Monday, October 26, 2015

These Shallow Graves, by Jennifer Donnelly: when good girls go jouralist

These Shallow Graves
Jennifer Donnelly
Delacorte, 2015
NetGalley advance digital copy

In picking this book up, I will admit to hoping it would be a book with a mix of costume drama, drama, some historically inappropriate heat, a smidge of feminsim, smoldering gazes, more costumes, and a dramatic plot twist or fifteen.  Basically, I was hoping for the Luxe meets House of Mirth meets Newsies meets sexy gilded age crime thriller murder fun times.  Or something like that.  I mean, doesn’t the publisher summary lead you to believe this?

Jo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing she wants. Jo dreams of becoming a writer—a newspaper reporter like the trailblazing Nellie Bly. Wild aspirations aside, Jo’s life seems perfect until tragedy strikes: her father is found dead. Charles Montfort shot himself while cleaning his pistol. One of New York City’s wealthiest men, he owned a newspaper and was a partner in a massive shipping firm, and Jo knows he was far too smart to clean a loaded gun. The more Jo hears about her father’s death, the more something feels wrong. Suicide is the only logical explanation, and of course people have started talking, but Jo’s father would never have resorted to that. And then she meets Eddie—a young, smart, infuriatingly handsome reporter at her father’s newspaper—and it becomes all too clear how much she stands to lose if she keeps searching for the truth. But now it might be too late to stop. The past never stays buried forever. Life is dirtier than Jo Montfort could ever have imagined, and this time the truth is the dirtiest part of all.  (Random House summary on NetGalley)

DUM DEE DUM DUM DUMMMMMM.  (Mathnet theme music, anyone?)

I probbbbably read toooo much into this, led by my hope for a delightfully costumed scandal novel I could rip through.   I’ll cop to believing (or hoping) this would be darker, more serious, and more mature, so I was a bit perturbed to discover the treacle in my treacle tart a bit sweeter and perhaps corn syrupy than I'd hoped for.  However, I when I got around to rearranging my expectations, I found that  I was enjoying myself enjoying this turn of the century book on society, news, and unexpectedly, forensic science. Yes, forensic science. Which was actually a pleasant albeit gross surprise. was definitely not totally historically accurate on that count, nor were the dialogue or actions of the primary characters.  This is a really fun, exciting, feminist story - perhaps a bit more than would have been realistic, but feminist, nonetheless.  The writing, dialogue and pace can be choppy, and at times the historian inside was rolling her eyes at those points, but overall, it's a really fun story, with likable characters, interesting social commentary, and lots of smoldering intrigue. In fact, weirdly, I’d actually rate the Luxe, despite the obvious wayyy over the top sexytimes as slightly more historically appropriate.  But whatever.  If you want a smutty costume drama book, read the Luxe.  Good for fans of Newsies, or those still recovering from the devastation of the House of Mirth who hoped against logic it would end differently!  I’m wondering if some recently published titles (like Sarah Donati’s The Gilded Hour) might scratch the itch I was looking to scratch when I picked this one in August!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Pollo Viejo (Ropa Vieja w/Chicken)

Sometimes, I really like Cuban food.  Scratch the sometimes, and sub in the word always, come to think. It is salty, and savory, and oh-so-soul warming.  And I was in the mood to warm my soul via my belly, and decided to do a little experimenting.  Ropa vieja, you see, is usually made with beef.    I, however, was craving chicken and also olives, which are fairly common ingredients in a lot of Latin cooking (note: TexMex? Not authentic.  Sorry, team). know what happened if you took middle school Spanish and/or live in the Americas, because this one is called Pollo Viejo.  

I made this recipe early in the summer, and am revisiting it now that there is a certain chill in the air and that I want to be hovering over a stove again!  It makes a lot.  A lot a lot.  Invite your entire village a lot. And as with most stewy bean or meat dishes, I think it tastes better on day two. I served it with some rice on the side, and will probably up the olives when I make it again.  The only thing missing was a mojito or glass of sangria, but I think you can fix that one to taste, right?  

Pollo Viejo (Ropa Vieja w/Chicken)
Serves a village raising a child (just one)

Pollo Vieja (Ropa Vieja w/chicken)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Case of the Terribles: Twilight Reimagined

Just the other day I was wondering what happened to Stephenie Meyer, whose decision to spell her first name thusly is at best in and of itself a case of the terribles, and at worst, possibly a crime against humanity.  Turns out she's been super busy, breaking new and important ground.  As in, she rewrote Twilight, but just swapped the genders of her protagonists, in a new book titled Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined.

Apparently it's supposed to make us rethink gender roles.  The bravery. The creativity. The sensitivity. The courage.

I can't even...

This is real.  This is happening.  

Look at this display vulnerable masculinity, you guys.  You know he's strong but kind, and willing to fall for a lady vamp who sneaks in and watches him sleep, just from those manicured nails.  This sensitive human dude could squash that apple just like a lady vamps heart if he wanted.  But he won't. Because love.

(But seriously - will there be a vampire baby and werewolf love triangle? I have standards, Stephenie.) 
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