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Show Us Your Books – July Edition

It’s another edition of Show Us Your Books! This last month has been a pretty busy one, so you’ll see that my book list is much shorter than the first time I did it, which also really included about a month and a half (from beginning of May until mid-June) since I sort of arbitrarily chose a start date.

What have I been up to that’s been delaying my book-devouring, you ask? Well, obviously last week was the Fourth of July, which in Michigan means almost everyone goes up north, me included. Scott and I spent a handful of days camping (sort of) outside of my family’s cabin and enjoying all the things that come with lake life, which included some reading in a hammock but mostly hanging out and catching up with family. But before that long weekend, on the First Day of Summer, Scott and I got married (yay – I’m a Mrs. now!) and then celebrated with a trip to Mackinac Island, which is also up north, but farther.

All exciting things! But let’s get to the books…

Linkup Guidelines:
This linkup happens the second Tuesday of every month. The next is Tuesday, August 8, 2017.
1. Please visit and comment with both of your hosts, Jana & Steph
2. Please display the button or link back to me and the linkup hosts on your blog post
3. Please visit a few other blogs who’ve linked up and get some book talk going!

Last Month’s Edition

 

Engrossing Reads (sort of…)

This time, sadly, I didn’t have any standout amazing reads. All of these may have suffered a bit from high expectations, and for me, were almost 4-stars but not quite.

The Sisters Chase – I’m happy I picked this as my Book of the Month selection for June. It was a quick read with a twist I didn’t see coming. Plus, it’s all about a big sister who does everything for her younger sister, and I can always get behind that. (Review coming Saturday!)

Beartown – Hockey hockey everywhere. I didn’t really get into this book until about 40% in, which is why it didn’t get outstanding marks for me. The character building was definitely needed and paid off in the end, but it didn’t stick with me the way Backman’s other books did.

This Is How It Always Is – This novel seemed like a fictionalized version of Becoming Nicole, which I talked about in my June edition of Show Us Your Books. I’m not sure if that colored how I felt about it at all, but I think it may have. It’s still a very important read, and I would recommend it.  

 

Passed the Time Just Fine

Jane in Austin – I haven’t read Sense and Sensibility (I know, I can hardly believe it myself), but I liked this modern adaptation. It was about tea, which I love, and I finally get to make ice cream, so I couldn’t be more excited.

 

Not Worth It

None this month!

 

Did Not Finish

The Country of Ice Cream Star – Guys, it didn’t work out with this one. I ended up getting 15% in and literally couldn’t take it anymore. I decided to stop torturing myself. This reminds me why I don’t buy books before I read them.

 

Currently Reading

Cloud Atlas – Phew, I’m almost done with this one! At about 500 pages, with a new location, time period and main character every chapter, it’s been a marathon. There are definitely parts of this book I’ve enjoyed and parts I’ve enjoyed less, but I’ll hold all judgments until I finish.

Until next month!

Life According to Steph

 

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

of interest

Top Ten Tuesday – Best Books You’ve Read in 2017 So Far

Hi everyone! It’s Tuesday, and it’s my first time participating in a Top 10 Tuesday list, which I’m super excited about. This is an original weekly blog meme that was created at The Broke and the Bookish. I only plan to participate once or twice a month, due to other scheduled meme posts, but each week there is a new, fun bookish topic for bloggers to create literary lists about. If you’d like to know more about it, check it out here. Now let’s get to it!

These are in no particular order except that the first one was my absolute favorite:

One. Small Great Things 

This has been my only 5-star book so far this year, and while I’ve really enjoyed others, I loved loved loved this one. I have also recommended it like a million times. It’s a tough read, but it’s worth it – one that gets you thinking and provides a great jumping off point for discussion and future learning.

Speaking of which, this article was brought to my attention by Tanya from A Mindful Migration. I found it so interesting. If you’ve read the book, definitely check it out. If you haven’t, I’m sure you’ll get something out of it too. 🙂

Recipe Pairing: Trio of Bite-Size Appetizers

 

Two. Dark Matter

This fast-paced sci-fi book is another one that will get you thinking. Both Scott and I loved it, so it definitely has broad appeal! Recipe Pairing: Spanish Bean Stew with Chorizo

 

Three. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

Ah, Lillian! This BOTM pick was one of the first books I read this year, and it was a lovely way to start 2017. I hope to be as vibrant and open-minded at the age of 85 as Lillian. Recipe Pairing: Oreo Cheesecake

 

Four. The Boston Girl 

This book was happy and hopeful, even though the lives of the characters were not at all easy. The first person narration drew me right in, and the simple, heartfelt story kept me interested through the end. Recipe Pairing: Chinese Fried Rice

 

Five. The Handmaid’s Tale

This book is a classic, and everyone should read it if they haven’t. I read it once a few years ago and liked it, but when I read it again this year, I loved it. So relevant right now. Recipe Pairing: Strawberry Pie

 

Six. The Royal We

Mostly this was a fun read, and I haven’t had a lot of those lately. It makes every girl think maybe one day they could be a princess. Recipe Pairing: Tea Sandwiches

 

Seven. Becoming Nicole/This is How It Always Is

I’ve read two books this year revolving around transgender children. Both were profound, and though the subject matter was similar, the stories were each unique. Both are very relevant today and are bound to lead to excellent discussions. This Is How It Always Is Recipe Pairing: Still deciding…any suggestions?

 

Eight. Lilac Girls

Set in WWII, this novel revolved around three characters following very different paths, all interesting in their own way. I’m always drawn to stories about this time period, and I couldn’t put this book down. Recipe Pairing: Poppyseed Cake (stay tuned!)

 

Nine. The Sisters Chase

Another BOTM selection, I started reading this book with high expectations, which it mostly lived up to. The twist towards the end made me want to go back and start reading it all over again. Recipe Pairing: Powdered Donuts (stay tuned!)

 

Ten. Kitchen House

Phew! I’ve been reading a lot of difficult novels this year. Another one for that list, this novel really blew me away with it’s intricate story and character development. Recipe Pairing: Cracklin’ Cornbread

 

Bonus. Beartown 

I don’t know if this truly belongs in my Top 10. I know everyone loves it, which is maybe why I’m on the fence. So much hockey, so much heartache. There’s no denying it was good, so it might be worth a second read down the road. Recipe Pairing: Almond Bear Claws (stay tuned!)

of interest

Show Us Your Books – June Edition

Show-Us-Your-Books

This is my first time participating in the Show Us Your Books linkup, but I’m excited to be a part of the conversation and hopefully meet more bloggers who love reading as much as I do. (Thanks to Heather of Heather’s Hurrah for telling me about it!)

Linkup Guidelines:
This linkup happens the second Tuesday of every month. The next is Tuesday, July 11, 2017.
1. Please visit and comment with both of your hosts, Jana & Steph
2. Please display the button or link back to me and the linkup hosts on your blog post
3. Please visit a few other blogs who’ve linked up and get some book talk going!

I guess the best place to start is what I’ve read over the past month.

Engrossing Reads

Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family – I think I’ve mentioned before that my office has a Diversity Book Club, and though I was gunning for The Golden Boy to win as our recent pick, this book proved to be an excellent nonfiction version of the same story. It’s definitely an eye-opening read, and one that I would recommend.

The Kitchen House – I bought this book on May 19th at my new local library’s used book sale (along with 12 other books!) and, on the many, many recommendations from one of my online book clubs, I didn’t wait long to dive right in. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a piece of historical fiction that I truly enjoyed. I can’t wait to tell you more about it in my blog post later this week!

The Royal We – part The Prince & Me, part William and Kate’s love story, and basically every girl’s princess dreams come true, this novel was the perfect read to kick-off summer. Filled with drama, I couldn’t help but get sucked in as an American girl studying abroad (why couldn’t that happen to me?!) unexpectedly meets her real Prince Charming and takes us along for the ride. I sped through it.

Lilac Girls – Perhaps “enjoyed” is the wrong way to describe a WWII Holocaust novel, but for such intense subject matter, I still couldn’t put it down. I wouldn’t normally put a 3-star book in this category, but if it weren’t for Caroline’s chapters, I would’ve given this book four. I really wanted to try cooking with lilacs for this one, but unfortunately I started reading it about a month too late. Stay tuned to see what I do make 🙂

The Sisters Chase – In a Facebook group of fellow bookworms, this book was talked up as the best selection for June’s Book of the Month so, of course, it’s the one I selected. It was a super quick read and had a twist that I didn’t see coming.

Passed the Time Just Fine

Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty’s latest installment was a hot commodity when it came out, and with HBO’s Big Little Lies just finishing up, I couldn’t wait to read it. It probably suffered from a little bit of over-hype or high expectations, but it was pretty good. Plus, it led to some delicious “shrimp on the barbie” and you can’t beat that!  

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake – I usually pick up a book to read because the story sounds good and I want to actually read the story, but occasionally I really want to make something specific for the blog, and I find a book to fit that bill. This book was one of those, and it was all about the cake. Anna Quindlen’s memoir wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t for me, right now.

Not Worth It

The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Phew, this one was hard to get through! I’m sure you know the feeling – if it wasn’t for book club, it definitely would’ve ended up in the didn’t finish column.

All Grown Up – Luckily a short and easy read, I just didn’t empathize with the characters (or like them very much) and the immature attitude of the main character, who is very not grown up, was frustrating.

Did Not Finish

None this month – I persevered!

Currently Reading

Cloud Atlas – This is one of my friend Deanna’s favorite books and I’ve been hanging onto it for far too long. I figure it’s about time I started it, so she can have it back. I’m not even finished with the first chapter (which admittedly isn’t easy to get into), but I’m hoping for the best. I’m also looking forward to *maybe* making some goofy sort of cloud egg recipe (like this one), but we’ll have to see where the story takes me…

The Country of Ice Cream Star – I got sucked in by the title of this one too, and (surprise!) I really wanted to make ice cream to go with it. I got about 10% in and dropped it in favor of four other books, but now it seems like it’s time to give it another try. It may end up in the “did not finish” pile…

Until next month!

Life According to Steph
This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here
of interest

Foodie Book Tag: Books + Cookies

I wasn’t tagged in this, but I came across a post from The Sassy Book Geek and loved the idea of this, so I wanted to get in on this book tag as kickstart to using them myself. Plus, it combines two of my favorite things – books and food!

The Rules:

  • In addition to linking back to the person who tagged you, it would be awesome if you link back to Nicole’s original post!
  • Pick a book that corresponds to the cookie’s ‘theme’.
  • Tag 1-3 people.
  • Have fun!

The Cookies:

  • Chocolate Chip: A Classic Book That You Love or Really Enjoyed (interpret classic how you want, it can be a classic written 100 years ago or 20 years ago)
  • Thin Mints: A Fandom That You Really Want to ‘Join’ AND/OR a Hyped-Up Book You Want To Read (your source(s) of a book being hyped can be from anywhere)
  • Shortbread: An Author You Can’t Get Enough Of
  • Samoas/Caramel DeLites: An Emotional Rollercoaster (this cookie was hard … so any book that made you feel more than one emotion, strongly. The choice of emotions is up to you)
  • Oreos: A Book Whose Cover Was Better Than The Story OR Vice Versa, Where The Story Was Better Than Its Cover
  • Tagalongs/Peanut Butter Patties: A Book That Wasn’t What You Expected (good, bad, or just different, interpret how you wish)
  • Snickerdoodles: A Book You May Never Stop Rereading/ Loving
  • Bonus: Choose a cookie I didn’t list and make up a question!

My Books:

Chocolate Chip: Jane Eyre is amazing, and when I first read it I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did.

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Thin Mints: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee has been getting a lot of hype since it came out. I even got a free copy through a company book club, so I have no excuse not to dig in soon. Looking forward to it!

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Shortbread: Fredrik Backman. I’ve only read 2 of his books, but I loved them both! Looking forward to reading more, especially Beartown (which was almost my Thin Mints choice.)

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Samoas/Caramel DeLites: A Walk to Remember. This was before I realized how formulaic Mr. Sparks can be, but I literally laughed out loud reading this book and of course it made me cry too. Still one of my favorites.  bookcover-680x1020.jpg

Oreos: I thought Welcome to Braggsville had an awesome cover, and though we had a great book club discussion around it, the narrative style didn’t do it for me. I wasn’t a fan.

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Tagalongs/Peanut Butter Patties: Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this one (another book club selection), but I ended up really enjoying it! Really immersive story-telling, interesting world creation.

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Snickerdoodles: This is easy – I could read Harry Potter over and over again! In a world, where I rarely re-read books, I have re-read the HP series several times. (I don’t own this set below, but it’s my dream set!

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My Bonus Cookie (courtesy of the Girl Scouts) – Lemonades: A book that’s refreshing, whether it be a new outlook, a fun idea/concept, or just a breezy read to cleanse the palate

For me, Where’d You Go Bernadette fits this bill. Semple writes in a unique style, and I found it to be a humorous, quick read.

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My Tags:

Cinnamon Tangles

Book Hippie

Sophie at Blame Chocolate

Enjoy!

 

book review, of interest, recipe

Truly Madly Deeply + Grilled Shrimp and Corn

“It all began at a barbecue.” And so Liane Moriarty’s latest novel begins. It seemed innocent enough, but with a title like Truly Madly Guilty, I knew it wouldn’t stay that way for long. I have been a fan of Moriarty’s ever since I read her best-seller Big Little Lies in 2015. With the HBO series adaptation recently wrapping up, I was excited for more when my hold finally came through at the library.

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For those of you who have seen or read Big Little Lies, the setup is similar. It becomes quickly apparent that something bad has happened, but it’s less clear who it happened to and what exactly it is. Over the course of a slow, every-other-chapter build, the consequences of a normal, spur-of-the-moment backyard barbeque become all too real.

I would consider some of Moriarty’s other novels to be quick-paced beach reads, despite her ability to sneak tough, sometimes dark subjects into an otherwise light, reality TV-style wrapper. Though the title Truly Madly Guilty definitely screams “get out your sunnies!” I didn’t get the same vibe this time.

The plot moved too slowly for me, and it’s real strength was in its character building. The relationships were messy and complicated in a way that felt authentic because it wasn’t over-the-top. By the end of the novel, I definitely appreciated its subtlety though it wasn’t what I expected going in.

But, since it all started with a barbecue, I used that as my recipe inspiration. And, since it took place in Australia, I couldn’t resist making (get your Aussie accent ready!) shrimp on the barbie. I was also mostly just excited to have an excuse to use our new grill on the deck.

I found a simple recipe for Lemon Garlic Shrimp Kabobs from one of my faves Damn Delicious, and even though she bakes hers in the oven, I was easily able to adapt it to a grill. Alongside Grilled “Crack Corn,” this could easily impress at your next outdoor get-together! The best part about both of these recipes is that they don’t require a lot prep and they grill up in under 15 minutes.

To start, I shucked my corn and speared my shrimp and lemons onto the skewers. (I used metal, but if you’re using bamboo or wooden skewers, make sure you soak them first.) I chose to do a lemon slice on each end and 4-5 shrimp in the middle, but you can mix it up however you think it works best.

Then, Scott put the corn on the grill, since it took slightly longer than the shrimp, while I made the sauce for the corn and the shrimp.

To make sauce for the corn, I simply combined already melted butter with brown sugar, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. I whisked it up really well and brought it outside to the grill. Scott began basting the corn and put the shrimp on.

Back in the kitchen, I made the sauce/glaze for the shrimp skewers. In a small saucepan, I melted some butter. To that, I added lemon juice, minced garlic and dried basil, oregano and thyme. I also seasoned it with salt and pepper – I used a generous pinch and a turn or two of freshly ground black pepper. After a couple of minutes, it was fragrant and ready.

We allowed the corn to cook while the shrimp finished up, even though it was basically finished – a little extra color never hurt anyone. Be sure your shrimp is fully cooked through, but be careful not to overcook it as it can be tough and chewy. The shrimp should be a nice pink color.

Both recipes were really delicious and really easy. Perfect for entertaining a small group, or a relaxing summer evening outside. I hope everyone has a safe, sunny Memorial Day weekend! See you next week!

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Lemon Garlic Shrimp Kabobs

  • Servings: 6
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1½ pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2-4 lemons, thinly sliced and halved
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • 2 TBS chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions

  1. Thread shrimp and lemon halves onto skewers. In a medium saucepan, over medium high heat, melt butter. Stir in lemon juice, garlic, oregano, thyme and basil until fragrant, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste. (If you have a side burner on your grill, you can do this while the shrimp cooks.)
  2. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Oil grates and add shrimp.
  3. Grill each side for about 3-4 minutes on each side, until cooked through.
  4. Serve shrimp skewers immediately, brushed with butter mixture and garnished with parsley, if desired.


From: Damn Delicious

Crack Corn

  • Servings: 6
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 6 ears corn, husked
  • 3 TBS brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • lime wedges, for squeezing

Directions

  1. Heat grill to high. Oil grates and add corn. Grill for 5 minutes, turning occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add brown sugar, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper and melted butter. Whisk together until combined.
  3. Baste corn, while grilling, until totally slathered in crack sauce. Grill until charred and tender, approximately 5 minutes more.
  4. Squeeze with lime and serve.