Category Archives: Book Reviews

Slade House Readalong & Reading in Peril Update #RIPXII

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Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge (#RIPXII)

Completed
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
Magicians
Impossible 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)

Slade House Readalong

audiobook cover image

Last month’s readalong of Slade House was organized by Andi of Estella’s Revenge.

Anyone looking for unusual, thought-provoking, often dark, fantastical literary fiction might want to check out Slade House or any of David Mitchell’s other puzzling novels, which all seem to be interconnected or tangential to each other. (The author calls the works taken together an “uber novel”. NOT a series!)

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…

 

 

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Fall Cooking with Maple by Katie Webster #weekendcooking

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.)

Here’s an article from The Kitchn we can talk about instead: Forget Pumpkin Spice: This Is Fall’s Trendiest Flavor Right Now.

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:

cover of Maple cookbook
Maple by Katie Webster (Quirk, 2015)

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.

Maple: 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes Featuring Pure Maple Syrup is an inviting cookbook, with full-page color photos of some of the recipes. It looks like this multi-talented author takes her own photos. Check out the beautiful photos, layout, and table of contents on the publisher’s Web site.

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!

pizza
Balsamic Caramelized Onion Pizza with Arugula and Maple Drizzle

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.

Check out the recipe for Balsamic Caramelized Onion Pizza with Arugula and Maple Drizzle at The Splendid Table.

Oprah’s Web site has another recipe from the cookbook to try next: Slow-Cooker Chicken  Thigh Hot Pot.

Happy Weekend Cooking!

Weekend Cooking badgeLinked to Weekend Cooking, a weekly feature on Beth Fish Reads. Click/tap image for Weekend Cooking posts from other bloggers.

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 10-16-17 #IMWAYR #RIPXII

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Readers Imbibing Peril XII Challenge

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Slade House Readalong

Since my last update, I came to the end of Slade House by David Mitchell on audio. I hope the next book is already written, because Slade House must be the second of a planned trilogy or more (starting with The Bone Clocks). Discussion questions for the readalong were posted on Monday, so I hope eventually to do a discussion post!

audiobook cover imageBy the way, for anyone who’s worried about reading Slade House before The Bone Clocks, here’s a recommendation for reading them out of order.

On audio, I’m listening to two books that fit into the Readers Imbibing Peril challenge. On my iPod: The Likeness by Tana French, read by Grainne Gillis – the second book in her Dublin Murder Squad crime fiction novels. (This one is from the point of view of Cassie, instead of Rob, who was the narrator of In the Woods.) On CD, I just started listening to Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and son Owen King. I’m waiting for the downloadable version to come in from the library, but sometimes it’s more comforting to listen aloud to a scary story instead of having it go directly, privately, into your ear with no one else hearing what you’re hearing!

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This week I finally finished reading The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder. I almost didn’t, because I felt so sorry for the insecure characters – snarky as they mostly were – and their self-destructive behavior leading up to the wedding made me anxious.

If you liked The Nest by Cynthia d’Aprix Sweeney, Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford, or (going way back) Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney, you will probably like The People We Hate at the Wedding. I sympathized most with the weed-addicted, well-meaning mother, but her adult children,  half-siblings – one successful and getting married, two floundering, career-wise, and in unhealthy relationships – are the main characters.

Recommended for anyone who likes to read about dysfunctional families and is prepared for some truly loathsome and regrettable behavior by people who can’t seem to stop themselves. If you prefer main characters to be not completely self-absorbed and have redeeming qualities that are somewhat obvious, best to go for something else!

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This past week, I started and put aside –for the second time – George & Lizzie, by retired librarian and reader’s advisory guru Nancy Pearl. It’s the author’s first novel and it struck me as a lot of “telling” and not enough “showing”, which would be a common writing mistake for a first-time novelist, but Nancy Pearl is an experienced book reviewer and writer of nonfiction, so I thought it must be a stylistic choice, a way to bring out the quirky, off-beat nature of the characters – young Lizzie and George. The narrative style didn’t work for me, however, and I got bored being told everything all at once.

Has anyone read it and can tell me to keep going with it? I’m a big Nancy Pearl fan and expected to love George & Lizzie. Maybe I should try it on audio?

Currently Reading

Something from the Nightside by Simon Green is a genre-blend of dark urban fantasy and noir crime fiction, which makes it ideal for October reading and the RIPXII challenge; it’s the first in a series I’ve been meaning to try for a while. (The series is up to eleven books now, I believe. Damn!)

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Taylor is the name, John Taylor. My card says I’m a detective, but what I really am is an expert on finding lost things. It’s part of the gift I was born with as a child of the Nightside.

I left there a long time ago, with my skin and sanity barely intact. Now I make my living in the sunlit streets of London. But business has been slow lately, so when Joanna Barrett showed up at my door, reeking of wealth, asking me to find her runaway teenage daughter, I didn’t say no.

Then I found out exactly where the girl had gone.

The Nightside. That square mile of Hell in the middle of the city, where it’s always three A.M. Where you can walk beside myths and drink with monsters. Where nothing is what it seems and everything is possible.

I swore I’d never return. But there’s a kid in danger and a woman depending on me. So I have no choice—I’m going home.


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (#IMWAYR) is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It’s a place to meet up and share what you have been, are, and about to be reading over the week. It’s a great post to organize yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment, and er… add to that ever-growing TBR pile!
This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at Book Date.

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