Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Foodie Fiction Review: Like Water for Chocolate

Goodreads Summary:
Earthy, magical, and utterly charming, this tale of family life in turn-of-the-century Mexico became a best-selling phenomenon with its winning blend of poignant romance and bittersweet wit.

The number one bestseller in Mexico and America for almost two years, and subsequently a bestseller around the world, "Like Water For Chocolate" is a romantic, poignant tale, touched with moments of magic, graphic earthiness, bittersweet wit - and recipes.

A sumptuous feast of a novel, it relates the bizarre history of the all-female De La Garza family. Tita, the youngest daughter of the house, has been forbidden to marry, condemned by Mexican tradition to look after her mother until she dies. But Tita falls in love with Pedro, and he is seduced by the magical food she cooks. In desperation, Pedro marries her sister Rosaura so that he can stay close to her. For the next twenty-two years, Tita and Pedro are forced to circle each other in unconsummated passion. Only a freakish chain of tragedies, bad luck and fate finally reunite them against all the odds.

My thoughts:
Overall, I think my expectations were a bit too high for this book and it didn't quite measure up.  That being said, I still really enjoyed it and some parts I downright adored!  I loved the fact that Tita's emotions came through in her cooking and manifested in those who ate her food (reminds me a bit of Garden Spells). However, some of the mystical elements were a bit too out there for me. The term "magical realism" is too tame for this novel - it is better described as more of a family myth.

Tita was an emotional and endearing protagonist so you can't help but cheer for her throughout the book.  She, Nacha and John are very loveable characters (although I happen to quite like the fiery Gertrudis as well); whereas, Rosaura and Mami are quite horrific villains.  I'm sure that the reader is supposed to like Pedro as well, but I just didn't care for him at all.  He seemed short-sighted, egocentric, and at times a bit bratty (I have no idea what Tita saw in him).

While I loved some of these characters...none of them were quite three-dimensional for me.  So, if you are strictly a character-driven reader, this book is probably not for you.  Recommended to fans of foodie fiction and to those who like magical elements in their reading.

3.5/5 stars....I think I have to come up with a new rating system.  The 5 star system doesn't accurately reflect my feelings towards Like Water for Chocolate.  Hmmm...I'll think on it.  Suggestions? 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I'm on Vacay! this moment I'm probably sitting on a beach reading underneath one of these cabanas (I can't be sure because I'm writing this post ahead of time).  Anyways...due to my vacation, my posts will be light for the next week.  But hopefully I'll come back with all sorts of lovely reading accomplished!  I only brought chunksters with me this time around.  My reading list is as follows:

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness (finally!)

Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Wells

The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    Waiting on Wednesday: A Confusion of Princes

    "Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that showcases upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

    This week I can't wait to get my grubby hands on A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix!

    Goodreads Summary:
    You’d think being a privileged Prince in a vast intergalactic Empire would be about as good as it gets. But it isn’t as great as it sounds. For one thing, Princes are always in danger. Their greatest threat? Other Princes. Khemri discovers that the moment he is proclaimed a Prince. He also discovers mysteries within the hidden workings of the Empire. Dispatched on a secret mission, Khemri comes across the ruins of a space battle. In the midst of it all he meets a young woman named Raine, who will challenge his view of the Empire, of Princes, and of himself.

    Gotta love a good fantasy novel from a fantastic author!

    Foodie Fiction Review: The Love Goddess' Cooking School

    Goodreads Summary:

    Holly Maguire's grandmother Camilla was the Love Goddess of Blue Crab Island, Maine--a Milanese fortune-teller who could predict the right man for you, and whose Italian cooking was rumored to save marriages. Holly has been waiting years for her unlikely fortune: her true love will like "sa cordula," an unappetizing old-world delicacy. But Holly can't make a decent marinara sauce, let alone "sa cordula." Maybe that's why the man she hopes to marry breaks her heart. So when Holly inherits Camilla's Cucinotta, she's determined to forget about fortunes and love and become an Italian cooking teacher worthy of her grandmother's legacy. 

    But Holly's four students are seeking much more than how to make Camilla's chicken alla Milanese. Simon, a single father, hopes to cook his way back into his daughter's heart. Juliet, Holly's childhood friend, hides a painful secret. Tamara, a serial dater, can't find the love she longs for. And twelve-year-old Mia thinks learning to cook will stop her dad, Liam, from marrying his phony lasagna-queen girlfriend. As the class gathers each week, adding Camilla's essential ingredients of wishes and memories in every pot and pan, unexpected friendships and romances are formed--"and "tested. Especially when Holly falls hard for Liam . . . and learns a thing or two about finding her own recipe for happiness. 

    My thoughts:
    Fantastic foodie fluff!  I loved the remote island setting and all of the yummy descriptions of Italian food.  The premise of this book is similar to The School of Essential Ingredients - even though it's not as good, this bit of foodie fiction is still a really enjoyable read.  My favorite character is the spunky tween Mia - she's such a riot!  This is a lovely story about love, food, and friendship.  I heartily recommend for those in the mood for a light read and a penchant for Italian cuisine!

    3.5/5 stars

    Tuesday, February 21, 2012

    Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'd Save from Imminent Threat

    Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, this week's topic: Top Ten Books I'd Quickly Save If My House Was Going To Be Abducted By Aliens.  Yikes - this is goes nothing!

    1.  I'm wavering between Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey which are both by J. D. Salinger - can I cheat and have both??

    2.  Again, I can't decide between two books from a favorite I go for the more famous book or for my favorite?  This time the contest lies between Tender is the Night and The Great Gatsby, both by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  In case aliens actually do abduct my house, I need to be more firm in my decisions!

    3. For sentimental reasons I would save Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach.  This was read to me by my father when I was a kiddo and was his mother's favorite book.

    4.  My wedding photo album...if I'm taking this topic seriously then this would definitely be a "book" I save from destruction.

    5. The His Dark Materials series (I have a lovely boxset) - it's just fabulous and is easily re-readable!

    6.  My vintage cloth-bound copy of Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

    7.  The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis - All of the installments are in a one-book technically it's not cheating :)

    8.  I would have to take The Dinner Doctor by Anne Byrne with me - I cook almost exclusively from this lovely cookbook.

    9.  The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness...I'm cheating with all of the series that I'm including - I'm such a book hog!

    10.  The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

    Monday, February 20, 2012

    It's Monday! What Are You Reading? & Mailbox Monday

    Hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.  We share books that we've read over the past week and those we hope to read this week.  

    Last Week:
    I finished two foodie fiction lovelies!
    • Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquival
    • Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

    Mailbox Monday is a touring meme where book bloggers share their bookish acquisitions from the week prior.  It is hosted this month by Metroreader.

    This past week I received some fantastic goodies!

    First up, I received an ARC of The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe

    I also received Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner via NetGalley!

    Thursday, February 16, 2012

    Creative Remixing

    This whole video series is really interesting...but I thought this particular installment would be most pertinent to y'all.  With the whole recent SOPA debacle I think the "Everything is a Remix" series is really timely.  What do y'all think?

    Everything is a Remix Part 2 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    Foodie Fiction Review: Bittersweet

    Goodreads Summary:
    Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances... a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.

    So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life... and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.

    It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last...

    My thoughts:
    The beginning...well, it makes you think that this is just a fluff piece of contemporary YA literature.  But it's not - don't be fooled.  Hudson's world is extremely complex - divorce, guilt, familial duties, and money worries.  But most importantly, she's doing a bit of soul-searching...figuring out the all consuming question of "where is my place in the world?"

    The middle...well, for awhile there I was really mad at Hudson and my view of her slipped lower and lower.  Why was she being such an ignoramus about her life?  Why was she being such a bad friend...and while I wanted to dislike her - her faults are what make her a real and well-rounded character.

    The ending...well, the ending is wonderful.  It's a reflection of teen life with no ridiculous promises of something beyond reality.  Nobody's becoming a superstar or dying a heroic's just authentic.

    Throughout the story...well, I loved the arc of Hudson's growth that the reader witnesses.  Another thing that is magnificent?  Each chapter title is named after one of Hudson's cupcake creations followed by a truly delectable description.  Want some examples?  Good, I'll gladly oblige.  How about:

    Chapter 3: No One Wants to Kiss a Girl Who Smells Like Bacon, So I Might as Well Get Fat Cupcakes..."Double-chocolate cupcakes served warm in a sugar-butter reduction; piped with icing braids of peanut butter, cream cheese, and fudge; and sprinkled with chocolate chips"

    Chapter 7: How to Appear Outwardly Cool While Totally Freaking Out on the Inside Cupcakes..."Chilled vanilla cupcakes cored and filled with whipped vanilla buttercream and dark chocolate shavings, topped with vanilla icing and a sugared cucumber slice"

    Chapter 23: Liar, Liar, Cakes on Fire..."Chocolate cayenne cupcakes topped with cinnamon cream cheese frosting and heart-shaped cinnamon Red Hots"

    Also, I just wanted to say...why isn't this a YA favorite?  While my blog is not YA-centric...I do follow several YA blogs and I just wanna say - where were you guys on this one??  I'm just joking...a lot of gems can escape our eyes.  But y'all, you should seriously check this one out if you're in the mood for a wintery, foodie, contemporary YA novel - you won't be disappointed! 

    4/5 stars

    Top Ten Tuesday: Heartbreakers

    Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, this week's topic: Top Ten Books That Broke Your Heart.

    1.  Shanghai Girls by Lisa See - this is the saddest, most depressing book I've ever read.  Honestly, it was a bit too devastating for me (although I love her other novel Snow Flower and the Secret Fan).

    2.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - holy crap I cried when I read this book!

    3.  The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - I know a lot of folks have yet to read all I'll say is that yep, tears fell whilst reading this fantastic novel.

    4.  The Postmistress by Sarah Blake - any WWII book is likely to be a tearjerker and this one did not disappoint.

    5. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro -you must ready yourself for depressing thoughts (and have some Kleenex handy) when you read this's a heartbreaker!

    6.  What is the What by Dave Eggers - a book about the lost boys of Sudan...'nuff said.

    7.  Still Alice by Lisa Genova - get ready to cry when you read this one!

    8.  The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons - talk about a tragic romance - this about ripped my heart out of my chest cavity...several times!

    9.  Delirium by Lauren Oliver - the ending devastated me!

    10.  Habibi by Craig Johnson - a very tragic graphic novel...yet hope somehow prevails in the end.

    Monday, February 13, 2012

    Mailbox Monday

    Mailbox Monday is a touring meme where book bloggers share their bookish acquisitions from the week prior.  It is hosted this month by Metroreader.

    This past week I received some fantastic goodies!

    First up, I won a copy of Looking for Alaska by John Green from the fabulous Asheley over at Into the Hall of Books - thanks Asheley (and yay for more John Green books)!

    Also, I purchased (and read) You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sarra Manning - I had to see what all the Manning hype was about (it's such a perfect Valentines Day read)!

    What's in your mailbox??

    Sunday, February 12, 2012

    Foodie Fiction Review: The Girl Who Chased the Moon

    Goodreads Summary:
    In her latest enchanting novel, New York Times bestselling author Sarah Addison Allen invites you to a quirky little Southern town with more magic than a full Carolina moon. Here two very different women discover how to find their place in the world—no matter how out of place they feel.

    Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. Such as, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? And why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew—a reclusive, real-life gentle giant—she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes.

    Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson’s cakes—which is a good thing, because Julia can’t seem to stop baking them. She offers them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth but also in the hope of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever. Flour, eggs, milk, and sugar . . . Baking is the only language the proud but vulnerable Julia has to communicate what is truly in her heart. But is it enough to call back to her those she’s hurt in the past?

    Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.

    My thoughts:
    Well, first off, it should be noted that I love all Sarah Addison Allen books...and since this was my first Allen novel, it holds a special place in my heart.  The Girl Who Chased the Moon has the highest element of magic in all of Allen's books (Garden Spells being a close second) so if you are a reader who cannot suspend disbelief...this might not be a novel for you.  However, I love the mystical bits - especially when mixed with the comfy elements of baking and BBQ!  One character has the ability to sense out sugar (thank goodness that is not a real ability because if I had it, my sweet tooth would be out of control)!  

    Each character is endearing yet complex (they all have issues to overcome) which makes the reader want to discover what is behind the mysteries of Mullaby and it's residents all the more.  If you're looking for a fun, fluffy, romantic romp with some Southern foodie elements - look no further!  Highly recommended.

    4/5 stars

    Wednesday, February 8, 2012

    Feb. Foodie Fiction Review: The School of Essential Ingredients

    Goodreads Summary:
    Reminiscent of Chocolat and Like Water for Chocolate, a gorgeously written novel about life, love, and the magic of food.

    The School of Essential Ingredients follows the lives of eight students who gather in Lillian's Restaurant every Monday night for cooking class. It soon becomes clear, however, that each one seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. Students include Claire, a young mother struggling with the demands of her family; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer learning to adapt to life in America; and Tom, a widower mourning the loss of his wife to breast cancer. Chef Lillian, a woman whose connection with food is both soulful and exacting, helps them to create dishes whose flavor and techniques expand beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of her students' lives. One by one the students are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of Lillian's food, including a white-on-white cake that prompts wistful reflections on the sweet fragility of love and a peppery heirloom tomato sauce that seems to spark one romance but end another. Brought together by the power of food and companionship, the lives of the characters mingle and intertwine, united by the revealing nature of what can be created in the kitchen.

    My thoughts:
    One of the coziest, most wonderfully warm books I've ever read.  Of all the foodie fiction novels I've read thus far, this is my favorite.  I remember reading it in one sitting and being so surprised that this novel drew me in as much as it did.  You easily care for all of the characters in the book and getting to see how the cooking class is a catalyst for change in their lives is delightful!

    Don't be surprised if this book has you rushing to your stove to whip up some food yourself!  In fact, I would highly recommend having something savory and delicious simmering while you read this novel, it will only enhance your reading experience.  This is the ultimate feel-good foodie book, highly recommended!

    4/5 stars

    Tuesday, February 7, 2012

    Top Ten Tuesday: Books for a Non-Reader

    Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, this week's topic: Top Ten Books I'd Hand to Someone Who Says They Don't Like to Read.

    1.  The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - I've recommended this book/series to many "non-readers" as it is quite the page turner and has a wide appeal.

    2.  The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger - one of the best literary romances out there!

    3.  The Help by Kathryn Stockett - this is another novel that is a compelling read with wide appeal.

    4.  The Rossetti Letter by Christi Phillips - the mystery and romance aspects of the book keeps the pages turning while the historical elements engage the mind!

    5.  Soulless by Gail Carriger - definitely a book to recommend to supernatural lovers...this is a super-engaging read.

    6.  Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - for the friend who loves chick flicks...give her a much superior bookish example with this novel.

    7.  Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal - for the friend who loves all of the Austen film adaptations.

    8.  Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner - for the non-reader who you suspect might enjoy non-fiction over fiction...this is a super-fun and enlightening read!

    9.  His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman - simply because it's one of my favorite YA reads!

    10.  Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse - for the non-reader who would enjoy some spiritual depth.