Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Year in Review

Reading was a hard thing this year. The more I forced myself, the less I wanted to do it. Finally I relaxed and just let it be. And it turned out fine.


Book Goal: 27 books
Accomplished: 24 books




I also had a goal to read the Bible in a year... yeah. I made it to the end of March - which is good! I also found a great podcast at Audiobible.com and I listen to that almost every day. I'm going to go back to trying to read the Bible every day for 2015. Trying is everything.



My TBR shelf goal was 80 books. I think my number is a little off, but it is currently 85 ±3. This is not bad at all.




What's up for 2015? I have a few things I'm hoping to accomplish and I'll share them with you later. They're fun and kind of meaningless-but-not. I need some fun right now.




On the book side of things, I'm setting the book goal low. I have quite a few door stoppers on my shelves - Diana Gabaldon's latest, Anna Karenina, and a couple others that I look at and *gulp* lose my breath over.




Book Goal: 15 books read
Finish reading the Bible
TBR Shelves: not to exceed 75 books




Now for my favorites from 2014!




Millie's Fling
The Book Thief
The Exile
Poison Princess






Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Raisin in the Sun

A Raisin in the SunA Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wasn't sure how it would be to read a play - but it turned out to be very easy to fall into the story. Interesting how it is driven by dialogue, characters defined by what they say and not what they think. The story moved quickly to the points it was making. It was a fast emotional read.



Summary: First produced in 1959, A Raisin in the Sun was awarded the New Yourk Drama Critics Circle Award and hailed as a watershed in American drama. Not only a pioneering work by an African-American playwright - Lorraine Hansberry's play was also a radically new representation of black life, resolutely authentic, fiercely unsentimental, and unflinching in its vision of what happens to people whose dreams are constantly deferred.


In her portrait of an embattled Chicago family, Hansberry anticipated issues that range from generational clashes to the civil rights and women's movements. She also posed the essential questions - about identity, justice, and moral responsibility - at the heart of these great struggles. The result is an American classic.


Recommended Reading:
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
Our Town by Thornton Wilder

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Exile

The Exile: An Outlander Graphic NovelThe Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel by Diana Gabaldon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Being a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon and knowing nothing about graphic novels, of course I loved it! The first panel showing Jamie took my breath away - it was so YES! THAT'S HIM! This was beautifully done, an absolute visual feast. My only complaint is that some of the other characters where indistinguishable from each other.

Summary: Diana Gabaldon’s brilliant storytelling has captivated millions of readers in her bestselling and award-winning Outlander saga. Now, in her first-ever graphic novel, Gabaldon gives readers a fresh look at the events of the original Outlander: Jamie Fraser’s side of the story, gorgeously rendered by artist Hoang Nguyen.

After too long an absence, Jamie Fraser is coming home to Scotland—but not without great trepidation. Though his beloved godfather, Murtagh, promised Jamie’s late parents he’d watch over their brash son, making good on that vow will be no easy task. There’s already a fat bounty on the young exile’s head, courtesy of Captain Black Jack Randall, the sadistic British officer who’s crossed paths—and swords—with Jamie in the past. And in the court of the mighty MacKenzie clan, Jamie is a pawn in the power struggle between his uncles: aging chieftain Colum, who demands his nephew’s loyalty—or his life—and Dougal, war chieftain of Clan MacKenzie, who’d sooner see Jamie put to the sword than anointed Colum’s heir.


And then there is Claire Randall—mysterious, beautiful, and strong-willed, who appears in Jamie’s life to stir his  compassion . . . and arouse his desire.

But even as Jamie’s heart draws him to Claire, Murtagh is certain she’s been sent by the Old Ones, and Captain Randall accuses her of being a spy. Claire clearly has something to hide, though Jamie can’t believe she could pose him any danger. Still, he knows she is torn between two choices—a life with him, and whatever it is that draws her thoughts so often elsewhere.
Recommended Reading:
The Outlandish Companion
An Echo in the Bone
Lord John and the Hand of Devils
Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade

Friday, December 26, 2014

Heat

Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in TuscanyHeat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an enjoyable read. Very funny, very personal. I think I put on 5lbs because every time I read this book, I got hungry.



Summary: Bill Buford—author of the highly acclaimed best-selling Among the Thugs—had long thought of himself as a reasonably comfortable cook when in 2002 he finally decided to answer a question that had nagged him every time he prepared a meal: What kind of cook could he be if he worked in a professional kitchen? When the opportunity arose to train in the kitchen of Mario Batali’s three-star New York restaurant, Babbo, Buford grabbed it. Heat is the chronicle—sharp, funny, wonderfully exuberant—of his time spent as Batali’s “slave” and of his far-flung apprenticeships with culinary masters in Italy.

In a fast-paced, candid narrative, Buford describes the frenetic experience of working in Babbo’s kitchen: the trials and errors (and more errors), humiliations and hopes, disappointments and triumphs as he worked his way up the ladder from slave to cook. He talks about his relationships with his kitchen colleagues and with the larger-than-life, hard-living Batali, whose story he learns as their friendship grows through (and sometimes despite) kitchen encounters and after-work all-nighters.

Buford takes us to the restaurant in a remote Appennine village where Batali first apprenticed in Italy and where Buford learns the intricacies of handmade pasta . . . the hill town in Chianti where he is tutored in the art of butchery by Italy’s most famous butcher, a man who insists that his meat is an expression of the Italian soul . . . to London, where he is instructed in the preparation of game by Marco Pierre White, one of England’s most celebrated (or perhaps notorious) chefs. And throughout, we follow the thread of Buford’s fascinating reflections on food as a bearer of culture, on the history and development of a few special dishes (Is the shape of tortellini really based on a woman’s navel? And just what is a short rib?), and on the what and why of the foods we eat today.

Heat is a marvelous hybrid: a richly evocative memoir of Buford’s kitchen adventure, the story of Batali’s amazing rise to culinary (and extra-culinary) fame, a dazzling behind-the-scenes look at the workings of a famous restaurant, and an illuminating exploration of why food matters.



Recommended Reading:
Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
My Life in France by Julia Child
Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
The Reach of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman
A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain
United States of Arugula by David Kamp


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret FanSnow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the story very much. I thought it was well-written and well researched. The characters were well fleshed out. It was very hard to put down and a fast read.



Synopsis: Lily is haunted by memories–of who she once was, and of a person, long gone, who defined her existence. She has nothing but time now, as she recounts the tale of Snow Flower, and asks the gods for forgiveness.

In nineteenth-century China, when wives and daughters were foot-bound and lived in almost total seclusion, the women in one remote Hunan county developed their own secret code for communication: nu shu (“women’s writing”). Some girls were paired with laotongs, “old sames,” in emotional matches that lasted throughout their lives. They painted letters on fans, embroidered messages on handkerchiefs, and composed stories, thereby reaching out of their isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments.

With the arrival of a silk fan on which Snow Flower has composed for Lily a poem of introduction in nu shu, their friendship is sealed and they become “old sames” at the tender age of seven. As the years pass, through famine and rebellion, they reflect upon their arranged marriages, loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their lifelong friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.



Recommended Reading:
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
March by Geraldine Brooks
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

The Memory Keeper's DaughterThe Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book very much. I moved quickly through the first 120 pages, and then the story slowed down considerably. I pushed through it, and the pace picked back up again for the last 150 or so pages. Well-written although a bit prosy. Characters were slightly one dimensional, although they did grow in believable circumstances.





Synopsis: On a winter night in 1964 in Lexington, Kentucky, a blizzard forces Dr. David Henry to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy, but the doctor immediately recognizes that his daughter has Down syndrome. Rationalizing it as a need to protect Norah, his wife, he makes a split second decision that will alter all of their lives forever. He asks his nurse, Caroline, to take the baby away to an institution and never to reveal the secret. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child herself. So begins this beautifully told story that unfolds over a quarter of a century—in which these two families, ignorant of each other, are yet bound by the fateful decision made that winter night long ago.

A family drama, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter explores every mother's silent fear: What would happen if you lost your child and she grew up without you? It is also an astonishing tale of love and how the mysterious ties that hold a family together help us survive the heartache that occurs when long-buried secrets are finally uncovered.


Recommended Reading:
The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen