Monday, April 30, 2012

Musing Monday...Do You Hear What I Hear?

It's Monday, so let's see what Miz B at at Should Be Reading has in mind this week...

This week’s musing asks…


Do you listen to audiobooks? If not, why not? And, if so, what has been one of your favorites, so far?


Not looking for trouble here. but didn't we muse about this recently?
Oh, that is ok..I love to repeat myself. Sometimes endlessly.
So, do I listen to audiobooks?
Hmmm..well, I do, on occasion. Not a regular basis though.
Why? Because I do not think we are really suited for each other, audiobooks and me.

I only figured it out in recent times, but I am not an audio person. I blame that for my total inability to learn a foreign language. Ok, not total. I somehow made my way through 3 years of Spanish class in high school, even getting good grades but it was all a sham. In one ear and out the other..literally. Now a written language, like Latin and classical Greek, they and I got along just fine. Well, except that one teacher in high school who though Latin should be taught as a spoken language. I could have murdered her. Happily, no other Latin or Greek teachers I had shared that idea.

I learn things visually. When I remember things, I actually 'see' them in my mind, as they happen or as I saw them in a book. Even my memories of spoken things are visual..which is a bit hard to explain. The written word, on a page, is my friend. Things I hear are not.
Yes, audiobooks. My attention wanders. I have a problem following the story. Even at its best, I think I miss a lot of detail that I would have picked up in a written text. And for me, that is a lot of the enjoyment of reading that I am missing. So, even at their best...by which I mean the ones that do not put me right to sleep, audiobooks are a lesser thing, a compromise, as opposed to a written book.

Now, I have had a few fair successes with audiobooks, but I realize it has to be the right book and under the right circumstances. A long road trip, ideally on a boring interstate is perfect. Nothing to distract me but endless road, mile after mile. But taking maybe only one road trip a year, even at a couple of books per trip, that is not very productive. Oh well.

And the right book helps. Not a book with a big cast of characters. No, that is sometimes difficult enough in print, where I actually 'see' the names. Not a book like a complicated mystery with a lot of twists and turns. No, something more straight forward I think.
I had a lot of success, audio speaking, with a couple of books by Joshilyn Jackson...Gods in Alabama, Between, Georgia. They were narrated by the author and I thought she was perfect. I actually have Backseat Saint on my iPod, but I somehow screwed it up and the chapters got all mixed up..wow, I was happy I was listening to it on a walk and not a 12 hour drive somewhere. That would have driven me nuts.
Which unlike my road trip, is not a long drive.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Weekend Cooking...Pimento Cheese

I must say I love my iPad and one of my favorite apps on it is Zite, "a personalized magazine for iPhone and iPad that gets smarter as you use it". You pick subjects you are interested in and it trolls the internet, endless sites, picking articles it think may interest you. You can vote thumbs up or down for each as you read it and that will determine the type of ones it will pick in the future.

I must say, I find all sorts of stuff I would never have the time, or be able, to find otherwise, including a lot of great recipes and food related stuff...and book related stuff..and photography related stuff...and Maine related stuff and fly fishing related stuff ...Ok, you get the idea.

But for Zite, and an article it led me to, I might never have realized the importance of pimento cheese in the life of our Southern neighbors. Like those below the Mason-Dixon line south. I might have gone my entire life never having tasted Pimento Cheese!
While I had heard of it, probably served in some book I had read, I had never tasted it, made it..or knew anyone else who tasted or made it. There may be people in NJ who make it, but I never met them. But according to this article, it is an essential food group in the land of Dixie.
Who knew?
Well, we Northerners had to give it a try! So I made some for the Sil and Bro for our little celebration of their 29th wedding anniversary last Sunday, along with mac and cheese and hot dogs. Hey, they picked the menu!

I must say it was a hit! Totally yummy and oddly addictive.
I did add more garlic than the one small clove that was recommended and played it by ear on the hot sauce. I was using Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce..it was what I had on hand...and had no idea hot it was compared to what she used. And then with the pepper jack cheese...well, I added about a teaspoon or two of hot sauce as I made it and added more at the end to taste.


 

Perky Pimento Cheese
adapted from A Spicy Perspective

Ingredients
8 oz. cream cheese
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 very small clove garlic, minced
1 Tb. chopped onion
1 Tb. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tb. hot sauce
8 oz. shredded extra sharp cheddar (2 cups)
8 oz. shredded pepper jack cheese (2 cups)
1/3 cup chopped pimentos, drained
Pepper

Instructions
Place the cream cheese, garlic and onion in the food processor. Puree until smooth.
Then add the mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce and puree again.
Scrape the bowl and add half the shredded cheese. Pulse until well combined.
Pour the mixture into a large bowl. Add the remaining cheese, pimentos and pepper to taste. Mix, cover and place in the fridge. Allow the pimento cheese spread to chill and thicken for 30 minutes.



I will say, if you taste this when it is done, you will have an issue with waiting the 30 minutes, but do try, to let things meld.
"Pimento cheese spread is fantastic on crackers, veggies, apples, sliced bread and as a topper for baked potatoes or broccoli." I imagine it would be great on a burger or a sandwich.
Or on a spoon.
Or your finger..lol



This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Do You Want To Be Number One?


We all want to be number one, or even 100th, including authors it seems. There are so many best selling lists, but of course most of them only note the top ten or twenty and only so many can be in the top ten or twenty. Like...ahhhh..ten or twenty. But there is another ranking, a much bigger ranking and that is the All Powerful Amazon's ranking. It seems that since Amazon instituted the system 10+ years, it has become quite an obsession among both authors and their publishers and discussed in this NY Times article. It seems that some authors become a bit obsessed with their ranking, checking every day to see if they have moved from 1800th to 1700th place. And of course, as with every system someone come up with, it doesn't take long for someone to figure out how to 'game' the system.
For most books, it does not take many orders to increase rankings. Knowing this, authors, publishers, even nonprofit organizations like MoveOn.org will send out e-mail blasts asking people to buy a book at a set time, or buy up copies themselves. Some authors get their friends to write reviews or even write a positive review for a rival book and mention their own title.
Oh, that is one of my pet peeves. Sometimes, I am looking at books on Amazon, maybe a book recommended because of another book I bought. There is a book, maybe one with only a small number of reviews, but an oddly large number in the 5 star category. So, I look at the review authors.
Is this the only book they have reviewed? And, of course, it is the very best book they have ever, ever read! Thanks mom and sis and college roommate!
I usually leave a comment for others to take this one with a grain of salt perhaps.

Also, there is some real mystery as to how the system even works. Seems there is some secret to it all. I am shocked...not.Sily me, I thought it was just like..the book that sold the most copies. But it seems not...
Neither Amazon nor Barnes & Noble will divulge the algorithms they use for rankings. What Amazon will say is that sales rankings are updated hourly for millions of items. The sales history counts, but recent sales are weighted more heavily.
I think I have clearly voiced my disinterest before in these best selling lists and such. Oh, they are fun to look at, but when it comes to buying or reading, give me a good review or recommendation from someone I trust any day. In fact, if something is very, very popular (in the past, insert any Oprah pick here), that is a bit of a red flag for me. I can't say that I believe I have ever read a book just because it was on one of these list...and I know that I have NEVER bought a book on Amazon because of it's ranking. So authors, don't be distracted and besides, they are probably 'fixed' somehow anyhoo. Just write really good, entertaining stuff and then get some great reviews out there. Personally, I think it is worth a lot more than some questionable ranking somewhere.

Really my dear readers, I am curious. Have you ever based a buying/reading decision on an Amazon ranking?




Thursday, April 26, 2012

Review of "Beneath a Meth Moon" [33]

Beneath a Meth Moon: An Elegy by Jacqueline Woodson
Nancy Paulsen Books, ISBN 978-0399252501
February 2, 2012, 192 pages


"Kaylee says, Write an elegy to the past...and move on. She says it's all about moving on. I've read about it Laurel. You write all the time. You can do this.
So I'll begin it this way-It's almost winter again..."
Yes, she is just 15 years old, an age that seems too young for all that Laurel Daneau has undergone. The first years of her life, along the Mississippi Gulf coast seem almost perfect, her dad a fisherman, her mom working in a dollar store where Laurel was allowed the occasional 'shopping spree', then home to her friends, her baby brother and her beloved grandmother, M'lady. But all that came to an end with Hurricane Katrina, killing her mother and grandmother, washing away their home and their life as they knew it. But now, after two year living with her aunt, her father has found work and they are starting a new life in a small Iowa town.

Things look good on the surface. Laurel has a new BFF, is on the cheerleading team and has a new boyfriend, T-Boom, the co-captain of the basketball team. But things are not what they seem. Laurel is haunted by her memories, by the loss of her mother and grandmother and ripe for escape, the escape T-Boom offers her when he introduces her to the 'moon'...meth. And before anyone has any idea what is going on, things spiral out of control. Stealing money from her friend, taking the grocery money for drugs, running away, homeless, begging on the street, starving herself because every penny must go to the moon...Can Laurel possibly find her way back, or will she end up dead, like so many, immortalized in a portrait painted on the side of a building by a young artist named Moses, just another lost child.

It all sounds a little bleak, and in lesser hands, it might be. But as with every tough subject that Woodson tackles in her books, while this book is often disturbing, it is not bleak and ultimately offers us some hope for the future. But if ever there might be a hopeless topic, meth addiction might be it.
"Seems that's what I was always doing now- chasing the moon- trying to catch the high, trying to hold on to it. Trying to step deep into it. And disappear."
Most of us probably have no idea what addiction is like, what the attraction of something like meth is, but I think after reading this book you will have a better idea. And an idea of how hard the fight back will be. It is a frightening vision. These are people we know, ordinary, middle America, small town people. Not some 'losers' but the popular kids at the local high school, our neighbors. And that makes it all the more powerful.

It is a fairly short book, with short chapters, some in the present, some looking back at the memories that Laurel can never forget, but as with all of Woodson's book, not a word is wasted. Yes, I am a fan, and I think this is one of her best. Her prose is clean and sharp and while you will not want to put the book down once you start, don't be tempted to read it too fast. No, read it slowly, taking in every word. And, as Woodson believes all fiction should be, it is a hopeful book. Because while the world is full of horrible things like meth, it is also full of good people, like Laurel's dad and little brother, her friend Kaylee, and a stranger named Moses.
"While you're living...It's the rocks in your life that will stand by you. Your words, your friends, your family."
You might see this marketed as a YA book, a book for teenagers. But I think this is a book that, without doubt, adults will love as well. I know this adult did, another gem from one of my favorite authors.







Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...Black and White



 



 



 



 



 



...as always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.


Review of "The Long Way Home" [32]

The Long Way Home by Karen McQuestion
Amazon Publishing, ISBN  978-1612183565
May 1, 2012, 336 pages

From the book description...
"Marnie’s sorrow over her long-time love’s sudden death is nothing compared to the shock of losing his teenage son Troy (a boy she’s raised for ten years) when he’s whisked away to Las Vegas by his absentee birth mother. Luckily, she meets three unlikely allies at a local grief group who join her on an cross-country road trip to reconnect with him. Along for the ride are fifty-something Rita, still reeling from the murder of her daughter years before; Laverne, Marnie’s reclusive, widowed landlady; and Jazzy, a beautiful young psychic. Together, these four very different women embark on the adventure of their lives--a journey toward reconciliation and healing. Heartwarming, funny, and bittersweet, The Long Way Home is a winning novel of friendship and love from best-selling author Karen McQuestion."

As much as I like my mysteries, full of death and mayhem, sometimes you just need a break, something a bit different, and The Long Way Home certainly filled the bill.
When you read the premise of the book, when I read the premise of the book, I must admit it sounded a bit hard to believe. Would four women who barley knew each other just jump in a car and take off on this big road trip together? It is a sign of the success of this book that when you read how it comes about, yes, it does seem totally believable. Three of these woman, Marnie, Lavene and Rita are all marking time, seeming just waiting for something big to happen, to shake them up and the chance for this trip is just the thing. I can totally buy them jumping at the chance. 

Now, Jazzy's situation is a bit different.
Jazzy hears voices. The voices of dead people.
Something, again, that I am not usually a great fan of but here, the author makes it work. Jazzy is so nice, so positive, so concerned that she help people with her 'gift', like her grandmother, who shared the gift before her own death and still turns up from time to time, taught her. She is going along, really leading the group along, because this is what she believes all the women must do. It is fun to watch the story unfold, as we come to know each woman's tale, what has brought her to this point and how she must decide where she will go from here. And each woman's story is nicely wrapped up, setting them on a new path, including Jazzy herself. 


Ok, I thought the end of the book was not quite as good as the first half of the book. Maybe I just like anticipation more than conclusions, but I can't say that I totally bought how Marnie and her "stepson's" story ended.  Maybe the end of the book was a bit rushed and just pushed my level of belief just a little too far. 
But ultimately, not enough to negate my enjoyment of the whole book. And yes, this is a fun, enjoyable book. It is, at times, quite funny and often heartwarming. Surprising my favorite character by the end of the book was the elderly landlady, Laverne. She is a pistol..and a source of much of the book's humor. Not that authors usually listen to my suggestions (for some reason) but I think she is a character that I would love to see reappear in the future.  
The book contains a number of storylines that anyone who has lost a loved one will understand and an interesting look at friendship, between some rather unlikely candidates, that is quite sweet.. 


This is the author's fourth book, and, as she told me in an e-mail, her mom think it is her best so far...lol
I know that has me anxious to see what McQuestion's will come up with in the future.


My thanks to the author with providing me with a copy of this book for review.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Musing Monday...That's Life...

It's Monday, very early Monday here in the Garden State, but still Monday, so let's see what Miz B at at Should Be Reading has in mind this week...

This week’s musing asks…
Other than working at a job, what is your biggest interruption to reading? What takes you away from your books?

"That's life, that's what people say.
You're riding high in April,
Shot down in May...."
Actually, my time at work is one of my most productive reading times!
I have talked about this before, and I don't want to dwell on the point (especially if there is ANY chance my boss reads my blog) but I get a fair amount of reading done at work. No, not when I work the day shift. That is actually 12 hours of natural gas, clean, efficient, home grown natural gas, related activities. But after two or three days of that and a couple of days off, I am on the 12 hours night shift for the next 2 or 3 days and my responsibilities change. Several hours of each shift I am fully occupied, especially the first and last and one in the middle. But for about 6 of the 12, I have about 45 minutes when I am in a more observational mode, a mode which requires alertness but does not preclude reading.

No, it is my days off that making reading time a little more limited, due to a little something called Life.
I live alone, no one making demands on my time. But still, the time, the non-reading time, just flies. For example, I have found that living requires eating which in turn requires shopping for food, cooking food, cleaning up from eating and cooking food. Then there are clothes, something I fully believe people should wear. Yes, I saw online a place, I think it was the travel oriented Magellan catalog, that sells disposable underwear, which would require no laundry, but since you still need to wash shirts and pants and socks and PJs and such, it would not help, would it? Paying bills, cleaning the house, going through the mail, trips to the Home Depot, yard work (even though I threw in the towel in hired someone to mow my grass) all take time, time I could be reading!

And then there is the new addition of Larry, a time sink if I ever saw one. That cat's care takes more than 10 minutes a day..every day. He wants food, he wants a clean litter box and he wants...no, he demands!...to be brushed and have his belongings sprinkled with cat nip.

Still, it is better than vacation, when, as I have admitted, I often do no reading at all. On my last vacation, two weeks on the road through Maine, I read one book, which with my vacation time history was actually good. Sad.
So I am happy that tonight I am back to work. Just fought my way through a book for some unknown reason..have we discussed 'giving up' on books on MM and why some of have a problem doing that?...so time to pick a fresh one and start the productive part of my reading week..back to work!

And sleeping! Let's not forget sleeping! 7, 8, 12 hours a day with yours eyes shut, making reading impossible. Really, what a waste. But, what are yu going to do..that's life.
As this Jersey boy says...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lazy Larry Sunday...The Shedding Edition



"Oh Larry, come over here my sweet Lazy Larry! Come here!! 
Look, the doggie likes it!"


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Weekend Cooking...Rice, Rice, Rice is So Nice!


I love rice. I will admit it.
I like it plain, I like it fancy.
But I have to tell you, I have never made a rice salad.
Until I saw this one recipe recently and thought it was worth a try.
A quick dinner when the weather is hot. An easy lunch with the leftovers.
Summer is coming, with BBQs and picnics and you will need a new idea, something to bring along. So, instead of a potato or pasta salad, how about we think rice?

Insalata di Riso
adapted from Rebecca Wilcomb, Herbsaint, New Orleans, Louisiana 
Yield: 6 servings Cook Time: 20 minutes 

 INGREDIENTS 
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice 
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar 
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste 
  •  ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 6 ounces mortadella, chopped into ½-inch cubes 
  • 4 ounces mild Swiss cheese (preferably Emmentaler), chopped into ½-inch cubes 
  • ⅔ cup good-quality oil-packed tuna, drained and flaked, 
  • 1 ounce pitted green olives, thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup) 
  • 3 tablespoon brine-packed capers, rinsed 
  • 1 small fresno chile, finely minced 
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced 
  • 1½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 
  •  Zest of 2 lemons, finely chopped 
  •  Freshly ground black pepper 
  • Juice of 1½ lemons, plus more to taste
DIRECTIONS
In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally,  about 15-18 minutes. Drain in a colander and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the vinegar and salt and turn the rice out onto a rimmed baking sheet. Spread the rice into an even layer and set aside to cool. Once the rice is cool, transfer it to a large mixing bowl. Add the olive oil, mortadella, Swiss cheese, tuna, olives, capers, chile, garlic, parsley and lemon zest; season with black pepper. Taste and season with more salt if needed. Add the lemon juice and taste again, adjusting with more lemon juice, salt and/or pepper. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. 




OK, I must say, I did not follow every point of that recipe. What else is new.
I think this is a recipe where you can add or subtract what you like or have on hand, so long as you just keep the general idea in mind.
I had some asparagus, so I cut them up, blanched them with the rice and added them. I added some sliced scallions, used basil rather than parsley and for the cheese and meat, I bought an antipasto mix at my local deli, that contains a variety of meats, cheese and peppers, celery and onions, all nicely marinated already. I added some tiny pickled onions too.
And I cooked the rice a bit more than she did in the recipe. Done, but not overdone, and used 1 1/2 cups of rice instead of the 2 cups she did.
Different veggies, different meats or cheeses or fish is all up to you, although the tuna is traditional.

I think a few steps are very important though. I did cook the rice as she directed, and added the salt and vinegar to the cooked rice before I let it cool. I do the same with potatoes for potato salad, adding vinegar to the hot taters, and think it add a lot of flavor. You must add the lemon zest and juice and the oil! OK, maybe a bit less oil than she did, but close. Very good and gets better as it sits in the frig for awhile. And nice looking too I think, don't you?

 
Speaking of rice, as much as I love plain white, long grain rice, these days you can't help but look for something just a little more healthy. Like brown rice. But I will admit I did not have a lot of success cooking brown rice in my usual stovetop way. Overdone...underdone...blaaaach. Then I discovered Baked Brown Rice...and it is the only method I now use. Easy and perfect every time.

In a square 8 inch glass pan, put...
1- 1/2 cups brown rice
2- 1/3 cups boiling water
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. butter
Stir, cover tightly with aluminum foil and baked in a 375 degree oven for one hour.
When you take it out, open the foil and stir, then cover  again and let sit for 10 minutes, then serve.
Perfect and easy, every time!


This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...Maine Maritime Museum

A short trip..if only in my mind and many photos..back to Maine.



 



 



 



...a model I am making. because I do love ships.



 



...the nearby Doubling Point Light



...as always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Review of "Before the Poison" [31]

Before the Poison: A Novel by Peter Robinson
William Morrow, ISBN 978-0062004796
February 21, 2012, 368 pages



It has been over a year since his wife's death, but Chris Lowndes is still rather at sea. An Englishman by birth, but an LA resident for over 30 years, he is not really finding his very successful career as the composer of scores for movies too inspiring at the moment and thinks a chance is needed. Sight unseen, or actually just seen in a few photographs, he buy a house in his Yorkshire home, packs up and heads back to the place of his birth.

He arrives at the slightly neglected but lovely house, a little surprised by how isolated it is from the town and his neighbors. And even a bit more surprised that it has a bit of a dark history, one recent enough that some of the people involved are still alive. Slightly more disturbing is that Chris, who may be sensitive to such things, senses a presence in the old house. Yes, it may just be his insomnia and the noises of a creaky old house, but for whatever reason, Chris becomes interested in it's story of death and murder and the woman at the center of it, Grace Fox.

Decades ago, it was the home of Doctor Ernest Fox, a well respected local doctor, and his beautiful, and much younger, wife Grace. When Dr. Fox died during a snowstorm on a winter night in 1953, at first it was thought that the doctor had suffered a heart attack. But when it is found out that Grace was having an affair with a young local artist, she is charged with her husband's murder and soon met her end at the end of the hangman's noose.

Now the home's new owner can not let the story rest. Was it actually murder and if it was, was Grace really guilty, or just convicted because of her flaunting of the morality of the day?
Chris takes the investigation on as his project, or as some of his friends  think, his obsession. At the same time he is trying to put his own life back together, starting a new life in a new place, taking his composing in a new direction, and maybe even finding new love. But he has his own, very personal, reasons for his interest in Grace's case, one that will lead to a surprising revelation.

Author Peter Robinson is best known for his Alan Bank series, so let's start by saying that this is NOT part of this series. This is a standalone, and in my opinion a quite good one.
But if you are a fan of this series and pick this up expecting another, as it seems many reviewers were, you may be disappointed.
I love the feel of this book, in ways harkening back to mysteries of an early time. The atmosphere of the house, the Yorkshire setting, and especially the interspersed excerpts from the account of Grace's trial and her journal when she was a nurse in the heart of the horrors of WWII, make this a book with one foot firmly in the present and the other firmly in the world of the Second World War and it's aftermath in England. Chris is a great, very likable character...not so much his realtor girlfriend...but maybe the real star of this book is the executed Grace. She starts out an enigma, not testifying in her own defense, walking quietly to her death. But once we get to the excerpts from her wartime journals, her account of her horrible experience in the South Pacific and later in the battlefields of Europe, a very different woman emerges...and yes, one that might be capable of murder if she felt there was cause. And cause there might be.

The ending was very good, even if it felt a bit rushed. And most of the book was very interesting, even if it it took a big of a lag in the middle before we get started on Grace's journals. This is largely a character driven book. Not a great deal happens, much of the present day story consisting of Chris driving around and even flying to distant lands to interview people who knew Grace, a lot more talking than doing. Luckily, we have a successful amateur investigator, with the resources to pursue the leads that open up. And happily, the look back is much more eventful, creating a nice balance overall.

I think fans of Mr. Robinson will enjoy this book if they go into it not expecting it to be something it is not, part of the Bank's series, and readers new to his work, like myself, will find an author they will want to take a further look at.



My thanks to William Morrow for providing a copy of this book for review.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Musing Monday...I am World Class, a World Class....



 Gosh, I am late again...maybe not surprising when you see where this post goes, So, let's check out this week's Musing from Miz B at  Should Be Reading.

This week’s musing asks…
What are you currently reading? And, is it better, as good as, or worse than your last read?

At the moment, I am reading...nothing!


I just finished a book yesterday at work, Before the Poison by Peter Robinson. I knew I did not have much more of the book to read and that I would finish it, but did not bring another book, so that I would be "forced" to write the review of it before I started the next.
It did not work.

I just do not understand what my problem is writing reviews.

If you came up and asked my opinion of that book, I would have not a problem telling you. Why them do I have an issue with putting it 'to paper', so to speak...for those of you old enough to remember writing things with a pen and paper. So, I make myself these little deals, that I will not pick the next book I will read until I write the review of the last one..and then just as quickly I come up with an excuse why I shouldn't wait, just this time. Until I am at the point where I am probably 5-6 books behind at this point. Oh well.

Did I mention I am a great, I mean a world class, procrastinator?
World Class. If there was a metal for it, I would have a hulking gold one with a big blue ribbon.


I did choose my next book, The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen. But I only read a couple of pages before the Sandman called me.And normally, since I am off work today, I would get a good bit of reading in.

But today, I must do my taxes.
Yes, the taxes that are due tomorrow.
I told you.
World Class Procrastinator, right here folks!


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lazy Larry Sunday





As you can see, Larry has now appeared for much of the day, a big cat in his little bed, giving me the Stink Eye!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Weeking Cooking...Dining Destinations...IKEA!

Some of you will understand this.
Some of you will not.
But I love a trip to Ikea!

 
It is not that I buy huge amounts of their furniture. Yes, I have some of their bookcases, a chest in my guest room, a couple of lamps. And I love many of their accessories, their kitchen stuff. I bought a colander years ago for like $2 that I just love and use all the time.
But more than that, I enjoy the look of the store, I love wandering around looking at their tidy, staged living areas, so clever.
But all that wandering makes one hungry. No fear, Ikea has you covered.
Yes, I love Ikea's food.

 

 
Will it me the smoked salmon...?

Or maybe the meatballs?

 

Once you have walked the second floor, looking at all the furniture, all the rooms, those kind Ikea folks place the restaurant, so you can sit and think about any possible purchase and have a bite to eat at a reasonable price. OK, I will admit I liked it better before they listed all the calories on the menu signs. Which is why I went with the smoked salmon instead of my favorite meatballs. Still very good.

But wait, there is more Ikea food to come!
The Ikea Food Market!

 

 
Yes, after the registers, just before you leave, you will see it, stacks and shelves and freezers full of interesting, oddly named Ikea food.
Being Swedes, there is a fair amount of fish items. Herring in different sauces. Fish paste, crab paste...hmmm...no, no thanks.

 
 
But the Elderberry and Ligonberry drink concentrates look good, the muesli, the bread and pancake mixes, sauces and syrups I have purchased. There are various Swedish cookies and candies, and some very tasty and attractive frozen desserts.

 
And of course, they have my favorite, bags of those meatballs, all frozen and ready to go home with you. Grab a package of the sauce to go with them, a jar of the ligonberry sauce so you can recreate that delightful Ikea experience right in your very own home.

 

 
And what better place in the world..or at least in the USA...to stock up on those cute little Swedish fish? Oh, you better get another bag. Or two.

But there is one more stop! Don't go out the door quite yet!
There is the Cafe.
A hot dog (2 dogs, soda and chips, $2) for the kids? Need a cup of coffee...and a delicious smelling cinnamon bun ($1) to go with it. Or perhaps, if the day is warm, a nice frozen yogurt cone (yes, $1).
Oh, our visit to Ikea has come to an end. How sad. But there will be another visit on another day, do not fear.

 
As they say in Swedish, Hej Da...Goodbye.

 



This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Review of "Carry the One" [30]

Carry the One: A Novel by Carol Anshaw
Simon and Schuster, ISBN 978-1451636888
March 6, 2012, 272 pages.


"I hate that it doesn't matter if we see each other. There's still this connection, between me and him because we were both in the car. Like in arithmetic. Because of the accident, we're not just separate numbers. When you add us up, you always have to carry the one."
It had been a happy occasion, the wedding of Carmen and Matt, and by the early morning hours when the five got in the car to drive back to Chicago, they are all intoxicated, with booze and lust and an assortment of drugs. No, they should never have been driving, especially Olivia, girlfriend of Carmen's brother Nick, who was behind the wheel. She never saw the young girl who wandered out into the road, and Olivia would pay the biggest price, years in prison for the accidental death.

But to some degree, they would all pay some price. Carmen felt guilty for letting them drive off, although she knew they were impaired. Her sister Alice, making out in the backseat with Maude (who by the way is her new brother-in-law's sister) was too totally absorbed in her new love/lust to see the girl before she hit the windshield and the third sibling, Nick, in his perpetual drug haze, didn't think the girl was real. So although he saw her standing there, he said nothing, he did nothing.
And yet, contrary to what some writeups about this book might lead you to think, the car accident is not really a large part of this story, rather just a shadow always lurking in the background. It rises on occasion to make the reader, and some of the characters, wonder if things would have been different if that night never happened, but it is never clear that it would actually be.

Perhaps Carmen pays the least price as the story progresses, skipping and jumping from her wedding in the early 80's, 25 years up to the day of the 2008 presidential election. We follow her through motherhood, the ups and downs of her career, her divorce, her second marriage..but the accident touches her mostly through her brother and sister, who were in the car. Alice, an artist who we will watch become a great success, over the years paints a series about the dead girl. She is dressed in the same madras plaid shirt and shorts she was wearing that night she was killed, in settings she may have found herself in if she had not died. But even thought these painting are Alice's best work, she will never let anyone see them. They are her guilty secret. But the majority of her story in the book is taken up by her on again/off again relationship with the sexually conflicted Maude. Although Maude was in the car as well, she seems a bit too caught up in herself and her budding modeling/acting career to be much affected by a stranger's death.
And then we have Nick, the brother who already had one foot in the drug world as the book begins and descends into total addiction, losing what was a very promising career as an astronomer. He feels guilty, and with some cause, but would his path have really been any different if that night had never happen? Somehow that big event, the accident that starts it all, is never proven to be all that critical.

This is a good book and I am sure many will like it. It has received some great reviews from the likes of the NY Times, NPR and USA Today. But look a bit further and you will find other reviews that are all over the place, many negative as well. For me, I liked it but I can't say that I loved it. Why is that?

Well, it is a beautifully written book, at times very clever. The dialogue, especially between the siblings, is spot on, very realistic and very believable. The authors ability to capture a moment, often with a very visual example, to describe it so perfectly that you could be there watching it, jumps out again and again. As with this time when Alice is going, yet once again, to help her brother, who she knows she will find in a terrible and sad condition...
"In order to keep liking Nick (as opposed to loving him, which was non-negotiable), Alice sometimes had to look at him obliquely, or with her eyes half closed, or through a pinhole in a piece of cardboard. Straight on would burn her retinas."
But, it is a largely character driven story, populated with characters that I did not find terribly likeable. For me, that is a problem.
Carmen, a social worker and political activist of a progressive flavor, seems to be put out there as the mature one, the responsible one. But she comes across as very judgmental, even rather angry. There is a scene near the end of the book where she opines that she is very sad and upset because she has realized that people will likely never change...that is change in the way she wants them to. Gosh, sorry Carmen, that we can not all be the people you want us to be, the country as you wish it were, the world formed to your ideals. Her attitude toward religion, Catholicism in particular, was nasty and offensive. No,I did not like her.

Then there is Alice, the character the author admits is most like herself, and seemingly the one we are suppose to be most sympathetic toward. Her attempts to maintain a relationship with a father jealous over her success and an indifferent mother seems like a fine thing and the glimpse into her art world is interesting. Yet, I must say, the year after of year of being with Maude, being left by Maude, being overcome with her desire for Maude, being again with Maude...being again left by Maude..all becomes a bit tiring.

And finally we have Nick, a character that again the author says is at least in small part based on her own brother. Over the years of the story, he in and out of rehab, brief periods of successful work, longer and longer periods of sinking deeper and deeper into his little drug world. Oddly, he ended up being the person I liked the best..which might not be the best sign.

I did like the ending. For once, things seemed, maybe, on the upswing for Alice, and the scene where Gabe, Carmen's grown son, sees her, with her sign and her protest 'uniform', on the train platform as he is going home, is excellent, maybe my favorite in the book. And at the very end, 25 years after the accident, we again meet up with Olivia, the driver that night. She rebuilt her life after prison..and a brief marriage to Nick...and is working rather successfully as a hair dresser, changed her name so she can't be Googled, reinvented herself to find some peace. We follow her as she leave the salon after closing one night..well, as the author said in an interview, if you have a question about what it means, re-read the last page more slowly.

Pretty much, things end up as you may well expect and don't race to the end of the book, hoping for some great event, some revelation, to take place. It's not that sort of book.
Recommended, with some reservations, for readers who enjoy character driven books.