As with all of my reviews (I hope), this review is spoiler-free. If you’ve already read Doctor Sleep, please see Sleep-Along posts for more discussion of plot details.
You may already know that Doctor Sleep, Stephen King’s 50th published novel, is a sequel to his third published novel, The Shining (Doubleday, 1977). The Shining was the author’s first hardcover bestseller, according to Wikipedia, but it seems the reason the book remained near and dear to his heart all these years later was the main character, five-year-old Danny Torrance, Danny’s mother, Wendy, and their friend from the Overlook Hotel, Dick Hallorann.
In the author’s note (In the audiobook edition, this is read by the author) to Doctor Sleep, Stephen King mentioned how someone on a book tour for Bag of Bones asked him if he had any idea what happened to Danny from The Shining, and added that it was a question that would pop into his own mind at times (such as on long turnpike drives). He said he would also wonder what might have happened to the family if Danny’s father, Jack Torrance, had found Alcoholics Anonymous, “instead of trying to get by with what people in AA call ‘white-knuckle sobriety.’”
Doctor Sleep fills you in on what happened to the traumatized Danny Torrance in the years after the events in The Shining, with his mother and Dick appearing only briefly. The bulk of the story takes place when he is in his 30s and a recovering alcoholic, having used substance abuse to bury his memories and his psychic abilities. (The book, not the movie, is what the author’s going by, so if you’ve only seen the movie version of The Shining, you might want to read the book or listen to the audiobook first.) The other main characters in the book with powerful psychic abilities, Abra and Rose, are both female. Their stories begin as separate threads before coming together with Dan’s booze- and pill-soaked life story.
Doctor Sleep is going on my list of favorite audiobooks of 2013, but I don’t think I’d recommend it if you’re not already a fan of Stephen King’s more recent novels. At 554 pages, Doctor Sleep is long! The pace seemed slow to some reviewers who wanted less character development and fewer sidelines, but the novel is more of a psychological thriller than a gory bloodbath. The author is probing the nature of what it is to be human – how easy it is for a life to go wrong, for example – not just trying to scare the reader. Although the story made me jumpy plenty of times, I’m not a die-hard horror reader. Some reviewers thought the villains of the story, Rose and the rest of the True Knot, weren’t scary enough, and I can see their point, but they fulfilled their role as an evil counterweight in the story. Again, they were scary enough for me! There is also a lot about Alcoholics Anonymous and the nature of addiction, which I personally found fascinating, but other reviewers didn’t enjoy.
In audiobook format, at over 18 hours, Doctor Sleep needed two MP3-CDs to fit. Audiobook narrator Will Patton is incredible! He does Abra’s voice, both as a child and a teenaged girl, very well, with no falsetto, along with the voices of all the other female characters. He succeeds in making the tense parts of the story suspenseful without adding overly dramatic flourishes (e.g. gasping or excessive breathlessness) to the words of the author. In fact, Doctor Sleep is going on my list of extraordinary audiobooks, too, Better on Audio – coming soon!
King, Stephen, author
Patton, Will, narrator
Simon & Schuster Audio
September 24, 2013
18.5 hours on 2 MP3-CDs
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this audiobook from the publisher.
You may remember that I described myself recently as someone who finds cooking for more than five people at once overwhelming.
So last weekend, I planned to prepare dinner for nine. And not just any old dinner, but a gourmet French dinner for nine, using recipes from Cuisine Niçoise: Sun-Kissed Cooking from the French Riviera, a beautiful new cookbook by Hillary Davis.
Even though I had a lot of help from my husband and two daughters, I didn’t accomplish my original goal of preparing the entire meal (appetizers to dessert) using recipes out of Cuisine Niçoise, but the two dishes we did get to make were delicious and satisfied three generations of eaters around the table. (The group included people on low-fiber, low-carb, gluten-free, and vegetarian diets, reminding me of this New Yorker cartoon by Roz Chast, The Last Thanksgiving.
The original menu plan looked like this:
Pistachio Parmesan Chickpea Fries (p. 46)
Lentil Swiss Chard Soup with Orange Zest (p. 71)
Chickpea, Eggplant and Zucchini Fritters (p. 131)
Niçoise Zucchini Tian (p. 127)
Almond-Orange Polenta Squares (p. 219)
Doesn’t that sound delicious? We were just going to substitute vegetarian broth for any recipe that called for chicken broth, and serve a completely vegetarian meal, but once I realized we had to jettison the soup and dessert because I hadn’t purchased certified gluten-free lentils or cornmeal ahead of time and couldn’t get them from the local store, I panicked, and threw in plain old sautéed chicken breasts for the non-vegetarians. Sautéing is French, though, right? (And, yes, I did mess up this very simple meat preparation, and had to be rescued by my husband. For dessert, we had homemade gluten-free birthday cake, which my daughter has already blogged about.)
To go with dinner, my blogging daughter made socca (chickpea flour flatbread) which is mentioned in Hillary Davis’ introduction. At the time, I didn’t realize socca was authentic cuisine Niçoise, but it complemented the rest of the meal perfectly, and consoled us for the lack of Polenta Parmesan Croutons to top our Roasted Winter Vegetables (p. 144), which is what we ended up making in place of the Chickpea, Eggplant, and Zucchini Fritters. (Even a gluten-free meal can have too many chickpea dishes!)
We also made the Niçoise Zucchini Tian.
The rice, grated zucchini, and grated cheese blended together in a kind of a crustless quiche. We substituted vegetable broth for the chicken broth and left out the cayenne, but otherwise followed the recipe as closely as we could. We couldn’t find real Emmental or Gruyère, and had to substitute another Swiss-style cheese.
The recipe is included below, with the permission of the author.
In the book’s introduction, the author says Niçoise cooking – from the French region of Nice – emphasizes vegetables and fish. “It is honest, simple and frugal, based on what is available from the surrounding land and the sea. It is designed with olive oil rather than butter and cream.”
The over 100 recipes in Cuisine Niçoise reflect this simple style of cooking, but since they use so many fresh ingredients, most require a good amount of preparation time, even those included in the section called “Easy Weeknights.” But although this isn’t a cookbook for complete beginners, it is definitely geared to the average home cook. Most of the recipes don’t require specialized equipment or techniques, just plenty of time for peeling, chopping, mincing, grating, etc.
For brunch the following day, I tried the recipe for Swiss Chard Omelette (recipe at Food Hunter’s Guide to Cuisine) and although we called it a frittata instead of an omelette and although I used a too-small plate when I went to flip it and a SMALL amount of uncooked omelette splattered on the stove, it came out looking just like the photo in the cookbook, pretty much!
Cuisine Niçoise is a beautiful cookbook with gorgeous food photography. The book is heavy, with good-quality paper and what appears to be a strong binding. It stays open no matter where the recipe you’re using is in the book. Descriptive notes lead into just about every recipe. The author also includes snippets of information throughout, related to an ingredient, dish, or some other aspect of the recipe, the regional cuisine, or her travels in France. For example, here’s her explanation of tians:
A tian is an earthenware baking dish and is one of the items most commonly found in Niçoise kitchens. Recipes that are made in the dish are referred to as tians. Most often in Nice, tians are made either of colorful layers of vegetables or to resemble a crustless quiche, like the recipe facing.
Reading Cuisine Niçoise is like taking a culinary tour through this region of France. It would make a great gift for the Francophile cook in your life.
Author Hillary Davis is a New Hampshire food & lifestyle writer who lived in the French village of Bar-sur-Loup, near Nice, for over 11 years. In addition to writing cookbooks and juggling speaking and teaching engagements, she maintains not one, but three blogs:
Niçoise Zucchini Tian
Le Tian de Courgette à la Niçoise
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup rice
4 medium zucchini
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 large eggs, beaten
8 basil leaves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 cups grated Emmental or Gruyère, divided
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 6-cup gratin baking dish.
Bring the chicken broth and rice to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Drain and move the rice to a bowl.
Grate the zucchini on a box or flat grater, then squeeze dry with paper towels to eliminate excess liquid. Add the zucchini to the bowl.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet and cook the onions and garlic until lightly browned. Add them to the bowl.
Add the eggs, basil, salt, black pepper, and cayenne to taste, and 1 cup cheese, mix well to combine. Pour into the gratin dish, sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese over the top, and cook for 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden on top.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of the cookbook from the publisher, kindly offered to me via email by the author, whom I don’t know personally.
Happy Weekend Cooking!
The A More Diverse Universe blog tour is hosted by Aarti at BookLust. This is the second year for #diversiverse, and although it’s going to be a little less elaborate, it’s a great way to diversify your reading habits!
Here’s how Aarti describes the origins of this fun blog tour:
A More Diverse Universe celebrates diversity in speculative fiction by encouraging people to read books in the fantasy or science fiction genres that were written by people of color. It is so very important to read diversely, to read books by and about and for people who have different life experiences than you. The fantasy and science fiction genres are especially poorly represented by authors of color. The fantasy shelf at libraries and bookstore is stocked full of epic fantasy series that take place in quasi-Medieval settings where Winter is Coming or massive castles climb to the clouds or peasant girls have godmothers and all the rest of the tropes. As much as fantasy is about magic and other worlds and quests, it’s also heavily influenced by our own experiences. But most authors in fantasy have the same experience. What about the rest of the world, with different cultural norms, societal structures, religions, traditions, and yes, skin color? If you went to a library and saw no books on the shelf that spoke to you and your own life experience, do you think you would have become such a voracious reader?
The world deserves library bookshelves filled with books that can speak to many different people. And that’s what #Diversiverse is all about.
I bought a copy of Kindred by Octavia Butler to read for A More Diverse Universe – a time-travel book I’ve been meaning to read for years. It’s not too late to join in if you want to read a book of speculative fiction written by a person of color. Click here to go to BookLust for full details.
Hungry: What Eighty Ravenous Guys Taught Me About Life, Love, and the Power of Good Food by Darlene Barnes is a peek into what it might be like to go from being an empty nester to cooking for an entire university fraternity. Not something I would have ever thought of doing, actually, but reading this memoir about cooking three meals a day for fifty to eighty young men five days a week plus a few special occasions only reinforced the idea that this wouldn’t be a good career choice for me – someone who finds cooking for more than five people at once overwhelming.
But Darlene Barnes’ memoir of food and nurturing (which went both ways) not only included a few recipes that I plan on trying the next time I have to cook for a crowd, but also overcame my own irrational prejudice against the Greek system. (Which wasn’t shared by the author. One of her sons had had a good experience in a frat before she started working for the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity at the University of Washington.)
Like most memoirs about people who are still alive to read them, Hungry treads carefully when it comes to revealing details about people other than the author herself, so anyone hoping for a gossipy or Animal House-style glimpse inside an frat is out of luck. The author isn’t present nights or weekends, so she usually only saw the aftermath of any wild goings-on, anyway.
I enjoyed this memoir of cooking and maternal-ish fondness for her “guys” from this 40-something, home cook extraordinaire, who brought her love of local and sustainable eating to a group that was more accustomed to deep-fried mozzarella sticks and frozen pizza.
Hungry: What Eighty Ravenous Guys Taught Me About Life, Love, and the Power of Good Food is more family-oriented than Blood, Bones, & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, another memoir from an outsider chef, and more cooking-oriented than Memoir of the Sunday Brunch by Julia Pandl, but if you liked either of those, you might also like this one.
Here’s an excerpt from the author’s introduction:
When I set out to write a book about this experience, I was clear about what it was not going to be: It would not be a manual on sustainable cooking in a frat house, or a listing of recipes. And it wouldn’t be a trotting out of all the old cliches about fraternities, a rehash (or a defense for that matter) of isolated negative news stories, or an expose of the secret rituals, which, as I often had to reassure the guys’ alumni advisor, no one on the “outside” cares about anyway. “Even we don’t care,” one of the guys quipped when he asked me what the book would be. And while I wanted it to be funny, I didn’t want it to be a joke.
I had expected it to be a story about physical and emotional hunger of young men at a critical turning point in their lives, but what I hadn’t realized until I was nearly finished was how much my own quite different life experiences mirrored their fundamental struggles and how a thread of being the outsider wanting in runs through it all. I was struck that while I worked in a heavily male-dominated profession in an all-male workplace, and suffered a fair amount of condescension from many of those males outside the House, I felt empowered, respected, and valued by the people in this quintessential boys’ club. I thought I was there not just to feed them, but to teach them, and I was surprised to find out how much I didn’t know, how wrong I often was, how quick I was to judge, and how the hunger was not all on their side. And I wanted to write about it because it seemed to me that the longing for connection and purpose, not to mention a heavy dose of laughter and fun in life, was a longing that was not mine alone.
Hungry: What Eighty Ravenous Guys Taught Me About Life, Love, and the Power of Good Food
$24.99 US/ $27.99 CAN
Happy Weekend Cooking!
- Not Your Usual Wild West Story: Doc by Mary Doria Russell
- Weekend Cooking: Gratins by Tina Salter #weekendcooking
- How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny (Audio) & Musing About Series @BlackstoneAudio
- Time Traveling into Southern Slavery: Kindred by Octavia Butler #diversiverse
- Satisfyingly Long, Not Too Deep: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (Audio)
- Ileen Cuccaro on Weekend Cooking: Triple-Coconut Macaroons from The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook
- Audra (Unabridged Chick) on Not Your Usual Wild West Story: Doc by Mary Doria Russell
- Shannon @ River City Reading on Not Your Usual Wild West Story: Doc by Mary Doria Russell
- Vasilly on Weekend Cooking: Gratins by Tina Salter #weekendcooking
- Laurie C on About
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