes that can be frozen and prepped in advance as well as simply assembled, cookbook doyenne Garten (Modern Comfort Food) serves up a delicious, no-nonsense collection of weeknight recipes that are “simple to follow and work every time.” Those features—plus a “rethink” about leftovers (she never liked them) and what constitutes a worthy meal—are amply celebrated throughout. Boards composed of store-bought and homemade items—such as balsamic-roasted baby peppers with Italian cheeses, cured meats, and breadsticks, and a dessert board with small tarts, fresh and dried fruit, chocolate bark, and slices of pound cake—are her new go-to, she writes, because “cooking fatigue is a real thing, even for me.” For a fresh and flavorful twist, the author applies cacio e pepe treatment to scrambled eggs and roasted asparagus, while hot dogs are wrapped in mustard-swiped puff pastry. Garten also draws on the wisdom of other accomplished cooks with such dishes as a potato salad à la Julia Child; a one-pot chicken with orzo from Nigella Lawson; and molasses baked beans and dark chocolate tart from Erin French of the Lost Kitchen in Maine. Practical and practically faultless, this is a real treat. (Oct.)Publishers Weekly

Kitchen maven Garten (Modern Comfort Food) returns with a cookbook born of the pandemic. These recipes are low stress, comforting, and, of course, delicious. Garten believes an invitation to dinner is an expression of love, but unlike her past lavish dinners, the pandemic helped her discover that simple can be just right. Garten offers creative ways to re-create leftovers into new and exciting dishes and encourages challenging oneself to make a meal with whatever is on hand. Hotdogs in pastry were the result of her own success at making do; the recipe became a keeper even after grocery shopping became routine again. Simple can yield sophisticated flavors too, with recipes like caramelized butternut squash with burrata. Garten’s helpful notations, such as “make ahead” and “two-fer” (make into two different meals), guide readers. She also includes other useful tips (store roasted vegetables in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel to keep them crisp). Each recipe receives one photo on the adjacent page, and several full-page spreads add to the enticement. VERDICT Another pleaser from Garten; sure to be in demand.P.J. Gardiner, Library Journal

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe.

*Thanks to The New York Times for allowing me to “gift” my readers with free access to these articles, a lovely perk for subscribers.