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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Weekend Cooking- Indigenous in Sarasota

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.

When we visit our vacation home near Sarasota in Florida, our friends always have a new restaurant for us to try. There are so many great restaurants down there, foodies are in heaven.

On our most recent trip, we visited Indigenous, located in the downtown Towles Court area. It's located in a big old house, in a mixed residential, small business area. There are tables on the big front porch, with billowing white awnings overhead, and tables along the side of the house.

We sat inside, where there appeared to be a dozen or so tables of various sizes which overlook the open kitchen. It is a little dark inside, and it was raining hard that night, so you may need to use your phone flashlight app to read the menu.

The menu is not extensive, but everything we tried was fantastic. I always check out Yelp and Trip Advisor reviews before we go to a restaurant to see what people recommend, and this time I went with two appetizers as my meal.

Three of us ordered the Wild Mushroom Bisque, which was phenomenal. It was very rich, and the crispy rye croutons added just the right crunch. I convinced the table to order the Parmesan Beignets, which were served on a honey, pear and thyme sauce. We went crazy over these, trying to be polite over who would get the last tasty, fluffy beignet morsel. (My husband and I split it.)
Parmesan Beignets

I had the Pork Belly appetizer as my entree. It was such a mouth-watering burst of flavors, served over a charred corn tortilla salad, with salsa verde and salsa roja, bacon and queso fresco. The entire dish was just perfectly blended.
Pork Belly

Indigenous is known for its Hook to Fork, a daily fish special featuring the freshest local sustainable ingredients in creative dishes. One of our friends had the Hook to Fork special, a cobia dish. You can't get much fresher or more beautiful than this.
Cobia- Hook to Fork 

The service was terrific and the ambience and food were wonderful. We will return to Indigenous again, and next time I'm not sharing the Parmesan Beignets.

Indigenous' website is here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Carry On by Lisa Fenn

Carry On by Lisa Fenn
Published by Harper Wave ISBN 978-0062427830
Hardcover, $25.99, 256 pages

Every once in a while, I read a book that affects me so deeply, when I finish the book I feel the need to run and tell everyone I see "You must read this book!" Lisa Fenn's Carry On is one such book.

Fenn grew up in Cleveland, and became a producer for ESPN. On a visit home, her father showed her a newspaper story about two high school wrestlers from a high school in a poor section of the city. One of the young men was blind, the other had lost his legs in a tragic train accident.

She became intrigued, and convinced her boss at ESPN to film a short documentary piece on the young men by giving him a visual- "The one who cannot walk being carried by the one who cannot see." What came out of that piece changed Fenn's life forever.

Fenn got to know the young men- Dartanyon, a big guy who got shuffled from place to place, who always carried a duffel bag of his belongings with him because he didn't know where he would be sleeping that night, and Leroy, who lost his legs in a train accident when he was eleven and was living with his grandmother.

Both young men grew up in poverty in addition to their physical challenges. They became best friends. Dartanyon would literally carry Leroy on his back into wrestling matches, and he would frequently be found at Leroy's grandmother's home where he got a decent meal.

Their bond was unbreakable, and it took Fenn a long time to break through the defenses they had to get them to open up to her. They were suspicious of Fenn, of her motives for doing the documentary. She spent many hours watching them play video games in Leroy's grandmother's basement, eventually gaining their trust.

The resulting documentary was so moving that many viewers responded by asking how they could help these courageous young men. Fenn helped set up a fund for the young men to get them into colleges, a dream they couldn't even begin to comprehend.

She found people willing to help and through sheer force of will she got them to take the SATs and both of them were able to go to college. But Dartanyon and Leroy were completely unprepared for college life, and it became Fenn's full-time job to keep these guys on track.

Carry On is a book that looks at the bigger problem of  race, privilege, class and poverty through the prism of these two young men. For everyone who says, why can't people just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and succeed, the complications of that type of thinking is in here.

Fenn is a woman of faith, and I enjoyed that aspect of the book. She believed that she couldn't just walk away from these young men, that she could make a difference even when most people would give up.

Carry On will appeal to anyone who loves a good story about sports and the difference we can make in other people's lives. I cried throughout the book several times, and it reminded me of  Jeff Hobbs' brilliant book, The Life and Tragic Death of Robert Peace. Both books do a fantastic job of showing us a way of life most of us are unfamiliar with.

If you are the kind of person who only reads one book a year, make it Carry On. I would love to see this become a book read in high schools, colleges and in city reads program. It is the best non-fiction book I have read this year, hands-down.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Lisa Fenn's tour. The rest of Lisa's stops are here:

Tour Stops

Tuesday, August 16th: Emerald City Book Review
Thursday, August 18th: Becklist
Friday, August 19th: Dreaming Big
Monday, August 22nd: Mother’s Circle
Tuesday, August 23rd: bookchickdi
Wednesday, August 24th: Tina Says…
Thursday, August 25th: Literary Quicksand
Monday, August 29th: Helen’s Book Blog
Tuesday, August 30th: Cait’s Cozy Corner
Wednesday, August 31st: Book by Book
Thursday, September 1st: Many Hats
Wednesday, September 7th: Back Porchervations
Thursday, September 8th: Rebecca Radish
Monday, September 12th: Reading Reality
Tuesday, September 13th: The Paperback Pilgrim
Monday, September 19th: Reading is My Super Power

Monday, August 8, 2016

Book Report- Three Novels About Romantic Relationships

Reprinted from auburnpub.com 

This month’s Book Report tackles the topic of romantic relationships. Two of the novels, “This Must Be The Place” and “The Hopefuls” deal with the ups and downs of marriage and identity, and the third, “The Hating Game”, reveals a relationship as it blossoms from hate to love.

Sally Thorne takes on workplace romantic relationships in “The Hating Game”.  Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman sit across from each other in their respective positions as assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. When the companies merged, Lucy and Joshua were forced to work in close quarters, much their displeasure. 

Lucy’s Bexley team are lovers of literature, people who believed that literature is art, as necessary to people’s lives as air is to breathe. Joshua’s Gamin team is more analytical; they believe in “key performance indicator targets” and that books are units to be sold.

Each team needs the other to survive in today’s competitive market. Joshua thinks Lucy is too soft on her staff, letting them shirk their responsibilities so that she has to pick up their slack. Lucy thinks Josh is a jerk, and the macho posturing of his team annoys her.

Though they claim to hate each other, events conspire to throw them together and the course of true love never runs smooth. The fact that they are up for the same promotion makes their rivalry even more personal and intense.

“The Hating Game” is a terrific workplace romance novel, and the reader roots for Lucy and Joshua to realize their feelings for each other. Thorne writes some hot and steamy sex scenes. Her first book is so well done, it felt like it was written by someone who has been doing this awhile. I loved the characters and hope to see them again sometime.

Jennifer Close’s third novel, “The Hopefuls” is publishing at just the right time. Matt and Beth’s story takes place in Washington DC, where Matt hopes his work as legal counsel in the Obama administration will help him land a position that he can leverage into running for political office himself. 

Beth reluctantly follows her husband from New York City to DC, hoping to find her place there as well. She doesn’t like politics, and in a company town like DC, it’s hard to meet anyone who doesn’t identify themselves by their security clearance level.

When they meet golden boy Jimmy and his wife Ash, Beth finally feels like she has a friend. Matt is envious of Jimmy’s position and his easy way with people. Everything seems to fall in Jimmy’s lap.

“The Hopefuls” reveals Matt and Beth’s marriage through the prism of politics, and how difficult it is to be married to someone who is so totally consumed by his career when the other person’s  career is less satisfying. Matt and Beth compare themselves to Jimmy and Ash, and when they follow them to Texas to help Jimmy run for office, the problems in their marriage become magnified. Close gets the details of marriage so right in this book, investing the reader in their marriage.

She excels in her character development. The scenes with Matt’s family, his overbearing mother who makes the in-laws sit at a separate dinner table from their spouses, are so perfectly written that we know these characters well even though they are only around for a little while.

Maggie O’Farrell’s “This Must Be The Place” weaves together the story of Daniel, an American who while on a trip to Ireland to pick up the ashes of his dead grandfather, meets Claudette, a famous actress who ran away from her director husband and stardom with her young son to live in seclusion. 

Daniel is upset about the dissolution of his marriage and the fact that his ex-wife refuses to allow him to see his children. He falls in love with Claudette and Ari, her son. He stays in Ireland, they marry and have two children of their own.

Claudette is a difficult woman, she prefers to stay on her secluded property, homeschooling her children. Daniel works as a professor of linguistics and loves his wife dearly. 

Daniel has to face an event from 20 years ago that forces him to look at just the kind of man he really is, is he the good man he thinks himself to be?

O’Farrell brilliantly weaves together Daniel and Claudette’s story, using perspective from others along the way. Her theme of the redemptive quality of love is one worth contemplating in this moving story.

Published by William Morrow Paperbacks
Trade paperback, $14.99, 384 pages

Published by Alfred A. Knopf
Hardcover, $25.95, 320 pages

“This Must Be The Place” by Maggie O’Farrell-A
Published by Alfred A. Knopf
Hardcover, $26.95, 382 pages

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Lowcountry Stranger by Ashley Farley

Lowcountry Stranger by Ashley Farley
Published by Leisure Time Publishing
Ebook, $3.99

Lowcountry Stranger is Ashley Farley's second novel in her Sweeney Sister series, first introduced in Her Sister's Shoes. I didn't read the first novel, and when I started Lowcountry Stranger I feared that I would be lost. I admit it took me a few pages to get adjusted, but once I did, I was hooked by this intriguing family's story.

As the book opens, Faith is celebrating her marriage to Dr. Mike in her hometown of Prospect, South Carolina. This is Faith's second marriage, her first was to an abusive man who is now in prison. Faith's seven-year-old daughter Bitsy hasn't spoken a word since the incident that put her father away.

Faith's oldest sister Jackie spends her week working as a decorator in Charleston, coming home on the weekend to her twin high school senior sons and her doctor husband. Jackie is feeling restless, wanting to further her career, and troubled by her husband's infidelity last year.

Middle sister Sam is a single mom who raised her college-aged son Jamie on her own. Sam manages the family seafood market, a Prospect mainstay. Sam is dating Eli, a town policeman who loves and wants to marry her, but Sam says that marriage is not for her.

When a bedraggled teenage girl Annie shows up at the wedding, the Sweeney sisters reluctantly take her in after she tells them she was traveling with a family she was working for when they abandoned her and took off.

Bitsy takes a shine to Annie and she speaks her first words to Annie. Faith is so moved by this, she asks Annie to care for Bitsy while she works. But although something seems not quite right with Annie, the Sweeneys open their homes to Annie.

Life has it's ups and downs for the Sweeneys. Faith is very protective of Bitsy, and when they all took Annie in so quickly, I thought maybe it was a little too fast. They really knew nothing about her, and let her care for a traumatized young girl. Eventually we find out Annie's true story, and how it affects the entire Sweeney family.

I got caught up in the Sweeney Sisters story very quickly, and loved the setting of the small town in the Lowcountry. And as someone who once owned a small fast food restaurant, the family seafood market business was fascinating to me.

There a lot of characters to follow in the book, but I was fully invested in each of their stories. I loved the sisters' relationships, and the cousins' strong connections to each other. Sometimes in novels of this genre, the male characters tend to be somewhat one-dimensional, but here the men were full partners in the story and fully fleshed out.

After reading Lowcountry Stranger, I am going to read Her Sister's Shoes to see what I missed, and I am waiting not-so-patiently for the next installment. If you like family stories, especially sister stories, you'll love Lowcountry Stranger.

Ashley Farley is giving away a $50 Amazon gift card to celebrate the publication of Low Country Stranger. To enter follow the instructions here:

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Purchase Links

Ashley Farley has a really fun website with some cool information graphics about the Sweeney sisters, including music playlists for each sister. 
Visit her website at†http://www.ashleyfarley.net.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Ashley Farley's tour. The rest of the stops are here:

Tour Stops

Monday, August 1st: Mama Reads Hazel Sleeps
Wednesday, August 3rd: bookchickdi
Thursday, August 4th: Tina Says…
Thursday, August 11th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, August 12th: Art @ Home
Tuesday, August 16th: Peeking Between the Pages
Monday, August 22nd: Comfy Reading
Wednesday, August 24th: I Brought a Book
Saturday, August 27th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Wednesday, September 7th: Bibliotica
Thursday, September 8th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach

Monday, September 12th: Reading is My Super Power

Home Field by Hannah Gersen

Home Field by Hannah Gersen
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks ISBN 9780062413741
Trade paperback, $14.99, 432 pages

Hannah Gersen's debut novel Home Field is billed as a combination of Friday Night Lights and My So-Called Life. That's quite a high bar to set, and Gersen clears it with room to spare.

Dean is a successful high school football coach in a small Maryland town. He runs a terrific program, and is known and respected throughout the town. Years ago he married a young widow, Nicole, whose husband was a high school football hero. Nicole and her husband were high school sweethearts and had a young daughter, Stephanie, when he was diagnosed and died.

Nicole suffers from depression, perhaps she never got over the loss of the love of her life. Dean was smitten with her and young Stephanie, and they married and had two boys of their own, Robbie and Bryan.

As the story opens, Nicole commits suicide and is found by her eleven-year-old son Robbie. Stephanie is set to go away to college, and struggles with leaving her brothers and father to go so far from home. Robbie begins cutting class and acting out, and finally finds salvation by participating in the high school play.

Bryan has spending more time with Nicole's sister and her family, devoutly religious people. Bryan finds solace in religion, much to Dean's concern. He feels that his sister-in-law is unduly influencing his young son.

Coaching a successful high school football program is a time-consuming profession, and Dean comes to the conclusion that he needs to step down for the sake of his children. He also becomes involved with Robbie's school counselor, a woman he knew when she was a substitute teacher at his school.

Stephanie is trying to find her way in the world, and Gersen really nails the feelings of a young woman adrift. She is grieving the loss of a mother she loved, feeling angry that her mother abandoned them all, and sad that her mother was suffering so. She also feels guilty that she has left her brothers behind.

Reading this part of the story took me back to my own time going away to college, so vivid is the connection between Stephanie's experiences and most young women. Bravo to Ms. Gersen.

Just when Dean thinks he is losing it all, an opportunity to temporarily coach the girls cross country track team falls in his lap. He misses football, and he forms a connection with the girls that gives him a sense of control and accomplishment he is lacking in his personal life.

Gersen does a wonderful job with the setting and characters of her story. She has the small town atmosphere just right, and we care deeply about these people, even as we see them making mistakes. Dean in particular needs to learn the importance of verbal communication with his children. They need to talk about what happened to them, and he, like many men, has trouble with that.

Home Field is an emotional, moving book that touched my heart. Gersen's ability to write so beautifully and realistically in the voices of Dean, Stephanie and Robbie is quite an accomplishment. I recommend Home Field to anyone who loves a good family story.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Hannah Gersen's tour. The rest of the stops are here:

Tour Stops

Tuesday, July 26th: BookNAround
Thursday, July 28th: A Bookish Way of Life
Friday, July 29th: Broken Teepee
Monday, August 1st: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, August 2nd: Lesa’s Book Critiques
Wednesday, August 3rd: bookchickdi
Thursday, August 4th: A Bookish Affair
Monday, August 8th: Bibliotica
Tuesday, August 9th: From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, August 10th: Sweet Southern Home

Hannah Gersen's website is here.

Monday, August 1, 2016

They May Not Mean To, But They Do by Cathleen Schine

They May Not Mean To, But They Do by Cathleen Schine
Published by Sarah Crichton Books ISBN 9780062277022
Hardcover, $26, 304 pages

Cathleen Schine's newest novel, They May Not Mean To, But They Do is a gem. It tells the story of a family who are at the stage of life where they must deal with aging parents.

The mother Joy is described by her adult daughter Molly as thus:
"They found Joy disconcerting, and they were right. She was so intimate and so remote, as remote as a faraway, nameless planet sometimes; sometimes soft and sympathetic. She was talkative, yet she heard everything you said or thought you might say. She was wise and she was deep, intuitive, the kind of person to whom people confided their darkest secrets; she was scatterbrained and easily distractible and often forgot people's darkest secrets, which, as she always said, was just as well."
Joy lives with her husband, Aaron, who is suffering from Alzheimer's, in the apartment they have had for many years on the Upper West Side in New York City. Joy is caring for Aaron at home, while also still working part-time cataloguing items at a museum. The museum would like to see Joy retire, but Joy needs the job both for the money and her sanity.

Molly divorced her husband and now lives with her female partner in California. She likes her life in California, and flies home a few times a year to help organize her parents bills and medical issues. Daniel is married and lives in lower Manhattan with his wife and two pre-teen daughters. He works hard, and his responsibilities to his own family mean that he doesn't see his parents as often as Joy would like.

As Aaron seems to be getting worse, Joy has a hard time keeping up. It is too difficult to take Aaron out for walks, and they subsist almost completely on takeout food delivered from the local coffee shop. Piles of papers start to build up, and the apartment is getting too cluttered. Even the part-time housekeeper isn't helping.

Schine's moving novel deals with issues that most families will have to face- aging parents. She is empathetic to Joy's plight, and in her creates an indelible character many people will relate to. We can see how difficult it is for Joy to watch her husband failing, and to know that very soon she won't be able to care for him alone.

Molly and Daniel have their own lives to handle, and all the emotions they feel about what is happening to their parents- the guilt, anger, sadness, and frustration- are universal to adult children everywhere.

Schine gets all the details right too. You can feel the claustrophobia of Joy and Aaron's apartment, and smell the food cooking for their Thanksgiving dinner. This is a truly sensory book.

I've read some of Schine's other novels- The New Yorkers, The Three Weismanns of Westport, and Fin & Lady- and They May Not Mean To, But They Do is her best book yet.  For someone as young as she is to put herself so completely into the character of Joy is a brilliant achievement. Anyone who has older parents will do well to read this book, if only to get a glimpse of what they are going through. I highly recommend it.