Horrorstor cover imageHorrorstör by Grady Hendrix is humorous horror, allowing readers to whistle past the graveyard — or, in this case, giggle past the bloody smears messing up the Ikea-like floor displays in the failing “Orsk” store, where 24-year-old Amy — the story’s heroine — reluctantly works retail.

Desperate for a transfer to a different Orsk store, Amy has to spend the night before an important inspection in the knockoff Ikea chain outlet with her annoying boss and a perky Orsk co-worker Ruth Anne to see who’s been messing up the store when no one’s there. No one suspects anything is happening except garden-variety vandalism, but no one wants the head honchos to hear about problems at the store.

Be careful what you wish for. It’s starting to look like it might be Amy’s last shift here. Or anywhere.

“Call my cell phone if you see anything suspicious,” Basil said. “And whatever happens, do not leave the break room. There are enough people running around in here. It’s starting to feel like an episode of Scooby-Doo. We’ll regroup when we find this guy.”
It was the first time all night that Amy was glad to follow Basil’s orders. She walked back to the break room and took out her cell phone.
“I don’t like this,” Ruth Anne said, coming in after her.
“Me, either,” Amy said, tapping her phone’s screen.
“What’re you doing?”
“Calling the cops.”
“But we just said we weren’t going to do that.”
“I lied.”

A former film critic for the New York Sun, the author has written for Slate, the Village Voice, Time Out New York, Playboy, and VarietyHorrorstör is the author’s first novel.

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril run by Stainless Steel Droppings ends today, on Halloween. Visit the RIP IX review site for more links to horror reviews from bloggers.

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Art credit to Abigail Larson

 

I couldn’t stay long at the Boston Book Festival this year, so I missed most of the panel discussions and events, but I did get to listen in on a public conversation between Meg Wolitzer and Claire Messud — two of my favorite authors — which was a lot of fun. It was a gorgeous fall day again this year — especially nice after a week of rain — so I thought I’d share a few pictures.

The banner hanging on the corner of the Boston Public Library Central branch is the first sign that you have arrived, after coming up from the Copley T station.

The banner hanging on the corner of the Boston Public Library Central branch is the first sign that you have arrived after coming up from the Copley T station.

I arrived very early, before the official start of the festival, so I took photos from the steps of the library entrance in the morning and the afternoon, when it was much busier.

Massachusetts libraries have a booth every year, but this year I volunteered for an hour there, which was a lot of fun.

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People enjoyed putting their libraries on the map:

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Other photos I took walking around Copley Square and the Back Bay:

You can click on any of the images to enlarge them.

Of course, I bought a book…but only one! Claire Messud has praised Elena Ferrante before and mentioned her again in conversation with Meg Wolitzer, so when I saw her books at the Europa Editions booth, I picked one up.

photo of My Brilliant Friend by Elena FerranteMy husband and I are planning a trip to Rome next October, so I want to read some novels set in Italy before then. We’ll have to plan our trip around the Boston Book Festival, though!

 

 

 

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Weekend Cooking is a weekly feature hosted by Beth Fish Reads, linking up food-related posts. Click here for links to other bloggers’ Weekend Cooking posts at Beth Fish Reads.

cover imagePlant-Powered for Life by Sharon Palmer was a Mother’s Day gift from my daughter who works for the company that published the book – so this can’t be considered an unbiased review – but, still, if you’re looking to ease yourself into a more natural, plant-based diet, this is a great book to start with.

The subtitle of Plant-Powered for Life is “Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps & 125 Delicious Recipes;” Plant-Powered for Life is a follow-up to The Plant-Powered Diet, published in 2012. The three major differences between Plant-Powered for Life and my other vegetarian cookbooks?

  • The author is a registered dietician.
  • Gluten-free alternatives are provided for every recipe
  • No dairy or eggs are used in the recipes…

Yup, the recipes are all vegan! Does the word “vegan” scare you off? I admit I had to look up what “plant-based cheese was” (an ingredient in some of the recipes), and it turned out to be vegan cheese. (“Plant-based” does seem like a gentler, less polemical term than “vegan”, don’t you think?)

Sharon Palmer is a gentle guide into the world of recipes using chia seeds instead of eggs; cashew cheese instead of “regular” cheese, and no butter, (cow) milk, or meat (“animal-based protein”). Many of her plant-based recipes are similar to ones you could find in any vegetarian cookbook (e.g. Kiwi Herb Salad with Pistachios and Orange Dressing; Black Bean and Corn Chili; Red Lentil Soup with Root Vegetables and Sage, and Watermelon-Basil Ice).

Also, you don’t need to become a vegan to make healthful changes to your regular diet. Chapter One is titled “Create Your Own Plant-Powered Goal”.

 “No two people eat precisely alike. Some of us dine out twice a day; some of us rarely visit restaurants. Some of us eat meat every day; some of us never do. But we can all achieve sustainable health and well-being by focusing more on whole plant foods, and less on animal foods.
The first step is to create a personal goal on the plant-powered spectrum. You won’t be ‘going on a diet,’ but committing to make concrete, lasting changes that work for you. If your goal changes over time, that’s fine.”

Personal goals range from Plant-Powered Vegan –”Excludes all animal foods, including dairy and eggs – to Plant-Powered Omnivore Semi-Vegetarian – “Eats a small amount of animal flesh”. (“Animal flesh” doesn’t sound very appetizing, does it? It’s not included in the recipes, but omnivorous eaters are encouraged to flip the habit of thinking of the meat as the main course and the vegetables as the side, and eat just a small amount of animal protein alongside a main plant-based entree.)

 The book is organized into short chapters by theme instead of the usual appetizers, salads, desserts, etc. method. These themes allow readers to tackle dietary changes in small, manageable ways, a little at a time. Some examples:

Shop Thoughtfully and Purposefully
Spice It Up!
Eat the Whole Plant
Love Your Legumes for Protein and Beyond
Foster Friendly Bacteria
Eat Well on the Run

Each recipe includes nutritional information and a list of “star nutrients”, in case you’re trying to increase intake of a particular vitamin or mineral. There are color photos of many of the dishes, and an index, as well as a seasonal recipe guide.

We had a plant-powered meal that looked like this last weekend:

photo of plate of food and bowl of soup

Tomato Buckwheat Soup with the French Lentil Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, a garden salad, and a gluten-free corn muffin.

I used the gluten-free alternative of buckwheat groats in the recipe for Tomato Barley Soup, and also the slow cooker alternative method of throwing all the ingredients into the Crock Pot and cooking it on high for four hours. It worked well, but seemed a little more starchy than it might have been if I had cooked and drained the buckwheat separately and added it at the end. I also needed to add salt, because I used homemade vegetable stock from the freezer in place of the reduced-sodium vegetable broth the recipe called for. I also used five cups of stock and two cups of water, instead of the other way around, because I only had a can of tomato puree on hand, not tomato sauce, and didn’t have any low-sodium herbal seasoning blend, either. I added fresh, minced parsley at the end. Another substitution I didn’t realize until I had made until later was using toasted buckwheat (kasha) in the soup instead of uncooked buckwheat.

photo of bowl of soup with fresh parsley sprinkled on top

Cooking from Plant-Powered for Life will definitely get me trying new ingredients and using ones I only use infrequently, but many of the recipes do use only whole foods that the average home cook is likely to buy or already have on hand. The recipe I’m going to try next is Spaghetti Squash with Pomodoro Sauce and Pine Nuts. Also, I believe we may have used the author’s recipe for Savory Grain and Nut Loaf with Mushroom Sauce for the vegetarian alternative to turkey last Thanksgiving, and will do so again this year!

The recipes for the author’s Tomato Barley Soup and French Lentil Salad with Cherry Tomatoes aren’t available online, but you can get an idea of how the author’s recipes sound from her Web site, Sharon Palmer, RDN and a look at how the recipes and beautiful photos are laid out here.

Happy Weekend Cooking!

Cook-it-up-Challenge

Click on image for other posts related to the Cook It Up! challenge from Trish @ Love, Laughter, and Insanity for cookbook-collecting bloggers to use them or lose them.

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cover imageAs fall slips into New England, Snowblind – a 2014 horror novel by Christopher Golden about Massachusetts blizzards – may increase residents’ already-growing dread of winter tenfold.

The fictional town of Coventry, Massachusetts, is the type you probably think of when you hear “New England town”. A commuter town with at least one white church with a tall steeple, white Colonial-style homes with black trim, big trees that have been there a long time, etc.

What makes the town of Coventry notable are the mysterious deaths during a blizzard twelve years before. Memories of that blizzard make residents of Coventry dread any call for snow in the weather forecast, especially the residents who lost family members. Jake Schapiro has some vivid memories from that storm but has almost been able to convince himself that his 12-year-old eyes played tricks on him at the time, and that what he saw happen in his backyard in the driving, swirling snow didn’t really happen.

Twelve years later, another blizzard is in the forecast. Jake and his mother, along with the other residents of Coventry try to convince themselves they have no cause for dread as they brace themselves for power outages and slippery roads, but they have no idea what (or who) is really coming their way in the storm.

This horror novel won’t win any literary awards, but it succeeded in creating an atmosphere of horror and I thought was pretty scary, even though I read it in warm weather and daylight!

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Art credit to Abigail Larson

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