As one half of "The Whisky Couple," Hans Offringa conducts whisky nosing and tasting sessions throughout Europe and the USA. Offringa has just published Whisky & Jazz, a coffee-table book that combines two of his great loves. Read more about his inspiration for this book, volume two in a four-part series that combines whisky and the four senses.
Whisky & the Senses
guest blog by Hans Offringa
At the age of 18 I graduated from high school and, as a celebration ritual, was offered my first glass of Scotch whisky by a good friend. I instantly fell for the drink, and my natural curiosity made me go on a quest. It would turn out to be a lifelong quest. As a professional writer with more than 30 years of writing articles, books and manuals under my belt, I have been doing some serious traveling, mostly for research, from Scotland to Kentucky, from Hong Kong to San Francisco, from St. Petersburg, Russia, to the Sinai desert in Africa. My favorite country, however, is Scotland.
When I first visited that wonderful place some 20 years ago, the main purpose was to meet a series of distillers for interviews and photography. I fell in love with the countryside, with the people and with nature as a whole. Over the years I have traveled countless times to this part of the world and accumulated a wealth of knowledge and perhaps a bit of wisdom on the side thanks to the many people who were willing to help me: distillers, marketeers and fellow writers. In 1999, I published my first work about whisky with a Scottish business partner. It proved to be the start of a whole series of books and articles about the craitur. Three years ago I developed the idea to write four different coffee table style books about whisky and the senses. After all, we appreciate a good dram of whisky with our ears, our eyes, our nose and our palate. We hear a gurgling sound when we pour the whisky, we watch the colour, we smell the aromas and when we taste a sip, we feel a prickling sensation. Five senses cooperate closely to give us an impression of what we savour.
In 2007, part one, A Taste of Whisky, was published. In the book I describe how flavors and aromas come into being and how you can learn to discern them yourself. To top it off I asked four chefs from four different countries to create a 10-course menu with 10 single malt whiskies I selected specially for them. They all took an entirely different approach, as I had hoped for. On May 29 this year, part two was launched: Whisky & Jazz. In the first chapter, I compare the history of jazz with the history of whisky and identify areas of resemblance. In the second chapter, I describe the life stories of 10 jazz musicians followed by a chapter about 10 fine distilleries. The last chapter is a sipping and tasting guide, where I blend a particular song with a particular whisky, enhancing both the enjoyment of listening to music and the tasting superb whiskies. For each blend I wrote a blue note and a tasting note. Here you can find a link to the 10 pieces of music and listen to them while savouring your dram. Part three (looking) and four (feeling) of Whisky & the Senses are scheduled for publishing in 2010 and 2011. All four books can be read independently.
Trivia question: what was the very first pick for Oprah’s Book Club? Answer: Jacquelyn Mitchard’s Deep End of the Ocean, a critically acclaimed tale of catastrophe: losing—and finding, nine years later—a child. In the intervening years, the book was made into a film (starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Treat Williams) and Mitchard wrote several bestsellers for adults, young adults, and children.
Fans will be thrilled to learn that Mitchard has finally written a sequel to Deep End of the Ocean. No Time to Wave Goodbye is due to hit bookstores and libraries on September 15. For a sneak peek, here is a quote from the publicity material:
“Now, 13 years later, Mitchard returns to the Cappadora family...Vincent, the oldest Cappadora son, has become a filmmaker. With the help of his brother Ben and sister Kerry, Vincent makes a documentary film about the lifelong trauma of child abduction and receives an Academy Award nomination for his work. On the night of the award ceremony, the Cappadora’s world turns upside once again as their courage, loyalty and faith are tested as never before.”
The BookPage staffers are no strangers to book signings at our local Davis Kidd. But last night, things were a little different at the Green Hills area bookstore. Lauren Conrad, reality television starlet (known for “Laguna Beach” and “The Hills”), was in town signing copies of her young adult novel, L.A. Candy – and Nashville fans sure took notice. Over 350 people turned out for the signing, and when Trisha and I arrived at 5:15 (for a 6pm signing) we were relegated to the farthest corner of the bookstore (and at the end of the dreaded ‘standby’ line).
Luckily we found some interesting books to pass the time.
And we certainly enjoyed the people-watching.
At long last, the woman of the hour arrived, and was met by shrieks of joy from her many eager fans.
The signing line actually moved pretty quickly (“No personalizations, no posed photos, Ms. Conrad will only sign copies of her book”) and at the end of the night, we were two happy campers, with freshly signed copies of L.A. Candy.
Trisha gets the “Good Sport of the Night” award, since she was probably the only person at the signing who hasn’t ever seen a complete episode of “The Hills.” And Abby, well, she’s thankful she has coworkers happy to indulge her guilty pleasures (including, but not limited to: reality television, celebrity magazines and so-bad-they’re-good romantic comedies).
Have you ever been to a crazy celebrity book signing? Leave us your stories here!
It has been four years since her blockbuster debut, The Historian, but Elizabeth Kostova is rising again on January 21 with a second act, The Swan Thieves. Instead of literature, this time Kostova's subject is painting—and painters who struggle to balance love and art. The novel goes from 1870s France to the modern day as a Washington, D.C., psychiatrist tries to discover why one of his patients attacked painting in the National Gallery.
She told Powell's she began work on The Swan Thieves before The Historian was even published. "I felt it was important for me to get back to writing right away — to draw that magic, private circle again."
After the jump, a video of Kostova discussing the novel.
Today the Book Case welcomes author Mindy Friddle—a Southern writer who's celebrating the recent release of her second novel, Secret Keepers.
guest post by Mindy Friddle
One of my favorite parts about writing fiction is taking a familiar setting, tweaking it, and making it a character’s own. You won’t believe how liberating it is to depart from a map, wander away from the grid of streets, and imagine a slightly skewed version of a place.
My second novel, Secret Keepers, is set in Palmetto, loosely based on my hometown and its overlay of New South over Old South, Although it's a contemporary story, there's a narrative sweep from the early 1900's to the late 1980's, illustrated by changing landmarks. For example, the Confederate monument in the opening pages of Secret Keepers has been relocated from a central location in town to a new marginalized spot in the New South—in front of a cemetery. That really happened in my hometown. In the book, that statue is none other than General Robert E. Lee, and he’s pointing. Fiercely. I made that part up. And the cemetery? I changed it from Springwood to Springforth. I thought Springforth was a better name for a cemetery, anyway.
In Secret Keepers, McCann Square is known as the first “temperature-controlled shopping center” in Palmetto that once “dazzled the fickle town like a mistress” and lured away downtown department stores. It’s based on a shopping center I used to frequent back in the 80’s; the kind of place you’d find Members Only jackets and buy REO Speedwagon and Styx cassette tapes at the Record Bar. That was BM. Before Malls. A few years ago, that shopping center nearly went under, before it was transformed into an anchor for the local community college. In SECRET KEEPERS, McCann Square is rescued from abandonment when investors turn the place into a “faith-based commerce mall.” Renamed Crossroads, it attracts stores such as Hole in the Sole Shoe Repair, Pray and Pay Title Loans, and Testamints Candy Shop. One character in the novel, Dora, harbors an uneasy attachment to the revamped shopping center. In her wayward youth Dora frequented McCann Square, but now she is trying—and failing—to forget her past and reinvent herself. But try as she might, she still sees McCann Square winking at her behind the veil of Crossroads.
Sometimes I find inspiration right in my front yard. The pitcher plants, Love-Lies-Bleeding, and moonflower vine in my garden prompted some poetic license. Amaranth, a seedy, neglected estate in Secret Keepers, has a secret garden. When the Blooming Idiots gardeners stumble upon its bounty of botanicals, they find a few other-worldly flowers as well: secret keepers are flowers with a potent aroma that trigger a powerful memory of love in a person’s life. Soul shines are preternaturally sensitive, and react to a person’s feelings by shrinking or blooming. But other than these flights of fancy and warped locations, most of the novel is grounded in realism: Family secrets, mother-daughter conflicts, strained marriages, grief, lust. Humor, hopefully, winds through it all like a vine.
“I created a cosmos of my own,” William Faulkner said about Yoknapatawpha County, the setting for most of his novels and short stories, patterned upon his actual home in Lafayette County, Mississippi. Not that I’m comparing my work to Faulkner. Jeez! But I love the fact that in ABSALOM, ABSALOM! he included a hand-drawn map of his “apocryphal county,” signing it, "William Faulkner, Sole Owner & Proprietor."
I don’t know if I’ll ever go as far as sketching a map. When people tell me they loved getting lost in my book, it pretty much makes my day.
The universe of superheroes is unfairly dominated by guys, don’t you think? What we need is a little gender equity to balance SpiderMAN, SuperMAN and BatMAN. Children’s book author Jarrett J. Krosoczka is doing his part to promote female omnipotence with a new series that features a school cafeteria worker with special powers. The series debuts in late July with the release of book one, Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute, told in graphic novel format for ages 7 to 10.
Now, before the first book even hits shelves, comes the exciting news that Universal has snapped up film rights to the series with Saturday Night Live’s Amy Poehler on board as star and executive producer. We can’t wait to see Poehler as the apron-clad Lunch Lady who dishes out justice along with chicken patties and sloppy joes. And we’re thrilled to see the talented and super-nice Krosoczka get this very special recognition. So thrilled, in fact, that we immediately had to find out if he'd ever imagined something like this in his wildest dreams:
“Well . . . let's not get too far ahead of things,” Krosoczka says via email, proving that his feet are still on the ground. “The books aren't out just yet, so I don't want to jinx anything. But there is so much momentum as I head into the release date. I've been promoting these books in my school visits for years now and people are eager for new age-appropriate graphic novels. And of course the news about Universal and Amy Poehler's interest is just incredible!”
Of course we couldn't resist a few more questions for Jarrett:
How did the movie deal come about?
Back in January, The Gotham Group (who manages the film rights to my books) asked if I was interested in their being attached to Lunch Lady as producers for a possible live-action feature. I was thrilled by this news and signed on. I've been a fan of Amy Poehler for a very long time now, so we sent her a copy of the first Lunch Lady book. She loved it! Two writers were attached (Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern) and they, along with Ms. Poehler pitched the project to Universal. And Universal loved it!
How did you come up with this character?
Back in 2001, I visited my old elementary school (Gates Lane School) to speak about the publication of my first book, Good Night, Monkey Boy. There, I ran into Jeannie, my old lunch lady. She started telling me about her grandkids—which blew my mind! My lunch lady had kids, who then had kids? She had a life outside of the cafeteria. So it got me thinking . . . what would a lunch lady do when she wasn't a lunch lady. She'd fight crime!
What’s your favorite thing about the Lunch Lady?
I'm having a blast with the action and the absurd humor in these books. On one page I can have Lunch Lady fighting robots with her fish stick nun-chucks, on another page she is elated that she'll be making chicken patty piazza for lunch. She's a very fun character and I hope people love reading about her as much as I've enjoyed writing about her.
A second book in the series, Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians, will also be published on July 28, with a third title planned in December and a fourth next summer. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Krosoczka has written and illustrated nine picture books, including two Punk Farm titles. For more fun facts about this imaginative and clever guy, check out his website, which includes a bio, a short bio, a serious bio, a fake bio and a faker bio. And don't miss the audio clip that reveals how to pronounce his last name—a name we'll all be hearing more about.
C'mon people, with Father's Day just four days away, we'd like to have more nominees for favorite fictional father.
Vote getters so far:
We're going with Atticus Finch*, but you might have a different idea. Check out the comments and dive in for a chance to win four new books on fatherhood.
*Atticus on courage: "I wanted you to see what REAL courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do." (To Kill a Mockingbird)
While checking out Penguin's new site to promote their books and authors, From the Editor's Office, I came across this video with JR Ward. She discussed several of the same topics in our web-only interview.
What do you think of author videos? Do they enhance your reading experience in a way that print interviews don't, or are you happy to stick to the page? If you prefer one over the other, I'd love to know why. I'm a fan of both—I tend to have a longer attention span for reading than watching a video, but it's also interesting to hear an author's voice and see what they look like, even if I sometimes find myself fixating on their fashion choices (love the ruffles, JR, but what's with the shades?).
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Readers are buzzing about the mystery debut from Attica Locke, Black Water Rising. The L.A. Times calls Locke "a writer wise beyond her years," Sarah Weinman is a fan, and the novel garnered positive pre-pub reviews from Library Journal and Kirkus. [via]
Come July, they can add praise from BookPage to that chorus. Whodunit? columnist Bruce Tierney chose Black Water Rising as one of his four favorite mystery debuts of the summer, calling the mystery "an excellent book by any measure, but as a debut, it is nothing short of astonishing."
Can't wait two weeks? Want to discover Bruce's other favorites before the L.A. Times does? Click here for a sneak peek.
If you’re gift-challenged like me, holidays/birthdays/graduations and other gift-giving events have a way of sneaking up on you. We’re doing our part to help out by warning you a full week in advance that Sunday is FATHER’S DAY and if you don’t already have an idea for a present, you’d better get busy. Wait, there’s more. We’re also offering one lucky reader a chance to snag a Father’s Day gift collection without ever leaving the sofa. Our “Four for Father” collection includes these new releases: