Author explores the partnership between Chicago chefs and the farmers who grow food for them

The stories behind 25 Midwest Farms and Farmers as well as the chefs who use their produce.

Profiling 25 Midwestern farms in her book Locally Grown: Portraits of Artisanal Farms from America’s Heartland, Anna Blessing tells the story of each including its history, roots in the community, scale, production and inner workings as well as the premiere Chicago chefs such as Rick Bayless, Stephanie Izard, Sarah Stegner and Paul Kahan who rely upon these food producers for what they cook in their restaurants.

“I wanted to share the stories of these amazing farmers,” said Blessing, a writer and photographer who also authored Locally Brewed: Portraits of Craft Breweries from America’s Heartland. “It’s so easy to forget where our food comes from and to take for granted the miracle of growing food. I want to celebrate the care that these farmers put into their craft, the respect they have for this work and the ways in which the intentional effort has had and continues to have both a dramatic and positive impact on the way our food tastes and the health of the environment in which it’s grown.”

Taking photos and talking to the chefs who buy from the farmers as well as getting the recipes they create from the farms, Blessing devotes a chapter to each farm but further organizes them into categories. 

For instance in Refashioning the Family Farm, Blessing takes us to seven farms including the fourth generation Gunthorp Farm in LaGrange, Indiana where Craig Gunthorp determined to keep raising pigs even though in 1988 he was selling them for less than the price his grandfather had gotten during the Depression. But then, after speaking about sustainable agriculture at a conference, Gunthorp was given the number of a restaurant looking for a pig farmer. The number turned out to be the late Charlie Trotter’s, who owned the famed restaurant bearing his name.

Part 2: Moving from the City to the Farm takes us to such farmers as Abra Berens who co-owned Bare Knuckle Farm in Northport, Michigan who attended Ballymaloe Cookery School in Southern Ireland. Berens,  who was nominated for Best Chef in the Great Lakes Region by the James Beard Foundation, is also the author of two bestselling cookbooks, Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds, and Legumes and Ruffage: A Practical Guide to Vegetables. She now is the chef at Granor Farm in Three Oaks, Michigan.

Then Blessing takes us in the opposite direction with farming that moves to the city. Here she profiles, among others, Rick Bayless, owner and chef at Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, Lena Brava, Tortazo, and XOCO restaurants and also hosted the TV show One Plate at a Time, who has a 1000-square-foot production farm in his backyard.

“The chefs are so essential to promoting locally based eating because they are the ones with the voice and the ones who we as eaters look up to and want to learn from,” said Blessing, who in her book also tells the best places to find, buy and eat sustainably grown food and details on visiting the farms in her book. “When they say this is the best way to grow food and these are the farmers to support, it’s very strong endorsement.”

Windy City Blues

In her fun very readable Windy City Blues (Berkley 2017; $16), Chicago author Renee Rosen again takes another slice of the city’s history and turns it into a compelling read.

Rosen, who plumbs Chicago’s history to write such books as Dollface, her novel about flappers and gangers like Al Capone, and What the Lady Wants which recounts the affair between department store magnate Marshall Field and his socialite neighbor, says she and her publisher were racking their brains for her next book which encompassed Chicago history.

“She suggested the blues,” says Rosen, who didn’t have much interest in the subject.

But Rosen was game and started her typical uber-intensive research.

“When I discovered the Chess brothers, who founded Chess Records, I fell in love,” she says, noting that when researching she was surprised about how much she didn’t know about the subject despite her immersion in Chicago history for her previous books. “I thought this is a story.”

“As part of my research, I drove the Blues Highway from New Orleans to Chicago,” she says. “I also met with Willie Dixon’s grandson and with Chess family members.”

Combining fact and fiction, Rosen’s story follows heroine Leeba Groski, who struggling to fit in, has always found consolation in music. When her neighbor Leonard Chess offers her a job at his new Chicago Blues label, she sees this as an opportunity to finally fit in. Leeba starts by answering phones and filing but it soon becomes much more than that as she discovers her own talents as a song writer and also begins not only to fall in love with the music industry but also with Red Dupree, a black blues guitarist.

Windy City Blues was recently selected for Chicago’s One Book project, a program designed to engage diverse groups of Chicagoans around common themes. Rosen says she is very honored to be a recipient.

“I put my heart and soul into this book,” she says. “I think it’s a story with an important message. In it are lessons of the Civil Rights movement, what it was like for Jews and people of color along with the history of the blues and the role of Jews in bringing the blues to the world. After all, as the saying goes: Blacks + Jews = Blues.”

If These Walls Could Talk by Reggie Brooks

        “I wouldn’t have been so open if I had written my book five years ago,” says Reggie Brooks, author of the just released If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box (Triumph Books 2021, $17.95). “But Covid showed me how important it is to share. There were many people in my life who helped get me to where I am. I also learned that we’re here to serve others and not just ourselves.”

        In many ways his book is a behind the scenes look at the Notre Dame Fighting Irish but for those who groan at the thought of another football book, Brooks wants you to know it’s more than that. He discusses both the highs and lows of his life and career, offering a human look at being a gridiron star as he takes us on his personal journey, often peppering his book with humorous anecdotes. That includes the time he scored a 20-yard touchdown against the University of Michigan in 1993 while unconscious.

        “I didn’t even know I was knocked down,” says Brooks about the incident where, after catching a pass, he was able to break through six Wolverine tackles—the last knocking him out—and still managing to make it across the finish line before falling face first in the end zone.

“I didn’t really know about the play until I saw it on Sunday during our film session and team meeting,” he says.

        Brooks, a Notre Dame tailback, ended his senior year with  1,372 rushing yards, averaging about 8 yards a carry and scoring 13 touchdowns. He was named an All-American, finished fifth in the voting that year for the Heisman Trophy and was selected in the second round of the 1993 NFL by the Washington Redskins. But after a stellar first year in the league, his career started stalling, in part, he believes by a disagreement he had with the management over the team’s use of his image.

        Welcome to the NFL. For Brooks, it seemed that he had upset the wrong people and paid the price for doing so. But he’s self-aware of how he responded. Feeling as if he were drowning he retreated into himself and didn’t avail himself of the help he was offered.  Brooks’ experiences in the NFL reinforced his realization of how important Notre Dame had been in his life.

        “It allowed me to see more clearly how special my teammates at Notre Dame were and what it meant to be a college football player,” he writes. “It’s the maturity you have to develop and the care for the others—even if you do not consciously think about it.”

        He also saw the power of the Notre Dame network and how it opened doors for him when he was struggling—how the kindness of those he knew there helped him find his way.

        When I ask what impact he hopes his book will have on readers, Brooks responds that he wants to show how his life and Notre Dame intertwined.

        “I also want to get people to realize the value of ‘you’ and what ‘you’ bring to the community,” he says.

        His father was his first coach and taught him the importance of treating others well. The emphasis was not on football as a way make a lot of money (though no one is arguing that isn’t nice) but the impact you can have on others.

        “I still struggle with fandom,” he says. And we laugh about the old saw about never believing in your own press clippings—in other words not letting the hype change who you are.

“Those who are just starting are as important as the most famous,” he says.

Married to his college sweetheart, Christina Brooks, the couple have five children. Until recently Reggie Brooks worked for Notre Dame as the university’s Director of Student-Athlete Alumni Relations/Engagement and participated in after game shows. Recently he accepted the position of executive director of Holtz’s Heroes Foundation which precipitated a move from South Bend, Indiana to Prairie View, Texas. But that move was in part participated with his wife getting a job in Fort Worth and it was time, he said, to support her as she had always supported his career and many moves.

Still there was a sense of loss about leaving. Brooks had followed his brother Tony, who also played football, to the university after high school, played there throughout college and then returned. He loves the school’s values. When I tell him my brother taught accountancy there for 30 years and never ever was pressured to give a break to an athlete, he laughs, saying “You go to class, you do the work, that’s what makes it Notre Dame.”

He makes sure to complement the university’s accounting program as if wanting to assure me that it’s just as glamorous and important as their fabled football program. It’s just what makes him Reggie Brooks.

What:  Reggie Brooks book signing

When: Saturday, October 23 at 12:30pm CT

Where: Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, 1 Eck Center on the Notre Dame Campus in South Bend, Indiana

FYI: 800-647-4641; http://www.bkstr.com/notredamestore

National Book Lovers Day: Celebrate By Learning to Download Books for Free

August 9 is National Book Lovers Day, a celebration for book worms everywhere. And lucky for us, our public library has its own collection of ebooks and audiobooks that we can download for free.
Libby, the leading library reading app by OverDrive, lets users download ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, comics, and more at no cost. All you need to get started is a library card—and even if you don’t have one, an Instant Digital Card can be yours in 30 seconds with just a phone number. 

Besides being able to borrow digital titles, OverDrive launched a new monthly blog series this July showing June’s top ten most popular books that had been borrowed digitally from the public library on Libby. Now in August, they’re sharing July’s top ten. On the list, you’ll find frequent New York Times bestsellers including Daniel Silva and Danielle Steel. Also among the Top Ten is T.J. Newman with their stunning instant #1 bestselling debut title, Falling.

As a reminder, Professional Book Nerds podcast always previews the upcoming month’s buzziest new books as well, and you can listen to their August episode right here. You can find July’s most popular new releases in the list below.

The top ten new books from July

The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller

Falling by T.J. Newman


The Cellist by Daniel Silva


It’s Better This Way by Debbie Macomber

Nine Lives by Danielle Steel

While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory


The Therapist by B. A. Paris

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel

The Bone Code by Kathy Reichs


Fallen by Linda Castillo

The Other Passenger: A Mystery-Thriller by Louise Candlish

After a spectacular burnout that caused him to lose his high-paying job, Jamie Buckby has found work as a coffee shop barista, a job that pays much less than his previous career.

But money really isn’t an issue for him. He lives with his girlfriend, a wealthy, successful businesswoman, in her wonderful historic home in a tony London neighborhood. The two have had a long and compatible relationship, but in keeping with the saying there’s no fool like an old fool, Jamie risks it all when he falls for the beautiful, manipulative and much younger Melia.

This being a mystery by bestselling British novelist Louise Candlish, there are plenty of other complications as well in “The Other Passenger.” We watch the story unfold through the eyes of Jamie, who commutes to work by riverboat with his neighbor Kit, who is married to Melia.

Kit and Melia are living well beyond their means, wracking up credit card debts and obviously envious of Jamie’s lifestyle. Then, one day, Kit doesn’t turn up at the boat, and when Jamie arrives at his stop, the police are there waiting for him. Kit’s been reported missing, and another passenger saw Jamie arguing with him on the boat just before he disappeared.

But it’s way too time consuming and difficult for Melia to wait and work hard to achieve her dreams. It’s much better to convince Jamie with promises of money and a life together to help her get rid of her husband. Jamie is foolish enough to believe that’s what Melia really wants. With the police closing in, he soon realizes that Melia has outwitted him and has much different plans in mind.

“There were several inspirations, and that’s how my books are usually conceived — I’ll find a way to marry multiple obsessions,” Candlish said. “I wanted to do a commuter mystery, I wanted to create a ‘Double Indemnity‘ for the 2020s, I was eager to explore the generational warfare between Gen X and millennials. Finally, I felt the need to write a love letter to London life around the River Thames, to capture its dangerous allure.”

Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing

Lauren Hough’s parents were members of The Children of God, so she told people they were missionaries instead of belonging to that infamous cult. A student at a conservative Catholic High School, she hid her sexuality. As a member of the U.S. Airforce she visited gay bars using the name Ouiser Boudreaux, taken from the character Shirley MacLaine played in “Steel Magnolias” so that no one on the base would learn her real identity—and sexual orientation.

In other words she was always someone she wasn’t, trying to be what others expected of her.

“I’d learned to survive by becoming what they wanted me to be, as best I could,” Hough writes in her collection of essays, “Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing.” “And when I couldn’t, I hid, erasing those parts of me that offended.”

The collection includes an essay she wrote for HuffPost titled “I Was a Cable Guy.” I Saw the Worst of America” which went viral. One reader reached out to Hough to tell her how much she liked it. That person was Academy Award winner, Cate Blanchett. The two struck up a friendship and when “Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing,” Hough texted her to ask if she would read several of book’s eleven essays.

“Surreal is also a good word to being able to text Cate and ask her is she’s ever considered doing an audiobook,”  says Hough describing the entire experience not only of partnering with Blanchett in producing the audiobook but her life’s journey and how she ended up as a published writer corresponding with a movie star. As for Blanchard, she said yes.

“My conversations with Lauren over the last several years have been honest, raw, and sidesplittingly funny, and I treasure her friendship and penmanship beyond measure,” she writes.

Hough says she wrote many of her essays in the dark, just hoping to connect, if only to yourself. Growing up, her family had moved frequently, and she lived in seven countries including Switzerland, German and Ecuador, and Texas just to name a few placed, experienced violence and been abused. In adulthood, she’d worked a series of jobs—bartending, bouncer in a gay bar, livery driver, U.S. Airman, barista, and, of course, a cable installer.

Describing Hough as having hypnotic power as a storyteller, Blanchett says when she spoke Hough’s words in the audiobook that in “speaking her words, I truly understood the rhythmic heartbeat alive in every phrase. Aching to connect. Aching to be heard.”

In her long search for belonging and being connected, Hough’s writings seem to have forged the connectiveness she sought.

THE 17TH ANNUAL BEST BOOK AWARDS ANNOUNCE 2020 AWARD RECIPIENTS

American Book Fest has announced the winners and finalists of The 2020 Best Book Awards.
Awards were presented for titles published in 2018-2020.

Jeffrey Keen, President and CEO of American Book Fest said this year’s contest yielded over 2,000 entries from mainstream and independent publishers. These were then narrowed down to over 400 winners and finalists in 90 categories.

“The 2020 results represent a phenomenal mix of books from a wide array of publishers throughout the United States,” says Keen about the awards, now in their 18th year.
Winners and finalists traversed the publishing landscape: HarperCollins, Penguin/Random House, John Wiley and Sons, Routledge/Taylor and Francis, Forge, Hay House, Sounds True, Llewellyn Worldwide, NYU Press, Oxford University Press, John Hopkins University Press, The White House Historical Association and hundreds of Independent Houses contribute to this year’s outstanding competition.

“Our success begins with the enthusiastic participation of authors and publishers and continues with our distinguished panel of industry judges who bring to the table their extensive editorial, PR, marketing, and design expertise,” says Keen.

American Book Fest is an online publication providing coverage for books from mainstream and independent publishers to the world online community.

American Book Fest has an active social media presence with over 135,000 current Facebook fans.


Highlights Include the Following Winning Titles:
(Full Results are Available Here.)

Click on category headings to be taken directly to full book descriptions! Winners and Finalists are featured at the top of each page.

Animals/Pets: General

The Balanced Pet Sitter: What You Wish you Knew Before Starting Your Pet Care Business by Renée Stilson
Equilibre Press, LLC

Animals/Pets: Narrative Non-Fiction
The Chimpanzee Chronicles: Stories of Heartbreak and Hope from Behind the Bars by Debra Rosenman
Wild Soul Press

Anthologies: Non-Fiction
This Moment Bold Voices from WriteGirl by Keren Taylor
WriteGirl PublicationsArt

C. Curry Bohm: Brown County and Beyond edited by Daniel Kraft & Jim Ross
Indiana University Press

Autobiography/Memoir
Through My Eyes: CSI Memoirs That Haunt the Soul by Tamara Mickelson
Self-Published

Best Cover Design: Fiction
The Last Lumenian by S.G. Blaise
The Last Lumenian

Best Cover Design: Non-Fiction
When God Says NO – Revealing the YES When Adversity and Pain Are Present by Judith Briles
Mile High Press

Best Interior Design
Beautiful Living: Cooking the Cal-a-Vie Health Spa Way by Terri Havens
Cal-a-Vie Health Spa

Best New Fiction
In An Instant by Suzanne Redfearn
Lake Union

Best New Non-Fiction
The Book of Help: A Memoir of Remedies by Megan Griswold
Rodale Books/Penguin Random House

Biography
T.R.M. Howard: Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Pioneer by David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito
Independent Institute

Business: Careers
TIP: A Simple Strategy to Inspire High Performance and Lasting Success by Dave Gordon
John Wiley and Sons

Business: Communications/Public Relations
The Apology Impulse: How the Business World Ruined Sorry and Why We Can’t Stop Saying It by Cary Cooper & Sean O’Meara
Kogan Page

Business: Entrepreneurship & Small Business
Burdens of a Dream: 33 Actionable Nuggets of Wisdom for the Creative Entrepreneur by Craig M. Chavis Jr.
Author Academy Elite

Business: General
The Simplicity Principle: Six Steps Towards Clarity in a Complex World by Julia Hobsbawm
Kogan Page

Business: Management & Leadership
The Future Leader: 9 Skills and Mindsets to Succeed in the Next Decade by Jacob Morgan
Wiley

Business: Marketing & Advertising
The End of Marketing: Humanizing Your Brand in the Age of Social Media and AI by Carlos Gil
Kogan Page

Business: Motivational
Unlock!: 7 Steps to Transform Your Career and Realize Your Leadership Potential by Abhijeet Khadikar
Vicara Books

Business: Personal Finance/Investing
Enhancing Retirement Success Rates in the United States: Leveraging Reverse Mortgages, Delaying Social Security, and Exploring Continuous Work by Chia-Li Chien, PhD, CFP®, PMP®
Palgrave Pivot

Business: Real Estate
Market Forces: Strategic Trends Impacting Senior Living Providers by Jill J. Johnson
Johnson Consulting Services

Business: Reference
The Non-Obvious Guide to Virtual Meetings and Remote Work (Non-Obvious Guides) by Rohit Bhargava
IdeaPress Publishing

Business: Sales
The Visual Sale: How to Use Video to Explode Sales, Drive Marketing, and Grow Your Business in a Virtual World by Marcus Sheridan
IdeaPress Publishing

Business: Technology
Amazon Management System: The Ultimate Digital Business Engine That Creates Extraordinary Value for Both Customers and Shareholders by Ram Charan and Julia Yang
IdeaPress Publishing

Business: Writing/Publishing
Great Stories Don’t Write Themselves: Criteria-Driven Strategies for More Effective Fiction by Larry Brooks
Writer’s Digest Books (a division of Penguin Random House)

Children’s Educational
Galileo! Galileo! by Holly Trechter and Jane Donovan
Sky Candle Press

Children’s Fiction
Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets by Sherrill Joseph
Acorn Publishing

Children’s Mind/Body/Spirit
The Tooth Fairy’s Tummy Ache by Lori Orlinsky
Mascot Books

Children’s Non-Fiction
President’s Play! illustrated by John Hutton, text by Jonathan Pliska
The White House Historical Association

Children’s Novelty & Gift Book
Bubble Kisses by Vanessa Williams, illustrated by Tara Nicole Whitaker
Sterling Publishing

Children’s Picture Book: Hardcover Fiction
Bubble Kisses by Vanessa Williams, illustrated by Tara Nicole Whitaker
Sterling Publishing

Children’s Picture Book: Hardcover Non-Fiction
A-B-Skis: An Alphabet Book About the Magical World of Skiing by Libby Ludlow, illustrated by Nathan Y. Jarvis
Libby Ludlow

LLCChildren’s Picture Book: Softcover Fiction
Frankie the Ferret by Kimberley Paterson
FriesenPress

Children’s Picture Book: Softcover Non-Fiction
Fridays With Ms. Mélange: Haiti by Jenny Delacruz
Cobbs Creek Publishing

Children’s Religious
That Grand Christmas Day! by Jill Roman Lord, illustrated by Alessia Trunfio
Worthy Kids

College Guides
Diversity At College: Real Stories of Students Conquering Bias and Making Higher Education More Inclusive by James Stellar, Chrisel Martinez, Branden Eggan, Chloe Skye Weiser, Benny Poy, Rachel Eagar, Marc Cohen, and Agata Buras
IdeaPress Publishing

Cookbooks: General
Recipes from the President’s Ranch: Food People Like to Eat by Matthew Wendel
The White House Historical Association

Cookbooks: International
Cooking with Marika: Clean Cuisine from an Estonian Farm by Marika Blossfeldt
Delicious Nutrition

Cookbooks: Regional
The Perfect Persimmon: History, Recipes, and More by Michelle Medlock Adams
Red Lightning

BooksCurrent Events
In All Fairness: Equality, Liberty, and the Quest for Human Dignity, edited by Robert M. Whaples, Michael C. Munger and Christopher J. Coyne
Independent Institute

Education/Academic
The EQ Intervention: Shaping a Self-Aware Generation Through Social and Emotional Learning by Adam L. Saenz, PhD
Greenleaf Book Group

Fiction: African-American
Once in a Blood Moon by Dorothea Hubble Bonneau
Acorn Publishing

Fiction: Anthologies
Terror at 5280′ edited by Josh Schlossberg
Denver Horror Collective

Fiction: Cross-Genre
Mourning Dove by Claire Fullerton
Firefly Southern Fiction

Fiction: Fantasy
The Hollow Gods (The Chaos Cycle Series, #1) by A.J. Vrana
The Parliament House Press

Fiction: General
Bread Bags & Bullies: Surviving the ’80’s by Steven Manchester
Luna Bella Press

Fiction: Historical
The Takeaway Men by Meryl Ain
SparkPress

Fiction: Horror
The Vanishing by Arjay Lewis
Mindbender Press

Fiction: Inspirational
The Menu by Steven Manchester
Luna Bella Press

Fiction: LGBTQ
Even Weirder Than Before by Susie Taylor
Breakwater Books

Fiction: Literary
How Fires End by Marco Rafalà
Little A

Fiction: Multicultural
Subduction by Kristen Millares Young
Red Hen Press

Fiction: Mystery/Suspense
Strong From The Heart by Jon Land
Forge

Fiction: New Age
Catalyst by Tracy Richardson
Brown Books Publishing

Fiction: Novelette
When Angels Paint: A Milford-Haven Holiday Novelette by Mara Purl
Bellekeep Books

Fiction: Novella
When the Heart Listens: A Milford-Haven Novella by Mara Purl
Bellekeep Books

Fiction: Religious
The Longest Day by Terry Toler
BeHoldings Publishing

Fiction: Romance
What the Heart Wants by Audrey Carlan
HQN

Fiction: Science Fiction
Killing Adam by Earik Beann
Profoundly One Publishing

Fiction: Short Story
Oranges by Gary Eldon Peter
New Rivers Press

Fiction: Thriller/Adventure
The President’s Dossier by James A. Scott
Oceanview Publishing

Fiction: Visionary
Journey of a JuBu by Blaine Langberg
Critical Eye

Fiction: Western
Moccasin Track by Reid Lance Rosenthal
Rockin’ SR Publishing

Fiction: Women’s Fiction
Appearances by Sondra Helene
She Writes Press

Fiction: Young Adult
The Return of the Dragon Queen by Farah Oomerbhoy
Wise Ink Creative Publishing

Health: Addiction & Recovery
Stepping Stones: A Memoir of Addiction, Loss, and Transformation by Marilea C. Rabasa
She Writes Press

Health: Aging/50+
EIGHTSOMETHINGS: A Practical Guide to Letting Go, Aging Well, and Finding Unexpected Happiness by Katharine Esty, PhD
Skyhorse Publishing

Health: Alternative Medicine
Have a Peak at This: Synergize Your Body’s Clock Towards a Highly Productive You by Said Hasyim
Self-Published

Health: Cancer
All Of Us Warriors: Cancer Stories of Survival and Loss by Rebecca Whitehead Munn
She Writes
Press

Health: Death & Dying
Aftermath: Picking Up the Pieces After a Suicide by Gary Roe
Healing Resources Publishing

Health: Diet & Exercise
Whole Person Integrative Eating: A Breakthrough Dietary Lifestyle to Treat Root Causes of Overeating, Overweight and Obesity by Deborah Kesten, MPH and Larry Scherwitz, PhD
White River Press

Health: General
True Wellness for Your Gut: Combine the best of Western and Eastern medicine for optimal digestive and metabolic health by Catherine Kurosu, MD, L.Ac. and Aihan Kuhn, CMD, OBT
YMAA Publication Center

Health: Medical Reference
The Ultimate College Student Health Handbook: Your Guide for Everything from Hangovers to Homesickness by Jill Grimes, MD
Skyhorse Publishing

Health: Psychology/Mental Health
The Big Bliss Blueprint: 100 Little Thoughts to Build Positive Life Changes by Shell Phelps
Positive Streak Publishing,

LLCHealth: Women’s Health
The Book of Help: A Memoir of Remedies by Megan Griswold
Rodale Books/Penguin Random House

History: General
Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France: Tyranny and Resistance by Stephen P. Halbrook
Independent Institute

History: Military
40 Thieves on Saipan The Elite Marine Scout-Snipers in One of WWII’s Bloodiest Battles by Joseph Tachovsky with Cynthia Kraack
Regnery History

History: United States
Liberty in Peril: Democracy and Power in American History by Randall G. Holcombe
Independent Institute

Home & Garden
My Creative Space: How to Design Your Home to Stimulate Ideas and Spark Innovation by Donald M. Rattner
Skyhorse Publishing

Humor
Struggle Bus: The Van. The Myth. The Legend. by Josh Wood
Lucid Books

Law
Banned: Immigration Enforcement in the Time of Trump by Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia
NYU Press

LGBTQ: Non-Fiction
Our Gay History in 50 States by Zaylore Stout
Wise Ink Creative Publishing

Multicultural Non-Fiction
Overcoming Ordinary Obstacles: Boldly Claiming the Facets of an Extraordinary Life by Nesha Pai
SPARK

PublicationsNarrative: Non-Fiction
Sola: One Woman’s Journey Alone Across South America by Amy Field
WanderWomyn Publishing

New Age: Non-Fiction
Embodying Soul: A Return to Wholeness by Keri Mangis
Curiosa Publishing, LLC

Novelty & Gift Book
The Official White House Christmas Ornament: Collected Stories of a Holiday Tradition by Marcia Anderson and Kristen Hunter Mason
The White House Historical Association

Parenting & Family
Why Will No One Play with Me? The Play Better Plan to Help Children of All Ages Make Friends and Thrive by Caroline Maguire, PCC, M.Ed. with Teresa Barker
Grand Central

PublishingPerforming Arts: Film, Theater, Dance, Music
THAT GUY: a stage play by Peter Anthony Fields
Amazon

Photography
Beautiful Living: Cooking the Cal-a-Vie Health Spa Way by Terri Havens
Cal-a-Vie Health Spa

Poetry
Five Oceans in a Teaspoon, poems by Dennis J. Bernstein, visuals by Warren Lehrer
Paper Crown Press

Religion: Christian Inspirational
Extraordinary Hospitality for Ordinary Christians: A Radical Approach to Preparing Your Heart & Home for Gospel-Centered Community by Victoria Duerstock
Good Books

Religion: Christianity
Come Fill This Place: A Journey of Prayer by Stacy Dietz
KP Publishing Company

Religion: Eastern
Secrets of Divine Love: A Spiritual Journey into the Heart of Islam by A. Helwa
Naulit Publishing House

Religion: General
Esoterism as Principle and as Way: A New Translation with Selected Letters by Frithjof Schuon
World Wisdom

Science
Bliss Brain: The Neuroscience of Rewiring Your Brain for Resilience, Creativity and Joy by Dawson Church
Hay House

Self-Help: General
Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done by Charlie Gilkey
Sounds True

Self-Help: Motivational
Edge: Turning Adversity into Advantage by Laura Huang
Portfolio

Self-Help: Relationships
The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around by Terry Gaspard
Sounds True

Social Change
I Am Not Your Enemy: Stories to Transform a Divided World by Michael T. McRay
Herald Press

Spirituality: General
The Universe Is Talking to You: Tap Into Signs and Synchronicity to Reveal Magical Moments Every Day by Tammy Mastroberte
Llewellyn Worldwide

Spirituality: Inspirational
Spark Change: 108 Provocative Questions for Spiritual Evolution by Jennie Lee
Sounds

TrueSports
The Martial Arts of Vietnam: An Overview of History and Styles by Augustus John Roe
YMAA Publication Center

Travel: Guides & Essays
Exploring Wine Regions — Bordeaux France: Discover Wine, Food, Castles, and The French Way of Life by Michael C. Higgins, PhD
International Exploration Society

True Crime: Non-Fiction
Beast of New Castle by Larry Sells & Margie Porter
WildBlue Press

Women’s Issues
Muslim Women Are Everything: Stereotype-Shattering Stories of Courage, Inspiration, and Adventure by Seema Yasmin, illustrated by Fahmida Azim
Harper Design, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Young Adult: Non-Fiction
My Life, My Way: How To Make Exceptional Decisions About College, Career, and Life by Elyse Hudacsko
Self-Published

Moonflower Murders

          Even paradise can get dull for some.

Though Susan Ryeland thought she was ready to retire and leave London to live on a small Greek island and run the Polydorus Hotel with Andreas, her longtime boyfriend, she begins to wonder if it was such a smart move after all. The hotel, though charming, is a little ramshackle and Susan finds her days are filled with trying to make complaining guests happy, ensure the internet is working and the linens are getting changed, among  a long list of other chores. It certainly is less than the paradise she imagined.

          Ryeland is in this restless state when the Trehernes, an English couple who own the posh Branlow Hall, an inn on the Sussex coast, check into the Polydorus. They’ve traveled all this way to ask for Ryeland’s help. Eight years earlier, their daughter Cecily was married at Branlow Hall, the charming inn they own on the Suffolk coast. On that same day, a guest at the hall named Frank Parrish was murdered and their Romanian handyman confessed to his death and is now in prison for the crime. But Cecily, after reading “Magpie Murders,” a mystery novel written by Alan Conway before his death, became convinced she knew who had really murdered the man. Indeed, Conway knew Parrish and had even based one of his other novels on the murder. Cecily.

           The Trehernes believe that Ryeland, because she was Conway’s long-time publisher before his  murder (there are a lot of murders and a lot of twist and turns to keep track of so be prepared) and helped  who killed him would be the perfect person to find Cecily who has disappeared.

          They offer her 10,000 pounds stay at their posh inn, interview their employees who worked there when Parrish was murdered, and reread the novel Conway wrote about his death in hopes she’ll pinpoint whatever it was that made Cecily so sure the handyman wasn’t the killer.

          And here it gets even more complex. “Magpie Murders” was not only the name of Conway’s book but is also the title of the real novel written by New York Times bestselling author Anthony Horowitz. In his latest, “Moonflower Murders,” he continues the saga of Ryeland, sending her once again on a mission to unravel a mystery.

          10,000 pounds and the chance to get away from the drudgery of the Polydorus are enough of an incentive for Ryeland who also loves a good mystery.

          “What you have in “Magpie Murders” and “Moonflower Murders” is a book insides a book,” says Horowitz who was asked to write a sequel immediately after Magpie came out and is also working on the television script for Magpie. “In both the books you have novelist Alan Conway hiding the solution of a modern mystery in his novel set in the 1950s. Susan, Conway’s editor, has to find the solution using clues from his novels.”

          Yes, it is that complicated but both mysteries—which are both stand-alone novels—are fascinating reads.

Horowitz, the author of more than 40 books including two Sherlock Holmes novels commissioned by the Conan Doyle estate and the bestselling Alex Rider series for young adults which has sold more than 19 million copies worldwide,” says that “Moonflower Murders” is like getting two books in one.

          Horowitz doesn’t have any virtual book events coming up, but you can watch an interview with him about “Moonflower Murders” on You Tube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thH4vrG7tWI

This story appeared in the Northwest Times of Indiana.

Laziness Does Not Exist: Drilling Down on Procrastination

         “This isn’t getting the work of the world done,” my mother used to tell me when I was young and talking on the phone to friends instead of cleaning my room or putting away the dishes or whatever else needed to be done. I still don’t know exactly what the work of the world is, but it sounds so ominously important it made me believe that my laziness was in some ways contributing to world failure.  

         Her words still echo through my life. Even now, though I know that world will go on even if I watch a whole night’s worth of “Downtown Abbey” episodes, I remember what my mother said and I turn off the T.V.

         Now, after reading “Laziness Does Not Exist” (Atria 2020; $27) by Devon Price, PhD, a Clinical Assistant Professor, Loyola University Chicago, I may reconsider that long ago lesson.

         “Laziness does not exist means there is no slothful, shameful feeling inside of us called laziness that is to blame when we fail or disappoint someone or simply lack motivation,” says Price after I ask him to define the book’s title.  “There are always structural, external factors as well as inner personal struggles that explain why someone is not meeting goals.”

Instead, Price says that often when someone is written off as lazy, the problem is actually that they’ve been asked to do far too much, and not given credit for the immense work that they are doing.

 “Fighting depression is a full time job,” he says. “Raising children in a global pandemic is a full-time job. Taking a full course load while working a job is too much to deal with flawlessly. So many people are overwhelmed and overworked, yet because they have been asked to do more than they can handle, these incredibly ambitious people are branded as lazy.” 

So how do we deal with these feelings?

Price recommends first observing the situation neutrally while trying to determine where the feeling is coming from and what do you have to learn from it.

“Sometimes, we lack motivation to do something because the task just does not matter to us — so ask yourself, do I really have to do this task? Does it matter to me, or have I just been told that I should do it? When someone is feeling lazy and beating themselves up for it, that is almost always a sign they need to cut a bunch of obligations out of their life, so they have time to rest and reorient themselves, to focus on their true priorities. “

        Self-efficacy, a confidence in one’s own ability to get things done, also comes into play.

Price describes this as a very grounded form of confidence — the confidence in one’s own capabilities.

“When a person has high self-efficacy for a particular skill or task, they trust their instincts, and know how to break a large task down into smaller parts, so they’re way less likely to get stuck in doubt, perfectionism, or inhibition,” he says.  “A lot of times when someone is struggling or procrastinating such as failing to write a paper for class, for example, it’s because they don’t trust themselves to do it well enough, or they don’t know how to take the big project and divide it into tiny bites. Unfortunately, we live in a very perfectionistic culture where lots of teachers and managers micro-manage and nitpick the people they are supposed to be mentoring, so we actually destroy a lot of people’s self-efficacy in the process. “

Price believes that we also need to act like all human lives have equal value and deserve equal support with no proof needed.

“On a more personal level, we need to approach other people with generosity and trust,” he says.  “I don’t need proof that a person on the corner asking for change deserves my money. I can trust that if he’s in that spot, he clearly needs it, and I don’t get to decide what his needs at that moment look like or how he lives his life. In general, we need to stop policing one another and viewing all needs and limitations as suspicious.” 

What: Devon Price Virtual Events

When: Thursday, February 25 at 7 p.m. CT

7:00 PM CT                                                   

Hosted by Loyola University / Chicago

Link to join in: https://luc.zoom.us/j/87434549563

Ina Garten: Modern Comfort Food

         “When I was a kid my mother would cut up hot dogs to add to canned split pea soup for me to eat,” Ina Garten tells me from the barn in West Hampton, New York where she creates and tests the recipes published in her cookbooks, including the latest Modern Comfort Food and on the her Food Network show Barefoot Contessa.

French Chicken Pot Pie for Barefood Contessa’s Frozen Food Packaging 2013

         I tell her that I ate so much split pea soup when I was a kid that my mother told me I was going to turn green. Garten laughs though it really isn’t very funny. It’s just the way she is. Polite and friendly, as if she and I are good friends rather me interviewing her in a spot where her phone gets very poor reception. That’s for sure. During the course of a 45-minute call, we get disconnected at least five times.

         But back to the split pea soup. When Garten was thinking up recipes for “Modern Comfort Food,” the 12th in her Barefoot Contessa series, it was one of the dishes she wanted to include. But not just any old split pea soup.

“My soup is from scratch and instead of hot dogs, I sauteed kielbasa,” she says. I love the way crispy sausage and the creamy soup contrast with each other.”

         Using her culinary magic, among the 85 recipes in her book she transforms the grilled cheese of childhood into Cheddar & Chutney Grilled Cheese and the frozen pot pies your mom kept in the freezer in case she was late getting home morph into Chicken Pot Pie Soup with Puff Pastry Croutons. Burnt hamburgers made by your dad the one time he tried to grill are now Smashed Hamburgers with Caramelized Onions.

         When I mention that I love her recipes because they always work and that often with celebrity cookbooks it’s just the opposite, she responds with a laugh, saying “ya’think?”

         Her recipes, on the other hand, are strenuously tested. It took her six years to perfect her recipe for Boston Cream Pie. She just couldn’t get it right until she finally found the exact flavor matches for the cake, chocolate glaze and pastry cream layers.

         Some, no make that most, of us would have given up or just said “good enough.” But not Garten which is why the Boston Cream Pie she hoped to put in two cookbooks ago didn’t make it until this one.

         “Sometimes it takes me a day to create a recipe that works just right, sometimes weeks or even months,” she says, noting that she loves getting up in the morning knowing she has a long list of recipes to test.

         She also has advice on how to use her recipes.

         “Do it once the way it’s written using the same ingredients, then you’ll know the way it is supposed to be,” she says, noting that someone once complained about one of her recipes not working and when she drilled down as to why, discovered that out of the seven ingredients called for, they didn’t use three. “It’s like someone saying the chocolate cake didn’t turn out and then they tell you they didn’t use any chocolate in it.”

Recipes courtesy of Modern Comfort Food: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.

Copyright © 2020 by Ina Garten. Photography by Quentin Bacon.

Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Serves 6

3 chicken breasts, skin-on, bone-in (2½ to 3 pounds total)

Good olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter

5 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (3 leeks) (see note)

4 cups chopped fennel, tops and cores removed (2 bulbs)

3 cups (½-inch) diced scrubbed carrots (5 medium)

1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves

¼ cup Wondra flour

¾ cup cream sherry, divided

7 cups good chicken stock, preferably homemade

1 (2 × 3-inch) piece of Italian

Parmesan cheese rind

1 (10-ounce) box frozen peas

1 cup frozen whole pearl onions

¼ cup minced fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the chicken on a sheet pan skin side up, rub the skin with olive oil, and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 minutes, until a thermometer registers 130 to 140 degrees. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove and discard the skin and bones and cut the chicken in 1-inch dice. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium (11 to 12-inch) heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset, over medium heat. Add the leeks, fennel, and carrots, and sauté over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are tender but not browned.

Stir in the garlic and tarragon and cook for one minute. Sprinkle on the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add ½ cup of the sherry, the chicken stock, 4 teaspoons salt, 1½ teaspoons pepper, and the Parmesan rind. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes.

Add the chicken, peas, and onions and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Off the heat, remove the Parmesan rind and add the remaining ¼ cup of sherry and the parsley. Serve hot in large shallow bowls with two Puff Pastry Croutons on top

Note: To prep the leeks, cut off the dark green leaves at a 45-degree angle and discard. Chop the white and light green parts, wash well in a bowl of water, and spin dry in a salad spinner. Wet leeks will steam rather than sauté.

Puff Pastry Croutons -Makes 12 croutons

All-purpose flour

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, such as Pepperidge Farm, defrosted (see note)

1 extra-large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon heavy cream, for egg wash

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Lightly dust a board and rolling pin with flour. Unfold the sheet of puff pastry on the board, dust it lightly with flour, and lightly roll the pastry just to smooth out the folds.

With a star-shaped or fluted round cookie cutters, cut 12 stars, or rounds of pastry and place them on the prepared sheet pan. Brush the tops with the egg wash, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.

Defrost puff pastry overnight in the refrigerator. You want the pastry to be very cold when you bake it. make ahead: Prepare the pastry cutouts and refrigerate. Bake just before serving.

Boston Cream Pie

Makes one 9 – inch cake / serves 8

For the cake:

¾ cup whole milk

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter

1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon grated orange zest

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1½ cups sugar

for the soak:

¹⁄₃ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

¹⁄₃ cup sugar

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

For the chocolate glaze:

¾ cup heavy cream

1¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips, such as Nestlé’s (7½ ounces)

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, such as Lindt, broken in pieces

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon instant coffee granules, such as Nescafé

Grand Marnier Pastry Cream (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter two 9-inch round baking pans, line them with parchment paper, butter and flour the pans, and tap out the excess flour. Set aside.

For the cake, scald the milk and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat (see note). Off the heat, add the vanilla and orange zest, cover the pan, and set aside. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, until thick and light yellow and the mixture falls back on itself in a ribbon. By hand, first whisk in the warm milk mixture and then slowly whisk in the flour mixture. Don’t overmix! Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn them out onto a baking rack, flipping them so the top sides are up. Cool to room temperature.

For the soak, combine the orange juice and sugar in a small (8-inch) sauté pan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Off the heat, add the Grand Marnier and set aside

For the chocolate glaze, combine the heavy cream, semisweet chocolate chips, bittersweet chocolate, corn syrup, vanilla, and coffee in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon, just until the chocolates melt. Remove from the heat and set aside for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is thick enough to fall back onto itself in a ribbon.

To assemble, cut both cakes in half horizontally. Place the bottom of one cake on a flat plate, cut side up. Brush it with a third of the soak. Spread a third of the Grand Marnier Pastry Cream on the cake. Place the top of the first cake on top, cut side down, and repeat with the soak and pastry cream. Place the bottom of the second cake on top, cut side up. Repeat with the soak and pastry cream. Place the top of the second cake on top, cut side down. Pour the ganache on the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Set aside for one hour, until the chocolate sets. Cut in wedges and serve.

Grand Marnier Pastry Cream

Makes enough for one 9-inch cake

5 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup cornstarch

1½ cups whole milk

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon heavy cream

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

1 teaspoon Cognac or brandy

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Beat the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, until very thick. Reduce the speed to low and add the cornstarch.

Meanwhile, scald the milk in a medium saucepan. With the mixer on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture starts to thicken. When the custard starts to clump on the bottom of the pan, stir constantly with a whisk (don’t beat it!) to keep the custard smooth.

Cook over low heat until the custard is very thick like pudding. If you lift some custard with the whisk, it should fall back onto itself in a ribbon. Off the heat, stir in the butter, heavy cream, Grand Marnier, Cognac, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth and transfer to a bowl. Cool for 15 minutes. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard (not the bowl) and refrigerate until very cold.

Ina Garten is doing a virtual Modern Comfort Food tour.

To find out more visit, https://barefootcontessa.com/events and https://www.williams-sonoma.com (click on events on the upper right hand corner).

Jane Ammeson can be contacted via email at janeammeson@gmail.com

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