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Book Reviews: Short Takes for February 2015 

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Flirting With French: How a Language Charmed Me, Seduced Me, and Nearly Broke My Heart
William Alexander
Algonquin, 2014, $15.95

Dutchess County author Alexander is a serial obsessive. Moving from home-produced food (The $64 Tomato and 52 Loaves) to the language and culture that’s always entranced him, he sets his linguistic beret at a jaunty angle and plunges into an amour fou with the intricacies of gendered nouns and other things French. His quest for midlife fluency may be as quixotic a dream as the unassailable garden or perfect bread crust, but he finds unexpected rewards.




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Fishing Stories: A Lifetime of Adventures and Misadventures on Rivers, Lakes, and Seas
Nick Lyons, illustrated by Mari Lyons
Skyhorse Publishing, 2014, $24.95

Veteran angler and former publisher Lyons fell hard for fishing when, as a small boy, he hooked his first trout in the shallows above Kaaterskill Falls. These 33 tales cover all kinds of waterfronts, from the verdant Upper Peninsula stretch that inspired Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River” to an English fly-fisherman’s saga of hooking a cow by the ear, always returning to his beloved Catskills. Lyons’s prose glints and sparkles like fast-moving water.






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Winter Music
Susan Quasha & Robert Kelly
‘T’ Space Editions, 2014, $24

The minimalist navy covers of this limited-edition fine art book open to visual riches. Quasha’s luminous, spontaneous photos inspired Kelly’s equally loose, glowing texts; they’ve dubbed this collaborative interweaving of visions templations (from templum, a place marked off as special). “We made this world to share with you,” Kelly writes opposite fog-draped trees. We are grateful. Reading and slide show at Kleinert/James Art Center 2/15 at 4:30pm.




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The Reluctant Psychic
Suzan Saxman with Perdita Finn
St. Martin’s Press, 2015, $25.99

The owner of Woodstock’s White Gryphon knew from earliest childhood that she saw things others didn’t, that her “real voice” was that of an elderly Englishwoman and no one must hear it. Stifling her gifts didn’t work; releasing them brought other challenges. In fluent prose channeled by “soul sister” Finn, Saxman reveals her extraordinary lives, past and present. Appearing 1/31 at 6pm, The Golden Notebook, and 3/24 at 7pm, Mirabai, Woodstock.






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Plant Power: Transform Your Kitchen, Plate and Life With More Than 150 Fresh and Flavorful Vegan Recipes
Nava Atlas, photographs by Hannah Kaminsky
HarperCollins, 2014, $29.99

Bestselling Hudson Valley powerhouse Atlas brings her trademark warmth to this user-friendly guide to a plant-based lifestyle. The first section walks new and experienced vegans through the ethical, nutritional, and practical benefits of eating fresh whole foods rather than heavily processed meat substitutes. The second offers dozens of inventive recipes, plus such useful tips as how to tackle hard-skinned winter squash without borrowing a chainsaw (bake it first).




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Living Passionately: 21 People Who Found Their Purpose—And How You Can Too!
Maria Blon, coordinating author, foreword by Dr. Ivan Misner
Two Harbors Press, 2014, $19.95

Charting her own journey from Middletown math teacher to SPARKS entrepreneur, Blon leads off this anthology of writings by people who faced personal challenges by turning outward, volunteering in earthquake-stricken Haiti, joining Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, becoming healers. Misner’s foreword asserts, “Givers Gain,” and 15 percent of profits go to Haiti’s HEART school. Appearing 2/7 from 1pm to 4pm, Orange City Choppers Café, Newburgh.

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