Friday's Feature and Follow

This Feature & Follow is hosted by two hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee’s View and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it’ll allow us to show off more new blogs.

How does this work? First you leave your name here on this post, (using the linky tools — keep scrolling!) then you create a post on your own blog that links back to this post (easiest way is to just grab the code under the #FF picture and put it in your post) and then you visit as many blogs as you can and tell them “hi” in their comments (on the post that has the #FF image). You follow them, they follow you. It's a great way to see what other book bloggers are reading now, and how they feel about the weekly question.

The Hosts and Featured Bloggers are listed below. If you comment on this question below, let me know you followed, I'll follow you back! Also, if you are a new follower or an old one, don't forget to enter the free giveaway for The Concubine Saga!

Have fun!

This Week's Feature and Follow Question:

Q: Birthday Wishes — Blow out the candles and imagine what character could pop out of your cake…who is it and what book are they from??

A: Well, my birthday is coming up... I'm a big foodie. My husband and I both graduated from different culinary schools and we specialize in something different (I'm the pastry guru, he's an executive chef at a hotel) but I would love to have Charles Ranhofer, the writer of the venerable 'The Epicurean', pop out of my dusty edition from 1920 and whip me up a twelve course dinner - just for me. No kids. No husband. Just me. It's my fantasy; I can indulge in it alone LOL. I know it's not a fictional character, but man that sounds really nice right about now.

The Concubine Saga by Lloyd Lofthouse, and a Giveaway

Any country's history is both beautiful and tragic, and Lloyd Lofthouse's The Concubine Saga captures them both in the midst of the Opium Wars in China. The Concubine Saga is actually a combined edition of My Splendid Concubine (prequel) and Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine (sequel). This edition puts them both together and as such, makes a fluid read. It is a good blend of history and historical fiction.

Lofthouse blends the history of Robert Hart, an Irish-born British consular official, who in an effort to 'think like the Chinese' learns the language and eventually takes on concubines in his household. The author captures what life was like then through graphic imagery and shows how little women were thought of in that period of time. His love for Ayaou, his first concubine, and her sister Shao-mei, have a profound effect on him. And because of his desire to learn about the Chinese culture and truly understanding it, he ends up rising through the ranks in Chinese government.

In the book, Robert Hart grew up in Ireland as a strict Wesleyan and becomes a disgrace to his family; because of his sexual exploits in college he ended up getting syphilis. He leaves for China working as a British liaison to the consulate and discovers foreigners treat the country and its people with no respect and learn that money buys just about anything, including influence, power, and young women that the Chinese people seemingly throw at their feet. Once Hart discovers he is in love with Ayaou, he begins to change that mindset earning him honors throughout his career and later in life from many different countries.

But, this book isn't simply a love story set in the mid 1800's, it is a tale of Chinese people doing more harm to its people, one of money buying Chinese young women (and young girls just barely reaching puberty) to men for pleasure, of violent revenge and murder, and the subtle nuances of political life where one wrong word can make a man lose face and destroy a career. He learns to love a country as well as its people.

Lloyd Lofthouse is conducting a giveaway for his new book. Enter below, and the book will ship directly from him. He will send one copy (paperback or kindle) of The Concubine Saga to the winner. This is open internationally, however, those living outside the U.S. will receive the Kindle version (eBook). Winner will be chosen by random. Fill out the form below. Good luck!

The Giveaway has ended and a winner has been notified. Thanks to all who participated!

Book Information:

  • The Concubine Saga; by Lloyd Lofthouse
  • ISBN13: 9780981955384
  • Softcover, 547 pages; Kindle version available
  • Read the book's first chapter, via Lloyd Lofthouse's blog

Disclosure: This book was provided to me from the author and any opinions are my own.

Japanese Beadwork by Sonoko Nozue

I've always had a love for Japanese jewelry: it has a sleek and elegant look and no matter what you are wearing, the eye is drawn to the piece. Sonoko Nozue's book Japanese Beadwork with Sonoko Nozue: 25 Jewelry Designs from a Master Artist captures that theme of delicate design and presents projects for beaders of all levels to enjoy. Sonoko Nozue is the author of the Japanese language beading books Mode de Beads and Shiny Shiny. Hisamitsu Hayashi photographed the models wearing the pieces, and his use of mixing black and white with color provided a stunning effect to the book.

Read the full review of this gorgeous beadwork book.

Breads from La Brea Bakery

Nancy Silverton's Breads from the La Brea Bakery

When I first opened this book up in the late 90's, baking with natural leavening seemed foreign yet exciting, and this was my first introduction to it. The recipes in this cookbook are not quick and easy versions of your favorite breads - they are the real thing, and most are two-day recipe affairs.

This was a Cookbook of the Week on my blog, Sand and Succotash. Read More >>


Art Quilt Portfolio by Martha Sielman

For those that appreciate quilting as art, Art Quilt Portfolio: The Natural World: Profiles of Major Artists, Galleries of Inspiring Works provides a glimpse of art quilts with various nature themes: flowers, birds, insects, waterlife, landscapes, and more. Written by Martha Sielman, author of The Masters: Art Quilts book series, the book separates the quilts into different themed galleries and also profiles leading artists in the art quilt world. The 19 artists she profiles includes Barbara Barrick McKie (her Peacock Pride quilt is on the front cover), Melani Kane Brewer, Betty Busby (link to pdf copy of her profile in the book from Lark Crafts), and Sally Dillon.

Read the full review.

Your Heart's Desire by Sheri Rose Shepherd

Your Heart's Desire is a book on what the author, Sheri Rose Shepherd, thinks 'will forever change the way you love and are loved.' She's no stranger to books or sharing her life's experiences with her readers: her runs the websites, Bible Life Coaching and His Princess. In the book are 14 different desires that women want in relationships with real life examples and spiritual guides.

Chapters are divided into the different desires, which include: Desiring a 'Happily Ever After'; Desiring to Leave a Legacy for My Loved Ones; and Desiring Expressions of Love and Romance in My Marriage. Your Heart's Desire is both a fun and serious look at relationships and the bible, and how modern women who are strong in their faith can prosper in a marriage.

Book Information:

Disclosure: This book was provided to the author by the publisher. Any opinions are the author's own.

    1000 Days by Jonathan Falwell

    The Ministry of Christ: 1000 Days is a look at the last three years of Jesus Christ's life. The author, Jonathan Falwell, takes what Jesus did during that time and applies it to today. Chapters include such topics as When You Want Something More; The Paradoxical Happiness of Less; Smooth Sailing versus Calmed Storm; and The Loudest Sermon Ever.

    At the end of each chapter there are Questions for Individual Reflection or Small Group Discussion, and at the end of the book has a Bible Study Guide for leaders with reminders, tips for studying, what to memorize or meditate after each chapter, and what to discuss. The 100 Main Events in Jesus' Life lists by scripture people whom Jesus met, about the disciples, Jesus' healings and miracles, and death.

    I guess I thought the book would more of a history or story book, and from the description initially read from the publisher I was hoping to actually read more about the actual 1000 days rather than just go through a bible study guide. Perhaps you could skip Falwell's interpretation and study the bible itself to learn about Jesus' life.

    Book Information:
    • The Ministry of Christ: 1000 Days; by Jonathan Falwell
    • Thomas Nelson; 2012
    • ISBN13: 9780849948084
    • Hardcover, 229

    Disclosure: This book was provided to the author by the publisher. Any opinions are the author's own.

    Color, Texture and Casting for Jewelers

    Creating metal jewelry is a hands-on craft. For metalworks, traditional and contemporary techniques are used to alter and create new colors and shapes. Color, Texture and Casting for Jewelers (Carles Codina, 2011, ISBN 9781454700173) provides detailed instruction and beautiful projects using keum boo, mokume gane, microcasting, cuttlebone casting, granulation, and more. All (or even a few) of these in-depth techniques makes this book a lasting resource to metal works jewelers of all levels.


    Rosia Lee Ivey's Recipe for Life

    Rosia Lee Ivey's Recipes for Life is a recipe collection that was written by John Arthur Ivey, Rosia's son. Throughout the book there are tips on various menu items, and variations. Recipes are written homestyle, and more conversational than typical ingredient-procedure, such as the Sweet Potato Pie recipe listed below. All the recipes seem to be family favorites and a few could be specialty, like the Ox Tail Stew. There are a few editing errors but are easily overlooked.

    The recipes chapters are: Greens; Poultry; Meats; Side Dishes; Soup; Beans; Desserts; and Additional Family Recipes. Ivey includes Rosia Lee's Legacy and an Interview with Rosia Lee in the beginning of the book.

    Sweet Potato Pie
    This recipe is adapted from Rosia Lee Ivey's Recipes for Life.
    1. Use a 9" Pyrex or metal pie pan.
    2. Boil 3 medium (or 2 large) sweet potatoes with a pinch of salt with their skins until they are done. When they are fork-tender, remove their skins, slice and place in a mixing bowl while still warm. Mash a stick of butter into them, mix in a cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of flour, grate 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, 2 dashes of cloves, 2 dashes of mace, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon of lemon extract, whip 2 eggs into the mixture, add about 1 cup of evaporated milk using an egg beater, and mix until smooth.
    3. Pour into unbaked pie crust and place in a preheated 375 degree oven for about an hour, or until done.
    Book Information:

    Disclosure: This book was provided to the author by the publisher. Any opinions are the author's own.

    Junior's Dessert Cookbook by Alan Rosen and Beth Allen

    Junior's restaurants in New York are known for great food and delicious cheesecakes. Junior's Dessert Cookbook contains 75 recipes including their famous cheesecakes, layered cakes, and pies. The chapter on the basics includes sauces, buttercreams, and decorations for the different desserts. And if you become stuck or there is a problem with the baked items, the table at the back of the book lists probable causes and how to fix it next time around.

    Read more on my Sand and Succotash blog.

    Dear Zari - The Secret Lives of the Women of Afghanistan by Zarghuna Kargar

    Dear Zari is based on the stories that were told during Afghan Women's Hour, broadcasted from 2005-2010. Zarghuna Kargar was a journalist for the program and was herself part of an arranged marriage to a man she had never met from a different country. She eventually found the courage to end her own unhappy marriage. Because the author fled Kabul and the Taliban as a child with her mother and baby sister, Kargar is sympathetic to the stories of the women in the book, and I think because of her background she was approachable. According to an article from The Guardian, 'Zari' came from Zarghuna, because the 'gh' sound was difficult for some to pronounce.

    This was a hard read. And inspiring as well. Dear Zari is a collection of 13 different stories of women living in Afghanistan, 12 of different women and her story as well. Her story of her fleeing Kabul was difficult in itself and I felt a real admiration for her mother for doing it with young children in tow. While Afghanistan is a male dominated society, many of the stories illustrate the abuse women give to other women, too. Abuse is passed on from mother to daughter simply because of a skewed view of what religion or tradition is. And being a mother myself to daughters, what some mothers put their own children through is wrenching. Kargar writes:

    But many women justify their behavior by convincing themselves that a custom is in fact religious law or duty, when in fact most religious rules are limited to prayers and fasting. Lack of education is chiefly to blame, but these traditions are also maintained at home in each family, and passed down from mother to mother.

    What makes each story so difficult is most of us as we sit down to read a story expect a happy ending. Many of the stories do not end happy, and some end up very violent. What the women go through is heartbreaking yet each offered up their story as an inspiration to others. Some women speak up with disastrous results and some just quietly accept their lot in life. Dear Zari is a moving read as a whole and the individual stories are difficult to forget.

    Book Information:

    Disclosure: This book was provided to the author by the publisher. Any opinions are the author's own.

    Indian Maidens Bust Loose by Vidya Samson

    Indian Maidens Bust Loose (Vidya Samson, 2012) is about a young woman, Nisha, and her sister Vinita, and their up and down ride through the land of arranged marriages. It is also one of the funniest books I've read all year, and Samson did a really good job of getting the reader to experience Indian culture through sounds, tastes, weather, and fashion. Comedy is a hard genre to pull off, and Samson did it with ease.

    The story begins as Nisha longs to get away from home. When Nisha's Aunt and two cousins from America come to visit, she sets her freedom sights and strives to get them to invite her to come live in America. Her father has other plans, and has countless meetings with potential husbands for both girls.

    That is where all the comedy and drama are. Her two American cousins have to adjust to Indian dress, food, rituals, and family relations. I loved all the characters in this book, and Nisha and Vinita's desire for true love, or at least liking the husband before marriage, make you really feel for their plight. And there were enough believable twists in the plot to keep you hooked. An enjoyable read all around.

    Book Information:

      Disclosure: This book was provided by the author and any opinions are my own.