Friday, July 31, 2015

Readalikes: Girl on the Train, The Fixer, Daughter of Deep Silence

Amigos, I'm trying something new today.  Here are three books I've read this summer that struck me as easy readalike suggestions.  All would be excellent beach books, but only one smells like a fish.  Are any of them school-summer reading list worthy?  No.  Do you care?  No.  They're beach bag worthy, and that's all you need, besides sunblock, a cold beverage, and a beach.  And probably a beach bag to put them in.  

Here are your readalikes, friends:

  • Girl on the Train vs. Gone Girl  
  • The Fixer vs. Scandal
  • Daughter of Deep Silence vs. Revenge

Read on for reviews:

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Set your Bone Clocks to read o'clock

This doorstop of a book is as difficult to sit down and summarize as it is engrossing and fun to read.  The books spans decades and features no less than five protagonists in six parts that comprise the whole of this story. The story jumps between reality the past, reality in the present, reality in the future, and the metaphysical in each and on its own.  Does that confuse you?  Don’t let it put you off.  It’s a heck of a lot more complex and labyrinthine than I care to sit and have a think about, but  you can - it’s that well wrought structurally- and should you want to go down that rabbit hole, here is an article. Mostly, I loved it because of the characters, who are both hugely likeable and who are so unlikeable that you like not liking them.  Mitchell, despite being a structural master, clearly has fun creating vibrant characters, giving them quirks, writing snarky dialogue for them, and both tearing them down and building them up.  This book is colorful, rich, toothsome, intelligent, and engaging.  It’s a bit like a massive croissant stuffed with nutella and then rolled in nuts and chocolate chips.  (Or if you're me, it's a ham and cheese croissant with mustard and rolled in olives.) Or something.  It’s outwardly appealing and delicious, easy to want to bite into, but inside has complex, delicious layers, and at it’s core is a warming, delectable heart of goodness. Now you want BOTH that croissant AND the Bone Clocks.  Bad news: I made that croissant up; it exists only in my head.  Good news: David Mitchell made the croissant that is Bone Clocks up, so consequently it actually exists outside his head; you can have at.

In 1980’s England, teenage Holly Sykes runs away to strike out on her own after a brush up with her mother.  Despite being a bit of a teenage punk Holly’s not really typical; she heard voices as a child. While roaming the English countryside, the “Radio People” return, and the homecoming is not without fallout, putting Holly decidedly on the outs with them and yet convinced the experience was a bad dream that ended in a worse unsolved mystery upon waking.  Over the years, Holly is part of the lives of the other narrators in this novel that starts in the past, jumps to the present and past, and ends in the future: a Cambridge undergrad best described as a total dick, a war reporter in Iraq, a middle-aged writer with an ego, and an ancient doctor.  All are tied together but their stories are told in unique voices, both likeable and unlikeable, and in vastly  different genres, times, and settings.  This book is recommended for sophisticated readers, older teens (15 and up) and adults.  Those who don’t like science fiction or fantasy will find the reality in the unreality makes for a hugely enjoyable novel!  

Monday, July 20, 2015

Minty Spring Pea Salad

Friends, countrymen, Russian spambots, at New Years some lovely friends and I made a resolution to do a potluck once a month.  We've only left off June, and that's because it proved to be just too crazy, schedule-wise, but universe, note that we did talk about it!  I hosted the July potluck on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year, a polar opposite from way back in the never-ending winter that wasn't exactly polar at 90 degrees with 90% humidity.  After a thoroughly scientific poll of potluck resolution members, I settled on a Presidential theme for this potluck - ie. bring a dish that was a favorite of a president or inspired by a president.  
Presidential potluck: Green Beans ala Jimmy Carter, Washington's Cherry Pie,
Michelle Obama's Minty Spring Pea Salad, best American beer for the chef
Naturally, I chose Michelle Obama, the president of my heart.  I also chose Carter (green beans, peanuts) and Washington (cherry pie) but Ima share those later, hokay?  There was a plethora of pie, beer, and food, and we had a capitol time sweating together in my backyard and tiny living room (mwaha) and discussing our sources for US Presidential information (Drunk History is totally valid source).  Pro-tip: strong chance that while researching presidential food choices you will go down many rabbit holes and come to an hour to three later.  There are so many articles, books, posts, recipes, etc.  In short, it was highly tasty and fun. I'm only disappointed that nobody brought squirrel stew.  

Minty Pea Salad

Serves 6-8
Minted Spring Pea 

4 cups fresh or frozen peas, defrosted
1 large shallot, sliced thin (some diced finely)
zest and juice of a lemon plus 1-2 tablespoons more
¼ c olive oil
¾ cup finely chopped mint
salt and pepper

  1. Cook peas until just done, and put in an ice bath; leave to cool.
  2. Puree ½ c peas with lemon juice and zest of one lemon and olive oil until smooth.
  3. Toss peas, mint, shallot, onion, and leek in a bowl and pour puree over.
  4. Season to taste with extra lemon juice and salt and pepper.  


  • The original recipe calls for a small leek and a small shallot.  I only had a large shallot, and I thought it turned out okay!  I suspect using a small white onion may yield similar results if you’re in a pinch.
  • The original recipe also calls for only 2 ½ cups of peas. I had a crowd to feed, and that seemed a little bit like not enough to feed the predicted 6-8, so I initially upped the peas to 4 cups, and eventually added 1.5 cups more when it still didn’t look like a lot, which is not reflected in the recipe above.  I just upped the additional lemon at the end, and it was fine!  

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Smuggle up with Greenglass House, by Kate Milford

Greenglass House
Kate Milford
Clarion Books: New York, 2014
ISBN: 9780544052703

Miles is readdddy to party...or rather enjoy a quiet winter holiday break with just his parents in their smuggler friendly inn, Greenglass House, so named for the beautiful stained glass windows and rumored to be the site of the founders hidden treasure.  Winter break usually means an empty inn instead of the usual motley crew of offbeat smugglers, and Miles is just cracking the spine on a good book when he is interrupted by the jingling summons that portends a guest.  One guest leads to another and then yet another, and suddenly, unexpectedly, the inn is nearly full of a curious cast of characters.  Even more curious is that each guest seems to have some prior knowledge of the others, and soon things become even more complicated when break-ins occur resulting in the disappearance of personal items that have a curious connection to the Inn and it’s founder, and a massive snowstorm rolls through and traps them all for the forseeable future.  Miles is understandably perturbed that his vacation has been a bit ruined, until Meddy, who arrives with the housekeepers, enlists his help in a role playing game that may or may not double as a way to find out the secrets the guests all seem to be keeping before anything else goes missing.  Before long, Miles realizes he may be on a hunt for more than personal treasures, as might the thief in their midst.

This is perhaps one of the most excellent middle grade novels I’ve read in years, and I don’t say that lightly (don’t worry Penderwicks, you still have real estate claims on my soul).  It is incredibly fun to read, never panders to the age of the intended audience, keeps even seasoned readers guessing until the twist of an ending, and frankly, warms the cockles of the blackest hearts!  It made me feel super cozy in the dead of the worst winter in my own memory.  There is treasure, adventure, mystery, and friendship.  Themes of challenging yourself, courage, and creativity abound, and this book deserves serious accolades for not only having a non-white (he’s Chinese) protagonist (huge snaps on this front alone), but one adopted by (white) parents of a different race. In short, Kate Milibrand doesn’t sugarcoat or tidily wrap up Miles’ occasional feelings of abandonment, deep love for his adoptive parents, shame about fantasizing about his birth parents, or about how he feels about the confusion he sees in strangers when they see him with his parents.  It’s extraordinary and I hope all youth librarians take note to include this wonderful book in their arsonal.  Excellent for kids aged 9-99, fans of the Goonies, and anyone who likes a good story!  

PS.  Thanks for putting this on my radar, Sam!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Coconut Lime Brown Rice and Things

 For a while a few weeks ago, I was inexplicably craving brown rice - inexplicable because I’ve never really been a fan of rice, except when it is lovingly embracing or being embraced by pieces of raw fish, which I recognize me makes me a diagnosable weirdo, but also is a vote for sushi, so we're calling it a draw.  This lead to an impulse purchase of a big box of rice, which then led me to be like: “Riiiight.  Now I have a giant box of rice...what now.”  It was also hot, which leads me to want things like fruit and fresh veggies and cold salads.  I had also been attempting to get rid of a bag of dried unsweeted coconut for what felt like the entire gestation period of an elephant, and didn’t want to walk to the grocery store to get other stuff.  What resulted was a grab bag of “what’s in the house that I can use?”  Hence, I messed around, and came up with this delicious mess.  It’s a great quick meal and should keep for about 3 days in the fridge!  You could probably easily also eat it hot...but it’s summer.  Make this, put some super super dry rose in the freezer until it gets a little slush-y, and voila: summer dinner.

Coconut Lime Brown Rice & Things

Makes roughly 3-4 servings
Coconut Lime Brown Rice and Things

Monday, July 6, 2015

Do Not Say Knope Thank You to Yes Please

Yes, yes, I know it has been forevermanytrillion moons (that’s a real measure of time, I’ll have you know) since I last wrote some reviews.  Shame. Or not so much.  I’ve been busy, like, doing other librarian things like being a first year director, commuting, being lazy, whining about snow, being lazy, and eating, lazily.  As you can see, my dance card has been set to busy.  But one of my many goals this summer is to tell you all what you should read like my bossy spirit animals command you to (The Notorious RBG, Tami Taylor, Mrs. President, Missy Elliot, the real Mrs. President, etc.)  With no further adieu, yes, please, pull up a slice of couch and let me tell you all about a book I just finished reading roughly ten minutes ago, written by another of my favorite bossy lady spirit animals, Amy Poehler:

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