Friday, August 22, 2014

Guest Post with Elizabeth Eckhart: Cooking With Books

Cooking with Literature

Great food and enticing literature are a draw to many for their leisure time. So, it’s no surprise that there is some great literature about food. Below, we’ve gone through six books (many adapted into movies in recent years) that discuss friendship, life, and the healing power of the kitchen.
Julie Powell is nearing 30 and in a dead end career. Trying to break the monotony of her every day life, Julie gives herself a challenge: cook every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. Testing both her perseverance and her husband's patience, Julie and Julia is truly a witty tale of one woman rediscovering herself through food. The film is a good rendition, made better by the excellent Meryl Streep starring as Julia Child.

Hassan Haji was an unlikely talent. Raised in his grandfather's restaurant in Mumbai, India, Hassan was born with cooking in his blood. When tragedy forces the Haji family to leave India, they try to recreate the world they knew in the world they've found. They open a small Indian restaurant in their new town of Lumière, France, introducing the locals to the recipes and spices of their native land. Unfortunately, this challenges Madame Mallory, the famous chef who runs the esteemed French relais across from their small restaurant. The hundred foot distance between the kitchens of the Hiji family and that of Madame Mallory seems to be an uncrossable expanse, until the bond of food and a blending of cultural tastes creates an unlikely friendship. The novel has just been recently adapted into film, and arrives in theaters August 8th, starring the incredible Helen Mirren as Madame Mallory.

Vianne Roche and her daughter, Anouk, arrive in the French city of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes at the beginning of Lent. Vianne, a chocolate confectioner, bewitches the small town by opening a new chocolate shop, called La Céleste Praline. Unfortunately for Vianne, she finds herself at odds with the local parish. Not only is her shop directly across the street from the church, but the clergy takes exception to the decadence she represents during a holiday of fasting and self-denial. Roche, however, manages to spread chocolate and teach the joy of small indulgences despite the priest’s protests. The novel was adapted into a film starring Johnny Depp and Carrie-Anne Moss in 2000, and is now viewable online through Amazon or DirecTV (click here for more info).

This 2006 bestseller is a memoir that follows author Elizabeth Gilbert as she rediscovers herself following a difficult divorce. Determined to find herself again, Elizabeth spends a year after her divorce traveling. She journeys to Italy where she discovers the joys of good, homemade food and a forgiveness for her own waistline, to India where she investigates her spirituality and in Bali, where she finds love. In this novel food is largely equated with a zest for life, a notion that came across well but was somewhat lost in the film version. Viewers felt that the gaunt Julia Roberts declaring she had “gained a muffin top” wasn’t entirely accurate (the film is also available on Amazon).

Following the death of her mother, Olivia Tschetter's family expected her to return to graduate school along with her siblings. But the heartbroken youngest child found herself somewhere else, in her mother's kitchen, consoling herself among the cookbooks. Drowning her grief in their shared love of cooking, Olivia volunteers for a local Meals on Wheels, where, through others, she discovers a side of her mother she had not previously known. As her family dynamics shift, Olivia discovers her true self and her voice through cooking.

For every stage of her life, Gabrielle Hamilton has had a kitchen that has made an impact on her. In her childhood, it was the rural kitchen of her parents, with her mother standing over the stove, making her feel cared for and safe. As an adult, the kitchen of her Italian mother-in-law recreated that feeling. In between, kitchens in France, Greece and Turkey taught Gabrielle lessons about life, some easier and more nourishing than others. The result of lessons learned in these kitchens is Gabrielle's ability to run her own kitchen in the New York restaurant, Prune, where she has championed the art of wholesome cooking with a gourmet touch. Rumor has it that Gwyneth Paltrow will be starring in a film version sometime in the future.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday - 188

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine for bloggers and readers to see what new books are going to be released soon.

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

22465597New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver delivers a gripping story about two sisters inexorably altered by a terrible accident.

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara's beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it's too late.

In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other. (from GoodReads)

I'm a big fan of Lauren Oliver, so I'll read anything she writes. It doesn't hurt that this novel sounds pretty exciting. Vanishing Girls will be released March 15, 2015

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - 131

Top Ten Tuesday was started by The Broke and the Bookish for bloggers who like to make lists about books.

Top Ten Authors Whose Books I Own the Most Of

1. Cassandra Clare - 9

2. J.K. Rowling - 7

3. Meg Cabot - 7

4. Scott Westerfeld - 6

5. Stephenie Meyer - 5

6. Elizabeth Scott - 5

7. Melissa Walker - 4

8. Libba Bray - 4

9. Ann Rinaldi - 4

10. Carrie Ryan, Suzanne Collins, Ally Carter, Jen Calonita -3

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Also Known As by Robin Benway

Which is more dangerous: being an international spy... or surviving high school?

Maggie Silver has never minded her unusual life. Cracking safes for the world's premier spy organization and traveling the world with her insanely cool parents definitely beat high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. (If it's three digits, why bother locking it at all?)

But when Maggie and her parents are sent to New York City for her first solo assignment, her world is transformed. Suddenly, she's attending a private school with hundreds of "mean girl" wannabes, trying to avoid the temptation to hack the school's elementary security system, and working to befriend the aggravatingly cute son of a potential national security threat... all while trying not to blow her cover.

From the hilarious and poignant author of Audrey, Wait! comes a fast-paced caper that proves that even the world's greatest spies don't have a mission plan for love. (from GoodReads)

I thought this was adorable and had no idea it's by the same author that wrote Audrey, Wait!. The two books are similar in that the protagonist is very funny and snarky, but they're are definitely a lot different.

This book reminded me of Ally Carter's version of a teenage spy, but I think I liked AKA better. I liked seeing Maggie out in the field actually using her skills and handling assignments. The fact that she has to spy on a cute boy that she may or may not have a crush on was hilarious and awesome.

This book was just a super fun read, even if Maggie and Jesse fall in love a little too quickly for my taste. I can't wait to read the sequel!

Rating: 8 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from the library

2013/Walker Books/318 pages

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday - 187

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine for bloggers and readers to get excited about new books.

Love, Lucy by April Lindner

18460398While backpacking through Florence, Italy, during the summer before she heads off to college, 17-year-old Lucy Sommersworth finds herself falling in love with the culture, the architecture, the food...and Jesse Palladino, a handsome street musician. After a whirlwind romance, Lucy returns home, determined to move on from her "vacation flirtation." But just because summer is over doesn't mean Lucy and Jesse are over, too. (from GoodReads)

Italy and romance? Sign me up! This also sounds a lot like Just One Day by Gayle Forman, which I loved. Love, Lucy will be released January 27, 2015.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer State of Mind by Jen Calonita

Harper Mcallister is a sweet but spoiled freshly minted rich girl whose dad decides she needs a shot of reality. His plan: send her to his childhood sleepaway camp, Whispering Pines. Ziplines, mud, bugs, and bears are not Harper's thing and she'll hilarious have to navigate that world without her iPhone or beloved Twitter account. Can she hack it with the help of some former "Sleepaway Girls"? (from Goodreads)

Sleepaway Girls is one of my favorite books. Not because it's a literary masterpiece but because it has great characters and a wonderful setting. It's such a "summer" book that I reread it every year around this time because I love immersing myself in Camp Whispering Pines. When I discovered that Jen Calonita was writing another book set at Whispering Pines I was ecstatic. While I didn't like Summer State of Mind as much as I hoped, it's still a cute novel.

My biggest problem with this book is that it reads really young, almost MG. The characters are 15, the same age as those in Sleepaway Girls, but they seemed so much younger. Part of that is probably due to the fact that the girls in SG are all CITs and have some level of responsibility at the camp. The characters in SSoM are still campers so they don't have to be as mature as their counterparts. Even so, Harper is tough to root for in the beginning; she's extremely materialistic and a little snobby. Luckily, her time at camp changes her for the better!

I wish we got more time with the original "sleepaway girls" even though this novel is only supposed to be a companion to the original. The exploits of Sam and her crew as counselors would have been so much fun to read about and I wish we got that instead! So while I'm grateful for another visit to Whispering Pines, I definitely like the original better.

Rating: 7 out of 10.
FTC: personal copy

2014/Poppy/256 pages.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Panic by Lauren Oliver

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most. (from GoodReads)

I was really excited to read Panic because I love Lauren Oliver and it was marketed as a Hunger Games-esque novel. Though it wasn't science fiction (which I was expecting) I still really enjoyed Panic.

This novel details what the Hunger Games would be like if it was present day and organized by high schoolers. I thought the concept was fascinating and pretty ingenious. The challenges are extremely dangerous and I'd probably never participate, but I can see why teenagers would do it: the prize is $67,000! I thought the tasks were pretty clever if not totally stupid and life-threatening. I still can't believe that the adults/police could never figure out what was going on with Panic, even after participants and bystanders are paralyzed, injured and even killed. If this was the real-world, the police would have figured it out immediately, especially in such a small town. Either way, I was able to suspend my disbelief and still enjoy the story.

I liked the dual perspectives of Heather and Dodge but for some reason couldn't stand reading them in third person point-of-view. Most of the time I don't care about first or third person and couldn't even tell you what I was reading because I don't pay attention to it. But in Panic I did not like the third person - it should have been written in first. I also liked that the romance was unexpected and not clichéd as usual. Heather and Dodge could have benefitted from more character development though. I also thought the last challenge, the Joust, wasn't as exciting as it could have been.

Those are just my nitpickings, but I actually really liked this book and thought the concept was really cool. I can't wait to see what Lauren Oliver writes next.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from the library

2014/HarperCollins/408 pages.