Friday, May 24, 2019

Try It, You Might Like It #9: Cookbooks

"Try it, you might like it" - it's what someone says when they present you with some food you've never had before or your mom wants you to try on some clothes she picked out for you.  I'm using it here on the blog as inspiration to choose books in genres I don't normally read; to branch out from my reading comfort zones; and to maybe find some new favorites!  I haven't done this feature in over a year (!), but one of my goals this year was to bring it back, so here we go!

Much to my mother's dismay, I am a pretty terrible cook.  She is a wonderful cook and baker, but no matter how many times she's tried to teach me, I've just never gotten the hang of cooking.  I have a few tried-and-true recipes, but luckily, I snagged a husband that is not only an awesome cook, but who actually enjoys the process.  However, there's still a part of me that longs to be a boss in the kitchen, so I picked up Chrissy Teigen's Cravings: Hungry for More to check out some recipes.

I picked Chrissy's cookbook because, well, it's Chrissy.  She's fun and funny, and I find it so refreshing that she's a model who doesn't hide the fact that she loves to eat.  This is her second cookbook and it promised quick recipes with fewer ingredients (ostensibly for busy parents, but also good for people who have little confidence in the kitchen!).

There are about 100 recipes in this book, and they run the gamut - breakfast dishes, salads, soups, dinners, Thai-inspired recipes, some desserts, even a section called "Potatoes & Their Friends"! I liked the large variety, but there were some I skipped over automatically (anything with fish, really, as my husband is allergic to shellfish and doesn't particularly like the types of fish he can eat).  Although the recipes occasionally called for cookware we don't own, I thought most of the methods were pretty do-able.  The ingredients weren't too outrageous, as well - a pet peeve of mine is recipes that call for expensive or hard-to-find ingredients, especially where you have to buy a ton just for a small amount in the recipe.  The blurb promised quick dishes, but I found that A LOT of them took more than 40 minutes, and there were some that would take a couple hours!  That's not practical for me.

I enjoyed reading Chrissy's little blurbs at the beginning of each recipe, either with her feelings towards the dish or some memory associated with it or the inspiration behind it, and I've definitely copied a couple recipes that I would love to try in the future.  I don't think I'll be reading more cookbooks any time soon, though, especially considering I have an entire Pinterest board of recipes I've saved and have yet to try!

Do you like to cook?  Do you have any go-to cookbooks?

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Time After Time

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Time After Time
Lisa Grunwald
Expected publication date: June 11, 2019
A magical love story, inspired by the legend of a woman who vanished from Grand Central Terminal, sweeps readers from the 1920s to World War II and beyond, in the spirit of The Time Traveler’s Wife and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

On a clear December morning in 1937, at the famous gold clock in Grand Central Terminal, Joe Reynolds, a hardworking railroad man from Queens, meets a vibrant young woman who seems mysteriously out of place. Nora Lansing is a Manhattan socialite whose flapper clothing, pearl earrings, and talk of the Roaring Twenties don’t seem to match the bleak mood of Depression-era New York. Captivated by Nora from her first electric touch, Joe despairs when he tries to walk her home and she disappears. Finding her again—and again—will become the focus of his love and his life.

Nora, an aspiring artist and fiercely independent, is shocked to find she’s somehow been trapped, her presence in the terminal governed by rules she cannot fathom. It isn’t until she meets Joe that she begins to understand the effect that time is having on her, and the possible connections to the workings of Grand Central and the solar phenomenon known as Manhattanhenge, when the sun rises or sets between the city’s skyscrapers, aligned perfectly with the streets below.

As thousands of visitors pass under the famous celestial blue ceiling each day, Joe and Nora create a life unlike any they could have imagined. With infinite love in a finite space, they take full advantage of the “Terminal City” within a city, dining at the Oyster Bar, visiting the Whispering Gallery, and making a home at the Biltmore Hotel. But when the construction of another landmark threatens their future, Nora and Joe are forced to test the limits of freedom and love.

Delving into Grand Central Terminal’s rich past, Lisa Grunwald crafts a masterful historical novel about a love affair that defies age, class, place, and even time. - from Goodreads
I love time travel stories, especially ones that involve romance, and the iconic location of Grand Central Terminal sounds perfect!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Down The TBR Hole #2

Time for another round of Down the TBR Hole!  This is a feature created by Lost in a Story.  So how does it work?
  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if youre feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

The Gilded Wolves by Roshni Chokshi

When I first heard about this book, I was super-excited for it.  Since then, I've seen a lot of great reviews, but I'm just not really into fantasy right now at all and the whole synopsis is confusing me.  Pass!

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkin Reid

I don't even need to think twice about this one, definitely keeping it!  It's TJR!

A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

This is the third book in a historical fiction series I've been enjoying about a cathedral in England.  I read the first book in college, so this is a long time coming!  Even though this book is close to 1000 pages and I'm not sure when I'll get to it, I'm keeping this one!

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

This book tells the love story between C.S. Lewis (author of the Narnia series) and his wife, Joy.  The love story interests me, although part of me is worried that there will be a lot of religious talk in the book.  Keeping - for now.

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

A husband and wife look to add some spice to their somewhat-boring lives by planning murders - this just sounds too fun to get rid of!  Keeping this one!

Have you read any of these?

Friday, May 17, 2019

Review: When You Read This

When You Read This
Mary Adkins
Published February 5, 2019
For fans of Maria Semple and Rainbow Rowell, a comedy-drama for the digital age: an epistolary debut novel about the ties that bind and break our hearts.

Iris Massey is gone. But she’s left something behind.

For four years, Iris Massey worked side by side with PR maven Smith Simonyi, helping clients perfect their brands. But Iris has died, taken by terminal illness at only thirty-three. Adrift without his friend and colleague, Smith is surprised to discover that in her last six months, Iris created a blog filled with sharp and often funny musings on the end of a life not quite fulfilled. She also made one final request: for Smith to get her posts published as a book. With the help of his charmingly eager, if overbearingly forthright, new intern Carl, Smith tackles the task of fulfilling Iris’s last wish.

Before he can do so, though, he must get the approval of Iris’ big sister Jade, an haute cuisine chef who’s been knocked sideways by her loss. Each carrying their own baggage, Smith and Jade end up on a collision course with their own unresolved pasts and with each other.

Told in a series of e-mails, blog posts, online therapy submissions, text messages, legal correspondence, home-rental bookings, and other snippets of our virtual lives, When You Read This is a deft, captivating romantic comedy—funny, tragic, surprising, and bittersweet—that candidly reveals how we find new beginnings after loss. - from Goodreads
This book wasn't what I expected, and it bummed me out! I've read and enjoyed books before that feature characters suffering from terminal illnesses (and they can be quite uplifting, ironically), but unfortunately, When You Read This was full of unlikable characters and a depressing tone.  The blurb states it's a romantic comedy, but I got neither of those things.

Smith, Iris' colleague, and Jade, Iris' sister, are the two major players in the story.  After Smith's intern, Carl, finds a print-out of Iris' blog in her old desk with a note asking Smith to get it published after her death, Smith begins reaching out to different publishing avenues while also trying to get Jade on board.  Smith seems like a nice guy, I guess, but he's also got some major personal issues and can be quite unethical in his professional life.  Jade came across cold, rude, and hypocritical - she randomly decides to honor Iris' dream of opening a bakery, something she never even knew Iris wanted until after she died, yet she is so against publishing the blog entries, which Iris expressly stated her desire for.  I thought the "romance" (and I put this in quotes because it hardly came through) between Smith and Jade felt forced, and there were more sparks between Iris and the man she was dating just before she passed away.

At the risk of sounding callous, I also didn't really understand Iris' motivation in wanting to get the blog published.  I appreciate that she wanted to express herself, but to me the posts were kind of confusing/didn't have a clear message/didn't say anything profound.  I don't know, maybe I just didn't get it, but I don't feel like I got to know Iris that well.

There were a couple things I liked.  I enjoyed the epistolary nature of the story - the blog posts, emails, texts.  It's a very modern and creative way of telling a story.  It lets different avenues inform us about the characters, but at the same time, it can feel too surface-y.  Even though I hated Carl the intern, he was also the only character that made me almost laugh, simply because he was so obnoxious and unprofessional. The book was also a super-quick read; I flew through it in just a few hours on a rainy Sunday.  Overall, though, I just didn't feel good reading this book.

2.5 stars

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Recursion

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Blake Crouch
Expected publication date: June 11, 2019
What if someone could rewrite your entire life?

"My son has been erased." Those are the last words the woman tells Barry Sutton, before she leaps from the Manhattan rooftop.

Deeply unnerved, Barry begins to investigate her death, only to learn that this wasn't an isolated case. All across the country, people are waking up to lives different from the ones they fell asleep to. Are they suffering from False Memory Syndrome, a mysterious new disease that afflicts people with vivid memories of a life they never lived? Or is something far more sinister behind the fracturing of reality all around him?

Miles away, neuroscientist Helena Smith is developing a technology that allows us to preserve our most intense memories and relive them. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to reexperience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent.

Barry's search for the truth leads him on an impossible, astonishing journey as he discovers that Helena's work has yielded a terrifying gift--the ability not just to preserve memories but to remake them . . . at the risk of destroying what it means to be human.

At once a relentless thriller and an intricate science fiction puzzle box, Recursion is a deeply felt exploration of the flashbulb moments that define us--and who we are without them. - from Goodreads
I loved Crouch's Dark Matter, so I'm very excited for another sci-fi story with a human touch!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Quotables #13

I think sometimes books really do find us when we need them the most, without us even realizing it.  It's such a comforting thought!

I like this quote because it's something I've never really thought about, but when I read it, I thought it was so true.  Sometimes a boyfriend doesn't truly feel like a member of the family until you get engaged or married, but with best friends, it's so different.

The ability to travel practically anywhere without leaving my couch is one of my favorite things about reading.  I get to learn so much!

Which of these is your favorite?

Friday, May 10, 2019

Review: The Girl He Used to Know

The Girl He Used to Know
Tracey Garvis Graves
Published April 2, 2019
Annika (rhymes with Monica) Rose is an English major at the University of Illinois. Anxious in social situations where she finds most people's behavior confusing, she'd rather be surrounded by the order and discipline of books or the quiet solitude of playing chess.

Jonathan Hoffman joined the chess club and lost his first game--and his heart--to the shy and awkward, yet brilliant and beautiful Annika. He admires her ability to be true to herself, quirks and all, and accepts the challenges involved in pursuing a relationship with her. Jonathan and Annika bring out the best in each other, finding the confidence and courage within themselves to plan a future together. What follows is a tumultuous yet tender love affair that withstands everything except the unforeseen tragedy that forces them apart, shattering their connection and leaving them to navigate their lives alone.

Now, a decade later, fate reunites Annika and Jonathan in Chicago. She's living the life she wanted as a librarian. He's a Wall Street whiz, recovering from a divorce and seeking a fresh start. The attraction and strong feelings they once shared are instantly rekindled, but until they confront the fears and anxieties that drove them apart, their second chance will end before it truly begins. - from Goodreads
When I really love a book, it's often hard for me to articulate why, so I've decided to forego a traditional review for this book and instead write a letter to the author!

Dear Tracey,

Thank you, thank you for writing The Girl He Used to Know.  Within the first few pages, I was completely enveloped in Annika and Jonathan's story, and I spent every spare minute I could reading this book, wanting to know if their second chance at romance would work out.

I don't know that I've ever read a book where a main character was on the autism spectrum.  I feel like I learned so much about this disorder through Annika.  From the way she decided what clothes to wear to the coping mechanisms she found for herself to get through social interactions, the portrayal felt so honest and vulnerable.  Even though there were people that didn't understand or tried to take advantage of her, I loved that she was able to find friends that accepted her.  Janice was amazing!

As much as I loved seeing the world through Annika's eyes, I'm glad that we also got to experience Jonathan's POV.  The way he looked at Annika, his thoughts about her - we should all be so lucky to find someone who loves us that unconditionally.  Seeing their relationship blossom was one of my favorite parts of the book.  I loved how Annika felt comfort and safety in Jonathan like she never had with anyone else; I loved how Jonathan was so supportive and understanding of Annika.  

As the chapters moved between past and present, I was on tenterhooks waiting for the inevitable break-up.  I couldn't imagine what could tear Annika and Jonathan apart, but when it finally happened, it was sad but understandable. Even though it takes 10 years for them to run into each other again, it's almost like it didn't matter - their feelings were still so strong.

After all that Annika and Jonathan go through, in the past and the present, I want to know what happens next!  The book ended much too soon for me, and even though I like when books don't wrap everything up neatly, here I wanted just a bit more!

Thank you again for a wonderful story and beautiful characters.

A New Fan

4.5 stars