Friday, August 13, 2010

"The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I know I did a book review already this week. I planned to post a recipe for blueberry muffins next, but I can't. Because this book with the absurd -- and absurdly long -- title has captured me and I don't want to ever get free of it. And when I love a book this much, I have to share it with whomever I can.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is written almost entirely as a series of letters and telegrams from and to a woman writer in post-WWII London, Juliet Ashton. She learns about an extraordinary, eclectic group of readers living on the island of Guernsey who turned to books to help them get through the German occupation of their home. Juliet decides to write an article, then a book about these people, goes to Guernsey to meet them, and then... then it gets reeeeeally good.

I read this book in less than three days, and immediately began to re-read it because I love it so much and want to spend more time in the company of these characters. I bought my own copy yesterday. I honestly can't recall the last book I read twice in a row (other than picture books to Daniel, lol) -- maybe Jane Eyre? If so, that was more than a decade ago.

This book is crammed with delightful people (and yes, a few who aren't, since every story needs an antagonist or two), delicious writing, and a palpable love for books. These people are as enthusiastic about books as I am, and I think that is what makes me so very fond of them. Sure, the setting helps, as I love learning about the 1940s, but really it's the characters that I don't want to leave. Plus, this book makes me laugh aloud, even on the second reading, and I love books that delight me so much I can't help laughing aloud.

Here is an excellent site about this book, including an excerpt from the book if you want a taste of it without seeking it out at your library or local bookseller. My dear friend DocB recommended this book to me, and I can never thank her enough.

Monday, August 9, 2010

If Wishes Were Horses is giving away 3 Etsy shopping sprees of $100 each! Go here for details on how to enter yourself.

If I won one of those sprees and could spend $100 on Etsy, here's what I would get:

Why yes, I'm one of those literary types, why do you ask? :-)

Two Books: A Comparison

I recently read Death Qualified by Kate Wilhelm and Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd. They're rather different books, but they both have a mystery at the heart of them, but aren't exactly mysteries. And my expectations of -- and reactions to -- these two books was quite different. So I thought I'd compare them here.

+++WARNING!+++ There's spoilage ahead, so if you've been meaning to read either of these and don't want to be spoiled, don't read this post!

Death Qualified is about Barbara Holloway, a former defense lawyer who gets sucked into defending a woman who's up on charges of murdering her absentee husband. It's got some sci-fi/fantasy elements to it -- no aliens or unicorns, just an alternate way of interacting with the universe that I will not attempt to explain here. But by and large, it works like a mystery/courtroom drama, trying to establish the client's innocence, figure out who did kill the husband, etc.

Ordinary Thunderstorms also involves a murder. Adam Kincaid, an American scientist in London to apply for a job, accidentally walks in on the freshly-committed murder of a stranger he'd bumped into earlier that day. Suddenly he's wanted for murder, on the run, hiding out with London's homeless. Eventually, he rebuilds a life for himself and the real murderer gets brought to justice.

So, two books, both involving a murder. Neither one is a conventional mystery. And neither one ever reveals the whole plot behind the murder, brings the culprits to justice, or clears the wrongly accused. They're very similar in their open-ended endings.

And yet, I did not like Death Qualified when I'd finished it. I felt let down, unfulfilled. I wanted my good guys to triumph and my bad guys to pay, darn it all! And although Ordinary Thunderstorms had a similar lack of resolution of similar issues, I liked it.


I think it's because, somehow, Death sets itself up as a mystery/courtroom drama with a bit of a supernatural twist. And then it fails to fulfill the rules about solutions or crimes that those kinds of books generally adhere to. Thunderstorms, on the other hand, sets itself up as a literary novel with a mystery as a catalyst but not the central theme of the story. And so I didn't mind not getting a tidy wrap-up at the end because I wasn't expecting one.

Silly expectations.

However, both books are quite well-written, so I do recommend them both.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Trifle

I made this for the dinner celebrating our new pastor's installation last Sunday, and I also made it a month or so ago for a shindig at my hubby's office. It's based on this recipe, but I've changed it a bit. Because it uses pre-made cookie dough and instant pudding, it's quick and easy.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Trifle


1 (18 oz) package ready-to-bake chocolate chip cookie dough
2 cups milk
2 (3.4 oz) packages vanilla or chocolate instant pudding mix
1 (12 oz) container whipped topping -- thawed1/2 quart fresh raspberries
1 quart fresh strawberries -- sliced


Preheat oven to 375. Cut cookie dough in half lengthwise and then in half lengthwise again, creating four long wedges. Cut each wedge into 4 logs, 2 1/2 inches long each, to create 16 logs. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for one minute, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Beat milk and pudding mix in large bowl until blended. Fold whipped topping into mixture. Crumble 4 cookies and sprinkle on the bottom of a 2-quart trifle bowl or other deep glass serving dish. Cover with 1/3 of pudding mixture. Add the raspberries over the pudding. Cover with half the remaining pudding mixture. Stand up 10 cookies, face side out, along the inside of the bowl. Add strawberries. Cover with remaining pudding. Crumble last two cookies over the top. garnish with sliced strawberries or raspberries, whatever strikes your fancy.

Makes 12 servings.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A First

If you're wondering what I've been up to for the past couple weeks, wonder no more. A good deal of my time was spent crocheting this dress for Mercy. I bought a couple hundred yards of divine hand-dyed yarn from my friend Julie back in June -- it's the same as this yarn she's selling in her shop, ThisCosyLife. I knew I wanted to use it on something special for my baby girl, but I just couldn't decide on a project. I wanted to try making her a dress or other piece of clothing... but I've never crocheted clothing before. I felt daunted by the idea.

But I started looking at crochet patterns for baby dresses. I couldn't find any I really liked -- they were all too complicated or too frilly or just not what I wanted. I wanted a simple, sweet sundress she could wear to church or the mall or whatever.

Then I said to myself, hey, I know what I want -- why don't I just make up my own pattern? I make up patterns all the time! What's the worst that can happen -- I have to unravel it and start over. Big deal. I knew my 200 yards of yarn from Julie wouldn't be enough for a whole dress, but I had some wool yarn left over from another project that was a lovely peach and just matched one of the colors in Julie's yarn. I figured between the two, I'd have enough.

So, after much trial and error, ripping out stitches and redoing, I have the sundress I wanted. Simple, colorful, and feminine without being fussy and frilly. I even had enough of Julie's yarn left to make a matching diaper cover! I found these perfect buttons at the craft store, and my first attempt at crocheting clothing was complete!

I plan to offer my original pattern for this dress in my shop soon -- I just have to write it up first :-) And now that the dress is done, I can get back to blogging and post about the two books and three recipes I've been meaning to share.