Category Archives: Let’s Talk About Books

Books I want to read, have read, or will read. Let’s talk.

What’s On Your Nightstand? H.A.G. Reads for September

Hey y’all. I have another book review for you today. I wasn’t going to put this as it’s own post but I cannot stop thinking about this book. I am sort of in a place where I know I will be going over this in my mind for a while and so to that end, I am putting these thoughts to words here- in case you were debating on reading it… Read this.

Station Eleven
Emily St. John Mandel
Knopf, 2014, 352 pages

Opening Line(s) of the Book:

The King stood in a pool of blue light, unmoored. This was act 4 of King Lear, a winter night at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto.

Not too gripping, right?

Well, read on. These first few lines are just setting the stage (sorry, not sorry for the pun) for the rest of the book. Going back and forth through time, the book begins with a major event one night in Toronto which sets in place a series of events that change life as we know it, into one where only a few survive and these survivors try to find a way to survive and also live in this new world.

The life of Arthur Leander, a famous actor, sets the backdrop for the story. As his life unfolds, so does the scenery, the characters, and the story. It’s a doomsday book, with an upside. It doesn’t leave us hanging at the end- it finishes. It wraps up nicely in a way that left me feeling more reflective and satisfied that I greatly benefited from reading this book. Yes. A reading win.

I loved the subtley of this book- there is no horribly grizzly scene of the world’s end.The collapse of the world is fast. So fast that it is surprising-  but it is quiet. People just disappear and there is no way to contact them- The internet, electricity, vehicles don’t work anymore and become after time, a thing of only memory; memories are hard to come by with so many dead. The value of keeping the history alive and teaching what was to the children and other survivors is a theme. The book’s Museum of Civilization is seemingly a museum of just things: a high heel, a driver’s license, a comic book. But the importance of these things, and of the preservation of them is so…well, librarian…so basic to my values of remembering our history and artifacts, that I totally loved this idea within the book.

The author has such a knack for depicting a futuristic view without making it a science-fiction future that we can’t imagine. Her devastating future is tangible. We can see how it could happen- making it the scariest book that I’ve read in a while.

Favorite line:

“Survival is insufficient.”

Depicted as a tattoo and also painted on the lead caravan of the nomads, it’s a line from Star Trek: Voyager (Sept. 1999, Ronald D. Moore). I love it, because A) I love that it’s from Star Trek- the most well known sci-fi world that we have had the pleasure of experiencing both on TV and in comic book form- but also B)  I love the words themselves: Reminding us to LIVE. Not just survive. Notice. Experience. Do. Be. But also, of course, stay alive.

'Survival is insufficient.' Reminding us to LIVE. Not just survive. Notice. Experience. Do. Be. Click To Tweet

Favorite Exchange:

“Are you asking if I believe in ghosts?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. Yes.”

“Of course not. Imagine how many there’d be.”

“Yes,” Kirsten said, “that’s exactly it.”

Touching on what happens after doomsday event…I am so glad the book addresses how blindly we would follow…or who we’d follow…or what we’d believe if only to find the familiar. Good questions here.

Overall Take:

I loved it, obviously, and highly recommend, and not only for science fiction lovers. If you love history or present day contemporary fiction, I think you would appreciate the currency of this novel- it is so full of imagination, but also grounded by our very real lives today.

The rest of my nightstand is atrocious! I have at least 10 books on there and the pile is just growing. Why? I have time. I have no idea why my progress is so slow, but then, it’s not a race is it? No. Quality, not quantity, my friends.

What’s on YOUR nightstand?


Links within the post are affiliate links (read full disclosure). Linked up with  Book Beginnings, BookDate, What’s on your nightstand?

Book Review: Still Here by Lara Vapnyar

As a book reviewer, I received a copy of this book for free from Blogging For Books to facilitate this review. I received no other compensation and as always my review and opinion is 100% my own. Links within the post are affiliate links (read full disclosure).

Let’s start this review by me telling you that I really enjoyed the book. Now you can keep reading all about it and know that I am not wasting your time!

I didn’t know if I’d like the premise, but ended up very interested:

Four friends who separately leave Russia to live in New York City. The book details how their lives are intertwined, and different since leaving Russia, their expectations and experiences as immigrants in a new city, and how their outlooks on life change, the longer they stay in the US.

For those of you reading from Book Beginnings…the first few line (s) of the book are:

“Promise me you won’t call it ‘Virtual Grave,'” Vica said as they turned onto the West Side Highway.

“You were the one who hated ‘The Voice from the Grave’!” Sergey said.

“‘The Voice from the Grave’ is even worse. We can’t afford a name that’s a downer.”

“Well, the entire idea is about death. And death happens to be a downer,” Sergey said.

From the New York Times Book Reviewe, 100 Notable Books of 2016:

Vica, Vadik, Sergey and Regina met in Russia in their school days, but remained in touch and now have very different American lives. Sergey cycles through jobs as an analyst, hoping his idea for an app will finally bring him success. His wife Vica, a medical technician struggling to keep her family afloat, hungers for a better life. Sergey’s former girlfriend Regina, once a famous translator is married to a wealthy startup owner, spends her days at home grieving over a recent loss. Sergey’s best friend Vadik, a programmer ever in search of perfection, keeps trying on different women and different neighborhoods, all while pining for the one who got away.

The backdrop of the story is the concept of our digital lives. How we present ourselves one way on social media, either hoping to present our best-selves or the self we want to be. The book raises questions about whether our online life is actually our life, and should it live on once we are gone (dead). The characters in the story debate this idea, and the perception about the value of our digital lives is reflected back and forth as we see the characters live ACTUAL lives.

Huh. Super interesting to me, as I have a sense that I hate Facebook and know everyone presents only what they want people to see, but I also use it a ton for this blog – it is a platform for what I want to show the world about HAG, so I find value in using it in my life. The book was expert in mirroring the absurdity of our digital lives in these characters.

Aside from the story itself, I loved the insight into immigrants from Russia in a city. I liked that I could relate to the characters who were approaching 40 years of age, who were at points in their lives where they are focused on jobs, family, or their futures. I liked that I could relate on that level but also gain some insight into how different living in the US is to someone from outside of it.

Overall Take:

There is romance, technology, contemporary life, urban sensibility and philosophical rambling in here. Maybe not for everyone, but I found it fun and satisfying.

 


Still Here, by Lara Vapnyar
Hogarth Press (reprint), 2017, 336 pages

“Food52 Mighty Salads”: A Book Review

Have you been eating salads like crazy with the bounty of veggies from your garden? Then you might be the perfect candidate for the cookbook by Food52 Team called, Mighty Salads: 60 New Ways to Turn Salad to Dinner. If you don’t know what Food52 is, I will tell you. It’s a food community site turned website and shop, which shares recipes from their editors and also runs contests for recipe contributions from their readers along with selling products and cookbooks that they put out.  I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the book from Blogging for Books, and now I want to share with you my take on this not-just-summer cookbook.

What I like:

Being a salad lover, and also very sick of my same old recipes for salads, I am totally inspired by the recipes in the book. Don’t these sound yummy?:

Caesar-Style Kale Salad with Roasted Onions
Shaved Asparagus with Burrata, Radish & Cucumber
Shaved Brussel Sprouts, Endive & Apple
Fresh Corn Cakes with Crab-Tomato Salad

The contents are depicted by types of salad to make it easy to find a lot of variety:

Leafy Salads
Less-Leafy Salads
Grain & Bean Salads
Pasta & Bread Salads
Fish & Seafood Salads
Meat Salads

There are a lot of dressings recipes which I just loved. Sometimes I just want a new dressing for my salads, and I made this salad {Spicy Chicken Salad with Rice Noodles} specifically because the dressing of Lime-Sriracha sounded so good- and it was good. Not amazing, but very good. I made it with zoodles though and I liked all the textures and color to the dish quite a lot.Spicy Chicken Salad with Lime-Sriracha Dressing

I am a big fan of pictures if the whole book is about one type of meal {salads}. There are lots of pictures of the meals here {all the photos are done by James Ransom}, to give you an idea and some inspiration for what looks great to eat. This leads to:

What Bugs Me:

The pictures are dark. The intention and style of the book is farmhouse-rustic, so they styled the pictures in a way that feels dark and artsy instead of bright and inviting. To my eye, the food looks flat in a way that makes me not want to make it. However…I showed my sister the book and she found lots of recipes that she would make and she loved the darker style of the pictures, so I think this is a preference that I have, over what everyone would feel.

On another layout preference, I thought that overall the font is smallish and the sidebar that lists the ingredients doesn’t separate the salad from the salad dressing as much as I wanted- I was squinting. I don’t wear glasses, but I am sort of old…so that could certainly be it, but for even older, and blinder folks, just keep your glasses nearby!

As far as a peeve about the recipes…they many and varied.  I don’t stock my pantry with more than half of the ingredients, but as I said, my sister was all about the recipes as being up her alley. I found it inspirational but not practical for my everyday cooking. I had a hard time picking a recipe to make with ingredients that I had on hand. I chose the Spicy Chicken Salad because I had 90% of the ingredients on hand. Most of the other recipes, I would have to go out and shop specifically for.

Who Should Get It:

If you are a huge Food52 fan…and I know there are many! Also, if you love salad and need some new  ideas for making your regular old salads into something more of a meal, than there is a lot of great stuff here- Not just for vegetarians, the seafood chapter is super interesting and if you are a meat eater, there is a plentiful chapter for you too.

The Deets:

Food52 Mighty Salads: 60 New Ways to Turn Salad into Dinner- and Make-Ahead Lunches, Too
Editors of Food52, Photos by James Ransom
160 pages with photos.
Ten Speed Press, April 2017
Amazon Hardcover: $14


This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you order from one of the product links, I’ll receive compensation. It does not affect your price at all. See my full disclosure page.

Review for Mighty Salads Food52