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Top Ten Tuesday – Favorite Books Released in the Last 10 Years (July Freebie)

It’s been a little while since I participated in Top Ten Tuesday, but I’m excited to be back and I’m super excited about this topic! This week is a freebie, and since I missed May 28th’s topic, I’m doing a mini-throwback to that one: My 10 Favorite Books Released in the Last 10 Years. It’s one I was really excited to dive into. 

We’re supposed to be limiting it to one book per year, and honestly, I did my best, but for two of the years I just couldn’t decide, so I’m going with a tie. As a bonus, you get two extra wonderful books this week! Without further ado, here are some of my favorite books published within the past decade:

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book review, recipe

Everything Here Is Beautiful + Chinese Almond Cookies

Mira T. Lee’s debut novel, Everything Here Is Beautiful, is a tough book to discuss—though we attempted to do just that for my last book club meeting. It was suggested by one of our members last year, shortly after it was released, and when it finally got chosen as our monthly pick, I was looking forward to reading it. It’s a story about sisters, about immigrants, about mental illness. It’s a raw and powerful debut that I can’t recommend enough.

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee

The novel follows two Chinese-American sisters, Miranda the oldest and Lucia the youngest, in the years after their mother dies from cancer. Lucia is adventurous and full of life, and when it’s determined that she has schizoaffective disorder, Miranda does everything in her power to keep Lucia grounded and get her the help she needs.

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of interest

Top Ten Tuesday – Things That Make Me Pick Up a Book

It’s been a little while since I participated in Top Ten Tuesday, but I’m excited to be back and I’m super excited about this topic! This week I’m sharing the Ten Things That Make Me Pick Up a Book. I had to give it a little more thought than I expected, probably because my TBR at this point is so full of books, I rarely have to think about what to read next (and why).

But, I examined how my TBR got to be as long as it is, and this is what I came up with! I’m also looking forward to seeing what influences others’ reading decisions, so I definitely plan to make lots of time for blog hopping on this one. Without further ado, here are the Things That Make Me Pick Up a Book:

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book review, recipe

The Dreamers + Almond Croissants

For those of you who have been with me since the beginning, you may recall my love of Karen Thompson Walker’s previous novel, The Age of Miracles. Because of that, I have been anxiously awaiting her follow-up The Dreamers since I first heard about it months ago. I was lucky enough to get it from the library on its release day, and I wasted no time getting right to it!

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

Like The Age of Miracles, The Dreamers starts with a seemingly innocuous anomaly. This time, a college girl falls asleep and doesn’t wake up. Her roommate, Mei, is unable to wake her, and the girl is brought to the hospital. When a second girl falls asleep and then another, people begin to worry. The dorm is put on lockdown. As the mysterious illness spreads, the entire college town is quarantined, doctors are flown in to investigate and the National Guard summoned to keep order.

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book review, recipe

The One + Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

I recently heard about John Marrs’ novel The One on the Currently Reading podcast, in an episode about “Books to Blow Your Socks Off.” (The episode was also amazing because it included an interview with Delia Owens, who wrote a wonderful recent favorite of mine, Where the Crawdads Sing.) The description was brief but intriguing, and I immediately rushed to get a copy from the library.

The One by John Marrs

It takes place in a “near future,” one in which it has been discovered that people can be matched to their soulmates through their DNA. It’s 10 years after that discovery, and those who have been lucky enough to find “the one” are considered Matched and those who are still waiting are Unmatched. Because you can be matched to literally anyone, racism, homophobia, and religious and other prejudices no longer exist.

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book review, of interest

Best in Books – 2018 Edition

With the holidays just around the corner and 2019 a mere two weeks away, it’s the perfect time to look back at the year behind as well as look forward to the year ahead. I came across this survey via Never Enough Novels and couldn’t wait to get in on the fun! I also want to give a shoutout to The Perpetual Page Turner, who has been doing this annual year-end survey for 9 years now! Without further ado, my 2018 in review:

2018 READING STATS

Number Of Books You Read: 103 (as of 12/18)

Number of Re-Reads: None. I almost never re-read books, but I’m hoping to fix that next year by doing my best to re-read at least one book per month.

Genre You Read The Most From: Literary Fiction

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book review, recipe

Where the Crawdads Sing + Shrimp and Pimiento-Cheese Grits

When Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing was selected for Reese Withersoon’s book club, it became an instant must-read. Equal parts coming-of-age story, mystery, legal drama and love story, I can see why! I came by it through my first HealthTea Book Crate, in which I received a signed copy, and I was excited that it was selected as one of my recent book club reads.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Kya Clark lives in Barkley Cove, North Carolina, and has watched her family leave her one-by-one, until — at the age of 10 — she is left quite alone. As she grows up, Kya chooses to stay close to home, preferring to get her supplies from a small store on the docks, where she can also fill up her boat with gas, rather than venturing into town. This fierce independence earns her the nickname Marsh Girl.

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book review, recipe

A Place for Us + Mango Lassi

Fatima Farheen Mirza’s novel A Place for Us put me at a loss for words (a tough position when I need to write a review…). It was beautifully written, the story woven together so expertly. It’s hard to believe this is a debut.

A Place for Us Novel

The story of an Indian-American Muslim family opens at the California wedding of Hadia, the eldest daughter. She and the rest of the family anxiously await the arrival of her younger brother Amar, who they haven’t spoken to in years. From there, we are pulled into the family ourselves, where the dynamics are complicated. The siblings struggle with their loyalty to their parents’ way of life and carving out their own place in society, while still seeking to please them. The parents try to raise their children wisely, but sometimes doing what they think is best leads to unexpected outcomes.

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book review, of interest

The Dream Daughter + Copycat Mexican Pizza

The description for Diane Chamberlain’s “genre-spanning” novel The Dream Daughter promises it will be “irresistible.” In that, it was 100% correct.

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

Twenty-six-year-old Caroline Sears is pregnant when she finds out her baby has a fatal heart defect. In 1970, there’s nothing that can be done, and the news is devastating. Carly’s brother-in-law Hunter is a physicist, who came into their lives quite mysteriously a few years before. When he tells her he has a way to help her baby, she’s skeptical.

The book description doesn’t give too much away, beyond the fact that, what Hunter is proposing is inconceivable. To save her baby, Carly needs to be courageous in the face of the unknown. I’ll expand just a little bit more to say that how Hunter saves Carly is by helping her time travel into the future, a time when medicine has caught up to her baby’s needs.

I won’t give anything else away, but if I had known this was book involved “realistic time travel” — one of my absolute favorite sub-genres (think The Time Traveler’s Wife and the movie About Time) — I would have rushed to pick it up even sooner. After a few chapters in, when I figured out what was going on, I was hooked. I couldn’t put it down, and I stayed up until 1am one night to finish it (if you know me, that’s a huge deal; I typically go to bed around 10).

Oh my gosh, I can’t say enough good things about this novel. It was unexpected and clever. It definitely played with my emotions a little bit, but I didn’t even care. I was all in, and I loved every minute of it!

When Carly goes forward from 1970, a lot of things are unfamiliar. The technology, yes, but also the food. In one of the most amusing scenes, Carly’s host brings home some Taco Bell for dinner. Not only has Carly never heard of Taco Bell, she doesn’t even know what Mexican food is. She specifically calls out the taco, burrito and enchirito, but also mentions that there were a few other items on the table that were “alien” to her.

I like to think one of those was the Mexican Pizza, my absolute favorite thing at Taco Bell. I’ve been eating them since I was a young kid, and I like to think of myself as a Mexican Pizza aficionado. Regardless of what they ate for dinner they night, they ate Taco Bell, and this is my excuse to make a copycat version of the best food on their menu.    

For those of you who don’t know, a Mexican Pizza is definitely a loose interpretation of the word pizza, but it’s delicious, and that’s what matters. It has meat and beans sandwiched between two crispy tortillas; the top tortilla is covered in red sauce, cheese and tomatoes. (There also used to be green onions, back when I was little, so I brought those back into this homemade version.)

I found a recipe from Genius Kitchen to use as a guide, though having eaten an embarrassing number of these throughout my life, I probably could’ve figured it out myself. I did tweak it a bit to be closer to the Taco Bell version. Good news: Like the book, it turned out even better than I imagined!

To start, I prepared my taco meat (ground beef with taco seasoning) and warmed my canned refried beans. I also combined a can of red enchilada sauce (I used medium, you can use whichever spice-level you like best) with a can of diced tomatoes with green chiles (drained) to make the pizza’s sauce.

Then, I prepared the tortillas. If you can find flat, roughly 8” corn tortillas, that would definitely make this experiences easier and quicker, but I couldn’t. I used the flour tortillas from the recipe. To get them crispy enough, you need to fry them in oil on the stove top — just until they’re golden brown and stiff.

They don’t need much time, about a minute or so will do it. You might need to flip and repeat on the other side (I did). Once all of your tortillas are ready to go, it’s time to assemble the pizzas.

Fried Tortilla

First, I spread a thin layer of the refried beans onto a tortilla and covered them with some of the ground meat.

Bottom Layer of Mexican Pizza

Then, I added another tortilla on top of that and carefully spread on some of the sauce and covered it with cheese.

Mexican Pizza

Then, I added my toppings — in this case, diced tomatoes and chopped green onions, but you could also add black olives (or anything else taco-y, I suppose). I wanted to keep it as close to what I’ve come to know-and-love at Taco Bell; plus, Scott doesn’t like olives.

Mexican Pizza with Toppings

Finally, I put the prepared pizzas under the broiler in the oven just to melt the cheese.

Mexican Pizza Taco Bell Copycat

They came out perfectly! If I’m being honest, even better than half the time I get them at Taco Bell (where the employees clearly don’t care if it looks as perfect as I’d like). It looked like something right off the menu.

I cut them in fours and served them up.

Mexican Pizza Cut

The best part? They tasted DELICIOUS. (And maybe even better than the Taco Bell version…)

Piece of Mexican Pizza

Taco Bell Copycat Mexican Pizzas

Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 8 1/2 ounce package 8-inch flour tortillas
  • 1 10 ounce can enchilada sauce
  • 1 10 ounce can diced tomatoes with mild green chilies drained
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • 1 15 ounce can refried beans
  • 1 8 ounce bag Mexican blend cheese
  • 2 stalks green onions chopped

Instructions

  • Prepare taco meat per package directions.
  • Warm refried beans.
  • In a small bowl, combine enchilada sauce with diced tomatoes and green chiles.
  • Prepare a small amount of oil in pan to 375°F (do not put so much that it will cover the flour tortillas). Cook flour tortillas in oil for 30-45 seconds or until just golden brown, flipping once. Drain on paper towels.
  • To assemble: top 4 tortillas with a thin layer of refried beans, followed by a layer of taco meat. Put another tortilla on top of the taco meat. Add red sauce on top of the tortilla, followed by the Mexican cheese blend and then top with diced tomatoes and green onions if desired.
  • Put finished Mexican pizzas on cookie sheet and broil in oven until cheese is melted.
  • Cut into fourths and serve.

Notes

Slightly adapted from: Genius Kitchen

I received a free digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This post contains affiliate links. This does not increase the price you pay, but I may receive a small commission for any products you choose to buy. Purchases made through affiliate links help to cover my blogging costs. Full disclosure here.

book review, recipe

There There + Indian Tacos

Tommy Orange’s novel There There tells a multigenerational story of Native Americans as they are today, living not on reservations but in cities throughout America. It’s a perspective many of us have never seen or read about, that of the Urban Native.

There There by Tommy Orange

It’s a complex and epic story, told through vignettes involving twelve different characters. There are characters who embrace their Indianness, those who are just fully discovering it, and those who use it as a means to an end. Though in the beginning they are seemingly disconnected, their convergence at the Big Oakland Powwow gives each of them purpose.

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