Archive for October, 2010

28th October
written by Steph

Free at last!

If book reviews here have slowed down of late, you can attribute it to this beast of a book. Normally I can polish off a book in two or three days, but with Freedom: 12 days. Granted, life has been busy, so it’s not like I had tons of time to sit down and read, but still, this sucker is big and it takes a while to wade through its 575+ pages. Although this is the first Franzen I’m officially reviewing here on the site, it’s not the first time I’m mentioning the man. Whenever I read a book about dysfunctional families, I’m likely to mention how great I thought The Corrections was, such that I’m sure most of you are like, “ALL RIGHT! I get it! You love The Corrections and I should probably read it! Enough already!” So what I’m trying to say is that I’m no Franzen newbie, and I was interested to see how I’d respond to his follow-up to what is apparently one of my literary touchstones. I’d skimmed several reviews before picking up my copy, not absorbing enough to spoil my own reading experience, but gleaning enough to see that the book was rather polarizing: either people LOVED it more than The Corrections or people did not like it at all. (more…)
26th October
written by Steph

With all of the hubbub surrounding Nicole Krauss of late – her newest novel Great House was published at the start of the month and has since been officially named as a contender for the National Book Award – I’m sure many readers who are new to her work may be curious about her earlier works of fiction. The History of Love is one of my very favorite books, as I find it to be a perfectly lethal combination of heartwrenching emotion and gorgeous writing, and it’s just one of those books that I truly savor every line of. Ever since I read it (well before my blogging days), I knew I’d happily read anything Krauss wrote, because she’s exactly the kind of writer I love; thoughtful, sensitive, and a true artist when it comes to choosing her words. If I could write half as well as her, well, I’d be very a happy woman. Instead, I satisfy myself by reading her books, and that’s not a bad condolence prize, truth be told. When I was preparing for my interview with Nicole Krauss for the October issue of BookPage (which you can read here, if you haven’t already), I wanted to make sure I had read all of her published works. I was lucky enough to come across a copy of Man Walks Into a Room a while back at McKay’s, and I used my impending conversation as the catalyst to finally read the darn thing. You see, I’m what you might call a book hoarder. I not only buy more books than I can read, but I also tend to do this thing where I save books that I think I’ll love so that I know they’re waiting for me. I like knowing there are still bona fide good books that I’ll enjoy ahead of me, and I’ve gotten very good at delaying gratification. Hence why despite loving Jane Austen, I’ve still never read Mansfield Park or Persuasion (or any of her shorter works)… I just need to know there is still some Jane out there for me to freshly discover. I don’t like the idea of living in a world where there’s no more new Austen for me. So I wait. And I did this with Man Walks Into a Room for a long time too. (more…)
21st October
written by Steph

Chanel No. 28

Your next must-drink cocktail!

Apparently October is birthday month! Tony turns 28 this upcoming Saturday, my mom celebrates a birthday the week after, and we've already had four other friends celebrate another turn around the sun in the past three weeks, so things have certainly been busy about here. If you also find yourself attending or hosting birthday bashes, perhaps this recipe for a celebratory cocktail (which I mentioned in my last food post) is just the thing you need to truly toast getting older with style. Also, its red coloring make it kind of perfect for the impending Christmas season as well, so keep it in mind for any holiday gatherings you might have!

Ingredients (per drink)
  • 1 ounce vodka (we used Passionfruit vodka, but plain is fine!)
  • 1 ounce pineapple juice
  • 1 ounce Chambord
  • splash of Elderflower liqueur
  • Champagne (dry)
  • 1 or 2 raspberries
  • Mix your vodka, pineapple juice and Chambord together. Add in a splash of elderflower, then top with chilled champagne. Pop the raspberries into the glass and enjoy!
The original drink recipe called this a "Chanel No. 6", but because we subbed in flavored vodka AND I had the genius idea of adding in some elderflower, I decided we could rename it "Chanel No. 28" in honor of the age our friend Abby was turning (and no, 28 is not old)! Such a delightful and delicious cocktail, I drank far more than I should have but can't find it in me to regret it. Another great thing about this drink is you can premix the first four ingredients in larger amounts (where it says "1 ounce" I swapped to "two cups"... We're boozy like that) and keep them in a pitcher so that during festivities you can pour about 3 ounces into a glass top with Champagne and raspberries and the party never stops. And trust me, with this cocktail, you and your friends will be raising the roof well into the night!
19th October
written by Steph

Are you a seasonal reader? When the weather gets cooler and the leaves begin to drop from the trees, do you find yourself craving spookier reads? If so, Sharp Objects just might be the book for you. Sharp Objects tells the story of down-on-her-luck reporter, Camille Preaker, whose third-tier newspaper reporting job in Chicago has her returning to her hometown in Missouri, a place full of dark secrets and bad memories that she’d rather leave squarely in her past. Alas, there’s a serial killer on the loose who is targeting young girls, relieving them of their teeth along with their lives… All signs suggest a local is the cause behind the crimes, so Camille has no choice but to start poking around in places that might just reveal that her childhood horrors are far from over… and more deadly than she ever suspected. (more…)
14th October
written by Steph

Tiny morsels of food heaven!

Last night Tony and I went to a potluck dinner party held in celebration of our good friend Abby getting another year older. We were designated the hors d’oeuvres portion of the meal (as well as coming up with a suitably commemorative cocktail), and we knew that we needed to concoct something delightfully decadent for the occasion. We rarely host or attend dinner parties that are sufficiently fancy to call for hors d’oeuvres (I mean, just typing the word is trouble enough), but my mind immediately leaped to the idea of dates wrapped in bacon… which was fortuitous, because they happen to be one of Abby’s favorite indulgences! Now pretty much anything wrapped in bacon is going to make for a morsel of deliciousness, but you know Tony and I like to go big or go home, so we decided that we’d add a little something special to these little gustatory parcels to make them really memorable… Hence the addition of blue cheese and walnuts stuffed inside each date prior to being ensconced in bacon. This dish is so simple it almost seems like it doesn’t warrant typing out a recipe. But then again, it is so delicious and delectable, I figured it deserved a post. It only requires four ingredients but they combine to produce culinary magic that tastes far more complicated and satisfying than the effort involved to put these together. You’ll need:
  • Strips of bacon (preferably thick cut, and preferably hickory smoked!)
  • 1 box/container of pitted dates
  • blue cheese crumbles
  • shelled walnuts
11th October
written by Steph

Yay! Books!

My parents were in town this weekend, and you know what that means: shopping! In a freak twist of happenstance, I have somehow managed to never take them to McKay's during their various visits to Nashville, but Tony and I decided that this oversight clearly needed to be rectified this time around. While my mom was perusing the extensive recipe book collection, my brother was trawling the discount cd section, and my dad was perusing travel books as well as manuals on how to improve his poker game, I made a beeline to my favorite haunt: fiction. Perhaps because it's been a while since we've traipsed through the hallowed aisles of McKay's, but this time the shelves were just overflowing with books that I very much needed to own. Check them out in detail after the jump! (more…)

7th October
written by Steph

I don't know what an "Anthony Award" is, but I don't think I want one...

Regular readers know that I don’t shy away from writing negative reviews here at S&TI! In fact, some might argue that I actually revel in lampooning the occasional deserving book. I admit that sometimes it’s just a whole lot more fun (and a lot easier) to snark on a book than it is to sing its praises. But I try to only do this if I think a book really deserves it. Dead Until Dark (aka “the first Sookie Stackhouse book”) definitely deserves it. I realize that most of the time when I rag on a book and call it “bad”, I generally talk about how I found the writing uninspiring and/or not very good. But I also realize that my high prose standards are not always appropriate – not ever book strives to read like poetry or transmute words into shimmering gold, and that’s ok. It's not fair for me to lambaste a book for not achieving something it didn’t set out to do. So I will skip my usual diatribe of “this book was not written well” and try to focus on the other things Dead Until Dark does aim to do, and perhaps does not succeed in doing. (more…)
5th October
written by Steph
As you know, I've recently taken up knitting, but what you may not know is that I've taken it up with a vengeance. I have come a long way since my days of a simple ribbed K2P2 scarf... Now I have cable knits, entrelac, and even a dog sweater to add to my growing list of knit projects.  Below are the two projects I recently finished: a cable knit merino wool scarf for Tony, and a hoodie that was meant for Emmy Lou, but due to a misunderstanding about how to take dog measurements, wound up being more appropriate for Rory. I think we all know what this means... Cue Kelly Kapoor from The Office chanting: "Fashion show! Fashion show! Fashion show at lunch!" (Click the pictures to enlarge!)

4th October
written by Steph

Indiespensible Volume 21 haul

At the risk of being redundant, since Frances has already posted pictures of the recent Indiespensible loot, I thought I should let you all know that my copy of Freedom along with sundry other goodies has finally arrived! I had considered not posting since my parcel is no different from that of Frances, but then I remembered I promised all of you that I would share pictures of my book bounty when it finally arrived, and I'd hate to reneg on my promise! So, included in Volume 21:
  • A signed, first edition copy of Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (complete with beautiful collector's box)
  • The first volume of Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
  • A bag of fresh coffee from Stumptown Coffee Roasters (located in Portland, OR), plus a postcard
I'm very excited about the bookish elements of this package. Unfortunately, we're not a coffee drinking household, but I'm sure we'll manage to find a happy home for these beans soon enough. Also, since we weren't gifted with a full copy of Skippy Dies, I'll likely be purchasing it via Powell's where they're offering a 30% discount on it! Apart from the coffee, the only disappointment to me was the laggy shipping time, as it took well over a week after my parcel was shipped for it to get to me. Plus, my friend Trisha got hers a full day before me (despite also being a Nashvillian), which had me practically pulling out my hair in anticipation. I dislike that Powell's sends their packages without tracking information, because if you know anything about me, you know I love obsessively checking shipping info on parcels that are headed my way! 😉 All in all, though, I'm so excited with my first Indiespensible installment, and I can't wait to see what will be featured in the next! Now all that's left is for me to finally read Freedom!
1st October
written by Steph

Nicole Krauss

You'll recall that a few months ago I was über excited by the interview I conducted with Nicole Krauss about her new novel, Great House, which will be released next Tuesday. To commemorate the event, my interview with her can be found in the October issue of BookPage, or can be read online here. Please check it out and let me know what you think! On a personal note, I have to say that Krauss was so lovely to speak to, answering my questions candidly and thoughtfully. I know that some interviews/articles on her have suggested she can be quite reserved, but I found her to be very open and warm, and speaking to her was a real pleasure. Definitely one of my interviewing highlights thus far! I know that a lot of people are eagerly anticipating Great House, so I hope this interview sheds some light on the story behind the book as well as providing some insight into a very exciting and provocative author. Enjoy!