Wow! Has it been a while since I’ve sat down to write a book review (and recipe!), but here I am, and I’m excited. I hope you are too 🙂
I actually read Kevin Wilson’s Nothing to See Here last year. It was the first book I read after Henry was born, when I was transitioning into all e-books all the time (much easier one-handed and in the dark, with a sleeping baby), and the last book I read before 2020 showed up. I’ve apparently been a low-key Kevin Wilson fan for a while now — check out my review of Perfect Little World— and though I’ve enjoyed them all, this was by far my favorite.
His style is typically quirky, and this novel was no exception. It follows twenty-something Lillian, who feels like her life is going nowhere until her boarding school roommate Madison reaches out and asks her to move in and be a caretaker for her stepchildren. Knowing nothing about children, she agrees.
Valencia and Valentine is a contemporary fiction debut from Suzy Krause that came out just a few days ago. The novel is described as quirky and charming and perfect for fans of Maria Semple, Graeme Simsion, Fredrik Backman and even Gail Honeyman — all of whom I’ve enjoyed. Naturally, with those comparisons, I was excited to have the opportunity to join the blog tour hosted by TLC Book Tours!
When The Map of Salt and Stars was released last May, there was a lot of buzz around it. It’s captivating cover meant it was all over bookstagram. But, aside from judging the book by its cover, the “what” of the story sounded captivating as well. Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar weaves together two coming-of-age stories to create her novel.
I decided to pick up The Book of M by Peng Shepherd after hearing about it on a podcast. The story of a post-apocalyptic world where people inexplicably lose their shadows intrigued me. The novel is told from multiple points of view, each character introduced with impeccable timing and purpose.
First, we meet Ory who is living with his wife Max in an abandoned resort where they set up camp when the first shadowless appeared. A little later, we meet Max who has lost her shadow and wanders away from their home. A mysterious character who has many names shares his experiences starting with when he first lost his memory – not by losing his shadow, but due to a traumatic brain injury.
I read Molly Wizenberg’s first memoir, A Homemade Life, during my Thanksgiving readathon last year and fell in love with it. Her storytelling was warm and relatable, and her recipes sounded (and were, when I tried a couple of them) delicious. So, I was excited when I stumbled upon her next memoir, Delancey, one day while browsing near the cookbooks in the library.
While A Homemade Life was more a jumble of life stories (sometimes connected, sometimes not) and charming nonetheless, Delancey tells a linear story of her experiences while opening a restaurant with her husband Brandon. While it was more his dream than hers – like me, Molly detested working in restaurants and preferred the comforts of home cooking – she supported him as he pursued it.
I went into Sally Thorne’s novel The Hating Game without much research. I’d seen some chatter about it in my online book club – most people loved it. If anything, it seemed like a fun, quick read, and summer is always the perfect time for something on the lighter side. It’s the story of two executive assistants at a publishing company who loathe each other (hence the title), but then, in true romantic comedy fashion, feelings begin to change and they find themselves in an entirely different kind of relationship.
As with our characters, Lucy and Josh, it wasn’t love at first sight for me. Somewhere along the line though, my feelings changed. I began to find their interactions endearing, the other characters got a little more detailed and things fell into place. Yes, the plot was a bit predictable, but that shouldn’t be unexpected for this type of book.
I absolutely loved Andy Weir’s The Martian. When I read it, I recommended it to anyone and everyone, and now that I blog, I’ve even included it on a few bookish lists (here and here). So, I was more than a little hesitant to pick up his second novel – hello, high expectations! – and managed to avoid it for about six months. That is, until Artemis was selected as our next read for one of my book clubs. I had no choice but to take the leap.
In Artemis, which is the only city on the moon in the 2080s, our main character Jasmine, or “Jazz,” is a porter who smuggles on the side to make extra income. When a regular client brings her an offer with a payday too good to pass up, Jazz’s life takes a dangerous turn.
Because of this blog, reading often leads me to delicious food. Most of the time, I go into a book without any idea what I’ll end up making, since I haven’t read the book before. Sometimes I’m able to orchestrate it just so and I’m able to make something specific (particularly when a title or description mentions food), though that works out a lot less often than you’d think. Thankfully, in the case of Love & Gelato, it worked like a charm!
This young adult novel by Jenna Evans Welch has been on my TBR for a while now – I probably added it so I could make gelato – and because I was in the mood to break out my ice cream maker again, I added it to both of my 2018 reading challenges. It worked for “a book with food in the title” and fell nicely into the category of “book title starting with the letter L.” I love a good two-for-one deal.
Before I get started on today’s post, I want to announce the winner of my first ever Hungry Bookworm Giveaway, in honor of my 1 Year Anniversary (which I still can’t get over!). But, without further ado…
I’m so happy to have made your day with your win. Your copy of Pachinko has already shipped, and you should receive it soon! (More details emailed to you as well.) Thank you to everyone who participated, subscribers new and old! It is much appreciated, and I hope you continue to enjoy my posts week after week. 🙂 Now onto another review and recipe!
While usually I got to my own to-be-read list when picking book club selections, sometimes I try to be a little more open-minded. In this most recent case, I stumbled upon a Buzzfeed list that sounded like a perfect fit for book clubs – Books You Won’t Be Able To Stop Thinking About usually equals good discussion. As a bonus, I’d already a handful of them and liked most of them, so I filed it away for future use.
I don’t remember exactly what prompted me to choose Geek Love, but that’s how we got here. Katherine Dunn’s novel tells the story of an extremely unique family. At best, the Binewski family runs a traveling carnival and unique is probably a generous understatement. The parents, Al and Lil, despise “norms” and stop at nothing to breed their odd children, who go on to become acts in the Binewski freak show. Though many of the children died in the attempts at their creation, five remain. Arty, also known as Aquaboy, has flippers instead of hands and feet. The twins, Elly and Iphy, are conjoined. Chick, though a disappointment at first, is discovered to have telekinetic powers. And Olympia, our narrator, is a hunchbacked albino dwarf.
Like a car accident, I often wanted to look away, but I couldn’t help myself. It was gruesome and unbelievable, and honestly, so incredibly imaginative on Dunn’s part. It’s hard to explain many of my reactions to the book without sharing plot points, though a lot of it had me going, “Wait, what?” It wasn’t perfect, and I didn’t love it, but like the list that drew me to it, I will definitely never forget this one.
Though food was only mentioned in the periphery, as Dunn described the hustle and bustle of the midway, you could almost smell the freshly-made popcorn and the sugary-sweetness of the cotton candy. I went with a Sharp Cheddar Cheese Popcorn recipe to serve at book club, alongside the rest of the snacks, and later on I made some blue-ish Cotton Candy Ice Cream to accompany the book as well.
Both recipes were really quite easy, which is always nice. To start with the popcorn, I popped a half cup of kernels on the stove top just by following directions on the container itself.
Then, I combined the butter, garlic powder and salt in a saucepan, allowing it to melt. Once it began to simmer, I poured it over the popped popcorn, as directed, and stirred until it was all well-coated.
Then, with the popcorn on a sheet pan, I covered it with freshly grated extra sharp cheddar cheese and placed it in the oven under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese was melted. I transferred most of it to a bowl (and snacked on the rest until everyone arrived!) and served it up.
The cotton candy ice cream was significantly easier than the Earl Grey Ice Cream I had made just before trying this recipe. If you’re looking for an easy way to get into the ice cream game, I’d recommend this one – it’s basically foolproof.
First, I combined the sugar and milk with a whisk, until the sugar was dissolved. Then, I added the vanilla, whipping cream and cotton candy syrup. (I used a pink syrup, and since I wanted it to be blue, I also added some blue food coloring in this step.) Once the mixture was well-combined, I poured it into my ready-to-go ice cream attachment and let it do its thing.
After 30 minutes, the ice cream was done…except that I prefer it to be a bit more on the hard side, so I stuck it in the freezer for a handful of hours before I actually was able to dig in. It was nothing like the ice cream I’d made before – where that was dense and rich, this was airy and light in flavor. Initially, I wasn’t sure I liked it as much, but the more I ate, the more I enjoyed it. Light and airy is exactly how cotton candy should be, regardless of if you’re eating the candy itself or an ice cream version of it. I ended up loving it 🙂
½ cup cotton candy syrup (I used Jelly Belly Cotton Candy Syrup)
1 tsp vanilla extract
food coloring (optional)
Before mixing ingredients, be sure that your chosen ice cream maker is ready to churn ice cream (attachments frozen, ice added, etc).
In a medium bowl, whisk together milk and sugar until sugar is dissolved.
Pour vanilla, heavy whipping cream, and cotton candy syrup into the bowl and whisk until combined.
If using food coloring: Depending on the brand of cotton candy syrup you used, the mixture might already have a pink hue. If you’d like the ice cream to be pink, keep this in mind – you won’t need to add much pink food coloring to get your desired color. If you’d like the ice cream to be another color than pink, don’t worry – as pictured, I used blue food coloring, and only had to add a few drops to achieve a nice light blue color. No matter what color you’re using, add the food coloring slowly (one drop at a time) and whisk thoroughly between each until the desired color is reached. Also, the hue of the cream should be a few shades darker than the color you’d like the final ice cream to be, as the whipped and frozen cream will appear lighter. TIP: If you’re still worried how your chosen color will look, add a little bit of the cotton candy syrup and milk to a separate glass or bowl and test your food coloring with it.
Pour the mixed ice cream mixture into the chilled bowl/attachment of your ice cream maker.
Churn ice cream for 25-30 minutes or until desired consistency is reached. If you’d like soft ice cream, serve cotton candy ice cream immediately. If you’d like firmer ice cream, transfer the ice cream to your chosen storage container and let it freeze for another 4-6 hours.
Though I read Pride and Prejudice in high school and loved it, I haven’t explored Jane Austen beyond that. I own copies of both Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility, but have yet to crack them open! (I know, I know…) So, when I was given the opportunity to read Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility through Blogging for Books, I didn’t want to pass it up. After all, it’s about tea, which I love, and it seemed like it would be a nice modern dip into another Austen classic.
Jane and her sister Celia own a successful, adorable tea shop in San Francisco. But after being forced out, they head to their cousins in Texas with their younger sister Margot in tow, hoping to start afresh and recreate their tea shop magic there. Of course, Texas brings new men and intrigue, triumphs and defeats. I can’t compare it to the original, but I recognized a lot of Austen-style plot points, and of course, the sisterly bond can’t be missed. It was a breezy, enjoyable read, perfect for summer.
Probably the best of all was that this is the novel that finally led me to ice cream, completely unexpectedly. It was sheer inspiration! Definitive proof I shouldn’t try to force it, and excellent news that I can officially-officially forever be done with The Country of Ice Cream Star. Though the book included several recipes throughout, none of them were exactly what I was looking for. I really thought a tea-based dessert would be lovely, and given the heat of the summer, I settled on Earl Grey Ice Cream.
First, I combined the whole milk, half and half and sugar in a medium saucepan. Once that seemed heated through – but wasn’t boiling, I added my 6 Earl Grey tea bags and allowed them to steep for 20 minutes with the cover on. I stirred it approximately every 7 minutes, though you may not need to be that precise.
I removed the tea bags and turned the heat up again. In a small bowl, I whisked together 5 egg yolks and vanilla extract. When the milk mixture was warmed, I took 2 Tablespoons and added it to the eggs, whisking constantly. After about 10 seconds, I added another 2 Tablespoons, whisked and repeated. After the ratios were roughly equal (or four times), I added the milk mixture into the eggs and whisked until it was all combined.
Then, I returned the mixture to the saucepan, cooking it over medium heat, while stirring constantly. I was slightly terrified it would burn, but with constant vigilance (and scraping the bottom and the sides), it all worked out. Once it thickened somewhat – and could coat the back of a wooden spoon – I poured it into a large, wide bowl through a fine strainer. I set the bowl in the fridge to cool, uncovered.
After it had sat for a little while and was no longer steaming, I added plastic wrap. It might not be necessary, but I didn’t want to create condensation.
This was the first time I got to use the ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid mixer – woo hoo! The directions require you to have it freeze for at least 15 hours beforehand, which I maybe should have read prior to letting my custard mixture chill for 8 hours. Good to know for next time!
Once the ice cream bowl was frozen enough, I set to work. (You should follow your own ice cream maker’s instructions from this point forward.) I turned the mixer to Stir and began adding the custard-y liquid to the bowl, which was a little more complicated than I would’ve liked, but luckily, spilling was minimal.
The whole process after that was very easy. I let it Stir and work itself into ice cream over the next 30 minutes, only checking in on it out of curiosity and for pictures.
Once it was finished, I scraped the ice cream into my insulated ice cream container and allowed it to freeze for another 2 hours. (Seriously, ice cream making is not for the impatient… If you want ice cream in a hurry, run to the store instead.)
It looked pretty good coming out of the freezer after (almost) two hours (if I’m being honest), but my patience was undergoing a major test, and after two days in the making, I was ready to dig in!
I took two scoops and couldn’t be more excited to give it a taste. It’s definitely tea-flavored, so if you’re not a fan, this probably isn’t for you. But I loved it! The ice cream did my favorite tea justice, and I think Jane Woodward would be proud.
In a small saucepan, warm the milk, half and half, and sugar over medium-heat, stirring occasionally. Once the milk is steaming (but not boiling), remove pan from heat. Place the tea bags into the pan, cover and steep at room temperature for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove tea bags, then return to medium heat.
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and vanilla until frothy. Once the milk mixture is rewarmed, add 2 TBSP of the hot milk mixture to the eggs, and quickly whisk in until combined. Repeat 2-3 more times with more of the milk mixture, then gradually pour in the remainder of the milk mixture into the egg yolks and whisk quickly until combined.
Return the new milk/egg mixture to the saucepan, and cook over medium heat, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan constantly until the mixture thickens to a custard and coats the back of a wooden spoon.
Immediately strain through a fine-mesh strainer, and then refrigerate until completely cooled (at least 6-8 hours).
Freeze with an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.
I prefer Twinings Earl Grey flavor, but feel free to use whichever brand of tea you like best. If you’re unable to make the ice cream within 6-8 hours of refrigerating the custard, it will last for up to 2 days. Be sure to keep it tightly covered.
I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosurehere.