Friday, February 11, 2011

The Host

So, I finally got around to reading The Host, Stephanie Meyer's first adult novel.  I loved the Twilight series, so I knew I would more than likely enjoy The Host...even though science-fiction is not my favorite genre of books.  I wasn't disappointed; I really enjoyed this book and have read about some sequel rumblings that I would be excited to read.

The premise of The Host is that an alien race, from the planet Origin, has infiltrated Earth and are inserting themselves within humans.  These aliens are much more peaceful and focus on preserving the planet.  While most humans have been inserted, there are a select few that haven't and these aliens are intent upon finding and inserting within these rebel humans.  Wanderer, the main character, comes to Earth after living on eight other planets and has been selected to be inserted into a particularly difficult human, Melanie.  Usually, once insertion occurs the human fades away and the alien becomes dominant over the physical mind and body.  This does not occur with Wanderer/Melanie.  Melanie will not go peacefully into that good night.

The story follows Wanderer and Melanie's struggles to co-exist, including a love triangle that entails Wanderer falling in love with the man Melanie has loved...  The two work to find Jared, Melanie's love, and make sure that he and Melanie's brother, Jamie, are safe.  But, then once Jared and Jamie are found, will they accept Wanderer/Melanie as the dual person that they are? 

I wasn't quite sure how this love triangle...which developed beyond even a triangle...was going to sew itself up, not to mention all the other plot hiccups along the way.  Meyer was very creative in how the story unfolded and I would definitely recommend this book, even to a non-sci-fi reader like myself!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Donna's Corn Casserole

I thought I'd share one of my mother-in-law's family favorite recipes.  Everyone in the family loves this recipe, myself included.  I made it a few weeks ago to go alongside chili and it was great.  This recipe is super easy and super yummy, try it while all this cold weather is still hanging around!

Donna's Corn Casserole

1 can cream-style corn
1 8oz. package Jiffy Corn Muffin mix
2 beaten eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 cup of grated colby or jack cheese

Mix well and top with cheese.  Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

The casserole should have a pudding/bread consistency so don't worry if it's not completely firm.  Yum, enjoy!

Jane Eyre

I have recently finished Jane Eyre, and I have to say that I really, really enjoyed it.  There is definitely a reason this novel has stood the test of time.  While there were a few slow spots within the book, the rest of it well made up for those short slackened sections.  I initially started this novel because there is a new silver screen version coming soon and now that I've finished the book, I can't wait for this new movie version!

This book was originally published as an autobiography, but under the pseudo-name Currer Bell.  I had heard that this book was a "sort-of" autobiography for Charlotte Bronte.  Jane Eyre is one of my mother-in-law, Donna's, favorite novels of all time and she informed me that Bronte heard this story from a classmate while in school...and it was that classmate's story.  I cannot find anything via the web to corroborate this version...everything I've read said that Jane Eyre was partially autobiographical.  Perhaps, one of my next non-fiction readings will be about Miss Bronte herself to try and find the truth.  We'll see, considering my book list is always growing!

The story of Jane Eyre begins with Jane living with her widowed aunt and three cousins.  Her aunt has no real care for Jane and only keeps her because of her husband's dying wish to "care for Jane as for her own children."  Jane's uncle held a soft spot in his heart for his niece and wished only the best for her, but with him gone Jane did not receive the best of care.  In fact, one of her cousin's routinely abuses her both physically and emotionally.  But, Jane fights back and this comes to a pinnacle within the household...and Jane is sent off to an orphan's school, Lowood.

Lowood is not an expressly happy institution due to the cold-hearted clergyman that runs the school, but the teachers are fine educators with a warm heart for their students...even if some of them show it in odd ways.  Jane completes her education at Lowood and even teaches for a time once she has finished.  However, she wishes to see a little more of the world and with two of her best friends from the school gone, Jane sees no reason to feel tied to the institution.

Miss Eyre receives notice of an opening for a governess ship at a Thornfield Hall after placing an ad for such a position.  At this point the real story begins...  Jane arrives on the grounds of the beautiful Thornfield Hall, makes nice with the housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax, and proceeds to bond with her student, Adele.  The master of the estate, Mr. Rochester, is not home for a time when Jane first arrives, but soon appears.  He and Jane develop an...interesting...relationship, especially considering Mr. Rochester's cold demeanor and the age difference between the two.  What Jane does not know, however, is that Mr. Rochester is hiding something at Thornfield Hall...a very large, very dangerous secret...

And I'm going to leave the book review at that...if you want to know where this story goes, read Jane Eyre!  I really, really enjoyed this book and can't wait for the movie coming on March 11th!  I'm listing the preview below, which really shows a lot of the darker aspects of this book.  Trust me, this book isn't quite this dark, though there are definitely darker parts.  Read it and watch the movie when it comes out!  I highly recommend!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I Am Number Four

I Am Number Four has made it's way through my book club...I'm one of only three of four girls that hadn't read it by the last meeting.  This book is a fictional story about nine young aliens (that look very similar to humans), called Loriens, that have been brought to earth in hiding so that they may grow up and develop their natural powers...which are much like super powers here on Earth.  Then, they shall return to their home planet and fight the aliens, the Mogadorians, that banished/murdered them from their own planet, Lorien. 

When the young aliens left Lorien, they had a spell placed on them that stated that they could only be killed in order (of the nine)...that is, unless any of them were ever to be together.  Therefore, each of the nine are hidden in different places on Earth.  Also, each has a guardian that cares for them and helps them develop their powers. 

This story, obviously, is about Number Four and his life once he realizes that the first three have been murdered by the Mogadorians.  There is a ton of action and "high stress" moments.  For what this book is, a young adult science fiction novel, it's very good.  I enjoyed this quick read and cannot wait to see the movie, which I believe will be very similar to the X-Men and the Transformer movies.  Here's the preview (c'mon February 18th)!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


This review is going to be short and...not sweet.  I'll be honest, I had to drudge through this book and I don't think I would have made it if it hadn't been an audiobook.

The premise of this book is is a fictional autobiography of an old man writing to his young son.  He won't have much time with his son and he wants to make a good impression and share his life with the boy...a life that takes place in Gilead, Iowa.'s a major snooze fest.  I'm sorry...that's really all I want to write about this book because I did not enjoy it AT ALL.  This is definitely NOT one I would recommend.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Balsamic Chicken Spinach Pasta Salad

I found a winner last week and I'd like to share it with you!  I originally found this recipe on the Multiply Delicious blog...but, I subtracted one tiny ingredient.  My husband, David, does not like fresh tomatoes...though he does like cooked, such as spaghetti sauce...don't ask why because I haven't been able to figure it out either...  So, I removed that particular ingredient and voila, perfection!  This recipe is a definite repeat and is still quite good the second time around, yum, yum!

Balsamic Chicken Spinach Pasta Salad
adapted from Multiply Delicious

1 (20-ounce) package cheese tortellini
1 pound skinned and boned chicken breasts
1 ½ cup Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing, divided
1 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cups firmly packed fresh spinach, chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup yellow bell pepper, diced

Place chicken in a zip-lock bag and pour 1 cup of balsamic vinaigrette in bag with chicken. Marinate for at least 2 hour, but best if marinated overnight. Take chicken out of zip-lock bag and discard marinade.

In a grill pan, grill chicken breasts, about 5 to 6 minutes on each side until cooked through. Place yellow bell pepper slices in grill pan and grill about 2 minutes on each side. Once cooled, dice chicken up in small bites.

Whisk together remaining ½ cup balsamic vinaigrette dressing and mustard in a small bowl.

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Transfer pasta to a large bowl and drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Let cool 10 minutes.

Toss together pasta, chicken, balsamic mixture, spinach, and remaining 2 ingredients in a large bowl. Enjoy immediately!

As Nature Made Him

Every year the Oklahoma City metro library system has a library book sale.  This is to raise money for the library system by selling all the superfluous copies of new-that-year books as well as older books to make way for the new purchases of the following year.  Last year, I bought a handful of books, this one included.  Since I had yet to read one from last year's sale, and since the next sale is within the next month, I decided that I needed to get crackin' on my current books purchased in this way.

As Nature Made Him is a biography about David Reimer, the very first boy that was surgically changed into a girl as an infant.  This occurred in the mid-1960s when the nature versus nurture topic was in full swing.  Reimer suffered from a botched circumcision that scarred him as well as his family.  For months his parents couldn't decide what to do...every time they changed his diaper, they were brutally reminded of the flop procedure. 

What Reimer's parents ended up doing was following the advice of John Money, an overly-confident psychologist that was an ardent supporter of the nurturist approach.  He promised the Reimers that David...then called Brenda post-sexually reassigned surgery...would identify as a girl as long as they made this life-changing decision immediately.

Throughout David's childhood he (and his twin brother) knew something was amiss...even at age 4.  Meanwhile, Money and the Reimers were grasping for any clue that David was developing mentally as a girl.  For example, in one therapy session Money asks David what kind of animal he might want to be...David says a monkey...Money asks what kind of monkey...David was recorded as saying "grrl."  With the poor quality of tapes and David's accent, Money believes that David had said "girl" and continued to consider this case a success.  As an adult, David looks back at the therapy session and says that instead of "girl," he was saying "gorilla."

This book is an enlightening story about what effects different psychological theories, and even surgeries, can have on people.  When I finished this book, I looked up more about David Reimer to see what had happened since this book was published in 2000.  Sadly, David Reimer died four years after this book was published.  His brother committed suicide in 2002 and after experiencing unemployment and an emotional separation from his wife, David committed suicide as well.  I believe every bit of these tragedies could have been prevented if David's botched incident could have been handled differently at the time.  But, the problem is, it's hard to know what the 'right' thing to do is at the time...and hindsight is always 20/20. 

I really enjoyed learning about a lot of the different points of view in this debate...I'm just sad that it took messing with someone's life to bring the debate to where it is today.  I was also interested to learn the vast number of different types of gender ambigious persons there are.  It's really quite sad and I feel for those affected.  I would definitely encourage people to read this book if this is a topic that interests you.


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