Like many girls, I grew up with Anne Shirley. I adored her big imagination and found it amusing to watch her get into and out of trouble. Just as important to the story are Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, the brother-sister duo who give Anne a home at Green Gables. In her latest novel, Marilla of Green Gables, Sarah McCoy explores what life was like for the Cuthberts before Anne arrived.
The young Marilla — idealistic and eager to please — reminded me a lot of precocious Anne, which is not what I expected. Still, we’re all young once, and I thought Saray McCoy did a wonderful job showing Marilla’s transformation from a clever, spirited teenager to the woman we came to know in L.M. Montgomery’s novels. Though for some reason the story felt more modern to me, I thought she captured Avonlea beautifully; I found myself wishing I were there yet again.
I chose Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo as my Book of the Month in June last year because people were raving about it, and at the time, it seemed like a perfect summer read, light and juicy. Summer came and went and I never picked it up. The book’s cover and its title struck me as a little more salacious than I must have initially thought, and the longer it sat on my shelf, the less I wanted to read it.
Still, I kept hearing about it and it was always in the back of my mind. Finally, when I joined the Book Challenge by Erin (8.0), I decided to add it as my “book with a character’s name in the title.” I am SO glad I did, and I am SO sorry I judged it by its cover for so long. I devoured this novel, which told a beautiful and unexpected story cleverly executed.
Evelyn Hugo was a glamorous actress whose success looked easy from the outside, though it often came at a price. She became entangled – and disentangled – with various men throughout her career, sometimes for love and sometimes with a different endgame in mind. This, of course, is the premise of the novel and the story Evelyn decides to share with an obscure reporter – one of the great loves of her life, both known and unknown.
Happy Fall! I’m Grace from A Literary Feast, here at The Hungry Bookworm as a happy guest writer. Megan and I discovered each other’s blogs a few weeks ago and felt an instant kinship. Food in literature isn’t the most prevalent topic on the Internet, but we both love writing about it! I’m so honored that she wanted to introduce my work to you, her readers. I hope you enjoy this post with these fall-perfect book and drink recommendations.
Any time of the year is a good time for reading. There’s just something about fall, though. Cooler evenings, rainy days, falling leaves… doesn’t it make you want to curl up by the fireside with a warm drink and a cozy read? Me too. That’s why I’m giving you a list of the coziest books and drink pairings to carry you well into the winter.
As much as I adore the Anne of Green Gables series, I prefer to read it in the spring. (Don’t ask me why – maybe it goes back to my Spring Break binge-reads. We bookworms know how to party.) As a whole, though, I think that L.M. Montgomery’s books are so perfect for cozy fireside reading. If you haven’t read beyond Anne, you have so much to look forward to! I love The Story Girl for, yes, the stories, but also for the coming-of-age and turn-of-the-season themes. I haven’t met one her books that I don’t like, so here are a few more suggestions while we’re at it: Pat of Silver Bush, Emily of New Moon, Kilmeny of the Orchard, and Among the Shadows: Tales from the Darker Side.
It’s been a few years since I read The Story Girl, but I remember two things that influenced my drink pairing: Felicity loved to cook and there was an orchard on their property. I’m sure she would enjoy a fancy fireside drink. To pair with The Story Girl, try this Slow Cooker Caramel Apple Cider from Tastes Better From Scratch. Can you just imagine how amazing your house will smell?
“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” Although I can’t give you specific details because so much water has passed under the bridge since I read this book, I consider it one of the coziest books I have ever read. Everyone I know who has read it has felt that the book’s homing instinct is spot on. Written in letter form and celebrating the love of all things literary, this book will warm your heart on a chilly fall night.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is set in England on a small island. Islands are known for their fog, and England is known for its tea. I can’t think of a better drink to pair with this book than a warm London Fog. Although the directions aren’t proprietary, I chose this London Fog recipe by Yours Truly, G because of her custom infographic drawing. Super cute!
This is a book that I just reviewed on A Literary Feast, and it fits into this list perfectly. It’s not a thriller nor is it scary, but it is a delicious Gothic mystery that should be read by flickering light. Set primarily in an old manor in Cornwall, England, this story is narrated by 24-year-old Philip who is green, arrogant and stodgy beyond his years but also utterly confounded and besotted by the first female to reside there in decades. A female who, incidentally, may (or may not?) be the cause of his beloved guardian’s death. You’ll change your mind more than once!
The food in My Cousin Rachel is traditional Cornish fare. Apples are prevalent, and their cider is prized. Pair this charming book with a mug of perfect wassail. Here’s a Mulled Wine Wassail recipe with a light buzz from A Spicy Perspective (non-alcoholic version also available).
To be honest, this is the first book that came to mind when I was thinking of “cozy books.” It’s also the first book I read by this author, although I have since devoured them all. Sugary sweet without being saccharine, Allen’s stories transport you into a world with a sprinkling of magic, where food goes beyond symbolic. Need I say more? You’ll leave this book wearing glasses a shade or two pinker in hue.
You can’t curl up by the fireside with a book called The Sugar Queen without adding some calories to your drink. With the picture of peppermints on the book cover, this book begs to be paired with a Peppermint White Hot Chocolate (this recipe from Creme de la Crumb).
If I read Anne of Green Gables in the spring, fall is when the world of Harry Potter beckons. Fall heralds back-to-school, and what school is more exciting than Hogwarts? Harry Potter needs no introduction, but I am excited to say that this link leads to a new version of the first book. Or should I say “versions,” because there is one for each Hogwarts House, with different covers and illustrations and extra content specific to each! (I may have a problem. I already own one boxed set as well as a set on my Kindle and already have plans to buy the new fully illustrated ones. Have you seen them? Look here! They’re gorgeous.)
You must know where I’m going with this one: let’s drink some butterbeer! I’ve tried making it cold before, and it turned out to be really good! We’ll try a hot version this time. Creamy and butterscotchy – my mouth is watering already. Here’s a Hot Butterbeer recipe courtesy of Feast of Starlight.
A magical circus spun into existence by two dueling magicians. This book transports you into worlds of fancy among the highest stakes imaginable. You’ll have to think existentially at times, but never fear – the author weaves the plot seamlessly, and you’ll be as captivated as the members of the circus audience. If you love books that paint pictures in your mind, you will love the images that The Night Circus creates. This is the stuff that dreams are made of.
What to drink with such a magical book? I know what you’re thinking, and I’m not going to do it. Whatever that crazy Unicorn Frappuccino thing was, that you can now find copycats for all over Pinterest, has to go AWAY. I get a sugar coma just looking at pictures. Such overkill. Blech. I have something else in mind. Here’s a hot drink that (hopefully) isn’t quite as sickeningly sweet, and looks like something that would be served at a fairytale night circus. I think Savor and Savvy has nailed it with this recipe for Pink Velvet Hot Chocolate.
I saved my favorite for last. If you were to ask me what my favorite Disney movie, fairytale, or Broadway show was, I will mostly likely tell you that it’s Beauty and the Beast. Belle is the perfect heroine: bookish, brainy, and adventurous. And this book by Robin McKinley is my favorite version of the story. Before I had kids and my reading time shrank down to the size of a “poor, provincial town,” I reread this book every year without fail. Until I can resume that lovely tradition, I am passing it on to you! Be my guest.
For such a special book, let’s take the time to make a special drink. Give a nod to the book’s most familiar symbol with this Spiced Rose Latte from Brit and Co. You may have to plan ahead to have these ingredients on hand, but I think that the results will be well worth it! (Invite me over, too, because I would travel far for an evening of reading Beauty by the fireplace with a Spiced Rose Latte!)
Hopefully this list has offered a few ideas for a blissful evening in. If you liked this post, I’d love to invite you back to my blog, A Literary Feast, for more food-and-book combinations you may enjoy! And, please add your own favorite fireside reads (or beverages) to the comments below.
As you would probably expect, I read a lot when I was a kid. I remember reading my first chapter book (Black Beauty) in first grade, leading to a slight obsession with horses that continued into middle school. I have fond memories of my mom reading to my sister and me at night, with books like Stuart Little and The Borrowers that fueled my early interest in writing stories of my own. I also devoured The Baby-Sitters Club series and Nancy Drew novels, though honestly anything I could get my hands on was fair game. However, there were a few key books I’d missed (mostly because I watched the movies and/or didn’t realize they were based on books in the first place) such as The Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Little Women, and The Chronicles of Narnia. I’ve rectified many of those misses in recent years, but A Wrinkle in Time was still outstanding.
For those of you who don’t know, there’s a movie adaptation coming out next year starring Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon and Oprah, which is what really prompted me to pick it up at last. That and the fact that I found out the main character is named Meg. She and her three brothers live at home with their mother, who is a scientist. Their father, also a scientist, is no longer home and (depending on who Meg is talking to, or perhaps it was how I read it) it’s implied that he’s just gone on some sort of scientific mission and will be back eventually, or that he’s dead. Two of her brothers are twins and quite athletic, and Charles, her youngest brother, has a unique way of reading people. It is because of this skill that three mysterious beings named Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which come into their home and ultimately take Meg, Charles and their neighbor Calvin on an adventure that will change their lives forever.
Since it’s a children’s book, it didn’t take long to read – I think I read it in an afternoon. It was absolutely entertaining, but because it had quite a lot of science (real or otherwise) and had some really abstract concepts, I found myself wondering, “Is this something kids can really understand?” (If any of my readers who read this as a kid and as an adult can provide some perspective here, that would be helpful.)
I decided to make hot chocolate to go along with this book, because not only is it comforting, but it features prominently in the scene where Mrs. Whatsit first appears, on a dark and stormy night. It was actually quite dark and stormy the night I concocted the hot chocolate myself, so I think it worked out nicely. 🙂
I followed a recipe from Ashlee Marie for the World’s Best Hot Chocolate and thankfully it was very straightforward. (Nothing more frustrating than just wanting something quick and comforting and finding out you don’t have the right ingredients or it’s a hassle to make.)
First, I combined the cocoa, sugar and salt in a saucepan. Then, I added the water and brought the mixture to a boil. I allowed it to boil for 1 minute, before adding the milk. Then, I continued heating the hot chocolate until it was the temperature we like – not too hot, not too cold. Probably a few more minutes is ideal, at most.
I poured it into our mugs and topped them with whipped cream, which I always like to cool it down and break up the richness of the chocolate. We settled down in the living room while the storm boomed around us and enjoyed!
I have never read Ann Patchett before, even though Bel Canto has long been on my to-read list. I had requested her latest novel Commonwealth from my library shortly after it was published last summer and it only just arrived. From the first chapter, I found it slowly engrossing. That is to say, it’s not an action-packed page turner, but I became so absorbed in the characters that I happily followed their stories over the decades the novel covers.
The story of two families – four parents, six children – begins at Franny’s christening celebration, which is transformed by an unsuitable gift of liquor and a backyard full of orange trees. So, too, are their lives forever changed. We follow both families, which is a muddled mix of estranged spouses, sort of step-siblings and a black sheep or two, through the next 50 years of their lives.
A lot of the drama seems to happen in memories or flashbacks, but as with all families, nothing can be buried too deep and has lasting effects on each of them, even if they deal with it in their own ways. Once grown up, Franny becomes an avid reader and a cocktail waitress, giving her the unique opportunity to end up dating a successful novelist. This, too, has an effect on the family – one I’ll admit I didn’t expect.
It’s hard to say too much without spoiling Commonwealth’s bigger plot points, so I’ll get right to the recipe – this time, a cocktail. I didn’t use gin, which even those at Franny’s party thought an odd pairing with orange juice, but instead went with a more traditional vodka-based drink, the Orange Drop.
First, I made a simple syrup – equal parts granulated sugar and water – and allowed it to fully cool before mixing the rest of the drink.
Then, I measured it out before adding a citrus-flavored vodka and orange juice. With a quick stir, I poured the cocktail into two rocks glasses, more akin with the glasses used spur-of-the-moment at the party. Again, not to be too fussy, I garnished them simply with half an orange slice each, and served with ice.
If you need to make simple syrup, add equal parts granulated sugar and water to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Cool completely before using in drink mixture.
In a measuring container with a spout, add the vodka, orange juice and simple syrup. Stir with a spoon. Pour into glass of your choice.
Add ice according to preference. Garnish with an orange slice, if desired. (Add an additional splash of orange juice, if you prefer a slightly less stronger drink.)
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Since the new Netflix series Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life just came out last weekend, I’m taking this opportunity to spend a whole week in Stars Hollow, so to speak. This is the first of three posts, all including recipes found in the Eat Like a Gilmore cookbook.
Emma Cline’s The Girls turned out to be the perfect novel to close out summer. It follows 14-year-old Evie Boyd during the last summer before she leaves her home in Northern California to begin boarding school. Although heavily based on the Manson cult, it is not the charismatic leader who draws Evie in but one of the girls instead.
After wondering at the girls from afar, it seems fated when Evie’s busted bike chain leaves her stranded. The girls (and Guy) pull up in their bus and rescue her back to their ranch for the summer solstice party. The celebration is nothing like a traditional party, watermelon broken open on the picnic table while greedy children dig at it with their fingers. Evie sees past the dirt, decay and deviance. She is entranced.
Suzanne, one of the girls, is entranced as well – but with the group’s leader Russell, always attuned to his presence and ready to follow his every whim. Over the course of the summer, Evie becomes similarly obsessed with Suzanne. Though she leaves the ranch often, it’s the thought of Suzanne that keeps Evie going back, and it’s because of her that Evie pushes the boundaries of her prior life.
Dependent on donations and stolen food, meals at the ranch are meager and infrequent. As the summer lolls by, the girls reach near-starvation yet remain devoted to Russell. Any appearance of food is a cause for celebration, any remaining sense of etiquette gone until the food, too, has disappeared.
Lemonade is a drink that invokes long, lazy days – a summer classic. When you add in some watermelon, to call back to the summer solstice party and the “sticky juice” one of the girls drips all over the floor during a trip off the ranch, it makes an excellent fit for Cline’s novel.
I found Cooking Classy’s recipe for watermelon lemonade and made some this past Labor Day Weekend, a fond farewell to summer.
I cubed about a quarter of my too-large watermelon and pureed it, using my food processor in two batches. Starting out with 4 cups of puree, I ended up with about 3 cups of juice once I strained out the pulp.
I ended up using 5 lemons for the juice, with an extra leftover for garnish. I combined the water, lemon juice and sugar using a wooden spoon until the sugar was dissolved. I only needed to use the ⅔ cup recommended – it was a little tart, but it worked really well once mixed with the watermelon juice. Add some fresh mint and ice and serve on a hot day.
6cupscubed seedless watermelonchilled (2 lbs after removing rind)
3/4cupfresh strained lemon juicechilled
2/3cupgranulated sugarmore or less to taste
Ice and fresh mint for serving
Add watermelon to a blender and pulse until well pureed (there should be about 4 cups). Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl.
In a large pitcher whisk together water, lemon juice and sugar until sugar has dissolved. Stir in pureed watermelon. Stir in ice and mint (alternately add ice and mint directly to individual cups and pour lemonade over). Store in refrigerator.