Archive for May, 2010

28th May
written by Steph
My review of Eleanor Catton's debut novel (which was long-listed for The Orange Prize!) is now up as a web exclusive at BookPage! I was really excited to read this book as I'd heard so many interesting things about it from U.K. book bloggers (it was just released in the U.S. last week). From the first page I was hooked; I loved the writing especially, but above and beyond that, I think Catton has written an extremely bold and provocative novel about girls on the cusp of womanhood. It is not a simple, straightforward narrative, but I relished its ambiguity and its fearlessness. If this is Catton's first novel, then I can't wait to see what she comes up with in the future. My only disappointment is that the book did not appear on the short-list for the Orange Prize, something I consider to be a huge oversight on the judges' part. Read my review at BookPage for a further thoughts, but please do not let this book pass you by! Rating: 4.5 out of 5
26th May
written by Steph

When I saw that TLC Book Tours were offering up stops on a Legend of a Suicide tour, I jumped at the chance to participate. After reading great things about the book on blogs like Farm Lane Books and Savidge Reads, I was really curious about this novel/short story collection. Now, I know I’ve written before about my general lack of luck when it comes to short stories, but I felt this time could be different because the same characters appear in each short story, and they are all narrated (more or less) by a boy named Roy.  Through the various stories, Roy explores his relationship with his father and the impact of said father’s suicide on his family. The subject matter immediately intrigued me, so I was very happy to get my grubby paws on this (free) book. (more…)
25th May
written by Steph
Shocking to see a new installment of What We Watched up so soon, but we watched a freakish amount of movies in the past week and, for better or for worse, we just had to blab about them. Featured this time:
  • Tony reveals a crush while we talk about The Girl in the Cafe... and it's not on a girl!
  • Yes, Fantastic Mr. Fox is pretty fantastic!
  • Generally time-lapse photography is meant to speed things up, but we talk about how it seems to slow things down in Chronos
  • Michael Douglas may be the King of California, but he's also pretty creepy... and maybe that's a good thing?
  • Steph insults Asians everywhere (and Tony) while discussing facial hair and Infernal Affairs
  • We rag on Gwyneth Paltrow so bad while talking about Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow that she may have to whine on Goop about us
Added bonus: despite talking about two more films than we usually do, we still manage to do it in the same amount of time as our other podcasts!  Brevity is clearly the soul of wit!

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23rd May
written by Steph

Man, oh man.  I am pretty sure I’ve never read a book anything like The Satanic Verses.  Probably because if literature can ever strive to do something new, unique, and original, then this is the book that does it.  Reading it is a rollercoaster, as I’ve never known a book that made me feel both so stupid and so smart.  Mostly I felt bewildered and befuddled while reading it, so confident that everything important was flying well above my head, but then when I finished it, I felt like a genius who could conquer anything.  I mean, I made it all the way through The Satanic Verses! How crazy is that?!? I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up if Tony hadn’t read it previously and loved it. I won’t lie: I was super intimidated by this book. It just has this larger than life aspect to it, and I got it into my head it was one of those great novels of our time that scholars argue over and that provokes the issuing of fatwas against its author.  I just didn’t think I’d be able to deal with it or get anything from it. I mean, I’m no expert on Islam, and a book that long and controversial has got to be hard, right? I admit that I had a HUGE inferiority complex. (more…)
20th May
written by Steph

Mushroom & Pea Risotto with Pan-Seared Halibut

A few weeks ago, Tony and I took our dear friend Trisha out to dinner to celebrate her birthday.  We went to a restaurant called, Marché, that specializes in simple – but delicious – French dishes.  That evening, Trisha ordered the halibut and risotto combo, which really captured my imagination.  I decided I wanted to try to recreate it (with my own twists, naturally) at home.

Ingredients (serves 4, generously) For the Risotto
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups of diced mushrooms
  • ½ onion, finely minced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine (we used a Bogle sauvignon blanc that was wonderful)
  • 2 – 3 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 cup of frozen peas, thawed
  • zest from ½ a lemon
  • salt & pepper
For the Halibut
  • 4 4-ounce pieces of halibut (or another firm, white fish)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • salt, pepper, cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • juice from ½ lemon
18th May
written by Steph

I am not exactly what you would call a war fiction fan – generally in bookstores while browsing, whenever I pick up books that mention the words “Holocaust” or “WWII” on their back cover, I roll my eyes and put the title swiftly back on the shelf.  It’s not that I don’t think these topics aren’t something that deserve attention in fiction, it’s more that I think they’ve been getting too much attention in fiction. Seriously, the next time you got to a bookstore, keep track of how many books you pick up that somehow involve a character being plagued by some kind of WWII wound of any kind and you’ll see what I mean. Of the various wars, I would definitely say WWII is the one that’s been mined the most by authors in terms of plot devices, but of course there are myriad books on WWI, the Vietnam War, and the American Civil War as well. This saturation of war fiction means that as a reader, I’m extremely selective regarding which titles I will actually pick up and read.  I find that if I look at enough of these books in succession, they all start to sound the same, which is not really what you want as a reader (or a writer, I’m sure), so it takes something special for a book to separate itself from the bunch. (more…)
16th May
written by Steph
On this installment of What We Watched:
  • Much to Steph's chagrin, all the puns in the world aren't enough to make Running Man a good movie
  • I Heart Huckabees? More like I ZZZZ Huckabees...
  • Our discussion of Rosemary's Baby devolves into what makes a movie scary... Also, Tony tells you all the ways in which you are stupid
  • We get passionate about education and inner-city school kids (who knew?!) while discussing the documentary Pressure Cooker

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Warning, this one's a doozy, folks.  Plenty of banter and grousing!
15th May
written by Steph

Spicy Mediterranean Pasta

This week has been ridiculously long, so I sent an email out yesterday afternoon to some friends suggesting a casual get together of cocktails and a light dinner. I thought it would be nice to catch up in a low-stress setting.  Now, the weather here in Nashville has been kind of wonky – chilly and brisk one day, only to be muggy and gross the next – and yesterday was definitely a case of the latter.  So I had to come up with a dinner that would be satisfying but not heavy and overly rich.  So, I came up with this spicy pasta dish, and it wound up being a huge hit.  As you can see from the pictures, it looks quite elegant and fancy schmancy if you plate it on a platter and serve it family style, but I promise it’s super simple.

Ingredients (serves 6)
  • 1 lb of skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • ground coriander seeds
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced (not minced)
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 2 small red peppers, seeded and sliced into matchsticks
  • 3 large tomatoes, peeled and roughly seeded, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 16 oz can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 16 oz can of artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and roughly chopped
  • ½ tbsp of smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 cup of vodka
  • zest and juice from ½ lemon
  • feta cheese
  • fresh basil
  • salt and pepper
  • spaghetti noodles (or other noodle of your choice)
13th May
written by Steph

I’ve written before about how I’m kind of obsessed with books set in academia.  You might think that since I spend most of my life in an ivory tower that I’d be kind of sick of the whole scene and fiction would be the last place I’d like to revisit it all, but you’d be wrong.  I love books that are set on university campuses, and those that deal with departmental politics.  I’ve seen enough through my own eyes to be somewhat disenfranchised, and yet, there’s still something about higher education that gives me a distinct thrill.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been a student for – gulp – 24 years, so places of learning are what I know best.  Or maybe it’s just that I’m a huge nerd. (I suspect those two options are somewhat interrelated, in that one tends not to study for nearly 90% of one’s life without being rather nerdy. And the fact that I just did math to figure out how much of my life I’ve spent as a student… well, I think you have your answer to the nerd question.) (more…)
10th May
written by Steph

I wanted to post this review yesterday, but I thought it would be rather too wicked of me to post my review of Sophie Hannah’s debut crime novel, Little Face, on Mothers Day. I’ve heard from many women that upon becoming mothers, there were certain books and/or films that they just couldn’t stomach any longer. Generally these books involve terrible things happening to children, or they depict a parental nightmare of some sort.  Little Face certainly falls into the latter camp. Having endured a difficult birth just two weeks earlier, Alice Fancourt finally ventures out of her home for a baby-free afternoon.  When she returns home, she faces a mother’s greatest fear: her newborn daughter has been kidnapped. Even more sinister, Alice claims that Florence has been replaced by an imposter baby. Her husband, David, thinks that she has lost her mind, and his bemusement swiftly turns to disgust and anger.  When DC Simon Waterhouse takes on the case, he finds a family in upheaval.  He’s not sure he believes Alice’s wild claim, but on the other hand, there’s something about David – whose first wife was stabbed to death – that he doesn’t quite trust.  David’s hostility towards Alice is palpable, so Simon fears the worst and races against the clock when both Alice and the baby go missing… (more…)