My reading month started off with a bang and then pretty abruptly crashed to a halt the week of Halloween. In that time, I managed to read two graphic novels and an essay collection about popular movies, but have been struggling through my current fiction read (which I’ve been working on for 13 days). Anyway, here’s a look at what I read — mostly 4-star reads and no two books alike![Read more...] about Show Us Your Books Reading Recap — What I Read in October
I don’t like scary movies, but somehow, I still get a thrill out of watching them… sometimes, usually with a viewing partner and often in the daylight. I need the boundaries of someone else’s imagination to keep mine in check. So, it may go without saying that I don’t typically like scary books. My mind runs wild! But, it is spooky season, and if you’re going to give a creepy book a try, why not now?
Mexican Gothic is a hot novel right now. Not just because it’s October, but that certainly doesn’t hurt. I’ve heard about it everywhere lately. One of my friends picked it as our current book club read, so I had no choice but to see what the fuss was all about. (Side note: we meet on Thursday and I can’t wait to see what they all thought!)
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s novel begins slowly, in classic gothic fashion. In 1950s Mexico, Noemí receives a frantic letter from her cousin, who recently married a man who lives in a mysterious house in the countryside. Noemí has no choice but to head to High Place to see her cousin. High Place is isolated and full of secrets and odd family members, which is really the perfect setting for a book I shouldn’t have been reading just before bed.
Noemí does have some hope in the youngest brother, who she comes across picking mushrooms which leads to a sort of bond. He proves himself to be willing to help her help her cousin, at least some of the time. I don’t want to give too much away so I’ll end here, but if you’re looking for something eerie and old-fashioned, this would be a great pick. This book is such a mood. Sort of Jane Eyre-esque in its setting.
Since I don’t read really these types of books I’m not exactly sure how to rate it as I have very little to compare it to, and honestly I was so creeped out most of the time, I’m not even sure if I was seeing clearly, so to speak.
The mushrooms I mentioned earlier actually pop up constantly in the novel because they grow on the High Place's property. Mushroom tacos seemed like a great pairing. In looking for a recipe, I learned from Epicurious that the earliest Mexican cuisine was, in fact, vegetable-based. I didn’t ultimately choose their recipe, but it sounds delicious and seems like it would definitely be worth a taste! I found a recipe from Half-Baked Harvest that looked amazing for Asada Mushroom Tacos and made those.
Unfortunately, my grocery store was all out of portobello mushrooms the day I was cooking, so I subbed in baby bellas instead. This totally worked fine, and if you can’t find mushroom caps and really want these, by all means, swap them in. But I really like think, if you have the larger portobello mushrooms available to you, that’s the way to go — primarily for texture, but also ease of cooking (especially if you’re wanting to grill them).
Anyway, they’re super easy to make. First I made the marinade and got the mushrooms in there so they could soak up that flavor for at least an hour.
While those marinated, I made the pineapple salsa. (Not quite the same make-up but reminded me of my first post!) I used guacamole we already had on-hand, so I didn’t make that from scratch this time.
It was also colder the day I decided to cook these than I had anticipated, so I instead cooked the mushrooms on the stovetop. If you opt for this method, make sure to drain the pan a few times as you cook it so the mushrooms have a chance to develop some color.
I served these on corn tortillas that I warmed in a pan.
We really enjoyed them, but like I said, I think the large portobello mushroom caps would’ve been even better. They were the perfect accompaniment to the novel for sure.
Asada Mushroom Tacos
- 6 portobello mushroom caps halved
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- 4 cloves garlic minced or grated
- 1 chipotle pepper in adobo chopped (or 2 teaspoons chili powder)
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- juice of 2 limes
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro roughly chopped
- corn or flour tortillas warmed
- crumbled feta or cotija cheese for serving (optional)
SALTED LIME AVOCADO
- 2 avocados mashed
- juice and zest of 1 lime
- Maldon sea salt
- 1/2 of a small pineapple cubed
- 1 jalapeño seeded and chopped
- juice of 1 lime
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro chopped
- Add the mushrooms to a ziplock bag. Next add the olive oil, orange juice, garlic, chipotle peppers, paprika, lime juice, cilantro, and a large pinch of salt. Seal the bag and marinate 10 minutes or in the fridge up to overnight.
- Meanwhile, stir together the avocado, lime juice and zest, and a pinch of salt.
- To make the salsa. In a bowl, combine the pineapple, jalapeño, lime juice, cilantro, and a pinch of salt.
- Preheat your grill or grill pan to high. Remove the mushrooms from the marinade and sear for 5 minutes, flip and sear another 5 minutes or until lightly charred on both sides. Slice into strips.
- Spread the avocado onto the warmed taco shells, and top with the mushrooms, salsa, and cheese. Enjoy!
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I first heard about Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet on my favorite book recommendation podcast, All the Books, when Liberty Hardy raved about it. The concept sounded intriguing, but I didn’t add it to my TBR. I started seeing it more and more on bookstagram and decided to request a copy from the library, but by then the waitlist was quite long. Then, it won the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Someone I’d been following closely on Instagram had read it and was beyond excited that it won. This someone also happened to live less than a mile from my house. I knew I needed to read it.
So I reached out, asked if I could borrow her copy, and she generously said yes! I dropped by and picked it up off her porch, we chatted out the window for a few minutes, and off I went. If it weren’t for her, I may still be waiting on the library waitlist.[Read more...] about Hamnet + British Apple Pie
I read way more than I realized this past month! Perhaps I’m back to my old self. I just hit book number 51, so I upped my reading goal from 52 to 60. I don’t know why, but I don’t really like to hit my goal so early in the year, so I usually tweak it if I’m getting close at any point. Do you ever change your reading goal?[Read more...] about Show Us Your Books Reading Recap — What I Read in September
Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half was one of the most highly anticipated novels of 2020 — and not just by me, though I was certainly looking forward to it after reading her debut novel The Mothers a couple of years ago. Sometimes, when I’m really anticipating a book, I’m almost hesitant to actually pick it up. I’m afraid reality won’t meet my expectations (as with The Book of Longings). I am pleased to report The Vanishing Half more than lived up to expectations. In fact, it was almost a 5-star read for me… more on that later.
In Bennett’s second novel, her writing once again shines. She creates complex, interesting characters and vividly draws the world they live in. It’s the story of the Vignes sisters — identical twins — who grow up in a town called Mallard, a community made up entirely of light-skinned Black people. These sisters are so light they could pass for white. And one of them, Stella, decides to do just that. She leaves her twin sister Desiree behind and their lives diverge from there. Stella marries a white man who never knows her family; together they have a daughter named Kennedy. Desiree marries a dark-skinned Black man and gives birth to a daughter, Jude, who is the spitting image of her father. Stella's decision is complicated and its effects are profound.[Read more...] about The Vanishing Half + Lemon Cake with Vanilla Frosting
How often do you give books a second chance? Until Fredrik Backman’s Beartown, I would’ve said never. And, if I’m being honest, I’m not sure it’s a practice I will repeat often, but I’m so glad I did decide to give this novel another try.
The first time I read Beartown (about 3 years ago) I was less than impressed. I went into it expecting "classic" Backman — the Backman of charming, somewhat whimsical stories/characters as in A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, both books I absolutely loved — and what I got was not that. Beartown is a much darker narrative (though both of the above-mentioned books certainly have their dark spots), and I just wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t expecting it, and so I was disappointed.[Read more...] about Beartown + Bear Claws