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:

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.