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Book Talk with R & T: R's Hollywood Cast Picks for "The Fortune Hunter"

My ideal Hollywood cast for The Fortune Hunter is:

Charlotte: Claire Danes or Julia Stiles because they often play confident young women who rebel against societal expectations.
Sisi: Denise Richards, Michelle Phiffer or Sarah Jessica Parker because they are "women of a certain age" in Hollywood where being young and beautiful is the expectation.
Bay: Emile Hirsh, Liam Hemsworth or Hunter Parrish simply because I think they are all handsome and Bay is a dashing horseman.
Fred: Shia LeBeouf because he's arrogant.
Augusta: Winona Ryder or Emma Watson because they are beautiful but would be great saying those passive agressive comments to Charlotte. 
Queen Victoria: although it would be a stretch for age, I say Renee Zellwegger. I think she could pull of the nose-in-the air routine quite well.
Chicken: Jack Black because Chicken has a full beard and I can't think of many actors that do.
Caspar: Neal Patrick Harris or David Arquette because they would be great "flamboyant Americans"

Do you like my picks? Be sure to read Tamara's picks too!

Book Talk with R & T: R's Review of The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

Hopefully everyone is excited as Tamara and I are about our latest installment of "Book Talk with R & T" !!  As we told y'all yesterday, all week we will be highlighting "The Fortune Hunter" by Daisy Goodwin. Today we are celebrating the book's US release and I'm posting my review. Later this week we will be chatting about the covers, movie cast, and anything else that strikes our fancy. Have you read "The Fortune Hunter" yet? We want to chat with you! 

Title: The Fortune Hunter
Author: Daisy Goodwin
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: July 29, 2014
ISBN: 9781250043894
Number of Pages: 480
How I Got It: Staci Burt / St. Martin's Press Publicity
Format: Paperback
Publisher's Description: THE FORTUNE HUNTER (St. Martin’s Press; July 29, 2014) is a brilliant, new novel that explores the irresistibility of the public lives and private longings of grand historical figures. Empress Elizabeth of Austria, known as "Sisi," is the Princess Diana of nineteenth-century Europe. Famously beautiful, as captured in a portrait with diamond stars in her hair, she is unfulfilled in her marriage to the older Emperor Franz Joseph. Sisi has spent years evading the stifling formality of royal life on her private train or yacht or, whenever she can, on the back of a horse.
Captain Bay Middleton is dashing, young, and the finest horseman in England. He is also impoverished, with no hope of buying the horse needed to win the Grand National—until he meets Charlotte Baird. A clever, plainspoken heiress whose money gives her a choice among suitors, Charlotte falls in love with Bay, the first man to really notice her, for his vulnerability as well as his glamour. When Sisi joins the legendary hunt organized by Earl Spencer in England, Bay is asked to guide her on the treacherous course. Their shared passion for riding leads to an infatuation that threatens the growing bond between Bay and Charlotte, and all of their futures.

My Review: 
To be honest, I had a tough time with the first 60 or so pages. There are a lot of character introductions and everyone seems to be called by multiple names and titles. Once I got in rhythm with the writing, I was fully submerged. At the center of the book is a love triangle between Charlotte (heir to the Lennox fortune,) Elizabeth / Sisi (the Austrian Empress,) and Bay (a horseman.) Charlotte is a self-assured young heiress. Her interest in photography rather than parties and social events clashes with the expectations of family members. Sisi travels in order to hide from her husband and the public. The aging beauty sets her sights on (and opens her purse to) Bay. Bay wants to marry Charlotte, but the interests of the Empress draw him away from his love.
This novel has everything I'm looking for in historical fiction. A time in history that would have otherwise been uninteresting to me (because most of my high school and college history classes focused on men and politics rather than all people and their daily lives) came to life in this book. The European locations, the balls, the rules of royalty,  the horse riding, the newness of photography and cross country railways, the vast frontier of America, everything is presented in a crisp, exciting way.
Not often is the secondary cast of characters as interesting as the main characters, but Daisy Goodwin wraps you up with social climbers, flamboyant Americans, spurned suitors, and the whole range of household servants.
Out of the secondary storylines my favorite is the relationship between Charlotte and her soon-to-be sister-in-law Augusta. These two women are very close in age with similar upbringings but their personalities and demeanors are so opposite of each other. Their quips and snide remarks back and forth had me laughing and I loved every time Charlotte got Augusta worked up about something.

About the Author: 
DAISY GOODWIN is the author of The American Heiress. She is a Harkness scholar who attended Columbia University’s film school after earning a degree in history at Cambridge University and is a leading television producer in the U.K. Her poetry anthologies have introduced many new readers to the pleasures of poetry, and she was Chair of the judging panel of the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction. She and her husband, an ABC TV executive, have two daughters and live in London.

Be sure to check out Daisy's WebsiteFacebook, and Twitter

Book Talk with R & T : The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

Big Announcement! We're doing it again!!

Tamara (from Traveling with T) and I are back with another installment of "Book Talk with R & T."  We had so much fun a few months ago highlighting Samantha Hayes' "Until You're Mine" that we decided to do it again! This week we will be talking all about "The Fortune Hunter" by Daisy Goodwin. So check back in throughout the week on both of our blogs for reviews, chats, questions, and who we would pick for our dream movie cast!  

Be sure to check out Daisy's WebsiteFacebook, and Twitter

Don't forget to follow us on Twitter! 

Co-Parenting with a Toxic Ex by Amy J L Baker and Paul R. Fine

My review and related article are featured on page 28 of the August issue of Athens Parent Magazine

Title: Co-Parenting with a Toxic Ex 
Author: Amy J L Baker and Paul R. Fine
Publisher: New Harbinger Publications
Publication Date: May 1, 2014
ISBN: 9781608829583
Number of Pages: 224
How I Got It: NetGalley
Format: Kindle

NetGalley Description: 
There's no question about it: your children are the most important thing in your life. But if you have gone through a messy divorce, your relationship with your children may become strained if you have to deal with a toxic ex. Your ex may bad-mouth you in front of the kids, accuse you of being a bad parent, and even attempt to replace you in the children’s lives with a new partner. As a result, your children may become confused, conflicted, angry, anxious, or depressed—and you may feel powerless.
In Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex, a nationally recognized parenting expert offers you a positive parenting approach to dealing with a hostile ex-spouse. You'll learn to avoid the most common mistakes of coparenting, how to avoid “parental alienation syndrome,” and effective techniques for talking to your children in a way that fosters open and honest response. In addition, you’ll learn how to protect your children from painful loyalty conflicts between you and your ex-spouse.
Divorce is often painful, especially if your ex habitually tries to undermine your relationship with your children. But with the right tools you can protect your kids and make your relationship with them stronger than ever. This book can show you how.

My Review:
General co-parenting books are not going to cover the specific struggles of co-parenting with a toxic ex. Authors Amy J L Baker and Paul R Fine provide information about positive parenting techniques with sections that range from "Five Components of Successful Family Meetings" to "Nine Ways to Be Involved in Your Child's Education That Don't Require Your Ex's Approval."
Baker and Fine also impart useful suggestions for situations such as when your child states "My dad told me, so it must be true!" or when your child's response to your new relationship is "Mommy says she loves me too much to start a new family." The authors emphasize the opportunities presented in these situations to provide your child with the information, love, and support they need. The list of resources and worksheets make this book indispensable to anyone co-parenting with a toxic ex.

You can find out more about this book and about author Amy J.L. Baker at www.amyjlbaker.com.

** I received this book in exchange for an honest review **

The Tastemakers: Why We're Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue by David Sax

Title: The Tastemakers: Why We're Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue
Author: David Sax
Publisher: Public Affairs
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
ISBN: 9781610393157
Number of Pages: 336
How I Got It: NetGalley
Format: Kindle

NetGalley Description: 

Greek yogurt. Spicy chipotle mayo. Honeycrisp apples. The Cronut. These days, it seems we are constantly discovering a new food that will make us healthier, happier, or even somehow smarter. After a brief life as a novelty houseplant and "I Love the '80s" punchline, chia seeds are suddenly a superfood. Speaking of which, what ever happened to pomegranate juice? Or acai berries? Did they suddenly cease to be healthy in 2010? And by the way, what exactly is a superfood again?

In this eye-opening, witty work of reportage, David Sax uncovers the world of food trends: where they come from, how they grow, and where they end up. From the test labs at Dole foods to the food truck lobby to the 20 seconds of Sex and the City that forever changed the fate of the cupcake, Sax reveals the money and influence behind what you eat for breakfast.

In sections on how food trends are created, what makes them explode, and why they matter, Sax travels America in search of the farmers, planners, and chefs who help decide what you will spend three hours waiting for on a SoHo sidewalk. The Tastemakers is full of entertaining stories and useful bits of wisdom for maintaining your sanity in the complex world of food choices.

My Review:
This book piqued my interest for two reasons:
#1 when I was a retail gift shop manager and had to order items months in advance I always found it interesting that catalogs and vendors were aware of trends before they happened. I put a lot of faith and money into their predictions. Case in point: I had a lot of moustache and bacon products long before I was hearing any buzz about them from my teen daughter or foodie friends. So how do these vendors know what is going to trend before it is even trending?
#2 I am a freelance writer which means I have to pitch articles months in advance. About a year ago, I was researching upcoming food trends to pitch. After finding some fabulous foodie conferences and culinary sites I cultivated a list and began pitching. As the year progressed I saw all of the trends come to fruition. Again, I thought how do they know?
I suppose the same question can be said about fashion. How do magazines pick the trends before they even become trends? Or is it because the magazine says that it is a trend (whatever "it" is) that it becomes a trend?
David Sax's "The Tastemakers" really delves into how these trends come around in the food world. This book is a must for any foodies or anyone simply interested in the origins of trends.

** I received this book in exchange for an honest review**

Summer 2014 Reads

July is almost over but there is still plenty of summer left. Whether you are heading to the beach or just swinging in your hammock with a cold glass of lemonade, summer is a great time to catch up on your reading. So today I'm recommending my top 6 picks for Summer 2014 Reads. 

Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf (June 24, 2014)  In her latest ripped-from-the-headlines tour de force, New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf shows how one small mistake can have life-altering consequences… Veteran social worker Ellen Moore has seen the worst side of humanity—the vilest acts one person can commit against another. She is a fiercely dedicated children's advocate and a devoted mother and wife. But one blistering summer day, a simple moment of distraction will have repercussions that Ellen could never have imagined, threatening to shatter everything she holds dear, and trapping her between the gears of the system she works for. 
Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but irresponsible father since her mother left them, sleeping on friends' couches and moving in and out of cheap motels. When Jenny suddenly finds herself on her own, she is forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. The last thing she wants is a social worker, but when Ellen's and Jenny's lives collide, little do they know just how much they can help one another. 
A powerful and emotionally charged tale about motherhood and justice, Little Mercies is a searing portrait of the tenuous grasp we have on the things we love the most, and of the ties that unexpectedly bring us together. 

Watch the book trailer here
Visit Heather's site here
Connect with Heather on TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest
Visit the Little Mercies page on Goodreads

The Sanctuary by Cassandra R. Siddons   Four friends. Three shocking secrets. Two marriages on the rocks. One special place, The Sanctuary, that they have always been able to count on—until now…
Lydia has spent her life happily taking care of others. But when her husband dies, Lydia is the one who needs help. She learns that her husband  has deceived her for most of their marriage. She will have to deal with the truth about her husband and their marriage once his secret is revealed—and the consequences of his deception.
Liz is beautiful, fearless, and larger than life. She has achieved everything she set out to do—and she is keeping a secret that could cost her everything.
Julia suffered a childhood trauma that has caused numerous neuroses and years of nightmares. Despite her best efforts to suppress the incident, it continues to haunt her. Now she must finally deal with what happened or risk losing her family.
Sonya is a successful business woman but she has never been successful in love. She thinks she may have finally gotten it right with husband #4—until she realizes that she might not live long enough to find out.
These four women, who call themselves Carolina Girls Forever, have shared a lot over the years. But they have also kept a few significant secrets from one another—until now. All the secrets they have safeguarded for so long will soon come to light. Once that happens, their lives will be changed forever. But no matter what the costs, they must save The Sanctuary…

The Stories We Tell by Patti Callahan Henry  The Morrisons are the ideal Savannah family; successful husband Cooper, artistic and loving wife Eve, and beautiful daughter Gwen make up a picturesque trio beloved by their community. But not everything is as it appears after a car accident creates secrets, lies and deeper tension within the Morrison family, culminating in a truth revealed that Eve never expected to find. 

Mating for Life by Marissa Stapley  Former folk singer Helen Sear was a feminist wild child who proudly disdained monogamy, raising three daughters—each by a different father—largely on her own. Now in her sixties, Helen has fallen in love with a traditional man who desperately wants to marry her. And while she fears losing him, she’s equally afraid of abandoning everything she’s ever stood for if she goes through with it.
 Meanwhile, Helen’s youngest daughter, Liane, is in the heady early days of a relationship with her soul mate. But he has an ex-wife and two kids, and her new role as a “step-something” doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Ilsa, an artist, has put her bohemian past behind her and is fervently hoping her second marriage will stick. Yet her world feels like it is slowly shrinking, and her painting is suffering as a result—and she realizes she may need to break free again, even if it means disrupting the lives of her two young children. And then there’s Fiona, the eldest sister, who has worked tirelessly to make her world pristine, yet who still doesn’t feel at peace. When she discovers her husband has been harboring a huge secret, Fiona loses her tenuous grip on happiness and is forced to face some truths about herself that she’d rather keep buried.
 Interweaving the alternating perspectives of Helen, her daughters, and the women surrounding them, “each new chapter brings a wise and tender look at single life, dating rituals, and marital unease” (New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Close). In this “absolute feat of storytelling” (bestselling author Grace O'Connell), Marissa Stapley celebrates the many roles modern women play, and shows that even though happy endings aren’t one-size-fits-all, some loves really can last for life.

Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly  The first in a series of four epic tales set in the depths of the ocean, where six mermaids seek to protect and save their hidden world.
Deep in the ocean, in a world not so different from our own, live the merpeople. Their communities are spread throughout the oceans, seas, and freshwaters all over the globe.
When Serafina, a mermaid of the Mediterranean Sea, awakens on the morning of her betrothal, her biggest worry should be winning the love of handsome Prince Mahdi. And yet Sera finds herself haunted by strange dreams that foretell the return of an ancient evil. Her dark premonitions are confirmed when an assassin's arrow poisons Sera's mother. Now, Serafina must embark on a quest to find the assassin's master and prevent a war between the Mer nations. Led only by her shadowy dreams, Sera searches for five other mermaid heroines who are scattered across the six seas. Together, they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood and uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world's very existence.

Your Perfect Life by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke With “a delicious, page-turning premise, and sweet and surprising insights” (New York Times bestselling author Jen Lancaster), Your Perfect Life perfectly illustrates that old adage: Sometimes, you to have to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to see what’s in her heart.
Best friends since childhood, Casey and Rachel couldn’t lead more different lives. While workaholic Casey rubs elbows with celebrities daily as the host of Gossip TV and comes home nightly to an empty apartment, stay-at-home mom Rachel juggles an “oops” baby, two fiery teenagers, and a husband who barely seems the man she fell in love with two decades before. After an argument at their twentieth high school reunion, Casey and Rachel throw back shots to get the night back on track. Instead, they get a life-changing hangover.
Waking up in each other’s bodies the next morning, they must figure out how to navigate their altered realities. Rachel is forced to confront the reason she gave up her broadcasting dreams when she got pregnant in college, and Casey finally steps out of the spotlight to face the truth about why she’s alone. And they soon discover that they don’t know themselves—or their best friend—nearly as well as they thought they did.
Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke bring humor and heart to every page of this novel that is sure to please fans of In Her Shoes and The Opposite of Me. Your Perfect Life is a story about two very different women, what they didn’t know about each other, and how, by switching lives, they each learn to appreciate their own.

****Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Harlequin*****

Everyday Celebrations with Maria Loggia

Maria Loggia’s kitchen door is always open. Her home and garden are a gathering place for friends and family, who come to share her easygoing enthusiasm and generosity – and her inspired Italian cuisine. In this, her second book, Loggia celebrates the seasons with 16 sumptuous menus – from a spontaneous al fresco garden party to a slow-simmered midwinter feast and a traditional Sunday family lunch.

Everyday Celebrations with Maria Loggia is on a spotlight tour from July 14 to 18.

Author & Chef: Maria Loggia
Category: Non-fiction
Genre: Cooking, Food & Wine, 176 pages
Publisher: Cardinal Publishing
Published: Oct 1, 2012

Amazon.ca  *  Cardinal Publishing  *  Amazon.com

Try One of the Recipes!

Petto di Pollo Farcito con Uva e Noci
Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Grapes and Walnuts


For filling:

1 tbsp (15 ml) unsalted butter
2 tbsp (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
¾ cup (180 ml) walnuts, coarsely chopped
½ cup (125 ml) red seedless grapes, quartered
2 tbsp (30 ml) finely chopped fresh chives
2 tbsp (30 ml) bread crumbs
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
7 oz (200 g) soft goat cheese, cut in 6 slices 

For chicken:
6 tbsp (90 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
6 bone-in chicken breasts, skin on
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 tbsp (45 ml) unsalted butter, softened
1 orange, cut into wedges
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, each cut in half
5 bay leaves
To serve:
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 orange

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

To prepare filling: Heat butter and oil in a large skillet and sauté shallots until soft, 1 to 2 minutes, and remove from heat. Stir in walnuts, grapes, chives and bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool slightly. Leave goat cheese aside for now.

To prepare chicken: Oil a 14-inch (35 cm) round earthenware tiella or roasting pan with 2 tbsp (30 ml) of the olive oil and set aside. On a baking sheet, season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Make a lengthwise slit in each chicken breast, being careful not to cut all the way through. (This will form the pocket for the stuffing.) Rub remaining 4 tbsp (60 ml) olive oil into the chicken (including in the pockets). Divide stuffing equally among chicken breasts, stuffing it into the slit in each breast, and top with a slice of goat cheese. Pull the chicken skin over the filling and secure with toothpicks. Smear butter over the skin and season again to taste with salt and pepper.

Gently transfer chicken to prepared tiella. Scatter orange wedges, rosemary and bay leaves around chicken. Roast 35 to 40 minutes, or until juices run clear when the thickest part of the breast is pierced. Then broil 2 to 3 minutes, or until skin is crisp and golden. Drizzle with orange juice and serve warm with pan juices.

Serves 6

Tips from Maria:

Consigli di cucina (kitchen tips)
The chicken breasts can be assembled the day before, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated. When ready to serve, bring chicken to room temperature and cook as instructed. Doing it this way allows the flavours time to meld together beautifully.

Che cos’√®? (what is it?)
I’m convinced food tastes better when cooked in a shallow, glazed earthenware dish known in Italian as a tiella. I find earthenware dishes distribute heat slowly and evenly as the food cooks. Aromas and flavours are intensified and casseroles never stick or dry out.

To season a tiella: Before using your tiella the first time, immerse the dish in cold water to soak overnight. The next day, empty the tiella and wipe it dry. Rub the inside with olive oil and place in a preheated 300°F (150°C) oven for 1½ hours. Remove seasoned tiella from oven and place on a wooden board or thick tablecloth to cool. (If placed on a surface like granite or a cold stovetop, it will crack.) To clean a tiella, soak it in warm, soapy water, then scrub with a soft sponge.

Meet the Author

Maria Loggia is one of Montreal's best-loved Italian cooking teachers. Her Tavola Mia cooking school in the village of Hudson is a warm, inviting place to learn about Italian cuisine. She also appears regularly on television, is featured in newspapers and magazines, and leads culinary tours in Italy.

Maria finds inspiration in her Italian heritage and draws on family recipes that go back generations. She founded Tavola Mia, her at-home cooking school in 1999. Through her study of Italy's regional cuisines, which has included numerous sojourns back to her native country, she has acquired great expertise in the art of Italian cooking. Her passion, humor and dedication to excellence have made her an inspiring teacher. Using fresh local ingredients, Tavola Mia celebrates the seasons in authentic, irrepressible Italian style.

An Interview with Maria Loggia

Maria Loggia from Pierre Blais on Vimeo.

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How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer

Title: How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky
Author: Lydia Netzer
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
ISBN: 9781250047021
Number of Pages: 352
How I Got It: NetGalley
Format: Kindle

NetGalley Description: 
Lydia Netzer, the award-winning author of Shine Shine Shine, weaves a mind-bending, heart-shattering love story that asks, “Can true love exist if it’s been planned from birth?”
Like a jewel shimmering in a Midwest skyline, the Toledo Institute of Astronomy is the nation's premier center of astronomical discovery and a beacon of scientific learning for astronomers far and wide. Here, dreamy cosmologist George Dermont mines the stars to prove the existence of God. Here, Irene Sparks, an unsentimental scientist, creates black holes in captivity.
George and Irene are on a collision course with love, destiny and fate. They have everything in common: both are ambitious, both passionate about science, both lonely and yearning for connection. The air seems to hum when they’re together. But George and Irene’s attraction was not written in the stars. In fact their mothers, friends since childhood, raised them separately to become each other's soulmates. 
When that long-secret plan triggers unintended consequences, the two astronomers must discover the truth about their destinies, and unravel the mystery of what Toledo holds for them—together or, perhaps, apart.
Lydia Netzer combines a gift for character and big-hearted storytelling, with a sure hand for science and a vision of a city transformed by its unique celestial position, exploring the conflicts of fate and determinism, and asking how much of life is under our control and what is pre-ordained in the heavens. 

My Review:
I didn't get around to reading Netzer's debut, Shine Shine Shine, despite several rave reviews from some of my most trusted book bloggers. I was not going to miss out this time around. (I read her novella, Everybody's Baby, and really liked it.) How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky is like nothing I've read before. Netzer is able to provide two characters with opposite thoughts when they look skyward and although the characters represent science versus God, she doesn't distance the reader with their personal beliefs. Her secondary characters are anything but flat. They have strange habits, addictions, and uncommon religions. I felt that one secondary storyline should have either been flushed out more or excluded altogether and I found myself lost a few times when there was a sudden change in setting without notice. However, the overall achievement of this book outweighs what I thought were merely unpolished edges. I've read other reviews of this work and I see a lot of "quirky, nerdy, and outside-the-box" which are all true but what I really enjoyed is the lack of fluff. Now, don't get me wrong, I like a cupcake, predictable read now and then but this book is an important edition to the entire genre of women's literature. A smart novel that encompasses the macrocosms of humanity, science, religion, fate, and free will and presents the concepts in a modern microcosm daily connections.  

** I received this book in exchange for an honest review ***