Monday, December 6, 2010

Bookish Review: Boy Meets Girl

Meg Cabot novels are the literary equivalent of a chick flick or a Krispy Kreme doughnut. Quic, fluffy reads--they don't stay with you long, but they'll leave you smiling for a little while. This is an epistolary novel, told primarily in emails, instant messages, and journal entries. Kate, the main character, works with her best friend in the HR dept of a newspaper in NY. She has a horrible boss, is living on her friend's couch, and recently broke up with her boyfriend of 10 years--though he's not accepting the break-up. Things start to go wrong at work and she is thrown into a meeting with a lawyer--whose brother is involved with her horrid boss. But the lawyer doesn't seem to be horrid at all...

Very cute. Recommended beach read.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Bookish Review: Shades of Grey

Shades of Grey starts as most Jasper Fforde books do--by jumping in media res so you have no idea what is going on at first. The book takes place in a world where people are segregated into classes by how much of each color they are able to see. Purples--who can see blue, red, and purple--are at the top, and Greys, who have very little if any color perception are at the bottom. The book focuses on class differences and questioning the status quo. There is also a love story, of course. The book ends in a rather open-ended way, so I'd expect a sequel. Another interesting and inventive novel from Fforde, though not quite as enjoyable (and not as many literary "wink, wink"s as the Thursday Next books).

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cookish: Party Time

I've been preparing for our annual Christmas Party. Here is a new recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com.

Tiny Chicken Turnovers

Ingredients

  • 2 chopped shallots
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • shredded, cooked chicken meat (I used 2 legs and 2 thighs from a rotisserie chicken)
  • 3 tablespoons chicken stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, diced
  • 1 pkg refrigerated pie crust (2 crusts)

Directions

  1. In a large skillet saute the shallot and garlic in the butter until tender. Stir in the chicken, chicken broth, seasonings, and cream cheese. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. On a floured surface roll out the pie dough to 1/16 inch thick. Cut with a 2 1/2 inch round cookie or biscuit cutter. (I used a pint glass.) Reroll scraps and cut more circles until the pastry is used up.
  4. Mound a heaping teaspoon of filling on half of each circle. Moisten edges with water and fold pastry over filling to make a half moon shape. Press edges with a fork to seal. Prick tops with a fork for steam vents.
  5. Place turnovers on a baking sheet and bake at for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

These were very tasty! I've been told that you can bake them, freeze them, and reheat at 375 for 5-7 minutes. I'll try that for the party! Makes about 30 turnovers.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bookish Review: The Spellmans Strike Again

If you read this blog, you know I am a fan of Lisa Lutz and her Spellman series. This is book 4, and it does not disappoint.

Izzy is still dating her bartender boyfriend, but her mother does not approve, and blackmails her into going on dates with lawyers every few weeks. Rae has gotten herself a boyfriend, refuses to take the bus or buy a car, and decides to take up a crusade to free someone who was wrongly convicted. Rae is also still best friends with Henry, who starts pestering Izzy to be his friend again, too. David is dating Henry's old fiancée, and the Spellman parental units kick everyone out of the house once a week. Shortly after this, things like doorknobs start disappearing from all over the house.

The book is once again filled with family drama and little mysteries on top of the projects the family is investigating. Two thumbs up!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bookish Review: I Live in the Future, and Here's How it Works

The Children's Book Council sent me a copy of Nick Bilton's new work when I missed the annual meeting. I found it to be an interesting read. Nick focuses on the fact that technological change has always been met with skepticism, fear, and even panic--and nothing has changed about that.

Nick is an advocate of embracing this change and utilizing new technologies to create richer experiences. After all, we're certainly not going back--no one's making 8-tracks or VHS tapes anymore and it's not as if everyone's going to suddenly stop using the internet.

I thought Nick had some interesting points, though his repetition of the phrase "bytes, snacks, and meals" was extremely annoying to me. Also, Nick emphasizes that people will pay for experiences, which is not untrue, but he seemed to completely discount the fact that people will also pay for content--his point seemed to be that good content is not enough, but he almost took it too far, as if good content was meaningless. I'm not willing to go that far; I believe people will pay for content and expertise as much as experience, but the book did make some good points.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Cookish: Something Sweet

My new favorite brownies are Katharine Hepburn's brownies from the Al Dente blog: http://www.aldenteblog.com/2009/07/brownie-bakeoff-katherine-hepburn-brownies.html.

I leave out the nuts, though, and tend to underbake. Yum!

Kate's Famous Brownies

Ingredients:
2 squares (1 ounce each) unsweetened chocolate
1/4 pound butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Melt unsweetened chocolate and butter over very low heat in a heavy saucepan.

3. Remove from heat and stir in sugar.

4. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

5. Quickly stir in walnuts, flour and salt.

6. Spread the batter in a well-greased 8 x 8-inch baking pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the pan to a rack to cool.

Yield: 12 brownies

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bookish Review: Mockingjay

The final book in the Hunger Games trilogy did not disappoint! Katniss is finally going to have to choose between Peeta and Gale--if they all survive the war, that is. District 13 wants to use Katniss to help rally the rebel effort, but she's not sure she wants to let them use her like the Capitol did. When she realizes it may be her only option to save Peeta, she acquiesces, but not before naming her price.

There has been a lot of backlash over the violence in this book, and the series as a whole. I think this is ridiculous. It's not that the books aren't violent. because they absolutely are. However, the books are about war, about what is worth dying for--and what is worth killing for--and how far is too far, even in war. Guess what? Wars are violent. Men, women, and children die, often in horrible ways. That is reality, and if these books can bring that reality home to a few people, maybe we'll have fewer wars and less violence, not more of it. It's a beautifully done series. Highly recommended.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cookish: Something Sweet

So, I usually bake from scratch, but I have found one mix which even you mix-haters will appreciate:http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/brownie-mix/?pkey=cfodbakdst

Is this mix kind of ridiculously expensive? Yes, yes, it is. However, it is also ridiculously delicious. The brownies are incredible and they stay great-tasting for quite a while. Add it to your wishlist and maybe some overly generous person will buy it for you.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bookish Review: The DUFF

I'm not actually sure this is the final cover of this book, as the publisher sent me an advanced reading copy for review purposes.

I wasn't thrilled with this book. Although it tries to drive home the messages that labeling each other "whores" or "duffs" or whatever else only serves to harm us all and that maybe the consequences of sex should be kept in mind at all time, these conclusions kind of feel like afterthoughts as the main character repeatedly engages in sex with a boy she finds repugnant in an effort to take her mind off her problems. That seems to be the real message that comes through--that such behavior is okay and that you'll end up with a caring, sensitive boyfriend who no longer desires to be a man-whore because he has seen just how wonderful you are. Dangerous territory. Not recommended, especially not for easily-influenced teens.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bookish Review: Catching Fire

This is the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy, and it's probably even better than the first. Katniss and Peeta survived the Hunger Games, but their defiance of the Capitol has not been forgotten, and it seems that uprisings are inevitable and Katniss will be held responsible. How will Katniss keep her family, Gale, Haymitch, and Peeta safe? Will she have to pretend she loves Peeta forever? When she and Peeta are sent back to the Hunger Games, will either of them be able to survive again? (Well, it is a trilogy, so it seems likely Katniss isn't going to die, right?) Will Katniss be able to figure out how she feels about Gale and Peeta? The action and tension are high, just as in the first book, and when Katniss and Peeta have to travel to the other districts, I actually shed a few tears. Can't wait for the third one

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cookish: Snacktime

Easy Salsa
Adapted from Cook's Country

1/2small red onion
1/2cup fresh parsley leaves
1/4cup drained jarred pickled jalapeños
1/2 lime, juiced
2garlic cloves , peeled
1/2teaspoon salt
1(28-ounce) can diced tomatoes , drained

1. Quarter the onion and add to the bowl of your food processor. Add parsley, jalapeños, lime juice, garlic, and salt. I prefer my salsa smooth, not chunky, so I puree this pretty much all the way, but do it to your taste

2. Add drained tomatoes and pulse until combined. Again, puree more if you like it smooth, less if you want it chunky.

It's super easy and really delicious. You can easily add more jalapeños if you like it hot, or more lime juice if you want more tang. I think this would also make a very tasty bruschetta topping. The original recipe calls for draining the finished salsa a bit, but I like mine thin, so I left as-is.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bookish Review: The Chosen

The Chosen by Chaim Potok is the story of two boys growing up in Brooklyn during WWII. Both boys are Jewish but they come from two different sects. They begin the book as enemies, but when one nearly blinds the other in a baseball game, they become fast friends. Both boys have well-respected fathers who have very different methods of raising their sons, but both fathers support the friendship, knowing especially that Danny, the Hasidic (more devout & Orthodox) Jew will need Reuven's support.

Danny's future has been laid out since birth: he will inherit his father's position as Rabbi and will have an arranged marriage. The problem is that Danny is a genius with a love for psychology. He does not want to take his father's place, but his father never speaks to him about anything but the Torah, so he doesn't know how to tell him.

The book is a wonderful picture of what Jewish life was like in America following the Holocaust, as well as a great depiction of a friendship (it follows the boys from childhood through their college graduation). You don't have to be Jewish or know that much about Judaism to understand and enjoy the book--virtually everything is explained. It really is just a great story.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bookish Review: The Hunger Games

I had heard a lot about The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins before reading it. (As I'm sure you have, unless you've been living under a rock.) The trilogy is a sensation, and most of the coverage is wholly positive. Having read the book in one sitting, I can't say I disagree!

The book is set in a dismal future on what used to be the North American continent. A failed uprising has lead to 12 "districts" (the 13th was bombed into oblivion) toiling in service of the Capitol. Every year, the reaping occurs. One boy and one girl from each district are entered in the Hunger Games, where they will all battle each other to the death. Every year, only one can survive. When Katniss Everdeen's sister is chosen, she volunteers to take her place. Katniss has been taking care of her sister and mother ever since her father's death. When the boy from District 12 is chosen, it is the one person who showed Katniss kindness and helped keep her family alive soon after her father's death. How can she repay his kindness by killing him?

The book is fast-paced, well-written, and interesting. A definite page-turner, teens (and adults) should love this one.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Cookish: What's for dinner?

Shrimp over Coconut Rice

Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine
one 13.5-oz can of Lite Coconut Milk
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups basmati or jasmine rice
1 tbs green curry paste
6-8 oz fresh or frozen sugar snap peas
10 oz frozen peas
3/4 lbs of shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut into bite-size pieces
1 tsp rice wine vinegar or the juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp fish sauce (optional)

Cook the rice per package directions, substituting 2/3 cup of coconut milk for an equivalent amount of water and salting the liquid (but not too much--maybe 1 tsp salt) before cooking. Once the liquid has come to a boil and you've added the rice, you can prep your other ingredients.

While the rice is cooking, put the remaining coconut milk in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk in the curry paste. Add the peas and sugar snap peas. When the mixture is hot, add the shrimp and cook until pink and firm, about 3 minutes. Add the vinegar and fish sauce. Serve over the coconut rice.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cookish: What's for dinner?

Eggplant Parm Ravioli
This recipe is adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine.
1 large eggplant (1 1/2 lbs), peeled and coarsely chopped
EVOO
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
4 small vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
fresh or dried basil
12 egg roll wrappers

Put on a large pot of salted water to boil. Put the eggplant in the food process and process until finely chopped. (You may have to do this in batches.) In a large skillet, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom (1-1 1/2 tbs) over medium high heat. Add one smashed clove of garlic and cook until golden, 1-2 minutes. Remove the clove. Add the eggplant, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until browned (about 10 minutes). Remove the eggplant to a bowl to cool for 5 minutes, then add the cheeses to the bowl and mix well. In the skillet add another 1-1 1/2 tbs of olive oil, the tomatoes, salt and pepper. If using dried basil, add it now, and cook about 4 minutes, until tomatoes are softened. (If using fresh basil, add at the end).
Fill each eggroll wrapper with about 2 tbs of the eggplant filling. Wet two sides of the wrapper and fold in half diagonally to make large triangular ravioli. Press out all of the air and seal tightly. Once the water boils, drop in the ravioli in batches. Depending upon the size of the pot, you can probably cook 4-5 at a time. Cook for 3-4 minutes per batch. Fill four bowls with 3 ravioli each and top with tomato sauce and a sprinkle of parm. (You can add a little of the cooking water to the sauce, if you wish, but my tomatoes were juicy enough).

These were really delish! Please give them a try.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bookish Review: The Daughters

The Daughters tells the story of Lizzie Summers and her friends Carina and Hudson. All three girls are daughters of the rich and/or famous, and they have rules about being such a daughter. The book is about what happens when they break some of their rules. Lizzie is the daughter of a supermodel, but she unfortunately got the looks of her journalist father. She is mortified every time she has to pose with her mother for a paparazzi photo until she falls into "ugly modeling" and gets labeled the new face of beauty. In the midst of all this, the girls are starting high school and Carina is fighting with her business mogul father while Hudson struggles under her pop-star mother's creative control over Hudson's first album. Throw in a very attractive boy from Lizzie's past, who wants to be a friend...or more than a friend...or not even a friend, and it's quite an interesting story!

The friendships and angst feel real. Tweens will love these girls and be very eager for the next installment after the cliffhanger ending.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Book Review: If You Could See Me Now

If You Could See Me Now by Cecilia Ahern takes the premise "What if imaginary friends are not imaginary, just invisible to most people?" When Elizabeth's nephew begins seeing an invisible friend, she attempts to convince him the friend is not real. But soon, she begins to see and hear the friend as well, not realizing he is invisible to everything else. Ivan begins to shake up Elizabeth's perfectly controlled world, bringing out her childlike side--a side that wasn't even really present when she was a child, due to her difficult home situation.

The book was mostly a fun read, though it reinforces again why PS I Love You is Ahern's best-known work--it's simply her best. If you're only going to read one, go with that one.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cookish: What's for dinner?

Quinoa and Tofu Salad
1 1/2 cups quinoa
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
8 oz extra-firm tofu
8-10 oz frozen, chopped spinach
2 medium shallots
2 cloves of garlic
2-3 shakes red pepper flakes
chopped parsley (optional)
salt
pepper
olive or vegetable oil
zest of one orange
1 handful almonds, chopped and toasted
1 handful dried cranberries
balsamic vinegar, for drizzling

Rinse quinoa under cool water. Put the chicken (or vegetable) stock and water in a pot and bring to a boil (you can use all chicken stock, if you want). When boiling, add quinoa and turn down to a simmer. Cook 20 minutes, covered, or until all liquid is absorbed.

In the meantime, cut the tofu into cubes; mince your shallots, and grate the garlic. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté shallots and garlic until soft. add red pepper flakes, tofu, orange zest, frozen spinach, salt, and pepper. When spinach defrosts and everything warms up, add cranberries, almonds, and parsley.

When Quinoa is cooked, toss with spinach and tofu mixture. Drizzle each bowl with a little balsamic. Serve hot or cold.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bookish Review: Sisters Red

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce is an updated Little Red Riding Hood for teens. Scarlett's family is attacked by a Fenris when she is just a little girl. Her grandmother is killed, but she manages to protect her little sister Rosie and kill the Fenris, though she loses an eye and gains some scars in the process. Fenris are, of course, werewolves. In the mythology of this story, they are soulless creatures that change form when overly enraged or aroused. They are all men, and prey primarily on young women. Fenris don't age, but they can be killed with a hatchet or sharp knife, which Scarlett, Rosie, and their friend Silas employ to destroy the creatures. Scarlett is a single-minded hunter, but Rosie is not so sure she doesn't want more from life, and when Silas returns from a year away and realizes Rosie is not a little girl anymore, it awakens feelings in both of them that they are unsure how to handle. In the meantime, the three of them must uncover what makes a Potential, which is the only person who can become a Fenris, and only during a certain time.

The book was a good read, scary and entertaining. I did have a slight problem with the age difference between Silas and Rosie (he's 21 and she's 16--yikes!), but their affection feels real and overall the book is good.

Full Disclosure: The publisher sent me a free pre-pub copy of this book for review. It did not affect my opinion.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bookish Review:Summer Sisters

Summer Sisters is a novel for adults by Judy Blume. As a child, I loved Judy Blume, so this, with its more adult themes, gave me mixed feelings. It tells the stories of two girls who spend summers together on the East Coast. One, Caitlin, is rich and the other, Vix, is not, but their friendship provides opportunities Vix would not otherwise have. She gets to summer on the island, leaving her dysfunctional family behind in New Mexico; she gets to go to private school; she gets a scholarship to Harvard. Both girls envy each other, for different reasons, and they love each other, in their own dysfunctional way. Caitlin gets wilder and wilder as she grows up, eventually even marrying Vix's first love. Many people question why Vix remains friends with Caitlin, but how do you turn your back on the person who changed your life?

I can't say I enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed Judy Blume's books as a kid, but it was interesting to read something on this level from her.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bookish Review: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

This book is a quick read. It opens in media res--a huge Jane Austen fan finds her transported in time and it is as if she is living in a Jane Austen novel. The book is narrated by the protagonist and you are basically stuck in her head the whole time, which can be a bit taxing. She also behaves rather thoughtlessly at times, going off on rants about women's rights and nearly getting herself compromised several times. She's a bit tiresome in this regard, but the book is a quick read, fluffy and light. It's not bad if you can pick it up on the cheap, but I wouldn't recommend shelling out full price.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bookish Review: The Monsters of Templeton

This book is a bit of a love letter to Cooperstown, NY, and a fictionalized version the Cooper family (Think James Fenimore Cooper). I have only been to Cooperstown once, but it was fun to read a book that was so tied into the fabric of the town. The book features the creature that is supposed to live in the lake. Willie returns to her hometown in disgrace and extreme crisis. SHe has gotten herself into a situation where she thinks she will not be able to finish her graduate degree and her mother's dreams for her will be dashed. She comes home to find that her hippie mother has found religion--and a pastor to date, to boot. Her best friend is dying from lupus, and and her mother reveals that the story of her paternity is completely false. As she searches for the truth of her parentage and digs deeper into her family tree, the story of the town and the family unfolds through different viewpoints. Groff has a very interesting writing style, and the way the story is told adds interest.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bookish Review: Dead Until Dark

Dead Until Dark is the 1st book in the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. These are the books on which the TV show True Blood is based. Sookie is a telepathic barmaid in a small town in N. Louisiana. Two years prior to this book, synthetic blood was developed and vampires brought themselves into the light (metaphorically) and are trying to "mainstream." When a vampire walks into Sookie's bar, she is immediately attracted to him and the silence of his mind (she can't read his thoughts).

Soon, women who have been with vampires start showing up dead, and Sookie must help solve the mystery when her brother becomes a prime suspect.

I have friends who are big fans of this series, and they are fun and fluffy, to an extent. but, Sookie is a little annoying (she cries a lot, and is an odd mix of well-read and semi-stupid, with a lot of naive mixed in). Also , she and Bill (vampire) fall in love immediately, and she has sex with him almost immediately, despite the fact that she is a virgin and one who was sexually assaulted in the past. These are not unusual romance conventions, but it is a little hard to take.

Overall, not bad, but nothing you should rush out to pick up, either. The 2nd in the series is a little better.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bookish Review: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

The 3rd book in Steig Larsson's Millennium trilogy wraps up the story quite nicely. The book picks up exactly where the last one left off. Lisbeth has been shot, multiple times, and requires brain surgery. Micke is being questioned by incompetent police, and since Sapo is involved, the investigation is difficult, to say the least. Zala is still alive and Lisbeth's brother is on the run, and the police have no leads. The staff of Millennium are trying to wrap up Dag's story and prove Lisbeth's innocence (with Armansky's & Palmgren's help). With Erika leaving the staff, this is not easy, and Erika is having trouble of her own in her new job, including picking up an apparent stalker.

Micke gets yet another love interest in this one, and she is very quickly under his spell, as usual. The truth of Lisbeth's past comes out, and she actually gets some closure by the end.

Another exciting romp from Larsson--too bad it's the last one!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Book Review: Infinity

This book is the first in a new series called the Chronicles of Nick. The book is set in New Orleans, which I found to be the most interesting part. Nick is a poor teen on a scholarship at a ritzy school. His mother is a stripper and his father is in prison for murdering several people. Strange things begin happening (not unusual in New Orleans) and when zombies (but not dead zombies) begin taking over the school and trying to eat their classmates, Nick discovers that his "crazy" friends who believe in zombies and demons are not so crazy after all. Little does Nick know, he is the latest generation in a demon family, and he can choose to save the world, or destroy it.

There's also a love interest, of course, who is really watching Nick to make sure he doesn't become the embodiment of evil, but may have feelings for him, too.

The plot is a little odd, and some of the writing is hokey or laughable (in an unintended way), but it's rather entertaining, too. (How do they become zombies? a video game, if you can believe it. How to change them back? A cattle prod!)


Full Disclosure: I received a free ARC of this book at a conference, courtesy of the publisher.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cookish: What's for dinner?

Asian Eggplant Stir-fry

Ingredients
1 shallot, chopped or thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, grated or minced
vegetable oil
sesame oil
about 3 cups chopped eggplant (about 1/2 medium eggplant)
1-2 cups sugar snap peas
1 carrot, sliced
1 tsp oyster sauce
1/2 tsp chili-garlic sauce (could be increased)
1 tbp soy sauce
1 tsp hoisin
splash water
Cooked rice, for serving (I used brown rice, but white or jasmine would also be good)

Put a pan over medium-high heat and add the vegetable oil to coat. Begin sauteeing the chopped shallot until it begins to caramelize. Add the garlic and the eggplant and stir-fry until the eggplant begins to brown and soften. After a few minutes, add the carrots, followed by the sugar snap peas. Stir together the oyster sauce, chili-garlic sauce, soy, hoisin, and water. Add the sauce mixture to the pan, cover, and allow the eggplant to cook for 5 additional minutes. Test for doneness, and serve over rice!

The amount I made was determined by the size of my pan, but if you have a bigger pan, you could make more, or do the sauteeing in 2 batches.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bookish Review: Guardian of the Gate

Guardian of the Gate is Book 2 in the Prophecy of the Sisters Trilogy (Series?) by Michelle Zink. The first book is also reviewed on this site.

I actually liked this book better than the first. Perhaps it was because I didn't expect the 1st one to be a part of a series, so I was annoyed with the lack of closure. This time, I knew what to expect.

The second book picks up with Lia's quest to end the prophecy and stop her evil twin. She has been in England, trying to strengthen her powers and find the other keys. Alice is also only getting stronger. This book also brings a new love interest, though Lia has not forgotten about James. Lia takes on a new mantle as well, as she becomes next in line as Lady of Altus after the aunt passes away. She will not make her final decision on that until the prophecy is resolved. however. So, the quest continues.

This book doesn't move the action along that much, but it is a pretty fun read.

Full disclosure: I picked up a complimentary review copy of this book at a conference, courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bookish Review: Eat, Pray, Love

Eat, Pray, Love follows Elizabeth Gilbert in her world journey to find herself. First, she spends months in Italy, eating her way through the country, learning the melodic language, and immersing herself in the culture. Next, she travels to India to live in an ashram and practice yoga and meditation. Gilbert already practices yoga and already has a guru when she goes to the ashram (it is the guru's ashram, though she is not there at the same time). Finally, she spends months in Indonesia, trying to find balance, and spending time with a funny, happy medicine man she met years prior.

When Gilbert starts this quest, her life is in a shambles and she is trying to recover from an ugly divorce. She luckily finds a publisher who basically wants to fund her quest around the world in exchange for a book about it (I'll take that deal, if anyone wants to offer. The countries and timeline are negotiable. Let me know.)

The journey is interesting and Gilbert does have some enlightening moments. She also has some annoying moments and can come off as a whiner with little reason to whine. Overall, it is an interesting read, though what I really came away with was "Why doesn't someone pay me to do that?"

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cookish: What's for dinner?

Pad Kee Mao

Ingredients:
  • 1 (14-ounce) package wide rice noodles
  • 1/4 cup oyster sauce
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 2 limes)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 3 carrots, sliced on the bias
  • a handful or two of shelled edamame
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 medium jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced (I seeded one and left the seeds in the other to temper the heat,but you could probably leave the seeds in both. It wasn't very hot)
  • 1 cup loosely packed Thai basil leaves
Directions
Place noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak for about 15 minutes, until loose and pliable but not soft; drain and set aside. Meanwhile, combine oyster sauce, fish sauce, and lime juice, mix well, and set aside. (It is easy to do this in a measuring cup. Pour in 1/4 of fish sauce; add enough oyster sauce to get to the 1/2 cup mark, and then add enough lime to get to 3/4 cup.)

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. An 11-in pan is the biggest I have, but it's a bit small for this, so I had to make some adaptations. Once the pan is heated, add shallots and garlic and half the jalapeno and cook for 2 minutes or until softened but not brown. Add ground chicken and break into small pieces. Cook until chicken is white and almost cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add carrots, edamame, and the other jalepeno, and stir-fry just until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Remove some chicken mixture to a large bowl, and move the rest to the edges of the pan and add eggs to the center. Scramble with a spatula until eggs are set and don’t run, about 1 minute. Remove eggs to the large bowl and add reserved sauce mixture. Once the sauce is boiling, add the drained noodles and toss to coat. Once coated, add to the large bowl and toss with the other ingredients, including the basil. Serve immediately. Yum!

My adaptations make this less authentic, but it still tastes good

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bookish Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

This book received a ton of press, so I was anxious to read it, though I didn't know anything about it. I didn't know, for example, that it is an epistolary novel. I probably would have been reluctant to read it, had I known, since I am always wary of books written entirely in letters, but my fears were quickly assuaged. The story is intriguing and keeps you turning pages (it might even make you want to write a letter!). The main character is a writer searching for inspiration in Britain after WWII. She stumbles upon a friendship with the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and goes to the island to visit, learning about the islanders' war experience along the way. It's a very interesting and touching story, and the letters reveal a lot about the characters writing them and being written about. Recommended.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Cookish: Snacktime

This salsa was inspired by a creation of my dear friend, Clare.

1 can black beans
1 can chickpeas
1 can corn
1 serrano chile
1 medium tomato
1/4 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves
olive oil
lime
pepper
salt

Drain & rinse the beans and drain the corn; mix them all together. Core & quarter the tomato. squeeze out the seeds. Pre-heat the oven to 350. Put the chopped onion, garlic cloves (unpeeled), quartered tomato, and serrano chile (with the stem end chopped off) on a foil-line baking sheet or cake pan. drizzle with olive oil and salt & pepper and put in the oven for about 25 minutes. Remove the garlic (if soft), tomatoes, & chile. I roast the onions for about 10 minutes more, but that is up to you. Put the tomatoes & chile in a bowl and cover with saran wrap for 5-10 minutes. This will make the skin easier to remove. Remove the skin and chop the tomatoes, chile, and garlic together. Add to the beans and corn, along with the onion and olive oil used to roast the veggies. Add the juice of 1/2 the lime and some lime zest, along with salt and pepper to taste. Fridge to meld the flavors. Yum! Eat with chips, or on a salad, or on fish tacos, like I did! You could certainly add more tomatoes or onions to your taste, but the one chile does add uite a bit of heat, so be careful upping that! You could even remove some of the seeds if you are worried about it being too hot.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bookish Review: The Temptation of the Night Jasmine

This is the 5th book in Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation Series, and it follows along in the same formula as the others. All of the books are told on two levels: on one, Eloise, modern-day grad student and researcher and on the other, her latest discovery in her research. Eloise is dating a very handsome Brit who is descended from the very spies she is researching for her dissertation. In this volume, Eloise uncovers the story of Charlotte, a friend of some of the other ladies she has studied, and her distant cousin Robert. They, of course, fall in love and discover a plot to kidnap the king in the meantime!

These books are fun and fluffy, quite a quick read, and always have a happy ending. Good fun.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bookish Review: The Shadow of the Wind

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a book for book lovers. Initially, it reminded me of InkHeart, but it is not quite a fantasy like that. The book opens with a book dealer taking his young son, Daniel, to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a repository for books that fell out of print, were destroyed, or forgotten. Some of the books here may be the only copies left of their respective tomes. Such is the case with The Shadow of the Wind. Daniel becomes obsessed with the book and its mysterious author, Julian Carax. The story follows Daniel as he grows up and persists in his quest to find what became of Carax, all the while unknowingly following in Carax's footsteps.

The book is a reader's journey and does have a few twists and turns along the way. Nicely executed. A recommended read.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bookish Review: Rusty Nail



Rusty Nail is the 3rd book in the Jack Daniels series by J A Konrath. The books center on Detective Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels. In this installment, Jack is faced with a probably copycat killer. She is sent a video of a murder that follows the same MO as the Gingerbread Man--a serial killer that Jack already caught. Jack is ordered to stay away from the case, but the killer is targeting her personally, and she can't stay away. Before all is resolved, Jack, her partner, and her friends will all become the targets of the sadistic killer.

The book is pretty graphic, and there is plenty of dismemberment, torture, abuse, and murder. So, be prepared. The story is pretty good, though I found some of Jack's reactions and actions unbelievable and the killer was rather predictable.

Not a bad read, but not sensational, either.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bookish Review: The Grimm Legacy



The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman tells the story of Elizabeth Rew, who takes a job at the New York Circulating Material Repository. The Repository is like a library, but instead of lending books, it lends objects, including doublets, old spoons, and Marie Antoinette's wig. In addition to the ordinary objects, however, are objects from the Grimm fairy tales and other magical bric-a-brac. Elizabeth is excited to be trusted with the magical objects, but all is not well at the repository. Things keep disappearing, and the pages are being tracked by a large, black bird. When one of the pages disappears, Elizabeth and her friends decide to take matters into their own hands.

There is, of course, also a romantic storyline involved.

The book is a fun read, and should appeal to fairytale lovers.

Full Disclosure: I picked up a free ARC of this book at a conference. Pub Date: July 2010

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bookish Review: Ship Breaker



Ship Breaker is set in a disturbing future where grounded oil tankers are being scavenged for parts. Nailer scrambles through the tight spaces to gather up copper wiring while dreaming of one day riding on one of the high-tech clipper ships someone in his class will never set foot on. Nailer's work is perilous--he nearly drowns in a hidden oil tank (a very valuable commodity)--and his father is an abusive drunk. Nailer does have loyal friends on his crew, though. When he and his friend Pima find a lone survivor of a shipwreck--who happens to be a very wealthy girl--Nailer decides to follow his conscience and help her find her family rather than killing her or ransoming her. By doing the right thing, he finds a way to live his dream. But with the bad guys chasing them--led by Nailer's father--it won't be an easy journey.

The book is well-written and enjoyable, though as a Gulf Coast resident, I did find it a bleak and disturbing vision of the future.

Full Disclosure: I picked up a free ARC of this book at a conference. Pub date: May 2010

Friday, May 7, 2010

Bookish Movie: The Lovely Bones

I loved this book, but I wondered how it would translate into a movie. After watching it, I think my first instincts were correct, and this just should not have been made into a movie. I think Stanley Tucci did a great job as a child murderer (creepy!), and, in fact, all of the acting was good. It was just not as compelling to me as it was as a book, and didn't really hold my interest.

Please read the book (but buy some Kleenex!). The movie, you can skip.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bookish Review: The Prince of Mist



The Prince of Mist is a translation. The author is best known for his book The Shadow of the Wind. Max Carver moves with his family to a new house in a new town. Once there, strange things begin happening, centered around an old shipwreck and a creepy garden of circus statues at the house. Max and his sister Alicia make a new friend, Roland, whose grandfather knows a lot about the evil in the town. It turns out that no one is in more danger than Roland.

The book is appropriately creepy, though the ending is not very satisfying--too many loose ends; probably an open door for sequels. I'm also not a huge fan of the title--it's not quite ominous enough.

Full disclosure: Little, Brown sent me a free ARC of this book. It will be available on May 4.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bookish Review: The Cardturner



Louis Sachar is probably best known as the author of Holes. In this book, he tells the story of Alton Richards, who is coerced into helping his blind great-uncle by his parents, who have hopes that the rich uncle will leave them lots of money in his will if Alton sucks up to him enough. Alton dreads the duty at first, but he comes to like and love his uncle and the game that he plays--bridge. Sachar manages to make bridge seem exciting and challenging while not making the rules too confusing. Alton, of course, also finds a bridge-loving girl. The book is pretty straightforward, but the end does have a supernatural element.

Fun, quick read--it may inspire a whole new generation of bridge lovers. I don't get the cover, though--it seems to have nothing to do with the plot.

Full disclosure: I picked up a free ARC of this book at a conference. Pub date: May 11, 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010

Bookish Review: Rules of Attraction



Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles is a sequel to her novel, Perfect Chemistry (which I have not read). It reads like a Harlequin romance for teens. Carlos Fuentes is a first-generation American whose mother moved back to Mexico after he and his brother were involved in gang activity in Chicago. When he gets in even deeper trouble in Mexico, she sends him back to the US to live with his brother--who has cleaned up his act--in Colorado. Carlos has a major chip on his shoulder, and when he is framed in a school drug bust, he is forced to move in with his classmate Kiara and her family. Carlos thinks Kiara is so not his type, but he finds himself inexplicably drawn to her, and she feels the same. Carlos is involved in a dangerous situation, and it is up to Kiara's family to save him.

The attraction and soulmate business is laid on a bit thick, but I think teens will find it compelling. NB: Carlos & Kiara do have sex (thought it is not too graphically described), so know your audience before letting your kids read it.

Full Disclosure: I picked up a free ARC of this book at a conference. The book did pub this month, though.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bookish Review: Finger Lickin' Fifteen

This is the newest volume in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. Readers of the series will know what to expect. Stephanie Plum is a hapless bounty hunter. Each book involves a romantic subplot with either (or both) Joe Morelli and the mysterious Ranger Manoso, In this case, Stephanie is yet again "off-again" with Morelli, and coincidentally Ranger needs her help investigating some break-ins. Lula, Stephanie's big, flashy, former-'ho' sidekick, witnesses a murder and she and Stephanie must avoid the hitmen trying to take her down. Stephanie weighs her options between Morelli and Ranger, her mother tries to set her up with new men, and Grandma and Lula decide to learn how to barbeque. The book is fun and fluffy, as usual, but the typical pattern is starting to get old after 15 installments. Let's hope #16 has something new to offer.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Bookish Review: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane follows serious student Connie Goodwin on her quest to finish her thesis for her Ph. D. In the middle of her search for an original source, she is also on a mission from her hippie mother to clean up and sell her grandmother's old house. As she works on the house, strange things begin to happen, and as she follows up on a lead to an original source--a possible book of spells owned by one of the women involved in the Salem witch trials--things only get stranger. Add in a handsome stranger and a demanding advisor and you've got an interesting and compelling read. The only drawback is that Connie herself often fails to see the obvious, which is a bit annoying, but the story overall is good, and puts witchcraft in an interesting perspective, as a gift from God rather than the devil's work. Fun read.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cookish: What's for dinner?

The grocery store had a sale on pasta this week. So, I bought myself some wagon wheel pasta. Yes, wagon wheels. I wanted to feel like I was 5.

But then I decided to grow up. So, I stopped eating them covered in nothing but grated cheese and made myself some tomato sauce.

It was a little healthier, but still fun, thanks to the wagon wheels.

Ingredients
2-3 small shallots
2-3 cloves of garlic
4-5 mushrooms (more or less based on your preference)
salt
pepper
olive oil
oregano
basil
red pepper flakes
one large can crushed tomatoes
one large can diced tomatoes
chicken stock
Heavy cream

Mince the shallots and saute in olive oil. Chop the mushrooms and add to the pot. Saute for a few minutes; add grated/minced garlic. Add black pepper, salt, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes. Add the crushed tomatoes. Drain the diced tomatoes slightly and add to the pan. Use a small amount of chicken stock (or water) to swish out the crushed tomato can and add to the sauce, so you get every last drop! Simmer for 15-20 minutes (or longer, if you have more time). Taste for seasoning. Remove from the heat and add some cream (start with 1/4 cup and add more to taste). Creamy and delicious! Serve over wagon wheels (or pasta of your choice) with some Parmesan on top. (You could also add some mozzarella or ricotta, if you want extra creamy yumminess. Or use cream cheese in place of heavy cream. Ooh!)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Bookish Review: In the Woods

In the Woods by Tana French is a mystery set in Ireland. Detectives are assigned to a murder case in which a child has been murdered and placed in an archaelogical dig site near a wood. Complicating matters is the fact that one of the detectives assigned to the case grew up in the neighborhood near the woods and when he was young, two of his friends disappeared in the woods and he was left, bloody and scratched, and with no memory of what happened. Could the cases be related?

The book is well-written, with Detective Rob Ryan looking back at the case and recounting what happened. He is not always a reliable narrator, but gives an interesting view of the case and how he tried to figure out what happened to the murdered girl and to remember what happened to his friends.

My complaint with the book is that I don't like loose ends and not all of the mysteries are solved. But I suppose that is more true to life, no?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Bookish Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a lovely mystery/crime novel by a first-time (70-year-old) novelist. The protagonist, Flavia de Luce, is quite charming. At 11 years old, she has a love of chemistry, an obsession with poisons, and takes great joy in tormenting her older sisters. When she stumbles across a dying man in their garden at 4 in the morning, she is suddenly caught up in solving the mystery and proving her father innocent of murder. Tied up in the investigation are rare stamps, an apparent suicide from her father's schoolboy days, a jacksnipe, a cream pie, and some strangers in town. Flavia is brilliant and you'll stick with her every step of the way as she plans to outsmart the inspectors and solve the mystery for herself. Luckily, this is only the first Flavia mystery, with more on the way

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bookish Review: Paper Towns

First, I must mention that I was a big John Green fan before I ever read this book, even though this is the first John Green book I've ever read. I am an out-and-out nerdfighter, a huge fan of John and Hank Green's vlog on YouTube. If you have not seen it, please check it out.You won't regret it. DFTBA.

So, I had really high hopes for this book--I was even a little afraid to read it, because if it wasn't as good as I hoped, could I still love John as much?

The book focuses on Quentin Jacobsen, his band geek friends, and his love for his mysterious and super-cool neighbor, Margo Roth Speigelman. Margo and Q were friends when they were children, but of course that ended. Until one night, she appears at Q's window and takes him on the adventure of a lifetime. And then promptly disappears. Q feels certain it is up to him to find her, dead or alive.

There was a brief moment in the middle--maybe 2/3 of the way through--that I thought I was going to be disappointed. Things were dragging a little. But then, Q finds what he thinks will be the right path to find Margo, and the story picks right back up.

It's a great tale, funny and touching. A nice coming of age romp. Q's friend Ben is probably the weakest part of the tale--a few too many "honeybunny"s in his dialogue. But otherwise, it is quite enjoyable. Good for teens seeking their place in the world.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cookish: Snacktime

Artichoke Dip

1 can artichokes, drained and chopped
1 8 oz block of cream cheese
1/3 cup of mayo
1 pkg Sargento premium blends, Parmesean and Romano
black pepper
garlic powder
crackers, for serving

Preheat oven to 350. Put the cream cheese in a microwave-safe container and zap for about 30 seconds, or til soft. Mix with the mayo, add the artichokes, and about 3/4 the bag of cheese. Add some black pepper and garlic powder to taste. Place dip in a glass pie dish or similar receptacle, cover the top with the remaining cheese and bake until hot & bubbly, about 15 minutes.

Serve with crackers. Yum.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bookish Review: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Isn't the cover design of this book awesome?

Calpurnia Tate is a girl growing up in TX at the turn of the 20th century. In a household filled with brothers, Callie's mother has high hopes for her coming out in a few years and is struggling mightily to get Callie to learn knitting, sewing, cooking, and other domestic arts--all of which Callie hates. What Callie loves is investigations with her naturalist grandfather, who teaches her about microbes, plants, animals, observation, the scientific method, and The Origin of the Species. As Callie grows to love science, she also begins to realize that a career or education at the university is probably off-limits to her as her family believes her future lies in a good marriage. As she sees the injustice of it all, she begins to wonder what her future holds.

Callie is a very compelling protagonist, and the ending does not answer all questions about where her future lies--there's definitely room for a sequel here.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bookish Review: The Girl Who Played with Fire




This book is the sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which I really thought I already reviewed on here, but it sure doesn't look like it. My short review on facebook was: "A little slow to start, but very interesting and a good read. Can't wait to get my hands on the next one." Make sure you read that one first, and then get your hands on this one.

Stieg Larsson tends to set up his books with many different characters and storylines going on so that when you start you wonder where the heck he is going with all of it and how it will fit together, bit somehow it all works. The pacing in the beginning is slow, but it picks up as the book goes on. He has created some very interesting characters, particularly the main characters of Mikael Blomkvist, a journalistic crusader and ladies' man, and Lisbeth Salander, an astonishingly smart but socially inept hacker that has been declared incompetent by the state (she's "the girl" in both titles). This book brings more insight into Salander's psychological make-up as we learn more about the past, including who her father is. The main plot of the book centers around human trafficking and the sex trade in Sweden. Blomkvist is working with an author who intends to write an expose on the situation, but when he is murdered, and Salander becomes the main suspect, it is up to Blomkvist to discover what is really going on. Meanwhile, Salander stumbles upon a link to her past that she would very much like to sever, and though she doesn't want to rely on Blomkvist at all, she must accept his aid, at least a little.

The book definitely leaves you wanting more and sets things up nicely for the final volume in the trilogy, The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. Larsson has a very interesting and compelling style and it is extremely unfortunate that he is now deceased, so these 3 books are presumably the only ones we'll see from him. Highly recommended.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bookish Review: Revenge of the Spellmans

Lisa Lutz has done it again with another great Spellman romp. This is the third book in the series--please read the 1st two first; you won't regret it. It's a very fast and fun read. Izzy Spellman is forced into court-ordered therapy, which she mostly gets through by taking long pauses where she pretends to think about her responses. In the meantime, she takes up secretly living in her brother's house while trying to investigate the recent changes in his life. She also must decide if she wants to quit the PI biz for good, or go back to working for her parents. She also needs to stop Rae, her sister, from trying to break up their cop friend Henry and his girlfriend (even though Izzy is in love with Henry) and stop her from stealing Izzy's car. She must also convince her old friend Morty to move away to Florida and solve a case--the result of which will determine her future.

There's lots of intrigue, familial investigating, blackmail, car chases, stakeouts--all the usual Spellman ingredients. It's funny and well-written, and I can't wait for the next one!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bookish Review: The Long Way Home by Andrew Klavan


The Long Way Home is the second book in the Homelanders series by Andrew Klavan.

Charlie West was an ordinary teen until he woke up to discover a year of his life gone--during which he’d been convicted of murder and gotten involved with a gang of terrorists. Charlie is headed back to his hometown to uncover the true murderer and prove his innocence—to himself and everyone else.

This story is Christian YA fiction. It’s written in relatively quick chapters, and since Charlie is on the run from the police and a bunch of terrorists, it is pretty fast-paced. The main character is 18, though his point of view does feel a bit younger. Keeping in mind that an entire year has passed that he can’t remember, I suppose the slightly younger tone is not out of place. At times, I found the tone a bit dogmatic, but overall, it is a fairly fast read with a patriotic feel. I could definitely see this used in a Christian homeschool curriculum. I did not read the first book in the series, but I wasn’t confused about the plot. Some interesting points are revealed, and it does leave you wondering what will happen next. Recommended for teen guys with patriotic/religious leanings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com http://BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cookish: What's for dinner?

Tortilla Soup

Well, folks, I have developed a bit of a cold. You know what the remedy for that is--chicken soup, no? But chicken noodle is...great, but not that special. I need a little more kick to power through this, so chicken tortilla soup it is.

Canola oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 serrano chile, minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
cumin
chile powder
oregano
1 packet sazon (optional)
black pepper
1 quart of chicken stock
1 can tomato sauce
1 chicken breasts
3 carrots, chopped
1 can black beans
corn, canned or frozen (or fresh)
crushed tortilla chips (optional)

For garnish:
limes
cheese
tortilla chips
sour cream

Put enough oil to cover the bottom of the pot and heat over medium heat. Add onion and chile and saute over medium heat. Once onions start to soften, add 3 grated garlic cloves. add cumin, chile powder, and oregano and toast. I also had some sazon con culantro e achiote, so I threw a packet in. That does contain MSG, so be aware, if you have an allergy. I wouldn't buy it just for this, but if you have it, why not throw it in? Add black pepper, chicken stock, and chicken breasts (you can even add these directly from the freezer--that's what I did) and a bay leaf or two and allow to simmer until chicken is cooked. While the chicken is cooking, peel and chop 3 carrots. Drain the excess liquid off a can of black beans. When the chicken is done (or nearly so, you are going to add it back to the soup), remove it from the pot and allow to cool slightly. Add carrots, corn, tomato sauce, and beans to the pot. If you have some leftover tortilla chips, you can crush them and add to the soup to help it thicken. Shred chicken and return to pot to simmer until everything is cooked and flavors melded. Taste, and add seasoning if necessary.

Serve with tortilla chips/strips, avocado, a squeeze of lime, and cheese or sour cream. You can make the tortilla strips yourself from flour or corn tortillas or just buy some chips. (You can even make the tortillas yourself--it's quite easy to make either corn or flour tortillas, but it is time consuming.)

The soup is quite tasty, and I feel that I am on the road to recovery!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Bookish Review: The Book Thief

I had heard a LOT about The Book Thief. The book garnered lots of awards and buzz and praise, so I was very excited to read it. From the title, I am not sure what I expected. I think I had read that it involved WWII, so perhaps I was thinking it was about someone who saved books from being burned in the war. It's not.

First of all, it is set during WWII, so you have to know it can't be the cheeriest story. It involves war, and death, and deprivation.

Secondly, it's narrated by Death. So, again, doesn't point to the warm fuzzies.

But it is a lovely book. A story about a young German girl in an unusual home in a small town in Germany. Her family takes in and befriends a Jewish man during the war, but eventually it becomes too risky, for him and for them. The girl cannot read, but her foster father patiently and painstakingly teaches her until she becomes a lover of words and a stealer of books.

It's not the typical Holocaust story or just a book lovers' story, but it is beautifully written and touching.

Highly recommended.