Spelling V

December 20, 2015 at 9:30 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , )

15706485.jpgTitle: Spelling V

Author: Meb Bryant

Format: Kindle

I finally found a cover for my kindle – one that fits, one that I like.  It’s a little brown leather ditty with quotes embossed in ink-black cursive.  Finally, it has the feel of a book rather than a device; something I can set down and not tuck away in the box it was shipped to me from Amazon.

I bought the cover at Half Price Books last night.  First thing this morning I charged my kindle and chose what book to tackle first.

Then I remembered Meb Bryant.

“She had an orange belt in karate… he had a leather belt in the loops of his jeans.”  I read that and snickered.  Good one, Meb.

Bryant is clever and has a way of writing something shocking with prose that urges you to continue to read something horrific and not be shocked.  Think Nabakov writing Lolita – except with stories Bentley Little would be proud of.  The only way Spelling V could be more disturbing is if Bryant had lingered over the story for a few hundred pages.

Bryant artfully maps out the lifetime of a control freak, a codependent, and psychopath, and it’s pretty darn riveting.  I especially love that one of the characters reads Bryant’s novel Harbinger of Evil.  I’m a huge sucker for when authors do this.  I like the idea of one interconnected world within an authors fantasies.

Give the best holiday gift this season: buy yourself a short story to read in between holiday meals and excitement and leave a review.  You deserve a break and indie authors thrive on reviews.

Advertisements

Permalink 2 Comments

Party Lights

November 29, 2015 at 8:33 pm (Reviews, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

7744084.jpgTitle: The Summer We Read Gatsby

Author: Danielle Ganek

Publisher: Viking

Genre: Literary Romance

Length: 292 pages

Something about seeing all the Christmas lights go up, and holiday party planning for the winter, led me to this book – despite its summer setting in the Hamptons heat.  I suppose the deep autumn of Texas has similar weather patterns to summertime in the country of New York, but I don’t know as I’ve never been there.  I just know that it’s anywhere from the upper 80’s to the lower 40’s all this Thanksgiving week, depending on the moment and precipitation.

Christmas in Texas always has a flair of Fitzgerald about it to me anyway.  This is the time of year when people pull out garden lights, candles, splashes of extravagant color, sparkly dresses, and dine outside where it’s cool.  This is when we cook breakfast together in over crowded houses and drink mimosas until noon, only to start pouring wine in its place by lunch.  (Naturally we evolve into beer and football by mid afternoon, but that’s not very Gatsby of us is it.  We only have so much ridiculous classy flair before we go full on redneck, after all.)

Still, there’s an appropriate place in my winter heart for this summer read, and I loved every second and every page of this witty little romance that had a Whole Nine Yards touch of mystery.  I say romance, but the romance isn’t as much for *the guy* as it is for a house – Fool’s House – and a pair of sisters.

Ganek didn’t pull any punches, she created a perfect piece of over the top fiction with all the glitter and glam of the overly fictitious.  All those moments you’ve had in your life when you’re staring at people thinking, what a character, they could be in a book.  They are in a book.  This book.  The storytellers, the actors, the gay guy, the foreigners, the artists, the deceased benefactor, the millionaire, the villains, all the archetypes that don’t quite fit their mold… they’re all here, fluttering about like a party of confetti and lights, ready to entertain.

I loved it.  It’s a keeper and I’ll read it again.

 

Permalink Leave a Comment

Spend the Holidays with Pout-Pout Fish

November 14, 2015 at 1:00 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

613r-T9OAbL._SY494_BO1,204,203,200_Title: The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish

Author: Deborah Diesen

Illustrator: Dan Hanna

Kiddo and I fell in love with The Pout-Pout Fish about three years ago when we discovered The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark.  We had a slight aversion to the possibility of “baby talk” in the writing, but were won over by the fun poetry and the fabulous underwater illustrations. (Read my original post here.)

In addition to our joint love of underwater children’s stories, Kiddo has taken on a serious love for Christmas that can be countered only by my mother’s.  These two, I’m not kidding, have enough Christmas spirit for the entire nation. All of America could abandon the idea of Christmas altogether and my kid and her grandmother would still have us all covered. (I’m a little more ba hum bug, but you know – yin and yang and all that.)

So you can imagine our excitement when the publisher sent us a copy of The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish.

“The Pout-Put Fish is like SANTA!” the kiddo exclaimed, seeing his very merry Santa hat atop his very un-merry face.  We’re not Santa promoters in our house – in the modern day sense that has become tradition, but rather in the currently untraditional traditional sense where we talk about the history of the original Santa stories and how the legend of a good man became a magical myth.  Yet, with all our reading and exploration of wonderful tales and things that promote vivid imaginations, we’ve fallen in love with stories like the Rise of the Guardians by William Joyce and so on…

Come the holidays, we have another household tradition.  We like the concept of four gifts (or gift categories that promote specific, well-thought out gifts in moderation): What You’ll Wear, What You’ll Read, What You Want, and What You Need.  So as a parent of such a household, I especially love the line, “And his gifts had meaning/ Plus a bit of bling-zing/ And his each and every friend loved/ Their just-right thing.” No meaningless haphazard gift giving for the Pout-Pout Fish! (Thank you, for that, Deborah Diesen, it truly does mean so much to us.)

“Can we read it again tomorrow?” Kiddo asked when we were through.

“Of course.”

Permalink Leave a Comment

The Snail and the Whale

January 19, 2015 at 12:51 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I used to do a Weekly Low Down on Kids Books.  Well, I used to pretend to do them, and really they were haphazard and sporadic at best, but sort of happened a few times a month at least.

I’m back.  I’m back with a mission to share all the marvelous books we’ve been reading.  Because, well, we have been reading more than we’ve let on.  I know, our silence is stifling.

P1000708Title: The Snail and the Whale

Author:Julia Donaldson

Illustrator: Axel Scheffler

I bought The Snail and the Whale on impulse.  I’ve been trying to do less of that lately, but it was too darn cute and the kiddo had been working on a snail painting.  Plus, I was feeling a little bit guilty over keeping Christmas as sparse as I was.

A few new picture books seemed a good addition to a Jake and the Neverland Pirate lego set (the third set to polish off the Jake collection); but we purposely are trying to keep Christmas gifting simple… “What you want, what you need, what you’ll wear, and what you’ll read.”  Accumulatively, we’d like for her to get no more than 4 presents from each category once all the grandparents have pitched in.  Ideally I’d keep it to four items total, but I’m practical and I know the family members won’t let that fly.

P1000654So she got the rest of her desired lego collection, a Frozen tiara and tambourine, socks, new boots, and a handful of new picture books.  There were some stocking stuffers and some other odds and ends – a geode science project for her school work, new paints, a painting apron, some canvases – and they were given to her in waves, not all at once on Christmas day.  It gave her time to enjoy each gift before getting overwhelmed with another.  We enjoyed it.  She was spoiled without being spoiled.  It felt like a nice simple holiday, yet kiddo managed to get everything she’d asked for.

Although The Snail and the Whale feels like a summer book – crossing oceans, travelling the world, visiting islands – we were excited to read it while cozied up in blankets and pjs.  I can’t wait to read it to her at the beach once it warms up, though.

P1000590

Working on her Snail painting, which has an actual shell glued to the canvas.

After reading this book for the second or third time, I finally asked kiddo, “So what are your thoughts?”

Kiddo, age four, says, “Other kids should read it, that’s my thought!  But how about we put it where people can’t find it. So no one can tear it up.”

I think she was missing the point of the conversation.  We started talking about the illustrations and what she thought.  She likes the pictures, but thinks they got the font “mixed up.”  I think the font is appropriately cute, but she’s learning to read and I think some of the swirly snail words were hard for her to recognize.

The book, however, is wonderful.  The rhymes are fun, the pictures are fun.  It’s all about adventure, having courage, and taking care of your friends.  It’s definitely a great gift book for any little one, no matter what season.

Permalink Leave a Comment

A Homemade Christmas

December 20, 2012 at 12:30 am (Recipes, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Homemade LifeTitle: A Homemade Life

Author: Molly Wizenberg

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Length: 313 pages

It was the cover that got me first.  I saw a stack of these books and thought, those little white mugs look so lovely against that sage green.  Those crystal glasses look so clean.  I want my life to look like that; I need my life to look like that.

Of course, my kitchen life looks a little more like someone’s rummage sale: hodge-podge glasses; mugs of all shapes, sizes, and colors; I never have any idea what kind of utensils are in the kitchen as they have all been gifts, hand-me-downs, or left behind by various room mates.  (I couldn’t possibly imagine where my waffle iron came from, but it’s ancient, difficult to clean, and I love it.)  I say my ‘kitchen life’ as though it is only my kitchen that suffers from this unfashionably eclectic manner of acquiring my belongings, the truth is my whole life is this way.  The library is not the gorgeous leather bound, gold embossed on mahogany shelves thing of Beauty and the Beast or the Bodleian… instead it’s got some of those and a lot more ratty hard backs and tired old paperbacks, stacks, piles, a thousand different wood grains and colors, and pretty much a hot mess forgiven merely because it is a hot mess of books.  Even my cozy blankets have no continuity: quilts, afghans, fuzzy God-knows what kind; some made by old ladies, some by family, some just picked up at a thrift store, some from my childhood.

But it’s ok.  The cover is lovely and it gives us something to aspire to.  Even better than that, it isn’t fancy, it’s simple.  Molly Wizenberg may have a neat and organized life of homemade goodness, but it’s simple and easily attainable.  Her book isn’t about being the next Martha Stewart, and it isn’t about being a project obsessed Julie Powell, it’s just a cozy little recipe driven memoir – more than a memoir, actually.  Her book reads like little life essays, not life lessons, just life in the ‘and then I fell in love with coconut’ sort of way.  I like knowing these kinds of things about people… I don’t care about your degrees, your successes, your battle for this or for that, tell me how it was you fell in love with coconut.  Tell me your thoughts on white chocolate and all the memories those thoughts unleash.  Talk to me about rotten bananas and french toast, and what your parents were like in the kitchen.  Molly does.  And I love her for it.

Of course, if you bother to tell someone how you fell in love with coconut, your memories of the 80’s and white chocolate, your dad’s insights to making the best french toast on the planet, the moment you decided raw cabbage wasn’t half bad if prepared by the love of your life… you end up telling them about more than your food experiences, you basically tell them all the high and low points of your life, the parts that are way more personal than what degree you got in college.

Molly grew up in Oklahoma, being from Houston, TX, I don’t exactly consider that the south, but if you were from Montana I guess you probably would.  Nevertheless, reading something written by an Oklahoman during an 80 degree December feels a little more weather-mood appropriate than reading something written by, let’s say, a Canadian.  For a warm, southern winter, A Homemade Life perfectly fits the bill as it is all about the warmth of family in the kitchen, making a cozy way for yourself, and fabulous but mostly simple recipes… great for the holidays.  But only if those holidays are warmish, because there are several summer and spring recipes that would totally throw me off my game if it was snowing outside.  I’m a mood reader.  For me to enjoy a book to the max, the weather, the house, the book, and the stars all have to align.  Not entirely, I’m pretty good at getting completely lost in a book with absolutely no awareness of what is going on around me, but let’s face it, not everyone can write a 5 star book that doesn’t need ambiance guidance, and not every book is supposed to be read void of ambiance.

A Homemade Life is well-written, and thoroughly enjoyable, but it was written with the kitchen in mind.  I’ve read much of it at the kitchen table over coffee or soup.  Not every book is a coffee and soup at the kitchen table kind of book, but this one is.  This book has made me greatly long for a window seat in my kitchen.  The window seat would have a little garden box attached on the outside for all my kitchen herbs, I could open the pane and inhale the glorious scents of rosemary and green onions.  I don’t have that.  Instead, I read this sitting on a 30 year old, uneven chair with a rip in the leather, looking out the nearby window to my deck and tree.  It’s a great view, but when I open the pane I get a strong whiff of dog, ancient wood, moss, and whatever smell is coming from the water treatment plant in the back of my neighborhood that day.  My good days are in April when my jasmine masks all of that with vengeance.

But in my kitchen, I’m not just in my kitchen, I’m in Molly’s kitchen too.  I’m falling in love with her character of a father, lovingly referred to as Burg.  I’m living his grand moments, his love for breakfast and dinner, his love for his daughter, and his legacy after death.  In Molly’s kitchen I am introduced to her husband, their friends, and their exciting life together.  She shares all of this simply, eloquently, and with recipes.

In the spirit of recipe sharing, which in addition to being a lovely writer, is Molly’s forte, I will share a recent one of my own.  I used to do this more often, but lately I’ve been hoarding my recipes to myself and a few friends, not intentionally, my blog is just book driven and my facebook page is picture driven.  This recipe was birthed from a strong desire for Greek Chicken Orzo Soup and a simultaneous urge to hop in the car and get some Potato Soup from Panera Bread.  I can see your eyebrows raised in suspicion as I type, but I assure you, it came out pretty fabulously and I’ve since made about four variations of it.  I’m pretty lazy in the kitchen and this was all dumped in a crock pot…

Andi’s Greek/Potato Soup-ness:

1 can of cream style corn

1 can of whole kernal corn (optional, depending on the size of your pot)

1 can of water (I use the corn can and fill it with water)

1 chicken bullion cube

(in a vegetarian version we skipped the can of water and the chicken b. cube and used one can’s worth of vegetable broth)

a bit of milk (anywhere from a quarter cup to a whole can, depending on you and your pot)

mushrooms if you like, I’ve done it with and without

lots of chopped potato, just fill that pot up with as much as you can fit

celery, chopped… include the leafy bits, this is a must

and the part that makes it what it is… wait for it… ALL PURPOSE GREEK SEASONING, just shower it in over all those potatoes floating to the top, stir it up and shower some more.  Greek Seasoning is absolutely the most awesome ‘secret’ ingredient to a soup ever.  If you have an aversion to peppery flavors hold back, there’s a lot of black pepper in the flavor, but I have  a black pepper allergy and it didn’t cause me problems so that made me happy

Because I’m from Texas, I put Tobasco in everything

The first time I made this was shortly after Thanksgiving and I added left over chunks of Thanksgiving ham to it, it was heavenly.

After a few years of sitting on my shelf (this is pretty typical unless the book is sent to me by an author or publisher to review), I picked the book up for the HPB Humble Book Club, we will be discussing it in January.  I’m hoping the other members of the group enjoyed it as much as I have and maybe even tried out some of the recipes.  I still can’t decide which concoction to bring on the first Monday in January, but I plan to make something of Molly’s to celebrate the joy of a life homemade.

Don’t forget to check out Molly’s blog, the Orangette.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Happy Homey Holidays

December 19, 2012 at 4:47 am (In So Many Words) (, , , , , , , , )

Silhouette

I am currently reading A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg, I thought it would be a nice holiday book that has nothing to do with the holidays.  Instead, it’s about the warmth of family and the joys of a well-used kitchen.  However, I’m not very far into it, and that’s not really what this post is about.

I adore homey, cozy things.  A thick homemade quilt, a pie, a dog, a cup of coffee, a good book (like the one mentioned above), these are all things that make my home feel like the kind of home I want people to remember.  A big part of my home, too, is Scentsy.

I adore Scentsy mostly because candles got way too expensive for how quickly I go through them, and a wickless candle lasts much, much longer.  There’s all the familiar smells: Hazelnut Latte, Baked Apple Pie, the usual suspects in my candle purchases, but instead of a $5 candle that lasts a few days, I can get a $5 bar of wax that lasts months.

I’m sharing this with you for several reasons:

1. It has truly helped me maintain an affordable good smelling home.  Glade plugins and candles were becoming way too much in this economy, and my house smelling good is too high of a priority (for me with 3 dogs and a kid) to just stop buying those kinds of things that help me feel relaxed.  Although those old school gel cones from Wally World are awesome, I also like being able to have my things out in sight of visitors, something that produces ambiance.

2. It is Christmas and they make great gifts.  Order online and get it shipped straight to the intended person.

3. Money is much tighter than usual, and being a stay at home Mom/ part time Event Coordinator/ Writer/ Scentsy Consultant /Kung Fu Instructor without a solid and dependable source of income of my own, I could really use the cash.  Ha! There, I said it, this post is in part a ploy to get you to open your wallet.

So all pride aside, I present in a link  My Scentsy Site and offer a heartfelt thank you to my followers for reading my blog, whether you are a Scentsy shopper or not, I truly appreciate you all and hope you’ll forgive my groveling.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Madrigal Choir to Perform at HPB Humble

December 5, 2012 at 6:02 pm (Events) (, , , , , , , , , )

Madrigals at HPB

Permalink Leave a Comment

Dickens on the Strand is Coming Up!

November 24, 2012 at 2:54 am (Events) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Do you have tickets yet?  If not, win some at Half Price Books in Humble!

Permalink Leave a Comment

A Tale to Swoon Over

December 26, 2009 at 3:58 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Claire Danes in the major motion picture of Stardust, based on Neil Gaiman's novel

Neil Gaiman’s Stardust is delightful.  A lovely little fairy tale for grown ups, the adventure sucks you through a wall into a magical world of falling stars, unicorns, witches, spells, and flying ships.  Gaiman provides all the adults in the room a Faerie romance we can swoon over without re-reading Cinderella and Thumbelina for the hundred-thousandth time.  We get a handsome Romeo, a bit of a love triangle, true-love from the stars, and a happy ending (even if it goes out with a limp – literally).  Stardust made for a wonderful wintery read by the fireplace this Christmas.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Light Holiday Reading

December 20, 2009 at 7:47 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Rebel Angels: Part II in the Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray

Delightful, though predictable, Bray’s second novel in her magical realms series was an exciting and fanciful Christmas adventure.  The sequel is much more intriguing than the original piece.  I found myself more drawn in to the lives of the girls of Spence while on their Holiday Vacation than I was with their previous escapades at school.  Over all, well done and I look forward to Part Three in the trilogy.

Permalink Leave a Comment