28 February 2015

Weekend Cooking: The Kitchen Journal 17

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend 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, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

The Kitchen Journal from www.BethFishReads.comI had all the best intentions to post a cookbook review for today, but life seemed to get in the way. Actually, this week was particularly busy with work, and that's where all my focus and energy have been.

Update on meal planning. No one is more surprised than I am at how much I've taken to the idea of making up dinner menus every week. It took some time to find my own style, but I'm in the groove now. Here are some things I've learned:

Don't plan seven dinners. Some meals will stretch to two nights, and some nights you're just too frazzled to cook. For me, the magic number seems to be five. We usually have at least one night of leftovers, leaving me with one night to be creative in the kitchen.

Don't pre-assign meals to a day. Locking myself into recipe A on Monday, recipe B on Tuesday, etc. brought out the rebel in me. I just never seemed to want to eat that night's assigned dinner. Now I just have five meals that can be made on whatever night I wish (except fish, which I cook the day I buy it). This simple bit of freedom changed my whole attitude to the idea of planning.

Mix it up. Avoid getting in a rut. Don't plan the same types of food week after week. Have meatless Thursday or a roast on Saturday. Switch up the flavors and cooking styles. The only rule I stick with is to plan for one fish, two meat, and two vegetarian meals. What those dinners are and when we eat them are absolutely flexible.

Pinterest & recipe sources. I've been on a big magazine kick this winter, and they've been the source of almost all my recipes. If we really liked a dish and I can find the recipe online, I've pinned it to my Pinterest "Recipes: Tried and Like" board. I've made an effort to include notes on what I did differently (I'm hopelessly unable to follow a recipe exactly). If you're interested in what I've made, click on the link. These are not necessarily knock-your-socks off meals, but are dishes we'd be happy to have again.

Cool new gadget. You probably already know all about these, but I just discovered pouring lids for canning jars. I bought a wide-mouth lid because I could get in blue. I'm not yet sure what I'm going to put in my jar, but I like the lid. You can get all kinds of mason jar lids, such as strainer lids, metal lids with pour spouts, travel mug lids, and lids with holes for straws. Most come in both wide-mouth and regular sizes. Search your favorite online store.

Annnnnnnnd that's about it for me this week. Back to our regularly scheduled Weekend Cooking next week.

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26 February 2015

Review: The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon

The Mime Order by Samantha ShannonThe day the much-anticipated second book in Samantha Shannon's Bone Season series came out, I bought two copies. I own a pretty hardback of The Mime Order as well as a digital copy of the audio edition. I wanted a book for my shelves, but I knew I'd be listening to the novel instead of reading it.

This review assumes you've read the first installment of the series or at least know the premise (see my review of The Bone Season); there are no spoilers for book two. The Mime Order opens pretty much exactly where we last saw nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney: she and a group of fellow fugitives have managed to escape from bondage in the old city of Oxford and are now heading home to London.

Of course, this isn't the England of today. For Paige, it's 2059 and history has pushed the world in a different direction from ours. London is ruled by two factions: the Scion, who hunts down and kills any citizen who shows clairvoyant (psychic) ability, and the not-so-secret gangs of voyants, who have divided the city into territories, each with its own leader and enforcer.

Although Paige is now back in the bosom of her gang, she cannot relax. She is wanted by both the Scion and the Rephaim (the creatures who enslaved her in Oxford), neither of whom would mourn her death. In addition, she can't even trust her fellow voyants: there has been a rash of unexplained murders and disappearances, resulting in a major power struggle among London's voyant gangs. The focus of The Mime Order is on how Paige finds herself caught up in the city's sociopolitical upheaval.

Alana Kerr returns to narrate the second book in the Bone Season series. As with the first novel, Kerr is particularly good at helping listeners tap in to the pacing and emotions of the story. Her whispery soft tones are perfect for the more intimate moments of the book, and she is equally adept at the sharp, quick notes need for the action scenes.

Samantha Shannon has created a complex world with a host of characters, which can be difficult for an audiobook performer. Kerr rises to the challenge by using distinct characterizations for the dialogue and a clear and expressive voice for the narrative. Paige's vocabulary includes quite a few unfamiliar words (chol-bird, mollisher, glossolalia), but Kerr proceeds stumble-free.

I was impressed with Kerr's handling of the range of needed accents, such as an Irish brogue and several specific London dialects. However, as I mentioned in my review of The Bone Season, Kerr is a little breathy, but I wasn't overly distracted by it and hope she returns for the rest of the series.

Recommendation: Whether you listen to or read The Mime Order, you're in for a treat. I liked the action (not for the squeamish), the overall political and social issues, and the general plot line. On top of this, Shannon adds excellent interpersonal relationships among her characters, who are allowed grow and change and make mistakes. There are enough plot twists and very real emotions to keep us invested in Paige's life.

If I have any complaint, it's the same one as I had for the first installment: Shannon spends a good deal of time on the world building. It's fascinating stuff but can slow down the pacing. On the other hand, thanks to Alana Kerr's expressive performance, listeners will breeze through the lulls in the action.

I bought a digital download of the audiobook and was pleased to discover that it came with a PDF of three maps of London and a genealogy-like chart of the seven orders of clairvoyance. These visuals are very helpful to the listener, and I encourage audiobook publishers to include such extras whenever possible. I was sorry that the glossary was not available as a PDF, but Shannon is such a good writer, I got by fine without it.

For a sample of the audiobook, hit the play button below.

Print: Bloomsbury USA, 2015
ISBN-13: 9781620408933
Audio: Audible Studios for Bloomsbury USA; 16 hr, 28 min
Source: Bought (audio & print) (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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24 February 2015

Wordless Wednesday 330

Winter Tracks, 2015

Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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Today's Read: Who Buries the Dead by C. S. Harris

Who Buries the Dead by C. S. HarrisWould you be able to handle the double stress of trying to solve a series of grisly murders just when your mortal enemy reemerges to threaten you? Sebastian St. Cyr—soldier turned detective—must sort out the twisted threads of both the case and his life before the danger becomes personal.

They called it Bloody Bridge.

It lay at the end of a dark, winding lane, far beyond the comforting flicker of the oil lamps of Sloane Square, beyond the last of the tumbledown cottages at the edge of a vast stretch of fields that showed only black in the moonless night. Narrow and hemmed in on both sides by high walls, the bridge was built of brick, worn and crumbling with age and slippery with moss where the elms edging the rivulet cast a deep, cold shade.
Who Buries the Dead by C. S. Harris (Penguin USA / NAL, 2015, p. 1 [eGalley])

Quick Facts
  • Setting: London, 1813
  • Circumstances: Gruesome serial murders, with links ranging from the beheaded Stuart King Charles to the current British government, take Sebastian St. Cyr through the streets of London as he tries to expose the killer before the murders hit too close to home.
  • Characters: Sebastian and his wife and son; Stanley Preston, a Jamaican plantation owner; Lord Oliphant, a soldier from Sebastian's past; Lord Jarvis, Sebastian's father-in-law; various people in the British government and upper classes as well as the poorest of London's citizens
  • Genre: historical mystery; 10th installment in a series
  • Fun thing that attracted me to the book: Apparently Sebastian's investigation gives him an opportunity to meet Jane Austen and her brother
  • What I learned from reviews: I haven't even started reading, but the Austen connection calls to me. Reviews of this book and Harris's series in general are strong and positive, citing complex action and plot, well-developed characters, a little humor, and good period details.
  • Extra bonus: I noticed that the wonderful Davina Porter is the narrator of the audiobook! Oh my, I think I'll have to listen.

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23 February 2015

Review: Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso

Ongoingness by Sarah MangusoIn just less than a hundred pages Sarah Manguso talks about her intimate relationship with her twenty-five-year-old daily habit of writing about her life. At the beginning of Ongoingness: The End of a Diary, she admits:

I couldn't face the end of a day without a record of everything that had ever happened (p. 3)
She kept a diary both so she wouldn't forget and so she could "stop thinking about what had happened and be done with it."

In more than eight hundred thousand words (she destroyed some of her journals over the years), she wrote to preserve memories, stop time, and maybe find some immortality. But with the birth of her son, Manguso gained a different perspective on those very things: memory, time, and the future.

The beautiful, succinct passages that make up Ongoingness ultimately come around to the realization that the true repository of memories and ultimate marker of time are not in meticulously kept diaries but are in the flash and sparks of new generations, in a "world of light unending."

I've read this slim volume twice now and will likely read it again. Sarah Manguso's thoughts have a sharp, crisp focus, yet her prose is poetic and flowing. I've marked many passages that need my fuller attention, that call to me to sift through the layers. Ongoingness will be with me for a while.

A few quotes:
Today was very full, but the problem isn't today. It's tomorrow. I'd be able to recover from today if it weren't for tomorrow. There should be extra days, buffer days, between the real days. (p. 11)

Marriage isn't a fixed experience. It's a continuous one. It changes form but is still always there, a rivulet under a frozen stream. Now, when I feel a break in the continuity of till death do us part, I think to myself, Get back in the river. (p. 25)

In my experience nursing is waiting. The mother becomes the background against which the baby lives, becomes time. (p. 53)
Published by Graywolf Press, March 3, 2015
ISBN-13: 9781555977030
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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