I was all set to review the book I finished last night–I really was!–and then the day devoured me. We have made headway on our home improvement project–and I’m poopered. Until Monday!
My incredible mother is (officially) a year older today, and words alone cannot express how grateful I am to have her. She serves her family tirelessly, she is a constant example to me of dedication and love, she is amazing with my children–and she is every bit as obsessed with lemons as I am.
Happy Birthday, Mom. The longer I live, the more I love and appreciate you.
Whoops–this was supposed to happen last night, wasn’t it. Ah, well. We spent last night moving a couch, a love seat, and a piano into our dining room…various other items and pieces of furniture into the littles’ bedroom (they’re having a two night sleepover at Grandma’s house!)…and unclogging our vacuum. AND cleaning up the small mountain of shattered glass that was once the door to the upper cupboard of our old entertainment center.
BUT, on the other hand, we get new carpet today! And I get to post this recipe for Balsamic Roast Beef, which I tried a week or two ago. (Believe it or not, I followed the recipe completely, unless you count being really skimpy on the red pepper flakes because we’re wimps.) It afforded us two dinners with a little left over; the first dinner just as pieces of roast, which were fine. The second dinner, however, involved putting the meat on rolls with some good Provolone and sliced tomatoes, and that dinner, my friends, was AMAZING. Dip them in the juices if you’ve got enough, and it’s a party in your mouth. I’ll bypass the first meal next time and just do the sandwiches–and freeze the rest so we can do it all over again!
I’m going to blame my new tile and my soon-to-come carpet for the fact that I completely spaced my last post. Sorry! To make up for it, I’m sharing the dessert I made for my hubby’s birthday celebration with his side of the family, this Death by Chocolate Icebox Cake. If you like intense chocolate-y richness in a refrigerated form, folks, this cake is for you. My hubby and several of my friends really liked it; one of my sisters-in-law, however, said it was a bit too much for her. Initially, it was a bit too much for me as well, but it made a lovely small treat to consume in a leisurely fashion when I wasn’t already full from a big Sunday dinner. The best part was that it wasn’t nearly as hard as it looked at first glance. There were several layers, but they were all relatively simple to make. My hubby did the actual layering, and then hey presto! into the fridge it went to sit overnight. (While the recipe doesn’t actually tell you how long it ought to be refrigerated before serving, the comments clarify that overnight is best.) I may venture further into the world of icebox cakes this summer; in the meantime, if this tempts you, try it. This is a dessert that fully lives up to its name.
I have mixed feelings about Sue Macy’s Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way). On the one hand, it was chock full of fascinating information, a significant portion of it visual. There are pictures, advertisements, magazine covers, newspaper articles, and statistics, among other things; in addition, the text has its own impressive allotment of fascinating information that was previously unknown to me. Wheels of Change is well researched and well worth your time.
I did, however, struggle at times with the sheer quantity of information on any given two page spread. When, in the course of reading the text, was I meant to study the visuals and read their captions and descriptions? I didn’t want to miss out on any of what was offered, and yet managing my informational input felt taxing. I’m tempted to say that ‘you have to know what material to use and what to trim,’ and yet–part of the charm of the book was the total immersion into the time and culture of the topic. I don’t know that I would choose to sacrifice any of what Macy included; I might have preferred a center inset with the visuals grouped together, but other readers might feel quite differently. Ultimately, it’s worth the read either way. Just be warned–brief though it may be, Wheels of Change most definitely wants a leisurely perusal to be fully appreciated.
BOTH of my older girls have been enjoying Andrea Cheng’s Anna Wang novels, as have I; I reserve the right to read first what I want to read first, however, which means that for the last three months (I’m a terrible person!) they have been waiting on The Year of the Three Sisters because it’s been sitting in my bedroom, waiting for me to get to it. (To be fair, they do have plenty of reading material available–including other series they are also reading–but still.) The good news is that I finally did get to it! which means that after returning both copies (they’re due and not renewable on Wednesday), I can check them out again and send them directly down to the girlies’ bookcases.
The not-quite-as-good-news is that I didn’t love this one as much as I’ve loved the other books in the series; it seemed to cover a little bit too much ground too quickly. It was still enjoyable, you understand, but the resolution of several of the problems seemed abrupt. Three Sisters does best when covering the ups and downs of the exchange student experience, but I could have used more of that in addition to more about, say, Camille’s learning disability or Andee’s conflict with her mom. I’d certainly still read this one, mind you–it has charm. And I’m still excited about the upcoming book in the series, which appears to be a prequel to all of the others. I just wanted a bit more from this one.
He is risen–and that makes all the difference for all of us.
I didn’t realize that Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff existed until I finished its sequel, which is less than ideal; I liked the sequel enough to put this one on hold at the library, however, and together they make a fabulous, quirky little series. The stuff of which this book is made includes business cards, teachers’ notes, hospital charts, ticket stubs…I could go on, but you get the picture. Thanks to Jennifer L. Holm’s serious storytelling chops, this totally works. We get a nuanced picture of Ginny and her family that has more depth than many a traditional novel while appealing to different sorts of readers as well. I’m not handing this to my 10-year-old because I think you need the experience of middle school–or at least pending middle school–for it to be as relatable, and she’s still a fourth grader. (I did put it on hold for my middle-school-aged niece, though.) All the same, I read more than one funny bit out loud to my sister over the phone, AND I was ultimately moved. If you have a middle school girl in your life, this is worth your time.
My daughter’s 4th grade class did literature circles a month or two ago, and out of the five book choices, she picked the only one I hadn’t read.
To be fair, she wasn’t allowed to pick one that she’d read, so Chasing Vermeer was out. Still, she passed over Bridge to Terabithia, Rodzina, and Call It Courage in favor of Listening for Lions, and I hadn’t even heard of that one. (I did recognize the author’s name–I’ve even read one or two of hers–but still.) Naturally, she wanted me to read it with her, which might have happened if I hadn’t been in the middle of Echo at the time. (She also wanted to read all of the ones she didn’t pick; she’s only got Terabithia to go.) I did finally read it, though, and I have to say–the story grabs you and keeps you right from the start. Rachel’s life in Africa and subsequent manipulation by the despicable Pritchards have you solidly rooting for her the whole way through, and while the plot transitions seem suspiciously convenient for the writer at times, the story works well enough. Older elementary readers–girls especially–ought to love this one. I quite enjoyed it myself, although I get the sense that Whelan’s storytelling outpaces her level of craftmanship as a writer. I especially enjoyed the sense that she was influenced by both Heidi and The Secret Garden while telling Rachel’s story. Bottom line? If you’re looking for historical fiction with a strong female protagonist, this is a worthy choice.
When it came to choose something blue, I found myself in the mood for something fun; I opted for Sarah Weeks’ Pie because it looked like it fit the bill. And it did, really. Sarah Weeks is perhaps not quite the writer I’d like her to be, but her storytelling makes up the difference. There are laugh-out-loud moments in Pie as well as poignant ones. (There are also recipes, some of which I’d quite like to try.) I did have a hard time with Alice’s mother–she’s terribly unlikable for two-thirds of the book–but given the direction of the plot and the different ways in which we express grief, it all works out believably . I almost died laughing at the Newbery Medal parody running through the book, and the scene with the principal was a beauty and a joy forever. The ending wasn’t actually what I expected, though. (Perhaps that was just me missing clues–you’ll have to tell me what YOU think!) All in all, this is a fun middle grade novel which balances humor and sentiment in a bit of a madcap way. Give it–and the pies–a try.