Monday, January 31, 2011

A Reliable Wife

I was really looking forward to reading this book, A Reliable Wife.  My mother reads about five books per year and when she finds a good one, she always gets excited to have me read it.  While I was holding on to her copy, a few of the girls in my book club came up with this book as well.  My mom really like it while the girls in T3 (my book club is "Tolstoy to Twilight") gave it a decent review even though none of them were doing backflips over it.

The basic storyline involves an older man, Ralph Truitt, placing an ad for "a reliable wife"...hence the title...and what ensues when this woman, Catherine Land, replies in the affirmative to the ad.  Both have ulterior motives for the arrangement...but, neither one knows the other's designs.

I have to honestly say that I was greatly disappointed in this book.  Don't get me wrong, the writing style is very good and the plot twists and turns well...even though I saw the twist coming from a mile away.  What bothered me was how sexually graphic, violent and disturbing it was.  And I was not happy with the ending, I kind of had the feeling of, "That's it?  Well, that's messed up."

Would I recommend this you can probably already guess, no.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Her Daughter's Dream

Do you guys remember back when I read Her Mother's Hope?  This was a Francine Rivers book that I thought would make an excellent mother-daughter reading experience.  Her Daughter's Dream rounds out Marta and Hildie's relationships problems and brings two more generations along the line.

About one-third of the way into this book, I have to admit that I got a little frustrated.  There were three generations of women involved at this point and their relationships were completely messed up...and all in one simple way...their communication structure.  None of them tell their mothers how they truly feel, therefore, encouraging the system of miscommunication. 

Another problem with this miscommunication is that, each daughter has an excellent relationship with their grandmother; Marta has an excellent relationship with Carolyn (Hildie's daughter) and in turn Hildie has an excellent relationship with Dawn (Carolyn's daughter).  It almost appears sometimes that the grandmothers do not want to share their granddaughter with their own daughter...very weird. 

This level of disfunctionality continues all the way down the line to Dawn...until Dawn gets a canful of it.  She recognizes what this is doing to her family and wants to put a stop to it.  I really, really liked Dawn's case you can't tell.

Overall, I liked this book, but I will admit that I didn't like it was much as Her Mother's Hope.  Rivers is usually very good about writing a Christian novel without getting too preachy.  She doesn't fully succeed in that this go-around...I felt a little preached at about halfway through.  However, I like the way this story develops and eventually completes itself...even if the ending did not come about in the way I would have chosen.  I would highly recommend this set of books, especially for a mother and daughter to read and discuss with each other!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Matched is a futuristic want-to-be utopia for a country kind of like ours...called the Society.  This story follows Cassia, who is supposed to be "matched" in the beginning of this novel.  Within the society where Cassia lives, everything is decided for you...what and how much you eat, how much you exercise, where you live, who you marry, etc.  This has all been pre-determined by other members of the society that study you and statistics about you to decide what is best-suited for your person. 

Cassia is very excited about her Match Banquet, which will decide and introduce her to her match...whom she will marry in a few years after chaperoned courting.  While at the banquet, Cassia is matched with her best friend from childhood, Xander.  When you are matched, you are given an information chip that you plug into to a view screen at home to learn everything there is to know about your match.  Cassia puts this off for a little while...after all, why does she need to read Xander's interests and things such as his favorite color when she already knows them all?  But, when Cassia does put the chip in, something disconserting happens...Xander is not listed on the chip...Ky is, a classmate who also happens to be an adopted orphan that has been already pre-determined to be a single (a member of society who will never marry, based upon some reason or another).

At this point, Cassia becomes very unsure of herself and the Society itself.  If a mistake like this could be made, what other mistakes have been made?  She understands that these decisions are made so that people can live out their lives to their fullest potential as well as being able to live a long and healthy life.  But wait, even that long and healthy life is cut short when her grandfather is put to death at the age of 80...when all members of the Society die. 

This book reminded me a lot of 1984 by George Orwell.  Other members of my book club say it's like the Hunger Games series as well...I don't know since I have yet to read those (they are on my to-read list, though!)  I do think that perhaps 1984 is the basis and origin of a lot of these types of dystopian novels since it was the original of these pieces of literature.  Matched is an excellent young adult novel and made for a quick and easy read.  I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to the rest of this series!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

PW Baked Beans

I tried out the PW recipe for baked beans last week and it is now a favorite within our household.  Ree calls it "The Best Baked Beans Ever" on her blog and she is not joking!  After David tried these, he said, "This is how all baked beans should be made."  Needless to say, this is now a Dave's Fave. 

The link to the original recipe via the Pioneer Woman is here, complete with how-to pics and step-by-step tutorial.  However, since I do not have 58.2 mouths to feed like Ree, I reduced the recipe to approximately one-third.  Some of these measurements don't reduce easily, but on this with many when cooking...exact measurements aren't as big of a deal.  It's not like this particular recipe is creme brulee or meringue. 

Best Baked Beans Ever
via PW who used Pam Anderson's recipe

3 slices bacon, halved
1/3 medium onion, cut into small dice
1/2 medium green pepper, cut into small dice
1 large can (28 ounces) pork and beans
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons (approximately) distilled or cider vinegar
2 teaspoons (approximately) Dijon mustard

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.

Fry bacon in large, deep sauté pan skillet until bacon has partially cooked and released about 2 tablespoons worth of drippings. Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towels.

Add onions and peppers to drippings in pan and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add beans and remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer. 

Pour flavored beans into a greased 8x8 (or similar size) ovenproof pan. Top with bacon, then bake until beans are bubbly and sauce is the consistency of pancake syrup, about 2 hours.

Let stand to thicken slightly and serve.

And of course, like all beans, the second and third day tastes even better because the beans have had a chance to soak up more of that tasty, saucy goodness!

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

This book...ahhh...let me count the ways I love thee.  Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is probably going to be bumped up to one of my favorites...the more I think about it, the more I like this book.  Jamie Ford is an award-winning short story novelist and this was his debut novel...I cannot wait to see if he writes more novels!

Here is the gist of this book...Henry is walking by the Panama Hotel in the old Japantown area located in Seattle.  The hotel has been vacant for over 40 years, but recently it has been purchased by a woman that wants to restore it to it's former glory.  When the construction workers break ground on the project, they find boxes and boxes of Japanese families' belongings in the basement.  As Henry is walking by, different news channels and media are covering this find.  The owner pops open a beautiful Japanese parasol...a Japanese parasol that Henry recognizes from long, long ago...

Throughout this book Henry flashes back and forth from his life as a twelve-year-old boy in Seattle's Chinatown to present day (for him-1980s).  As a young boy, Henry was raised by very old-fashioned Chinese parents that want him to recognize himself as Chinese, but also as an American.  At all times, Henry's father has him wear a button that says, "I Am Chinese."  This is because the setting of this novel is during WWII...and many Americans cannot tell the different between Chinese and Japanese Americans.  Honestly, I have to say that I'm one of them...even today.  And saying that makes me feel a little guilty.

Regardless, while Henry's parents are old-fashioned, they also want him to get a good American education.  Henry's father signs him up for a "scholarship" at an all-white, prestigious, private school...this "scholarship" simply has Henry serve food in the cafeteria and clean up after school each day in return for not paying dues.  Some scholarship, huh?  This situation makes it very difficult socially for Henry.  The white children to do not accept him and call him a "Chink" while his fellow Chinese American children back in Chinatown won't accept him because he's "too good" for their Chinese school.  Henry is very lonely...until one day when another student begins scholarshipping with him in the cafeteria and after school.  At first Henry has high hopes...until he notices that this is a Japanese girl.  His parents would be furious if he were to consort with this girl, Keiko.  If you know anything about world history, you might know that the Chinese and Japanese despised each other long before WWII came about...and Ford gives a little background regarding these reasons via Henry's father's character.

In Henry's present day setting, you learn how he has recently lost his wife through a battle of cancer and his relationship with their son has definite communication problems.  Gradually, throughout the novel, Henry and his son's relationship grows and develops as Henry shares more and more information related to his flashbacks as a young Chinese American boy during WWII.

This story gives a bittersweet view of what it was like to be Asian American during WWII...there were so many times that my breath caught in my throat while reading this book.  Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet also displays the power of our interpersonal relationships...whether they be between parents, friends or other loved ones.  I cannot tell you how much I loved this book.  It has an awesome message alongside endearing characters.  Read it!

Monday, January 24, 2011

There's No Place Like Here

I feel kind of like I've read through a spurt of mediocre books lately and when I blog about them, this becomes even more evident.  Around this time my reading slowed down a little because of this took me waaaay longer to read this short, little book than it should have.

There's No Place Like Here has a Wizard of Oz you can probably gather from the cover.  Sandy Shortt has been obsessed with missing items and persons since she was a child when her schoolmate vanished.  Now, as an adult, Sandy is a personal investigator that specializes in finding missing persons.  Right before a meeting with a new client, Sandy herself goes a similar way that Dorothy disappears from Kansas.  She discusses in the beginning of the book how ironic it is that this happens to, of all people, her.

This "place" that Sandy is transported is Here.  Everyone there just calls it Here because they don't know where it's at...other than the fact that it's where all the missing things go.  Every sock, set of keys, lost earring, wallet, etc. that anyone has ever been lost is in Here.  This includes people...and includes Sandy. 

There's No Place Like Here is a cute little story about finding yourself, especially when you're lost.  I think I would have enjoyed this book more if I had been wanting to read something light and fluffy.  If that's what you're looking for, this is a good book.  But, at this time I had read too many mediocre books and was wanting a really, really good next review will provide such a book, luckily.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Devil In the Details

As you can probably gather from the cover, this book is about someone with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).  Specifically, this book is a memoir about a teenage girl's struggle with OCD, specifically scrupulosity.  Scrupulosity is a hyper-religious form of OCD.

One thing that was interesting to me about this book was that Jennifer Traig's mental illness would seemingly turn itself off and on again.  She talks about "getting better" and then going into more intense bouts with her scrupulosity just a few months later. 

A lot of her scrupulosity issues included an obsession with items being kosher.  Traig's father was Jewish while her mother was Catholic.  This was inherently confusing for Jennifer because she chose to follow her father's Jewish roots while the family practiced Christmas as well as other Christian holidays.  This proved to be disastrous for Jennifer when ham (Christmas or otherwise) was cooked...the ham was also why Jennifer determined every single dish in the house was none-kosher (because ham or some other sort of pork product had rested on it at some time or another).  Jennifer even obsessed over whether or not the glue that held the first few sheets of a paper towel roll together was kosher.

Needless to say, this book was insightful into the mind of someone with OCD.  However, it was not my favorite.  There were parts where Traig appeared to try to be funny (joking about how plump she was and her name being remarkably similar to a certain famous person's weight-loss program). Yet, I wasn't laughing for the vast majority of the book.  If someone were to ask me my review of this book...I would probably just shrug and say, "eh."

Shiver & Linger

These books, Shiver and Linger, are supposedly "the new Twilight" as far as series go.  These books still have the fantasy premise of werewolves (no vampires), however, the way the werewolves change, why and when is very different from Twilight

Grace is a teenage girl that is fascinated with the wolves that live in the woods behind her house.  This fascination began when she was a small girl and was attacked by these wolves.  She survived and ever since has watched these in particular catches her eye, the one with the yellow eyes...  Meanwhile, in the woods Sam (the yellow-eyed wolf) watches over Grace throughout the winter.  He hasn't stopped watching over her since the day he stopped the others from killing Grace long ago. 

In Shiver, the two meet and fall in love, then become determined to find a cure for this werewolf toxin.  A toxin that keeps them wolves during cold temperatures and human in warm.  I can honestly say, that this book could stand alone.  At the end of Shiver, you are satisfied and think everything has been nicely tied up in a bow.  However, further drama ensues in Linger that does not fully resolve itself leaving the story wide open for the third book.

I have to say that I didn't get fully invested into this story until about halfway through Linger.  I hate saying that because some of my friends absolutely love this series (to date).  But, I can say that I am definitely intrigued at this point and will definitely read the third book, Forever, which is scheduled to come out later this year.  I want to know how Sam and Grace sew this one up!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Good In Bed

I know what you're thinking...this book is titled WHAT?  And the cover doesn't help.  But, trust me...this book is fabulous.  I wouldn't say it was one of my all-time favorites, but it is definitely a good book.  And if you want a book that will make you laugh out loud...pick this one up today.

This book starts out with Cannie Shapiro at work and her best friend calling to console her...but, console her about what?  It turns out that Cannie's...ahem, soon to be officially ex-boyfriend...became the new columnist for a magazine...the column interestingly titled "Good In Bed."  The topic of this column is supposed to be the man's side to a relationship; advice to women on what men really think and want.  Cannie and Bruce (the bf) were on a break...and Cannie assumed it really was a break, but Bruce obviously thought otherwise.  He thought they were officially through...which, is why he had no problem writing in his column about what it's like to "love a larger woman."  Cannie is flabbergasted...she knew she wasn't the cutest, little petite thing, but she never thought of herself as a "larger woman."

This book is a journey of self-discovery for Cannie and for the most part it's hilarious...right down to her dog's name, Nifkin (if you don't know what that the book, it is hilariously explained).  She has a wonderful sense of humor and I laughed out loud numerous times while reading this book.  The story does turn rather serious about halfway through, but it all ends in a way that I was very satisfied with.  And I have to was a bit of a surprise.

I think this book has a fabulous message/moral and would be an excellent read for any woman.  Every woman has "body issues" and I think that Jennifer Weiner takes a refreshing look at this topic in today's society.

Sometimes I Wonder...

It's at times like these I wonder about my true "bloggerness."  It's been a while since my last blog.  The holiday season took our household by storm and I'm wondering how other bloggers have time to still blog while shopping for and wrapping presents, cooking and baking tasty treats as well as driving here and there and everywhere to visit with family. 

It's a hard balancing act and I just couldn't do all of that AND blog...especially considering this was my first Christmas season as a wife.  Instead of all three of my sides of my family (mom, dad and stepdad's), I also spent the holiday season with David's...who also happen to live outside of Oklahoma City.  It's hard to shuffle your schedule around to see everyone and I hope that it gets easier...though, from everything I've heard from friends and family, this is always a juggling act made even more difficult when you have children of your own.  Then, you're struggling to have your own little family's holiday bonding time.  I'm so happy that David and I are surrounded by so many blessings and love...I just hope we learn to better balance our time in the years to come.

And bravo to all you bloggers out there that manage to keep it all straight and going!  Within the next few days I hope to catch everyone up to my current reading schedule as well as some great recipes I've tried within the past couple weeks.  Stay tuned!


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