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Reviews: The Last of the Summer Reads

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book store galveston tx.By Gini Rainey

“Butternut Summer: A Novel” (The Butternut Lake Trilogy) by Mary McNear

I was just a little disappointed in the second of McNear’s trilogy, but it was definitely personal and not because of McNear’s writing. The first book of the series took me back to a place in time when I was growing up in Minnesota and spent a great deal of time at my family’s cabin in northern Minnesota – where the fictitious Butternut Lake is located. The plots of this book didn’t take me to the shores of the lake nearly enough.

However, that being said, you can read this book without having read the first in the series and enjoy the central themes, such as forgiveness, trust, and the age old question which ponders whether people can truly change. This novel also features a dual storyline with both Caroline Keegan and her daughter Daisy finding love over the course of a summer. Also, somewhere in the middle of all of that, Jessica and Frankie fall in love over the griddle at the diner, but no one saw it coming, so not too much attention is paid to that story line. Future fodder for another book? Perhaps.

To give you a general idea about this novel, let me fill you in. Butternut Summer tells the story of Caroline Keegan and her daughter, Daisy. Caroline lives in the small Minnesota town where she grew up, Butternut Lake. She runs a small diner called Pearl’s. It has been in her family for years, and she takes pride in her work and the community she lives in. Daisy is home from college for the summer. Unbeknownst to Caroline, Daisy has been in contact with her father, Jack. Jack Keegan is a handsome charmer who disappeared from the lives of Caroline and Daisy while Daisy was still a toddler. When Jack moves back to Butternut Lake and attempts to reconnect with Caroline, things are set in motion.

I hesitate to say this – mostly because my niece, who is a published author, pretty much doesn’t like to have a book labeled as a ‘good beach read,’ but this really is a great, summertime read, and is suitable for poolside, beach front, and patio hammock reading. When Mary McNear returned to Butternut Lake in this unassuming novel, she truly created a great summer read; readers know exactly what they’re getting here. Rest assured that you can pick up this book with a pretty good idea that everything will end on a relatively happy note and that won’t stop you from enjoying every page. This is a great examination of relationships, both between lovers and parents/children. This isn’t the deepest story I’ve ever read, but it is definitely enjoyable.

Rating: 5 of 5 / Copyright 2014 – William Morrow Paperbacks

ABSENCE OF MERCY_cover rev 9-6-13“The Absence of Mercy” by John Burley

This is the first novel and a great introduction for an author with a bright future. The story is a psychological study of murder in a small town, and the impact a serial killer has on the town and families faced with crimes not normally seen in the area they live in. Dr. Ben Stevenson is the town medical examiner and lives happily with plenty of free time for his wife, two children, and dog. His normal work routine involves nothing more traumatic than traffic deaths, and deaths due to natural causes. His routine is shattered when the body of a young man is found in the woods, horribly mangled, beaten, bitten, and abused beyond any semblance to anything normal. The police jump on the case understanding that nothing less than a fiend is loose.

Before too long, a young girl on the way home from a party, is also attacked in a wooded area. She somehow survives, but with the same wounds and bite marks as the first victim. Ben is involved in attempting to help the police, and then, because kidnapping is involved, the FBI begins to develop a profile of the murderer from the method and results of the crimes.

This psychological thriller is a page-turner from the first page, with Dr. Burley’s writing style being very readable and enjoyable. As he weaves this bone chilling whodunit, he develops believable characters that the reader can relate to. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of each setting throughout the novel. The author describes locations, lighting, weather conditions, and moods in such a way that the reader enters the plot as a fascinated and sometimes horrified onlooker.

The solution to the identity of the killer is presented before the ending, and the impact of who it is becomes a fascinating study into human normal and abnormal psychology. The fact that it appears prior to the ending is a well thought out sequence and brings Burley’s novel to a level more than a little beyond a murder mystery. I look forward to more novels by John Burley in the near future and am sure that his readers will feel the same way.

Rating: 4 of 5

Copyright 2013 – William Morrow Paperbacks

books galveston tx“Dead Tease” (Loon Lake Mystery Book 12) by Victoria Houston

In the 12th book of Houston’s series, Jen Williams, a young, attractive nurse, has plans for her life and career. Not incidentally, her affair with Jim McNeil, the CEO of the medical clinic that employs her, sort of fits in nicely with those plans. Unfortunately, Jen is brutally stabbed and is found dead outside her condo. Now, it’s up to Lew Ferris, the police chief in Loon Lake, Wisconsin, and her friend “Doc” Osborne, a forensic dentist, to find out who is responsible for this vicious crime.

When I first began this book, I wasn’t aware that it was part of a series so I felt a little like a newcomer to a real-life small town. I was confused by all the characters and couldn’t keep track of who everyone was and how they were connected to each other. Fortunately, though, once I got the important characters and their backgrounds straightened out, I began to enjoy the story.

Lew and Doc make a formidable team. They are partners in every way – friends, fishing partners, investigative partners, and romantic partners. They are a good match and show each other affection and respect, which makes them characters to root for. Although it’s a short book, all of the characters have depth, and by the end of the book, I felt I had gotten to know the main characters, as well as the various supporting characters in the book.

The outdoor scenes and fishing trips will help you to get to know the characters better and will give you a glimpse at life in this small mid-west town.

The mystery was interesting and there are several people in the town with a motive to kill Jen. This young woman made quite a few enemies in her short life, but there are a few neat little twists and turns that keep you guessing until the very end of the book.

Even though I was unfamiliar with this author before I read this book, and didn’t realize it is part of a long-running series, I found that it reads like a stand-alone novel and is well-written and engrossing.

I recommend this book and will be checking out some of the earlier books in the series to see what I’ve been missing!

Rating: 4 of 5

Copyright 2012 – Tyrus Books

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Books

Duck! Here It Comes!

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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!

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Books

Programs Blooming at the Library

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.

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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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