Monday, August 25th, 2014
It’s the final week of the That Summer Read Along! Which means that we’ll be discussing all of the questions surrounding the ending.
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t participated in the Read Along until now. Feel free to drop in this Friday and join the discussion.
I’ll also be having an Ask the Author session on the Read Along page on Saturday and Sunday, just in case there’s anything else that needs to be wrapped up….
And then we’ll be done with both That Summer and this summer!
Friday, August 22nd, 2014
I have the best college roommate in the whole wide world. Last week she sent me a box of loot– including four vintage Kathleen Gilles Seidel novels.
If you haven’t read Kathleen Gilles Seidel, they’re a little romance, a little women’s fiction, deeply moving, and always fascinating. My two favorites are Again, about a woman who writes a Regency-set soap opera (why don’t we have one of those in real life?) and Summer’s End, about an Olympic figure skater. One of the wonderful things about her novels is that one learns so much about the hero and heroine’s professions, whether it’s the ins and outs of producing a soap or the mechanics of dredging up a mid-nineteenth century steamboat from a former riverbed.
Which brings us to the one I read this week, Please Remember This, in which the hero is excavating a wrecked steamboat (incredibly fascinating) and the heroine opens a coffee shop in the small town she left as a baby.
These are the best of all possible comfort reads. At base, they’re all about the hero and heroine finding themselves and finding their place in the world– and who doesn’t resonate with that?
(Have you read Kathleen Gilles Seidel? And do you have a favorite?)
What have you been reading this week?
Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
The winner of the signed copy of Jane Austen’s First Love is….
Sheila! (Of Comment #12.)
Congrats, Sheila! If you email me, I’ll let Syrie know where to send your book.
Many thanks to Syrie James for providing this give away!
Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
As you may know, the final book in the Pink Carnation series, The Lure of the Moonflower, is slated to hit the shelves next August, 2015.
In honor of the impending end of the series, the lovely Ashley of The Bubblebath Reader is holding a year long Pink Extravaganza on her blog. Eleven months… eleven books. Each month will feature a different book in the Pink series, along with prizes, give aways, and other fun stuff.
To quote Ashley: “We’ll talk about read-alikes, characters, history, popular conventions, deleted scenes, casting in our “if-only” movie adaptation scenarios, and plenty more.”
All I can say is… I’m in!
Here’s the official post from Ashley’s blog.
Would you like to be one of Ashley’s guest bloggers? Right now, the books which are spoken for are:
— The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
— The Masque of the Black Tulip
— The Deception of the Emerald Ring
— The Mischief of the Mistletoe
— The Orchid Affair
Is your favorite book The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, The Temptation of the Night Jasmine, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, The Garden Intrigue, Purple Plumeria or Midnight Manzanilla? Would you like to help lead the discussion for that book?
If so, just let Ashley know at email@example.com.
The fun kicks off in September with Pink I, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.
As Ashley puts it in her post: “To sum up: One year of Pink reading. One book per month. Guest bloggers to guide us through. Prizes. General frivolity. This is going to be an amazing year.”
The series has happened so gradually, over time, that I don’t think it really hit me just how many books there were– until I had to type all of the titles out just now.
Note to self: for next series, consider shorter titles.
Which is your favorite Pink book?
Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
Recently, I’ve received a number of messages asking whether (and some assuming that) the Eloise portion of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla is autobiographical.
Here’s the short answer: it’s not.
There are certainly elements of my world woven into Eloise’s story. The descriptions of Cambridge in 2004 are as true as my memory can make them. Just as I loaned Eloise my basement flat in London, I also made her free of my studio apartment in Cambridge, in a building that no longer exists as it was then: 1306 Massachusetts Avenue. The year after I left (2006/7), the building was completely renovated, doing away with my old apartment, the mustard-colored hallways with their rust-red trim, and, sadly, the Toscanini’s on the ground floor.
Likewise, Campo de Fiori, where Megan and Eloise have their pre-class lunch of potato pizza, was a real place. Like 1306 Mass Ave, Campo de Fiori is long gone, but those plastic tables once took up a corner of the Holyoke Center, and, like Eloise and Megan, my friend Jenny and I used to meet there for sustenance before marching off to tackle Western Civ sections.
They say to write what you know. At one point, I knew the History department, Hist and Lit, and Dudley House (the grad student social center) rather well. All of them are as true to their 2004 selves as I could describe them, from the faculty sky-boxes in Robinson Hall to that annual Halloween party.
And now we start moving into fiction….
Once we get past the physical descriptions of Eloise’s world, we’re purely in the realm of make-believe. Eloise and I are very different people. We didn’t even study the same thing: in my academic life, I was an early modernist, focusing on the 16th and 17th centuries.
Unlike Eloise, I had an ulterior motive in going to grad school. My goal was always, in the end, to use my education to write perfectly accurate historical fiction, preferably a great big doorstop novel set in Scotland in the 16th century. Of course, along the way, I discovered there’s no such thing as undisputed historical accuracy, and, ten years after my first book, I have yet to write anything set in either the sixteenth century or Scotland, but…. Details, details.
So (not to give too much away for those who haven’t read it yet), for everyone who has asked me if the conversation Eloise has with her adviser in Midnight Manzanilla is drawn from the life… it’s not. Not even close. I will say that, unlike Eloise’s, my adviser was extremely supportive and made clear that I was still a member of the history department, always welcome to return, when I announced that I was making the switch to law school.
(If you haven’t read the book yet, don’t worry. Eloise doesn’t go to law school.)
For those who are curious as to why I decided to leave grad school, I discuss it a bit in a book that just came out last week: Rebecca Peabody’s The Unruly PhD: Doubts, Detours, Departures, and Other Success Stories.
I tend to discuss it rather more frankly after a few drinks, but, even in that version, it’s nothing like Eloise’s story.
It’s called fiction for a reason….
Monday, August 18th, 2014
Today on Monday Give Away, we have… a copy of Syrie James’s latest, Jane Austen’s First Love!
Here’s the official blurb:
Fifteen-year-old Jane Austen dreams of three things: doing something useful, writing something worthy, and falling madly in love. When she visits her brother in Kent to celebrate his engagement, she meets wealthy, devilishly handsome Edward Taylor—a fascinating young man who is truly worthy of her affections. Jane knows a match between her and Edward is unlikely, but every moment she spends with him makes her heart race—and he seems to return her interest. Much to her displeasure, however, there is another seeking his attention
Unsure of her budding relationship, Jane seeks distraction by attempting to correct the pairings of three other prospective couples. But when her matchmaking aspirations do not all turn out as anticipated, Jane discovers the danger of relying on first impressions. The human heart cannot be easily deciphered, nor can it be directed or managed. And if others must be left to their own devices in matters of love and matrimony, can Jane even hope to satisfy her own heart?
I very much enjoyed Syrie’s The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen when it came out a few years ago– and she has very generously offered a copy of Jane Austen’s First Love for today’s give away. Jane Austen’s books have been printed and reprinted, but her personal life remains mysterious, so it’s always tantalizing to get a peek into what might have been.
So, for a copy of Jane Austen’s First Love, here’s your question:
— Which novelist’s life would you like to know more about?
The winner will be announced on Wednesday.
Friday, August 15th, 2014
I’ve been chugging away on the 1927 book this week, interspersed with hanging out at the That Summer Read Along, so there hasn’t been that much leisure reading this week. But I have dipped into:
— Laurie King’s Pirate King, the eleventh in her Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. (As you can imagine, I’m feeling particularly warm and fuzzy about eleventh books in series just now.) This one is set around a 1924 film production about a production of The Pirates of Penzance. And that’s not a typo. It’s a story in a story in a story.
If you haven’t read these yet, you might want to go way back to the beginning and start at The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.
— Elsie Lee’s Season of Evil, because when I’m in lockdown work mode, there’s nothing like one of Elsie Lee’s sassy, fast-paced, 1960’s-set romantic suspense novels.
And for the same reason….
— Elsie Lee’s The Spy at the Villa Miranda, one of my Elsie Lee favorites, in which the recently divorced heroine goes on a tour of Greece with a retired college professor and finds herself plunged into Intrigue with a capital I.
What have you been reading this week?
Thursday, August 14th, 2014
As summer winds down to a close, Christine brings us another Pink Carnation-themed treat… chocolate chip cookie ice cream bowls, in honor of The Garden Intrigue‘s American heroine, Emma Morris Delagardie.
There’s something about August and ice cream that just go together like chocolate chip and cookie….
Now over to Christine!
The hot days of summer are finally (hopefully?) winding down to an end, and why not celebrate with a big bowl of ice cream… a cookie bowl, that is. To honor The Garden Intrigue‘s American heroine, Mme Emma Delgardie, we bring you chocolate chip cookie bowls. Earlier this year, chocolate chip cookie shot glasses became pretty hot, but I’m not one to stand in line for 4 hours for any kind of fad food (I made ramen burgers… good, but not stand in line for any amount of time good). I found a recipe for the shot glasses and decided to adapt it to make ice cream bowls.
If you haven’t seen the epic Pinterest Fail for chocolate chip cookie bowls, this is a great collection of images. Unlike the Pinterest recipes, this one calls for making the bowls inside a pan, not outside.
This recipe comes from Wanna Come With?
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
a little more chocolate to melt for inside of bowls
1. Whisk together flour and salt and set aside.
2. Beat butter and sugars together on medium speed until light and fluffy.
3. Add vanilla and egg yolk.
4. On low speed, add in dry mixture until just combined.
5. Separate dough into two balls then roll out until just under 1/4 inch thick. The dough was just a little crumbly so I found it easiest to alternate between rolling and smashing.
6. Refrigerate at least half an hour.
7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease whatever pan you choose to use.
8. Cut out rough pieces and line the inside of the pan (in my case, large muffin tin). It’s ok if the pieces overlap, just be sure to press them down. Don’t be too concerned with making them “pretty.” When I took the dough out of the fridge, it was crumbly and tough to handle. It took a few minutes to warm them up to a temperature where they were pliable. There was a lot of breaking off chunks and mashing them together involved. As long as you don’t have any holes in the dough, it’ll all melt together in the oven anyway. Try to make it as even as possible all the way around so each cup cooks evenly.
8a. Use any leftover dough to make delicious cookies! This recipe was designed for cookie cutter use. I had the perfect amount to fill a 6-cup large muffin tin.
9. Bake for 13-17 minutes. The edges will start to brown when they’re ready. Be careful not to under-bake.
10. Remove from the oven and let cool. The recipe says about 15 minutes. She also notes that the bottoms puffed up a bit so she pushed them back down before they cooled completely. After they’re cool enough to handle, remove from pan.
11. Melt the remaining chocolate in the microwave or double boiler.
12. Line the inside of the cookie bowls (or glasses, cups, whatever) with a thin layer of chocolate. You don’t want too much chocolate, just enough to coat the inside of the bowls to prevent leaks. The sides aren’t so much a concern – just the bottom.
13. Cool chocolate completely then fill with the treat of your choice!
Well, 50% of my 6 bowls survived. The other 3 fell apart while coming out of the tin. I think they were too thick. Since the bottoms were so thick, I decided to skip the layer of chocolate. I think there’s little risk of anything melting through these.
Next time I would definitely let the dough sit for a couple of minutes after coming out of the fridge. The ones that were made with the more pliable dough were definitely more likely to make it out in one piece. But the ones that fell apart are still delicious cookies – my husband had a literal fork in them within minutes of them hitting the “reject” plate.
Happy end of summer!
Thank you so much, Christine! Chipwiches are one of my favorite summer treats (thank you, Trader Joe’s!), so I know I’m going to love these….
What kind of ice cream would you pair with these?
Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
(Note: this was originally programmed to run on July 8. But I hit “save draft” instead of “publish”. So you’re belatedly getting this post now, with apologies from your technology-phobic author.)
I have a floral confession to make. There are not one but two plants called the manzanilla. One is deadly. You may also know it as manchineel or manzanilla de la muerte.
The other is… chamomile.
Guess which one plays the larger role in The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla?
Both flowers make an appearance in the book. When the “vampire” artistically strews his victim with flowers, those are manzanilla/chamomile. Later, when bits of the manzanilla plant are left as a threat for Sally and Lucien, that’s manzanilla de la muerte, which is toxic enough that to touch it can leave welts.
Unfortunately for the NAL art department, the manzanilla flower isn’t particularly photogenic. The flowers are little greenish things that don’t show to good advantage on a book cover. So the flower on the cover of Midnight Manzanilla? Is the other manzanilla, the chamomile flower.
I might have been tempted to mention that when I saw the cover, but for one thing: chamomile flowers look a lot like daisies. And daisies are the flower that, for some reason or other, I associate with Sally. If Sally were a spy, she would undoubtedly be the Daisy.