Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

I added The Truth About Forever to my tbr list (and the The Original TBR Challenge) because I had picked up the ARC from a friend. I'd heard good things about Dessen and since I hadn't read her before, I figured I should check it out.
Macy's sixteen and trying to be perfect. She has the perfect boyfriend who will be leaving her for the summer. She's just has to make through the summer to get her perfect life going. At first I wasn't sure if I would like Macy til I realized that we shared that unattainable desire to be perfect. I could clearly could see her struggle against the ideal and the reality. The characters talk over and over again about how perfect just isn't realistic. How perfect shouldn't ever be the goal cause not perfect can be so wonderful. Even though it would have stressed me out I loved all the chaos that Delia brought into Macy's life. It really forced her out of her hemmed in little world.
I really got sucked into Macy's story. It was very real. Macy's family is grieving the loss of her father. People treat her differently so she keeps them away. Her mom's thrown herself into work. Macy thinks if she keeps her head down and works on being perfect, everything will be fine. Then she meet Delia, a pregnant, frazzled caterer. Macy starts working for Delia and meets Kristy, Wes, Monica, and Bert. Slowly she becomes friends with this new gang of people and finds out more about herself. And Wes is sa-woon worthy!
Overall I really liked The Truth About Forever. It was a very realistic and relatable story. One I would definitely recommend. Others who shared their thoughts on The Truth About Forever: Books From Bleh To Basically Amazing, Paranormal Indulgence, and Confessions of A Book Addict.
This was my twenty-ninth read for the YA Reading Challenge.
And this was my eleventh read for the TBR challenge.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Library Loot


 Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!


As you'll see I'm gearing up for my 2012 challenges: Foodies Read 2 and The War Through The Generations Challenge.
I put Kafka's Soup on my tbr after reading about it on Marg's blog. It sounded perfect for the Foodies Read 2 challenge as well as something I would really enjoy.
After reading Eva's thoughts on Eating India, I immediately added it to my tbr list. Again another one I'm reading for Foodies Read 2.
Thanks to Eva for the recommendation of A Very Long Engagement for the War Through the Generations challenge. 
The Recipe Club wound up on my tbr list after reading about it on Staci's blog. I think it also sounds good for the Foodies Read Challenge. 
What did you get this week?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A History of The Wife by Marilyn Yalom

I don't remember how A History of The Wife wound up on my tbr list. But I do love microhistories so I was happy to read it. While there was plenty of great information, the book dragged in places and had a tendency to get dry.
Yalom starts in Ancient Greece and Rome, working her way through history and up the continent. She follows English wives to America and remains in America for the last 3-4 chapters. I started referring to this book as the History of the White Wife. There's very little information presented about African-American women and none about Asian, Indian, African, or Latin American brides. A lot of the research she presents is about white women and she's clear about that. I hope there is a sequel to this book talking about the rest of the world.
But Yalom just doesn't rely on research. She uses literature, letters, and diaries to give the reader insight to the day to day lives of women through out history. A lot of the early information about wives was through the eyes of men. She also points out how laws changed through time where women went from property to more equal partners in the relationship. But hearing from the women through letters and diaries was the most effective way to hear about how they struggled with moving to a new country, existing without food, surviving wars, and struggling to balance work and family. The difficulties that women face today, working, maintaining a home, raising kids have been difficulties for women for centuries. It's clear that in order for women "to have it all", we all have to work together, become more of a community where people share responsibilities. More part time jobs or job sharing. More communal living so the household tasks are divided among the residents. I think that flies in the face of the independent American so we have a lot to work on.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants a detailed history of European and American wives. A History of The Wife does show you how women in America today wound up with their struggle to have it all and mommy guilt. Others who shared their thoughts on A History of The Wife: Kittens With Mittens.
This was my tenth read for The Original TBR Challenge.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore

I choose The Stupidest Angel for the Christmas Spirit Challenge cause I love Christopher Moore. I'm glad I did because this one was no different than his other darkly humorous tales.
So we're back in Pine Cove (the same setting for Practical Demonkeeping and The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove) for Christmas. The town is filled with toursits, charmed by the quaintness of Pine Cove. But everything is business as usual for the residents. Lena and her ex, Dale, get into an altercation over a donation to the Salvation Army. Molly is having a hard staying with reality when she's off her meds. Theo, the town sheriff and Molly's husband, has a missing man, a mysterious glowing man, and a little boy's secret to contend with. I love this crazy cast of characters. At the beginning it's hard to keep everyone straight but all the stories start to mesh and it makes sense (sort of) very quickly.
Not your typical holiday story but filled with zombies, sex, drugs, and liquor. Still it ends up with a very Merry Christmas. Others who shared their thoughts on The Stupidest Angel: The Blue Bookcase, The Guilded Earlobe, and Bookgoonie.
This was my third read for The Christmas Spirit Challenge.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Currently...

Watching...

Tai found Man vs Food through Netflix. We've watched all of season one and got Jeff into the show too. Each episode adds a destination to our travel wish list. We've been to 2 of the places on the Seattle show (Red Mill and The Crab Pot) and are planning on going to Beth's Cafe someday.

Listening...
We have to thank Straight No Chaser to introducing us to The Script. It was their version of The Man Who Can't Be Moved that led us to find the original. We liked their version too so we listened to more of their music and have been enjoying it.

Eating...
I'm loving persimmons right now. I can't stop eating them!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2012 War Through The Generations Challenge

Since I enjoyed War Through The Generations challenge this year, I decided to give another go this year. I was having a hard time with it since I don't have a ton of books on my tbr list or on my book shelves about World War I. Eva gave me a couple of recommendations and I found a few others on some recommended reading lists.  I'm hoping to come across some real winners. Plus the readalong book is A Farewell To Arms which is on my Fill In The Gaps list.
I'm going for the dip level (1-3 books) but hopefully I'll read more than that like I did this year.
Here are some of the books I'm planning on reading:

Justice Hall
A Very Long Engagement
The Guns of August
My Dear I Wanted To Tell You

Any World War I books I must read?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Library Loot


 Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!
This one is reloot. I'm hoping to actually it this time. 
I saw this one the shelf and decided to go with the steampunk theme I have going on. 
What did you get this week?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Slow Cooker Tuesday: Brown Sugar and Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin

I actually pinned this recipe a while ago. I kept meaning to make it but sadly waited. I urge you not to wait. It's ridiculously easy and so yummy.
I took pictures of it sliced but these were much better.
My changes to the recipe: 
I added 4 cloves of garlic to the rub. I like a lot of garlic. But I didn't feel it was too garlic-y.
I was incredibly lazy when it came to making the glaze. I wanted the meat to be all brown and yummy so I covered the meat in the glaze and tossed it in the oven at 400ยบ for 20 minutes. As you can see it got all yummy and caramelized. 
I used a 6 quart crock pot but you could use a 4 quart if your loin was smaller. I used shoulder since that's what I had.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Letters From Father Christmas by JRR Tolkien

I admit I was seduced the length of Letters from Father Christmas (112 pages) and the fact it was written by Tolkien. I knew from the goodreads blurb that these were the letters that Tolkien wrote for his kids every holiday season. Other than the tiny bit of elvish he wrote in one of the letters, this book didn't capture my attention.
Now the art work, the attention to detail were fantastic. The fact that he kept writing about the same characters and sometimes referenced past events over seventeen years was amazing. I felt his kids were very lucky to have such an imaginative dad. The tale he wove about Father Christmas, the polar bear and his helper elves was detailed. But I would only recommended this book to those who are true Tolkien addicts. The original letters and artwork are printed in the book so you can see how detailed the letters were. To me there was no story. Just some really great letters his kids got. Others who shared their thoughts on Letters From Father Christmas: Nose In A Book, The Road Goes Ever Ever On, Pen and Paper, and All Booked Up.
This was my second read for The Christmas Spirit Challenge.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guinn

I'm so glad I picked up The Autobiography of Santa Claus. What a delightful story! Not only is this the story of how Santa came to be but also the story of how Christmas evolved and Santa's role in it. It's obvious that Guinn did a lot of research to tell this story. There's plenty of information on how different countries and cultures celebrate Christmas as well as facts about history. I was completely drawn into Santa's story as well the historical aspects that he saw over the years. Set up to read each chapter over the 24 days leading up to Christmas, I could see a family reading a little bit each night. I read the whole book over the course of a weekend. It was so engaging I had trouble putting it down!
Highly recommended. Others who shared their thoughts on The Autobiography of Santa Claus: AWriter's Life, Candy's Raves, and Book Addiction.
This is the first book I read for The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Slow Cooker Tuesday-Easy Roast Beef

This is hands down my favorite slow cooker recipe. In fact I've blogged about it before. But I love it so much I have to share it again.
This roast beef is the easiest meal ever. You need 5 ingredients and at least 8 hours before the deliciousness begins.
Tips on the recipe:
I don't mix the dressings and gravy together before hand. I dumped each packet in and poured the water on top. Still came out yummy.
I used a 6 quart crockpot.
I served it over our favorite fauxtatoes, but I've served over mashed potatoes in the past. This is one of those meals you'll use over and over again. It's great for potlucks, quick dinners, and it's great comfort food.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ganymede by Cherie Priest


I've been really enjoying the Clockwork Century series so I was happy to get my hands on Ganymede. I think Priest really hit her groove in this one, combining real history with fictional steampunk components.
At the start of Ganymede we're back in Seattle with Brier and Cly. Cly gets a letter from an old flame calling him back to New Orleans for a mysterious job. It happens to be advantageous time for him to make the trip South. A Seattle businessman wants to make improvements to Seattle but needs things found outside the Northwest. This trip could be very profitable to Cly. I loved Civil War era New Orleans. Priest really made the Big Easy come alive.
Great continuation of the series. I'm really looking forward to the next one. Others who shared their thoughts on Ganymede: Karissa's Reading Review, The Merry Genre Go Around Reviews, and Val's Random Comments.
This is my eighth read for the War Through The Generations challenge.

Friday, December 9, 2011

2012 Western Genre Challenge

So 2011 was my first year of participating in single year challenges. I felt like I stuck pretty close to what I was familiar with. But for 2012, I want to experience some new and not so familiar genres. So I'm signing up for The Lost Entwife's Western Genre Challenge. I wouldn't consider myself a Western genre reader so I'm stepping into unfamiliar territory.
I'm going for the Lick and A Promise level (10 books). I didn't have to make a master list but I wanted to give myself a list in case I needed help remembering what to read :)



I only added one book on my Fill In The Gaps list (All The Pretty Horses). Plus I put a few Western romances in there. Any can't miss Westerns I should add to my list?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

I chose to read The Postmistress after reading some glowing reviews when it first came out. At first I was hesitant, not really getting sucked into the story but about halfway through the book, I was hooked.
First I have to say the writing is amazing. You're just reading the story then, bam, there's all this detail. it's told so beautiful that it took my breath away. Then it would go back to the story which got really engaging to me after about page 50 or so.
At the beginning you had so many people with so many stories. Iris, the postmaster, watches the town and struggles to just watch. Harry, the town mechanic, believes that the German U-Boats will find their sleepy Cape Cod town. Emma, the new wife of the town's doctor, floats adrift after her husband leaves to help in England. And Frankie, the war correspondent, trying to bring the war to those at home in America. But each of their secrets and struggles slowly meld into one story.
I truly enjoyed The Postmistress after the slow start, it really picked up and kept me engaged. I think this would be an excellent book club book. There is plenty to discuss! Recommended. Others who shared their thoughts on The Postmistress: Book Journey, Bookfan, This Miss Loves To Read, You've GOTTA Read ThisBibliophile By The Sea, and Beth Fish Reads.
This was my ninth read for The Original TBR challenge.
 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Library Loot


 Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!
I've heard mixed reviews on this one but I still want to read it. 
What did you get this week?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Slow Cooker Tuesday-Coq Au Vin

Coq Au Vin is one of those "fancy" dishes I would order at a restaurant but never think of making at home. What is it about French food that sounds difficult? But when I spied this recipe on the Whole Foods website, I realized that Coq Au Vin might not be so difficult.
What is Coq Au Vin? It's chicken cooked in wine. Sounds so much easier when you hear that, right?
Tips on the recipe:
I used bone in thighs and removed the bone before serving.
I followed the commenters advice and tripled the liquid. Great idea.
I used a 4 quart crockpot and cooked it for 6 hours.
This recipe takes time. It's a great weekend meal. I served it with sweet potatoes but you could serve it with rice or pasta. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Autobiography of Mrs Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin

I picked up The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb off the library shelf after hearing so many good things about it. I'm so glad I did. It was a wonderful book that I was sad to finish.
Immediately, I fell in love with Lavinia. She's everything I hope for in a heroine. She's full of spunk. In her twenties, Lavinia ("Vinnie") reaches her full height of 32". Raised in rural New England, Vinnie quickly realizes that life with her family will never be what her heart desires. Vinnie unexpectedly gets the opportunity to join a show, a show aboard a river boat on the Mississippi. That when her life starts.
The world Benjamin creates is so vivid. I could see Vinnie singing and dancing on the river boat. I could feel the excitement of life on the road. I enjoyed all the people that Vinnie met while she toured. I loved little Minnie, Vinnie's tenderhearted sister. Vinnie was the star of the show but Minnie was the heart.
Don't let the title fool you. This is a work of fiction. Benjamin did her research to make sure there were plenty of graphic details. I was quickly sucked into Vinnie's world and really didn't want to leave. While I loved learning about Vinnie, a woman I'd never heard of before this book, I was intrigued by PT Barnum who loomed over Vinnie throughout the book. I highly recommend picking up The Autobiography of Mrs Tom Thumb. Others who shared their thoughts on The Autobiography of Mrs Tom Thumb: Devourer of Books, Lit and Life, The Written World, Children's Books & More, Book Chase, and Bippity Boppity Book.

Friday, December 2, 2011

November Book Tally

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Poison Eaters by Holly Black
Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris
The Summer Before by Ann M Martin
Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice
It's A Book by Lane Smith
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake (review coming next week)
The Autobiography of Mrs Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin (review coming next week)

Nine this month. Great month. It's hard to pick a favorite. Both The Night Circus and The Autobiography of Mrs Tom Thumb were fantastic.

The Stats:
Fill In The Gaps Challenge: YTD: 10 (Interview With The Vampire)
War Through The Generations:YTD: 7 (Nothing new this month)-COMPLETE
YA Reading Challenge: YTD: 28 (Texas Gothic & The Summer Before)-COMPLETE
The Original TBR Challenge: YTD: 9 (The Postmistress)
Support Your Local Library Challenge: YTD: 93-COMPLETE
100+ Reading Challenge: YTD: 114-COMPLETE

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Split Pea Soup With Ham

After Thanksgiving we had about 1/2 a ham leftover. I made both ham and turkey. I wasn't sure what to do with the ham other than ham sandwiches. But Tai suggested split pea soup. I think I made it last year with the leftover ham but lost the recipe I used. I found this recipe from Martha and tweaked it.
Split Pea Soup With Ham
(adapted from Martha Stewart.com)

4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced fine
4 carrots, sliced thin
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbs butter
3 cups of chicken broth
4 cups of water
1 package of split peas (rinsed and picked over for rocks)
ham (as much or as little as you like)

Saute the garlic and thyme in the butter. Once the garlic and thyme starts to release their fragrance (about 1-2 minutes), add onion and carrots. Cook til onions and carrots start to get soft (about 8-10 minutes). Then add peas, ham, broth and water.
I knew I was going to blend the soup to make it creamy. But the idea of blending the ham didn't appeal to me. Since I had ham bits rather than ham chunks I needed to be creative. So I bundled the ham in cheesecloth. The ham added it's hammy goodness to the soup and I could have ham pieces in the soup, not ham puree.
Bring soup to a boil, then cover and lower heat to medium low for 45 minutes. Remove ham bundle. Blend soup with an immersion blender til creamy. I left some of the carrots whole for fun. Dice ham and add to soup.
It's fairly thick so add more broth/water if you like it thinner.