Tuesday, December 21, 2010

southern cookin'

I love southern cooking. I was lucky enough to live in South Carolina for half a year, and got to experience A LOT (about 10lbs worth) of amazing food. The seafood is just amazing, don't even get me started on crab legs and grouper fingers, we will be here all day. 

The Complete Southern Cookbook by Tammy Algood is an absolute godsend. As I mentioned a few months ago, I have been self-teaching myself how to cook, and these "down-home" recipes are a great asset to my collection. This cookbook has every southern delicacy you could possibly think of, and the format is great. It is separated into alphabetical sections based on the main ingredient, for example: bacon, beans, beef, beets, etc. I started off small, and cannot wait to try all of the recipes that have caught my eye. To prove to you that the best things in life are in fact free, I will type out the recipe for the most delicious sausage gravy you have ever tasted in your life.


¼ pound ground pork sausage, hot or mild
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 ¼ cups milk
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

Brown the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring until it crumbles. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
Reduce the heat to low and reserve 1 tablespoon of the drippings in the skillet. Add the butter, stirring until it melts. Add the flour, stirring until smooth. Cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
Gradually add the milk and increase the heat to medium. Stir constantly until thick and bubbly, about 4 minutes. Add the reserved sausage, salt and pepper. Cook 2 minutes more, stirring constantly. Serve warm, makes three cups.

You're welcome.

you cannot get more real than this.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a close relationship with their grandmother, I am one of the lucky ones. I am extremely close with my maternal grandmother, who is very close with my mother, and since I am also very close with my mother, we are a bit of a clique. BFF's if you will.

(my grandmother, Alice)

Author Adriana Trigiani is also one of the lucky ones, the luckiest kind. She had the opportunity to have a relationship with both of her grandmothers. She was fortunate enough to have them both on earth until she was in her thirties, and in her first non-fiction book, Don't Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from My Grandmothers, we are given the opportunity to get to know these two extraordinary women.

You will get the chance to meet the grandmothers, Lucy and Viola and see how they helped shape this author into the woman she is today. Trigiani took their lessons to heart, and applied them in her own life. Lucy and Viola were so honest and real, it's easy to see that they loved as much as they were loved. The knowledge and values of these women, along with Trigiani's renowned storytelling and wit, can be appreciated by everyone.

Monday, December 13, 2010

sweet stories about very special cats.

My love for animals is a bit irrational. In movies, I cry more when a pet dies than a human. Don't even get me started on Where the Red Fern Grows. I am aware that I am not normal. For those of you who are like me, and even you toned down versions, you will absolutely love, love, LOVE the stories in Dewey's Nine Lives: The Legacy of the Small-Town Library Cat Who Inspired Millions by Vicki Myron.

I for one am a cat person. I like dogs and all, but cats are SO easy. I am all for easy when it comes to easing myself into parenthood. Meet my first born son, Alfonso Plato Horton. 

Now back to Dewey, whose story is much more interesting than Alfonso's. Dewey became a library cat in 1988. As a kitten he was shoved into the book return slot of the Spencer Public Library, and after winning over the librarians, he won over the entire town. Dewey was a friend to all who came into this library. The children who were stuck there until close waiting for their parents to get out of work, had Dewey. He was a comfort to the jobless and the lonely.

Author Vicki Myron wrote a book about Dewey back in 2008. Many readers wrote to Vicki telling her how Dewey impacted their lives, and also shared stories of their own feline friends. Dewey's Nine Lives incorporates these stories and also shares more stories of Dewey, the cat who managed to wrap an Iowa town around his paws. 

there are non-gross, interesting facts in here too, really!

I never thought a book titled Why You Should Store Your Farts in a Jar would be so incredibly brilliant. David Haviland, I don't know you, or why you create books like this and Why Dogs Eat Poop, but you are clearly smarter than your maturity level. 

Just like his previous collection of useless facts, this new installment of gross maladies definitely makes you stop and think. Was Hitler addicted to crystal meth? Did a large breasted girl inspire the invention of the stethoscope? On a more serious note, why do boxers drink their own urine? 

These are the hard hitting questions that you have clearly been searching for the answers to. Search no longer, this book comes out December, 30th. The publisher of this book sent me TWO give-a-way copies, so if you'd like a chance to win a copy of this masterpiece BEFORE it even hits the shelves, e-mail your name, address and this book title to: jenileerose@yahoo.com!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

for the magical creature lover.

This has been a big year for mythical creatures. Vampires and werewolves have taken over our movie theaters through the Twilight Saga. Dragons, demons and ghosts are frequent visitors in the world of Harry Potter. Monsters are everywhere, so why not learn more about their legends?

Monsters: A Bestiary of Devils, Demons, Vampires, Werewolves and Other Magical Creatures by Christopher Dell, sure covers a lot of bases, eh? This book is filled with information on these various creatures, and many more. Every culture in the world has their own legends of monsters. We have the Loch Ness Monster, the Chinese have Oriental Dragons, and the Greeks have their beasts. This extremely creative bestiary includes hundreds of pictures and also a background look into these monsters and their stories - where they came from, what they ate, etc. 

It is the perfect gift for the monster obsessed child, or bizarre adult in your life. You know you have one. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

the untold story of joey ramone.

I Slept With Joey Ramone, is certainly a title that grabs your attention, but it is not what it seems at first glance. No, this is not the memoir of a groupie, nor is it the story of a woman scorned. Look closer and you will see that it is A Punk Rock Family Memoir written by Joey Ramone's brother Mickey Leigh along with Legs McNeil. This is the true story of what it was like being the brother of everyone's favorite Ramone. 

From childhood to Joey's tragic death of lymphoma, Mickey takes us on a journey and shows us how four guys turned themselves into The Ramones - changed the music world - and allowed a ridiculous feud to end what the world thought was iconic. 

Joey Ramone's story has never been so thoughtfully and deeply told than by his brother. 

crime, drugs and paranoia.

I am seriously behind on my review of Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon. This book came out in August of LAST YEAR. Oops. The reason why I decided to review it, even though it is not exactly a new release, is because it was really, really good. Since it is old, you can probably buy it for cheap, silver lining.  

Doc Sportello is an extremely likable main character, probably because he's a detective who's solving crimes while stoned all over southern California during the psychedelic early 70's. He hears from an old girlfriend who asks him to investigate the disappearance of an unscrupulous businessman whose bodyguard has turned up dead. Doc's investigations take him on a harrowing ride through various dark corners of the surf scene, often due to the machinations of a police officer called Bigfoot, with whom Doc has an uneasy relationship. After some crazy plot twists and even crazier women, Doc seems on the verge of uncovering a vast underworld conspiracy known as the Golden Fang.

Inherent Vice has everything you could possibly want in a detective thriller - drugs, sex, paranoia, pop culture, zombies, politics, more drugs - the works. And it wouldn't be a real detective novel without a quick jaunt to Vegas.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

hil duff.

I've loved Hilary Duff since her Lizzie McGuire days on the Disney channel. Though I do love her, the thought of her writing a novel made me a bit, curious. Elixir is for young adults, which fits her persona well, but I was still just a little skeptical. 

Seventeen-year-old Clea Raymond's father disappeared a year ago. Though there was a funeral once the search ended, she cannot shake the feeling that he is still alive. They found no body, and Clea cannot seem to give up hope. Clea's mother, a prominent Washington DC politician, is rarely home, and burries her grief in her work. After a holiday trip to Europe with her best friend Rayna, Clea discovers something odd about her vacation photographs. There is a man in almost every picture, a man she does not know. From the start of the vacation to the end, the same man appears in her shots. Clea has no idea what's going on, but Ben, who is a great friend to her, and her family, seems to think that her father would be able to explain it. They go on a quest to find him, and discover something completely unimaginable, the elixir of life.

After reading through Elixir in a few days, my opinion? For a first time novel, she only lost me a few times. At the beginning, and when the story started to really get interesting, there were a few times when I was thinking, WTF is going on!? All in all, I thought it was a nice piece of completely unrealistic fiction. Interesting plot and characters, but if there is not going to be a sequel, then the ending kind of sucked.

For a chance to win a copy of this book SIGNED BY HILARY DUFF, e-mail your name, address and this book title to: jenileerose@yahoo.com!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

depressingly beautiful. if there is such a thing.

Per Petterson is a phenomenal writer, that is obvious. I have been hearing that his latest book, I Curse the River of Time, lacks a little "oomph," and in some aspects I agree. I do however think that it is worth the read. If you have certain expectations of this book, you will be disappointed. This is not supposed to be a happy story, it is supposed to be emotional and sad. If you don't expect to be uplifted by Petterson's message, then you will enjoy this book. 

The narrator, 37-year-old Arvid's mother is dying and his wife is asking for a divorce. He is a childish man whose world is falling apart. Arvid is not a character you will love. His mother travels to a second home at water's edge to live out her final days and die among her fond memories. Arvid follows her for a number of reasons.

Though the story line is mildly depressing, Petterson's descriptions in this book are beautiful. If writing could have a physical feature, his would be gorgeous.

non-economists, don't be scared.

I was not a huge fan of economics in high school, and I gotta say - that has not changed. I find that this subject can be rather confusing and boring. Freefrall: America, Free Markets and the Sinking of the World Economy by Jospeh E. Stiglitz does not give you all of the answers, but it is a great introduction for those of us who are unfamiliar with our country's economy. 

Stiglitz writes in a simple, straightforward, JARGON-FREE language. Everyone has their opinions on what our country can do to turn our economy around, and Stiglitz is no exception. The difference is, he actually makes sense. Stiglitz beleives that there is too much short-term thinking driving our decision makers, and nothing is being done to fix our major problems. Can't disagree with that, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, where is Robin Hood when we need him?

Don't even get me started on unemployment, Stiglitz touches on this issue among many others. It's not a bad read at all, I actually kind of enjoyed it.

the c word.

No one enjoys talking about cancer. It's not the ideal topic at the dinner table, or while you are out for drinks with your friends. Cancer is scary, and it's everywhere. Even if you have not experienced it first hand, you know someone who has. Someone who beat it and someone who did not. You may not be best buds, but you know them in some way. 

The Emperor of All Maladies is a biography of cancer written by renowned oncologist, Siddhartha Mukherjee. It is basically a research book on cancer, that flows like a story. We get to meet his patients, whom Mukherjee captures beautifully, and it does get very personal at times. Cancer is all consuming, and you can see the fear and pain that comes with it. 

Many of you have been there, but for those who have not, here's your chance to see what it's really like to experience such a heartbreaking disease. This book is clear and understandable, and it may help you relate to your friends or family members who have been through the journey. 

exploring anger.

With the holiday season comes beautiful decorations and joy, but this time of year also brings with it some drama, family drama, relationship drama, you name it. The reason why you may choose one book over another, is whether it is relatable to you or not. Especially when it comes to memoirs, you want to read about someone that you can realistically see. Fury, a memoir by Koren Zailckas, touches on the anger that may not be foreign in your own life. 

If you liked Smash, Zailcka's first memoir, then you will absolutely LOVE Fury. Fury begins with a break-up, what grown person cannot relate to that? It's a pretty awful break-up, and it can be painful to read. The story really gets interesting when she brings in her extremely dysfunctional family. She has never been able to express her anger in a healthy way because of the way she was raised. Koren was never taught to express her feelings. She was to simply bottle them up, and we all know that repressed anger can easily lead to an explosion of fury. There is a love story included, for you romantics. You will not be disappointed. 

It's Zailcka's storytelling that puts Fury at the top of any Book Club's reading list.

*To win a copy of this memoir, e-mail your name, address and this book title to: jenileerose@yahoo.com!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

at home with bill bryson.

Bill Bryson has created a book unlike anything I have ever read in At Home: A Short History of Private Life. Some of you might think that a book about a person's home is simply boring, I agree. Somehow Bryson turned this book about every day things, into a bestseller. It's really incredible. 

Bryson was a little ahead of the game in the sense that his house happens to be a Victorian parsonage in England. Makes things a bit more interesting right from the get go. What he is trying to show us is that all history ends up in the home. We study history in school and for personal reasons, yet we do not study where this history comes from, the people who lived it and how they did so. Bryson wanders around his house incorporating historical facts. You see his humor as well as his ability to create something like a bathroom and turn it into a remarkable history lesson.

Believe it or not, it's actually quite entertaining.