Saturday, February 20, 2016

Weekend Cooking- The Sherwood Inn

This post is part of Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking.  If you have anything related to food, cookbook reviews, novel or non-fiction book reviews, recipes, movie reviews, etc., head over to Beth Fish Reads and add your post. Or, if you want to read food related posts, head over to read what some interesting people have to say about food.

Yesterday I was working at the Book Cellar, and one of our regular customers came in with some books she wanted to donate. I started unloading her cart and sitting right there was this book.

I had to look twice- was this the same Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles, New York, the Inn where my husband and I had our wedding reception? I told our customer that story and she said that she spends part of her summers in Skaneateles, so we had a lovely chat about that beautiful village.

Of course I had to buy the book, it was meant to be! It is a gorgeous book, written by Denise Owen Harrigan and Bill Eberhardt, the man who bought the historic Sherwood Inn when it was in disrepair in 1974 and restored it to its former glory, making it even better.

The photos by James Scherzi inside are stunning, and there are many reproductions of paintings and documents from the history of the inn, dating back to 1807 during the John Adams administration.

The Sherwood Inn truly is the cornerstone of the charming village of Skaneateles, about five miles from where I grew up. I loved reading about the history of the inn, and it was great fun looking at photos of the annual events in Skaneateles- the Antique Boat Show, Dickens Christmas, concerts in the park- that my husband and I enjoyed attending.

The best part of the book may be that there are recipes of the many classic dishes served at the Sherwood Inn. As I read, I could almost taste the Clams Casino (my husband's favorite), French Onion Soup, Chicken Mulligatawny Soup, Pepper Parmesan Dressing and Raspberry & Mascarpone Stuffed French Toast that I so loved to eat.

I'll be making some of these in the near future, and I'll be sure to let you know in a future post how they turned out.

I do have one memory of Skaneateles that sticks out in my mind. After our wedding reception, while my husband and I were taking some photos by the beautiful lake, the groomsmen decided to jump into the lake with their tuxedos on. It was shocking and funny until my poor mother and her friend had to return the tuxedos to the rental shop the next day. The bags were dripping wet, and my mother and her friend dropped the bags on the counter and hightailed it out of there. They still laugh about that incident!

If you ever visit central New York, a trip to Skaneateles and the Sherwood Inn in a must. Their website is here.



Tuesday, February 16, 2016

On Broadway- Misery


One of my husband's favorite movies is Misery, based on Stephen King's novel and starring Kathy Bates as crazed fan Annie Wilkes. It was the movie that made her a star and she is unforgettable in that role.

When I heard that they were working on a Broadway adaptation of Misery, I thought that no one could be so good in that iconic role and that maybe it wasn't a smart idea. Elizabeth Marvel, a Broadway vet, was slated to play Annie Wilkes, and I thought that was a great choice. Unfortunately, she had to drop out, but Laurie Metcalf took on the role and was brilliant.

Many people know Metcalf from her role as Roseanne's sister Jackie in TV's groundbreaking sitcom Roseanne. I have seen her on Broadway and know how good she is on the stage, and I knew she'd be terrific. I also loved her on the HBO comedy Getting On, where she played a tightly-wound doctor in a long-term care ward of a hospital. How she hasn't gotten an Emmy for that is a head-scratcher.

Metcalf astounds as writer Paul Sheldon's "number one fan". Sheldon writes her favorite series of books, historical romances about a strong female character named Misery. The show opens with Sheldon incapacitated by a serious car accident, with two broken legs, waking up in a bed in nurse Annie Wilkes home.

At first we think Annie is just a good Samaritan, caring for the injured man. Then we come to realize that she is little bit crazy and maybe she ran him off the road herself. Paul's newest Misery book is publishing soon, and Annie is so excited to read it....until she does.

Paul kills off Misery in the latest book and that sets Annie off the edge of sanity. She holds Paul hostage, and forces him to write a new Misery book, one where Misery lives happily every after.

A basically two-person show requires that both actors be on the same page, and unfortunately, Metcalf is much stronger in her role than Bruce Willis is in his. To be fair, he spends most of the show in bed, and this is his Broadway debut, so that plays into it. But Laurie Metcalf is just on another plane here. She shows us how Annie descends into madness and we almost feel compassionate towards her.

Misery ended its run this past week, and while I wouldn't have recommended it wholeheartedly, I did really enjoy Laurie Metcalf's performance and was glad I saw it.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson

The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson
Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062105684
Hardcover, $26.99, 304 pages


Two years ago I fell in love with Joshilyn Jackson's novel Someone Else's Love Story. The characters in her story were so realistic and you felt like you could be their friends. Shandi is a single mom with a young son who is a genius, and they become involved with William, a very smart man who likely has Asperger's syndrome.

Jackson's newest book features a character from that novel, William's protective best friend Paula Vauss, who is openly hostile to Shandi and vows to keep her from him. It took a long time to completely understand Paula's motives in a brilliant twist ending to that novel.

Now we see Paula's story in The Opposite of Everyone. She was born to a single mom, Kai, who loved to tell Paula (whom she calls Kali) stories from the Hindu religion. Kai's parents did not approve of her lifestyle, and free spirit Kai moved Paula from place to place and man to man, leaving each man when she tired of him.

Paula spent time in the foster care system when her mother was arrested for drug possession. It was a difficult time in both of their lives, and Jackson does an amazing job describing the life in the group home where Paula spent a few years.

Eventually Paula grows up and becomes a lawyer. She works for a firm that handles divorce cases, where she has a reputation as a shark. She also does a few pro bono cases each year, mostly for young women who grew up like she did.

Paula has lost contact with her mother, but she sends her a check every month. She alludes to  the fact that she owes this to her mother for something she did to her in the past, something we don't find out until midway through the story.

Her most recent check is sent back to her with VOID written on it by her mother. This confuses Paula, and when a young man shows up looking for her mother, Paula gets her former boyfriend and private investigator Birdwine to help her find out where her mother is now.

As Birdwine tracks Kai down, Paula learns something about her mother that makes finding her crucial. Her mother sent Paula clues in the form of a Hindu story, and Paula must crack the code to solve this important and life-changing mystery.

No ones writes characters better than Joshilyn Jackson. Every character, from the major- Paula, Birdwine,  Julian the young man seeking Paula's mother- to the minor- Shar her former foster care nemisis, Joya, her best friend in foster care, even Oakleigh, the supremely selfish divorce client- are well drawn and well-rounded characters. You want to know more about all of them.

I was surprised that William was not in this novel at all, just a few passing glances, and even though I thought I would miss him, I did not. Paula has an entire world of her own here, and I loved being in her orbit.

The Opposite of Everyone is the kind of book you get lost in, not realizing how long you have been reading until you look up and see that hours have passed. And then you fall right back in, determined to finish Paula's story and discover all the secrets within.

I hope that sometime in the future, Joshilyn Jackson decides to pull a fascinating character out of this book (there are many to choose from) and gives us their story. I give The Opposite of Everyone my highest recommendation.

Joshilyn Jackson's website is here.
My review of Someone Else's Love Story is here.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Weekend Cooking- Super Bowl Sunday Food Trucks

This post is part of Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking.  If you have anything related to food, cookbook reviews, novel or non-fiction book reviews, recipes, movie reviews, etc., head over to Beth Fish Reads and add your post. Or, if you want to read food related posts, head over to read what some interesting people have to say about food.

My husband had a conference at the Hyatt Regency Resort outside of Austin Texas last week, which meant that we were away for the Super Bowl.

The conference hosted a Super Bowl party in the front courtyard of the resort, and they brought in four popular Austin food trucks for the event. It was a festive evening, and we were excited to try the food trucks.

We started with a BBQ Brisket Taco from Peached Tortilla.  It's a Southern dry rub brisket with a creamy apple slaw and peach barbeque sauce. It was delicious, easily the best food of the evening. The creamy apple slaw had just the right blend of sweet and tangy, and the peach sauce rounded out the flavors so well.  The Peached Tortilla website is here.
The Peached Tortilla truck



BBQ Taco
ALC Steaks On Tour food truck served up sliced NY strip steak with frites. They had a long line, and the steak frites was pretty good. I liked the seasoning on the steak, and a homemade barbeque sauce came with it. ALC Steaks On Tour website is here.

Burro Cheese Kitchen served up grilled cheese sandwiches. They offered two sandwiches- the Waylon & Willie which had aged cheddar, gouda, caramelized onions, pepperocini and a spicy bourbon maple sauce, and the one I chose, the Via 206, which had cheddar, gouda and a balsamic fig jam on sourdough bread. It was good, but grilled cheese really needs to made to order or else the cheese tends to congeal. Burro Cheese Kitchen's website is here.

Amy's Ice Creams truck
For dessert, Amy's Ice Creams served up homemade ice cream. I chose the Belgian Chocolate with Heath's candy pieces as a topping. My husband got a scoop of Belgian Chocolate and a scoop of Mexican Vanilla, two of their signature flavors. Both were a terrific ending to the meal. Amy's Ice Creams' website is here.

It was a fun evening, and next time I hope to get to the actual city of Austin to eat at some of the great restaurants there.


Monday, February 8, 2016

The Evening Spider by Emily Arsenault

The Evening Spider by Emily Arsenault
Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062379306
Trade paperback, $15.99, 400 pages

A few years ago, I read Emily Arsenault's novel What Strange Creatures and loved the brother/sister sibling relationship at its core. Her latest novel, The Evening Spider, has a sibling relationship in it as well, although that is not the central issue of the story as it was in What Strange Creatures.

The inspiration for this story came from the author hearing what she thought was human voice over her daughter's baby monitor shushing the baby. She combined this with an interest in the true story of the murder of a woman in the 1800s, a woman she believed to be an ancestor.

The Evening Spider introduces us to Abby, married to Chad, and new mom to baby Lucy, who has moved into an old house in the small town of Haverton, Massachusetts. Abby hears a voice over Lucy's baby monitor that sounds like someone is shushing her baby.

This unnerves Abby, and she does a little research about the previous owners of the house. She discovers that there is a diary from Frances Barnett, who once owned the house with her husband, Matthew, a lawyer.

Abby reads the diary and becomes fascinated with Frances, especially the letters Frances wrote to her brother Harry from a lunatic asylum Frances had been sent to by her husband. Frances was a new mom too, like Abby, and she became obsessed with a murder trial that her brother had a connection to.

As Frances' story unfolds through her letters, Abby tries to learn why Frances was committed to a hospital. She turns to the head of the local historical society for more information and a local medium to see if her home is haunted by Frances or someone else.

The story took awhile to get going, but once it does, it intrigues the reader. I found so many layers to this psychological suspense, including an incident that happened to Abby in college that may color her actions in the present.

Frances is a captivating character. She loves science, and her interest in how arsenic works gets her into trouble. She wasn't a traditional housewife with traditional interests in cooking and sewing, and that made people suspect of her.

I also found it surprising that in 1885 forensic science played such a big role in the murder trial. I would have thought that a recent phenomenon, but the lawyers used detailed forensic information from respected scientists to help prove their cases. (I hope this doesn't mean we'll see a new CSI:1885 series.)

The Evening Spider is a novel about obsessions- Frances for the murder trial and Abby's obsession with Frances. It features interesting, well-developed characters (just like in Arsenault's previous book), and the ending of the story is a surprise to the reader.

Fans of John Searles' Help For The Haunted will enjoy The Evening Spider. They both involve mediums, a haunted house and taut psychological suspense. And although I was a new mom over twenty years ago, Arsenault brings back those memories and fears of new motherhood vividly in this story.

I highly recommend The Evening Spider. It's a creepy, taut, suspenseful story that will keep you up at night reading to the end.

My review of What Strange Creatures is here.
My review of John Searles' Help For The Haunted is here.


Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Emily's tour. The rest of Emily Arsenault's stops are:


Tuesday, January 26th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, January 27th: The Reader’s Hollow
Wednesday, January 27th: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, January 28th: A Bookworm’s World
Friday, January 29th: JulzReads
Monday, February 1st: A Literary Vacation
Tuesday, February 2nd: FictionZeal
Thursday, February 4th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Friday, February 5th: Kritters Ramblings
Monday, February 8th: bookchickdi
Wednesday, February 10th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, February 11th: Book Hooked Blog
Friday, February 12th: Peeking Between the Pages