Almost missed the First Book of the Year 2018, a book blogging meme hosted by Sheila of Book Journey! Since I’ve participated in this for the past several years and almost forgot, I obviously need to renew for this year my 2017 New Year’s resolution to get back to book blogging!My first book of the year is Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante. It’s the third book in the Neapolitan quartet, which I plan to finish this year.
Two other books I have resolved to read in 2018 are NW by Zadie Smith…
and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and list my other New Year’s resolutions related to books and blogging:
No social media before 11 a.m.
Write something every day.
Read for at least 30 minutes every morning
For Sheila’s “First Book of the Year 2018” photo collages and seeing what everyone else is reading, visit Sheila’s Book Journey blog!
Slade House by David Mitchell Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Something from the Nightside by Simon Green
Lord of the Flies by WIlliam Golding (audio) The Premonition by Christopher Bohjalian (audio)
Still in progress
MagiciansImpossible by Brad Abraham
Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King (audio) Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings by Shirley Jackson
Scary Movies Watched
The Blackcoat’s Daughter (slow-paced, but chilling)
I’ve listened to some on audio (Slade House and The Bone Clocks) and read others in print. I recommend print or a combination of print and audio, because I kept wanting to flip back to early chapters while listening and that’s a pain to do with an audiobook. I’ve owned a copy of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob Zoet for several years, but just found out that it has some connection to The Bone Clocks and Slade House. It has always seemed daunting because it seems to be historical fiction and that always takes me a while to warm up to, but looking for the connections to his other novels should finally push me to tackle it!
Spoiler Alert! Don’t read these discussion questions and answers unless you don’t mind some minor spoilers!
1. Slade House is broken up into five parts and is narrated by five characters. Which one did you like best and why?
I was rooting for the two sisters, Sally and Freya (#3 and #4), the most, but I eventually warmed up to the first two characters, too. However, I was primed from listening to The Bone Clocks to like Dr. Iris Fenby (a.k.a. Marinus) the most, though, and vote her most likely to succeed.
2. In my opinion, this is not a traditional”scary” book. Each new guest in the house reveals more about Slade House and the Grayer twins. Did you find any of it unsettling?
Oh, yes! Definitely unsettling and horrifying, but without the alternating suspenseful build-ups and moments of relief that you get with horror fiction.
3. This quote, discuss: “Grief is an amputation, but hope is incurable hemophilia: you bleed and bleed and bleed.”
I don’t remember where this comes in in the book or who says it. It’s a good example of the tone of the book — pointedly dark but with the possibility always there that good will win out over evil. Inside the heads of various characters at different times, readers hope each time that this character will survive the horrors of Slade House.
4. Norah and Jonah…sympathetic or nah? Nah. Too much of a stretch to feel sympathy towards them!
5. We didn’t learn much about what Norah and Jonah do between each nine–year cycle, but we do know that they have a lot of freedom and many resources at their disposal. What would you do with a gifted existence like this one? Nora and Jonah are immortal at the expense of other potentially immortal people, so I don’t think they can redeem themselves by doing good with their extended lives. (Not that those two “soul vampires” are interested in doing good!) I hope I would behave more selflessly than Nora and Jonah do, but having time and money to travel the world and live a multitude of different lives the way they do would be incredibly amazing. Although by the end of the book, Jonah seemed to be starting to feel that immortal life might not be worth the toll it was taking on him.
6. The ending. What did you think?
I’m waiting eagerly for the next book! I can’t wait for more about Marinus. There has to be more to the story of her/him and Nora…
Just after I posted about 2017 food trends last weekend, there was an article in Sunday’s paper about how Maple may be overtaking Pumpkin Spice as the trendiest fall food flavor. Since pumpkin spice has “jumped the shark” with pumpkin-spice dog treats and pumpkin-spice ramen noodles. (Something like that…I can’t be sure because He Who Shall Not Be Named recycled the paper in a fit of tidiness only two days after we got it.)
The Kitchn picks on CVS as a prime example of Pumpkin Spice’s jumping the shark – making fun of CVS Pumpkin-Spice Cough Drops. Honey & lemon does make you think “throat-soothing” more than cinnamon & nutmeg does, but I feel sorry for companies who come out with stuff after the bandwagon is well on its way by. Libraries do it all the time. (You are not alone, CVS R&D Department!)
This time, I’m right on trend, because I had this cookbook checked out from the library LAST MONTH:
I have always loved maple, especially after we lived in Vermont for five years, but as a flavor, it is usually celebrated in springtime instead of fall. Maple syrup isn’t allowed on a low-carb diet, but everyone needs a splurge every now and then.
I immediately wanted to make almost all of the recipes in this book, probably because most of them had “maple” somewhere in the name, but these are the ones I’ve marked to try soon:
Maple Tahini Chicken and Broccoli
Maple Ginger Chicken Thighs
Chicken, Peanut, and Napa Cabbage Pad Thai
Maple Ginger Roasted Salmon
Sherry Orange Quinoa
Cauliflower Salad with Black Sesame
Salted Maple Penuche Fudge
Maple Apple Almond Torte with Maple Cinnamon Glaze
The index separately lists Gluten-Free, Paleo, and Vegan recipes, but is otherwise only a recipe name index. The book doesn’t have an ingredient index (so you could look up chicken and find all the recipes using chicken, for example) which I believe every cookbook should have. But that’s my only complaint!
My Mom and I decided over the summer to schedule a night to cook and eat dinner together once a month to use recipes that she has been wanting either to make again or to try for the first time. For our last one, I strong-armed her into choosing a recipe from Maple for us to try, so we could A) use her non-gluten-free kitchen, and B) use some of the brand-new jug of pure Vermont maple syrup she had been given.
We both liked the sound of all of the main-dish recipes mentioned above, but I really wanted to make Balsamic Caramelized Onion Pizza with Arugula and Maple Drizzle. The author’s note on the recipe says:
I wish I could claim responsibility for coming up with the idea of drizzling maple on pizza. I first saw it on the menu of the local bakery of our little Vermont town. The syrup adds a lovely balance to the salty cheese. Trust me.
Mom had garden-grown arugula from my sister and Vermont maple syrup from my brother, and I brought fresh thyme from our home herb garden, so it would have been a real family affair if only we had gotten my other sister to come over to eat it!
While we were cooking and talking, I forgot the fresh thyme was supposed to go in with the caramelized onions after they finished cooking, so I had to sprinkle it onto the pizza after the fact. I forgot to put the cornmeal on the pizza pan, too, and had to lift the dough up and put it under. (I’ve decided it might be best to have the glass of wine with dinner instead of during dinner prep. )
I also didn’t add all the arugula the recipe called for (3 cups loosely packed) but I blame that on being misled by the food photography. The arugula wilted from the heat of the pizza just out of the oven, so we could have used all three cups, but the photo showed it as leafy greens atop a pizza, so I was thinking pizza would be hard to eat with all that arugula on it!
Due to time pressures, we used store-bought dough instead of trying the author’s recipe for Maple Wheat Pizza Dough, but the pizza was still delicious. Possibly a little too sweet, because I possibly went a little heavy on the maple syrup. (The recipe called for the pizza to be made in a rectangular baking sheet with sides and we used a round pizza pan, so we used the same amount of maple syrup on a smaller area, resulting in more maple syrup per bite.)
The cheeses on this pizza are a combination of sharp cheddar and feta, so there was a nice salty-sweet flavor to it, with pepitas adding crunch and the arugula to make it good for you.