Friday, April 18, 2014

March Book Club

Hostess: Erin (me)
Book:Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
Food:  Moosewood Kitchen's French Vegetable Bean Stew, Roasted Beets with Feta, Cheese and crackers, Bread, and a homemade Raspberry Linzer Torte
Month: March 
Wine of the Night: Chapelle St. Arnoux Cotes du Rhone

One thing that I really enjoy about book club is planning the menu and preparing the food. I love feeding people. This time, I had March, which I always find a slightly difficult time to plan food for. Is it going to be cold?Warm? I don't want to make stew if it is hot, or something springy if it is cold. It ended up being a chilly day, so I was able to make stew. I love the Moosewood books, and this recipe I got from the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites Cookbook. The stew was thick and hearty, and everyone seemed to enjoy it, and I hope it warmed everyone's bones. 

I also attempted a linzer torte. I am not the most fabulous baker in the world, so I enlisted the help of my mother, who is. Together, we spent three hours baking it! We had a great time baking and dancing around my tiny kitchen to Stevie Nicks and Van Morrison. (two of my favorites!) I think it turned out delicious!! I wish I could have served it warm but I forgot to heat it up when everyone came over. It was awesome, but would have been perfect a little warmed up. 




This is the Smitten Kitchen version; our's wasn't quite as pretty. But it was delicious!

After stuffing our faces full of food, we got down to the book discussion. We didn't really want to talk about exploding buboes while eating for some reason.

Everyone was shocked by the big secret reveal in the book, except me, because I am jaded or something. I just felt something was wrong in their marriage for some reason. For Jennifer, it just about ruined the book. She was very upset at this secret, and I have found in reading other reviews, that other people felt this way too. I can see understand there position.  

We talked about what we would do in that position. Would we stay, or go? 

For practical Chrissy, her answer depended on a few things - if she had children, what is her financial status, if she had family that would take her in..all of these are factors that Chrissy would need to consider in making this decision. But she thinks she would stay since the chances of getting it elsewhere also exists. 

Mary said she would stay, especially if everyone she loved had succumbed. Jennifer said "I doubt I would've left the village.  Mr. Mompellion's argument was a strong one (even if he turned out to be a butthole) and I think at that time people were more apt to help others out in their own villages, even if they were risking the plague.  Also at that time, you would have no idea if other villages were safe, it's not like they had Channel 7 action news so taking the chances of leaving home to just become ill somewhere else doesn't sound so hot to me."  As for me... I would have stayed too. 

We all ate and drank and talked and talked, as always. I love our book club nights, and this time with my friends. It is a dedicated night every month, that we all stop our lives for a few hours and catch up. 

April is Alyssa, and our book is Still Missing by Chevy Stevens. 




Sunday, April 13, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, that is guaranteed to add to your reading list. 

I missed last week! I have been fully immersed in finishing up my final projects for my classes. I haven't had much time to do anything else! I have squeezed in a few books though.

Read Last Two Weeks:

  


The Heroine's Bookshelf by Erin Blakemoore: I loved this book! It was all about these awesome heroines and their authors, and the struggles the authors lived through. I was blown away by a few of them!! It was really inspiring to read it when I did; if these women could write such masterpieces under the conditions they did, then I can manage to finish my homework! Lol.

Elysian Fields by Suzanne Johnson: I am really enjoying this series more and more each book! This was a fun read, and I needed it.

Witch by Barbara Michaels: And when I need the most comfort, I turn to Barbara Michaels. They are like a favorite pair of jeans, or a cup of tea. Perfect, comfortable, familiar. 


Reading This Week:

  

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens: This is our book club book this month, and I have to admit it is really freaking me out! 

Wait for What Will Come by Barbara Michaels: Another old friend.







Sunday, March 30, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, that is guaranteed to add to your reading list. 

In school news this week, I decided to transfer universities. I transferred to Wayne State in Detroit, for a few reasons: it is closer, only ten minutes away rather than 45; my sister-in-law attends there and we can carpool occasionally; they have more night classes which is great because I work. I am all registered for my new classes too! I am excited, I am taking Italian this summer! 

Read Last Week:

  

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: Pretty much like I remembered it, actually. Review soon.

Be Buried in the Rain by Barbara Michaels: I love these little mysteries that Micheal's writes. It was a good go-to when I needed a break from Plath.


Reading this Week:

I don't quite know, but it will be one or two of these.

  

   

La Bella Lingua by Dianne Hales: I checked this out because of my new Italian class. Lol.

The Heroine's Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore: I thought this sounded interesting. 

Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman: I was finally able to move past the debilitating embarrassment I felt for Leslie Knope in Parks and Rec, and now the husband and I are addicted. We love Ron Swanson!

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami: I wanted to read a Murakami book, and after reading the summary on this one, I knew I wanted to start here. 







Exploring Detroit


Not too long ago, the husband and I visited the Belle Isle Conservatory, and everything was coated in a thick sheet of ice. It was like a scene from Frozen, all white and snowy. We decided to return, almost four weeks from the last time we were there, to find a whole new story. The snow is gone and spring is beginning!

This time however, we went to the Belle Isle Aquarium, right next door. The aquarium was first opened in 1904; it remained open for over one hundred years, closing its doors in 2005. It recently re-opened in 2012, and is run by volunteers. I am not sure if this will change, now that the state has taken over though. One cool fact: the basement of the aquarium was a speakeasy for a while!!


Inside it is otherworldly. The green glass tiles reflect light, and make you feel like you are underwater. The center area ahead used to house an alligator!


This little guy is there now. 


We also saw these fellows!

The aquarium and Belle Isle itself have been through hard times. During the Great Depression, the saltwater exhibits were shut down due to the costs, and tragically a favorite mammoth sea turtle was sold off and made into soup!! It started to make a comeback in the '70s, but in the '80s and '90s attendance declined, and finally the aquarium and Belle Isle could not make it past Detroit's bankruptcy and corrupt politicians. Now that Kilpartick is out of office, and things are looking up for the city, I believe the aquarium will return to it's former state as a destination, full of exotic fish and sea life. It is already making a huge comeback; on the day that we went, the aquarium was bustling with families and couples, who were excitedly checking out the fish and electric eels on display. 

If you want to read more, check this site out. 

After walking around the grounds and visiting the aquarium we were starving, and popped into Great Lakes Coffee for a bite to eat.

It was packed! Luckily, we only had to wait five minutes before a spot opened up at the bar. After being presented with many food and beverage options, I settled on a mocha, and Billy got a regular old black coffee, although it was made fancy. They do offer a huge selection of craft beer on tap and in the bottle, as well as a huge wall of liquors, but we were good with our coffee for the afternoon. Our waiter was Jason, and he was a great waiter!


Billy's

Mine 

As for food, I ordered the vegetarian Bahn-Mi, while Billy ordered a flatbread with chorizo. I didn't get a picture of Billy's but I did get one of mine. 

My Bahn-Mi was delicious!! My only complaint is that it was freezing cold, but it was super spicy and yummy. 

It was the perfect ending to a fun day, relaxing and bumping around the city. 








Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Book Review: Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich

Title: Big Girl Panties
Author: Stephanie Evanovich
Source: Library

Goodreads Summary:

Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich is a rollicking and poignant romantic comedy about a young widow who decides to get in shape...and winds up getting her groove back--and a whole lot more! Holly Brennan used food to comfort herself through her husband's illness and death. Now she's alone at age thirty-two. And she weighs more than she ever has. When fate throws her in the path of Logan Montgomery, personal trainer to pro athletes, and he offers to train her, Holly concludes it must be a sign. Much as she dreads the thought of working out, Holly knows she needs to put on her big girl panties and see if she can sweat out some of her grief. Soon, the easy intimacy and playful banter of their training sessions lead Logan and Holly to most intense and steamy workouts. But can Holly and Logan go the distance as a couple now that she's met her goals--and other men are noticing?


My Thoughts:

I hate the phrase "pull up your big girl panties". It is terrible. I should have let that feeling guide me, and not picked this book up off the shelf, because this book is terrible too. It was weird. It pissed me off in many places. Yet, I still rooted for the main character Holly every step of the way. However, she wasn’t enough to redeem this book.

Holly is a widow, who in her grief has gained a lot weight. Logan is a personal trainer to celebrities and people with money; he is also in perfect physical condition apparently. These two strangers meet on a plane, where Logan is at first repulsed by Holly’s physical appearance, sloppy and overweight. He likes his women rail-thin and model beautiful. Yet he rallies his charming personality (or so he thinks it is) and chats Holly up. By the end of the flight, he is offering to train Holly, which she takes him up on.This is abnormal for Logan; his business is doing really well, and he does not need to take on anything like a charity case. But he is excited to turn this “ugly duckling” into a swan. For reals, that is how he described his Holly project to his two closest friends, Amanda and Chase.

Which brings us to weird #2, Amanda and Chase. Chase is into spanking. He is into sexually, and also as a form of punishment for when he thinks Amanda needs it. Not too rough, but still. I am not sure if Evanovich included this aspect to cash in on the popularity of Fifty Shades of Gray, but whatever her reasons, I hated it. It did not seem to be for the character’s mutual pleasure; in fact, it seemed at times that Amanda did not want to be spanked, which I think is against how this form of play works. Then came the worst part: Logan was having a hard time with Holly’s attitude while training, and Chase’s advice was simple. He said that Logan should spank her to put her in line! Say what!? Holly followed her spanking up with a slap to Logan’s face, which eventually to the first sex scene in the book between these two.

Oh yeah, that is the other thing. Holly and Logan are both interested in each other. Holly has lost a bunch of weight, has mega-confidence, and feels good about herself. They are dating, but never leave her house at first, because basically Logan is ashamed of her. He likes her company and he loves sex with her, but he also doesn’t want anyone to see him with her. Logan really likes her, but also spends time thinking about how to get the last of the weight off of her. Liposuction actually crosses his mind. This guy is seriously shallow, and we as the readers are supposed to believe he is undergoing the transformation. He eventually does start to introduce Holly to his friends and lifestyle, and this is where it all comes to a head. Holly runs into Logan’s ex-girlfriend, a model, who tells Holly that Logan called her an ugly duckling.  

Predicatively, Holly gets mad and doesn’t want to see him anymore.  The ex-girlfriend is waiting for Logan at his house, and instead of raking her over the coals for being a b-word, he is pretty nice to her and lets her down easy. Blah blah blah, eventually he and Holly argue, because he realizes finally that he doesn’t care that she is still not ever going to have a swimsuit model body, he loves her for who she is. After a conversation with her best friend, who is also kind of a jerk, Holly takes him back. The end.

It was terrible. Holly deserved way better than all of the people she had in her life. She definitely should not be with Logan, I am not convinced that if she were to gain a lot of weight again if he would stay with her. Or maybe he is going to keep her on a strict diet and exercise regime.

If you decide to read this book, be prepared for a weirdness, and anger at these characters.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading?


It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, that is guaranteed to add to your reading list. 

I really read a lot of books last week!


Read Last Week: 


    
  

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman: Hoffman outdid herself with this one! I loved it! 

Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo: I read this as part of the Newbery Challenge. I adored it, it is wonderful!

Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich: Um. This one I didn't love so much.  It was weird. I am still deciding how I feel, about whether it was ok or not.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth: This was pretty good! I am undecided about reading the next book though! I just saw Divergent too - I actually liked it, although of course it wasn't as good as the book.


Reading this week:


The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: I read this a long time ago, when I was younger. I am sure some of it went over my head, so I am giving it a reread. I will probably balance it out with something else.




Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Book Review: The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

Title: The Museum of Extraordinary Things
Author: Alice Hoffman
Source: NetGalley

Goodreads Summary:

Mesmerizing and illuminating, Alice Hoffman's The Museum of Extraordinary Things is the story of an electric and impassioned love between two vastly different souls in New York during the volatile first decades of the twentieth century.
Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father's museum, alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. 
One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man taking pictures of moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River. The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father's Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as a tailor's apprentice. When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman's disappearance and ignites the heart of Coralie.
With its colorful crowds of bootleggers, heiresses, thugs, and idealists, New York itself becomes a riveting character as Hoffman weaves her trademark magic, romance, and masterful storytelling to unite Coralie and Eddie in a sizzling, tender, and moving story of young love in tumultuous times. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is Alice Hoffman at her most spellbinding.


My thoughts:


I have loved Hoffman’s work for a very long time. She lyrically writes these beautiful stories, and up until this point, my favorite book she has written has been Here on Earth, which I think is loosely based on Wuthering Heights. It was so filled with emotion, and often I would finish one of her books and feel like I had just woken from a dream.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things has replaced Here on Earth at the top of my list. I feel Hoffman has outdone herself with this novel of love and loss and monsters and villains and unlikely heroes.

Where to begin? This is a world at the turn of the century. “Freak shows”, Coney Island, industrialization, political upheaval and civil rights, this is the time that Ezekiel “Eddie” Cohen and Coralie Sardie live in. They come from two different worlds, and without going into much background, Eddie works as a photographer, and lives his life freely, accompanied by his companion and friend, the pit bull Mitts. Coralie lives with her father and friend/servant Maureen in her home, the Museum of Extraordinary Things. Her father is a collector of living wonders: A wolf man, a butterfly girl, the fat woman, and so on. Coralie’s whole life is wrapped up in the Museum, and she lives an isolated life there. Her days are spent in a tank entertaining as the human mermaid; her nights spent swimming the Hudson River. 

I really don’t want to give anything away, but there is murder, mystery, love stories, truths revealed, references to Jane Eyre, redemption, and tragedy. Think Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and Dreamland fire. It was well-researched, well-thought out, well-written. Sensitive and beautiful, even in its tragedy. I had to skip a few pages at the end. It was actually more than I could handle in parts. I started skipping pages when I was reduced to sobbing at my desk in my office at work.

I think this book was amazing. I have been thinking about it for days, all the different details and intricacies and stories and symbolism. I hope you read it, and hope you enjoy it as much as I did.