Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Little Book's Leading Man

Wheeler Burden is the leading man and main character in this book. While what he did was a little too fantastic (famous musician and writer, baseball legend, and who looks like Michelangelo's David) I was definitely drawn to him. His amazing credentials are only part of the attraction for me, the other part was that he still had a bit of modesty or maybe humility. I love confidence in men (a girl likes to know she can be taken care of) but unpretentious at the same time.

I know, that's hard to find. Generally you get one or the other. So I started brainstorming and came up with a few of my favorite leading men who have that quiet confidence.

Westley from The Princess Bride. This farm boy is the classic unassuming hero.
 The Princess Bride Icon

Noah from The Notebook. Swoon-worthy Noah is confident enough to approach Allie but mild enough to let her go.
best love movie ever

Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird. A wise mild man with the guts to stand up for what he believes.
atticus finch

And to completely contradict myself, I do have to admit that there is a side of me that loves the "gods-gift-to-women man". Who doesn't have a weakness for Han Solo, Rhett Butler, and Mr. Darcy? To summarize, even if the book might not be your favorite, a strong leading man will get you through it.  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Not So Little Book

Selden Edwards' 33 year masterpiece, The Little Book, is a misnomer.  In no way is this story little.  In fact, the concept is so big, so far-reaching that it blurs the boundaries of solids we take for granted--location, time, space, history, self.  I'm sure the story will be fleshed out by one of the other bodacious book babes, so I'll just stick to how this book made me feel.  If you remember my Five Quarters of the Orange post, you'll remember that "feelings" and "emotions" (said with a wrinkling of my nose) are not my cup of tea, so my willingness to go there should tell you how much I loved this book.  More than anything else, this book left me with a sense of wonder.  I can recall being a Little Orphan Annie looking kid and trying to wrap my head around the concept of God having no beginning or end, of always existing.  Mind blowing.  Or how about struggling with the concept of infinity?  (On a side note, Chuck Norris has counted to infinity...Twice.)
The Little Book left me with the same mind bogglingness (let's just see how long it takes Mr. Webster to add that to that little book of his).  Dilly's forays back into 1897 Vienna start the circular pattern of his life.  Or do they end it?  That's the problem and greatest gift of this book--trying to figure out just what event jump-started everything.  In a lot of ways, it reminded me of the movie Somewhere in Time from, I'm guessing, 1984.  No other time travel love story starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour even comes close to the emotional punch this one packs.  (Yes, that was an attempt at humor.)  But the concept is the same--someone/something from the past starts the current hero on their quest into the past and there begins another circle of wonder.  I don't know what it is about these stories, but they capture my curiosity, imagination and yes, I'll say it, heart like not many others. 

If you haven't seen the movie, add it to your Netflix queue right away and if you haven't read The Little Book, rush out now to get it and you'll be rewarded with double rainbows for life.


Sunday, June 19, 2011


As the newest member of the book club I am so excited!! I have heard stories of the books being read and have been secretly jealous all along. Unfortunately I forgot it was my day to post. What a lousy way to start. So I am a few days late. Sorry girls, I will try to be better. With my serious lack of motivation to stop watching TV I haven't actually read any of the books on the list. Oh except the Poison wood Bible which I did enjoy. Now with the proper motivation I am really looking forward to reading more. And almost more importantly getting together for good conversation and delicious food. Now that I have two books under my belt I feel that I am getting into the routine of staying up way too late because I can't put the book down. I only notice the late hour when my mom pops her head in and wonders what could be so interesting to keep me up until 2am, which just happens to be her usual bed time.
This last book, Matched, was very interesting. It made me think a lot. At first I thought the story line was pretty basic and the characters were likable but not extremely complex. But the more I read the more my imagination and fascination grew. I can't imagine enjoying having every decision made for me, from how much and what kinds of food to eat on a daily basis, more because it sounds boring than because I didn't get to pick it out. It seemed like there was very little variety to their lives. I think we value not just making choices but the variety of choices to make. I have been in situations where I feel that I have had to make every decision and I have wished someone was there to make it for me. And I have been in situations where almost everything was decided for me, from what time to get up and be ready for the prepared breakfast and then what to do at work and how to do it and what to have for lunch and dinner. Even the type of clothing was chosen, not the exact outfit, but the standards were definitely set. It was then that I thought I could really get used to that. You may wonder how that is possible. Here is my reasoning: There is little risk when the decision is not up to you. If the venture fails it isn't on your shoulders, you were just following direction. Even at work I am a total stickler for the rules. The clearer the rule the better I feel. And the easier it is to follow it. I dislike the "exception". So I could see how a society could get along pretty well with so much regulating. And when you consider that most people these days make kind of lousy choices it doesn't sound too bad to have someone else make it for you. As in with anything in life a balance is in need. It would be horrible to have no choice in life but a little help along the way could be just what we need.



The concept of the “hundreds” in Matched really touched a nerve with me. Only one hundred poems, songs.....what?! Everyone knows that I’m pretty passionate about music but when I mentioned at book club that I was a fan of poetry the girls were, on the whole, incredulous. Maybe it would come off as more believable if I added that I like it best when it rhymes? So I decided that now and then I’m going to subject you to some of my more favorite poems in whole or part. 
I may have repressed most of my grade school experience but for whatever reason certain poems have stuck in my head, and Invictus is one of those poems. In my teen years when I “discovered” it, it spoke to my more melodramatic side. Then the movie of the same name came out and I decided from then on that when I read this poem, in my head, it would always be narrated by Morgan Freeman. (I have to share the trailer, even though he recites only two lines. And this is by no means a movie endorsement, I enjoyed the trailer more than the movie.)

By William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul. 

Anybody else ever wish Morgan Freeman would read to them? 


Friday, June 17, 2011

The Calorie Queen

Reading 'Matched' by Allie Condie was fun.  It was easy, light and made for a nice break during the few days that it took to finish.  I didn't expect it to make me think. 

But so it did.  My brain is such that it didn't formulate its thoughts on this book until a few days AFTER our book club meeting.  I remember mumbling something to the girls about "why did this book make me think of  'The Wind Up Girl'?" (one of our recent book club reads), but then I couldn't pull my thoughts together under the heat of social pressure.

Now I've got my connections all sorted out, for your reading pleasure.  In 'Matched' everything in Cassia's life is controlled by the 'Society'; what she wears, where she lives, where she works, what she does with her free time, who she'll marry, how many kids they'll have, and also what and when she eats.  It was the eating part that I connected with 'The Wind Up Girl' (otherwise known as the book which shall not be named). In that futuristic book the world is controlled by those who control the food, which makes sense doesn't it?  If suddenly all food sources were wiped out and one select company had access to and control of a viable food source they could pretty much demand whatever they wanted and the world would have to acquiesce.

In 'Matched' the same thing held true, these people were afraid to rebel because if they did, what would they eat?  Their food was measured, counted and rationed out meal by meal.  The 'Society' knew if they didn't eat their specific portion and that incurred trouble.  You couldn't just store up a stash of PB&J or Clif Bars and head for the hills.  And that's one of the first whiffs of rebellion you get in the book, when it's discovered there are a few rogue people trying to quietly grow their own food without the 'Society' noticing.  Having your own food source equals independence.

So it made me think.  Do I take for granted all that freedom of choice I have, especially when it comes to food?  
Admittedly some food choices lead to regret . . .
Choosing my own food plays such a huge role in my life, I can't imagine how I would feel if it were measured out in doses like medicine.  Think about how many social activities revolve around eating - meeting for happy hour with friends, having someone over for a dinner party, cakes on special occasions, the comforting smell of whatever speciality your mama was known for.  Or our book club, food is always an integral part of a great meeting.  Caisse lightly mentioned the dinner she made for us based on this book - but don't let her fool you, it was awesome. The smells and tastes of a great meal, delightful and not always meaningful conversation with friends made for a perfect night.  All of that capped off with a giant slab of Caisse's chocolate cake that I ate every last crumb of.

So here's my plea to you, don't take your meals for granted.  Your wife, mother, sister, Fry-Daddy operator probably put a lot of careful thought and choice into what you're eating. Thank them heartily, and revel in all your delicious choices.  I know I will.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Matched Ky vs Xander

We recently got together and discussed Matched by Ally Condie. A young adult book about a society that completely regulates every movement it's subjects make. From when they can recreate to when they die...and who they will marry. Matched, the first book in the trilogy, begins by Cassie going to her Banquet to find out who she will be matched with to marry.

Cassie soon finds her heart in a predicament. What would you have done?
Would you stick with Xander who is kind, handsome, comfortable- the safe choice? Or would you follow your heart into the dangerous unknown for a slim slim slim chance to be with Ky who is completely off limits forever?
The latter might seem like the romantic choice HOWEVER when I was reading this story I kept waiting for Ally to develop the relationship between them that would make Ky seem like the hands down obvious choice. But to me.... he wasn't. For book one I am Team Xander all the way. He took
chances and risks for people he cared about. He's smart, witty, did I mention handsome?
What team are you on? If you had the luxury to be pulled between two which way would you go?

For our book club evening we had our own little banquet with a roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, salad, bread and butter, and chocolate cake for dessert. I found for the girls little tree starter kits with cute tiny pots. We all started scheming where we're going to plant our trees on our next camping trips!

I'm really looking forward to book 2 Crossed with the release date of, yikes, November 1, 2011, when I turn 31!


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hosting With Help

A lot of books now include a book club guide at the back, primarily consisting of questions for discussion. Sometimes I skim these guides out of curiosity, but I rarely feel that we have a hard time getting a discussion off the ground. Besides, it would feel, pretentious? Artificial? School-ish? Anyway, The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry had a guide of the more useful variety, a menu guide. And let's be serious, good food and drink is one of my favorite parts of book club. So taking tips from her guide I decided to tackle the Beef bourguignon (that I still am unsure how to pronounce).  So ready to hit the hay on book club eve, I remember, just after 11, that I need to marinate the meat and veggies overnight. I'm a little concerned that I'm already falling behind at step one. (And I know it's not that late but I'm a fan of my full eight hours.) 
 None of the steps for this dish are difficult, but having just finished the book I worry about things I would never stop that long to consider. Is my dice consistent? Would my stack of dishes (clean dishes) get me in trouble for an untidy work station?

And then I overestimate the amount of time it will take to bring my marinade to a boil, and while I'm multi-tasking it boils over. The smoke detector reacts. The Gray Chef is intimidating just to have in you subconscious! The rest of the recipe goes off without a hitch, but I'm never quite sure of the final dish because I've never had it before. Is it meant to be stew like, gravy like? I still think I'd like to take a crack at Julie Child's version in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking".
The recipe said that ideally you should serve the same wine you used in the marinade with dinner. My budget landed on this particular wine, and I'm no expert, but I would definitely buy this wine again.

My mom helped me hunt down some great favors for the dinner, porcelain Eiffel Tower measuring spoons. Then because she's super generous she got the girls matching tea towels and a "sharp" paring knife. She also got the cute desert plates that I'm sure I'll break out whenever I can. 

Included in the menu guide was a small section on "Mastering the elusive cheese tray". I'm not one to pass on an opportunity to buy and sample cheese, so under Kathleen Flinn's guidance I was able to assemble a cheese tray that was pretty delicious. (It's hard to go wrong with cheese anyway.)

We ended the night with our first ever book club activity. We all gathered in the kitchen and followed the book's recipe for crepes. Everyone brought a filling. I will absolutely be revisiting this recipe and if you decide to make them yourself, you should give my favorite filling combo a try, nutella + banana's + flaked sweetened coconut + whip cream. 

If you have a book club of your own this book might is worth a try, if for no other reason than it's endless (and delicious) hosting options.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry

                          The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World's Most Famous Cooki

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry was a bit of a departure from our standard fiction fare. I was torn between four different books when my pick came around, but tipping the scales in favor of Sharper (hopefully you all can follow my little abbreviation, the whole title every time would only end in carpal tunnel) was my mom’s pressure and the fact that the book was full of recipes and a legit book club guide in the back. The fact that the author also makes her home (part-time) just north of us in Seattle made it compelling as well.
In a nutshell, Ms Flinn finds herself at a crossroads when her job is eliminated and instead of returning to something familiar she cashes it all in to follow her dream of living in Paris and studying French cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu. You might think that a book primarily about food, cooking and the famed Le Cordon Bleu, might really make a reader work up an appetite, but my less sophisticated palate wasn’t moved by a lot of the recipes that the class worked up. I love cooking but Flinn’s narratives on the classes removed any desire to have “classical training”, I would have been a puddle on the floor after a tongue lashing from the Gray Chef. And my mind wanders when I understand the language, dealing with ADD and a language barrier would be too much for me. I admire her fortitude while recognizing my lack there of. As I was reading I did keep my post-it tabs handy to mark all of Flinn’s recipes, tucked in nicely at the end of each chapter. I’ve only tried two to date but I have several more on my to-do list. They aren’t nearly as complicated as the curriculum required of Flinn in Paris and most feature less foie gras.

Where some of the dishes prepared failed to move me, the descriptions of her life in Paris stirred more than a little envy and wanderlust. Just the day to day seemed romantic. I enjoyed the book, especially the further into it I got, but the fact
that this single post has been partially worked up on my computer for close to a month seems to also be a commentary my lack of enthusiasm for this particular read. I don’t think you’d be disappointed if you picked it for yourself, but it won’t keep you up at night either. Sometimes that’s a good thing. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

No Binchy For Me

 I know that many, many people love Maeve Binchy, but I am not one of them. Heart and Soul was not my first Binchy book. Believe me, I have tried to love them. Every time someone recommends a Binchy (their "favorite" one) I read it. Unfortunately I have never been a fan.

      Evening Class by Maeve Binchy     Maeve Binchy by Quentins    Book cover
Some of her books that I have read.

Don't get me wrong, they aren't bad books their just not my cup of tea. I think the main reason is the huge amounts of characters in every book. I enjoy reading from different peoples point of view, for example The Help is that way and I loved that book. With Binchy, I'm am just getting interested in a persons story and it switches...and then you don't hear from them till the end...and this happens with every single character. So by the end of the book, even though it magically all wraps up into a nice neat package, I am left frustrated. Especially if I have to read about some people that I'm not that interested in.

So, would I ever recommend a Maeve Binchy book? No. But I can see why people like them and appreciate how well it's thought out.

I did love Crystal's book club meeting though. It was lively and delicious! Is it possible to go wrong with three types of pasta? With melt-in-your-mouth shortbread? With Irish Coffee? With 6 beautiful, intelligent women? Aaaah, sounds like heaven!