Sunday, June 29, 2014

Book Review: Look at Me by Jennifer Egan

This Book is a Wild Trip!

For whatever reason this book reminds me of the writing style of Chuck Palanhniuk and was reminiscent of his work Invisible Monsters. Both stories feature fashion models and have the edgy writing and intertwined tales and relationships that leave the reader hurrying through to figure out how it all ties together.

The central character is Charlotte, a successful model that never quite reached superstardom. In recent years she had been relagated to commercials for products such as toothpaste and modeling in catalogs. Her life changes when she survives a horrible car accident and has her face completely reconstructed along with other injuries.

Charlotte has lost her "look" and is completely unrecognizable to her friends and associates and has to start anew. How that works for someone who's whole identity is how they look and how they live and how they socialize is the crux of this story. Charlotte sets about to redefine herself with many struggles along the way and eventually comes to find the internet may be the ticket to a new chance to maintain her fame.

There are many other characters in this book that are intertwined with Charlotte including a mysterious man named "Z", a depressed mousy teenage girl, and a college professor with bipolar disorder. They are all interconnected in many ways and this story is like an onion with many layers and complex personalities.

I found this book very interesting and a energetic read but I will tell you that I didn't actually like Charlotte much at all. I don't think she would have worked as a sympathetic character anyways and her being shallow is very important to the story.

Good read, recommend!

Book Review: February by Lisa Moore

An Enduring Love Story Documenting Grief

Helen O'Mara loses her husband when an oil rig goes down in Newfoundland during a winter storm. Over the years, she returns to a "normal" life and manages to raise 4 young children on her own. While on the outside she appears strong, and is as she navigates through life, on the inside she is still grieving for Cal throughout the years.

This story weaves the past and the present together, alternating between the storm that rocked the local community with the loss of many of the men, Helen's struggles to return to normalcy and raise her children, and the present as her adult sons calls her with a life changing event.

While this story was definitely sad it was interesting to hear Helen's story from her perspective and to watch her journey through love, grief and hope. The story is beautifully told and the historical backdrop of the Ocean Ranger tragedy, as well as the harsh life in Newfoundland, was wonderfully descriptive.

Great Read.

Book Review: Faithful Place by Tana French

Thrilling Ride!

Part of a series but was great as a stand alone.

After reading this book, and really enjoying it, I went to find out more about this author. I discovered this is the third in a series called "The Dublin Murder Squad" and would definitely read more of these!

Faithful Place is where Frank Mackey grew up as a young boy and ran away from as soon as he could, twenty two years ago. On that fateful night, he had plans to run away and elope with his girlfriend Rosie. She stood him up with a note and he left on his own.

Since that time, he has avoided most of his family members and for good reasons. Now he is forced back into the heart of it when he finds out that perhaps Rosie did not jilt him that long ago night. Her packed suitcase is discovered in an abandoned house and Frank must wonder why she would have left it behind and his detective skills come into play.

This book is really wonderful. We watch Frank struggle with the family he left behind and negotiate with the detectives officially assigned to the case. This is a great read. Highly recommend!

Book Review: Maybe this Time by Jennifer Cruisie

Romance and a Ghost Story to Boot!

Yes, let's start by saying in many ways this is indeed a formulaic romance book. The premise starts with our heroine Andie Miller wanting to completely separate herself from her ex that she divorced 10 years ago by returning the uncashed alimony checks he has faithfully sent to her. He is a remote successful man and she left him when he concentrated on the family business. She is a non-conformer, an independent spirit, who never fit into his family.

You can see where this is going. . . of course she still loves him, even if she's engaged to another man. North Archer, the ex, is really not as cold as he seems and longs for her as well. . .

But this story has other elements and it really was a delightful quick read. See, when Andie shows up, North has a proposition. He needs a nanny for his two young wards stuck in an old rundown house in Southern Ohio that he can't get to but have gone through a succession of other caretakers after their father and aunt died. There are rumors or legends about ghosts and a haunted house but of course North Archer dismisses that.

Andie goes down to meet the kids for a temporary arrangement and gets more than she bargained for as the ghosts begin to interact with her. She learns a lot about the house and why the kids are going through caretakers.

This story really is a fun read and the romance was entertaining as well. I recommend it. Ghosts and humor plus the romance? It's a great combination.

Sunday Cocktails: Pina Colada

It's hot out and tropical sounded good.

90 degrees and humidity does sound tropical. I'm really not complaining. I am learning to love it after our cold long winter.

There was no real theme or preparations for today's cocktails. I got home about 10 minutes before the scheduled event, and had nothing planned.

My friend (and weekly cocktail partner in crime) came by with some fresh strawberries dusted with sugar and we thought pineapple juice based drinks sounded like a good compliment. We also enjoyed some triple cream brie and rosemary flat crackers.

We didn't really research anything to figure out exactly what went into a traditional pina colada but we think we have a good start. You will see one is pink and that is because I added maraschino cherries and the syrup to mine. Nothing tastes better than the cherry as a treasure!

Pina Colada (1 cocktail):

1 1/2 oz Malibu Black Coconut Rum
3 1/2 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Lite Coconut Milk

Place all ingredients in a shaker along with ice. Give it a couple of good shakes. Place into glass. For an added touch add cherries and maraschino syrup.

This was a good start. Next week's aspirations may include a blender to try a frozen version but I'm also thinking about a cocktail with muddled pineapple. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Book Review: One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

Fun Read!

This book is a quick read and doesn't take itself very seriously which was really delightful. Apparently this is one in a series and I will be looking for the sequels which include Two for the Dough, Three for the Get Deadly. . . You get the picture.

Stephanie Plum, our heroine, narrates this book and speaks quite candidly about her struggles to make ends meet after losing her job. Desperate to stave off an eviction and find herself some income to support herself, she reaches out to her cousin Vinnie for a job. Vinnie is a bail bondsman who gives her a job to recover a fugitive for $10,000. While this was not Stephanie's first notion, she thought she could work in the office, she sees this as an opportunity as a means to an end and sets to work. However, Stephanie does not know the first thing about bond recovery, or how to fire a gun, or how to find the fugitive, etc. etc.

So this makes a fun story about learning on the job as Stephanie learns the ropes with a baptism by fire method. We get a host of other interesting characters in Stephanie's life include family members, a man from her past, and some interesting fellow bounty hunters.

Good read.

Book Review: Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Fascinating tale, made more fascinating because it's true

Truth if often stranger than fiction and this account proves it. Larson takes two stories set at the same time in the late 1800's to spin an intriguing story about two very different individuals. The first is about Daniel H. Burnham, the architect of the 1893 Worlds Fair in Chicago. The second is the story of H. H. Holmes, a serial killer who re-imagined himself several times as a pharmacist and doctor, but really preyed on women.

How do these stories intersect? They both took place at the same time in Chicago. Holmes was able to use the World's Fair as a perfect way to lure women who were far away from home to prey on them. That in itself is a fascinating morbid story.

The vision and drive of Burnham is equally interesting and the advances of technology as well as all of the things that came out of the World's Fair is a great read. There are so many little trivial things that I learned and Burnham intersected with some very interesting folks.

Many books that feature historical accounts are rather dry and boring. That is not the case with this one and I have to highly recommend it. I found myself looking for time to sit down and finish this.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunshine Margaritas Part II

Sometimes just the glass makes it better!

Yes, it's the same recipe for Sunshine Margaritas but it's in a brand new glass. These whimsical glasses featuring bicycles were from my friend Jill to celebrate every week and remember the fun we had at Mackinac Island last week. Good times, good memories. Lovely glasses for cocktails.

Orange Porch

I know that for years now, we have heard that Orange is the New Black.

I just want to go on record that orange has been my favorite color for years. 


You might ask me to demonstrate it and I do have proof. Let's see, at our former house, our front door was soft orange, along with our bathroom (think construction cones), and another shade was featured in the kitchen. My vehicle, a Jeep Wrangler, is painted "Crush", reminiscent of soda with the same name. My hair is also sometimes called orange even if I am really striving for more of a copper. . .

So when looking at our house, I thought we should add some color. While it's a beautiful and classic look, it wasn't quite us. We added color with furniture on the porch but something was missing. Looking at the paint covering the porch floor, we decided it was time to touch it up and it seemed easier to just paint it a new color.

I really do think the orange porch just adds a bit of pop, and still stays true to the classic colors of slate gray and white that really is timeless.

Our front door was wood but it was very distressed and not necessarily in a good way. At first I thought about refinishing it but realized that the interior side was already painted white to match the foyer. And while I love orange so very much I decided against an orange front door this time. I would have had to go a couple of shades darker than the porch and I really didn't want an autumn sort of feel. Instead, I tried something completely new and picked a complimenting color. I thought the "mermaid green" added a nice little splash.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sunshine Margarita

Refreshing and Light

This week was our second week of afternoon cocktails and featured another experiment. I really like the Southern Margarita at Sweet Lorraine's and thought we would try to make our own homemade version. I don't know much about making margaritas from scratch (it's usually something I order out) but I knew we didn't want any of those mixes in the ingredients.

I must confess that I tried to make this last night as well, using the vintage mixing glass I have as reference for a recipe. I have learned from that experience that cocktails in the 1960's must have been pretty strong as there was much alcohol than the lemon juice (Why lemon is beyond me - maybe they didn't have limes in those days?).

So today I really cut back on the alcohol and upped the orange juice. This is what we came up with:

The Sunshine Margarita

2 oz Orange Juice
3/4 oz Lime Juice
3/4 oz Silver Tequila
1/3 oz Grand Marnier
Ice Cube
Salt for Rim

Place cubes in a shaker, pour in the liquid ingredients. Shake gently for about 10 seconds. Strain into a glass with more ice cubes that has been rimmed with a coarse layer of salt.

Delicious with chips. I would not change a thing on this one.