Review: Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn

Last week Kathleen Flinn’s newest book Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family got me out of my reading slump. Flinn friendly voice and writing made me feel like I was one of her girlfriends. Her family’s story made me wish I grew up with her and her family.

Flinn’s memoir recounts family adventures such as taking Route 66 on their move to California to help run a family pizza restaurant and then back on the scenic highway once again to return to the midwest. The youngest of her three siblings, Kathleen Flinn spent her early childhood living on a farm. Due to necessity and debts, her parents lived off the land by raising chickens, hunting, and gardening. In a time where frozen dinners were trendy and a sign of wealth, her family still cooked every meal from scratch. Each chapter concludes with a recipe either created by the family member highlighted in that chapter or a recipe that Flinn associates with that memory.

Flinn_Grandmother quote

I absolutely loved reading this book. And I flew through it! I finished it in just a few short sittings. My parents are immigrants to the United States, but reading about Flinn’s family made me wish that I’d grown up on a farm with chickens and orchards full of fruit trees. Can you tell I like to eat?

After reading Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good, I’m feeling inspired to learn about my family’s history and adventures. And, of course, the food involved in those adventures. If you like cooking or eating food, you’ll love Kathleen Flinn’s memoir. The book releases this Thursday, August 14 but you can pre-order it.  Here’s a recipe from the book to whet your appetite (click image for bigger size and to print):

Apple Crisp Recipe by Kathleen Flinn

 I discovered Flinn when I was considering culinary school, in her first book The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears in Paris at the World’s Most Famous Cooking School. You should pick up that one too. 

Review: The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (Audiobook)

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

To be honest, I borrowed The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown audiobook from my library because the premise sounded interesting and, at about 10 hours, it fit my length requirements. I was pleasantly surprised by this gem of a story. This novel is just smart. Smart, clever, and compelling.

The novel revolves around the three Andreas sisters, born to a father who is a renowned Shakespeare professor. Accordingly, he names each of his daughters after characters from the Bard’s plays: Cordelia (King Lear), Rose (Rosalind, As You Like It), and Bean (Bianca, Taming of The Shrew). He also speaks mostly on verse. When news of their mother’s breast cancer hit, the sisters rush home to help care for her. Except each sister did not expect to find the others home as well.

While their excuse is to help their mother, each sister has returned to their small hometown because, in their own way, have failed miserably. They have nowhere else to go. Cordy, Rose, and Bean were never close, like most sisters seem to be. Coming back in their childhood home brings back the jealousy, hurt, and competition among the three. Eventually, each sister must own up to their failures and secrets in order to make amends and start anew.

As expected, there were many Shakespearean references and quotes in the novel. I have slightly more than passing knowledge of Will’s plays, but was able to catch many of the references. There’s enough context surrounding each quote, reference or Professor Andreas’ verse-speak that I had no problem understanding it. For those not familiar with Shakespeare, his words can sound like a foreign language. I suppose this is the advantage of listening to the audiobook. That is a testament to Kirsten Potter whose narration brings the characters to life.

It took me about halfway through the novel to grasp the idea of the “communal” narrator of the novel. Instead of first person voice, the novel is told through the collective voice of all three sisters. Once I realized this, it was easy to follow the story’s flow.

Sibling rivalry and dealing with family expectations are core themes throughout the book. With the help of many jumps into their past memories, we learn how their childhoods shaped each girl  as the adult they’ve become. Cordy, Rose, and Bean needed travel home to understand that they are not their Shakespearean namesake, but their own person with their own lives.

I highly recommend The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown on audiobook or print.


Girls Night Out With Jodi Picoult

Evening with Jodi Picoult

Evening with Jodi Picoult

Join me this Wednesday, August 6 from 5-9:30PM in DC for a Girls Night Out with bestselling author Jodi Picoult and Good Housekeeping Editor-in-Chief Jane Francisco!

Jane Francisco

Jane Francisco (photo credit Sian Richards)

Jane Francisco will interview Jodi Picoult for our literary conversation for the evening. I love author events like this because we get an inside peek at the author you don’t typically get a reading.  Take a look at the preview of the conversation on Good Housekeeping. There’s also a meet and greet with Jane Francisco afterwards.

All attendees will receive a Random House tote bag filled with goodies. Plus, you’ll also get an exclusive look at Picoult’s new book Leaving Time and even take home an advanced reader copy well before its October 2014 release.  More about her new novel:

Deeply moving and suspenseful, Leaving Time is a radiant exploration of the enduring love between mothers and daughters. Alice Metcalf, a devoted mother and accomplished scientist who studied grief among elephants, disappears, leaving behind her small daughter, husband, and the animals to which she devoted her life. A decade later, Alice’s now thirteen-year-old daughter, Jenna, refuses to believe her mother chose to desert her, enlisting Serenity Jones and Virgil Stanhope to help her—a disgraced psychic, and the cynical detective who first investigated her mother’s disappearance. Together these three lonely souls will discover truths destined to forever change their lives. 

This is a fun event for your book club or just a night out with some friends. Tickets are $95 (with 20%  discount if you purchase 5 or more) and includes the following:

  • Buffet Dinner and La Crema Wine
  • Jodi’s fall novel LEAVING TIME – before it’s on sale in October
  • Chocolate Tasting
  • Good Housekeeping Dessert Bar
  • Live Music
  • Random House Canvas Tote Bag
  • Special Gift from Talbots
  • Book Signing with Jodi Picoult
  • Meet & Greet with Good Housekeeping‘s Editor in Chief Jane Francisco
  • Fall Fashion Preview, Curated by Good Housekeeping and Talbots
  • And much more!

For more info and to purchase tickets, visit the Girls Night Out with Jodi Picoult page.

I’ll also have the chance to interview editor-in-chief Jane Francisco. If you have any questions you’d like me to ask her or Jodi Picoult (if there’s an audience Q&A) leave them in the comments. I can’t promise anything, but I’ll try to pose them!

Review: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake Audiobook

Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake audiobook by Aimee Bender

Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake audiobook by Aimee Bender

I don’t tell my husband about all the books I’m currently reading. Otherwise, I’ll be talking about books all day. I know, I know, I have to make room for our sci-fi television shows too. I’ve been on an audiobook binge from my library’s Overdrive catalog and just had to share how much I loved this title.

After finishing the audiobook of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (as read by the author), I was so wowed by it, I explained the entire story to my husband over dinner. Well, as much as I could in about 5-10 minutes. All the threads that Bender refers to in the first half of the book are cleverly intertwined in the last few chapters. Maybe because I listened to it as opposed to reading it in print form, the foreshadowing and its subsequent effects on the ending surprised me.

In a good way. A very good way.

On the eve of her ninth birthday, Rose discovers that she can taste people’s feelings in the food they make. Some might call it a gift, but to Rose it became a curse. Even her mother’s special lemon cake with chocolate frosting is unbearable to swallow because all she can taste is her mother’s loneliness and despair. After a harrowing incident with her mother that involved the emergency room and numerous doctors, Rose never brings up her “gift” again. The only people who know about her ability is her older brother and his best friend.

As Rose matures, she learns how to hide her ability and yet learns how to deal with the feelings flavoring every bite she consumes. She’d rather taste the hollowness of processed and manufactured food than a friend’s bitter unhappiness. The food she tastes reveals the secrets of those around her. While she yearns to shout out the feelings on her tongue, she learns to keep the secrets. As Rose matures, she’s able to appreciate her gift, but not before uncovering some deep family secrets.

I didn’t expect that the slight twist at the end until it was almost in front of my nose. I appreciate an author who assumes a bit of intelligence in her reader and doesn’t make the plot twists so obvious. Aimee Bender’s word choices for how feelings tasted made me feel as if I could really imagine how sadness and anger would make my taste buds react.

The only thing I wished for in the audiobook was a bit more emotion or tonal range in Aimee Bender’s voice. The entire ready was mostly flat, except for moments of extreme emotion from Rose. Clocking in at approximately 9 hours, the audiobook was perfect for a summer read. I actually finished it in a couple of days–a record for me.

I recommend The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender for its fantastic story. If you’re not in the mood for the audiobook, definitely pick up a print copy. I definitely plan on reading more of Aimee Bender’s books.

Cocktails For Book Lovers: Recipe & Giveaway

Cocktails For Book Lovers

Cocktails For Book Lovers

Thank goodness it’s Friday!

Why not start happy hour early with Cocktails for Book Lovers by Tess Smith-McGovern. This little book is full of mouthwatering recipes inspired by a diverse selection of books. The book features a great mix of authors: Jane Austen, Dan Zevin, Zora Neale Hurston, Ernest Hemingway, Gail Tsukiyama and much more.

Today I’m sharing with you Papi’s Rum Punch, inspired by Junot Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her (which I loved!). Be careful, this recipe is for an entire pitcher of rum punch!

Cocktails for Book Lovers Junot Diaz

Accompanying each recipe is an author biography and an excerpt from the book that inspired the cocktail. Serve these cocktails at your next book club gathering or your in home happy hour.  You’ll get bonus points for literary references and for serving great drinks.

Cocktails for Book Lovers Junot Diaz

Who wants to win a copy of Cocktails for Book Lovers by Tess Smith-McGovern? 

Just leave a comment below telling me what beverage you enjoy drinking while you read. I’ll draw a winner on Wed, July 30. Giveaway is open only to U.S. addresses. Winner must respond to email with 24 hours to claim prize.


If you can’t wait for me to choose a giveaway winner, grab your own copy of Cocktails for Book Lovers  and email your receipt to to receive a free cocktail recipe card and be entered to win a gift basket! (See details in image above.)

I received a copy of the book for review. Images courtesy of Source Books.

Book Club Discussion: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie & Chocolate Factory From Left to Write Banner

Charlie & Chocolate Factory From Left to Write Banner

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,  I asked From Left to Write members to reread this classic and/or to introduce their children to this childhood classic.  Many of our members enjoyed the bonding time as they read the books aloud or along with their kids.

Take a look at what our bloggers had to say as we discuss Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Some even had their children join the discussion! Then make sure you enter the Golden Ticket Sweepstakes (see below for details on how):

Now that you’ve read our discussion,  celebrate along with us!  To celebrate this milestone, Penguin Young Readers Group, in partnership with Dylan’s Candy Bar, the world-famous candy emporium, and First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides books for children from low-income families, is launching a year-long international celebration.

National Golden Sweepstakes Charlie Chocolate Factory

Enter the National Golden Ticket Sweepstakes (Ends on August 15th)

Don’t wait to enter because the contest ends August 15th! Plus, for each  each sweepstakes entry received, Penguin will make a donation First Book. For sweepstakes entry forms, or download your form here.

Inspired by the Golden Ticket Competition in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which provided Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregard, Mike Teavee, and Charlie Bucket with golden tickets to Willy Wonka’s mysterious Chocolate Factory, Penguin Young Readers Group will grant FIVE lucky winners the Golden Ticket trip of a lifetime to New York City that includes:

  •   A VIP experience at Dylan’s Candy Bar
  •  Tickets to Matilda the Musical
  •  A year’s supply of chocolate
  •  A visit to the Empire State building
  •  A library of Roald Dahl books
  • And MORE!

In partnership with First Book, a non-profit that provides books for children from low-income families.  Penguin Young Readers provides:

  •  A monetary donation and one brand new Penguin trade children’s book for every national sweepstakes entry received.  The book donation will include copies of the anniversary edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which will be distributed by First Book to registered programs and schools serving children in need throughout the United States and Canada.
  • A donation of a full set of Dahl Penguin titles (17 in total), 50 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory books, and a bean bag to each school selected by First Book’s Advisory Boards in 20 markets as part of the First Book Golden Ticket Giveaway.