2015 Reading Challenge: Book # 19 – Nonfiction

Okay, here’s where I veer from the original challenge for the first time. I had wanted to only read items that were already in my kindle for as long as I possibly could. And so initially I had planned to read a biography about Coco Chanel for the nonfiction category. However, while browsing online for books from the list that were cheap ($5.00 or less for the kindle), I learned that Nick Offerman has written a new book entitled, Gumption. I promptly purchased it (and am realizing now that I never did my review of his first book, Paddle Your Own Canoe so I’m going to need to finish that!), and changed the book for the non-fiction category. New rule for the challenge: the book is allowed to change, as long as it changes BEFORE the reading begins. I suppose there may have to be a “out” clause at some point, in case I’ve chosen something completely unreadable that’s slowing me down, but that’s the rule for now.

I love reading Nick Offerman’s books, mainly because I read them in his voice and can picture Ron Swanson giving a lecture. Gumption proves that Offerman would be a fascinating history teacher. I love the way he spins words together, and he has quite the vocabulary using words like perspicacity (which oddly I just learned the meaning of recently while looking up another word for my students). But then you get sentences like “After all, what were the colonies going to do, put together a ragtag bunch of militiamen and throw a tiny revolt? How precious!” He’s talking about how the British reacted to the idea of an American revolt. Oh, how I wish I had had a history teacher who described things this way. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I know a decent amount of history, but I really would’ve remembered more stuff this way.

The subtitle of the book is “Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers.” It’s organized by chapter, each about a different person. And while Offerman discusses the history of each individual and what he feels made them great, he also discusses his own personal credos as a result of “getting to know” these men and woman of historical fame or otherwise – for he chronicles quite a few people who are still alive and well, and plenty of people who had nothing to do with shaping our nation’s government, but who have contributed in a wide variety of other fields. Most I had heard of, some I had not.

Though I enjoyed reading about the historical figures, the book started to get a little tiresome for me around the halfway point as, truth be told, I just wasn’t as into some of the people as Offerman was. Even so, I kept going because interspersed into these stories were tidbits of Offerman’s own, and I really, really enjoy reading his philosophies on life as I find we share almost every single one. Of all the nonfiction books I could’ve picked, I’m glad I went with this one.

If I ever have the pleasure to meet Nick Offerman in person, I would love to buy him a Lagavulin.

Other Posts in this Series:
Book # 18: A Book Set During Christmastime – A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
Book # 17: A Popular Author’s First Book – Carrie, by Stephen King
Book # 16: A Book Based Entirely on It’s Cover – Paper Towns, by John Green
Book # 15: A Book Your Mom Loves – Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
Book # 14: A Book Set in a Place You Want to Visit – Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
Book # 13: A Book with a Number in the Title – Eleven, by Mark Watson
Book # 12: A Book by an Author You’ve Never Read – Let’s Cure Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris
Book # 11: A Book with a Color in the Title – One Lavender Ribbon, by Heather Burch
Book # 10: A Book at the Bottom of Your To-Read List – If You Were Here, by Jen Lancaster
Book # 9: A Book Set in a Different Country – The Secret Place, by Tana French
Book # 8: A Book with Antonyms in the Title – Together Apart, by Natalie Martin
Book # 7: A Book Set in the Future – Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
Book # 6: A Book By a Female Author – We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson
Book # 5: A Book More Than 100 Years Old – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
Book # 4: A Play – Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw
Book # 3: A Book You Started But Never Finished – The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty
Book # 2: A Mystery or Thriller – The Silence That Speaks, by Andrea Kane
Book # 1: A Book Published This Year – The Glass Kitchen, by Linda Francis Lee

2015 Reading Challenge: Book # 18 – A Book Set During Christmas

For the nineteenth book in the challenge, I needed to get moving quickly, and so I went with my pick for “A Book Set During Christmas.” I went with the obvious here – A Christmas Carol – which I’ve seen many times, in many different forms, but have never actually read.

And you know what? This is one of those rare cases where if you’ve seen any of the movie versions, you know exactly how the book is going to go down. It’s so short that there are hardly any differences. There were no unexpected surprises or anything that happened that seemed unfamiliar. Marley was there, Tiny Tim was there, the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future all did their jobs, etc. No surprises.

And thus this post exists mostly just to commemorate the 18th book of the challenge, and so we move on.

Other Posts in this Series:
Book # 17: A Popular Author’s First Book – Carrie, by Stephen King
Book # 16: A Book Based Entirely on It’s Cover – Paper Towns, by John Green
Book # 15: A Book Your Mom Loves – Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
Book # 14: A Book Set in a Place You Want to Visit – Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
Book # 13: A Book with a Number in the Title – Eleven, by Mark Watson
Book # 12: A Book by an Author You’ve Never Read – Let’s Cure Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris
Book # 11: A Book with a Color in the Title – One Lavender Ribbon, by Heather Burch
Book # 10: A Book at the Bottom of Your To-Read List – If You Were Here, by Jen Lancaster
Book # 9: A Book Set in a Different Country – The Secret Place, by Tana French
Book # 8: A Book with Antonyms in the Title – Together Apart, by Natalie Martin
Book # 7: A Book Set in the Future – Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
Book # 6: A Book By a Female Author – We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson
Book # 5: A Book More Than 100 Years Old – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
Book # 4: A Play – Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw
Book # 3: A Book You Started But Never Finished – The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty
Book # 2: A Mystery or Thriller – The Silence That Speaks, by Andrea Kane
Book # 1: A Book Published This Year – The Glass Kitchen, by Linda Francis Lee

Blue Apron Review: Week Seven

This was an odd week since I had to make sure I was home to actually pick up the package.  I ended up staying with my sister for longer than I thought.  However, a full week at home means I need to make my regular meals.

One change made this week however, was eating the two servings instead of splitting into three.  Not sure I’ll try this again but it’s just one of those weeks when I’m particularly hungry.

  
First up we had Rice & Beef Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Lime-Crema Sauce.  Surprisingly awesome, and I’m not into spicy peppers usually.  The sauce was amazing and a great cool compliment to the spicy pepper.  The filling, which I had extra of, was awesome in its own.  It had currants and pepitas mixed in, giving it a sweetness and crunch.

  
Next was Vietnamese Chicken Wings with Lemongrass Brown Rice.  I have never worked with lemongrass before… not that it was hard, it was just a brand new ingredient.  My only complaint about this recipe was that the wings could’ve used a little more of the sauce.  The lime-shallot vinaigrette on the lettuce was awesome though.

  
Third up was my favorite meal of the week: Squid Ink Linguine Pasta with Shrimp & Cherry Tomatoes.  I would never buy and make squid ink pasta on my own, even though I’ve had it before and like it, but it’s just not something I think of when planning meals.  It’s this very thing that makes me like Blue Apron so much.  I’m really excited that I have this for lunch for the next two days.

  
The fourth and final meal was Dalmon Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons.  This was actually my third meal from last week, but I went upstate and froze the salmon while the other ingredients kept perfectly fine in the fridge.  Now, before I review, let me say that salmon and I are not usually friends.  In fact, you could say I’ve even had a vendetta against it for years.  However, I loved this!  So maybe me and salmon can make amends after all.

No box next week, so the week of August 3rd will be box #8.

2015 Reading Challenge: Book # 17 – A Popular Author’s First Book

When I read “popular author” the first name that popped into my head was Stephen King.   I’ve read the odd King book here and there and enjoyed his style so I figured this would be a good direction to go in.  However, I had to look up which of his books was the very first – turns out, it’s Carrie which worked out because I’ve never read it.

Though I have never read the book before and, believe it or now, never seen the movie, I was already familiar with the story and the ending.  While discussing it with my sister yesterday, she mentioned how she felt the movie to be anticlimactic, and I have to say that that was my main takeaway from the book.

It wasn’t bad, but I suppose my prior knowledge of the storyline had me waiting for something different, when in fact everything happened the way I knew it would.  I was struck by just how insane Carrie’s mother was, but less surprised by how vicious her fellow classmates were.  I enjoyed how the story was told on various mediums – the narrative itself, excerpts from studies and newspaper articles, a book written by Sue Snell, etc.  It broke up the book and allowed for multiple perspectives on the subject.

All in all, it was a quick, easy addition to the challenge which is good at this stage of the game!

Other Posts in this Series:
Book # 16: A Book Based Entirely on It’s Cover – Paper Towns, by John Green
Book # 15: A Book Your Mom Loves – Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
Book # 14: A Book Set in a Place You Want to Visit – Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
Book # 13: A Book with a Number in the Title – Eleven, by Mark Watson
Book # 12: A Book by an Author You’ve Never Read – Let’s Cure Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris
Book # 11: A Book with a Color in the Title – One Lavender Ribbon, by Heather Burch
Book # 10: A Book at the Bottom of Your To-Read List – If You Were Here, by Jen Lancaster
Book # 9: A Book Set in a Different Country – The Secret Place, by Tana French
Book # 8: A Book with Antonyms in the Title – Together Apart, by Natalie Martin
Book # 7: A Book Set in the Future – Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
Book # 6: A Book By a Female Author – We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson
Book # 5: A Book More Than 100 Years Old – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
Book # 4: A Play – Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw
Book # 3: A Book You Started But Never Finished – The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty
Book # 2: A Mystery or Thriller – The Silence That Speaks, by Andrea Kane
Book # 1: A Book Published This Year – The Glass Kitchen, by Linda Francis Lee

2015 Reading Challenge: Book # 16 – A Book Chosen Based Only on Its Cover

I have to say, with it being mid-July, my confidence that I can read all these books before the summer is over is wavering.  I am running around, doing a lot of stuff that leaves little reading time (but that’s not a bad thing!).  And thus I think I have to give myself permission to just do as much as I can this summer and complete the challenge before the end of the year.  However, I do have some beach days coming up so I can likely make a good dent then.

In any case, book sixteen was a pretty easy read.  I chose the book Paper Towns based on the following cover:

  
I was intrigued by the pushpin in the map.  I had never heard of the book, nor did I know when I picked it that it was soon going to be a movie.  I took the category very seriously and just browsed Amazon until something stuck out.

As for the book itself, it was okay.  The reading was easy and I read it quickly.  I was intrigued by the mystery of the missing Margo Roth Spiegelman, but that’s about it.  I found myself quickly growing tired of the author’s style and found that some of the characters has annoying little quirks that made them seem more like caricatures than characters (case in point: Quentin’s best friend Ben and the way he is constantly making comments about how attractive he finds Quentin’s mother, calls all women honeybunnies and is completely hopeless when it comes to girls… I thought this was meant to be funny, but I found it a little tedious and annoying).

Though intrigued by the mystery, it was also kind of hard to care about Margo.  She is fully introduced to the reader when she “borrows” Quentin to exact revenge on a number of people who wronged her (cheating ex-boyfriend and the girl he cheated with).  She convinces Quentin to essentially vandalize a few homes and play pranks on a number of people.  It didn’t exactly endear her to me as a reader.  In fact, her disappearance is more of a nuisance than a concern since she clearly made the choice to go and wasn’t kidnapped or anything.

Even so, Quentin is intrigued and must find her.  His magical night of vandalism makes him think they have shared a moment and he wants to capture it back.  And thus the search becomes the heart of the book.

And this is where I will leave it, so as not to spoil the mystery.

Other Posts in This Series:
Book # 15: A Book Your Mom Loves – Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
Book # 14: A Book Set in a Place You Want to Visit – Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
Book # 13: A Book with a Number in the Title – Eleven, by Mark Watson
Book # 12: A Book by an Author You’ve Never Read – Let’s Cure Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris
Book # 11: A Book with a Color in the Title – One Lavender Ribbon, by Heather Burch
Book # 10: A Book at the Bottom of Your To-Read List – If You Were Here, by Jen Lancaster
Book # 9: A Book Set in a Different Country – The Secret Place, by Tana French
Book # 8: A Book with Antonyms in the Title – Together Apart, by Natalie Martin
Book # 7: A Book Set in the Future – Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
Book # 6: A Book By a Female Author – We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson
Book # 5: A Book More Than 100 Years Old – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
Book # 4: A Play – Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw
Book # 3: A Book You Started But Never Finished – The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty
Book # 2: A Mystery or Thriller – The Silence That Speaks, by Andrea Kane
Book # 1: A Book Published This Year – The Glass Kitchen, by Linda Francis Lee

Blue Apron Review: Week Six

This week I made two of the three meals, and then unexpectedly headed out of town and thus did not make the third meal.  Froze the salmon for another day; I can always use it in a different way.

  
The first meal was Sirloin Steaks with Mashed Purple Potatoes and Green Beans.  Can’t go wrong with steak, potatoes and green beans!  The oh thing I wasn’t crazy about was the roasted tomatoes.  I just don’t like the texture of cooked whole tomatoes.  However, there were hardly enough of them to warrant the dish being bad.

  
Next up was Chicken & Basil Fettucine Pasta with Mascarpone and Plum Tomatoes.  This was awesome!  The flavored were excellent and it didn’t feel like a heavy pasta dish.

The final dish was meant to be salmon Caesar salad, which I may pack up and bring away with me tomorrow but we shall see.  I’m actually not normally a salmon eater so I may sub in chicken and give my mom the salmon.  Yes, there were other options I could’ve chosen from the site, but in opted not to.

2015 Reading Challenge: Book # 15 – A Book Your Mom Loves

Technically for this category, I should read The Little Prince because I know it’s my mom’s favorite book but I’ve already read it.  And this I turned to the next book that I’ve heard her speak highly of and recommend, Gone Girl.

Yes, I have officially jumped on the Gone Girl bandwagon, and found myself quite pleased with the book.  I’ve heard a lot about it, knew the big twist beforehand and had even see the movie but I still really enjoyed it.  In fact, it was not so much a mystery as it was a look into the minds of Nick and Amy.

Speaking of Nick and Amy, I loved them both and I hated them both.  Amy was amazingly insane, and this made her a very fascinating read. Nick was almost just as insane as she was, in the end, which made them fascinating together. Granted, I don’t even want to think about the fact that these people could potentially exist in real life, but they do make for compelling characters. I also have to hand it to Gillian Flynn, because it’s hard to stay engaged in a book that had two main characters who are equally annoying (and a whole host of other characters I wasn’t too fond of either). However, I liked the suspense of the story (despite knowing what was going to happen), and the attention to detail paid to Amy’s plot. The book was definitely more thorough than the movie, in a good way (though isn’t that always the case?): more clues in the treasure hunt, a few more details made a lot more sense with some explanation.

However, this review is meant to be about the book and not the movie. The interesting thing about this book was that, even when it was over, the reader doesn’t really know what the hell just happened.  Who am I to believe in this story?  How much can I rely on either narrator?  Do I believe one more than the other?  Even though the book does end with closure, it does raise some questions.  Which is to be understood if you spent so much time trying to get to know this psychopath characters!

I was surprised I ended up liking it as much as I did, since I’ve tried reading Gillian Flynn before and wasn’t such a huge fan.  It’s nice to be proven wrong sometimes though, and I definitely was as I made my way through this book as quickly as I possibly could have (thank a 6-hour drive home from Virginia for my finishing it and moving swiftly on to book 16).

Other Books in this Series:
Book # 14: A Book Set in a Place You Want to Visit – Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
Book # 13: A Book with a Number in the Title – Eleven, by Mark Watson
Book # 12: A Book by an Author You’ve Never Read – Let’s Cure Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris
Book # 11: A Book with a Color in the Title – One Lavender Ribbon, by Heather Burch
Book # 10: A Book at the Bottom of Your To-Read List – If You Were Here, by Jen Lancaster
Book # 9: A Book Set in a Different Country – The Secret Place, by Tana French
Book # 8: A Book with Antonyms in the Title – Together Apart, by Natalie Martin
Book # 7: A Book Set in the Future – Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
Book # 6: A Book By a Female Author – We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson
Book # 5: A Book More Than 100 Years Old – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
Book # 4: A Play – Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw
Book # 3: A Book You Started But Never Finished – The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty
Book # 2: A Mystery or Thriller – The Silence That Speaks, by Andrea Kane
Book # 1: A Book Published This Year – The Glass Kitchen, by Linda Francis Lee