Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Sunday Salon - Picking Your Next Read

So, a curious thing happened to me this week. I finished the two lingering books I had on my plate and then…nothing…no more Brothers Karamazov, no more Dueling Monsters, no more books I’ve been working on for months, no more book club obligations. For the first time all year I finished five books in a month and was left with nothing to read. Not literally nothing to read as last week I was just talking about my overflowing TBR, but nothing I HAVE to read.

This is a feeling I haven’t encountered in a few months. I’ve read a small handful of “just because” reads this year, but mostly my year has been split between readalongs, giant classics, and a smattering of book club books. In previous years I was always working towards reading challenge goals, and before that school obligations. Sure I have The Odyssey readalong coming up, but after that? Nothing. I'm not signed up for a single reading challenge in the future and will listen to next month’s book club book on audio, so where does that leave me? No where! It’s very liberating yet strange feeling.

As I face 600 books on my shelves—some read, most not—I find myself wondering, “what the heck do I pick?” Should I start with testing out TBR books to see if I really want to hang on to them? Or the Christmas gifts that my parents keep asking, “have you read X?” Or should I re-read something I’ve been saying for years I’d like to re-read? Or the books that have simply been collecting dust for even longer? A classic? A contemporary lit? Hardcover or paperback? I have no idea. I’m overwhelmed by my books and part of me wishes that I did have a challenge or class or club that I had to read a book for. Once when this happened I had to have Scott choose my book for me! [He chose Catch-22—not knowing what it was].

I'm not sure which book I'll finally settle on, but right now I'm leaning towards The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe.  This was a Christmas gift and I feel so sheepish telling my parents, "I haven't had time to read it yet."  An absurd but strangely true statement.  I want to be better about reading gift books sooner after I receive them!

So, I think you can guess Sunday's Question...
How do you decide what to read next?  Do you have a list that you work your way through or do you pick at random?  Does anything dictate your reading?  Do you find yourself reading more "obligation" type reading--for challenges, classics, readalongs, book clubs, or is everything you read just want you want to read (by the way, this is a tricky statement as even obligation books are ones I want to read...maybe just not my first choice?).   When you're staring at a massive pile of books, which do you grab first?

 Looking Back to Last Week:
-I gushed over Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
-My Halloween Village made its grand appearance
-Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde fought Dorian Gray in the Dueling Monsters
-Finished books 4 and 5 for October! Most in a month all year and better than the 0 I read in September! So what if two of the books I've been working on for months, one I read in a day for the readathon, and the other two I half read/half listened to. I'll take it!
-Spent a lovely weekend in College Station, Texas.  I'm pre-writing this post, but Ags--I hope you don't let me down!

Looking Forward to Next Week:
-The start of The Odyssey Readalong!!
-Brothers Karamazov review (fingers crossed)
-That cookie recipe I was going to post this week but ran out of time
-Hopefully quieter evenings and more "Trish" time
-A possibly big and exciting annoucement 

Hope you're all having a lovely Sunday!

See more pictures of the Village

Happy Halloween!!!

Small note: I'll be away from the computer today (Sunday) and will respond to follow-up comments as soon as I return--might not follow up until lunchtime Monday, but I will! I'm really trying to be better about responding to follow-up comments--whether you subscribe or not.  ;)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson [Dueling Monsters]

Title: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Published: 1886  Pages: 75
Genre: Fiction, Classic
Rating: 3/5

Mr. Utterson, narrator of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, begins to notice curious goings-on with this good friend Dr. Jekyll. A mysterious Mr. Hyde beings making appearances (nasty and difficult to look at appearances!) and Mr. Utterson becomes suspicious of what is happening behind closed doors. What he uncovers, partly through examinations, interviews, and correspondence, is more horrific than he could have imagined.

Why I read this book: I read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for Jill and Heather’s Dueling Monsters readalong. The fight was between Oscar Wilde's 1890 Dorian Gray and Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and since I’ve already read Dorian Gray and have been wanting to read this, timing was perfect! Plus, how did I not know this is more a novella than novel?? Bonus!

I’m going to be straight up and honest here. October has been a crazy month and while I did manage to finish Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I read through the book fairly quickly and listened to several chunks on audio (via librivox). This is one that I’ll have to re-read again when time allows me to really dig into the story, so unfortunately this is less a review and more about the Dueling Monsters.

But, there were a few things that surprised me/interested me about the book. I was surprised at the narrator of the book. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Mr. Utterson telling a story was not it—perhaps I was expecting more of an omniscient narrator? What I wouldn’t give to have read this one in the 1880s not knowing a thing about the plot and to discover for the first time how truly horrific Jekyll and Hyde’s case is. Because Jekyll and Hyde have become such an iconic part of culture, I would think there would be very few who don’t have any idea of what the story is about. I find this a tough reconciliation with many of these classics—Frankenstein, Dracula (which I haven’t read), Jekyll and Hyde, Dorian Gray—not meaning to mention just dueling books—the reconciliation between the original stories and how pop culture has transformed these stories into something so much more frightening.

My favorite part of the entire story comes at the very end when Jekyll tells the reader in his own words how the Jekyll and Hyde split came to be. The true horror comes from the recognition that deep within us we do have monsters that given the right climate can take over and push our normal selves to the side. But what’s more is the desire or curiosity to let out the monster within us—to live outside of the laws of society and push the boundaries. I think we see this more in Dorian Gray as Dorian commits horrible crimes and acts in atrocious ways and simply gets away with it (if this is wrong it’s because my memory sucks).

Bottom Line: It’s short so just suck it up and read it because I said so (or because it’s a classic…whatever). Actually, the librivox narrator was quite good—at least compared to the horror stories I’ve heard about librivox narrators. This isn’t my favorite classic but I’d be very interested in reading it again at a time when I can really let myself absorb what is going on in the story and really understand Jekyll’s motives for wanting to let Hyde out in the first place.

So, if Jekyll/Hyde were in a dueling match with Dorian Gray, who would come out the winner? I think the breakdown would be as follows:
**Jekyll/Hyde two people or one? Point to Jekyll/Hyde for duel personalities (and physiques)
**But point for Dorian for keeping his inner monster behind closed doors. Appearance is everything, right?
**Murderers! Point for Hyde and Dorian, tied for brutality
**Dorian gets an extra point for all the crap worldly goods he’s accumulated throughout his years—Hyde’s apartment is empty!
**But Jekyll makes up for Hyde’s lack of goods by his desire to rid himself of his monster. Dorian IS the monster.
**Equal points to Jekyll and Dorian for eventually taking matters into his own hands—too bad they had to destroy themselves to destroy the monster within.
**Tiebreaker?? Since Wilde is a lover of exclamation points, Dorian gets the final punch of the evening making him the clear winner by grammatical default!

It was a close one!  And if I hadn't re-read my thoughts on Dorian Gray and seen that Oscar Wilde uses so many exclamation points, I think Jekyll and Hyde might have the edge.  Wait...just thinking about that portrait of Dorian sends me into a cold sweat!
Do you agree?  If Jekyll/Hyde were in a duel with Dorian Gray, who do you think would come out the winner?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Halloween Village

Department 56 Halloween Snow Village

(Click pictures to enlarge)

[love these Swinging Goulies]

Happy Halloween!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer

Title: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Published: 2005; Pages: 326
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 5/5

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is the story of Oskar Schell who two years after his father's death in 9/11 finds a key amongst his father things.  Oskar begins a journey across New York City in search of the lock that the key will open.  His journey is one that touches the lives of many but mostly his own.

A note on this "review"--nearly completely spoiler free, this is more a jumble of my emotions and what I loved than a coherent review.  I can't apologize as it's just that kind of book...

Why I read this book: my sister read for high school last year and told me I HAD to read it. After flipping through the book I was convinced she was right.

What I liked about the book: Oh how I loved loved loved this book. If I’m lucky, once a year a book like this—a book so affecting—will come along and be added to my all-time favorite books list. I haven’t read a book like this since The God of Small Things. Sure, I’ve loved many books since that one, but not one that has shaken my core so violently. The kind that no matter where you are when you’re reading it—even if you’re on the stationary bike at the gym—a passage will immediately make you sob or give you chills or just make you clutch your heart from too much feeling.

Ok, tangible things I loved about the book: Oskar, the heartbreakingly innocent narrator, who wants so badly to understand everything (though there are things he rather not understand). The language and writing—even the repetition of the words “extremely” and “incredibly.” Ohhhh, and how this or that gave Oskar heavy boots. Or how he makes mental notes to look things up later on Google so he can know what it means. How he is confused and lost but searches so diligently to find himself--or a version of himself.

What else: Gushfest, I know. And I apologize for the conversational tone of this post, but ooooh. I wish this is one that I could sit down across from you at a coffee shop and just pour over. The pictures and graphics—how extremely and incredibly moving they are in conjunction with the story. The side stories of the man who is cannot talk and the woman with crummy eyes. The hurt and the pain and the confusion and unknowing and yearning for love and the acceptance and the compassion—the feeling.

I keep coming back to this idea that this book is simply about feeling. And that ultimately, when I put the book down, all I could think about was how much I felt—how this book made me feel. I don’t know how else to describe it and if you’ve read it, let me know if I’m totally off-base with that perception. In terms of the negative or criticisms—this is my third review in a row without any criticisms. Maybe I’m saving it all for Brothers Karamazov? But for now I’m going to go with the awesomeness of zero negativity.

Bottom Line: After I finished the book, I texted my sister to tell her I finished and I loved it. She replied that she was so relieved because she doesn’t feel it’s a book everyone would love. And I agree. This is not a book I can recommend to everyone, but when I try to define who exactly would love this book I’m left without a defined audience. There is definitely a post-modern feel to the book and I think if this sounds interesting to you, you’ll be able to tell really quickly if it’s something that you’ll enjoy or not. It’s not a story that is handed out without any effort by the reader, but it’s not a tough/inaccessible book either. In a way it is as depressing as it is moving.  But so far, in conversations on twitter, etc, I haven’t found another who hasn’t liked the book.

Some incredibly and extremely moving parts:
"I wanted to cry but I didn't cry, I probably should have cried, I should have drowned us there in the room, ended our suffering, they would have found us floating face-down in two thousand white pages, or buried under the salt of my evaporated tears..." (The man who can't talk. 124).

"I felt, that night, on that stage, under that skull, incredibly close to everything in the universe, but also extremely alone. I wondered, for the first time in my life, if life was worth all the work it took to live.  What exactly made it worth it?  What's so horrible about being dead forever, and not feeling anything, and not even dreaming?  What's so great about feeling and dreaming?" (Oksar. 145).

"'I'm gonna bury my feelings deep inside me.' 'what do you mean, bury your feelings?' 'No matter how much I feel, I'm not going to let it out. If i Have to cry, I'm gonna cry on the inside. If I have to bleed, I'll bruise.  If my heart starts going crazy, I'm not gonna tell everyone in the world about it.  It doesn't help anything. It just makes everyone's life worse.' 'But if you're burying your feelings deep inside you, you won't really be you, will you?'" (Oskar and Therapist. 203).

If you’ve read it, let us know what you thought!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Sunday Salon - Taming of the Shelves

As I was scouring my shelves a few weeks ago for the readathon, an insane thought came into my mind: “Man, I should really just read all these books I don’t really want anymore so I can get rid of them and finally read the ones I want to read.” Several things are wrong with this statement:

1. most immediate is why I would read a book I don’t want to read before a book I want to read. Obligation reading.
2. And of course there’s the guilt/ridiculousness of acquiring books faster than I can read them.
3. And then the fact that reading preferences change over time and what I was interested in 10 years ago (yes, I have unread books from that long ago) are not what I want to be reading now.
4. And finally, of course, the sad news that I can’t seem to part with books without having given them a shot first—so my insane reasoning of reading books I don’t want to read so I can purge them in order to get to the ones I really do want to read.

Oh, so many places I want to go with this post, but focus, Trish, focus. I don’t think I’m the only one who has a problem acquiring faster than she can read. I mean, really—I have seen your Monday Mailbox posts! Some of those lists are enough to send me into quick panic. How can one possibly get through all those books!? Preferences change, so not really a whole lot novel to discuss there. But obligation reading and shelf purging are probably my two biggest problems. But which to tackle first? It’s like the chicken and the egg!

Since I'm possibly the only one in the world who doesn't always remember life's too short to read books you don't really really want to read, culling the shelves it is!

The Taming of the Shelves

There are several reasons why I hold on to books:
--Have had it so long that to get rid of it would admit defeat
--Like the author and have collected all his/her books
--How will I know if it isn't my new favorite if I don't read it?
--One day I'd love to read this book again
--Maybe the second time I read this book I'll like it better
--Others like this author so maybe I will too
--Fascinating cover art

If you read my Reading Dust Jackets Sunday Salon, you'll remember that I don't like knowing very much about books before I read them--so consequently, most of the unread books on my shelves are ones that I really don't know much about. do I tame the shelves??

So, Sunday's Question: How do you tame your shelves? Are you one who doesn't hoard books to begin with? Do you diligently (and economically) use the library? Do you give books away to friends, sell them back, donate them? HOW do you choose which books to get rid of? When you're staring at your beloved books, how do you determine which are the ones to go?

I'm at a high level of frustration--my shelves are all double-stacked, so I have to rearrange stacks to find the books behind.  There's no room for more shelves in the house, so something's gotta give.  What's your advice??

Looking Back to Last Week:
-I invited everyone to join me on a journey for The Odyssey Readalong
-My first Wordless Wednesday with a niece in Fuzzy Pink Pig Pajamas
-A Review of The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher
-Weekend Cooking with Chicken Stir-Fry Recipe

I'd like to get on a blogging schedule as I have more things to blog about than time to do it.  I'd like to keep my bookish:real life ratio even but don't know how to do that without posting every day.  Do you like when the blogs you read are on a schedule? 

Looking Forward to Next Week:
-Either a review for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close OR Brothers Karamazov (that's right, I finished!  Just depends on if I have time to write the BK review--EL'&IC is already drafted)
-A trip to College Station for the A&M v. Tech game.  Whoop!
-Perhaps a cookie recipe for Weekend Cooking
-Can I really finish Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by next Sunday?

Life is going faster than I am these days!!  Hope you're having a lovely Sunday.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chicken Stir-Fry

Every weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  "Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs."  I've always wanted to participate but am usually too frazzled during the week to get my act together.  As I've been cooking/baking a lot more, I'm hoping to make Weekend Cooking a regular thing here!

Chicken Stir-Fry
(closely adapted from Betty Crocker's Low-Fat, Low Cholesterol Cooking Today)

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped gingerroot (in a pinch I use ground ginger)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced into wedges
1 package (12 oz) stir-fry veggies (I use Green Giant Simply Steam Garden Vegetable Medley and pick out the frozen butter sauce bits to just get the peppers, potatoes, and snap peas).
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup fat-free chicken broth (divided)
3 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp cornstarch

1. Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces.  Spray 12-inch skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat (I use a touch of olive oil).  Add chicken, garlic, and gingerroot and cook, stirring frequently, until chicken is brown (2-3 minutes).

2. Add onions, 3/4 cup of broth, soy sauce, and sugar.  Cook, covered, on medium heat 5 minutes, stirring occassionally.

3. Add mushrooms and frozen vegetables (if you're feeling amitious, cut up some fresh veggies instead of frozen).  Cook, covered, for 5 minutes until chicken is cooked throughout and veggies are heated through but crisp.

4. Mix cornstarch and 1/4 cup of broth.  Stir in a little sauce from stir-fry to heat mixture, then stir all into the stir-fry.  Cook until sauce is thickened.

5. Serve with rice and garnish with peanuts and chow mein noodles.  Don't forget your chopsticks!

Serves 4

I'm intimidated by recipes that have a long list of ingredients, but this recipe is so simple--especially if you prep everything at the beginning (chicken, onions, any veggies that need chopping) and keep your measuring devices close at hand to keep the steps moving. 

As a side note, I've been recently cooking from this Betty Crocker's Low-fat, Low-Cholesterol recipe book and we've enjoyed almost everything that I've made.  Tasty and easy recipes, plus almost every recipe has a beautiful color picture.  I'm a sucker for recipe books with pictures!


I am an Amazon Associate and if you purchase Betty Crocker's Low-Fat, Low Cholesterol Cooking Today or any other Amazon product through the links on this post, I receive a tiny percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher - Kate Summerscale

Title: The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher
Author: Kate Summerscale
Published: 2008 Pages: 314
Genre: Non-Fiction, True Crime
Rating: 4.5/5

Synopsis: In the summer of 1860, an infant child was found at the bottom of a well-to-do family’s outhouse--murdered in the most grusome and horrific manner.  Jack Whicher, a Scotland Yard detective whom authors Collins and Dickens portrayed characters after, was sent to solve the crime.  All of England looked on as the case unraveled, but what was uncovered about the Kent family, no one could have imagined.

Why I read this book: When so many bloggers are talking about something, it eventually becomes hard to resist. Plus, murder mystery? Victorian England? Detectives? Collins and Dickens? Too bad I let it sit on my shelf for a year before reading!

What I liked about the book: Summerscale’s research and writing style are absolutely captivating. Have you ever read a non-fiction book where each sentence is more tedious than the last? The kind of that give non-fiction a bad name? Definitely not this one! The Suspicions is one of those that has so many fascinating little tid-bits that I couldn’t put the book down. And it was one of those that I was constantly looking over at hubby saying, “oh my gosh, listen to this! Oh my gosh, did you know…!” Summerscale does a brilliant job of bringing slowly together all of the facts and theories of this mystery in a way that makes the book a page turner; she had me guessing all the way until the end of the book who-dunnit.

What else: What I loved about this book even more than the mystery portion was the way that Summerscale incorporated the social details of the era into the text. What’s always fascinated me about the Victorian era is how quickly discoveries were being made and inventions were being created and how thought processes were changing. But at the same time, things were still quite primitive in our modern-day sense. It amazes me that prior to the nineteenth century, detective work was essentially unheard of. How did people solve crimes? Or were criminals less creative back then?

But what I love about this particular time period is how the new detective work—deductive and empirical thinking—was reflected in the literature of the time. Summerscale writes about this in great detail and in many ways this book was like reading really interesting literary criticism about Dickens and Collins and Braddon and Poe, etc etc. To think that the authors of the day—the ones who have stood the test of time and are still being read nowadays—created characters modeled after Jack Whicher! Reading this book made me want to immediately read everything in these writers’ canon to continue to glimpse into the detective craze of the 1860s. I’m such a fan-girl.

Bottom Line: I read this book back in August and as time as passed I’ve forgotten any criticism I might have had about the book. Maybe I should wait two months to write about every book I read! (Doesn’t always work since sometimes as time goes on my feelings are a little less favorable).

Oh ya, Bottom Line: If you like history, murder, suspense, mystery, Victorian era tidbits and the writers of the time I think it’s a safe bet you’ll enjoy this book. It’s one I’d love to read again one day to pick up any details I missed the first time around and it’s one that I’ll recommend to non-fiction lovers or those who might be a little timid of non-fiction. If you enjoyed The Devil in the White City and The Professor and the Madman, you’ll enjoy this book (or if you enjoyed this one you’ll probably enjoy those).

What is the most fascinating non-fiction book you've read?? (yes, I realize how impossibly broad this question is)

Off to scour the shelf for Victorian Sensaltionalist Fiction!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Fuzzy Pink Pig Pajamas

EmmaBear (20 months)
aka Lil Bit
aka Pea Pod
aka niece

(did you really think I could be completely wordless?)

Loving Auntie,

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Odyssey - A Readalong

Image from Homer's Odyssey Page
(also good source for other information)

The Odyssey Readalong
November 1-30, 2010

The Odyssey is classic tale of journey and adventure, a tale many of us haven't read since we were in grade school (if at all).  We're skipping the war bit (The Iliad) but with Cyclopes and Sirens we're sure to be duly entertained.  I hope you'll join me for a readalong of The Odyssey!

The Odyssey is divided into 24 books and we will read 6 books each week.  The schedule is as follows:

Nov 1-8: Books I-VI; 1-6
Nov 9-15: Books VII-XII; 7-12
Nov 16-22: Books XIII-XVIII; 13-18
Nov 23-30: Books XIX-XXIV; 19-24

I'll put up a recap post and a Mister Linky on Mondays so you can link to your recap posts as well (except the last week which ends on Tuesday--think of it as an extra day for Thanksgiving).

A few notes
**The Odyssey will completely fulfill the requirements for the Really Old Classics Challenge!  Go sign up!
**My translation is by Robert Fitzgerald but the Robert Fagles version is supposed to be fantastic
**Consider listening to the audiobook version! This tale was originally told in the oral tradition.
**We're all a little scared of this classic--you're not alone in your timid feelings!  It's OK.

Sign Up and Spread the Word:

Happy Reading,

Friday, October 15, 2010

Odyssey Readalong? Would you be game?

So, several weeks ago on Twitter, Jill, Trisha, and I were discussing readalongs and I wondered if they might be interested in reading The Odyssey with me.  Sure sure they said but little planning has been done since then.  :-/  I blame those damn Karamazov brothers...can I just blame everything this year on them?

Anyway, we talked about an Odyssey readalong in November--before the holidays start getting too hectic.  The book (errr, Epic Poem) is 24 books--if we read 6 books a week we could finish right before December.

What do you think?  Would you be interested?  I'm not sure how much 6 books a week really is--I think in my copy it's about 100-140 pages of verse.  How long would that take to read?  It's been a long time since I've read epic poetry...

Let me know!  If there's more than just me interested, then I'll put up a "real" post with sign up next week.

Yay for Friday!  Any exciting weekend plans for you?  (I'll be at the Texas Book Fest tomorrow!)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Willy Strange Soup - Fall Festival Recipe Exchange

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Ever since it turned October I've been anticipating My Friend Amy's Fall Festival Recipe Exchange.  Loved it so much last year!  Amy tells us: "We've spent all year dieting away so we can enjoy October-December guilt free. The very most yummiest foods come out these months, foods that make us think of words like comfort!"

Last year I posted Coconut Oatmeal Cookies, but since I've recently posted a cookie recipe and have one to post, I thought I'd post something a little cozier--SOUP!  What gets you in the mood for cold weather better than a hot bowl of soup and a hunk of bread?

Scott loooooooves soup, so when my mom invited us for dinner to watch Glee this week, I requested she make soup.  She suggested Willy Strange Soup.  Yes, that's what she really called it.  Not sure where this recipe originates from--I'm guessing church--but it is yummmmmmmmmy.  Should be called Willy Yummy Soup! (Original name is Willy Strange's Good Soup)


2 cans Minestrone soup
1 can Ranch Style beans (15 oz)
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes (10 oz)
2 cans water
1/4 cup ketchup
1 pound hamburger
1 small diced onion

(links above take you to shopping results for the brand names in case you need to find something similar due to availability).

1. Saute the onion in a dutch oven or stock pot
2. Add hamburger and brown. Drain off fat
3. Add remaining ingredients and heat

Makes about 8 hearty servings (maybe more?)

Spice is controlled by the Rotel (mild or hot), but I might even add a bit of chili powder or Cayenne or Tabasco for some more heat--but this has a bite that will sneak up on you!

The Willy Strange Soup was a hit--in fact, we brought home the rest and ate it for left overs tonight.  Unheard of for Scott!

I hope you'll pop over Amy's Fall Festival Recipe Exchange and share a recipe!

Bon Appetite!

Edited Note: Per Kate's comment below (Kate=my mom), Willy Strange is possibly a real person.  After a bit of Googling I found this recipe--same as the one here.  The owner of the website, Lenny Taylor, emailed me a few months ago to share the story of the soup. A church group was performing a service act locally in Dallas and the lady whom they were helping shared this soup with them in thanks of their service.  Looks like one of those recipes that just passes from hand to hand because it's so dang good!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Alan Bradley

Title: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Author: Alan Bradley
Published: 2009 Pages: 373
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Rating: 4.5/5

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie begins when 11 year old Flavia de Luce (also the narrator) stumbles upon a dead man in the cucumber garden at her home. Found near the dead body is a jack snipe with a stamp stuck through its bill and even more curious is the slice missing from the housekeepers custard pie—a pie which none in Flavia’s family would dare consume. Though inspectors are working to solve the murder, Flavia takes it upon herself to solve the mystery on her own. But with each bit of unraveling Flavia manages, the mystery becomes more and more tangled until she’s not sure what’s what anymore. Also of note—set in 1950s UK.

Why I read this book: Seen around the blogosphere. I took first serious notice after Ana’s review and then my desire to actually go out and get the book was solidified after seeing Joanna’s review.

What I liked about the book: More accurately, who I loved: Flavia de Luce. Though she’s only 11, she’s a spunky, precocious, imaginative, quirky, loveable little firecracker. I’ve seen some criticism that Flavia doesn’t act her age—that perhaps she acts a little bit older than 11. There is no question that Flavia is mature for her age—perhaps because of her older sisters Feely and Daffy or the manner in which she was raised by her parent(s)—but Flavia doesn’t let us forget for long that she is at heart just a kid. She speaks her mind with fierce innocence, makes assumptions and acts upon impulse, she plays mean tricks on her older sisters, but it’s tough not to admire her brilliance as well as her childishness.

What else? For me there was little I didn’t like about this book. Actually, the only thing that I can think of is that it ended too quickly—and not in the hasty wrap-up or loose endings kind of way—but in the way that I just wanted to continue reading about Flavia’s adventures. I read this book rather quickly (during the readathon), so I have a feeling there are several little nuances and plot bits that I missed—some of the transitions between scenes seemed jumpy, but this was probably due to my quick reading.

Next to Flavia, what I loved about this book was the writing. Bradley’s writing is clever and quick, punchy and to the point (Flavia is the narrator afterall). I was totally swept up into the story and was only pulled out by my alarm telling me it was time to go cheerlead. I laughed out loud, I had my heartstrings tugged at, I was absorbed in the mystery and eager to know more, I was interested, engaged, enthralled, and above all else I was allowed to use my brain but not in an exhausting way. Perhaps if I had read this one slower I’d have more criticisms, but not today. Isn’t that a nice feeling?

Bottom Line: Given my current reading (Brothers Karamozov mostly, Extremely Close & Incredibly Loud on the side), this book was a refreshing delight. In fact, when I finished it during the readathon and turned to EC&IC (which I’m loooooooving), I still wanted to be reading about Flavia’s adventures. Normally I “savor” works by authors—I have a fear about reading through an author too quickly and then having nothing left to read by them—but I have a strong desire to pick up The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag immediately and read it immediately. Though I know the latter is just a wishful thought. I certainly recommend The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie—a reading delight with an unpretentious literary touch.

Have you met Flavia de Luce yet?  What did you think of the book?  Did you continue onto The Weed?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Readathon 2010 End of Event Meme (TSS)


428 pages read
500 minutes reading
1 Book Finished: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
100 minutes blogging (includes Twitter)
310 minutes cheerleading
315+ minutes sleeping
10,000,000 Exclamation Points
6 mini-challenges: intro, childhood, 6 word, bookshelves, shake your pompoms, halfway meme
1 Prize
2 Vlogs

Highlight for me was definitely being dared by Jill to do a cheer vlog wearing my snuggie.  Usually my silliness doesn't come until the wee hours, but since I was sleeping then it was fun to get it out early.  I also vlogged my intro--coming up with a rhyme at 6:30 in the morning was pretty tough!

Around 11 pm (hour 17) I started to get physically sick so I headed to bed.  Got up at 4 (hour 22) but it was so quiet I headed back to bed at 5:45 (almost hour 24!).  Wanted to cheer during the homestretch, but I found myself searching for people still awake.  Bummer, but ahhhh well.  Um, I'm obviously scheduling this post...and hoping the meme hasn't changed since a year ago.  :P

Overall, a successful readathon.  Though my minutes reading is more than my cheerleading minutes, I really feel like this was where my focus was.  I didn't meet my goal of finishing two books or hitting every participant (not by a long shot), but I had a blast trying.  Readathon will always be my favorite Book Blogging event.

Dewey--what a blessing you are.  I'm glad we can continue to get together under your name and honor what you started. 

End of Event Meme:
1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
After 16 hours I had to go to bed--was a bit sick--but woke up at hour 22 refreshed.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
Graphic Novels!  Catch Me If You Can, Stardust, Ethan Frome, Hunger Games

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Things seem to be running smoothly.  Might help in the wee hours to have a check in (Mr. Linky?) to help cheerleaders find those awake.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
Loved how the mini-challenges were announced ahead of time and given in hours rather than time zones

5. How many books did you read?
One.  Oops!

6. What were the names of the books you read?
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

7. Which book did you enjoy most?
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie ;)

8. Which did you enjoy least?
Well, when you only read one...

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
Pre-write some really fun cheers. Also with so many participants try to figure out a system of how to tackle as many as possible.  Try to find something in the post to comment on--cheers are fun but let the person know you read at least part of his/her post.

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
In some shape or form I'll most likely participate.  LOVE the readathon!

How was YOUR Readathon Experience?

Readathon Hours 17-22

I'm BAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!  Well rested and currently re-hydrating myself.

4:25 am Dallas time and still 2.5 hours left in the 'thon.  Probably won't get much reading done, but this is when we need cheerleaders the most, right?

Whoop Whoop!  You still up? 

Here's a tune to pump you up:

A rather chipper,

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Readathon Hours 13-15

Pages:  80 - The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie; Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Time: 90 minutes

394 pages read
455 minutes reading
1 Book Finished: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
85 minutes blogging
250 minutes cheerleading - B's, C's, D's, F's, I's, S's, O's, U's, Z's -- don't think I'll get everyone :(
10,000,000 Exclamation Points
6 mini-challenges: intro, childhood, 6 word, bookshelves, shake your pompoms, halfway meme
Food: Lucky Charms, Everything Bagel with Cream Cheese, Coffee, Twizzlers, Sweet Potato Chips, Hawaiian Pizza, Crème brûlée
1 Prize
2 Vlogs

Getting a little tired.  Will probably read another hour, then cheer another hour and then take a nice nap!

Update (Hour 16): I thought I could make it to the beginning of hour 18, but no such luck.  I'm turning in for a nap--hope to be back in a few hours!!!
Meow!  How YOU holding up??

Readathon Hours 10-12 and Halfway Meme


Half done?  Sheesh!

Pages:  70 - The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Time: 80 minutes

314 pages read
365 minutes reading
0 Books Finished (but close!)
75 minutes blogging
190 minutes cheerleading - B's, C's, D's, F's, I's, S's, O's, U's, Z's -- don't think I'll get everyone :(
10,000,000 Exclamation Points
6 mini-challenges: intro, childhood, 6 word, bookshelves, shake your pompoms, halfway meme
Food: Lucky Charms, Everything Bagel with Cream Cheese, Coffee, Twizzlers, Sweet Potato Chips
1 Prize
2 Vlogs (the cheer vlog is definitely my highlight so far...)

Mid-Event Survey:

1. What are you reading right now?
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

2. How many books have you read so far?
Zero.  Oops! 

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
Finishing Sweetness and finishing Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (started pre thon)

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?
Had this on my caledar for days.  Though due to special circumstances I cannot read for 24 hours.  :(

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
Went to mom's house which was fun but unproductive.  Oh well! 

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
That I'm not tired anymore after a restless night and being up since 5:30

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
I think it's working like a well-oiled machine.  Kind of a bummer as cheerleader that so many links are "bad"

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?
Combo.  Love doing both.

9. Are you getting tired yet?
Nope!  Guess I got my second wind!

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?
Have fun.  Have fun.  Have fun.  And make sure to leave others comments here and there! now it's just readathon tradition. Back by popular demand:

Readathon Hour 9: Shake Your PomPoms Mini (VLOG!)

Sooooo, I've already posted one vlog this morning (my rhyming introduction vlog), but this is possibly the most embarrasing vlog I've done yet.  Thanks Mom for recording.  It's a little longer than I planned, but mom refused to stop recording until I did my "cheerleader pose." 
Jill--this is for you.  I don't have any pompoms to shake, but the snuggie arms, count, huh?

So what do you think--does this fire you up?  Or make you embarrassed for me?  Or just make you laugh.


Rah Rah, Sis Boom Bah?

Readathon Hours 6-8


how are we already 1/3 done? 

Pages:  86
Time: 90 minutes

242 pages read
255 minutes reading
0 Books Finished
50 minutes blogging (includes twitter)
140 minutes cheerleading - B's, C's, D's and S's
4 mini-challenges: intro, childhood, 6 word, bookshelves
Food: Lucky Charms, Everything Bagel with Cream Cheese, Coffee, Twizzlers, Sweet Potato Chips
1 Prize (WAHOOO!  For Cheerleading...must be all my !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!s).  :D

I was starting to feel antsy in the house and it's SO gorgeous outside, so Lexi and I headed out.  You can barely make her out--she's a chocolate lab and hides well in the shadows.  Hates having her picture taken, unlike Maggie. 

Off to my mom's for a bit!  Will be back in a few hours.  From hopping around, looks like everyone's doing well!

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