Yours to Tell: Dialogues on the Art and Practice of Writing by Steve Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem

Blurb:
Steve Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem are no strangers to the writing business. Between the two of them, they have published more than 600 short stories, 20 novels, and 10 short story collections. Not to mention numerous articles, essays, poems, and plays. They've won the World Fantasy Award, British Fantasy Award, and Bram Stoker Award.

In this book they go over everything from the mechanics of writing, to how to find the time to write, to dealing with all the paper writers tend to collect. They discuss plot, point of view, setting, characterization, and more, all in an informal tone that invites you to become part of their conversation. Learn how to find your stories because they are Yours to Tell.
Yours to Tell is a writing craft book that goes over everything from the mechanics of plot and characterization to the occupational hazards of writing (i.e. being buried in paper) and a writer's schedule. Yours to Tell is conversational in nature with each chapter beginning with a prompt, and both Melanie and Steve talking and giving ideas or solutions for it. Different writers will identify with many of the things they talk about, especially when one writer is a saver and a book collector, and the other writer prefers an electronic life.

There are so many things a writer could get hung up on when writing becomes a business. But focusing on the art of simply writing is important. From the book:

"Writers write, whether they're making money or not, whether they're even publishing or not."

Everyone has a story to tell, and each story will have a new and different perspective. And fiction is especially interesting because readers have to believe in that writer's reality to become part of the book. The chapter on Engaging the Reader was probably most important to me as it goes into the relationship the writer has with the reader, providing great examples and ways authors can engage readers.

Overall, a great book on the craft of writing.


Book Info (Amazon):
Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher and any opinions are my own. Affiliate links help support the site. Thanks. :)



 
+Renee Shelton
Twitter: @121degreesC

Pretty Tough Plants by Plant Select


Blurb:

There’s a growing demand for dependably hardy plants that require less maintenance and less water, but look no less beautiful in the garden. Plant Select—the leading purveyor of plants designed to thrive in difficult climates—meets this need by promoting plants that allow gardeners everywhere to have stunning, environmentally-friendly gardens that use fewer resources. Pretty Tough Plants highlights 135 of Plant Select’s top plant picks. Each profile features a color photograph and specific details about the plant’s size, best features, and bloom season, along with cultural needs, landscape features, and design ideas. The plant list includes perennials and annuals, groundcovers, grasses, shrubs, and trees. A chart at the end of the book makes it easy to choose the right plants for specific conditions and needs.

A great book for gardeners looking for water-wise plants in tough to grow gardens. Read the full review for Pretty Tough Plants on Cultivate to Plate, and check out the page set up with a sample page layout of the book.


Book Info:
Note: This book was provided by the publisher and any opinions are my own. Affiliate links help support the site. Thanks. :)



+Renee Shelton
Twitter: @121degreesC

Field Guide to Coastal Fishes


Blurb:

From the Arctic waters of Alaska to the southern tip of California, this fully illustrated guide captures the stunning diversity of fishes along the western coastlines of the United States and Canada. The combined work of renowned marine science illustrator Val Kells and distinguished ichthyologists Luiz A. Rocha and Larry G. Allen, A Field Guide to Coastal Fishes: From Alaska to California is this region’s most current and thorough fish identification guide.
Whether you are an angler, scuba diver, naturalist, student, or teacher, you will find every fish you’re trying to identify, each shown in lifelike detail. The book’s coverage extends from shallow, brackish waters to depths of about 200 meters.
Key features include· Over 950 illustrations of adults, juveniles, and color variants · Descriptions of 157 fish families and almost 700 species· Text presented adjacent to the illustrations· Concise details about the biology, range, and distribution of each species 
Poised to become your go-to reference, this guide will find a welcome spot on your boat, in your backpack, or on your bookshelf.   
Great compact book focusing on the coastal intertidal fishes ranging from Alaska to California. The full review for Field Guide to Coastal Fishes is on Dana Point Fish Company.

Book Info (Amazon):
Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher, and any opinions are my own. Affiliate links help to support the site. Thanks. :)



+Renee Shelton
Twitter: @121degreesC

Beauty of the Beast: Fairy Tale Retellings, Book One by Rachel L. Demeter


Blurb:

Reclusive and severely scarred Prince Adam Delacroix has remained hidden inside a secluded, decrepit castle ever since he witnessed his family’s brutal massacre. Cloaked in shadow, with only the lamentations of past ghosts for company, he has abandoned all hope, allowing the world to believe he died on that tragic eve twenty-five years ago.
Caught in a fierce snowstorm, beautiful and strong-willed Isabelle Rose seeks shelter at a castle—unaware that its beastly and disfigured master is much more than he appears to be. When he imprisons her gravely ill and blind father, she bravely offers herself in his place.
Stripped of his emotional defenses, Adam’s humanity reawakens as he encounters a kindred soul in Isabelle. Together they will wade through darkness and discover beauty and passion in the most unlikely of places. But when a monster from Isabelle’s former life threatens their new love, Demrov’s forgotten prince must emerge from his shadows and face the world once more…

Beauty of the Beast is a magical retelling of the classic tale, Beauty and the Beast. But unlike other versions, there is no fairy magic where the hero is entranced by a sorceress, or where there is a chance the beast may turn into his former handsome self at the end. Adam is tragically physically disfigured and his formerly happy life destroyed. He feels he himself is a beast and shuts himself in his castle from the outside world for two decades.

We are introduced to Isabel who puts her family's well being over her own by becoming engaged to Raphael in exchange for medical care for her ailing father. Raphael is arrogant, wealthy, and very cruel. Raphael causes Isabel great physical pain and heartache yet I felt a twinge of sorrow for him because of his own upbringing. However, as the story progressed it became obvious he wasn't deserving of any sympathy and was too far gone to save.

By the time Isabel comes into Adam's life, he wants no part of the outside world. She finds a way to escape from the obsessive Raphael but ends up as a prisoner in the castle. Then the questions arise for both of them - if whether beautiful people can become beasts, and can beauty be hidden by physical scars.

I enjoyed this version of Beauty and the Beast immensely because it wasn't just a tale about a beautiful girl and a beast of a man, but rather it was about whether people can find beauty on the inside and overlook physical appearances. 

Beauty of the Beast is a classic Gothic love story, and the author does a wonderful job with imagery. Stories like this remind me of why I love this genre so much. A truly captivating and riveting retelling of a beloved tale, and I look forward to the author's version of the next fairy tale.




Book Info
Disclosure:  This book was provided by the author and any opinions are my own. Any affiliate links help to support this site. Thanks. :)


+Renee Shelton
Twitter: @121degreesC

Pitmaster: Recipes, Techniques, and Barbecue Wisdom


Blurb:
Pitmaster is the definitive guide to becoming a barbecue aficionado and top-shelf cook from renowned chefs Andy Husbands and Chris Hart.
Barbecue is more than a great way to cook a tasty dinner. For a true pitmaster, barbecue is a way of life.
Pitmaster is the definitive guide to becoming a barbecue aficionado and top-shelf cook, whether you’re new to the grill or a seasoned vet. Recipes begin with basics, like cooking Memphis-style ribs, and expand to smoking whole hogs North Carolina style.
There is no single path to becoming a pitmaster. Barbecue lovers are equally inspired by restaurants with a commitment to regional traditions, competition barbecue champions, families with a multi-generational tradition of roasting whole hogs, and even amateur backyard fanatics.
This definitive collection of barbecue expertise will leave you in no doubt why expert chefs and backyard cooks alike eat, live, and breathe barbecue.
From the All Q'd Up blog:

"The chapters go into styles of barbecue, and delve into the main regions: Backyard Barbecue; North Carolina; Kansas City; Texas; The North; and Competition Barbecue. As far as recipes, this book has the classics from the above regions that are the go-to ones, with nothing extra that doesn’t fit. You’ll find favorites like barbecue rubs, sauces, and sides to the actual meats that define the barbecue regions – Butcher Paper [Beef] Brisket from Texas, and Whole Hog Eastern North Carolina Style."

Read the full review from the All Q'd Up barbecue blog, and try a recipe from the book.



Book Info:
Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher and any opinions are my own.



+Renee Shelton
Twitter: @121degreesC

Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking--Flatbreads, Stuffed Breads, Challahs, Cookies, and the Legendary Chocolate Babka by Uri Scheft


Breaking Breads Blurb:
Named one of the Best Cookbooks of the Year by Food & Wine, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today, The Washington Post, and more
 

Israeli baking encompasses the influences of so many regions—Morocco, Yemen, Germany, and Georgia, to name a few—and master baker Uri Scheft seamlessly marries all of these in his incredible baked goods at his Breads Bakery in New York City and Lehamim Bakery in Tel Aviv. Nutella-filled babkas, potato and shakshuka focaccia, and chocolate rugelach are pulled out of the ovens several times an hour for waiting crowds. In Breaking Breads, Scheft takes the combined influences of his Scandinavian heritage, his European pastry training, and his Israeli and New York City homes to provide sweet and savory baking recipes that cover European, Israeli, and Middle Eastern favorites. Scheft sheds new light on classics like challah, babka, and ciabatta—and provides his creative twists on them as well, showing how bakers can do the same at home—and introduces his take on Middle Eastern daily breads like kubaneh and jachnun. The instructions are detailed and the photos explanatory so that anyone can make Scheft’s Poppy Seed Hamantaschen, Cheese Bourekas, and Jerusalem Bagels, among other recipes. With several key dough recipes and hundreds of Israeli-, Middle Eastern–, Eastern European–, Scandinavian-, and Mediterranean-influenced recipes, this is truly a global baking bible.
Read the full review on the Pastry Sampler blog, and try one of the recipes.

A really great baking book here. From the Pastry Sampler blog:

"Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft gives spirit to old favorites, and is a reflection of the author’s travels. Traditional challah, laminated breads, flatbreads, and stuffed breads are all greatly described and made, and he mixes contemporary ingredients with traditional methods. And it’s not just about yeast breads – we are presented with wonderful treats for afternoon tea or coffee, too, and all the things to serve them with,  a surprising focus on the savory here."



Book Info:



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Twitter: @121degreesC

More Than a Slave by Anaelle Gadeyne


Book Blurb:
Alexander Anderson has a reputation that would strike fear into the heart of the devil himself. And now, Aria Starbird is his property. Aria has spent only a few months as a lowly slave, but already her happy childhood memories were starting to fade under the weight of her brutal existence. 

When she is sold to Lord Anderson at an auction, she cannot help but be afraid. Lord Anderson is known for his cruelty. He is fiendish and handsome and as wicked as he is wealthy. However, as she gets to know her new master, she realizes there is more to him than meets the eye. Over time, she is able to penetrate his tough exterior, and begins to understand the struggle of a man who believes love is a weakness, but whose heart is now yearning for something unknown. 

As the two let down their walls and discover each other’s truths, will Aria be able to tame Alexander's inner-beast? 
This is a story of a girl who is sold off to ease her very poor parent's burden. And while the story had elements that were good, the violence was a little over the top, and seemed wholly unnecessary at times. We are introduced to the heroine being sold off to two different men, and the hero nonchalantly talking about killing four slaves in a week.

It's hard to put your heart into reading a historical romance with really so much violence going on around the slaves. The issue here isn't actual slavery, but the attitude of sadistic violence that all the characters employ. (Spoiler: there is an actual torture dungeon in the house, and the occupants can hear the screams.) The main characters regard torturing someone as a non issue, so much so that it was hard to like anyone. The writing and the dialogue between the characters seemed disjointed in places making it hard to follow along, and the ending fell flat. 

I try to find the good in most books, though, and I was truly amazed that Aria seemed to hold her own even though she was sold by her poor parents into lifetime servitude (although she never really much acted like an actual slave throughout the book) and she had endured so much torture and abuse. That by itself shows her strength.



Book Info:
Disclosure: this book was provided by the author and any opinions are my own.


+Renee Shelton
Twitter: @121degreesC

Cookbook Review: Slow Dough by Chris Young


Blurb:
Making bread is an ancient craft and a fulfilling experience, a skill that is learnt by touch and feel. There is nothing more satisfying than kneading, pulling, stretching and punching the dough, using a little yeast and sugar to transform its lumpen beginnings, as if by alchemy, into a loaf. But it's not all hard work. To get a truly wonderful bread, you can use a starter to do the work for you and it does wonders for the texture, flavours and aromas of the final bread. The Real Bread Campaign has been running since 2008, encouraging people to get baking and raising awareness of the additives that exist in most shop-bought loaves. In Slow Dough: Real Bread, learn secrets from the campaign's network of expert bakers to make a huge array of exciting slow-rise breads at home. Whether you want to make a Caraway Seed Rye Bread, a Fougasse Flatbread or an All-Butter Brioche, in these recipes you'll learn how to make different starters for different breads, as well as the fundamental processes (many of which you can just sit and wait for): fermenting, kneading, first proof, last rising, and baking. In a world of mass-production and redundant additives, bread being among the worst offenders, this book, about real craftsmanship, is like a breath of fresh air.
Read the book review plus try a recipe from the book Slow Dough on the Pastry Sampler Blog.


+Renee Shelton
Twitter: @121degreesC

Around the World in 80 Tales by Dave Tomlinson

Blurb:
TRAVEL TURNED ME INTO A STORYTELLER
To travel the world is an amazing experience. I’ve spent years traveling alone along popular tourist trails and to remote travel destinations far beyond them. Each travel experience is an adventure and each adventure gives with a story to tell. Fascinating travel memoirs deserve to be shared so one day I decided that I’d write 80 of my best travel stories.

After leaving me speechless, my world travel then turned me into a storyteller!

I’ve found that adventure travel on a budget is a kaleidoscope of people, places, events, history, culture, food and fun. Through the pages of my travel book, I’ll bring it all to life for you. The collection of short stories is fascinating, inspiring, amusing and amazing. Collectively, they are an insight into the wonderful highs and gritty realities of traveling the world on a budget.
This is a collection of stories from different places the author has visited. Each story is long enough to give a feeling of location, but probably short enough to fit into a blog post. It was easy to read but felt a bit disjointed as the locations aren't presented in the order of how he visited them, and are fairly randomized in the book. Having said that, the randomized order by the author was intentional.

The stories themselves are good, though, and some were very informative. His visit to Tennant Creek in Australia is a reminder to always pay up if you use facilities in a new location without permission and his trip to Gujarat, India, warns of eating strange foods and strange places. For the most part, he finds that the people from different cultures are welcoming and helpful. The single accompanying photo shows what stood out for him on each trip, and each locale was well described.

In each city Tomlinson highlights the things that stood out with the people and landscape, surroundings if in a city, and a little history if he learns it. This is a travel book that is appropriate for kids and adults alike.

Book Info:


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Twitter: @121degreesC

Bum Luck by Paul Levine


Blurb:

A fast paced story and a really great read. The story line began with the improbable decision by a lawyer to kill his client, and by the time the middle of the story came around I was hooked and read straight through to the end.

Jake Lassiter is a lawyer who's seemingly a shark and one who will win at all costs, but really wants to find redemption in his life. He not only believes his client is guilty and wants a way to even the score, but he is caught up in a scandal where he looks guilty as hell, and the clock is ticking to prove his innocence. He is former pro football player who has had numerous head injuries leading his friends and family to believe there is a relationship between the swift change in his behavior and previous (and current) concussions.

I loved the story line, and the pace that it's written. It was funny and smart, two great additions to any mystery. This book is the second in the series Lassiter, Solomon & Lord, and I'm guessing the next book will be as good as this one.

Book Information:
This book was provided by the publisher and any opinions are my own.


+Renee Shelton
Twitter: @121degreesC