Category Archives: books

Five for Friday: What I’ve been Reading

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Here’s what I’ve been reading/listening to lately… Things I may not have read had a known more about them!

The Bafut Beagles
by Gerald Durrell 
(non-fiction) – skip

Remember this book that I DNF because I left it behind in Michigan last fall when visiting my in-laws? Well, it was still on the night stand right where I left it when I returned over Memorial Day! I picked it back up because I really did want to finish it despite my first review:

 It was the last book I was reading on our trip to Michigan and I was having such a hard time pushing through it. It is an account of the author’s trip to the Cameroons in the 1949 for the collection of zoo specimens. I believe that is is non-fiction; but the book reads more like a novel and some of the accounts just seem unbelievable or embellished. But what do I know about such things or that era?

It was a difficult book for me to read because of some of the treatment of the animals, but would we know about so many animals in the world today if someone had not collected specimens?

I tried to take a different approach to reading the remainder of the book. Perhaps this could be one of the first travelogues! I tried to look at it from the perspective of someone visiting a new land. I got more of out of it this way, but it still wasn’t my favorite. Somehow, someway, another one of Durrell’s books ended up on my bookshelf. I just noticed it the other day. I wonder what that one will be like.

~

Pride & Prejudice
by Jane Austen 
(fiction, audiobook) – worth a read/listen

I will admit that I had never read Pride & Prejudice until now. And this audio-version was highly recommended. I’ve shied away from audiobooks as of late just because I won’t be commuting for the next six months and won’t have too many long stretches alone in the car.

Still, when I learned that there Audible.com has free channels that Prime Members can listen to, I jumped on board! I don’t want to pay for an audible subscription, so this option was perfect for me. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can download the free Audible App and after signing in with your Prime credentials, go to Channels. There are podcasts and such, but if you scroll down to the bottom there is a link to Audiobook Collections. Pride and Prejudice can be found under Celebrity Voices / Classic Stories. You can only stream books; however, you cannot download them, so keep your data plan in mind if you somewhere without wi-fi. (I downloaded this one only for walks, so that I’d want to get out there and walk so that I could listen!)

I will admit that this took me a bit to get into this book and my mind sometimes drifted. But I still followed the storyline without absorbing every word. With Audible, you can also slow down or speed up the audio. I find that depending on the book, 1.25 to 1.5x speed works well for me. I have no idea how anyone can listen to a book at 3x the speed, but I’m sure you can train your brain to get used to it!

I find that the book is a little slow-moving at first, but I do love the story! Coincidentally, I discovered the 5-hour, 2 CD British television version of this book (starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth) sitting on our shelf in the weight room in the basement. My friend Jen lent it to me back when I had my back surgery back in 2013! It was time to return it. When Rob was out of town for a weekend, I watched it all… and this was during the time that I was listening to the book! I’d go for a long walk and listen and then I’d watch a section. I really did absorb more that way. And I will tell you that this is not an adaptation of the book like most movies are. This is almost word-for-word. I loved it and highly recommend both!

~

Lucky Boy
by Shanthi Sekaran 
(fiction) – must read

I need to write a post about how I don’t like movie trailers because they reveal too much. I think the same is true for me and books. If I know too much about a book’s plot or premise, it may actually deter me from reading it. I’ve found there are many books that I never would have chose on my own have been some of my favorites!

This book is no exception. I read the book’s description after picking up the book from the library where I had it on hold. Hmmph… I thought. It was about two different mothers and their relationships and journeys through motherhood. There was no way that I was going to be interested or able to relate to this, having never been a mother myself.

But I was so wrong. 

This is one of those books I couldn’t put down. One of those books where when I was interrupted, I didn’t even realize that I was reading a book or that there was anything else going on around me – I was that present. I had to be jolted back to real life.

The thing that maybe I forgot when reading the description is that I didn’t have to relate to enjoy the book. It just has to be a well-written book that takes me to another time, another place, another life, another world. I mean, I loved Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers and as an American-born woman, I obviously can’t relate to the immigrant experience. And Lucky Boy is about so much more than motherhood.

I highly recommend this book.

~

Eating in the Middle: A Mostly Wholesome Cookbook
by Andie Mitchell (non-fiction, cookbook) –worth a read

I read Mitchell’s memoir It Was Me All Along about her struggle with weight after having followed her old blog Can You Stay for Dinner? (It’s where I found this recipe!) Her writing is so heartfelt and her insights are so helpful having dealt with my own struggles on and off over the years.

After losing over 100 pounds, Mitchell found that her new challenge was to learn how to eat healthy but not deprive herself of the foods she once loved. This is what she describes as “Eating in the Middle”. You will find healthy recipes and tips on things she learned alongside recipes for sugary-made-from-scratch-make-for-company-or-share-with-friends indulgences. Still, I found that only a handful of the recipes appealed to me. Not always in terms of if they sounded good or not, but whether or not I’d actually make them. (I don’t bake, for example.)

One of the best parts I find about cookbooks, though, aren’t always the recipes, but what you can learn from the recipe creator. I love how Mitchell declares that she found that eating healthier in the morning set her up for a healthier day in general. Or that by making a point to eat a big healthy salad at lunch, she’d be sure to get her veggies in! Or that if she wants to eat something indulgent (like a pizza, which is tempting to overeat) to always fill up with veggies alongside.  All of these things aren’t new concepts; but when you hear them again, reiterated in how they were incorporated into someone’s life (not just as a “tip”), I think it goes a long way in seeing how it can be incorporated into your own.

~

Truly Madly Guilty
by Liane Moriarty (fiction) – worth a read

 

This is the second Moriarty novel I’ve read. What I love most about her novels – every character is flawed. Nothing is cut and dry. But with this book, all I kept screaming in my head, “So tell me what happened at the barbecue already!!” I may have felt that way for a good while; but you do eventually find out. 🙂

~

Does a book’s description deter you from reading a book?

 

Cheers~
Carrie

A Good Mix of 5 Books for Friday!

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A good mix of audio, thriller, cookbooks this week. Oh, and there’s that one about a dog… 🙂

OUTLANDER
by Diana Galbadon 
(fiction, audiobook) – DNF

I sort of  lied about not listening to audiobooks until this winter when my commute resumes… because there was this one. I’ve seen Outlander on so many must-read lists, but it is Just. So. Long. (Approx 860 pages.) My mother-in-law even said she loved it and that it truly was worth reading.

Then I spotted it on an audiobook list and thought about checking it out from the library, but realized that I with my 1 hr commute three days a week (at the time), I wouldn’t be able to get this 32+ hour audiobook back to the library when it was due. So I asked Rob if instead of listening to music on our drive to Michigan and back to visit his parents if he’d consider listening to an audiobook. He agreed.

After we got on the road and situated for our road trip, I popped in the first CD (there are 28!) and Rob said, “Oh, no! A Brit!?” I would agree that sometimes British narrators are difficult to follow, depending on the context of the book. But due to storyline, it was only appropriate because the main character is British. I told him to give it some time. It often takes me a bit to get used to the voice of any narrator when I start an audiobook. I told him that we could eject the CD and go back to radio any time he wanted. I was just glad he was open to the idea!

We loved the whole idea around this book! It did seem slow at some points and I will admit that my mind drifted a bit from time to time, but we kept listening. At one point, Rob asked what genre this was because it really was hard to tell. A quick google search led to a description of this story as romance. I wasn’t about to tell Rob that! He would have grimaced and stopped listening! Plus, it truly is much more than that. It starts out as part historical fiction and the time travel turns it into fantasy and war fiction and love and romance and then maybe… erotica? Oh boy! This book really does have it all.

After reading some reviews, I will agree that this book does take some time to get into and can be slow-moving, but the characters really develop into something special. However, Rob and I quickly realized that by the end of our trip, we were only going to get half way through all of the CDs!

At one point, I told Rob that we could pick this up on the TV series to move everything along a little more quickly. But in the end, as the book got better, we realized we’d miss listening to the book. We decided that we are going to pick up the audiobook again and finish the second half on our trip to Michigan in the fall.

~

I See You
by Claire Mackintosh
 (fiction) – worth a read

After reading Mackintosh’s I Let You Go earlier this year, I put myself on the wait list for her second book. I found it funny that she addressed the issue of the “dreaded second novel” in her acknowledgments, about how that second one never quite compares… And I think that may be true with this one. It’s a great book, but very different. I loved the setting (Welsh countryside) and interesting twist midway through I Let You Go. This one takes place in the tubes of London. It’s quite creepy, but well-done. I love how most of her characters feel like real, average people.

~

Cravings: Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat
by Chrissy Teigen
 (cookbook) – worth a read

Tiegen makes a point in her book to say something to the effect that she didn’t want to write a cookbook about salads, but also that she didn’t want to write one that said, “Look at me! I can eat whatever I want!” {I don’t remember the exact words, so I’m paraphrasing here.} But truly, I kind of feel like the latter is exactly what she did!

This book is about flavor – and not compromising that. I chose a few recipes that I intend to make. Rob’s new fave obsession is Mexican Street Corn, so that is on the docket.  But to be quite honest, the recipes I have listed to try, tend to be the lightest ones out of the cookbook! Creamy Parmesan Skillet Eggs, Chunky Creamy Mushroom Soup and Sriracha Caesar Salad. Yes, please!

~

A Dog’s Way Home
by W. Bruce Cameron (fiction) – MUST READ

I don’t think you know how long I’ve waited for this book. I first read Cameron’s A Dog’s Purpose a couple of years ago (way before the movie, which I have yet to see) and just loved the concept of a book written from a dog’s perspective. The way Cameron writes, too, is so compelling that when a chapter ends and I tell myself I’ll pause there, I want to keep reading because there is almost always a cliff-hanger!

I immediately read the follow-up book A Dog’s Journey. After finishing that book, I went in search of Cameron’s other books because I craved more books written from a dog’s point-of-view. Alas, those were his only two. I’ve read a couple of his other books, but was still longing for this style. A Dog’s Way Home did not disappoint. I again loved the perspective, the storyline and how it gripped my heart. Any dog lover should read and savor. These books are some of my favorites of all time.

~

Twin Cities Chef’s Table:
Extraordinary Recipes from the City of Lakes to the Capital City
by Stephanie A. Meyer (non-fiction, cookbook) – worth a read

It’s almost a secret that our Twin Cities house some wonderful culinary delights. I have been touting for years that we live in a highly underrated foodie city! When I brought this book home from the library and put it on the coffee table, Rob thumbed through it and said, “Why don’t we HAVE this book?! We need to own it!”

This book was published in 2014 and it is so fun to read about some of our favorite places (we’ve been to about 25 of the restaurants listed in here), grieve those that have closed (approximately 10) and regret those that we never made it to before they closed. That being said, I wouldn’t realistically make any of the recipes out of this book. Maybe that’s why I am a diner at these restaurants, not a chef. 🙂

Still, only three years later, this book already has become a piece of history – illustrating top restaurants in the Twin Cities at a place in time. We all know how the dining culture evolves with trends coming and going. But one thing I think will remain the same for years to come: relying on farm fresh, local ingredients and sustainability whenever possible. The only thing that’ll change? The creative ways in which to use ingredients!

~

Have you ever listened to audiobook with someone else?

Cheers~
Carrie

5 for Friday – What I Read This Spring

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I’m a bit behind on what I’ve read and listened to, but here’s what was in front of me this spring… just before our trip to Charleston. FYI – There are some great ones/favorites in here!

The Artist
by Suzanne Hagelin 
(fiction) – on the fence

I’m guessing I found this book as a free download on the Amazon Kindle store. It had good reviews and I “purchased” it on a whim. Although I don’t own a tablet or e-reader, I like to have a few Kindle books on my phone in case I’m stranded in line somewhere without a book. I don’t tend to enjoy reading books on my phone. This was a shorter book with an intriguing premise; but I’m not sure I like how it unfolded. As usual, I’m just not fond of many endings to books.

~

Underground Railroad
by Colson Whitehead 
(fiction) – must read

This book has an ongoing, growing waiting list at my library and for good reason. I can’t say that I’ve ever read a historical novel like this. Whitehead is a wonderfully descriptive writer who captures such depth in imagining place and time you can almost feel it. I loved this book… the only part I didn’t was the ending. Because this piece could truly have kept on going.

~

Behold the Dreamers
by Imbolo Mbue 
(fiction, audiobook) – must read/listen

Somewhere along the way, I not only had reserved this on my to-read list, but also as one as I should listen to on audio. I would definitely agree that this is the route you should take there. This book probably rates up there as one of my favorite audiobooks of all time! The narrator has a phenomenal ability to do a wide range of voices and accents that feel completely authentic. In today’s world of immigrant debates, I think this book is highly relevant to our time.

~

Sheet Pan Suppers:
120 Recipes for Simple, Surprising, Hands-Off Meals Straight from the Oven
*Plus Breakfasts. Desserts. and Snacks, Too!

by Molly Gilbert (non-fiction, cookbook) – skip

This is one of those cookbooks where I started reading and got really excited about it. I love the idea of pulling an entire meal out of the oven all arranged and cooked on one pan. Then after putting the cookbook aside for a few days and returning to it later, I lost interest. I only found a couple of recipes I could actually find myself making.

~

Dinner: A Love Story
by Jenny Rosenstrach (non-fiction, cookbook/memoir) – must read

Kat at Tenaciously Yours posts weekly photos of her dinners and sites many of her meals as coming from Dinner: A Love Story. With my plan to borrow one cookbook per week from the library this year, this seemed a logical choice.

I completely adored this cookbook, but not for the reasons I thought! Since this book is part memoir, it does read just like a story… which is how I often read cookbooks anyway. After flagging several recipes, I decided to just purchase the cookbook myself. This is why it’s helpful to check cookbooks out of the library – you can decide whether or not you want to own them!

~

This is a sixth one, but I’m adding it because it’ll be my last audiobook for a while, until this winter when my commute resumes.

M Train
by Patti Smith (non-fiction, audiobook) – DNF

I had this on a list of recommended audiobooks. At the time, I didn’t know it was non-fiction, nor the content of the story. I am not familar with author Patti Smith either. At first listen, I couldn’t believe that they had her narrate her own book on audio. It was monotonous and dry and I had hard time paying attention. The writing is excellent, but I couldn’t get past her voice. But after a while, it grew on me. (Which often seems to be the case with audiobooks.) Then it just felt right that she was reading this memoir of sorts. Because it was her experience.

I did abandon this book however, because it was what I was listening to when my commute came to a halt. After that, I was in the car for no more than a few minutes at a time by myself. It didn’t make sense to keep going when I was having a hard time concentrating with my own circumstances as it was. But her experiences (and love of black coffee) and the content of the book is interesting enough that I may revisit when my commute resumes this winter.

What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

Cheers~
Carrie

5 for Friday – What I’ve Been Reading!

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It’s a been a while since I’ve read (or skipped) these, but here are my thoughts…

Eat Your Way To Happiness: 10 Diet Secrets to Improve Your Mood, Curb Your Cravings and Keep the Pounds Off
by Elizabeth Somer 
(non-fiction) – DNF/skip

I’m guessing I was interested in this book after reading The Happiness Diet, which I loved reading to explore the connection of mood to food. However, Eat Your Way to Happiness felt somewhat dated, focusing on low-fat foods and artificial sweeteners, so I quickly abandoned it.

~

The World’s Most Romantic Destinations:
50 Dreamy Getaways, Private Retreats, and Enchanting Places to Celebrate Love
by National Geographic
 (non-fiction) – must read

Why wouldn’t you want to read this beautiful book!? It’s great one to have sitting on your coffee table to thumb through when you are dreaming of a vacay with your sweetie. This book is for everyone. It covers destinations for adventurers, foodies, history buffs, beach bums… whatever you desire, they’ve got it all… as well as recommendations for the best-of-the-best most luxurious accommodations if you so desire.

 

~

A Fatal Grace
by Louis Penny
 (fiction, audiobook) – worth a read/listen

This is the second book in the Arnaud Gamache series, set in Quebec. I read the first, Still Life, but listened to this one on audio. I think I enjoyed this one better than the first! And I really like all the little aspects and descriptions of Quebecois life added in. Such a treat. As much as I’m not a fan of winter, Louise Penny sure does know how to romanticize it!

~

The Irresistible Introvert: Harness the Power of Quiet Charisma in a Loud World
by Michaela Chung (non-fiction) – skip

As an introvert myself, this book didn’t have much new for me. Some parts of the book felt almost like the author was really bashing on extroverts. I don’t think it was the intention, just the way in which she wanted to describe how introverts sometimes feel. There are tips for introverts on how to manage their energy, as well as interact with authenticity, which some might feel helpful

~

Food: A Love Story
by Jim Gaffigan (non-fiction, audiobook) – worth a listen

By now, you may have realized that I like to listen to comedians’ audiobooks. Sometimes, I have a hard time listening to them at first, because the delivery doesn’t seem as natural as say, stand-up comedy, when they are reading their own book. But these books don’t take long to grow on me. Jim Gaffigan is no exception. While much of his stuff is over-the-top, some of it was hilariously relatable and such fun to have a little bit playing when Rob happened to be in the car with me.

What are your summer reading intentions?

Cheers~
Carrie

5 Books for Friday!

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I’ve got a bit of a mix for you this week! Here’s what I’ve been reading lately…

Modern Romance
by Aziz Ansari (non-fiction, audiobook) – worth a listen

I do really enjoy listening to comedian authors read their own books on audio. Ansari is no exception. Though this book is more sociological than comedic. He does throw in some fun lines in here and there; but he truly did do the research for this book, along with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenburg. Much of their findings are not surprising, but a few things are… and are good to know if you are single out there! I also think Ansari used this knowledge to create his sitcom Master of None, a series which my husband and I had watched prior to listening this book. I liked both. The book made me feel pretty lucky that I didn’t have to marry someone within a 5-mile radius of where I grew up. 😉

~

Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers
by Debby Maugans
 (cookbook) – DNF

 

I was so excited to leaf through this cookbook! I am not much of a baker, if only because I can’t have baked goods in the house without them being the only thing that I eat until it is ALL. GONE. I loved the idea of making just a little bit here or there or for a couple of friends coming over. I mean, how cute are those cakes on the cover?! I liked the tip to use a regular (cleaned) 14.5 ounce vegetable can. After I read the intro and the important bits, I started to thumb through the recipes to discover what I would flag and attempt to bake. I set the book aside for a while. When I returned to it, I found I was no longer interested. The recipes made me feel overwhelmed. In the end, I didn’t finish this book before returning it to the library. I should have just taken one really-good-looking, totally-doable recipe from the book and attempted it. At least I’d either have a great recipe I’d make all the time and perhaps return to the library to check out this book again; or I’d know that baking still really isn’t for me.

~

Beguiled
by Deeanne Gist & J. Mark Bertrand
(fiction) – worth a read

 

My husband I will be visiting Charleston, South Carolina at the end of the month. I wanted to read a book or two set in the city to get a feel for it. This one definitely does the trick for the historic district! I loved the descriptions and looking up some of the streets and learning the areas. The main character is also a dog walker, so that fun little tidbit tied in with a little bit of romance, suspense and mystery made it an enjoyable read.

~

The House on Tradd Street
by Karen White
 (fiction) – worth a read

Did you know Charleston is also known for its hauntings? When we’ve told people about this upcoming trip, many recommended a haunted ghost tour! It is on our list of things to do. Before picking up this book about an old house in the historic district, I didn’t realize the main character has the ability to sense and see ghosts. This is not usually my type of book; nor one I would pick up, but I loved that I got another glimpse of Charleston in more ways than one.

~

The Happiness Diet:
A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood and Lean, Energized Body

by Tyler Graham & Drew Ramsey (non-fiction) – worth a read 

 

If you’ve read my blog from the beginning, you’ll know that I hate the term “diet” because today it’s used as a term for a new fad or for a new fix to lose weight. Saying you are “on a diet” is a little silly because your diet is what you eat, whether you are on one or not.

I picked up this book because I wanted to learn the connections between food and mood. Are there any foods can truly improve how we feel emotionally? The answer is entirely yes. I loved that this book went into the science of why certain foods are good for us and make us feel better. However, most of the explanations are pretty complicated. The only way I’d ever be able to reiterate them is if I took a course on this type of nutrition and had to study it for an exam. Instead, let’s just say a lot of it is what we know: real food is what makes us feel good. But not only that… It’s the processed crap that harms us and makes us feel sluggish and down in the dumps.

I did like learning the importance of eating meat and dairy from pastured, grass-fed animals. I also found that some of the produce that’s best eaten organic surprised me, too. Oranges = yes. A dye is often injected to give the perfect appearance when sold. Onions = no. They’ve a natural resistance to pests. Another thing that was interesting to learn, but makes sense when explained is that regular sugar is no better for us than high fructose corn syrup. There is no nutritional value in either. On the contrary, natural sweeteners like honey, real maple syrup and blackstrap molasses have abundances of vitamins in minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and zinc.

There are so many easy, healthy recipes in this book and very few that I wouldn’t make!

~

Which of these books would you read?

Cheers~
Carrie

Friday 5: Some of the better books I’ve read lately…

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I’ve had a good round of books as of late! Here you go…

I Let You Go
by Clare Mackintosh 
(fiction) – worth a read

i-let-you-go

I am guessing that I found this book on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Unputdownable list. On my copy from the library, a quote from The Girl on the Train author Paula Hawkins indicates that this novel has a “killer twist”.

I was drawn to this book, of course, by the blue cover. {I tend to be!} I can agree with Hawkins that there was a twist to this book; but I don’t think it is where you are expecting. While there is a bit of twist at the end; I think the real twist is in the middle. You will be questioning everything you read in the pages prior! For this reason, I don’t think it can ever be made into a movie. Still, I loved reading about the Welsh coast, which would be a beautiful setting in a film.

Truthfully, I liked this book more than The Girl on the TrainI would classify it as “unputdownable”, too. While it did take me about a week to read it, I read the last 60% of the book in one day.

~

The High Mountains of Portugal
by Yann Martel
 (fiction, audiobook) – on the fence

This book was on my list for two reasons:

1) I read Yann Martel’s Life of Pi years ago and loved it and

2) we are considering a trip to Portugal this fall.

I am not sure why I chose the audiobook version of this novel; but I am thinking I may have enjoyed this a bit more if I read the hard copy. I do remember having a hard time getting into Martel’s Life of Pi, but that by the end it became one of my favorite books! The High Mountains of Portugal also took me a while to get into, but I think part of that may have been because of the reader’s voice.

Funny, though, I thought the reader’s voice was quite perfect for this book – almost too perfect. The Portuguese phrases and place names seemed to be so perfectly pronounced, that I had a hard time picturing them in my head. You know how sometimes when you read a language that you don’t know on paper that you can get the general gist because there may be similar spelling or words to a language you already know? I wanted that.

I found my mind wandering during much of the audiobook, but kept up with most of it. This novel covers three inter-related tales. However, I think the symbolism is so profound (much like Life of Pi), that I just might need the Cliff notes. Much of it was over my head. (And the fact that I wasn’t listening carefully the entire time.)

For the record, this is one of the several books that I’ve been reading as of late that mentions Agatha Christie novels, three of which are in this post! (The other is Behind Closed Doors.) Truth be told, I’ve never read a book by this famed author. Maybe this is a sign I should?!

~

Food, Health and Happiness:
115 On-Point Recipes for Great Meals and a Better Life

by Oprah Winfrey
 (cookbook) – worth a read

I learned of this cookbook from Biz at My Bizzy Kitchen. Because of the recent soup craze in our household, Biz had me when she said “I was thrilled that the first 19 recipes are soup recipes!” Not only that, but Biz and I also have in common the tendency to read cookbooks like novels. Plus, Oprah. So this recommendation was a no-brainer.

This cookbook really does read like a novel! Oprah has always shared her struggles with food; but in this book she dispenses the wisdom she has learned through the years and I love the message – real food with people you love.

There are several recipes in this book that I will realistically never make. But I did pull out a few that I will. {Yes, they are soups!} And one of the great food tips I got from Oprah in this book – using (Sabatino brand) truffle zest and truffle salt! Rob and I have bought truffle oil in the past – a very expensive one we didn’t use very often and ended up throwing out and a cheaper one that had a taste of kerosene on the finish. Salt and zest makes much more sense.

I’ve already had some decadent truffle scrambled eggs in the morning with this little hint of flavor and no added calories. Indulgent!

~

Rules of Civility
by Amor Towles
 (fiction) – must read

This book was also on MMD’s Unputdownable list. And here is another book that took me a week to read, but the last 60% was in just one day! This book takes place over the course of one year – 1938. I wasn’t sure how into it I was at the beginning, but there are so many messages here. I learned, too, that while I shy away from historical novels sometimes, I do like books set in this era. I wanted a word to describe it, so I looked up a few things and realized the “era” that I enjoy is of a much wider range than I had expected. Apparently, I need to brush up on my history!

  • The Gilded Age (1870-1900) – Mark Twain described the late 19th century as the Guilded Age, or as “glittering on the surface but corrupt underneath.” I thought this described the 1930s, but apparently I was wrong…
  • Midnight in Paris – This film takes place in Paris in the 20s. Parts of this book reminded me of this this movie – all of the artists and such.
  • Prohibition (1920-1933) – All the gin-drinking in this novel had me curious about when Prohibition ended. In fact, I thought it lasted just a few years. But 13 years?! I should have remembered this from all of the St. Paul Gangster Tours I’ve been. (The Volstead Act was signed in St. Paul.)
  • The Great Depression (1929 – 1939) – The protaganist in this story acts and speaks as if The Great Depression is over, without actually saying so. This may be because it 1938 was the tail end and such an economic crisis spanned the globe. (Did some of this crisis have to do with Prohibition, I wonder?!)
  • World War II (1939-1945) – Looking up all of these dates put these things in to perspective for me and gave me a bit of a time line.

I really like that this book was set over the course of one year. There is a whole chapter that takes place on birthday in 1938. Oddly enough, it had me thinking about my maternal grandfather. Truth be told, all of my grandparents would have been alive during this time. However, my grandpa shared my birth month and it got me thinking that he would have been 24 at the time. Was his life similar or extremely different since he didn’t live in Manhattan?

It’s times like these that I wish I would have had the maturity and foresight to ask all of my grandparents about their lives during those times before their passing. Why is it now that I find it more fascinating?

By the end of this book, I realized I had to finally start watching the Amazon series Z: The Beginning of Everything. Zelda Fitzgerald was one of my favorite “characters” in Midnight in Paris. I wanted to see more of her. I have no idea if either adaptation is a true account of what F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife was like; but I find it entertaining nonetheless.

Last piece of note: This is one of the books I’ve read recently that mentions Agatha Christie novels!

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my grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry
by Fredrik Backman (fiction) – worth a read 

I adored Backman’s A Man Called Ove; but I listened to the audiobook. This was the first of his books that I read with my eyes. 🙂 This is a moving story about the relationship of an “almost-eight-year-old” and her grandmother. The grandmother tells her granddaughter some glorious fairy tales… that sometimes get blurred with reality.

For instance, you see that dog on the cover of the book? They feed this animal chocolate – and mostly sweets all of the time. While reading, I had to google this book and figure out why in the world they would do such a thing. I was so worried the dog would die! But I came across this interview with the author. I guess he’s been asked this question a lot… {Insert angry emails here!}

We, as readers, were meant to use our imaginations for this part because the animal is supposed to be a wurse. But the book’s description of a wurse did not remind me of a dog at all. That, in conjunction with the misleading photo on the front of the book and the fact that none of the other imaginary parts of the fairy tales ended up in reality made me confused. Wouldn’t you be confused by this passage?

Other than that silliness, I really did enjoy this book. In the end, you’ll understand the reason for the fairy tales and how they take shape (just not as literally as the wurse) in reality. It’s worth the read. {Even if you have to get confused about wurses!} Oh… wait. One more thing. Agatha Christie is mentioned in this book, too. I think this is a sign…

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If you’ve read Agatha Christie, which book is your favorite?

Which book would tell someone to read first?

Cheers~
Carrie

5 for Friday: Books I’ve Read (Mostly Cookbooks!)

Standard

Yup, it’s that time of the week… 5 more books I’ve read/listened to lately!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (audio)
by Mark Haddon (fiction) – must listen/read

curious-incident

I don’t know if I ever shared the story of how Rob and I met, but there are two short answers – it was in a bar and because of an autistic boy. Sound strange? Well, you’ll have to ask me about it some time. In any case, this book was wonderfully written from the viewpoint of an autistic boy. I’ve had this book on my to-read list on GoodReads for a while.

One day, I received a link to a blog post in my inbox. I recognized the title, not even knowing what the book was about at that time. When the last line of her post read, ” You can purchase tickets online at the Hennepin Theatre Trust and don’t forget the rush seats available for students and teachers!” I immediately thought of my friend Jen, who not only works in education, but also was one of the people that worked with the autistic boy who brought Rob and I together (in a roundabout way).

She said, “I’d love to go. Aren’t you the one who gave me that book to read?”

“No.”

“Did you recommend I read it a long time ago?”

“No, I’d only heard about it in the last year or so.”

She was almost certain that it was me. The thing is… This book was published in 2003, the year Rob and I met.

Enough about that little background. In the end, we did go to the play with rush tickets. It was so well-done and I walked out of the theater with tears streaming down my face. It is such a heartfelt story.

I still wanted to read the book, but also found it on a list recommended books to experienced on audio. I now know why… The narrator is absolutely fantastic and I felt totally captivated during my commutes. {I confess that my mind can wander if an audiobook doesn’t have me hooked!} Of course, I knew the ending, but I still found myself crying while driving home as the story was wrapping up. I highly recommend this story – in any form – to anyone.

~

Off the Menu: Staff Meals from America’s Top Restaurants
by Marissa Guggiana
 (cookbook) – skip

off-the-menu

By now, you know that I like to read cookbooks like novels. I loved the premise of the book’s title; but truth be told, after the intro, I ended up just flipping through the recipes. It’s still a great book, but from a recipe standpoint, I personally only felt compelled to make two of the recipes myself: Tuscan Kale Salad and a Cheddar Ale Soup. But I haven’t even done that.

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Commonwealth
by Ann Patchett
 (fiction) – on the fence

commonwealth

This is my first time reading any of Patchett’s books, other than her short memoir/advice on writing. {I know, where have I been all these years?!} She is now a quite famous author with over a dozen books to her name.

I had a bit of a time getting into this book at the beginning and had trouble keeping some of the cast of characters straight… but then things changed and I became engrossed! The entanglement of lives and stories was intriguing; but I felt there was no real climax. But then again, I’m not sure that one would have been appropriate… Or maybe it was that there was a climax, but it was talked about in the past tense over different points in the book, if that makes any sense. I didn’t really care for the ending because it was so gradual and not really finite. However, I don’t care for book endings in general. It is a rare case when I do!

This is a book in wich I liked in the middle, but not really the beginning or end, although both were necessary. This is also the second book I read this year that included the difficulties of aging. That stuff is always tough for me.

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300 Sensational Soups
by Carla Snyder & Meredith Deeds
 (cookbook) – on the fence

300-soups

We’ve really been into soup lately, but this book overwhelmed me. I started by flagging some of the recipes I wanted to try, but there were too many! I ended up deciding to thumb through the rest and put it on my wishlist over at PaperbackSwap.com to obtain my own copy.

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5 Ingredients or Less Slow Cooker Cookbook
by Stephanie O’Dea (cookbook) – worth a read 

5-ingredients

Yes, I’ve been checking out a lot of cookbooks lately! I’ve followed O’Dea’s Year of Slow Cooking Blog because I’m always looking for easy meals. I love the fact that this book makes it even easier – settling for 5 ingredients or less. What I also loved about this book, as she notes in her introduction, that she refrains from making one of those ingredients a cream-based soup. She says that there are already so many slow cooker recipes with cream-of-X soups online and in vintage cookbooks. For the most part, O’Dea sticks with real food, which is what I like to see!

It’s funny, though, most of the recipes I flagged were for me {read: chicken, black beans, etc.}, not for Rob!

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Since I’ve only read one, tell me, what’s your favorite Ann Patchett novel?

Cheers~
Carrie