I have searched high and low, every bookcase in my house (and there are a lot) and I cannot find my copy of Middlesex.  I am so disappointed, because I was really looking forward to finally reading it.  I wonder if I have a box of books somewhere that I never unpacked (unlikely) or if I left it at my mom’s house (more likely, and more tragic, since she lives over 1,000 miles away).

ANYWAY, since I need to read a book I own, and I need to read a Pulitzer Prize winner, I am going to attempt to read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.  The only problem is that my copy is in Spanish. I bought that book at the height of my Spanish proficiency, when I was constantly speaking, reading, writing, translating, and even teaching it.  Can I still read a full-length novel in a foreign language?  Will I be able to review it coherently in English?  We’ll see.  But I’ll try my best.

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Do you use your local library?

I used to.  Growing up, I had a great library.  It had an awesome selection, and was part of a huge library system, so I could request books from any of probably fifty surrounding libraries and have them within a day or two.  (It was also great because wait times were a lot shorter for popular books, since there were so many copies in circulation.)  I read the entire young adult section when I was in high school.

In college, I really only used the library for research.  It seemed wrong to check books out for fun when I wasn’t even finishing my required reading on time.  And I guess I got out of the habit.

So when I finished school and moved to a new town, I had to check out the library.  It’s a big, modern building.  Lots of glass.  Cafe on the first floor.  Open floor plan.  Many levels.  I browsed around a bit, got a library card, went to check something out – and was charged $1.00?

WHAT?  I didn’t even have cash on me.  I had to scrounge through my pockets for change.  Super embarrassing.

I haven’t been back since, because I could not for the life of me figure out why the library was CHARGING ME. I mean, their website says sometimes they charge a $1.00 “new release fee,” but come on.  I’ve checked out plenty of new releases from other libraries, and the only time I’ve been charged is when I’m too lazy to take them back on time.

Also, their selection sucks.

But I’m thinking about going back and giving it another shot.  It’s been three years now, and maybe I’ll try to avoid the new releases.  Also, I’m trying not to buy as many new books, because a huge chunk of my paycheck was disappearing each month.  Might as well use a resource that’s right down the street, right?

What about you?  Do you use your library, or do you like to own the books you read?  How is the selection at your library?  Is it worth your time to go there?

   Goodreads   Amazon

This is my second year having a membership to a CSA. For those of you not in the know, that’s Community Supported Agriculture, in which you pay a lump sum to a local farmer over the winter, and then you’re given piles and piles of produce all spring, summer, and fall. The farm I use is 100% organic, with many interesting vegetables and heirloom varieties I’d never even heard of prior to joining. They even have a pick-your-own portion, which is a huge stress reliever for me. Going from a hectic medical office filled with angry patients to a huge open field in the middle of nowhere is a great feeling.

So, anyway, I get at least twenty pounds of fresh vegetables a week, so I’m always looking for new and tasty ways to enjoy them. One of the reasons I requested this cookbook from Netgalley is the fact that Tara Stiles promotes a healthy, plant-based diet. And she’s holding some kale on the cover, so that had to be a good sign too. I was expecting this book to be chock full of ideas for what to do with my abundance of tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini, and peppers.

But really, that’s not so much what this book is about. A hefty portion is comprised of Stiles’ philosophy on life, cooking, and keeping things natural. She preaches about ridding your home of plastic containers and nonstick pans. She’d come into your home and remove all them herself if she could, she says. Empty your pantry and refrigerator of all unhealthy foods, she advises. Fill it back up with her staples, and you’ll never have to eat out again.

That’s all well and good, but…

Who actually has the time and money to do all of that prior to even starting one of her recipes? I was flipping through this cookbook in hopes of finding some interesting things to do with kale, not to be lectured that I’m going to get cancer and my future children will have health issues due to microwaving plastic or using a nonstick frying pan.

I really took issue with that, because that is not what this cookbook was marketed to be.

But aside from that, the recipes are alright. There are a few I might make, but they’re nothing too special. I wouldn’t buy this cookbook for myself or give it to a friend, because I found it way too preachy. I’ll stick to my other cookbooks for now.

Final rating: ★★☆☆☆

Oh, Halloween.  It’s been exactly seven years since I last dressed up.  I was a game of Twister, and I did not understand the connotations of that.  Oh, to be a newly-independent eighteen-year-old.  Should have gone with a literary costume.  Much safer.

There are the obvious ideas:

  • Hermione Granger from Harry Potter
  • Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games
  • Daenerys Targaryen from A Song of Ice and Fire

There are the classics:

  • The Cat in the Hat
  • Alice from Alice in Wonderland
  • Matilda (a book lover dressing up as a book lover)

And some ideas based on recent reads:

  • Simon Snow from Carry On (Watford uniform, sword of mages, frazzled look)
  • Baz Pitch from Carry On (Watford uniform, wand, sinister expression)
  • Evie O’Neill from The Diviners series (flapper dress, flask, random objects)
  • Lyra Belacqua from His Dark Materials series (winter gear, alethiometer, stuffed animal)

I actually really love Halloween, but now I spend it at home handing out candy to little children whose adorable costumes never cease to amaze me.  What literary character would you dress up as?

Where is the sneakiest place you’ve read?

Mostly I read in my bed.  Sometimes in the guest room.  Occasionally in a hammock.  But sometimes, very rarely, I get sneaky about it.

When Scarlet came out, I read portions of it on my phone while I was at work. (Don’t tell my boss.)  I have read while on the phone.  I’ve read while walking.  Many times, I’ve read while on public transit (although that’s not particularly sneaky).  Recently, I did leave the office under the guise of getting some food, when in actuality I was curled up in the hallway with my Nook.  (Hey, it’s my break, right?)

Where do you like to read?  Are you usually in bed or on the couch, or do you like to sneak in a few pages wherever you can?

   Goodreads   Amazon

How do you review an anthology like this? I can’t go into detail on each piece, because that would take ages, and you probably don’t care. So let me just keep my review short and to the point – I was pleasantly surprised by this collection of articles.

I didn’t know what to expect going in, because I haven’t read any of the previous Best Food Writing books. I love to cook, so I was thrilled to see articles about making a great bolognese, or how to make proper carnitas. Some were great life lessons too, like important things to know about cast iron pans. Others were great to think about, like why exactly people don’t cook when they easily could.

When I finished this book, I actually felt like I had learned something about cooking, and about food culture in general.

Highly recommended.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy!

For my 2015 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #12: a book of short stories. (These would count as short, nonfiction stories, right?)

   Goodreads   Amazon

The very second that Hey There, Dumpling! showed up on Netgalley, I knew I had to have it. I love dumplings. I could eat them every day and not get tired of them. I’ve made them at home before. They were good, but they could have been better, and I had to know the secrets of good dumpling-making. I was so happy when I was approved, and this book did not let me down.

In the first half of the book, Kenny Lao covers the basics: creating a filling, folding the dumplings, pan frying, making a dipping sauce. This alone would have been enough for me to rate this book five stars. But noooo, then he has to go on and give recipes for appetizers, drinks, and desserts. There I was, in bed with the most awful cold I’ve had in recent memory, barely able to move, but salivating at the prospect of these recipes, and only wishing that I would get better so I could try them.

I have since made his “quickles” – quick pickles with garlic and Szechuan peppercorns. I chose radishes, since I have an overabundance of them from my farm. And they’re good, like… really good. I made three batches this week and have been eating them both as a side dish and throwing them in my salads. I haven’t had the chance to make any of his dumplings yet, but that’s coming. Soon, hopefully. Maybe the next time I have dinner guests.

I am seriously considering buying several copies of this cookbook and giving it as Christmas presents.

Final rating: 

★★★★★