Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Book 17- Drink Play Fuck

I laughed and laughed. I think Drink Play F#@k: One Man's Search for Anything Across Ireland, Las Vegas, and Thailand is a hilarious fictional parody of the Eat Pray Love memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert.

I loved the fictional spin of man getting a divorce so his method of coping is to drink himself into oblivion in Dublin, gamble himself into a stupor in Vegas, and get laid in Thailand. As he does this, he finds his own versions of gurus- three separate men he meets at airports- who teach him the importance of drinking in Dublin, how to win and lose and play golf in Vegas, and... well the guru from Thailand didn't work out so well, but he managed all on his own.

This book was a fun look of what to do with a year of life after divorce and while I know this is a fictional account as opposed to Gilbert's alleged real life foray, the fictional Bob Sullivan created by author Andrew Gottlieb was a lot more fun!

I adored the voice of Bob, who suspiciously sounds like the ex- Mr. Gilbert, who frequently comments that his ex-wife was shacked up with "some guy named David." I thought the similar covers were a scream. In Gilbert's book, the title is spelled out in pasta (eat), prayer beads (pray) and flower petals (love) while Gottlieb's account is spelled out in beer bottle caps, poker chips and condoms; I'll let you figure out which item spelled each word!

The final thing I appreciate about this character of Bob was his heart. I thought this could be a cruel and harsh attack on Gilbert and her book (and I wouldn't have cared) but it's very gentle in spirit. I thought Bob could be a "man whore" but he wasn't. I thought he would viciously rip is ex-wife apart, and all women, but he didn't. He was surprisingly kind and sensitive.

This was a fun read, very delightful, and I appreciate it so much more, I'm sure, than if I had skipped Gilbert and went straight for the fun. Props to a creative Gottleib for his mastery of Gilbert's work through his own fun.

And hey, I couldn't help but love a book with "fuck" in the title!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Book 16- True Colors

I hate it when I start a book and it ends up being a romance novel. I got sucker punched by True Colors by Kristin Hannah!

I am not a fan of romance novels of any kind. I can tolerate a bit of "chick lit" because it's usually funny. This was a pure romance novel dressed up like a piece of contemporary fiction. I read it because it was one of those "if you like Jodi Picoult, then you'll love Hannah"- no no no and no. Those two authors are not in the same ballpark, not even the same league!

This is about three sisters who are raised by a mean old daddy after their mama dies. Daddy has a favorite daughter- Vivi, who is the princess. Win is the oldest, is fat and is a lawyer and is dying for true love and the approval of her father. Aurora is the middle child who is peace keeper, and is perfect, apparently.

Vivi meets and marries the ranch hand who is half Indian/ half white; he's "bad news" but they have a "true love that will never die." At this point, it's all blah blah blah, yammer yammer yammer. The girls fight, someone goes to prison, they hold grudges, a son is born and grows up without a daddy, is there true love, pills, booze, and a syrupy ending. Oh yuck-o.

I think it's safe to say I'm not a fan.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Food For Thought- South of Broad

South of Broad by is a wonderfully written southern tale by Pat Conroy. I think this is one of the best books I've read in a long time- I'd give it five stars.

I've already posted my review of this book earlier this month, but I didn't get my cook on until this last week. I've been wanting to participate in a fellow blogger's concept "Food for Thought."

Throughout the entire novel, Leo King, our protagonist, cooks for his friends and family. All sorts of "low country" food is sprinkled throughout this amazing book. I said in my original review that it was a novel you could sink your teeth into, and it's true about the text as well as the food in the story. All sorts of food is casually mentioned in this story, and Leo and his father at the cooks in the King household, and Leo gets his love of cooking from his father.

This story is told starting at Leo's senior year in high school and then flashes forward to adulthood. And when all his friends gather together, they all want Leo to cook for them. The story is also told with some flashback, to round out high school and then again to present day as the band of friends try to save the twins: Trevor and Sheba. The rich and the poor, and the black and the white folks all become friends for life in this rich tale.

As I got back and re-read my own review, I realize how often I used food terms to describe this novel, which I find ironic now. So I decided to dive into some lowcontry cookin'.

Lowcountry cooking is generally associated with cooking in South Carolina and Georgia, especially Savannah and and Charleston, which is where the story took place. I made she-crab soup (which is served to guests in the novel), and crab cakes stuffed back in the shell. I also made corn bread, which is just a flat out southern dish (both of these were made in the book!). And I made a nice salad, to just round it all out.

I did cheat a bit with my cornbread. I used a Jiffy mix. I just can't seem to make a good cornbread from scratch, no matter how hard I try, and the mix was great! I also doubled it up and made it in a pan, rather than as muffins.

And I think the pretty yellow just rounds out a meal nicely! And like my junior high teacher told us, presentation is everything, so it looks lovely with a nice salad (my son loves his salad with croutons and Cesar dressing, as pictured here!)!

Here's a bowl of the she-crab soup. She-crab soup is a cream based soup that gets thicker the longer you cook it, almost like gravy, and it's delicious. My son is used to it being called Crab Bisque, but in truth, it's she-crab soup. Rather than running my egg yolk through a sieve like the recipe called for, I just chopped them up really fine. I also made a goof- where I live booze isn't sold on Sundays, including cooking sherry, so I substituted apple juice for the liquor and it came out just fine. This was a rich, thick hearty soup and everyone seemed to love it, even my father who isn't one to eat any sort of fish, shellfish or otherwise, at all!

I think next time I make this, I'm going to use white pepper instead of black. I also used twice as much crab as the recipe called for since we love crab meat. I also used a traditional recipe so this was a classic soup made from a roux. Probably the only time I can make a roux work since I'm a gravy failure. I took one other liberty and used chicken broth instead of fish stock.

Here are the crab cakes stuffed back in the shells. I got the idea from a display at Wal-Mart, believe it or not. The only person who liked this was me. And I think rather than bake these, they would be better fried, so I know for next time!

So that's my foray into low country cooking and my personal experience with Food For Thought! Please go visit the web site and see other participants. And our hostess "Once in a Blue Moon" has the most beautiful book/ food postings!

Happy eatin' and readin',
Maggie Mae

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book 15- U is for Undertow

The latest in the alphabet series installment by Sue Grafton, U is for Undertow, finds us in 1988 with female private eye Kinsey Millhone.

This time Kinsey is digging into a cold case of a missing child. But she chases on lead after another to no avail. Then she finds out her client isn't the most reliable sort so she wonders if she's really chasing leads or illusions.

While the story of Kinsey's hunt for the missing girl is happening, Grafton also tells the parallel story of different people in flashback and readers see how it ties to her missing person's case.

Often times in a flashback writing, it seems to mire down the story or isn't very interesting, but in this case, the stories of Walker and Jon and Debbie were as interesting as the main story. And they all were woven together marvelously!

I also enjoyed all the usual characters, Henry her landlord and friend, and the Hungarian bar owner Rosie.

I was surprised at how good this was. I have read all the books in this series and I was disappointed by all of the ones since Q so this was a delightful step in a great direction. I hope the next 5 books are a yummy as this one was!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Book 14- Columbine

This non-fictional account of the events pre- and post- shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO reads like a novel.

Not only does Cullen provide minute by minute details of the killing of 13 people in Columbine High School, but he reveals the insides the heads of the killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. These boys were cold blooded killers, and Eric Harris is depicted as a psychopath, and I believe it.

It's sad to hear the stories of the survivors, of the victim's families, about the repeated screw ups and cover ups by the local Jefferson County Sheriff's Department. Columbine shares experts of the journals from both boys.

On April 20, 1999 the two boys entered the school and killed 12 students and 1 teacher; they in injured many more, and then killed themselves. They weren't bullied; they were the bullies. They weren't part of a Goth movement; they hated the Goths. They weren't a Trench Coat Mafia; they only wore the trench coats because they thought they were cool, because they thought it made them look like "bad asses", and because they covered the weapons they were hauling into the school. Cullen dispelled so many myths associated with these boys and this shooting, making it scarier than it was already.

Their killing spree was intended to kill thousands but because the bombs didn't exploded and because they lost interest in the shooting spree, it only killed 13. It was planned for years and months and months and years in advance. It was sad. And it's best they killed themselves.

It also shows that the people of Columbine healed.

This was hard to read at time because though it read like a novel, it was real, and I remember watching it play out on my tv screen. I also remember it when I'm handed my new safety manual in the school where I teach each fall, when we practice lock down procedures, and when we have lock down drills. I still remember.

And I, like everyone else involved, would like to have the answer to "why." Well written and real, but still a sad and scary reminder of what can still happen in our schools any day, anywhere.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Book 13- House Rules

House Rules is another amazing novel by Jodi Picoult. This was superbly written and the story is personal to me, which I think added to my fascination.

Jacob is an 18 year old boy (man?) who is mainstreamed into his high school and is in his senior year. Jacob has Aspergers, a form of Autism. He lives with his mother Emma, and his younger brother, Theo, age 15. Jacob is obsessed in an Aspergers way about forensic medicine and crime scenes. This leads to trouble for him when he is accused of murdering his social skills tutor, Jess.

This story is told through the voice of five narrators: Emma, Jacob, Theo, Rich (the cop who arrests Jacob), and Oliver, the lawyer retained to defended him.

This story is an depth look at people with Aspergers and how society can view them or view and treat anyone who is slightly different that what is expected as "normal".

As a person who works with special ed. middle schoolers and who was "thrown" into the job, I read this almost like a text book since I have regular contact with 4 Autistic boys who are all over the Spectrum.

This story was great and I was impressed at the almost realistic peek into the mind of someone with Aspergers. Well written and well told, I love Picoult's writing style, and the blending of "hot button" topics with a court room drama. Strong and powerful story- a great read!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cooking Southern

Even though I already posted my review of South of Broad, I've decided I want to participate in the blog called "Food For Thought" and I want to do some Low Country Southern cooking.

There is certainly more I can say about this book when I show my food and pictures!

Well, maybe I shouldn't get so all fired up sure that this is what I'm gonna do but I'm gonna try. I have all the necessary ingredients to make some Low Country delicacies and if tomorrow goes well, I plan on it!

The next Food for Thought is supposed to be Sat. March 13, so be sure to stop here to see if I did or didn't do it!


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Book 12- South of Broad

This is one of the best books I've ever read in my life. This is the best book I've read since Chris Moore's Fool. South of Broad is lush, almost tangible, wonderful, and a novel readers can sink their teeth into.

Told by Leo King, aka Toad, he oscillates the telling of this story which is between his the summer of his senior year of high school and that school year, and his adult life. It's the story of Toad the reporter in heart of the South, in Charleston, South Carolina. It's the story of him, his friends, their ghosts and demons, and the strength of the bonds of friendship that no one nor nothing can destroy.

I've read on other Pat Conroy novel, Prince of Tides, and I was not impressed at all, and didn't not enjoy the book, nor the film. I've tried to read other books by him to no avail. I gulped large when Bragger suggested this because I wasn't sure. I've had so many other recommend it so I dove in, and I cannot say how happy I am to have read one of the best books ever written.

Conroy so obviously loves words and I feel like my reading of this was a love affair that lasted a month long. I usually blow though a novel in a few days, and I started this with the same intent and slowed myself down to read at the same leisurely pace that the story unfolded... read at the slow moving pace that seems part of the way of life in the South I had a love affair with the words, the lush descriptions, the stringing of phrases, the vividness that paints the South, the City of Charleston (and San Fransisco) and the rich lives of these characters who became people to me for the last 28 days. The words and his writing could wrap around me like a blanket and it was warm and delicious. His story was so real, I could almost touch it, he used such perfect words.

These characters jumped up off the page and made me laugh and cry and smile. My heart broke for Leo and Trevor and Sheba. I wanted to despise Chad and hug Niles. I cheered for Ike and Betty and wanted to smack Molly and Lindsay. I didn't want it to end. This was a full, delectable tale, told at a languid pace with the perfect rich language that I associate both with the South. I moved at a slow pace along this journey that was a story telling.

This book makes me wish I was a Southerner born and bred, rather than in my heart. I might not have lived south of Broad, a very social distinction among those who are the haves and have nots of Charleston, bit I certainly could have tried.

Thank you Bragger for having me read this, and many thanks to Pat Conroy for spinning a tale that touched me. And I'm sorry for those of you who didn't read it.