Is it Time to Purge Your Bookcase?

  • November 26, 2018
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“Too many books?” you cry. “How can I have too many books?”

It happens. Maybe others in your household have grumbled complaints or given you the stink eye as they tried to find a place to sit. Maybe your home is neat and clean but feels tiny and cramped.

Two Ghost Stories for Halloween

  • October 07, 2018
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I thought I’d recommend a few ghost stories but could only find two on my shelf. So, two it is. Why is it so hard to find good ones? Part of me thinks it’s because we’ve become so jaded in this modern Wi-Fi world—we’ve read more, watched more, and know all the tropes. And it is hard. Ghosts are defined as the spirits of dead people who can be seen or heard by others. Why is that scary?

Here are two completely different but riveting takes that are good for shivers. While they’re young adult, they hold up well for those of us over the age of majority.

I Was Illiterate

  • April 22, 2018
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“Your child will never learn to read.”

That’s what my first-grade teacher told my mother on open school night. With one sentence, she consigned me to a lifetime of illiteracy.

Librarians: My Superheroes

  • April 15, 2018
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When I was a kid, I read a book of short stories that haunted me for years. The stories ranged from fantasy to horror, and while I remembered the basic plots of two of the stories, I couldn’t remember the titles or the authors. I tried my best but finally realized that the chances of finding the book were slim to none.

Eclectic Reading or Who I Really Am

  • April 09, 2018
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I’m a reader as well as a writer. How else could I know the magic of books? Here’s my current reading list, which covers urban fantasy, thrillers, and crafting.

What’s on your reading list?

 

 

A Cozy Place to Read

  • January 08, 2018
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No, the window seat above is not my home. It’s a fantasy of mine, found online.

And yet…does it have to be only a fantasy? Why not create my own little nook?

I have a couch. It’s comfy. And my coffee table is a large black trunk from my college days.

In case the couch isn’t what I need as I dive deep into a story, I have a rocking chair, bought years ago in the Adirondacks. The first time I sat in one like this with its curved back, my spine sank into it with relief.

But I wanted more. So this year I bought an electric heater that looks like a wood burning stove. It’s positioned across from my couch, and curling up on the couch while the flames flicker makes reading something to be savored. The best part about the model is that I can have the “flames” flickering without the heater working.

This is obviously a wintertime thing, when the temps dive below zero and multiple cups of hot tea with honey rest on a nearby surface while I escape into pages of summer and wild blueberries. When the seasons come around again, there will be changes made to create cool, quiet moments as I read about characters in snowstorms.

What about you? Do you have a reading nook, a special corner where stories find you?

 

Real Ghosts for Halloween

  • October 23, 2017
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Along the narrow, twisty road of the Palisades Parkway in New York State lies a small, neat, spooky house.

Okay, not spooky. It’s the Visitor Center. But the one thing I adore about visitor centers is the selection of local or regional books. This year’s buy was Ghosts of Rockland County by Linda Zimmermann.

Rule number one: Don’t read it at night. Learn from my mistakes. While the book is filled with fascinating history about people and places of the area, never forget: It’s a book about ghosts.

From sightings of Benedict Arnold to a young woman named Lily who loved to socialize a decade after her passing to a ghost family annoyed at the current “intruders,” this book makes for a very good read, especially around this time of year.

 

Less factual in tone but no less interesting is Spooky New York: Tales of Hauntings, Strange Happenings, and Other Local Lore, retold by S. E. Schlosser. It reads like someone telling tales around a campfire and includes other creatures of the night along with ghosts.

So settle in with some hot chocolate, a warm blanket, and a circle of people to regale with stories of things that go bump in the night. Or read them alone—if you dare.

 

Can You Separate the Book from the Author?

  • August 14, 2017
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I thought I found a new book to read today. It sounded great, was written by an author with a solid track record (even though I hadn’t heard of him before—there are so many hours in the day, forgive me), and the book got good reviews overall.

Reading Books Inside Books

  • April 03, 2017
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Do you do this? I was reading Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day by Winifred Watson, when the main character mentioned characters created by Ethel M. Dell. Curious, I looked her up and yes, she existed. She was a romance writer from 1911 to 1939. So I tracked down one of her books and read it. And now when I reread that line spoken by Miss Pettigrew, I feel an extra satisfaction: I know exactly what she’s referring to.

It was almost a throwaway line. Miss Pettigrew didn’t explain who the author was, she assumed the other characters knew—and the reader as well. Yet it made no difference if I knew or not, the context given was explanation enough. I was just curious.

It’s not the first time I’ve done this. In Mary Poppins in the Park, author P. L. Travers created a story from The Silver Fairy Book. I read every “color” fairy book compiled by Andrew Lang before conceding defeat—the author had made up the book. The most frustrating part of it was the story she wove—it sounded like it should have been real, and I wanted to read it.

So, do you do this? Do you hunt down a book mentioned in a novel? I have no explanation as to the pleasure I get in the hunt and subsequent reading, but it would be nice to know I’m not alone.

 

Good Food, Good Company (and a recipe)

  • September 12, 2016
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On Friday afternoon, a writer friend invited me for lunch. Along with homemade gazpacho soup and slices of tomato with fresh basil leaves and mozzarella, there was insalata di fagiolini, patate e pomodori (green bean, potato and tomato medley) from Roberta Roberti’s cookbook Vegetarian Italian Traditions (Volume 1).

With Italian bread on the side, it was a simple and sublime meal. The perfect meal for a hot and humid day, bolstered up with friends. With the author’s permission, I’m including the recipe here:

Insalata di Fagiolini, Patate e Pomodori (Green Bean, Potato and Tomato Medley)

Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients

2 pounds new or red potatoes, unpeeled

1 pound fresh green beans

4 medium tomatoes, cut into bite-size chunks

½ cup chopped red onion

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

¾ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ cup balsamic vinegar (optional)

Cut potatoes into bite-size chunks; place into a pot and fill with enough water to cover. Cover and cook over medium heat until just tender but firm when pierced with a fork, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain in a colander and cool off under cold running water. Drain well and place in a large serving bowl. (If you’re using vinegar, do not use an aluminum bowl.)

Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Snip off ends of green beans. If beans are very long, snap in half. Add beans to boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain and cool off under cold water; drain well.

Add green beans to potatoes. Add tomatoes, onion, and oil. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and mix well. Add vinegar, a little at a time, until it’s to your liking.

Gently toss, cover bowl, and chill for about 2 hours. Allow to come to room temperature and toss again before serving. Taste for seasoning. Add a little more oil if it’s too dry.

Keep leftovers tightly covered in the refrigerator up to 5 days.

TIP: If the potatoes get a little mushy after cooking, lay them out on a baking sheet and place in a 350° oven for about 10 minutes to dry them out.

The thing about this recipe is how flexible it is. My friend used cherry tomatoes, cut in half. The seasonings (including a splash of balsamic vinegar) were added right before serving, so while it might not have had the intensity it would have after being in the fridge for two hours, it had a nice little zing. I look forward to making this next summer.

And while I love Italian food, I’m also looking forward to something different with Roberta Roberti’s new cookbook, World Party: Vegetarian Appetizers, Hors D’oeuvres and Party Plates. It’s coming out soon and I expect to be doing a lot of cooking.

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Buon Appetito!

 

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