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February Reading – Affairs of the Heart

by Gini Rainey

“The Depraved Heart – A Scarpetta Novel “

By Patricia Cornwell

You knew it was coming – after all I’ve made yet another trip around the sun, so I’ve had yet another birthday, and I’ve received another one of my favorite gifts from my daughter – Patricia Cornwell’s latest New York Times Best Seller. “The Depraved Heart” picks up pretty much where her last one, “Flesh and Blood,” left off.

I must admit, that I was a bit disappointed in Cornwell’s latest book. It begins with the discovery of the body of a young woman, who initially appears to have fallen to her death from the top of a tall ladder while changing a light bulb. Of course, nothing is ever quite that simple with Dr. Scarpetta’s adventures, and she goes off chasing another mystery while her staff scrapes the poor woman’s remains off the floor and takes her back to the lab for further examination and testing.

I have to admit that it bothered me a bit that an unusual amount of the first two-thirds of the book was devoted to the rainy weather, worrying about Carry Grethen (one of Kay’s nemeses ), and recounting what happened to her in “Flesh and Blood.” Eventually, the plot all comes together, but it felt as though I needed to push myself past all of that to reach a point depraved heartwhere I could finally become engaged in the book. Of course, then it was difficult to put it down, but I would have liked to have reached that point earlier on.

I miss the old Kay Scarpetta. The current Scarpetta has turned into a paranoid, complaining, and insecure person who seems to have forgotten her way back to where she works the best – the crime scene and the lab. The delightful interaction between her and her husband, Wesley Benton, has gone by the wayside, and her niece, Lucy, has turned into a self-centered automaton. Marino? He’s just Marino – I don’t think that will ever change. I have to admire him for taking the lead in this book when one of his fellow cops was in trouble.

However, once things got rolling, for the most part, the pieces of the puzzle started falling into place, and “Depraved Heart” became a much more interesting piece of reading. It’s just a shame that it took so long to get there, and I can’t believe Kay never even got back to her lab.

Will I read the Cornwell’s next book? Yes, probably so, because I’m a creature of habit, as well as an optimist. I have to believe that Cornwell has a few more good medical crime mysteries up her sleeve that she’ll be able to put down on paper and share with the loyal people who have read just about everything she’s written. For crying out loud! I even have her (I use the term loosely) cookbooks!

Copyright 2015 – William Morrow

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“Tree of Justice?”

By Carroll Mart Sinclair

Sometimes the families that we love dearly with all our hearts and from where our roots are deeply entrenched can give us some great fodder for inspiration. My family history is like this and so is Carroll Mart Sinclair’s. This book came to me for review by the author and is an historical novel set in 1919 Leon County, Texas. Written in the dialect of early 20th century deep east Texas, “Tree of Justice” retells the story of the Dorsetts’ journey from Alto to Centerville to pick cotton. Their ultimate destination places them on the farm of Mr. Sinclair’s relative, Jim Sinclair, a hard-working landowner who also had sharecroppers who worked his land.

With a healthy respect for historical details, Carroll Sinclair recreated what it was like for a family to travel by wagon during the early 1900s. Meeting new people along the way, the Dorsetts shared good times with them as they camped out along the road, while picking berries, hunting dinner, and enjoying a fairly decent family life together. On a trip that would take about an hour and a half today, the Dorsetts spent 6 days in a mule-drawn, wooden wagon making their way to Centerville in order to make some money that would last them through the winter.tree

It was when they finally reached Centerville, though, that the story took on a whole new spin and become more involved with the lives of Sinclair’s friends and relatives. Without issuing a complete spoiler alert, just let me say that many dynamic events took place following the cotton picking season.   However, considering the racial tensions that were prevalent during the early 1900s in the deep South, it should come as no surprise to the reader that the story line takes a nasty twist and culminates with a tragic ending.

Although well researched and written by Sinclair, I do have to say that reading a book written in dialect is not one of my favorite things to do, and I don’t think that having it written in a more updated, easier to understand text would have impacted the historical value by that much. The book does provide, however, an interesting and fairly accurate look into the trends, lifestyles, and mores of the people of that period in history and should provide an invaluable tool to anyone who studies that time in the lives of east Texans.

Copyright 2014 – Early Sundown Studio

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“A Wedding in December”

By Anita Shreve

Anita Shreve, who was deeply inspired by Ethan Frome’s “Edith Wharton,” writes in the shadow of her previous, highly successful novel “The Pilot’s Wife.” She once again demonstrates her skill at exploring the depths of love, heartache, guilt, and despair. This time, Shreve focuses on the wedding of Bridget and Bill, a pair of high school sweethearts who rediscover weddingone another after spending many years apart. Bridget is battling breast cancer, and this wedding is a testament to the couple’s fervent hope that Bridget will somehow be able to beat the odds. Coming together to celebrate this occasion are some of the bride and groom’s former classmates from their years at Kidd Academy in Maine back in the seventies.

“A Wedding In December” is a well written character study that in some ways feels like a family drama as the seven former classmates attend the wedding of two of them while each ponders if they can regain paradise lost like Bill and Bridget are trying to do.

This book will leave you feeling awestruck. Shreve definitely has a handle on writing. She manages, quite successfully, to draw her readers into her stories slowly, but surely, while displaying various characteristics of real life in each character.

Although, on the surface, this book seems to be simply a reunion of old schoolmates, Shreve manages to demonstrate that however complex life might seem to be, sometimes there really can be a simple solution. This book also might encourage you wonder that if you had taken a different fork in the road, where you would be at mid-life and beyond. Shreve actually has put into words what few people will admit, i.e. that they are or have been attracted to others and would have liked a do-over in their life.

Copyright 2007 – Little Brown and Company

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Books

Duck! Here It Comes!

By Gini Rainey

For those of you who have been paying attention to the general theme of my cookbook collection, you may have noticed a trend towards those written by or about celebrities and or famous people.  That was one of my initial criteria when I started picking them up and mostly still is, unless I come across one that’s weird, unusual, or cheap!  Every so often I’ll go to my favorite eBay store, thriftbooks, just to see if they have anything new that fits the bill.  The cookbook I have in front of me today is one of those.  It’s “Miss Kay’s Duck Commander Kitchen” by Kay Robertson with Chrys Howard and was published in 2013 by Howard Books and was written by a celebrity and was cheap!  Score!

So, then I got to thinking “whatever happened to Duck Dynasty.”  I was never a viewer of the series – but I have the T-Shirt that my husband picked up for me in West Monroe, Louisiana on one of his many treks to Florida. I did watch a portion of one episode at one of my daughter’s following a family gathering.  About all I can remember about it was her family never missed an episode and were really into it.  I think that particular episode had some bird-hunting/killing/plucking/slicing/ dicing/cooking involved in it.  My other daughter and her family (who just happen to be vegans) had a hard time sitting there watching all of the carnage and eventually turned to other things to do and talk about.

The Robertson’s have pretty some strong family values and have actually built quite a financial empire over the past 30 plus years with their clothing line – Duck Commander.  Even though she spent a great deal of her time working along side her husband, Miss Kay raised a family and filled them, not only with good food, but also a stern hand nicely blended with warmth and love.

Her cookbook is filled, not only with great, rib-sticking recipes, but also with quite a few biblical references, anecdotes, and family photos.  Sharing that she uses a cast iron skillet or dutch oven to cook most of her recipes, she explains it’s because they can either be used on the stove top or in the oven and they heat up quickly. It’s also not terribly surprising that several of her recipes call for Duck Commander seasoning!

Well, if you’re lucky enough to own a cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven, here’s a fairly easy recipe to try out on your family.  First, heat your oven to 275° and season about 1 pound of tenderized round steak (tenderized round steak usually comes 4 to a package and I generally cut those in half to make 8 pieces) with salt and pepper and lightly sprinkle both sides with flour.  Heat a small amount of vegetable oil in your cast-iron Dutch oven (or cast-iron skillet, or ovenproof casserole dish) and brown the steaks on both sides and drain off the excess oil.  Add 2 celery stalks chopped in large chunks, 1 onion chopped in large chunks, 1 chopped garlic clove, 1 bell pepper chopped in large chunks, 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes and 1 8 ounce can tomato sauce to Dutch oven along with the browned steaks.  Cover and bake for 1 ½ hours and serve with steamed potatoes or egg noodles.  You may not be a Duck Commander, but this meal will have you eating like one!

ben wheeler
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Books

Programs Blooming at the Library

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New April Programs for All Ages at the Library:

Introduction to Finch Robots & Book Signing for “MOM LIFE: Perfection Pending”

The Tyler Public Library is located at 201 S. College Ave., Tyler. Most events are free. For more info call (903)593-7323 or go to tylerlibrary.com.

Children

All storytimes will be in Taylor Auditorium.

  • Leeme un Cuento/Read to Me Storytime (children 3-6 years old), Mondays at 10:30am
  • Lap & Play Time (babies up to 18 months) features stories, songs, and playtime with developmental toys at 9:30am every Wednesday
  • Toddler Explore Storytime (children under age 3) is on Wednesdays at 10:30am
  • Read Aloud Crowd Storytime (children 3-6 years old), Thursdays at 10:30am

April 7th (2-4pm) – LEGO® Block Party – Children ages 3 and up, bring your imagination for an afternoon of building and playing! LEGO® and Duplo Blocks are provided.

April 14th and 28th (2-4pm) – Makerspace – This continuing STEM education for children and teens will feature April 14th: Introduction to Finch Robots and April 28th: We’re at the Maker Faire. This will be held in the Library Treehouse.

April 21st (10:30am) – Movie Matinees – Families are invited to watch a fun feature length films in the library’s auditorium. A different movie will be shown each day. Pillows, blankets, and carpet friendly snacks welcome.

Teens

Every Tuesday (4:30-5:30pm) – Teen Tuesdays – If you are in Middle School or High School you’re in! The Library will have games, activities, and fun just for teens. Earn volunteer hours completing special projects. Descriptions for weekly activities can be found at library.cityoftyler.org/Programs/Teens. Events are:

  • April 3rd: DIY Calming Glitter Jars
  • April 10th: Intro to Coding with Finch Robots
  • April 17th: Robots cont. – Navigate a Maze
  • April 24th: Robots cont. – Draw with a Robot

Adults

April 7th (10am-12 noon) – EastSide Fiber Artists – An open gathering of all things fiber. Whether you quilt, knit, crochet, weave, spin, needle felt, etc. Bring your current or completed project and make some new friends.

April 13th (11:30am) – “Pass Along Plants” with Andie Rathbone will be presented as part of the Smith County Master Gardener Series.

April 14th (11am-12:30pm) – “MOM LIFE: Perfection Pending” Book Launch & Signing – Along with selling and signing copies of her new book during her stop at Tyler, Ethington will be discussing various parenting topics and opening up for a Q&A.

ben wheeler

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Books

Historically Speaking

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by Gini Rainey

I was thinking this morning about all the incredible advances in technology that I have seen in my lifetime, and how much my dad would have loved all the gadgets we seem to have surrounded ourselves with the past 50 years. For example, just in my lifetime, I’ve seen telephones go from shared party lines with rotary dials to the incredible iPhone (virtually a computer in your hand) that not only can be used for staying connected, but takes a whole lot better photograph than my once treasured Canon SLR.

So, then I got to thinking about all the advances in the kitchen that have helped make the home maker’s life infinitely easier and how many of the old gadgets that I grew up with are now items of speculation in antique shops and vintage stores.  Sometimes just standing back and listening to people trying to determine their use is half the fun of spotting one “just like we used to have!”

Just for fun – can you name these gadgets?

So speaking of vintage, today I’m looking at The Martha Washington Cook Book and is the product of historian Marie Kimball who received special permission from The Historical Society of Pennsylvania to study the original manuscript that was used by Martha Washington for 50 years and then was passed down mother to daughter for nearly 100 years.  The original cookbook was published in 1940 by Coward-McCann, Inc., and the copy that I have was published in 2005.

With nearly 50 pages of historical background regarding the state dinners at the White House and the meals hosted at Mt. Vernon, Kimball has succeeded to paint a rather lovely picture of Martha Washington, who was the over-seer of all of meals prepared for family and dignitaries.  While we might not find many of the recipes included in the book to be something we might consider preparing, such as Marrow Pie, Lettuce Tart, Roasted Hare, or Stewed Calves’ Feet, Mrs. Kimball has fully adapted Martha’s cookbook for practical, modern use.  All the recipes have been proportioned to the current practice of a formula for serving six people, and she says that all of the recipes have been tested and taste great!

One of Martha’s recipes that jumped out at me was for apple fritters sounds absolutely yummy: Heat 1 cup ale and add ¼ cup white wine and the yolks of 4 eggs, the white of 1 egg, well beaten.  Mix together 1 cup flour, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon cloves, and ¼ teaspoon mace and combine the two mixtures.  According to Martha Washington “Your batter must be no thicker than will just hang on the apples.”  A little more or less flour may be needed.  Cut the apples into rounds – or what ever shape you please – and deep in the batter.  Drop in deep fat and fry a golden brown.  Drain on a piece of clean linen, (I bet you can use paper towels!) sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, and serve.  Oh, my, nom-nom!

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