Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Place Called Perfect

A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan has been on the top of my TBR stacks for far too long.  (Thank you for your great patience, Helena!)  I've been absolutely swamped with review requests, and unfortunately, I've had very limited time this year to read and review books.  Published in 2012, A Place Called Perfect caught my attention on Tracy's terrific blog, Pen and Paper, and the author graciously sent me a copy of her book after I commented on Tracy's review.

As the book begins, the reader is immediately cast into Violet Brown's story.  Violet's father, Eugene, an optician who truly loves eyes and married her Mam because "she had the biggest eyes he'd ever seen", has just accepted an incredible sounding job.  Unfortunately, as far as 10-year-old Violet is concerned, his new job means that her family must move to a new location.  Change is often difficult for children, and Violet is apprehensive about moving and going to a new school.  To make matters even worse, her family will be moving to a place called Perfect.  Violet does not want to move, especially to a place called Perfect.

"How could she ever live in a place called Perfect?  It couldn't be perfect anyway, there had to be something wrong with it."
~ A Place Called Perfect, Helena Duggan

Although Violet loves her father deeply, she decides that she'll stop talking to her dad, her way of protesting the move. 

The characters in A Place Called Perfect are very appealing, and make this story worthwhile. Violet is an engaging and believable child protagonist.  She's determined to figure out what's going on in this "perfect" place.  Violet senses that there's something a bit scary and odd and creepy about the spectacle makers, the Archers, that something is going on with them.  Later in the story she meets a friend, Boy, who makes her experience in this too perfect place a lot more bearable, as friends often do.

Like Tracy from Pen and Paper, I was enchanted by this book from the very beginning until the very end.  Both the front and back cover were created by Helena Duggan, who's a graphic designer as well as an author, and are fantastic and fit the book, well, perfectly.  Content-wise, A Place Called Perfect is imaginative and clever; it's a charming book that I adored and would wholeheartedly recommend to children and adults.  Much of the humor in this book has to do with eyes and seeing, and although the book's quite funny overall, there's a more serious side to this book as well.  Readers of all ages will root for Violet as she discovers what's below the pristine appearance of Perfect.  A Place Called Perfect is an astounding mix of adventure and mystery, with a generous dose of the macabre, which will captivate all.  I look forward to reading more books by Helena Duggan.

As always, your comments are welcomed and appreciated. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Really Random Tuesday #84: Book Winners, and Roasted Chickpeas


Two winners!  Today I have a couple of book winners to announce. The winner of The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani is Kimberly from Historical Fiction Obsession.  Congratulations, Kimberly! The winner of Deadly Errors by Allen Wyler is Marjorie.  Congratulations, Marjorie!  I hope you both enjoy your new books.

Thanks to everyone who participated in my book giveaways.  If you didn't win either book, please take a look at the other giveaways I have listed on the right side of my blog. 

I've slowed down my reviewing this summer, but I hope to post more reviews soon.  Thank you for your patience!

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I've made this yummy treat many times this summer.  I discovered (a version of) this recipe in Joy Bauer's newsletter.  They are easy to make, delicious, and healthy. 


Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients:
  • 16-oz can of chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans)
  • Salt, plus favorite spices and herbs (fresh or dried)
  • Cooking spray and/or olive oil

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 400º.
  • Rinse the chickpeas in a colander, then gently pat them dry.  Remove any loose skins.  I get organic garbanzo beans from Trader Joe's.  They are a great price.
  • Place chickpeas on a small baking sheet (toaster oven size) that has been lightly-coated with cooking spray or olive oil.
  • Season with salt and whatever spices and herbs you like.  I like to use pepper, oregano from my garden, and a maybe bit of fennel.
  • Brush chickpeas with a small amount of olive oil, or spray some on.  I use a Misto to spray them lightly with olive oil.
  • Roast them in the oven for about 40 minutes.  I set the oven timer for 40 minutes; after that I take a look and might roast them for a few more minutes. 
  • Chickpeas are ready when they are browned but not burnt.  If you want them to be crunchy, be sure to dry them thoroughly. You might also need to keep them in the oven for a while longer.



Roasted chickpeas

These are really good.  Roasted chickpeas are a wonderful snack by themselves, and are also tasty in salads.

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Appearing on random Tuesdays, Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes, photos--any blogging and book-related things you can think of.  I often announce my book giveaway winners in these posts.  Sometimes, like today, I also post a recipe.  If you have miscellaneous book news to gather up and are inspired by this idea, "grab" the button for use on your own blog, and add your link to the "master" Mister Linky on the Really Random Tuesday page.

Your comments are welcomed, as always. Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Supreme Macaroni Company: Review and Giveaway

When Laura from Italy Book Tours invited me to participate in the tour for The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani, I was overjoyed.  I'd been interested in reading the work of this author since encountering Brava, Valentine on the book blog, Dolce Bellezza; Bellezza's posts are often quite tantalizing.  At last, I had the perfect opportunity to read a novel by this multi-talented and prolific author!

"The stealth difference:  we're both Italians, but I was an American first and he was truly an Italian first.  All the vowels in the world that we had in common couldn't make up for the disparity in our points of view."
~ The Supreme Macaroni Company, Adriana Trigiani

Published in 2013, The Supreme Macaroni Company is the story of Valentine Roncalli, a talented shoemaker who enjoys working  at the Angelini Shoe Company in Greenwich Village, NY.  The beginning of the book centers around Valentine's upcoming marriage to Gianluca Vechiarelli, a handsome, blue-eyed tanner from Italy.  Although Val is independent and career-minded, she wants to be happily married, but she knows that there will be obstacles to overcome, including a "glandular predisposition that prevents true happiness".  She loves Gianluca, but she's worried about how her life will change once she's married.  Val's mostly concerned because she thinks that Gianluca, who's eighteen-years older than she is and has an ex-wife and a grown daughter, would prefer to live in Italy.  This novel explores many aspects of love, work, location, and family, and the connections between them.

What did I think of my first novel by Adriana Trigiani?  Although I learned that this is the third book in the Valentine Trilogy, which includes Very Valentine (2009) and Brava, Valentine (2010), I didn't have a difficult time following the story (although I'd like to read the other two books in this series at some point).  At the start of the book is an elegantly-rendered family tree which is helpful, especially if you stumble a bit over Italian last names (one of my goals in writing this review was to master the spelling of the author's name, A-d-r-i-a-n-a  T-r-i-g-i-a-n-i).  The author's writing lived up to my expectations; it's very lovely, and it's also very funny at times.  The story is mostly set in two superlative places, in NY and Italy, and the descriptions of Italy furthered my desire to travel to this bella country.  Magical writing brought Val, Gianluca, Dutch, Mom, Aunt Feen, and many other characters to life.  I relished the company of Valentine and her large and lively Italian family, as they gathered together to experience and celebrate life.

The Supreme Macaroni Company made me smile, it made me laugh, and it made me cry (just a bit).  It touched my emotions.  It also made me think about how I spend my time, and what my priorities truly are.  I'm thrilled to now have the chance to share this novel with a reader.  The publisher is generously offering a giveaway for an autographed copy of The Supreme Macaroni Company (U.S. only).

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
  • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.
  • For one more entry, mention a different book by Adriana Trigiani that you've enjoyed reading.

Enter by 5 PM PDT on Monday, August 18.  One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, August 19.  Buona fortuna!



Grazie to Laura from Italy Book Tours for sending me a copy of this book, and for offering this giveaway through the publisher.  I'm honored to be the first stop on this book tour.  For more reviews and giveaways, please visit Italy Book Tours' other stops for The Supreme Macaroni Company.

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