Book Review: Neverhome

Neverhome by Laird Hunt

Neverhome by Laird Hunt

I find myself often gravitating towards period/historical fiction, typically of the World War 1 or 2 eras. I picked this book because it was based in the American Civil War time frame; something different for me!

Neverhome was written by author Laird Hunt, and published in 2014. Mr. Hunt has written several other novels and books of short stories.

The main character and narrator of his story is Ash, a married woman with a farm in Indiana. (A fellow Midwesterner!) She is not very educated, both by her own admission, and as we are led to gather via her manner of speaking and delivery, which Mr. Hunt mimics in the writing.

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Book Review: Wool, Shift, Dust (The Silo Saga Series)

Wool: Book 1 of Silo Saga

Wool: Book 1 of Silo Saga

Shift: Book 2 of the Silo Saga

Shift: Book 2 of the Silo Saga

Dust: Book 3 of the Silo Saga

Dust: Book 3 of the Silo Saga

I’m not sure how I stumbled upon Wool, a New York Times Best-seller that began life as a self-published short story on the internet by author Hugh Howey.  (My mother, blessing that she is, is known to send me boxes now and again with books that, to my chagrin, often include only one part of a series…typically, the 2nd book. So she would be my guess on this one!) Frankly, it sat on my bookshelf for quite some time as it was an omnibus version and I knew I’d need to be ready to take on the commitment of such a weighty tome (500+ pages). But once I started, I had a hard time putting it down!

It takes place in a “silo” that, unlike the traditional grain storage buildings I remember from the rural landscapes of Indiana, stretches hundreds of stories underground rather than soaring above it. It is a self-contained world because, as soon becomes a key element of the story, the world outside the silo is no longer fit for human life. But amidst the hustle and bustle of what seems to be a remarkably functional new world, there is heartache and tension and some potentially silo-shattering secrets.

Book Two of the series, Shift, actually represents a flashback to the creation and early years of life in the Silo. Here we will discover (sort of) how it all began. And Book Three, Dust, returns to where Wool left off, bringing the series to what I found to be a surprising and dramatic resolution.

I enjoyed Mr. Howey’s writing. It was straightforward, fluid and approachable…he is a very good story-teller. If there were gaps in his narrative, or loose ends that remained untied, I can’t bring any to mind at this time. Not being a huge reader of the Sci-Fi genre- and I question this categorization given that many of the technologies described already exist or are close at hand- I found his take on the oft-told, post-apocalyptic plot line to be refreshing. But more knowledgeable readers are welcome to chime in to the contrary!

Bottom line is that though it was a slog in the sense that these are now omnibus editions and thus quite lengthy, you will not be sorry once you embark on this journey. In many ways, these are characters that, unlike in typical “aftermath tales”, are average folk like you and I. This versus the extraordinary heroes and villains we often find among those who have been surviving in a harsh world. If there are lessons to take away, or points upon which to reflect, I think for this reason one will find these much more digestible, and therefore, also more profound.

Have you read the series? Tell me what you think!

Book Review: The Skeleton Road

Skeleton Road: Courtesy of Amazon

Skeleton Road: Courtesy of Amazon

I picked this book up at the library on a whim. It was a murder mystery and I tend to like a good mystery story, in general. As well, based on the jacket blurb, part of the story was set in present-day Oxford- a place I had some great memories from myself- and also during the Balkan war of the 1990s. During that time period, I was aware there was a serious war being waged in that area, but was still young enough not to understand the nuances. So I thought I might gain some insight into this portion of world history as well.

The Skeleton Road was written by Scottish author Val McDermid. McDermid has been very prolific, churning out more than 30 books over the course of her career. This one was her most recent.  Continue reading

Book Review: The Invention of Wings

The Invention of Wings

The Invention of Wings

I know that many people swear by Oprah Book Club picks. I, on the other hand, tend to shy away from “what everyone” is reading. At least until I joined a book club last year which focused solely on New York Times Bestsellers. Though The Invention of Wings, by acclaimed author Sue Monk Kidd, was not one of the books we selected to read for that club, it was one that I had stumbled upon when doing research to make suggestions for our group. It ultimately wasn’t chosen (we use the sophisticated method of picking our next book via paper slips placed in a hat), but I was intrigued enough that I opted to put it on my library request list. Continue reading

Book Review: Ysabel

Ysabel Book Cover

Ysabel Book Cover

So though I haven’t posted a book review in awhile, I’ve actually been reading voraciously! In fact, I can’t seem to check books out fast enough at our local public library. (Or return them…pretty typical of me, actually.)

In any case, one of the books I’ve recently read was Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay. It was published in 2008 by Canadian author Kay, and is one of the 12 books  he has written. As with his other books, it can be described as mixture of history and fantasy. I love history and I also love fantasy/supernatural/sci-fi books so this seemed like a good choice! Continue reading

Test Kitchen: Ham and Cabbage and Noodles

Cabbage & ham noodles w/ red smashed potatoes!

Cabbage & ham noodles w/ red smashed potatoes!

It’s been awhile since I last posted a recipe and this is one that I cooked oh…probably two weeks ago. It was SO good though! So I’ve kept this “finished product” picture on my phone, despite a horrific lack of space, because I knew I needed to post this recipe and share it with all of you.

This dish was very nostalgic for me. I can remember my grandma cooking cabbage when I was younger, and I can still see her in my mind’s eye stirring it over her old stove. -smile-

On the other hand, I wonder now, as I did then, why she was cooking it because very few people in our family like cooked cabbage (certainly not picky-eater me at that age) and it’s not really a part of our cuisine heritage or anything. (Though she grew up in the South and cooked cabbage with bacon is a Southern thing.)

Anyhow, in my old age I’ve started to like things like cabbage and beets and so forth so I had a craving for it and stumbled upon this hearty recipe.

The author, blogger Lazy Budget Chef, suggests this recipe to take care of leftovers and it certainly did make a pot large enough to feed an army. It was so good though that my husband and I gladly noshed on it repeatedly for lunches and dinners.

As you can see from the picture, I paired this with a bag of “steam in the bag” red potatoes which I then smashed in a pan, doused with shredded cheese, and baked for about 10 minutes more. Yum! (Yes, hello carbs!)

Here’s the recipe straight from the source. The only thing I switched up was using black lava sea salt and adding a few dashes of paprika for some added smokey kick! Plan on this for your leftover Turkey Day/holiday ham!

Book Review: All The Light We Cannot See

Book cover

Book cover

I recently joined a book club, figuring that it was probably a no-brainer to combine socializing with reading. Although now that I think about it, one of the great things about reading is that it is a solitary pursuit, and thus dear to an introvert’s heart. Hmm…

Well so in any case, I’m trying something new and will let you know if it works out. The nice thing is that I do have a friend who is joining me in this pursuit. So the appeal of getting some hang-out time with someone I actually like may help me get over any other shortcomings that sharing my reading experience may prove to have.

Our book club is going to be focusing on New York Times bestsellers and the book chosen for this month is Anthony Doerr‘s All the Light We Cannot See. It is fiction, and runs on a timeline from approximately 1934 through mostly 1944/the end of WWII. There are a few chapters that track the characters beyond that, but they are more conclusion segments versus the meat of the book.

My husband and I are huge history buffs, particularly that of the WWII-era and the Civil War. I’ve never read any of Mr. Doerr’s books, and had no idea what this one was about when I received notice that it had been chosen for October. However, I was very relieved to find myself immersed in a story based during this time frame.

I think the point of book reviews, besides the feelings of empowerment that waxing poetic on the written word inspires in book nerds like me, is to pique the interest of other readers without giving the ending away. Maybe? I don’t know, so I’ll err on the side of caution with this one and try not to spoil things too badly. Continue reading

Test Kitchen: Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Slow cooker upgrade!

Slow cooker upgrade!

Chicken Tikka Masala

So over the Indigenous People’s Day holiday, I went to the outlet mall to get some exercise, fresh air, and one of my favorite things of all…a good deal! If you recall, I mentioned once before that I have been doing a lot more “nest” shopping. And though I adore my little slow cooker that I purchased many moons ago from Target, the ceramic is now starting to spider and it’s often too small for some of the roasts and other recipes I cook so the hubs and I have food in advance.

I went into Williams-Sonoma to get a new meat thermometer and saw a woman inside with two of these slow cooker boxes inside her cart. (Sometimes good deals require a bit of super-sleuthing!) I poked around until I found them stacked outside the front of the store and snagged the second-to-last one: $89.99 for an All-Clad, 4-quart slow cooker with aluminum insert that normally retails for $199.99! Wooo!!

Anyhow, I busted it out of the box almost immediately so I could try this Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala recipe I found on Pinterest, courtesy of The Lemon Bowl. I didn’t take too many culinary licenses with this because I don’t know anything about Indian cooking so I was concerned about messing it up. Continue reading

Test Kitchen: Lazy Sundays in the Kitchen

It's called Yum!

It’s called Yum!

Honey wheat bread loaf

Honey wheat bread loaf

I’ve really been enjoying this three-day weekend! In fact, I’d be an advocate for work weeks that last only four days as a matter of course. I spent Friday just catching up on sleep and errands. Today I ran out for groceries early before the rush (blissful!), had brunch with a good friend, and then spent the balance of the day cooking.

This is starting to become a regular habit, this penchant for spending Sundays in the kitchen. I find that once Monday rolls around, I feel very little inclination to cook, even should I have the time. This makes for some very poor eating habits during the week, which doesn’t help me with my goal of living a healthier life.

So Sundays have become the day where I spend several hours indulging both my inner aesthetic and my inner chemist cooking meals that will last my husband and I throughout the entire week.

True to my word, I’ve been trying out recipes I’m finding on Pinterest. Today I made a chicken tikka masala in the crockpot (I’ll post the recipe and finished product soon) and the cheesy chicken and broccoli stuffed pasta shells pictured. I also used our breadmaker for the first time, but since that was a ready-made mix, I’m only posting a picture to show off. =o) Continue reading

Test Kitchen: Chicken Soup on a Rainy, Fall Day

IMG_0941[1]

My chicken lentil soup – sorry I’m not a food photographer. (Yet)

My cooking style is a complex mixture of Type “A”/ follow the recipe to the letter with…”Oh Crap! I don’t have/like that ingredient so hopefully this other one will work out okay”. This is much akin to my grocery-shopping style which is a blend of purchases such as the cereal, Spaghettios, and Doritos that I most often eat with things like a bag of lentils, which I think I probably should eat (being that it actually requires cooking). And two months later when my last bag of Doritos is nothing but orange dust on my fingers, I look in the cupboard and find the lentils…and thus a masterpiece is born!

The base of this recipe relied upon one that I found right on the bag (Safeway brand lentils). It was supposed to be a “Lentil Stew with Sausage” by cookbook author Marlene Sorosky Gray. Here’s a link to the latest book I could find by Marlene, circa 1994. However, I’m not a big fan of sausage- and I was missing things like dried sage and fresh kale/spinach- so I departed ways with Ms. Sorosky at that point.

Needless to say, it’s a rainy, fall day in my neck of the woods and this chicken, lentil version seemed like the perfect afternoon meal. Thankfully it actually is edible. (No, I hadn’t tasted it after it was finished. Turns out there were some Doritos left in the house after all!) Posted below is the recipe, with my substitutions noted. It makes a big pot…really hope the hubby likes this, otherwise yours truly will be noshing on it for quiet some time. That’ll learn me to buy lentils on a whim! Salud! Continue reading