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

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?"