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Monday, August 29, 2011

Read These Books!

I know I am still way behind on reviews (you can see all the books I had read this year here - there are a few I have reviewed but haven't linked to the list yet). But there are a couple of books I want to share with you NOW! I will do full review later but can't wait to let you know about them!


The Human Bobby: A Novel by Gabe Rotter - don't let the title, or the cover fool you. This is totally a book I would NOT have picked out from a line up. "A Novel" huh? I'd learned my lesson reading this type of books... too literary for my liking. But I read some gushing about it, and thought why not. I AM SO GLAD I READ IT! Fast paced, great characters, clear voice, engaging writing and full of twists and turns!. Definitely a page turner! What a nice surprise since fiction had been kinda ho-hum for me this year.



Life, on the Line: A Chef's Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas - you may have heard of Alinea, the molecular gastronomy restaurant in Chicago that had been named as one of the best restaurants in the US and the world (I think at the last ranking, it was the highest ranked US restaurant in the world.) You can definitely feel the chef's passion and struggle along the way. Very inspiring. Now I want to go eat at Alinea (I had wanted to eat there before, now I really hope I get to eat there in the next few years!)

Hopefully I will be able to catch up with my reviews soon. With the weather being so nice, I want to enjoy the nice weather before the snow come... sigh.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Thank You!

I just learned that I have been nominated for the Best Non-Fiction Book Blog for the BBAW 2011.

Whoever nominated me - THANK YOU! I feel so humbled!


BAND - Bloggers’ Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees. August Discussion - Your First Nonfiction Book or Subject?



A lot of us read only fiction for many years before being drawn to nonfiction by either a specific book or topic. Usually we followed some sort of meandering path to get to our current love of nonfiction (or some of you might still be on your way!). Head over to Amy’s blog (Amy Reads) to leave your link with your response to the question:

How did you get into nonfiction? Do you remember your first nonfiction book or subject? If so, do you still read those subjects?


During college, I wanted to become a geneticist or CSI, but I sucked at biology and chemistry and biochemistry. So I turned into psychology instead, and thought perhaps I could be a forensic scientist or a FBI profiler! I started reading a lot of True Crime & Forensic Science books. My favorite author on the topic was John Douglas (e.g. Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit, The Anatomy of Motive : The FBI's Legendary Mindhunter Explores the Key to Understanding and Catching Violent Criminals, Journey Into Darkness). I also read true crime books on Jeffrey Dahmer, the Green River Killer, and other scary people. I was just fascinated with how their mind works. The whole nature vs nurture debate was just so interesting. I took a criminology course, but since I wasn't a Bachelor of Arts major, I couldn't take any more classes in that area, which was a shame. 

I also bought a few NF books back then, like Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono (because "thinking books" seemed brilliant), A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (because someone I had a crush on was reading it... and no, nothing ever came out of that - maybe because I didn't finish reading this book? lol), The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James Watson (because my mum heard about this book and she knew I was interested in genetics. My mum also gave me a subscription to a magazine about criminals - how cool is my mum?) I still have read these books, and many other Non-Fiction books I bought, but I haven't read any of them yet! It seems like I always prioritize to read the books I borrow from the library first, because someone else could be waiting to read them and I don't want them to wait any longer! So I end up with a bookshelf of books that I am still very much interested in, and hope I will read them one day (reading YOUR blogs doesn't help as I now have a VERY LONG To-Be-Read list of all the wonderful books you reviewed - non-fiction or otherwise!)

It wasn't until I read Running with Scissors: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs that I started getting interested in memoir. This was back in 2007 I think. I wish I remember how I came across this book. Sometimes, reading non-fiction is really stranger than fiction! And memoir has become one of my favorite genres. It makes me think that I live such a boring life though!

Now thinking back, even when I was a child, I did read some memoir in Chinese when I was a kid, like about this kid called Kenny without legs who traveled around on a skateboard or his hands (I don't know what this book is called in English... I tried to find it via google, I wonder if it is Kenny Easterday? For some reason I thought the kid was from Germany, but who knows...), or Toto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window (which I read the English version for the first time recently but hadn't had a chance to review yet). I also read a lot of "Guess who dunnit" type of books - they gave you a little story, and you got to be the detective to guess who the killer was. So I guess, my reading interesting on memoir and crime books went back further than I had remembered.

There is a saying in Chinese that goes something like this - what you were like when you were 3 years old, is what you'd be like when you are 80. Maybe there really is some truth in that.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Thrill Week Bloggers Event! 9/1/11 - 9/8/11 (& Giveaway!)



Are you a fan of the genre(s) Thriller, Mystery, Suspense and/or Horror............. then this event is for you.


Tea Time with Marce is hosting this event from 9/1-9/8!

 
 
What is Thrill Week

It is all about Networking with Bloggers and Authors who love to read and write Thrillers, Mystery, Suspense and/or Horrors.  The goal is to find new blogs and bloggers with similar interest in those genres and of course add to our huge TBR and Wishlists.

We will highlight authors that write in these genres or new authors with amazing debuts.   

There will be a 'Thrill Ride/Blog Hop' to start off the event,  I would like to request only those that review minimum of twice a month in the above genres to participate.


There will be giveaways, LOTS and LOTS of Giveaways!!
 
Marce has 7 bloggers that have agreed to participate by being a Featured Host. Here they are:

They will be discussing authors, favorite books, the genres - Thriller, Mystery, Suspense and/or Horror etc during the week and having giveaways.

Marce will post The Thrill Ride Questionnaire closer to the date.

We look forward to your participation, we're sure it will be a Thrill - To Thrill means to excite greatly, we hope this week will be that for all of you.


 
Promotional Giveaway - If you post the Thrill Week Announcement on your blog during the month of August, Marce will enter you into a $20 Giveaway, book of your choice from Book Depository.  Enter your link on her blog posting the Announcement of Thrill Week before Aug 30 and she will use random.org at midnight to choose (one) winner . 
 
Head over to her blog NOW! :)
 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Book Review - The Family Fang: A Novel by Kevin Wilson



Title: The Family Fang: A Novel
Author: Kevin Wilson
Year: 2011
Page: 320
Genre: Fiction 

FTC Disclosure: ARC from HarperCollins in exchange for an unbiased review

Summary (from goodreads.com):
Mr. and Mrs. Fang called it art.

Their children called it mischief.

Performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang dedicated themselves to making great art. But when an artist’s work lies in subverting normality, it can be difficult to raise well-adjusted children. Just ask Buster and Annie Fang. For as long as they can remember, they starred (unwillingly) in their parents’ madcap pieces. But now that they are grown up, the chaos of their childhood has made it difficult to cope with life outside the fishbowl of their parents’ strange world.

When the lives they’ve built come crashing down, brother and sister have nowhere to go but home, where they discover that Caleb and Camille are planning one last performance–their magnum opus–whether the kids agree to participate or not. Soon, ambition breeds conflict, bringing the Fangs to face the difficult decision about what’s ultimately more important: their family or their art


First Sentence:
Mr. and Mrs. Fang called it art.

My Thoughts:

  • I decided to pick this ARC to review because this sounds like a fun book. Something quirky. Something I normally won't pick and I want to be surprised!
  • When I first started this book, I had no idea where it was going. When I was in the middle of the book, I had no idea where it was going.  I almost gave up the book then, but thought I'd stick with it since I had no idea where it was going, and may be I'd surprised by the turn of events. As I neared the end of the book, I had no idea where it was going. After I finished reading the book, I still had idea what the book was trying to tell me. I guess in short, this book really wasn't for me.
  • The chapters alternated between past and present. During the past, it was about one of the "performances" the Fangs put together. During the present, it was alternated between Annie (Child A) and Buster (Child B), the two Fang children as adults. I did like that format, as it gave us a glimpse of how Annie and Buster got to where they were today. But it was almost like just reading vignettes of their lives, and nothing really happened until about half way through the book [SPOILER] when their parents disappeared, and the cops feared they had been kidnapped by a serial killer. It got a little bit more interesting then, and I wanted to find out what happened to them. Were they killed, or was it just one of their acts? [/SPOILER] I still think the pacing was a bit too slow for my liking. The twist just kinda happened, without any climax.
  • I also didn't like any of the characters. Mr and Mrs Fang were dysfunctional parents, but I understood they were just passionate about their "art". I just didn't agree with their "art". While I felt bad for Annie and Buster for what they had to go through, I didn't like them as adults either. I was hoping this would be a more inspiring story, that the plot and character development would be different. 
  • I just wasn't emotionally invested in the book. In the end, I just really didn't care about the characters, and how the book ended didn't win me over either. It wasn't so much an ending as just another vignette. 
  • Some reviewers said they found the book funny. I didn't think I laughed out loud once. I guess it was just not my sense of humor. Some had compared it to The Royal Tenenbaums. I had never watched this movie, so wouldn't know if it was a good comparison. 
  • I guess just as most people who didn't appreciate the Fang's art in the book, I couldn't appreciate this book either. Maybe like Caleb Fang (the dad) said, it's not to appreciate, but to experience" (see quote below.)
  • But don't let my review stop you from reading this book, if you like reading about quirky characters from a dysfunctional family. This is definitely more of a character-driven than plot-driven books. In fact, currently there are 57 reviews on goodreads (none on amazon yet as this book is not out until next Tuesday 8/9/11), all of them are 3 stars or above (11 3-stars, 29 4-stars and 16 5-stars), except mine. So yeah, it's probably just me.



Quote: 

"It was so perfect," Caleb had explained to Annie when she was still a child. "He forced the art onto unsuspecting people; he made them a part of the piece, and they didn't even know it."

"But if they didn't know what was going on," Annie asked, confused, "how would they appreciate it?"

"They're not supposed to appreciate it," Caleb said, slightly disappointed with her. "They're supposed to experience it." (p194)

He tried to think of all the people in his life as chemicals, the uncertainty of mixing them together, the potential for explosions and scarring. (p239)

Overall Rating:
1 Star. It took me 6 days to read and I wished I had spent the time reading something else from my big pile of To-Be-Read books. Fang's art is not for everybody, just as this book is not for me.



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by christa @ mental foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Twilight in One Minute

My husband sent me this :) I have only read the first book, but I googled to find out what happened in the rest of the series. We watched Vampire Sucks and it was kinda funny (if you like parody you'd probably like it.) I haven't watched the real Twilight movies either.

7 Yeras

Our 7 years anniversary is coming up. I can't believe how fast time has gone! We also had a 4 years engagement (we were living in 2 different countries then). I love our wedding photographs - we got married near San Francisco, up in the mountain somewhere. I had hoped to get some pictures at the beach (I LOVE the ocean - grew up by it. Missed it now since I'm in the midwest), but the wedding coordinator at the B&B suggested going further up in the mountains instead - I am SO glad we did! Clouds at our feet!

QUICK Banana Ice-Cream!

I was craving ice-cream the other day... but we didn't have any at home, and we were too lazy to go get some. My parents-in-law gave me an ice-cream maker a couple of years ago and I love making my own ice-cream - so much better than store-bought ones! I make pretty good ice-cream if I do say so myself, and I can't cook lol.

I like using recipe from Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments by David Lebovitz. I don't make ice-cream too often, because the recipes call for heavy cream and milk... trying to lose weight here, you see...



















I also didn't have any ingredients that day when I craved, but I did have 5 bananas! I read somewhere online that you can make a quick banana ice-cream with just... BANANAS! Yep, nothing else! Well, you can add some honey if you want for some added sweetness, it said.

So, all you have to do, is just peel the bananas (preferably ripe ones), cut them into thin slices. Spread them out on a plate, and freeze for 1- 2 hours. Then, put them into a blender or a food processor, until creamy.

Sounds way too easy?! It is that easy! It turns out really well too!

I tried it with:
  • just bananas - it really does turn creamy like ice-cream! Maybe not as rich as normal ice-cream (also depends on how ripe your bananas are). But it satisfies the craving if you don't have any on hand. And much healthier too! This one is my favorite - plain and simple!
  • banana + honey - I think I may have added a bit too much honey, so it gets a bit too liquidy and not as creamy as the just-bananas ones. It may be a tad too sweet for me too. So I think I will skip in the future
  • banana + chocolate chips - I have some big semi-sweet Trader Joe's chocolate chips, so I thought I'd give it a try (see, I don't necessary have to follow recipes all the time!). I just added them into the blender. I probably should have broken the chips into smaller pieces first to reduce blending time. It turns out quite well, if you like having chocolate chips in ice cream! This one is the husband's favorite.
I have read other people adding peanut butter too, but we didn't have any peanut butter. Plus I am not a big fan (I like it okay, just do not love it, though the husband does.)

I used 5 medium bananas, and it made about 6 scopes (1 favor each for us). So I guess roughly 1 banana per scope?

Next time when I see bananas on sale, I am going to get a big bunch and free some! Since the recipe calls for freezing it 1-2 hours only, so that the bananas are cold and a little hard, but not overly hard. I suppose if I freeze them longer than that, I may need to thaw them a little bit first. We have a really good blender (Vitamix) so it can handle ice, but check your blender to see if it is okay with crushing ice. I don't have a big enough food process, so don't know if it is better to use a blender or food processor.



If you try it, let me know how it turns out!

Note - our stove/oven died last week... so can't make ice-cream for the time being anyway... sigh... the dishwasher seems to be dying too... double sigh.