Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Historian - Book Review


The Historian begins with a cryptic message from its narrator...

As a historian, I have learned that, in fact, not everyone who reaches back into history can survive it.  And it is not only reaching back that endangers us; sometimes history itself reaches inexorably forward for us with its shadowy claw.  ix

The narrator lives a life of comfortable wealth with her father Paul for whom she has unwavering love and respect.  Paul's wife and the narrator's mother, Helen, disappeared when the narrator was only a very small child; the narrator and her father do not speak of Helen. 
Paul travels a great deal and sometimes takes the narrator with him on his journeys, so as a 16 year old young woman, the narrator has seen more of the world than most other people see in their entire lives.  She enjoys and appreciates art, books and her father's search for historic artifacts. 

One day while her father is out, the narrator finds a dragon embossed book in his study. 
The narrator questions her father about the book, and Paul has no choice but to recount its sinister history to his daughter. 

Paul's story begins with finding (or being chosen to find) the dragon book in the library of the university where he was a graduate student.  Searching for answers about the book, he shares his find and the not so coincidental events surrounding its appearance with his graduate professor, Rossi.  Rossi is also a chosen book holder, and after telling his story to Paul, Rossi disappears the very same night.

After Rossi's disappearance, Paul begins a quest to find him, hoping against hope that despite the blood found in Rossi's study, Paul will find him alive.  The narrator convinces Paul to tell her the story of his search across Eastern Europe following clues from ancient libraries, rare documents and artifacts and other historians along the way.  It is through these talks and later letters that the narrator learns the truth about her father's (and her mother's) involvement in a worldwide search for the body of Vlad III (Tepes'), the Wallachian ruler whose horrific actions were the inspiration for Dracula. 

The Historian is not a fast read...but it shouldn't be.  The depth of history, the descriptions...of the unfamiliar countries, their customs and conflicts, the characters, major and minor, their lives and how their paths interconnect, with each other as well as with Dracula, are worth the time it takes to slow down and savor them. 
The suspense builds all throughout the novel as Paul tells the narrator the story of Rossi's disappearance, Paul's search to find him, his interactions with others who've received the Dragon books, and eventually with the evil one himself.
The story is told through alternating points of view...through the narrator's retelling of the story from the very beginning, switching to Paul's letters back and forth.   I found this to be an incredibly effective strategy of the author's in order to build suspense and even frustration at times.  Frustration is appropriate for this book because I think it enables the reader to feel the tedious work of the historian as he/she tries to solve the mysteries of the past and even to connect the past with current events.

I had a difficult time writing this review...it seems there's so much to say about this book, but there are so many I could have said that would have been spoilers...I was satisfied with the ending...there can be so many interpretations and I cannot wait for my read along buddies (hosted by Coffee and a Book Chick and Tedious and Brief at On the Ledge Read Alongs to discuss them with me.
The Historian is a whopper...as intriguing and suspenseful as this story is, there were times where it felt like I was running a cross country race and that I was never going to get to the end and find out all of the secrets; it was very helpful to have folks along the way to provide nourishment as well as a pat on the back and to offer words of encouragement :)
I also felt like it was helpful for me to stop in planned places and reflect rather than barrelling through the book and missing important and/or other enjoyable aspects of the book.

As for the read along format itself...goodness...how many more things am I going to learn about book blogging that are going to make me happy!  I want to sign up for more and more read alongs!! Please, please if you comment and know of other read alongs, let me know :)


Take your time with this one...you won't be sorry.
:)


Friday, October 29, 2010

Blog Hop #3 - Friday, Oct. 29


I'm ready for another hoppin' happenin' weekend!!!

A special thanks to Jennifer at Crazy for Books who hosts this fabulous meme each Friday :)

In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read! 



This week's question:
"What is the one bookish thing you would love to have, no matter the cost?"



There are so many bookish things that I would like to have...but the one thing that I think would make me the happiest is a bottomless account for buying books.  My books make me happy...I have them all over my house (built in shelves in many rooms), my office is floor to ceiling books on 2 sides, and my classroom has a wall of books that I share with my students.  When I was in graduate school, I loved to just find a spot in the library...surrounded by books. It was there that I felt most content and peaceful.  I don't think I would be happy with just one room in my house devoted to my books...I want them everywhere :):)



Books in the living room...














Books EVERYWHERE :)



Come on over to Crazy for Books and HOP with me!!!!



Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday at the Library - Oct. 28

Sammy the Seal

Oh Sammy...I remember you from when I was a kid!! I absolutely love it when my youngest picks out books that have been around for ages. She got so tickled with Sammy and his school antics :):)
Sammy lives in the zoo, but he's bored. The zookeeper gives Sammy a few days off; Sammy runs into some children and goes to school with them.
After a day of funny business the teacher finally has to remind Sammy that he can't read and write and that children are the only ones who can read and write and go to school.
Sammy isn't sad or anything; he's had a good visit with the children and is happy to go back to his pool at the zoo where his new friends, the school children, come and visit him.
The illustrations of this book are very 70'sish...very interestingly, my youngest never noticed anything out of the ordinary about that. :)
I guess a good story is a good story...no matter what era it comes from.

Duck Rabbit


I've been gnashing my teeth over how to describe this book to you. I personally was not that fond of it, but my youngest LOVED it!!!


If you look at the cover design carefully, you will a duck and a rabbit.
The long appendages on the left are either the duck's bill...
or the rabbit's ears.

Do you see it now??

We were about 3-4 pages in when my youngest started yelling,

"I see it now, Mama!!!!"
As you open this book, on both sides you see the same picture...
but on one side of the book, the duck is talking...
and on the other side of the book, the rabbit is talking.
They are talking to each other.

Hmmmmm.....

Do you see why I wasn't so sure about this one???
But again, the youngest loved it...and giggled all the way through it!



 
The Cat in the Hat Audiobook



I have an audiobook in my vehicle. I listen to it as I'm shuttling children around everyday. It takes me a long time to listen to a book this way, but hey, at least I do eventually finish it.

My youngest found this audiobook at the library and brought it to me. She said we could listen to a book about The Cat in the Hat instead of the two ladies who take turns talking. (I'm listening to Traveling with Pomegrantes by Sue Monk Kidd and her daugther Ann...and they do indeed take turns talking...prefacing each switch by saying their names...I guess my youngest is not impressed :/)

Anyhoo...this audiobook is in fact not only The Cat in the Hat read by Kelsey Grammer but Horton Hears a Who and other Dr. Seuss stories read by other celebrities.

My youngest has requested The Cat and the Hat several times...but loses interest when we reach Horton...Kelsey Grammar does a good job with The Cat...but I lose interest quickly as well...and here's why I think that is:

Children's books are very definitely about the writing...no doubt about that...but they are just as much about the illustrations. 

I spent a lot of time in my childhood with a little red and white record player and my little 45 records as I flipped through the pages of Disney storybooks to follow along with the audio. I don't think children's books on audiotape offer that same experience. Books on CD with the paperback storybooks are still available and maybe that's what we need to get for the car.

That is certainly my opinion based on very limited experience with kids' audiobooks with just the audio...and I will follow my youngest's lead on checking any more out.

But, I bet we don't.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Squeakers the Academic Squirrel



Yes, I have a squirrel in my house...orphaned baby and all that.
No, he did not chew my copy of Garland of Girls.
His little squirreley butt would no longer  be in my house if he had.

His favorite place to perch is on top of my copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.

No, this post is not wordless as it should be ;)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Scariest Books


Top Ten Tuesday is an original meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.
This meme is one of the funnest out there!!! Come on over and join us!!




Top Ten Scariest Books

1.  All That Remains by Patricia Cornwell - I was reading Cornwell books when my middle child was born...1994...I remember vividly sitting up reading while waiting for her to fall asleep...I also remember vividly being afraid to walk up the hallway to my own bedroom by myself once I had to turn out all the lights.  This was the last Cornwell I read; her stories are about real monsters, not the ones you can shove off in your mind bc they're make believe.  Preparing this list, however, has made me wonder if I should give her another try?

2.  Pet Semetery by Stephen King - I was jr. high age when I read this...the idea and images of pets raised from the dead was extremely disturbing...but I couldn't put it down. 

3.  Misery by Stephen King - this one played with my mind...while the movie was good, the book was even better (duh, right?).  Annie was not a monster per se...but she was just about as much of a real monster that any human being could ever be.  The evil oozed from every pore, and for her, it was just everyday normal behavior.  Poor Paul.

4.  The Witching Hour by Ann Rice - I was traveling back and forth between my home in Mississippi and San Francisco when I read this whopper of a book.  The descriptions of San Francisco and then New Orleans made this story real to me.  I absolutely loved it and would read all bazillion pages again eventhough the sequels were not as good (Taltos was awful!!)

5.  Amityville Horror by Jay Anson - I was also jr high age when I read this one...not sure why I went through this stage.  I've never been a fan of scary movies so I guess reading scary books was my way to get that thrill but to also be able to stop the scary for a minute or two if I needed to.  A house with demons so evil that they terrorized the family that lived there was pretty dang scary...and the urban legend that went along with it made it that much more frightening.

6.  Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin - I've never seen this movie...never even wanted to.  My mom saw this movie when she was pregnant with me!!!!  The book with its Satan possessed apartment dwellers with Satan himself fathering Rosemary's child just about gives me shivers as I sit here and type this now.

7.  The Omen by David Seltzer - not sure why these Satan possession books were so big on my list...I don't read them now.  I guess I got my fill when I was younger.  I couldn't watch this movie.

8.  Jaws by Peter Benchley - I was too young to see this movie when it was first released...but I had already read the book :)  The characters were developed more fully in the book...of course, the movie focused more on the shark and the horror of it all rather than the inside story.  I would read this book again just to get the movie out of my mind.  The frightening scenes in the book were also depicted with much more detail and much more eerily than in the movie...the black water...the red blood...I will never look at the ocean the same again.

9.  The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris - I haven't read any of the other Hannibal Lecter books if that gives you any indication of how much this one freaked me out.  It still gives me nightmares.  I did see this movie eventually though...my husband rented it.  I slept right next to him curled up in his back that night.  (I think he might have rented that one on purpose).  He has read Red Dragon and did not recommend that I read it next...and he doesn't usually dissuade me from anything.

10.  Dracula by Bram Stoker - How could a Halloween list be complete without the original?  This one scares me...but in a good way.  The new vampire stuff (which I also like) pales in comparison to Stoker's creation of the one whom all others are based on.  Creepy stuff here...to be read slowly on a dark night by candlelight :)  Bwahhhhaaahhhhaaahhhaaaaa!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Magazine Monday - Southern Lady

Southern Lady magazine has been a favorite of my mom's for several years.
The last couple of years of my life have been pretty hectic so I've been drawn to quicker, grab and go meals than some of the recipes and ideas for decorating and entertaining that you'll find in this wonderful magazine with its vivid photography and colors throughout. 
But, I've found myself drawn to Southern Lady just recently.

I'm a fall lover.
Period.
Halloween, Thanksgiving, leaves changing colors, pumpkins, gourds, mums...
Oh my.
I just love it.
Southern Lady is published every 2 months so this issue is the September/October issue.





Even though I don't entertain all that often, what I think I love about Southern Lady is the attention to using natural and classic types of table settings and decorations rather than chintzy, fake looking stuff.
Can you tell I'm not an interior decorator?
;)

I absolutely love this table runner with its initial so proudly displayed...I want one of these for my Thanksgiving table...of course mine would be an S...Tee Hee :)







My husband is not a hunter but I was drawn to the section called "Cabin Chic."
Especially the outside pictures...nature all around...and my favorite mums and natural lighting...oh my, can I move here please?  I would never be able to leave my house I'm afraid if I could look out my window and see this view.






Southern Lady always has a section on historic sites...homes and places to travel...this month the focus is on Richmond, VA.  If you have any inkling of interest in the South, you will love these sections.  Again, the photography is some of the best I've seen...it's not just the photographs though; it's as if the person taking the pictures knows art when he/she sees it...no matter what he/she is looking at.  Gorgeous.






Again, more natural decorating ideas...
I just melt in candlelight (no pun intended) :)









Of course, there are food sections in Southern Lady...but there's always a theme...this magazine doesn't just gloss over the theme either...it goes all the way with the food, the decorations, the venue, the dishes, etc. (by the way, I'd like to own that serving dish on the left, please...thanks). 
Look at the boots as vases!!
Oh my, I just saw the plates to the left of the boots.
Yikes!






For this dinner party the barn has actually been turned into the dining room.
Can you see the horse sticking out his head in the top left photo?  He wants barbeque too!!
And, of course recipes...I will be giving those Cowboy Cornmeal Rolls a try!
Other recipes from this section include Apple Slaw with Chive Dressing, Barnyard Baked Beans, Barbecue Beef Brisket, and Chocolate Chess Pie.








More dinner ideas...another gorgeous and natural venue...the yard!
With such an incredible view in the front yard why would someone eat anywhere else??
How bout that centerpiece on the right??
Recipes in this section include Fall Salad with Molasses Vinaigrette, Beef Tournedos with Sweet and Spicy Corn Relish, Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes, Lemony Sauteed Spinach, and Apple Galette with Ginger Crust and Five-Spice Cream.
The pictures are mouth watering!!






This photo is from a section called "Cinnamon Swirl" which includes recipes and photos of delectible Cinnamon Rolls, Snickerdoodles and this Cinnamon Cafe Latte.
Please add those mugs to my shopping list....thank you and Amen.
Ok, be honest, who doesn't love Snickerdoodles???






One of the last sections is called "Cookbook Worth Collecting" and this issue features a cookbook called The Blackberry Farm Cookbook. 





I don't have this one, but my mom does. It is as incredible as it sounds.
There are stories of family, more incredible photography, regional information and cultural highlights of cooking in Appalachia...and of course, recipes.

I'm a southern girl and always will be so I realize I may be a little biased...but this magazine is now one of my favorites.  The South is portrayed by taking advantage of its special features and beauty...including a love for people and home.

I love this one.
Or, could you already tell that?
:)

Happy Monday!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Weekend Cooking - Week Night Supper

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish at Beth Fish Reads and it is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.



This past week I was not very successful in my cooking endeavors...the only days I managed to stay on track were Sunday night and Wednesday night.  *Heavy sigh*  In my defense there are some days that my children wait until 15 minutes before to tell me some activity is happening...whether or not I've made dinner plans is a moot point then.  My husband's job requires him to work day and night sometimes...so most of the time, I'm on my own.  We are lucky if we happen to have one night during the week when we are all home and can sit down together.  Needless to say, I depend a lot on casseroles and my crock pot during the week. 

I have quite a cookbook collection, but I have even more foodie magazines.  I'm a magazine freak as I've mentioned before...I've even started my own little series on my blog called "Magazine Monday" to help myself not feel so guilty about subscribing to so many magazines. Last week I reviewed Everyday with Rachael Ray, and this week's post will be about a wonderful regional magazine called Southern Lady.
When I'm done with my magazines, I take them to school and share with my college students; the magazines that are left after a year or so go to the preschool at our college which is always begging for old magazines.  Just a couple more ways I help myself justify buying more magazines :)

One of the two nights last week that I managed to stay on task I made chicken and wild rice casserole, a dish that I make frequently.  There is plenty in this recipe for the entire family and usually enough for me to take for lunch the next day.  The best part is that you mix up all the ingredients, dump it in a casserole dish and bake.  Toss a salad and you've got supper.  You can even mix this one ahead of time and just store it in the refrigerator until you're ready to bake.  I found this recipe a couple of years ago in the Quick Supper annual issue from Paula Deen's magazine.

When I share recipes, I like to show my pictures...I'm a visual person so I just assume everyone else might be too ;)
I've typed the recipe at the very bottom for anyone who wants to give this a try and would rather just scroll on down to the recipe :)

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

Boil a chicken or breasts or simply buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery story...for me, it just depends on how much ahead of time I've actually thought about making this...below is a bowl of chopped up rotisserie chicken.  The recipe calls for 2 cups, but I'm pretty sure this is more...






I always make more than I need because my little food critic is always on hand to test the rotisserie chicken and make sure that it's ok for everyone to eat ;)
She's very serious about her job as you can see in this photo :)




I am so NOT Rachael Ray or any of those other Hibachi choppers on television...I chop 1 cup of onion and 1/2 cup of celery into chunks and throw them into one of my favorite appliances...my Cuisinart food processor (Thank you, Mommy)






This is particularly helpful if like me you have members of your family who are very picky about hunks of celery or onion in their food...or even those who will refuse to eat if they see any hint of onion or celery (Hello, middle child!)







I use Uncle Ben's fast-cooking long grain wild rice (6.2-ounce box) and make the rice separately.







After I slice an 8 ounce package of Baby Bella mushrooms, I'm ready to start sauteing.






Melt 1/4 cup of butter (I use real live butter...you just can't beat the taste...and the good news is that in moderation, real butter is actually healthier for you...I read somewhere that the chemical makeup of some margarine is akin to plastic :/)







Then, add the onions, celery and mushrooms to the butter and cook for about 5-7 minutes until the veggies are tender.








Add 3 tbsp of all purpose flour





Stir it around really well for about 2 minutes.







Then, add 3/4 cup of milk and stir constantly for 2 more minutes. 






Not sure what some people have against cream of mushroom soup, but this recipe uses 1 can.
Get over it. ;)
This recipe is worth it.





Add 1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers (I buy the kind that comes in a jar) or you can roast your own. 





Add the chicken



1/4 tsp. of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper...





Finally, add the rice.






Mix all this goulash together and pour it into a casserole dish sprayed with no-stick spray, my best friend.





Use sharp cheddar cheese as the topping...we ALWAYS use more than the 1 cup the recipe calls for...my children demand it!






Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes and wallah!
Yummy goodness!






Paired with a spinach salad, fresh cucumbers, carrots, grape tomatoes and crumbled bleu cheese...Whoa, Nelly!





My buddies at work always appreciate it when I cook this casserole because I pack up 3 servings and take for lunch the next day :)



Here's my plan for this week...we have a lot going on again this week so I'm going to just go ahead and admit that we'll probably only get to eat together a time or two.  I'm recycling some of the dishes I didn't get around to last week :)


Sunday - PW's pot roast
Monday - pork loin sliders
Tuesday - PW's chicken parmesan
Wednesday - Last Minute Lasagna...I promise I'll explain ;)
Thursday - Treats in the Street (our college's annual Halloween carnival)
Friday - away football game (last game of the season, Thank Heavens!)
Saturday - Halloween at Granny's


Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole (the non-visual version)
Makes 6-8 servings

1 (6.2-ounce) box fast-cooking long grain and wild rice
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 (8-ounce) package sliced baby bella mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1 (10.75-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1/2 cup chopped roasted red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Cook rice according to package directions; set aside and keep warm.

Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly grease a 2 1/2 quart casserole or 6 individual serving dishes.

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat.  Add onion, mushrooms, and celery; cook 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until tender.  Add flour; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add miilk, and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Stir in soup, chicken, red pepper, salt, pepper, and rice.  Spoon into prepared baking dish; sprinkle evenly with cheese and bake 30 minutes.