Friday, April 6, 2012

Moving

After a considerable amount of thought I've decided to move. Pack your bags (or change your bookmarks), and join me at my new home

K's Book Nook

Why the very small change? When I was first thinking of starting this blog, I came across the blog Books, Sweets, and other Treats. I thought it was a fun idea to mix in treats and recipes with the book reviews. When I created my blog, I thought of the big bookstores with their cozy lighting and their little cafe in the corner. I thought it could be fun experience to somehow create that kind of atmosphere in blog format.

And so K's Book Cafe was created. And then I realized how terribly unambitious I actually am. I much prefer to curl up with my book for a few days, and then spend a few minutes whipping up a haphazard little pontification for my very few loyal readers.

So the cafe is closing down. Sadly, you will never know the cocoas, the dips, the sweets, and the pancakes that have been floating around in my head; but I will be sure to sip lots of cocoa on your behalf as I curl up with many words on many pages in my cozy little nook.

I am packing up and exporting all my old book posts, so don't worry, once I do some remodeling and get my unpacking done, all my reviews should be accounted for.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Salsa

I'm a sucker for dips of any kind. If I can stick chips, crackers, or chewy bread in it, then it's usually a win for me. But be careful, if you put a dip in front of me, it might be gone before you have a chance to get any for yourself.

I was never very much of a salsa person though. Even now, I still prefer cheese based dips (or cheese based anything). But homemade salsa is pretty tasty stuff, and my husband can't get enough of it, so I make it from time to time. Salsa is one of those things that you keep adding stuff to until it tastes right, so it's hard to nail down a perfect recipe. I did write down everything I added this time, but keep in mind that salsa is an imperfect science.

2 cans diced tomatoes
1 1/2 c. chopped onion
1-4 jalapeños (start with one and keep adding until the salsa is hot enough and no longer has a tomato flavor. Jalapeños really vary so you never know how hot or mild they will be when you buy them).
1-2 tsp chopped garlic (I thought my last batch was a little garlicy. Again, start with one tsp and add a little more if necessary)
2-3 tsp salt (salt helps bring out the other flavors)
1/4 - 1/2 c green chile (I use frozen green chile but if you live in an area where this is unavailable, try buying some salsa verde from your store's Mexican food aisle).
2 tsp lime juice
cilantro to taste (pinch off a couple leaves and blend until you are happy with the flavor)

I cut off the tops of the jalapeños and throw all the ingredients in the blender. Pulse the ingredients until you can't see any larger chunks. Taste with a chip and add what you feel may be missing. Remember that the flavors might be stronger after the salsa sits for a while.

Picture coming soon.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Shades of Grey

It's roughly 500 years after a great cataclysm known as the Something That Happened (which occurs sometime in our distant future). The exact circumstances of the cataclysm are unknown, and only remnants of the Previous remain to give clues to their history and way of life, a life that the great leader Munsell teaches was filled with selfishness and greed. Munsell rebuilds society into the great Collective, with each citizen striving to put his civic duty before his own needs and wants.

This new society is structured according to color perception. Some can see red, some can see blue, and some can see mixed colors like purple and green. Purples and Greens dominate the top teir of the colortocracy with the laboring Greys at the very bottom. Greater privileges are given to those who can see a higher percentage of their color, and those with a perception higher than 70% are able to sit on their local council of Prefects.

Eddie Russet and his father are Reds on their way to their temporary home in East Carmine, a town in the socially questionable Outer Fringes. Eddie has yet to be officially tested in his color perception, but can see a lot more red than he lets on to others. He's also insatiably curious and has been assigned learn greater humility by completing a Chair Census during his stay in Easy Carmine. Unfortunately Eddie's curiosity only leads him to greater trouble and eventually into the jaws of a giant man-eating plant.

While reading Shades of Grey, it's easy to forget that it's supposed to be a dystopian book. True, any aristocratic society is much less than ideal, but the citizens seem content and the Collective truly seems to be providing for the needs of its citizens. The people are fed, clothed, and are required to engage in leisure activities. They are given ample opportunities to see beauty and color outside their normal spectrum through the use of synthesized color. Though the ideologies of the Collective are obviously flawed to us, we feel that they are motivated by good intentions to a create strong, stable society. It's easy to get swept along in the world of color and, like the citizens who live there, numbly forget about the importance of individuality and creativity. These are replaced with a feeling contentment and comfort. We follow along with Eddie Russet in our contentment and, like him, are jarred out of our comfort and indifference through shocking events like the disappearance of Travis Canary, the revelations of the Apocryphal Man, the poor treatment of the Greys, and the plight of the poor lovers Imogen and Dorian. As we travel with Eddie to High Saffron we feel the sting of social injustice priming us for the shocking revelations Eddie will learn there.

When we finally learn the truth about the Collective, it is all the more shocking and painful because of the comfort and indifference we have felt all throughout the book. The Collective hasn't been sending children to an arena to kill each other or turning them into soldiers. Unlike many dystopian books, the tone of Shades of Grey is light and the Collective's misdeeds are much less obvious. Fforde's subtlety and our naiveté (as well as Eddie's) make the betrayal all the more poignant. Suddenly we see our entire experience in the Collective in a different light and we feel overwhelmingly sickened.

But like a true hero, Eddie Russet rises from his sudden enlightenment, not with despair, but with purpose. He's ready to take his life into his own hands for the first time and make choices that will make him happy. With over 80% red he's ready to take on the Collective and lead the people of East Carmine towards true knowledge and happiness. Unfortunately, life in a dystopia is never that simple, and Eddie instead finds himself faced with a whole new set of pitfalls. Many of his hopes are dashed before they can even begin to form, and with his final interaction with the Colorman, we feel that he might break - and if he does, we will break with him. Instead of breaking, Eddie takes the mantle of responsibility and revolution on his shoulders, and with that mantle comes the need for heartbreaking sacrifices. In spite of the sorrow and bleak view we have of the future, we are able to see in Eddie Russet's determination a spark of hope as well. Eddie truly becomes a man at the end of the book, and not just because of his color perception test. If Eddie is able to change so much in the course of a few days, then imagine the changes that can occur within the Collective.

I made the mistake of finishing this book right before bed. All I could do was lay awake thinking "Wow! Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow." The ending to Shades of Grey was absolutely overwhelming - shocking, disappointing, and exciting all at the same time. The journey was unique and incredible and I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves dystopian novels, quirky humor, satire, and good writing. Jasper Fforde is a master of turning the absurd into the profound. If you ever wanted to pick up a Jasper Fforde book than this might be the best place to start - no previous knowledge of literature or nursery rhymes required to appreciate this book. A great read from beginning to end, and it makes you want to pick of the next one immediately. Too bad the next one doesn't come out until next year :(

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Returning

You could say I've been on a sabbatical from books and blogs lately. I've still been reading and interwebsing, just in very small, more infrequent sessions. Mostly, I've been engaging in lots of selfish , time wasting pursuits, wallowing in lots of self-pity, and drinking lots and lots of hot chocolate. I suppose sabbaticals are supposed to be self-improving and rejuvenating, so I suppose a sabbatical is not exactly what I've been doing.

I'm not one of those super organized, proactive people. I find that I fall into ruts fairly easy and have a mess trying to climb my way out. Sometimes I don't even realize when I've fallen into a rut, but then I wake up one day and realize that I'm 9 pounds heavier than I thought I was (and what I thought I was is still heavier than I'd like to be), I don't remember the last time I actually cooked dinner, my almost 5 year old son is no closer to potty training or recognizing his letters, my greatest recent achievement involves camels, and I haven't finished reading a book in months.

Picking up a book seems like a great place to start. Somehow, I always seem to find myself in just about anything I read. My own goals and values seem so much clearer and attainable while reading the struggles and accomplishments of others, fictional or not. Books help me gain perspective in my life, often more than anything else. It's also a worthwhile and stimulating way to spend my free time.

Fortunately the books I've picked up recently are all books that are particularly great for climbing out of a rut.

My husband recommended that I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey. I had, of course, heard about this book before but never thought it would be a book that interested me or even one that applied to me. I really thought it was one of those "management" books for business people to feel more self-important about themselves than many of them already do. It's completely the opposite of my expectations and I am enjoying using it as a tool to review the own direction my life is taking.

I also have a goal to work through the books on my shelves that I have never read, most of these are religous books that either Seth brought into our marriage or I owned but never got around to reading. One of these is Spiritual Plateaus by Glenn L. Pace. I enjoy the approach this book takes toward gospel principles. The style is neither overly simple or overly scholarly, but is much more conversational than many similar books. It's easy to focus on the depths of the principles without having to sift through heavy, eye blearing language.

I always need a fiction book in my life, so I am also reading Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde. Fforde ranks very high on my list of favorite authors and someday I will dedicate and official blog post to his works. For now suffice it to say that his works are a thought provoking critique of self and society, but are also silly, fun, and laugh-out-loud humorous from beginning to end. I am finding Shades of Grey a little slower and harder to get into than the Thrusday Next series, but that is perhaps simply because I have become comfortable to Thrusday's world. Fforde is a master of creating a world that is slightly "off" from our own, but bringing us into it as though everything were perfectly normal. I look forward to unraveling all the little mysteries of Chromaticia that I don't yet understand.

I'm glad to be getting back on the wagon and look forward to lots of self-improving hours of reading, pontificating, and reflecting.