Friday, November 21, 2014

The Messy Baker; Charmian Christie

 The Messy Baker; Charmian Christie
Rodale Books - 2014
The title, The Messy Baker, got my attention especially since I love to bake, but make a huge mess in the process.

Comprised of some 75 recipes, almost every recipe has a beautiful gloss photo to show you what the finished product will look like.  I was surprised by the fact the recipes are not all desserts, as somehow the title and cover lead me to believe, but that's okay, I liked the variety of recipes.  Yes, there are muffins, cookies, tortes, scones, tarts etc, but you'll also find some recipes for things like pizza, waffles, cauliflower, fritters and more.  The recipes contained are not your standard run of the mill recipes that you tend to find again and again, but each recipe seems to be a new twist on a recipe that I wouldn't have thought of in this new way.

I liked that there were a few helpful lists about essential things to stock in your pantry. The author mention talks about how egg size matters (most recipes mean "large" eggs not medium or jumbo), and talks about how important it is not alter recipes when you find you are missing an ingredient (always set out every ingredient you'll need BEFORE you begin baking.)

The chapters have fun titles like: pastry; crumbly; dippable; sloppy; smudgy; gritty and drippy. The book is more about how the final product tastes, and judging with your mouth and not eyes, rather than obsessing about whether your final product is "picture perfect".

I tried and loved the Sea Salt Sticky Buns and, I'm looking forward to trying the Boozy Brown Sugar Whipped Cream to go with our Thanksgiving Pecan and Pumpkin pies.  Great book 
4/5 stars

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You ~ The Strange Library; Haruki Murakami

Here's my "Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You" pick for today.  Do you plan on trying this one? It's a short novel (just 96 pages) compared to the author's previous books. 

The Strange Library; Haruki Murakami
Knopf - December - 2014

From internationally acclaimed author Haruki Murakami—a fantastical illustrated short novel about a boy imprisoned in a nightmarish library.

A lonely boy, a mysterious girl, and a tormented sheep man plot their escape from the nightmarish library of internationally acclaimed, best-selling Haruki Murakami's wild imagination.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Crooked River; Valerie Geary

Crooked River; Valerie Geary
William Morrow - 2014

Crooked River tells the troubled tale of sisters Sam, 15 and Ollie, 10. There mom died recently and they are hoping to stay living in Oregon with their father Frank, "Bear", McAllister and his very unconventional way of life.  Bear lives in a teepee and the money he earns comes from raising bees and selling the honey.  The girls love their dad and like being with him, and their grandparents in Boston have agreed to a trial period to see how things work out for the girls living with their dad.

Soon after their mom dies the girls stumble upon the body of a woman floating in the nearby river, for whatever reason, the girls decided to keep their sighting a secret.  Especially after they find strange fresh scratches in "Bear's" face and hands that he doesn't want to talk about, and the fact he left the sisters alone the night before the body was found, and won't talk about where he was 

Soon evidence mounts against "Bear", who is seen as an outsider in the small rural community. Bear is arrested, but the sisters are determined to prove their dad is innocent. They begin some amateur detective work on their dad's behalf.  As the investigation begins, ghosts speak to Ollie, a girl so traumatized by her mother's death that she refuses to speak. When she does speak, others do not believe her. Her sister calls her a baby and does not believe spirits exist.

Narrated in short alternating chapters by Sam and Ollie, I enjoyed this coming of age mystery of sorts. I admired the sisters devotion to their father. The girls got themselves into some sticky situations, but because of their ages, it seemed both foolish and yet plausible. The characters well developed and I also liked the older couple who watched out for the girls. Overall, a very good debut novel.
4/5 stars
(review copy)

Winter Street; Elin Hilderbrand

Winter Street; Elin Hilderbrand
Little Brown and Co

I typically enjoy an occasional dose of easy, breezy holiday books, especially those with great setting.  Winter Street, by Elin Hilderbrand seemed to fit the bill.  In this story, set on Nantucket Island, the Winter Street Inn is preparing to host their annual Christmas party.

Unfortunately the Inn owner Kelly Quinn has just found his second wife Mitzi kissing Santa Claus, and to make matters worst, Kelley learns it just wasn't a spirit of the holiday kiss, but that his wife and the man whose been playing Santa year after year have been carrying on for years. The rest of the Quinn family has issues as well, and for this family it looks like it will be a "Christmas to forget, rather than one to be remembered."

I had a hard time with this one and really didn't care about any of the Quinn family characters and their tales of woe. To me, the story seemed too contrived and poorly executed. Fortunately it wasn't a long story, but it was a disappointing one.
1.5/5 stars
(audio book)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Revival; Stephen King

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where I share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon.

 Revival; Stephen King
 Scribner - November 2014
Fifth Business.
Skull Mountain.
Peaceable Lake.

"In one way, at least our lives really are like movies.  The main cast consists of your family and friends.  The supporting cast is made up of neighbors, co-workers, teachers, and daily acquaintances.  There are also bit players: the supermarket checkout girl with the pretty smile, the friendly bartender at the local watering hole, the guys you work out with at the gym three days a week.  And there are thousands of extras--those people who flow through every life like water through a sieve, seen once and never again.  The teenager browsing graphic novels at Barnes & Noble, the one you had to slip past (murmuring "Excuse me") in order to get to the magazines.  The woman in the next lane at a stoplight, taking a moment to freshen her lipstick.  The mother wiping ice cream off her toddler's face in a rode side restaurant where you stopped for a quick bite.  The vendor who sold you a bag of peanuts at a baseball game." 

What do you think, would you keep reading?
Feel free to join in and post the Intro from one of your reads by linking below.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

St. Vincent ~ 2014 Bill Murray

St. Vincent -- Touted as a comedy, this was one movie that yes, made us laugh, but also had us searching for tissues as the emotional tears flowed as well. 

Bill Murray is "Vincent" a grumpy, Vietnam Vet who drinks too much and gambles too much. He lives with his cat in Brooklyn, and has no money, and little prospect for happy senior years. New neighbor, Maggie, (Melissa McCarthy) and her young son Oliver (Jaeden Liberher) move in next door.  The newly divorced, mom works long hours at the hospital, and Vincent volunteers to watch Oliver after school for a fee.  While Vincent teaches Oliver how to toughen up, and takes him to places most kids have never seen, Oliver begins to see the kinder, caring side of Vincent that others do not see.

Do yourself a favor and be sure to see this movie, sometime soon. I hope you will love it as much as we did.  This is one of those movies where the theater sat silent and no one left until the screen went dark.

Some Wonderful Thanksgiving Books for Kids

I was so excited to get this wonderful, season appropriate, selection of kids books in the mail this week.  The messages and illustrations are all lovely.  Thank you to the great people at Candlewick Press for sending  these beautiful books my way.  Here is a quick overview for each.

Giving Thanks; Jonathan London (description) --"This Thanksgiving, set the mood with a story of gratitude." — CHILD

Thank you, Mother Earth.
Thank you, Father Sky.
Thank you for this day.

How can a young boy ever show his gratitude for all the beauty he sees? He will learn from his father, who thanks the earth and the sky, the frogs and the crickets, the hawk and the deer, even the trees that wave their arms in the breeze. Majestic as the most beautiful autumn day and filled with glimpses of favorite woodland animals, GIVING THANKS is truly a gift to readers from nature-lover Jonathan London and master painter Gregory Manchess.

What's So Yummy? All About Eating Well and Feeling Good; Robie Harris (description) - Acclaimed New York Times best-selling author Robie H. Harris introduces preschoolers to the pleasures of eating healthy, being active, and feeling good. Gus, Nellie, and baby Jake can’t wait to go on a picnic! In the morning the family heads to their community garden, then to the farmer’s market and the grocery store to gather vegetables, fruit, meat, and other fresh and delicious foods. Readers follow them through the day as they go home to prepare, cook, and pack up the goodies, then cap their day by eating a yummy meal in the park and flying a kite together. Funny, accessible, family-filled illustrations; conversations between Gus and Nellie; and matter-of-fact text combine to show young children how food fuels our bodies — and help them see how healthy eating and drinking, and being active, can make them feel their best for a day full of fun.

Gobble, Gobble, Tucker; Leslie McGirk (description) - Leslie McGuirk’s enthusiastic Tucker tries to be a patient little pup in this Thanksgiving story that is satisfying in every way. When Tucker smells a familiar scent in the air, he knows his favorite day of the year has come —Thanksgiving! Tucker loves to play with his family, help clean up, and most of all, enjoy a delicious feast. But as the day goes by, Tucker and his doggy cousins haven’t had even a bite. Will they ever get to gobble up any holiday treats?

Over the River and Through the Wood: The New England Boy's Song About Thanksgiving Day; L. Maria Child  (description) - Matt Tavares's lavish illustrations illuminate this definitive edition of a beloved seasonal classic.  The horse is ready, the air is bracing, and everyone is bundled into the sleigh. So let the wind blow and the snow start to fall! This family is off to Grandfather's house for a delicious feast. Matt Tavares, with his keen eye for detail, fresh and surprising perspectives, and all the warmth and coziness of a big holiday dinner, illuminates the original text of Lydia Maria Child's verse about Thanksgiving Day, which has marked the start of the holiday season for generations of children.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Visit From the Goon Squad; Jennifer Egan

Sound Library - 2010

When A Visit From the Goon Squad was first released in 2010, I recall quite a bit of hype over this novel and the fact that the author, Jennifer Egan, was award the Pulitzer Prize for her work as well.  I put it on my list and finally got to it .  The story started out with promise.

Sasha, a young woman in her mid-thirties, has had a troubled life. While she meets with her therapist at his office in NYC, we learn that the stealing is not because she needs or even wants something, it's just something she can't seem to resist. It has long been a problem for her. There is a somewhat funny incident in a rest room where she picks up a wallet a woman left on the counter and when she finds the woman frantic she gives the wallet back, begging her not to say anything. Sasha works for an aging record executive and former punk rocker at Sow Ear Records.

Just when I was getting invested in Sasha's story, she pretty much disappears from the novel. Then all sorts of crazy characters, there must be 10-12 of them, begin to appear and disappear from the story. The story jumps from present to past and back again, and the points of view change as well. Their stories are mostly centered around rock and roll.  The novel was just too disjointed for me for follow in audio format, and honestly, maybe I think I am just getting a bit too old for this type of story and writing. I doubt that I would have liked it even if I had read the print edition. Very disappointing.

Have you read this one?

1/5 stars
(Library Audiobook)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You; The Sweetheart; Angelina Mirabella

Here's my "Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You" pick for today.  What do you think about this novel -- would you try it?

The Sweetheart; Angelina Mirabella
Simon and Schuster - January 2015

A debut, coming-of-age novel in which a teenage girl from Philadelphia leaves her old life behind to become The Sweetheart, one of America’s most infamous female wrestlers.

It’s 1953 and seventeen-year-old Leonie Putzkammer is cartoonishly tall and curvaceous, destined to spend the rest of her life waiting tables and living with her widowed father, Franz, in their Philadelphia row house. Until the day legendary wrestling promoter Salvatore Costantini walks into the local diner and offers her the chance of a lifetime.

Leonie sets off for Florida to train at Joe Pospisil’s School for Lady Grappling. There, she transforms into Gorgeous Gwen Davies, tag-team partner of legendary Screaming Mimi Hollander, and begins a romance with the soon-to-be Junior Heavyweight Champion Spider McGee. But when life as Gorgeous Gwen leaves her wanting, she orchestrates a move that will catapult her from heel to hero: she becomes The Sweetheart, a choice that attracts the fans she desires but complicates all of her relationships—with Franz, Joe, Spider, Mimi (who becomes her fiercest competitor), and even with herself.

Angelina Mirabella’s surprising, affecting, and morally complex novel describes how a single decision can ripple through the lives of everyone around us. How Leonie sizes up the competition, how she triumphs, how she fails, and how she manages, somehow, to endure, holds promise: if she can, maybe we can, too. The Sweetheart showcases Mirabella’s breathtaking talent; it is daring, innovative, and powerful storytelling.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Cupboard Full of Coats; Yvvette Edwards

A Cupboard Full of Coats; Yvvette Edwards
2011 - Whole Story Audio Books
A Cupboard Full of Coats, a debut novel by Yvvette Edwards, was a very different and tough audiobook to listen to.  

In this story Jinx is a 30 year old woman who is still blaming herself for the murder of her mother by an abusive husband when Jinx was just 16 years old. Jinx now lives alone in London flat, separated from her husband and young son. She does not know how to engage with her young son and seems to lack mothering skills.  These days Jinx is more comfortable working with the dead than with the living.

Lemon is a former friend of both Jinx’s mother and Berris, the man who is now in jail for murder. The two men grew up on the streets in the West Indies. After a 14-year absence Lemon shows up without notice at Jinx’s door.  His wife has died and he feels the need to come back and talk about why he too blames himself in part for the death . Jinx and Lemon reminisce about the past and also tell their painful versions of the time leading up to the murder as they recall it.

Told mostly in the first person by Jinx, some of what she observed is upsetting and it explained a lot about why she is the way she is today.  Lemon’s voice took some getting used to the Caribbean accent. I enjoyed listening to their stories, but I would have liked to learn more about Jinx’s earliest experiences with her own mother. Clearly, none of the characters in this novel were sympathetic, except maybe for Red, the young son, who was missing out on a nurturing relationship with his own mother.

The story alternates between the past and present and gives readers a good look at how children exposed to abusive relationships are affected long term.  For Jinx, her mother changed completely when Berris came into the picture. Previously, things were peaceful for mother and daughter, but her mother felt lonely and missed having a man in her life after the death of her husband. Berris entered the picture and she became totally consumed by him at her daughter’s expense. A dark story with no real earth shattering surprise as the end, I enjoyed the story well enough, but the audio version, read by Adjoa Andon, was a tough one to listen to because of the dialect and the subject matter. 
3.5/5 stars
(library audiobook)