Thursday, November 29, 2012

In Death Series Reading Challenge: November 2012

Interested in joining the Challenge? Anyone is welcome to join in at any time of the year at wherever in the series you currently are. See the sign up post HERE and join the fun!

Did you read any In Death series books this month?

I started reading Promises In Death very early in the month and was LOVING it. It's the one in which one of the NYPSD's own female detectives is murdered in the basement of her apartment building, likely by someone she knows. She also happens to be a recent serious love interest of one of the long term characters on Eve's team. So there's a strong personal component to this one, which is making the mystery shrouding her murder even more compelling. I put it down only because I had some other books that I really wanted to read to fulfill book clubs, read alongs on reading challenges, but hope to pick it back up in December!

CHALLENGE PARTICIPANTS: Link up any In Death posts you made this month here. If you made a post on your blog, whether it be a review or commentary, please grab the link to your post and leave it in the comments below so we can find each other's latest In Death posts easily. You can also just use the link to your goodreads or other virtual bookshelf as well.

None this month.


The five most popular genre shelf labels for the In Death series on goodreads are mystery, romance, crime, suspense and romantic suspense. I've often been conflicted about under what genre this series falls. Originally thinking it was romantic suspense, I've finally decided on crime fiction. Mystery would work, too, since each book focuses on a murder mystery, but I think crime fiction is more indicative of the police procedural aspects that dominate a large part of the books.

Under what genre (or subgenre) do YOU classify the In Death series?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

REVIEW: Fever Moon by Karen Marie Moning

Fever Moon is a graphic novel story from Karen Marie Moning's popular urban fantasy Fever series featuring Mackayla "Mac" Lane. Fever Moon is basically a short story that takes place during the events of Shadowfever, which is the fifth and last book in the Fever series. There is a new spin off series, however, The Dani O'Malley series that starts with the newly released novel, Iced.

Fever Moon was written with the fans of the Fever series in mind, and I do believe those are the readers who will enjoy this novel the most. The author does provide some background information in the series in the first few pages of the graphic novel, but it's really difficult to set the stage of the world building and character development that has already taken place in five full length fantasy novels in just a few pages of a graphic novel. Hence, I'm not really sure if someone who hasn't read the series and picks up this graphic novel will really get what's going on in the Fever world. Maybe it's not critical, anyway, as the plot for this story is not necessarily complex.

The villain in Fever Moon is The Fear Dorcha, a being who was created when the Unseelie King was experimenting in creating his own Soul Song--the power to create immortal life. The Fear Dorcha is a faceless being who steals parts of people's faces in order to create his own face. Once he has completed his created face from all the pieces of his victims, the victims die. Mac races to find the Dorcha and figure out a way to stop him from finishing his face before the last victim is claimed so she can save the lives of these innocent people, among them some of her friends. I thought the conflict was resolved a little too easily and actually ends rather open-ended. Perhaps things will be re-visited in future books in the Dani O'Malley series.

The illustrations in Fever Moon are vividly detailed and effectively evoke the tone and setting of the Fever series very well. I think I prefer the images of the characters that I already had in my head after reading the series than the ones portrayed by the illustrators of the book, but I suppose that's normal. I thought Mac was drawn excessively voluptuous and Barbie-doll like, but perhaps I just visualize her as more wholesome for my own preferences.

Overall, Fever Moon is an okay read. Fans of the Fever series will likely love it because it's a fun, unique way to visit Dublin AWC, or After the Wall Crashes, giving a graphic glimpse of their favorite characters--Mac, Jerricho, Dani and plenty of others including the Seelie Prince Velvet, Dreamy Eyed Guy and Ryodan. Everyone else will likely think is just okay.

I give Fever Moon 2.5 out of 5 stars.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Holiday Baking by Sara Perry

Here I am once again, about to rave about a cookbook from my shelves that is no longer available in print, although it looks like you may be able to buy a new copy through the author's website at Holiday Baking is available as a Kindle edition and you can also buy it used from several sellers on Or look for it at used bookstores or your local library. I assure you this one is worth the trouble of hunting down for your collection.

I bought my copy of Holiday Baking [Chronicle Books, 2005] on impulse back in 2005 while helping out at the Scholastic Book Fair at my daughters' elementary school. I fell in love with the cookbook the moment I picked it up. First of all, I have a special fondness for holiday themed cookbooks and cooking magazines. Both my maternal grandmother and mother always baked a wide variety of cookies and breads for the Christmas season for their own families and to give as gifts to friends and relatives, so I've developed the same inclination. Secondly, I love the diversity of holiday goodness that's celebrated in this cookbook. There are chapters for each Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa and New Year's Day. Finally, the recipes are fun to read and all are very appealing. I quite honestly want to try them all! There isn't a photo for every recipe, but there are quite a few mouth watering photos.

Want a peak inside Holiday Baking by Sara Perry?
Visit the cookbook's page on amazon and click on the cookbook image where it says Click to LOOK INSIDE.

Holiday Baking is one of the cookbooks from which I chose to cook for the Cookbook Challenge hosted by Cynni at She Likes Bento. The purpose of the challenge is to encourage participants to cook from cookbooks that we've owned for a long time, but have never cooked a recipe from them. Holiday Baking was one such cookbook for me until just this morning, although I do habitually pull it off the shelf this time of year and look through it for holiday inspiration.

The recipe I chose to cook is for a breakfast pancake with apples baked in a large cast iron skillet. It can also be served as a dessert or late night snack. I just love the title for this one:

It's-Thanksgiving-Morning-but-They-Still-Deserve-Something-Special Apple Puff Pancake.

There is a dessert version of the recipe in the cookbook called It's-Nighttime-and-They're-Still-Hungry Apple Pastry with Calvados and Golden Raisins.

I just made this recipe this morning after freezing my butt (mostly my toes!) off on a thirty-four mile bike ride, so I'm calling it It's-Thanksgiving-Weekend-and-I-Still-Need-Something-Special-to-Warm-Me-Up Apple Puff Pancake.

No matter what you call it.. know you can call it DELICIOUS!
Warming up with Apple Puff Pancake
from Holiday Baking by Sara Perry
It's-Thanksgiving-Morning-but-They-Still-Deserve-Something-Special Apple Puff Pancake

2 teaspoons unsalted butter 
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided 
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
pinch of ground nutmeg 
4 medium to large Granny Smith apples, 
        peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices 
1 cup all purpose flour 
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/4 teaspoons salt 
2 eggs, at room temperature 
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature 
powdered sugar for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Grease a heavy, 10-inch ovenproof or cast-iron skillet with the butter and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the sugar with the cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the apples and toss to coat. Transfer the apples to the skillet and set aside. Portions of the apples may be higher than the side of the skillet.

3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt until blended. In a small bowl, lightly whisk the eggs, then add the milk and whisk until blended. Whisk the egg mixture into the flour mixture until blended and smooth.

4. Pour the batter over the apples. Using the skillet's handle, give the skillet an easy back-and-forth shake to settle the ingredients. If you wish, you can level the top with a spatula. Some apples will remain only partially submerged.

5. Bake until the batter is golden, the protruding apples are tinged and golden, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar, cut into 6 to 8 wedges, and serve.

This was my first time making a puff pancake in a skillet like this. I've seen recipes for similar pancakes, sometimes called A Dutch Baby and always wanted to try it. Now I finally did and it won't be the last time I do. It's a festive and delicious and very easy! The texture is a bit like the cross between a regular pancake and maybe bread pudding. Cakey but a bit spongy at the same time. Very flavorful. It really hit the spot today and helped defrost my poor frozen body after this morning's bike ride. My husband even came back for seconds which says a lot as he's not the biggest fan of pancakes for breakfast. My older daughter had hers with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and was in heaven. My youngest passed.. she's been such a picky eater lately. >_<

There are way too many recipes in Holiday Baking that I'd like to make--definitely too many to list. If I had to choose just a few, however, at the top of my list is The Ultimate Dinner's Guest Gingerbread [Thanksgiving], Apricot Nut or Cardamom Pistachio Rugelach [Hanukkah], Jerusalem Olive Oil Cake with Orange Marmalade and Almonds [Hanukkah], Stir-Up Fruitcake [Christmas], Saint Lucia's Saffron Crown [Christmas], Buckingham Palace Shortbread [Boxing Day], Apricot Jam and Coconut Squares [Kwanzaa], and Bloody Mary and Baked Mushroom Omelet [New Year's]. Yes, that's my abbreviated list.

I give Holiday Baking by Sara Perry 5 out of 5 stars.


Do you do a lot of baking for the holidays? 
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Cookbook Challenge runs through the end of November, so if you'd like to join in, visit Cynni's sign up post HERE. Hope to see you cooking from a much neglected cookbook on your shelves soon!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Weekend Cooking, a weekly blog event hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food related post to share--a food related book review (fiction or nonfiction), cookbook review, movie review, a recipe, random thoughts, gadgets, food quotations, photographs, etc. Please visit Beth's blog for more information and join the fun! 

Note: your post does not have to be posted on the weekend, but do visit Beth's blog over the weekend to link up your post. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Where In the World Are You Reading? Reading Companions

Where In the World Are You Reading? is a monthly book meme created and hosted by the lovely Trish [Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity], Lisa [Books, Lists, Life] and Kelly [The Written Word], which encourages readers to share their reading habits through different monthly prompts.

This month's theme for Where In the World Are You Reading? is reading companions. My cats are without a question my most loyal reading companions. I honestly think they've come to associate books with snuggling.

The feline reading companions in the photos below are two different cats.. Mona and Gigi, who are sister and brother. We have two other cats who also curl up on my lap when I read, but they are more interested in napping on my lap than the books I'm reading. ;)

"These are the things she likes to sit and hold. 
Maybe if I lay near or on top of it, she'll hold me, too," ... think the cats.

"Read out loud to me, mama."
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

"Is this a book about kitties, mama?"
"Pay attention to ME!"
Web Of Lies by Jennifer Estep

"Looking for your book? I haven't seen it."
Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep
"Nap first. Read later."
Cold Magic by Kate Elliot
Obviously very swoon worthy.
Saving Grace by Julie Garwood 
Sometimes my daughters and I read side by side together. Every once in a while we read the same books so we can chat about them, but that hasn't happened since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. My oldest and I tossed around the idea of read Les Miserables together over the summer, but we never got around to it. Just recently we joked that we should both just read the sparks notes and then see the film together. We laughed.. but you know.. I'm thinking we might just do that.

Daughter and I both on Chapter 10!
Creation in Death by J.D. Robb
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Once in a while, on the weekends, my husband is my reading companion. He watches footy [soccer] and I snuggle up next to him with my latest read. This usually leads to a nap for me. At least until a goal is scored.. then I'm woken up quite abruptly by the "NOoooo!" "What the heck was that?" or the "YESSSS! What a goal!"

My favorite reading companion.
This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
[I actually took this photo myself--
reaching out with my iphone!]
Who are YOUR reading companions?

To read other Reading Companion posts by fellow readers, visit the link up at Kelly's blog HERE. You can also catch some Where In the World Are You Reading? news on twitter with the hash tag #wwread.

Join us next month for Where In The World Are You Reading? when the monthly theme is Holiday Escape

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

From my home to yours... 

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving
spent in the company of loved ones
in a warm home
with delicious, wholesome food on your table
prepared with love. 


Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Pumpkin Cookbook edited by Nicola Hill

Once again I am showcasing a cookbook that is out of print! So sorry, folks, but since I chose to cook from this cookbook for the Cookbook Challenge, I guess it shouldn't be a surprise. The Cookbook Challenge hosted by Cynni from She Likes Bento was created to encourage participants to cook from cookbooks that we've owned for a long time but have never cooked from in the past. This adorable little cookbook dedicated entirely to pumpkin recipes has been on my bookshelf for years. I bought The Pumpkin Cookbook [published by Hamlyn, 1996] several years ago from my local Williams-Sonoma during a clearance sale shortly after Halloween, probably in the late 1990s. I just love pumpkins and even have two other cookbooks dedicated to these classic symbols of autumn.

I prepared two recipes from The Pumpkin Cookbook recently. First I made Pumpkin Griddle Cakes that came out just okay. They're a cornmeal based griddle cake or pancake, which I thought would be amazing since I also love cornbread, but in fact, these griddle cakes were very plain. The pumpkin flavor was barely noticeable and it didn't have much other flavor either, even after I added a bit extra cinnamon and nutmeg. They weren't a complete waste, however, since there were no leftovers. But I still won't make them again.
Pumpkin Griddle Cakes
The second recipe I made was a Pumpkin, Chickpea and Banana Curry that caught my eye. If you haven't figured out already from the recipes I've posted on my blog over the years, two foods that I love are pumpkin and curry. So to see these two ingredients together in one recipe, I knew I just had to try it. I wasn't sure how this recipe would go over with my family--my husband isn't a fan of any kind of squash or sweet potato (gasp!) and I imagined everyone objecting to bananas in a savory dish. I decided to halve the recipe just in case it did turn out to be a bad idea, but it turns out the dish was very, very good. The depth of the curry flavor was just right and it tasted quite authentic for an Indian dish. If you're freaked out by bananas in a savory dish, you can leave them out. However, why not give it a try? You might just like it! I was impressed with this dish and would definitely make it again--especially as an entree for vegetarian friends.

I give The Pumpkin Cookbook 3.5 out of 5 stars. Nice variety of recipes, but I think you can find so many more amazing pumpkin recipes in other places these days.

Pumpkin, Chickpea and Banana Curry
Pumpkin, Chickpea and Banana Curry
adapted from The Pumpkin Cookbook edited by Nicola Hill

2 tablespoons coconut oil (or other vegetable oil), divided
1 small onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons grated or minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 lb. pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2" cubes
2 tablespoons hot (or mild) curry paste
2 ripe tomatoes
1 small red chili pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock (or water)
1 14 oz. canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 slightly under ripe banana
1-2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a saucepan until hot and add onion, garlic, ginger and spices, cooking until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes, chili pepper, salt and stock (or water) and reduce heat to a simmer, cooking for 5-10 minutes.
3. Toss the chopped pumpkin with the curry paste in a bowl.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet until hot and add the pumpkin. Fry for 5 minutes or until golden.
5. Add the pumpkin to the simmering tomato and spice mixture. Add the chickpeas, sprinkle with garam masala, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender. (Poke it with a fork or the tip of a knife).
6. Peel and slice the banana into chunks. Add to the pumpkin mixture and cook for a few minutes more until the banana is heated through.
7. Sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro and serve.

Another Indian feast at home!
I served this pumpkin curry with two other Indian dishes--Orange-Cinnamon Basmati Pilaf [Naarangi Pulao] and Moghul Chicken Korma [Murgh Korma], both recipes prepared from Indiana Regional Classics by Julie Sahni that I reviewed a few weeks ago HERE. I also served it with some left over samosa filling from a few days ago when we made homemade samosas at our last girl scout meeting. Yum!

Cookbook Challenge Update
Here's a review of the recipes I've cooked so far for the Cookbook Challenge.

From Autumn by Susan Branch:
Butternut Shotglass Soup 
Tomato Soup

From Indian Regional Classics by Julie Sahini:
Saffron Pilaf 
Moghul Shrimp in Cream Sauce 
Orange-Cinnamon Basmati Pilaf 
Moghul Chicken Korma

From The Pumpkin Cookbook edited by Nicola Hill:
Pumpkin Griddle Cakes 
Pumpkin, Chickpea and Banana Curry

I signed up for the Creative Croissant Level of 3-5 recipes, which I've already surpassed having made 8 recipes already. However, I did want to cook from five different cookbooks, so I'm still going to try to get to the other two cookbooks before the end of the month. Wish me luck!

The Cookbook Challenge runs through the end of November, so if you'd like to join in, visit Cynni's sign up post HERE. Hope to see you cooking from a much neglected cookbook on your shelves soon!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Weekend Cooking, a weekly blog event hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food related post to share--a food related book review (fiction or nonfiction), cookbook review, movie review, a recipe, random thoughts, gadgets, food quotations, photographs, etc. Please visit Beth's blog for more information and join the fun! 

Note: your post does not have to be posted on the weekend, but do visit Beth's blog over the weekend to link up your post. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Library Loot LIX

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries! 

Dream Lake by Lisa Kleypas

I had to re-loot Dream Lake by Lisa Kleypas since my last library loot post and this time I read and returned it before the short 14-day loan period ran up. This contemporary romance series by Ms. Kleypas has some elements of magic in them and a component of "the magic" in this particular book involves a ghost from the past who interacts with the male lead. I'm not usually a fan of ghosts in books--especially in romance, but this one worked wonderfully.

This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz

My online book club finally decided on This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz for our November book today after we had to hold a tie breaker poll. Right away I started searching the online catalogs for the several local libraries I haunt and all of them had holds lists! Thankfully the last library on my list had a copy available so I zoomed over there as soon as I could to get it. It's only a 7-day loan, though, so I need to read it asap!

Fever Moon by Karen Marie Moning

While looking for This is How You Lose Her on the new release shelf, I was so excited to have spotted Fever Moon by Karen Marie Moning. Fever Moon is a graphic novel from the Fever series, which I loved. Fever Moon reviews some of the key plot points from the Fever books, but is otherwise a new story Mac and Barrons story that takes place after the events of Shadowfever and before the most recent book in the Fever series, Iced. I can't wait to read it! Then I'll be ready to read Iced, which I hear is fantastic.

What are YOU reading from your library [or bookshelves] right now?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Anna Karenina Read-Along: Part Two

Note: If you've already read Anna Karenina, please feel free to join in this Read-Along discussion. However, please refrain from discussing any particulars past Part Two of the novel at this point so as not to spoil anything for the first time readers. Thanks!

Part Two of Anna Karenina delves deeper into the novel's primary theme of family relations. The story arcs expand as relationships fall apart and others show signs of strengthening. Characters are further developed as they struggle with relationships with family, friends and lovers, as well as their own personal inner turmoils.

CAUTION: This is a Read-Along discussion post so you can expect spoilers from the first two parts of the novel. Read at your own risk!

Discussion questions for Part Two of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy:

1. Kitty's health has deteriorated as a result of her heartbreak and so she travels to a health spa in Germany with her parents in hopes of reviving her health. It is here that Kitty befriends the young woman Varenka whose actions and beliefs Kitty admires tremendously. What is it about Varenka that has Kitty so enamored? At one point Kitty says she will never marry. Why do you think she says this? 

2. Anna and Vronsky consummate their affair in this section. Do you think what they share is love? And if not, what do you think it is that they share? 

3. Tolstoy writes to great length and detail about the steeplechase. Did you get the sense that these passages foreshadow events among the characters? If so, what? 

4. What are your overall impressions of the book after reading Part Two? Are you enjoying the story? Do you like Tolstoy's writing? 

My responses to the discussion questions:

1. When Kitty sees Varenka tending to others, particularly those who are ill or less fortunate, simply out of the goodness of her heart, Kitty begins to realize that being a good, caring, charitable person provides a lot of purpose and even happiness to one's life. She soon realizes it can also backfire as it did in the case of the artist Petrov, but I still think she learned a valuable lesson from Varenka. I think Kitty's claim that she'll never marry is more a defense mechanism than anything else. It's her way of protecting herself from any future heartache or humiliation. Eventually, I hope she realizes she can have both in her life--happiness from being a good person to others and happiness in marriage.

2. I sadly don't think what Anna and Vronsky share is true love. They clearly share an undeniable attraction and passion for each other, but it mostly feels like they are using each other to fill a void in their lives, and quite unsuccessfully at that.

3. At first I was wondering why Tolstoy wrote so much detail about the steeplechase until I started to realize that Frou-Frou's [Vronsky's horse] behavior and temperament matched that of Anna regarding her relationship with Vronsky. Both want the ultimate prize--Frou-Frou to win the steeplechase and Anna to have a loving and passionate marriage--but both are also rather skittish and reckless. Ultimately, Vronsky makes a rash, careless move that brings down his horse in the steeplechase. I have the feeling he's going to do the same regarding Anna.

4. I'm still enjoying reading this book, but realizing it is definitely more a tragedy than it is a love story. I think all of the families and relationships are a mess and whose futures look rather glum. I do, however, have hope that Levin and Kitty will be the exception and their story will be one with a true happily ever after ending. We shall see.. there are still over 600 pages to go! Tolstoy's writing is exquisite, despite being rather long winded. He articulates characters' inner struggles and emotional tones very, very well, but sometimes I wish he'd just spit it out instead of describing these things in a long roundabout kind of way.

Next week: Part Three of Anna Karenina!

It's not too late to join us in the Read-Along. Fay from Blog A Book, Etc. and I are also moderating an Anna Karenina Read-Along Group on goodreads. Anyone is welcome to join at any time--just send a request to join on goodreads. We'd love your company!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My October Adventures

October is one of my favorite months of the year. I love the change of seasons period, but summer to fall is my favorite with comfortable days and chilly nights, beautiful foliage and delicious fall fruits & vegetables. Like Pumpkin! And apples. Halloween was a wash around here, though, because of the hurricane. Trick-or-treating was rescheduled twice already and now postponed until further notice. I'm thinking until October 31, 2013 would be fine at this point.

Felled trees like this one on power lines,
houses and cars on almost every street.
I've already blogged about Hurricane Sandy here and here, so I'm not going to go too much into it again. It's an adventure that's more like a nightmare and is still ongoing. Power is still out for a lot of people and the last of our schools just got power restored this morning but a few hours later a transformer blew, knocking out power to a school and neighborhood that had previously been completely unaffected by the storm. I thought tomorrow was going to be the day of return, but now I'm not so sure. Students haven't been in school since October 26! It's been crazy to say the least.

Let's move on to happier subjects, starting with books!

Most of my book choices for October were well suited for the R.I.P. VII reading event I joined--dark fantasy, paranormal, crime fiction and thriller type stories. Even the two In Death books I read were apropos in their crimes for this time of year--one was a controversial murder of a priest inside a Church in Spanish Harlem and the other was a human sacrifice type murder. Spooky stuff.

In books: 

Total books read: 7 
Romance............... 1 
Fantasy.................  1 
Crime fiction ......... 2 
Young Adult ......... 3

1. Cold Fire by Kate Elliot
2. Demon From the Dark by Kresley Cole
3. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
4. Salvation in Death by J.D. Robb
5. Ritual in Death by J.D. Robb
6. Prince of the Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
7. Tales of Death and Dementia by Edgar Allen Poe,
Illustrated by Gris Grimly

My favorite this month was Demon From the Dark by Kresley Cole followed by Cold Fire by Kate Elliot.

In fitness:
I've been working out regularly as usual, but I have to admit since the Gran Fondo in September, I feel a little adrift without an event ahead of me. At first it was nice not to always be thinking about my next training ride, but that lasted all of a week or so. Now I miss those long 40, 50, 60, 70 mile rides that took hours on a Saturday morning to do. We're still cycling on the weekend, but since the days are so much shorter now and family calendar's so busy during the school year, we don't have as much time to ride.
Here they come..
I ride like a girl. Try to keep up. 
That's one of my favorite of my photos that I took last month for my Project 365. I went on a ride with the guys and had to wait for them at the top of the hill. I have to admit that felt really good.


I'm hanging in there with the Project 365 I started on Instagram on Jan. 1--haven't missed a day in a long time now! Of course, I probably just jinxed myself saying that. I followed the photo-a-day prompts from Fat Mum Slim over the summer and am thinking of doing it again for December. Anyone else want to do a photo-a-day project just for December? Maybe I'll share the prompts here on my blog once they're announced to encourage you to join. It's fun.

In the garden: 

I yanked it all up right before the hurricane. I picked all lingering green tomatoes that just weren't ripening and was too impatient to wait for them to ripen on the counter so I was considering making fried green tomatoes with them. My family grimaced at that idea, but thankfully Joy came to the rescue and hooked me up with this fabulous Indian recipe Green Tomato Sabji. It was so delicious that I'm counting on making it with green tomatoes next year! I already miss having fresh basil right outside my door and already we have only ONE jar of homemade pesto to get us through the winter. Bummer.

And that wraps up my October adventures. Wishing you all a wonderful November.

What kind of adventures did YOU have in October?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Anna Karenina Read-Along: Part One

Note: If you've already read Anna Karenina, please feel free to join in this Read-Along discussion. However, please refrain from discussing anything past Part One of the novel at this point.

I am reading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy! I took the plunge into this 838 page Russian classic and now that I've gotten my feet wet, there's no turning back. I'm completely submerged in this epic saga. I had no idea this was such a fascinating and dramatic ... historical chick lit novel! Come along and read it with me--it's pretty exciting so far.

There are numerous translations of Anna Karenina available to readers, including a few free versions that you can download to your e-reading device from amazon, barnes and noble and ibookstore, although I do not know how reliable those translations are. I chose to read the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. This translation was awarded the PEN/Book-Of-The-Month Club Translation Prize.

As well as being well recognized as an exceptional translated version of Tolstoy's original work, it has a few bonus features that I think are definitely noteworthy. For one, this version contains a list of the principal characters, including the numerous variations on every one's names, which is proving to be most helpful as Tolstoy uses them all at any given time. I admit I flip back to the character list quite frequently as I'm reading. This translation also includes a Notes section in the back of the book, upwards of 40-50 footnotes or explanations for various references throughout each chapter. Some of these notes are more helpful than others. More often than not, I feel as if I need notes for the notes, but I'm not worrying about understanding every little reference to outside literature or politics at this point. Someone more knowledgeable or passionate about history and the arts would likely benefit the most from these explanations. For the rest of us, not "getting" all of these details does not really detract from enjoying this piece of literature.

If your version of Anna Karenina does not have a character list or notes, there is a list of the primary characters and a summary for each of the eight parts of the novel on wikipedia. I suggest you read with absolute caution, however, because you may easily read major plot spoilers if you read the plot summaries! I accidentally read one last night on a book club page and am very disappointed to have read what I did. So please, be careful reading about the book around the internet.

Now let's discuss Part One of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

CAUTION: Since this is a Read-Along discussion post, you can expect spoilers from the designated section of the text. Read at your own risk!

Many book discussions of Anna Karenina begin with the very first line of the novel, so let's do the same.

"All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

1. Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

2. The story opens with the Oblonsky household in complete disarray as Dolly has discovered her husband, Prince Stepan "Stiva" Oblonsky had been having an affair with their young French governess. What are your first impressions of Stiva and Dolly? What do you think of the couple's quick reconciliation? Do you think Stiva got off the hook too easily?

3. Meanwhile, Oblonsky's childhood friend, the shy and awkward Konstantin Levin, "Kostya," arrives in Moscow from his country estate to propose to Dolly's youngest sister, Princess Katerina,"Kitty." What is your first impression of Levin and his friendship with Oblonsky?

4. Princess Katerina is being courted by both Levin and Count Vronsky. What do you think of Kitty's decisions regarding these two men?

5. What is your first impression of the title character, Anna Karenina? There is a strong magnetism between Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky from the first moment they meet. What is your first impression of these two characters?

6. What is your overall impression of the novel so far?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

If you are reading Anna Karenina along with me or even if you've read the book already, I encourage you to share your responses to any or all of the discussion questions on your own blog or in the comments below. Feel free to discuss anything else about Part One that interests you.

Here are my responses to the discussion questions:

1. "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." I disagree! How is happiness all the same for everyone, yet unhappiness so different? I think Tolstoy's statement is a huge generalization about both families and happiness. In my opinion, the only way "all happy families are alike" is in that they all have some degrees of unhappiness layered in there, too! Just as no one individual is perfect, neither are relationships, including the relationships among family members.

Of course, many families are happy, functional families full of love, companionship and support for one another, but everyone experiences varying degrees of bumps along the road of life--including our relationships with family members. That doesn't mean we want to abandon, betray or otherwise hurt our family members, but there are bound to be disagreements and hurdles along the way. However, how we deal with problems or instances of unhappiness in our families--with respect, patience and compromise, for example, is key to all of our overall happiness, I think. I'm curious to see how Tolstoy's characters deal with their familial problems and unhappiness. I imagine there will be varying degrees of success and disaster among the relationships.

2. I definitely think Dolly forgave Stiva all too quickly and easily for his affair. I don't trust Stiva when it comes to his promise of marriage to Dolly. He seems to believe he is entitled to mistresses and is way too non-chalant about his actions. I acknowledge that it was very common, if not expected, for married men to have mistresses, but it doesn't mean I have to accept it. Clearly not all of the wives found it acceptable either!

I would like to see both Dolly and Stiva make changes in their own behavior in order to improve the physical and emotional intimacy in their marriage, but I don't think anything is going to change. Dolly won't take any initiative to do so--partly because she doesn't know what or how to do that, and Stiva won't either simply because he doesn't think he has to! The only thing he did wrong was get caught!

3. I really like Levin so far. I feel a little sorry for him because he doesn't quite belong among the aristocracy of his friends in Moscow. He's a bit socially awkward, but he's intelligent and not ashamed of his ideals. I admire him for wanting to live life the way he wants--on his estate in the country wanting a home and family.

As far as the friendship between Levin and Stiva goes, I think their friendship is so long lasting merely because they were close family friends since childhood. If they didn't have that solid past of having grown up together, I don't think they'd be friends as adults since they seem too different. Stiva is more shallow and self-absorbed, a man who strives to keep up with the aristocrats of Moscow society, while Levin seeks the happiness that a wife and family can bring his life in the country and his ideals are his own, not whatever is simply the popular consensus at the moment.

4. Oh, Kitty. I like her! Like Levin, she seems the most genuine of characters so far. As it is, she is very young and therefore she relies on the guidance of her mother regarding important decisions about her social life--such as who to marry. She is more likely to make decisions based on what is expected of her rather than what her heart tells her. I think she would be very compatible with Levin and I was disappointed for both of them when she refused his marriage proposal, but I could see why everyone would think Vronsky would be a better match for her. It doesn't seem these characters necessarily marry for love, which I suppose was very common in this time period. When Kitty was cast aside by Vronsky for Anna Karenina, a married woman no less, I felt even more pity for Kitty. I hope she finds happiness in the future.

5. My first impression of Anna Karenina is that she is beautiful and alluring to just about everyone she meets--men and women. She comes across as complex and enigmatic, but I also find her rather sad and think maybe she is lonely or depressed. Her marriage lacks emotional intimacy and obviously the attraction she feels for Vronsky and he for her spells nothing but trouble for everyone. I don't trust him at all. Everything he has done so far is for purely selfish reasons.

6. I really enjoyed reading Part One and cannot wait to read more. I have to admit I didn't realize how juicy this story is! A lot of drama among family, friends and lovers. Who knew?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

It's not too late to join the Read-Along that Fay from Blog A Book, Etc. and I are hosting on our respective blogs and with an Anna Karenina Read-Along Group on goodreads. I assure you that Part One is a quick 100+ pages that you can read in just a day or two and hopefully you'll be as hooked as I am. We will be reading Part Two this week and discussing it next weekend. We'd love to have you join us!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Cookbook: Indian Regional Classics by Julie Sahini

This is one of the cookbooks I chose from which to cook for the Cookbook Challenge hosted by Cynni at She Likes Bento. The Cookbook Challenge is designed to get participants cooking from cookbooks we've had on our shelves for a long time but have never cooked from them. Indian Regional Classics by Julie Sahini [1998] is one such cookbook for me. Unfortunately, once again, I am presenting you with a positive review for cookbook that is no longer available to purchase new from the publisher. Indian Regional Classics is only available from used book sellers or maybe you can borrow it for free at your local library. :)

I happen to own several Indian cookbooks as Indian food is one of my most favorite cuisines. I also own Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahini [1980] which is a phenomenal resource for authentic Indian cooking. Honestly, Ms. Sahini taught me how to cook Indian food right in my own kitchen with that cookbook--dishes that impress even my Indian friends. I highly recommend it. Would you believe I found it at the curb in front of a neighbor's house on recycling day? Best find ever.

Back to the cookbook in discussion! Indian Regional Classics: Fast, Fresh and Healthy Home Cooking by Julie Sahini is a great starter cookbook for anyone looking to dabble in Indian cooking. This cookbook doesn't contain quite the plethora of recipes as Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahini

but there are plenty of recipes for the adventurous home cook looking to learn a few authentic Indian recipes. Indian Regional Classics also pays careful attention to keeping the recipes healthier in this cookbook--always a plus. As the title implies, the author presents a variety of recipes showcasing specialties and styles of cooking from different regions of this vast and diverse country.

The cookbook begins with a discussion on Indian spices and herbs as well as the Indian way of eating. Then the recipes are presented by type--appetizers and soups; breads and savory pastries; rice and grains; tandoori grilling; fish and shellfish; chicken and poultry; meat; vegetables, legumes, eggs and cheese; yogurt salads, chutneys and condiments and finally desserts and beverages. There is also an Indian pantry checklist and a glossary of ingredients. Obviously from those recipe categories, you can see this is not a vegetarian cookbook. There are, of course, numerous recipes that could be prepared with vegetables, beans and grains that would be well suited for a complete vegetarian meal, but many, if not most, of the recipes in this cookbook call for animal products, including dairy.

I made two recipes from this cookbook tonight--Zaffron Pulao [Saffron Pilaf] and Malai Jheenga [Moghul Shrimp in Cream Sauce]. I also oven roasted a few potatoes, carrots and a small head of cauliflower, toasted some store-bought frozen naan in a skillet and made a delicious new-to-me dish of Hirvya Tamatyachi Bhaaji [Green Tomato Sabji] from Aarti's Corner using the green tomatoes from my garden that have been stubborn to ripen on the counter. This recipe was recommended to me on twitter by Joy [Joy's Book Blog] after I posted a photo of way too many green tomatoes I picked from my garden last weekend when I was preparing the yard for the hurricane. So glad I made this dish. It was excellent! Thanks, Joy!
Homemade Indian food for dinner. Yum!
The Saffron Pilaf was delicious--seasoned with onion, cloves, raisins and of course, saffron, it was a special addition to our meal, especially since I usually prepare basic white basmati or jasmine rice in the rice cooker. In fact, all of the rice dishes in this cookbook sound wonderful. I plan on making more in the future.

The Moghul Shrimp in Cream Sauce was mildly fragrant and also quite delicious. My husband thought it lacked a distinct flavor and was rather plain, but my eldest daughter and I liked it. I'm not in a great rush to make it again, but am not adverse to the idea either.

I'll definitely be cooking more recipes from this cookbook now that I've sampled these recipes.

You can visit Julie Sahini at her website .

The Cookbook Challenge runs through the end of November, so if you'd like to join in, visit Cynni's sign up post HERE. Hope to see you cooking from a much neglected cookbook on your shelves soon!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Weekend Cooking, a weekly blog event hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food related post to share--a food related book review (fiction or nonfiction), cookbook review, movie review, a recipe, random thoughts, gadgets, food quotations, photographs, etc. Please visit Beth's blog for more information and join the fun! 

Note: your post does not have to be posted on the weekend, but do visit Beth's blog over the weekend to link up your post. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

R.I.P. VII The End.

I'm very pleased to report that I met all the challenges I imposed on myself through Carl's R.eaders I.mbibing on P.eril VII or R.I.P. VII reading event. Here's an overview of what I signed up to do and what I accomplished. I'm so proud of myself. ha!

Peril the First - Read four or more books that fulfill the categories of R.eaders I.mbibing on P.eril such as mystery, suspense, thriller, dark fantasy, gothic, horror, supernatural, etc.

1. Salvation in Death by J.D. Robb
2. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
3. Prince of the Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafrón
4. Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Death and Dementia illustrated by Gris Grimly

I "double dipped" by listing The Graveyard Book as one of my reads for the Peril the First when it was also the read along book, but in my defense, I also read a few other dark books that may or may not satisfy the R.I.P. categories:

5. Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep
6. Cold Fire by Kate Elliot
7. Demon From the Dark by Kresley Cole

Peril of the Short Story - Read some short stories that fit the above R.I.P. categories

1. "Ritual in Death" by J.D. Robb in the Suite 606 anthology.

Peril on the Screen - Watch something scary or eerie on film.
I watched not one, not two, but THREE scary movies! Not bad for someone who doesn't like scary movies, eh?

1. Red Lights [2012]
2. Prometheus [2012]
3. Carrie [2002]

Peril of the Group Read

I participated in the group read of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book [2008].

Adorable book written by one heck of a story teller. You can read my review HERE.

I have to admit I'm pleasantly surprised I managed to pull this off! Looking forward to participating in R.I.P. VIII next year and already have one book on my list... A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness which I ran out of time to read this time. Now that I spent most of the last month reading all spooktacular books, it's time for this girl to stick her nose in a romance novel. ;)