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Reading & Writing With Rebecca: Issue 34

Rebecca Heyman
Rebecca Heyman
If you follow me on IG, you know that my content is roughly 50% First Line Frenzy and 40% book-related, with the final 10% a relatively even split between pictures of Primrose Everkitten, my ten-year-old Siberian cat, and posts about what I’m cooking and baking. I’m an ambitious, (over)confident home cook, and this year, I have the joy of hosting my parents for Thanksgiving for the first time.
Throughout my childhood, we spent the holiday at my maternal grandmother’s house; as she aged, one of my aunts took up the mantle, but it was never quite the same. Once I married, I started spending the holiday with my husband’s family. I missed seeing my parents and sister for my favorite meal of the year, but they lived near one another and celebrated together. A few years ago, though, my folks moved to Florida, and my sister to Michigan. Suddenly, none of us were together on Thanksgiving – and that seemed a terrible loss. My husband and I agreed to alternate years, traveling to his mom’s one year, and hosting my parents at our home the next. Just as we had our plans nicely organized… Covid. Like so many others, I spent Thanksgiving 2020 around my own kitchen table with nary a guest in sight.
Fast-forward to this year. My husband and I are boostered, my son got his first dose of the vax yesterday (huzzah!), and my parents are fully inoculated as well. All things considered, we’re comfortable hosting my folks for Thanksgiving – which means I’ve been obsessing about my menu for weeks already. Let’s not forget that Hanukkah starts the Sunday after Thanksgiving, on 28 November – which means I’m planning back-to-back food celebrations.
I can hardly articulate how much I’m looking forward to the time I’ll be spending in my kitchen in the coming week. I love the logistics of getting organized, from shopping lists to mis en place to scheduling what to cook and when. I love the cooking itself – the satisfaction of seeing a recipe come together exactly as I envisioned it. I love feeding people and eating together around a table laden with dishes prepared with care. My heart is already full, and I haven’t even made anything yet.
I know there’s a writing analogy here – something about making plans but being open to surprises, staying curious and tasting as you go. We can explore those ideas… later. For now, I want to share my menu(s)! Links lead directly to recipes where available, or to the cookbooks where recipes can be found. Feel free to write me with any questions, or to share your own favorite Thanksgiving recipes.
THANKSGIVING 2021
To Start
Autumn vegetable soup (butternut squash, sweet potato, pumpkin + carrot, served with toasted coconut)
Butternut squash and gorgonzola tart with fresh figs and honey (I had trouble finding fresh figs at my local market, so my back-up plan is to reconstitute dried Black Mission Figs by simmering in red wine and honey)
Dinner is Served
Cranberry sauce (with orange zest and cloves)
Spicy collard-stuffed pumpkins (I use a combination of collard greens and chopped kale here, and I substitute habanero peppers for the Scotch bonnet chile, which is sometimes difficult to find)
Crescent rolls (refrigerated dough – who has time to fuss with lamination on Thanksgiving?!)
Sweet potato pie
For Dessert
Pumpkin Pie
HANUKKAH 2021
Potato Latkes, Even Better (also Smitten Kitchen, but I swear they really are the best!), served with apple sauce or creme fraiche
Kale Caesar Salad with crushed croutons and lime (absolutely essential to massage the leaves, and here’s why)
Apple Butter Sufganiyot (traditional Hanukkah donuts)

Me, figuring out when to cook the turkey.
Me, figuring out when to cook the turkey.
Weekly Writing Tip
Since we won’t be putting out newsletters next week, Jen Udden (of A Faster No) and I wanted to share our last November writing worksheet a bit early. Jen & Becca’s Post-NaNo Survival Guide has our tips for what to do after the furious effort of National Novel Writing Month comes to a close.
Our previous newsletters can be found here:
If you have a moment, let me know how you liked our worksheets this month. Would you like to see more downloadable content in the future? Reply to this email to share your thoughts, and thanks!
Reading Now & Next
Longtime readers of this newsletter know that I’m a major Olivia Dade fan. Her contemporary romances are smart, funny, and authentic – perfect for readers of Roni Loren and Mhairi McFarlane. Dade’s latest, All The Feels, was released this past Tuesday (16 Nov). You can find my full review here, and you can snag a copy of the book here.
Next week’s book harvest is a bountiful one indeed, because Diana Gabaldon is gracing us with the ninth book in the Outlander series! (!!!!!!) It is a gross, near-egregious understatement to say I’ve been looking forward to Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone. I have to believe most of you have pre-ordered, marked your calendars (23 Nov), and cleared your schedules, but just in case you haven’t, buy your copy here. If, like me, you’ll be all but chained to the stove next week, you can also buy the audiobook from Libro.fm here; Davina Porter is, of course, narrating – and I can’t think of a better person to keep me company while I prepare Thanksgiving dinner.
This week I listened to The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas (aBook narrated by Phoebe Strole), a truly mediocre YA mystery. Protagonist Monica doesn’t believe her older sister Jen’s suicide five years ago was a simple tragedy; instead, she’s convinced it’s connected to the deaths of four other cheerleaders who died within the same month as Jen’s demise. She sets about looking for connections but mostly sniffs up the wrong trees, leaping to conclusions and acting like teenagers do. This book has a list of content warnings a mile long, which won’t come as a surprise when I tell you that the first chapter deals with Monica’s abortion after she’s impregnated by her older lover (the sex is off-screen and consensual, but that doesn’t stop it from being statutory rape). A two-star read, if ever there was one.
In happier news, I finished After Dark With the Duke by Julie Anne Long, and found it to be the best book in the Palace of Rogues series so far. The setting and secondary characters are germane enough to the plot that I don’t recommend reading this one as a standalone, but you can certainly skip book 3 (the weakest of the bunch) without missing a beat. This one comes out 30 November, so you have time to read the first two books in the series – Lady Derring Takes a Lover and Angel in a Devil’s Arms – if you’re committed to cozying up under a blanket every night and reading delicious historical romance with the dedication it deserves.
I am well and truly torn about Jodi Picoult’s latest, Wish You Were Here (available 30 November). For starters, this novel is about the pandemic. It contains graphic descriptions of illness and death from the POV of a surgical resident, and incorporates details about the politics, policy, and uncertainty in the US around March and April 2020. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to read about the pandemic – wasn’t sure if I could enjoy a story that feels more like nonfiction than fiction, and that capitalizes on our collective trauma. To be honest… I’m still not sure. But the real reason I’m torn – the reason I foresee reviews on this novel being split down the middle between 1-star and 5-star – is because there’s a massive narrative “trick” in the middle of the novel that is alternately infuriating and… maybe brilliant??? I’ll link to a full, spoilery review in my next newsletter.
Finally, I’ve been listening to Rosamund Pike’s brilliant narration of Paula Hawkins’ latest, A Slow Fire Burning. I haven’t read any Hawkins since The Girl on the Train, and I’d forgotten how masterfully she allocates backstory. This multi-POV thriller follows three women related, in various ways, to a dead body found on a London houseboat. I’m entirely enthralled by the story so far (just past the 60% mark), and whole-heartedly endorse Pike’s performance on the aBook. I’ll be back with a full review the week of 29 November.
First Line Frenzy Sign-Up & Events
This month’s First Line Frenzy Book Club pick is Monsoon Mansion by Cinelle Barnes. Yesterday’s booktalk on IG Live was about conflict (read to page 81 before watching if you want to avoid spoilers!).
If you’ve yet to do so, sign up here for FLFBC (you’ll have the option to submit your first line for a critique with me and Cinelle Barnes, details TBA), and get your copy of Monsoon Mansion here.
Hoping to have your line selected for a critique on IG or Twitter outside of Book Club? Fill out this form and share your work with me!
When in Doubt, Buy More Books
Made it this far? Thanks for reading! Please help me grow my audience by forwarding this email to one friend in the reading and writing community who may find my content useful. I appreciate you! xR
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Rebecca Heyman
Rebecca Heyman @rfaitheditorial

Book reviews, recommendations, and writing tips from a freelance editor and obsessive reader.

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