I cannot live without books.-Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Lost Art of Letters

I found this book while browsing at my local library, and after reading the first few pages, I was hooked. I've always loved epistolary novels because they feel personal, like the letters are written to you. It helps that I love all things British I suppose. The novel is set in post-WW II England and the island of Guernsey. I've heard a rumor that a movie is in the works with Kate Winslet playing the main character, Juliet. If so, I can't wait to see it!
  But reading this book got me to thinking, how sad it is that people don't write letters like they used to! Before the days of instant messaging and video chats, letter writing was the only way we had to keep in touch with friends and family. Don't get me wrong, I love the ease and convenience of using Facebook to instantly share things with everyone I know. But wouldn't it be great to check your mailbox and find an unexpected letter from a dear friend?
  With the decline of post offices, it may not be long before letter writing is something we only read about in the history books that we download to our e-readers.  I guess you would call that progress.  Am I the only one who feels like sometimes a little regression might be a good thing?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Making Mix Magic

    I was so excited when I heard there was a new cake mix doctor book!  I loved the first three, especially the cupcake one, because, well, who doesn't love cupcakes?  The new book,  The Cake Mix Doctor Returns, has 160 all-new recipes, two of which I tried this weekend.  But pretty much all of them sound delicious!  There's something for everyone, from brownies to bundt cakes, sheet cakes and cupcakes.  Even a wedding cake, if you're a bride on a budget.
    I made the Peanut Butter Brownies and the German Chocolate Cake with Cheesecake Pockets.  First up, the brownies.  Like all the recipes, this one was pretty easy.  First you added a few key ingredients to a regular fudge brownie mix.  Then you spread about half that batter in a pan, add a layer of sweetened condensed milk and melted chocolate chips, and then the rest of the brownie batter. 
They are supposed to bake 28 to 32 minutes, but in the case of my oven, I think they required a little more time or a higher temp. They came out extremely gooey, and not at all like the picture in the book!
Then I made the German Chocolate Cake with Cheesecake Pockets.  These were extremely easy!  Add a couple things to a German Chocolate cake mix and put it in a pan.
Then you just mix up some cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, coconut and pecans.  You drop that mixture on top of the cake batter by spoonfuls and bake it for about 45 minutes.
When it comes out, you can barely tell the cheesecake stuff is there, but it is super moist and has gooey coconutty pockets all through it.  I'm not sure if it's what I would call a cake because it doesn't have frosting, but it is very yummy!

I definitely recommend checking out a Cake Mix Doctor book.  My favorite recipe of all is from the cupcake book: the Red Velvet Cupcakes with White Chocolate Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting.  They are the best cupcakes ever!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Living Amid Tragedy: The Saga of Lucy Snowe

    You may be like me, I had never heard of this book until I happened to pick it up at a book sale at my local library.  Charlotte Bronte, of course, wrote the better-known classic Jane Eyre.  Her sister Emily wrote the other classic, Wuthering Heights.  I prefer the work of Jane Austen.  Her books seem to me to be happier and more hopeful.  The Brontes' work is more melancholy, depressing.  This book was no exception! 
   The heroine and narrator, Lucy Snowe, spends the majority of the book feeling inferior to others.  Everyone else seems to be more beautiful, more charming, more blessed by Fate.  In truth, Lucy lets opportunity pass her by.In that, it is a reminder to us all, not to let fear rule our lives, to take chances, even if we might get hurt.
   The book follows Lucy from the age of 14, when she visits her godmother and is introduced to various characters who will become important later on.  Ten years later, left orphaned and unemployed, she spontaneously sails to the small European town of Villette and takes a job as an English teacher at a thriving local school.  It follows her as she remains mostly an observer in others' lives.  She is on the morbid side, talking frequently about fate and death and making mythical and biblical allusions.  When she has a chance at happiness, she lets it pass her by, excusing her timidity by saying Fate had other things planned.
   I also did not appreciate the liberal French dialogue.  Maybe in 19th-century England everyone could read French; but nowadays, not so much!  My favorite part of the book was the ending.  It leaves you to draw your own conclusions (if you have seen the movie Inception, it is similar to that).  I choose to believe that Lucy finally finds love and happiness.  I'm curious to know if anyone besides me has read this book.  Leave your comment below.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Man Who Could Not Be Killed

   OK, so it's technically not based on just one book, but my husband and I recently watched Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows for the second time (we first saw it in December on our tenth anniversary). I may be biased, since I am a huuuuge Robert Downey Jr fan; but I have to say that I think this incarnation of the classic detective is the best ever.  And this is a character that is quite possibly in danger of being done to death. It's been awhile since I've read the original stories, but I always appreciated the ability of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to stump his readers. No matter how closely I followed the plot, I could never guess the solution. Not every writer can accomplish that.
   But back to the movie.  I feel that this rendition captures Holmes as he was meant to be, supersmart, yet flawed and a little weird.  I particularly enjoy the use of disguises, which was Holmes' trademark in the stories. Although this is my favorite version of Sherlock Holmes, it is not the only one I enjoy watching. I also like the series by BBC shown on Masterpiece Mystery, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson. This is an update set in modern London, with Holmes and Watson making exstensive use of modern technology like texting and the Internet.  It just finished its second season on PBS and hopefully it will be back for a third.
    My favorite Sherlock Holmes story is either The Hound of the Baskervilles or The Adventure of the Speckled Band. What is your favorite? Comment on this post to let me know your answer.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Welcome to My Bookshelf

I've been reading books for longer than I can even remember. One of my favorite destinations has always been the library, and at one time I actually owned more than a thousand books! ( Marriage and children has required me to downsize somewhat.) So blogging about books was a natural step for me, technologically speaking. So welcome, dear readers, as I share my thoughts on what I'm reading, in many forms. Fiction & non-fiction; mystery & love story; cooking & crafting; even the occasional children's book. If I see a movie based on a book I read (or vice versa), I may even blog about that too! A man once said " a good book is the best of friends, the same today and forever." Let's make friends.