Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult ~ Fiction Book Review

111180There’s no doubt that Jodi Picoult is a gifted writer and wonderful story teller. She has the ability to leave the reader breathless with awe and emotion, tale spinning into despair from an unforeseen plot twist. This book – well, it’s not that it doesn’t have the unforeseen plot twist, it’s just that it’s rather predictable.

The book was good, it kept my attention, but I had several eye rolling, “Yeah, right,” moments. Jodi Picoult, you’re better than that. When I read your books, I want to be shred into a little pile of kleenex bits and then scattered in every direction.

I want to feel the strength of your typing hand as it reaches inside my chest, grips my heart in a cruel fist, and wrenches it from my body. I want to feel . . . something. This book did not any much emotion in me. It left me feeling meh. No tears, but not a complete waste of time. 4 stars.

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami ~Fiction Book Review

3646541This was by far the strangest book that I’ve ever read. I’m not even sure how to describe it. The best I can come up with is a book burrito with the works – part LSD trip, part existentialism, with some sci-fi, horror, romance, tragedy, and comedy, all wrapped up in tortilla that is deep and insightful.

Parts I loved, parts I hated, but by the last page it was clear that this is a book that will stay with you long after reading it. A haunting story, murky yet at the same time crystal clear. Translated from Japanese, I can’t hep but wonder how powerful it must be if read in its native language.

The writing is at times excessively detailed,  reading like a grocery list. The author leaves no stone un-turned or action unmentioned. At the same time, this book made me think in a way that few books have done, and none in a very long time. For that I give it 5 stars!

The Versatile Blogger Award

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A big shout out to K.M. at the Ankor You blog for nominating me for the versatile blogger award! This modern Renaissance Woman has it all going on, from fashion and glamour to the scary world of dating, telling it like it is with wit, humor and class! If you haven’t checked out her blog yet, head on over – what are you waiting for?

I’m super psyched to receive this nomination, because I often wonder if my blog is too ‘all over the place’. Variety is the spice of life, but being bombarded by a dozen different things can get a little annoying. Alas, my fears have been allayed – you like me, (at least one person 😉 ) really likes me!

The rules: 

Because they’re super awesome for realizing your super awesomeness, thank the person that nominated you, and include a link to their blog.

Share the love and joy and nominate 15 blogs of your choice.

Then, time to confess! Share 7 facts about yourself.

Seven Facts about me:

  1. I am owned by two terriers, a tall, wire haired Jack Russell named Tempest, and a Schnauzer mix named Sullivan. These rescue pups rule all of Terrierland (my house) with an iron paw, but are so sweet and loving that you can’t help but adore them. I highly suspect that my husband married me for the dogs.
  2. Since moving to New Hampshire last year, I’ve become somewhat obsessed with moose. If you’ve never seen one, they’re like a cross between a horse and a camel and for some strange reason I could stare at them all day.
  3. I’ve been writing stories since I could write words. There’s a trunk at my parents’ house filled with treasured titles ranging from Midget 314 (please excuse the un-PC title – I was eight) to Rainbow Valley to The Beast.
  4. I’ve completed 3 novels. None are published, but my queries have met with mild success and I have high hopes that one day you’ll be able to find something I’ve written on the shelves of your local bookstore.
  5. I am the mistress of the universe when playing the game Clue. I’m not being cocky when I say that I can’t be beat. Okay, so maybe these are the skills I went to college for, but I was the reigning champ long before then.
  6. I originally wanted to get a doctorate in zoology. Turns out there’s three years of Calculus required for that, which kind of squashed that dream. So I changed to archaeology, which was fascinating, but not likely to pay the bills. I ended up with degrees in Crime Scene Technology and Physical Anthropology. I now only use all that hard earned knowledge for which I am still paying for while writing fiction or playing Clue, but make no mistake about it – I’ve seen dead people. I just don’t want to see any more.
  7. I am currently in the exact middle of conquering the 48 NH 4,000 footers, which means I have hiked to the summit of 24 of the peaks reaching over 4,000 feet in the state of New Hampshire. Only 24 left to go!

And my nominees are: 

https://deidraalexander.com/

https://fourthgenerationfarmgirl.com/

https://empathy75.wordpress.com

https://mypeleelife.wordpress.com

https://amandeepmittal.wordpress.com

http://www.damyantiwrites.com/

https://unbolt.wordpress.com/

https://wordswewomenwrite.com

https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com

https://writingthedreamblog.wordpress.com

https://mariemccloskeywrites.wordpress.com

https://amirhoseinghazi.wordpress.com

https://lynnthaler.com

https://mybooksopinionsite.wordpress.com

https://itsgoodtobecrazysometimes.wordpress.com/

 

 

Breaded Dijon Shrimp & Lemon Pasta

wp-image-1429283273jpg.jpegI’m a huge fan of pasta, but my husband isn’t, so I’m always trying to devise new recipes that will bring him over to the carb side. This flavorful meal seems to have done the trick.

As usual, I don’t measure ingredients, but rather eyeball everything, which isn’t very helpful when trying to instruct another person how to replicate the recipe, but unlike baking, this is not an exact science. My instructions are for two people, using about 20 medium shrimp.

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First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and place a pot of water on to boil the pasta. In a bowl, melt some butter (I use about a half tablespoon), then mix with about 2-3 tablespoons Dijon mustard. On a plate, mix breadcrumbs (I prefer Panko style) with some Old Bay, garlic salt, and shaker Parmesan cheese. Dredge the shrimp in the Dijon wp-image-1746117122jpg.jpegmixture, then the breadcrumbs, then place on a baking sheet sprayed with PAM. (TIP – I use my wp-image-675219532jpg.jpegright hand to put the shrimp in the Dijon mixture and then lay the shrimp on the bread wp-image-1895801259jpg.jpegcrumbs. I use my left hand to scoop breadcrumbs over the shrimp until covered and to transfer to the baking sheet. This keeps you from getting your hands too clumped up to work with – only one hand is ‘wet’ and it doesn’t get covered in breadcrumbs.) Bake shrimp at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

wp-image-1535423545jpg.jpegWhile the shrimp are baking, clean and slice mushrooms, shallots and garlic. Because 1) I love garlic, and 2) every way you prepare garlic produces a different flavor, I thin slice about 5 cloves and and skin another 5 for crushing in a garlic press. Wash 2 lemons, thin slicing at least half of one to add to the dish, saving the rest for juice.

 
Place pasta in the boiling water to cook. Put about one tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon of butter in a large frying pan and melt over medium heat. Add sliced garlic and shallots and crushed garlic, sauteing for 1-2 minutes. Add mushrooms and another 1/2 wp-image-72976912jpg.jpegtablespoon of butter, stir, and saute for minute. Add lemon juice and sliced lemons, stir, and saute for another 1-2 minutes, until mushrooms look cooked. Add a small ladle (2-3 tablespoons) of the pasta water. At this point I would usually add spinach, but since I made this impromptu this time, I used a jar of artichoke hearts instead. By the time the spinach (or artichoke hearts) are sufficiently wilted, the pasta should be done cooking. Test, then add to sauteed mixture in pan. (HINT – If you go light when you add the pasta water, you can add the pasta straight from the pot without straining and the flavor doesn’t get too diluted – one less dish to wash!). Dish out portions, add shrimp from the oven, and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan. Voila!

(Everyone cooks at their own pace. This recipe takes me between 35-40 minutes from start to finish.)

The Woods by Harlan Coben ~ Fiction Book Review

11729283This is the second book that I’ve read by Harlan Coben, and I’m happy to report that I wasn’t disappointed. Coben’s writing is sharp witted, fast paced, and easy to read. His characters are interesting, well developed, and likable. And so far, his plots have been nice and twisty.

One of the things that sticks out the most to me about Coben’s writing is the use of first person from a male character. Maybe it’s just the books I’ve been reading lately, but the trend seems to be to use a female character’s point of view when writing in the first person – even for male authors. I found being inside the male mind of Coben’s character a refreshing change.

(Not that reading two books by the guy makes me an expert), but family strife seems to be a common underlying theme in his books, which works to make his stories and characters more relate-able. I look forward to reading more by this author. 5 stars.

Groundhogs, Gardens, and Guilt

BillAbout a month ago I made a new friend. It was an inquisitive, furry little creature that moved in with the chipmunks under my porch. After a quick internet search, I confirmed that it was a groundhog and gave him (or her) what may be the most imaginative name ever for a groundhog, Bill Murray.

Having no prior experience with groundhogs, this is complete conjecture, but I think Bill Murray may be cooler than the average groundhog. Bill thought nothing of coming up on the front stoop and looking inside the house. Or hanging out in my flowers. Or the dog pen (which wasn’t the best idea on Bill’s part).

Bill2Every day, I’d give Bill my apple core. He helped himself to lettuce and strawberries from my garden. I didn’t mind, because I’d grown way more lettuce than my husband and I could eat, and I’d rather share with Bill than risk it going to waste. And Bill left all the rest of the vegetable alone. So ours was a symbiotic friendship.

Alas, it could not last.

Because Bill started chewing on the house, eating the wood trim away to make the holes he had dug in the ground bigger. Keeping up with an old farm house is hard enough without a saboteur in my midst. So the decision was made. Bill had to go.

Bill3I bought a live trap at the local farmer’s union. Despite the betrayal, this wasn’t a Fredo from Godfather moment. I didn’t want anything bad to happen to Bill. I just didn’t want him to destroy my house.

Several days passed without Bill getting in the trap. The chipmunks ran in and grabbed the apple core out, minions bringing the loot to their bigger roommate. I had almost given up hope. I thought it would never happen. Then I took the dogs out one rainy night before bed, and I knew. It was the most inopportune time. I was tired. Cranky. I wanted to crawl in bed and get some sleep. It was wet and miserable out, not the kind of weather to leave a living creature trapped out in the elements. Sure enough, Bill was in the cage.

I loaded the trap in the back of the Jeep, my husband and I standing over the seemingly fearless creature in the cage. Bill looked at me with sadness and regret in his eyes. The house destruction was a moment of weakness, he seemed to say, it wouldn’t happen again. He put his little hand through the wires of the cage, as if he were reaching for me, his eyes never leaving mine. My heart broke. But my mind was made up.

The guys at the farmer’s union told me to make sure I took him at least 10 miles away, preferably over a body of water, to prevent his return. So my husband and I spent an hour driving him way farther than that out to his new home, the shore of a huge pond deep in the woods of moose country. If the area could support moose, (and the deer and fox we passed in droves), then surely a groundhog’s needs could be met, too.

I opened the cage along the edge of the pond. Bill stepped out, turned around, and looked at me. He seemed to be asking me not to do it. He could change, he’d be a better friend, stay out of the garden and be less destructive. I shook my head no. He slowly walked off, pausing often to look back at me, making sure I didn’t have a last minute change of mind. As much as it hurt, I stood strong.

I spent days wracked with guilt. Would Bill be alright in his new home? Would he be safe? Would he be overcome with crippling depression at the rejection, unable to get out of his groundhog bed in the morning?

Bill4A week passed. The void Bill Murray left in my life was starting to shrink. The pain was starting to fade. I walked into the kitchen, where my husband was eating lunch. He looked at me a moment, then suggested that I look outside. There, out front, was a groundhog. Apparently, I had just missed seeing the little face peer inside. The body looked a little bigger, the tail was pretty ratty.

Could it be? Had Bill Murray hiked over twenty miles to return home?  All guilt I felt immediately vanished, replaced by fear. Maybe even a little anger. How would I ever manage to catch him again? What would he do in retribution? Throwing open the door, I went outside to confront my nemesis. The groundhog froze, looked at me with fear, and bolted. Never to return again.

Was it Bill Murray? I’ll never know for sure, but I’d like to think not. I’d like to think that Bill is stretched out, relaxing on a sunny pond bank, chewing on tender shoots and living the good life. I wish all the best for Bill. As long as he doesn’t come back.