Browsing Tag

holiday

of interest

Valentine’s Day + A Trio of Unexpected Love Stories

Valentine’s Day is just one week away, and while I’m usually not much of a romance gal, I do love a good love story. As it so happens, I’m not alone in that! In honor of the holiday, I’m collaborating with four other book bloggers to bring you plenty of romantic inspiration from some of our favorite books.

 

We each chose recommendations suited to our own reading styles and tastes. If you frequent my blog, you may not be surprised to see that I opted to share some of my favorite unconventional love stories. (If you’re stopping by The Hungry Bookworm for the first time, welcome!)

I’m a firm believer that love comes in all shapes and sizes. And though it’s nearly Valentine’s Day, love stories don’t always have to be between romantic partners. Any meaningful, long-lasting friendship is rooted in a real love and respect for one another, and the loving bonds between parents and their children are deep and unconditional.

My list does include a more “traditional” love story, but it is quite unexpected in its conception. I invite you to take a look below at my recommendations, and I would love to hear what some of your favorite unexpected love stories are in the comments!

The Time Traveler’s Wife

At first glance, this may seem like an entirely expected love story. Boy meets girl, boy and girl get married, etc. However, those of you who have read Audrey Niffenegger’s debut novel will know why I’m including it on this list. Yes, it is about many things that exist in everyday love – determination, unpredictability, disappointment, and joy. But, above all, it is about love that you really have no choice in. A love that seems inevitable because it always was, and yet, it wasn’t always. From my first experience with this story, I have been completely in awe of the storytelling. Niffenegger captures both the simplicity and complexity of an unorthodox love story, and she does so beautifully.

The Sisters Chase

As a sister myself, I have always been drawn to stories about sisters. Sarah Nealy’s novel The Sisters Chase is a captivating and surprising story about the deep connection between two sisters, 18-year-old Mary and the much younger Hannah, as they travel the country trying to make their way and find a home. The love between the two sisters is clear even from the beginning, but is in the rest of the story that Nealy cleverly reveals the lengths family members will go to protect each other. (My original post here.)

 

Lily and the Octopus

I don’t think I ever truly appreciated the bond between pets and their owners until Scott and I got our own pup, Beta, a few years ago. Animals depend on their owners for everything, but I think in many ways owners depend on their pets too. They bring a liveliness to their homes and provide a much-needed unconditional love every single day. Steven Rowley’s novel about a man and his aging dog Lily captures that special connection between pets and their owners in a poignant way. (My original post here.)

 

Late Addition: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

I only intended to provide three recommendations but this novel has been fresh on my mind (especially since yesterday’s post). You wouldn’t expect to find a touching love story within a novel focused on the seven failed relationships of a glamorous actress, but that is exactly what you’ll find in Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel.

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If you’re still looking for the perfect read for Valentine’s Day, please hop on over to my fellow bloggers’ sites and check out their recommendations!

Kerrie from Comfy Reading: For this mother of two little ones, sometimes a good love story is all the romance she has time for, that doesn’t bother her though, because reading is one of her favorite things to do. Typically Kerrie is a psychological thriller fanatic, but this time of year she likes to bust out the mushy stuff and read about all the romantic things that people do. You can find more great reviews on her blog, where you can also see how Kerrie overcame depression with her love of literature. Visit Comfy Reading for her selection of great romance novels for Valentine’s Day.

Charlotte from Wonderfully Bookish: As a part-time book blogger, a busy virtual assistant and a full-time nerd, Charlotte always seems to be dreaming about another new project. You’ll probably find her 1) with her nose in a book; 2) furiously writing new blog posts when she has a rare flash of inspiration (and the time to write them); 3) coming up new projects that will probably never see the light of day; 4) updating her spreadsheet of 2018 movie releases (which really does exist); or 5) writing numbered lists. Head over to her blog to see her list of YA LGBT recommendations.

Gayathri from Elgeewrites: Gayathri is a freelance writer and book blogger at Elgeewrites. She loves reading, recommending books and talking about bookish things in real life. Her blog is just an extension of that habit. She has been reviewing since 2010 and her short stories have been published as parts of anthologies. When she is not reading books or creating online content, she freelances as a beta reader. She lives currently at Dubai. Visit her blog for a selection of classic romance novels for Valentine’s Day.

Kayla from The Page Turner: Kayla fell in love with words at a young age and has been a lifelong reader. The word nerd behind The Page Turner works as a writer who helps entrepreneurs tell their stories. Even though she can get sucked into any story, she avoids anything too mushy. Her favorite love stories happen unexpectedly in the background of a much bigger story – stop by The Page Turner to check out her recommendations. 

 

book review, recipe

My True Love Gave to Me + Chex Mix

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! With Christmas and New Years just around the corner, if you’re looking for that special holiday-themed book, I recommend seeking out the YA short story collection My True Love Gave to Me. I don’t often read short stories (I’m not sure why), but this was exactly what I was looking for. It was quick with a wide range of stories, perfect to put me in a holiday mood.

I didn’t love every story in the collection but there were several that made picking this book up worth it. The first one I enjoyed was “Angels in the Snow” by Matt de la Peña which follows Shy, who’s at NYU on scholarship and cat-sitting for a professor because he can’t afford to go home for Christmas. A blizzard strands him in the apartment building with a neighbor, Haley, and the story can’t help but turn romantic. Still, it remains realistic and ends up being heartwarming. I also liked Jenny Han’s “Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me” about Santa’s adopted daughter, a human living among the elves. It was like the beginnings of a less goofy version of Elf, had we hung out with Buddy the Elf as a teenager.

“It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown” by Stephanie Perkins was probably my favorite. Marigold Moon lives across the street from a Christmas tree lot and it’s there that she heard the perfect voice for a video she’s producing; it happens to belong to a boy named North. In trying to get him to agree to narrate her video, Marigold walks away with a Christmas tree and ends the night a lot more hopeful than she started it.

Gayle Forman’s “What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” was also charming. Sophie is stuck alone at a school where no one else is celebrating the last day of Hanukkah. As she tries to fit in, she stumbles into fellow outcast Russell and they embark on a memorable evening together. The surprisingly titled “Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” by Myra McEntire reminded me a bit of one of my favorite novels, A Walk to Remember. Bad boy Vaughn’s antics land him a job helping out with the church nativity play, whether he wants to or not. He brings a unique point of view to the task, something both the pastor and his daughter are thankful for. Though both of these were a bit cliche, the combination of a little romance alongside a little something deeper made them satisfying reads.

Lastly, “Welcome to Christmas, CA” by Kiersten White about a Californian town that takes the meaning of its name to a whole other level. The story’s originality was an unexpected breath of fresh air in this collection. A diner in the middle-of-nowhere isn’t the most likely setting for a holiday story, but White managed to infuse it with plenty of holiday spirit and it definitely left me feeling Christmas-y!

I didn’t make a recipe today but wanted instead to share a recipe my mom’s been making for years. She makes it every year around Christmas, often giving it as an extra gift to friends and family. It always tastes delicious when you want a snack on New Years Eve, if it lasts that long. I thought it would work well with this short story collection because it’s mentioned on literally the first page in the first story:

Now, no offense, to Alicia’s mom – who I’m sure makes a fine Chex Mix (certainly better than the store bought bagged stuff) – but I like to think my mom makes the best Chex Mix. My mom claims her recipe is straight from Chex cereal itself, but when I tried looking it up, I couldn’t find one that matched exactly.

So, without further ado, here is my mom’s version of Chex Mix… the actual best Chex Mix.

Chex Party Mix

  • Servings: 20 (½ cup servings)
  • Print

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1¼ teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 4½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2⅔ cups corn Chex
  • 2⅔ cups wheat Chex
  • 2⅔ cups rice Chex
  • 1 cup salted mixed nuts
  • 1 cup pretzel rods

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Heat butter in large shallow roasting pan in oven until melted (or melt in microwave and add to pan). Remove.
  2. Add seasoned salt and Worcestershire sauce to butter and stir. Add cereal and nuts. Mix gently until all pieces are coated.
  3. Heat in oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
  4. Spread on absorbent paper towels to cool. Once cooled, store in airtight containers.


From: Mom’s recipe, based on Chex Mix Original Recipe

Notes: You can use whichever combination of Chex “flavors” (or Crispix or similar cereal) you prefer, as long as they add up to 8 cups. You can also reduce Chex by 1 cup and add in 1 cup of Cheerios instead if desired.


This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

of interest

Naughty or Nice List – Bookish Blogmas 2017

I thought it would be fun to participate in a quick Christmas-y book tag, this one the “naughty or nice list” of all things bookish. Thanks to Emily from Always Opinionated Girl for the tag! The original post Bookish Naughty List Tag | Blogmas was created by Jenniely.

The Rules:
1. Credit the person who tagged you and link their post
2. Tag the original creator and their post
3. Check the ones you’ve done
4. X the ones you haven’t
5. Tag more bloggers!

The List:
– Received an ARC and not reviewed it

In the past, I rarely received ARCs, something I’ve recently remedied by checking out NetGalley (thanks for the tip, fellow bloggers!).

– Have less than 60% feedback rating on NetGalley

Not exactly sure how to answer this as I have no rating on NetGalley right now, but I’m counting no news as good news!

– Rated a book on GoodReads and promised a full review was to come on your blog (and never did)

I actually never rate anything on Goodreads until I’ve finished a review on my blog, since writing my blog is typically how I formulate my thoughts. I don’t post reviews/links to my longer reviews on Goodreads as much as I probably should, but it’s something I’m trying to work on.


– Folded down the page of a book ✔️

Yes, I’ve definitely done this in a pinch, but mostly just when I was younger. Now I have so many bookmarks there’s really no excuse!


– Accidentally spilled on a book ✔️

I don’t know 100% if I have or haven’t spilled on a book, but with all the reading I’ve done while eating and drinking, I think the odds are that I have.


– DNF a book this year ✔️

A few come to mind. Nothing wrong with setting aside of book in favor of something I’ll enjoy more! Reading shouldn’t be a struggle.


– Bought a book purely because it was pretty with no intention of reading it

I don’t usually buy books I haven’t already read (and love), so can’t say I’m guilty of this one.


– Read whilst you were meant to be doing something else (like homework) ✔️

Ha, absolutely. Though mostly I try to read at “appropriate” times.


– Skim read a book ✔️

Mm hmm. I don’t think I’ve ever skimmed an entire book, but I’ve been known to skim parts of books when I’m bored in an attempt to get through it more quickly. I also tend to skim through books at the end when I’m super into them but can’t wait to see how it all turns out. (Looking at you, Harry Potter, which is why I had to go back and re-read 7 almost immediately… once the excitement calmed down.)


– Completely missed your GoodReads goal

Ever since I’ve started setting goals in the reading challenge, I’ve met them. I try to be realistic in my goal setting – I don’t want reading to be stressful – so sometimes I do adjust them higher if I meet them too early.


– Borrowed a book and not returned it

Having had this done to me a few times, I would never do this. It’s infuriating. If you can’t return a book, don’t borrow it in the first place.


– Broke a book buying ban

As I said before, I don’t buy a lot of books to start with, but I would never have such a ban. To be cliche about it, books are food for the soul, and you shouldn’t stop yourself from buying the nourishment you need.


– Started a review, left it for ages then forgot what the book was about

Not really, though on occasion, I have had to refresh my memory on the finer points of characters/plots as I’m working through blog posts.


– Wrote in a book you were reading

I don’t like writing in books – I never even marked up school books! I would love some sort of note-taking system for physical books, but for now, I settle for taking pictures of passages that speak to me.


– Finished a book and not added it to your GoodReads ✔️

No! In fact, I update my Goodreads status pretty religiously. It also helps to make sure I meet my goals each year. 🙂

 

I’ll tag some of my fellow bloggers on Twitter, but if I don’t tag you and you’d still like to get in on the holiday cheer, here’s the list to copy/paste and make it your own.

Received an ARC and not reviewed it  
Have less than 60% feedback rating on Netgalley
Rated a book on goodreads and promised a full review was to come on your blog (and never did)
Folded down the page of a book
Accidentally spilled on a book
DNF a book this year
Bought a book purely because it was pretty with no intention of reading it
Read whilst you were meant to be doing something else (like homework)
Skim read a book
Completely missed your Goodreads goal
Borrowed a book and not returned it
Broke a book buying ban
Started a review, left it for ages then forgot what the book was about
Wrote in a book you were reading
Finished a book and not added it to your Goodreads

Enjoy!

of interest

Thanksgiving Readathon Wrap-up

What a whirlwind 5 days this Thanksgiving Readathon has been! I set a loose goal to read 5 books in 5 days (read my announcement/sign-up post here), since this “challenge” is supposed to be less of challenge and more of a conscious effort to set aside some time for yourself to read in a stress-free way while interacting with other book bloggers and bookworms on social media. 

I don’t think I actually expected to get through the entirety of the stack of books I lined up to read during the readathon, so maybe that’s why I stayed un-stressed. Somehow, though, I did it, and I’m super excited about it. I also finished my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal in the process (with book number 4), which means I’ll also be less stressed next month because I’m already set for the year. Woo hoo!

Here’s a brief overview of the books I read, some of which I’ll write longer reviews of in future posts (with book-inspired recipes, of course!):

 

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

I expected this to be a bit like The Family Stone, as I mentioned in my kick-off post, but it wasn’t. Even though it took place over Christmas, the story was more about the family dynamic and the fact that they were stuck together in a seven-day quarantine, which just happened to take place over the Christmas holiday. I’m going to do a longer post on this one, so I won’t go too deep here, but I did enjoy it for the most part. It was a solid read, and it led to an interesting back-and-forth with the author, which was a wonderful bonus. (I didn’t include some of the conversation, which was a bit spoiler-y.)

 

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

I was sure this would sustain me through a readathon, since it’s one of my favorite faux-genres, books about books. Alas, it was my least favorite of the long weekend; it was also the longest. I’m not sure what to say about it, though I suppose I’ll have to formulate some thoughts, since my book club is discussing it next week… The characters were all a bit one-dimensional and sometimes felt a bit mixed up, as though the author got them confused.Above all, it took much too long to get to the charming-bookstore-turns-the-town part of the plot, and that didn’t really land for me. I’m not sure the bookstore changed the town at all! Mostly, it was just disappointing.

It also lacked descriptive food mentions, and though it prompted a brief discussion about mini dogs versus sloppy joes – sadly, the only foods relevant to the story – I’m left feeling too underwhelmed to be inspired to do a longer post on this one.

 

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg

I have been listening to Molly’s podcast Spilled Milk for a few years now, and though it’s one of my favorites, I had yet to read any of her (or her co-host Matthew’s) books until this weekend. I am delighted I did! I loved this food memoir so much; it was definitely my favorite of the readathon. It is full of rich descriptions of every food that ever made an impression on Molly, and of course, the recipes for most of them. I’m going to have a lot of trouble deciding what to make for my review post on this one, guys. Has anyone else read it and made the recipes? Any suggestions?

 

 

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

At 160 pages, I expected this environmental dystopia to be a quick read. That was an understatement. I don’t think I spent more than an hour with this book, which read more like lyrical or poetic meeting notes. The only character that was named was Zeb, the main character’s son, but he was primarily called Z as all the other characters were only called by their first initials as well. I’m not sure I’ve completely processed it, but it didn’t haunt me like dystopias usually do. The characters as initials felt distant to me, and in the end, the immediate threat (which wasn’t well-outlined to begin with) seemed to disappear, or at the very least lessen.

 

How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas

My final read, which I started on the way to a football game Saturday (lest you thought I curled up in my reading chair all weekend!), was a quirky novel about a brilliant French family. It’s told through the eyes of eleven-year-old Isadore – who prefers Izzie though everyone calls him Dory – the youngest of 6 children. As he figures out how exactly to be a normal adolescent in a family of overachievers, he makes sharp and amusing observations about those around him. It struck me as a sort-of The Family Fang meets This Is Where I Leave You and ended up being a wonderful note on which to end the readathon.

 

Aside from the football game, I spent a lot more time not holed up reading than I had initially thought I would. I enjoyed most of Thanksgiving Day with family (not reading); scored some shopping deals and celebrated a birthday with family on Friday; wrote and cooked for Saturday’s blog post; and even got in a little yard work (ugh) and holiday decorating (yay)!

I loved participating in the Thanksgiving Readathon because not only did I surprise myself by reading so much, it was fun following along with everyone else on social media and being a part of those interactions too! Most importantly for me, though, it made me realize that I probably can squeeze in more reading each day if I just make the time for it. 🙂

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

book review, recipe

Bread & Wine + Bacon-Wrapped Dates

It’s wonderful to have someone so enthusiastically recommend a book to you one day and then, because they know you’ll love it, present it the next day for you to borrow. I am forever recommending books to others, and often pushing my own copy on them unbidden at the next opportunity, but it’s rare that I have someone do the same to me. I am forever grateful to my new coworker, who upon learning about my loves of reading and cooking (and subsequently my blog), shared one of her favorite books with me during her first week on the job.

Aside from recipes – admittedly, the cover looked delicious – I had no real expectations when sitting down with Shauna Niequist’s popular food memoir, Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes. As the title suggests, Niequist’s essays are overflowing with rich descriptions of food and the community it can help create. The memoir touches on not only her family and friends, with whom she loves to share meals, but also on her relationship with God and how that nourishes her in other ways.

In a memoir peppered with meaningful recipes, it can be challenging to choose the one that most represents it. While so many of them sounded appetizing, I went with the one Niequist had me wondering about from one of the very first chapters. She mentioned bacon-wrapped dates, stuffed with goat cheese, at least twice (and maybe more) before she finally revealed the recipe on page 171. The book is only 288 pages, so I was starting to get nervous it would never appear…when suddenly, there it was!

Niequist herself says in her introduction to the recipe that this appetizer is not the most practical thing to choose, if you’re only going to make one recipe from her book. Thankfully, since my heart was already set on them, she goes on to say that “practicality has never been my strong suit, so I think you should make these.” With her blessing, I did.

She describes them as a “go-to, serve-at-every-gathering, take-to-every-party treat” that people adore, so I decided to share them at Thanksgiving dinner this week. With only 3 ingredients and a strong suggestion to serve at room temperature, they were the perfect no-fuss thing to bring to my in-laws’.

On Thanksgiving morning, I gathered my ingredients – pitted dates, goat cheese, and bacon.

I started by slicing the bacon in half and then slicing the dates open to make little “date books” (pun intended).

I stuffed each date with a proportionate spoonful (using the teaspoon from our flatware set). I recommend using the date itself to help scrape the cheese off the spoon as you close it up.

Finally, I wrapped each date with a half-slice of bacon and placed each one seam down on a foil-lined baking sheet (with sides).

I placed the pan in a 400-degree oven and let them bake for 25 minutes, until they were crispy and brown. I let them cool for a moment before transferring them to a paper-towel lined plate to drain off a bit.

Before we left for our Thanksgiving dinner, I put the still warm bacon-wrapped dates into a serving dish to bring along. Of course, they were served on a much prettier platter (thanks to my mother-in-law), but here they are just before we left the house – looking delicious and tantalizing.

Thankfully, they were as delicious as promised and everyone enjoyed their addition to the appetizer selection. I would absolutely recommend adding these to your repertoire.

I’d also recommend picking up a copy of Niequist’s memoir, so you can read about all of the other recipes that had me drooling as I read. I can’t wait to try more of them myself.

Last but not least, I hope all those celebrating had a Happy (and food-filled) Thanksgiving! If you’re following along with my Thanksgiving Readathon, I’ll be wrapping that up with a post on Monday.

Bacon-Wrapped Dates

  • Servings: approximately 32 pieces
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. package of pitted dates
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 16 oz. bacon

Directions

  1. Slice alongside one side of each date, from the top to the bottom, so you can open it like a tiny book. Scoop a small amount of goat cheese into the center of each one, and then close it back up.
  2. Cut the whole package of bacon in half, so that each long strip is now half as long. Wrap a half-slice of bacon around the outside of each date.
  3. Arrange seam side down in a baking dish or on a baking sheet with sides to catch any grease. A foil pan is really nice for no cleanup.
  4. Bake at 400-degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes, or until well browned and crispy. Drain on a paper towel, and serve warm or at room temperature, but definitely not hot, unless you want to burn the roof of your mouth so badly you don’t taste anything for days.


This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.