Sunday Salon

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I gave myself a four day weekend enjoyed it immensely! I did a lot of eating, shopping, and visiting with family.

This week I read Life of Pi... I wasn't really a fan (review to come later). But I don't regret taking the time to read it because I have had it on my "must read" list forever and I'm glad to now say I have read it. I'm currently working on In The Woods which has also been on my list forever. I'm excited to get to it but am a little apprehensive about some of the reviews I've read saying it just ends without a real ending, etc. I'm itching to know what crazy things are going to happen, though!

A couple weeks ago I asked for help with potential reading goals for next year. Jenners had a great idea of doing specific little mini-achievements:
For a reading goal, how about something achievable like "read 2 books I've always meant to read but never have" and "read 3 books from my own bookshelves" and "read 2 books by an author I love but haven't explored too often." Might be kind of fun to find these books and mix it up and be achievable. Have fun!
I thought that sounded fun and picture it being sort of like a very achievable scavenger hunt. And this solves a lot of the other dilemmas I had. My overarching goal is to make every single read meaningful in some way. While I'll still read newer/popular/review books, I also plan on reading a lot of older ones that are on my shelves or that have been on my list. Regardless, I hope to have minimal reads that I read only because it was for a blogging commitment or because everyone was talking about it and I just had to be in on it too even though my interest was just mediocre, etc. Every year I've actually kept a list that I've added to throughout the year of "must read" books, those that were recommended that I think sound *great*, authors whose backlist I want to read, series to work on, etc. And I rarely read any of those (Life of Pi and In the Woods were two of those) so this will help me get those done.

So, any ideas for the scavenger hunt items I should include? Some examples: read 2 presidential books (the new Thomas Jefferson one is on my wishlist!), read Gillian Flynn's backlist (there's only 2 so no biggie), etc.

Review: The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Title: The Yellow Birds
Author: Kevin Powers
Pages: 240
Genre: Fiction; War
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co. (Hachette Books)
Pub. Date: September 11, 2012

I haven't read many war books so I can't compare this to any, though critics and readers alike have made comparisons to Tim O'Brien's classic, The Things They Carried. I can say, though, that I could easily see this becoming a modern classic in its own right. Kevin Powers, an Iraqi veteran, deployed to Al Tarf in 2004,  describes the experience of being at war through the eyes of 21-year-old Private Bartle.
"I hadn't given a lot of thought to actually going to war, but it was happening now, and I was still struggling to find a sense of urgency that seemed proportional to the events unfolding in my life. I remember feeling relief in basic while everyone else was frantic with fear. It had dawned on me that I'd never have to make a decision again. That seemed freeing, but it gnawed at some part of me even then. Eventually, I had to learn that freedom is not the same thing as the absence of accountability" (nook pg. 24)
The Yellow Birds jumps back and forth in time starting with a scene from in Al Tafar in 2004, returning to 2003 just before deploying, and then moving forward to the after effects in 2005 and beyond. I was afraid this would confuse me, but it was always clear what was happening and when.  After reading this, I truly feel like I gained some insight into what it's like being at war. Private Bartle reflects on the attitude he has to take on war, such as emotionally distancing yourself from feelings related to death, since the death of people around you is expected.

Bartle meets 18-year-old Daniel Murphy at training prior to deployment and makes a promise to Murphy's mother that he'll protect Murphy and bring him back home. We learn early on that Murphy doesn't, in fact, make it home (this is not a spoiler); this is a situation for which Bartle feels extreme grief and guilt, especially at how it all happens. We don't find out until later on what exactly happened out there, so in a way the story takes on a mystery element as we figure it out in bits and pieces. Bartle also reflects, though, on the differences between how he and others take on the war, and how this affects their ability to survive physically and emotionally.

The Yellow Birds expertly depicts the thoughts and feelings of those soldiers in the war without overstating anything. Surprisingly, I thought there was pretty minimal detail related to gore or killing or anything you'd think you might find in a novel about war. It says and shows what it needs to and leaves it at that. It's no wonder this book was a finalist for the National Book Award. The passages were beautiful; I bookmarked my way through my reading. This is the kind of book I can definitely see myself returning to for a re-read. This was one of my favorite reads this year!

With that, I'll leave you with another quote I liked:
"Maybe if things had happened a little differenty in Al Tafar it could have been like that. But things happened the way they happened without regard to our desire for them to have happened another way. Despite an age-old instinct to provide an explanation more complex than that, something with a level of profundity and depth which would seem commensurate wtih the confusion I felt, it really was that simple." (nook pg. 41).

Sunday Salon

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I may have found the book to bring me out of my reading funk. Granted, I've had more free time now for a couple weeks so it may be that adjustment finally catching up, but I finally read a book from beginning to end in a normal amount of time that I really enjoyed and that is inspiring me to reach out and find other great books again! That book is The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers which I picked up after Nomadreader's great review (which was Wednesday and I started Thursday and finished Saturday morning... see, a normal amount of time for me like I said, LOL). I see why this book has gained so much attention in the literary world. My review will be up sometime in the near future, I suppose, but I highly recommend it! My other "active" read right now is Stephen King's On Writing which I'm about halfway through but am still unsure about.

In other news, my husband and I put up most of our Christmas lights on the house yesterday. The intention is to not turn them on until after Thanksgiving but put them up since we'll be busy after Thursday; however, there are some other houses in my area who have already turned theirs on so we shall see, LOL. Regardless, I still have more decorations and lights to put up that I'm super excited about!! Other than that I'm just excited about getting these next few days out of the way since I am giving myself a four day weekend! Woo hoo!

Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Cookbook Review: The Kimchi Chronicles

Friday, November 16, 2012

Title: The Kimchi Chronicles
Subtitle: Korean Cooking for an American Kitchen
Author: Marja Vongerichten
Pages: 248 (including index)
Genre: Cookbook
Publisher: Rodale (Macmillan)
Pub. Date: August 2, 2011

About a year and a half ago, Jason and I got really into the documentary/food mini-series, The Kimchi Chronicles, which took viewers all over South Korea and showcased various foods. The show's star, Marja Vongerichten, is a Korean-American adoptee who, after being reunited with her birth mother, took on a greater interest in Korean cuisine and culture. Each episode of the show features a type of dish(es) and then shows how to cook it. They talk to locals, go through the markets, try out popular restaurants, etc. Vongerichten's husband, renowned French chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, simultaneously cooks up his own Americanized version of the dish. There are also some guest stars, real life friends of the Vongerichten's such as Hugh Jackman and Heather Graham, that show up in various episodes. Being half-Korean myself, I have fortunately been very exposed to Korean cuisine of all kinds and it is seriously my favorite thing to eat in the world! My husband (who happens to be half-Thai and, therefore, has also been exposed to some delicious food also loves Korean food almost as much as I do). So, not only did we adore the show, we knew we had to buy the cookbook. We got our copy of it probably last year around this time and have made several recipes from it (which I think is the most we have ever made from one cookbook).

Along with gorgeous pictures, Vongerichten spends time explaining the various foods that are commonly used in Korean cooking and what should be stocked in the pantry. She includes interesting tidbits throughout the book about culturally related information and also Korean how to's such as setting the table and picnicking Korean style. (Gangname Style??  LOL... sorry that just popped up in my head when I said "Korean Style", haha)

If you're not familiar with Korean cooking or Korean markets, it may be a little challenging obtaining the ingredients, but I think she does a good job of explaining everything and providing pictures, and the ingredients really are so common that anyone in a Korean market could help you. Korean cooking is something that has always intimidated me because of the complexities of much of the meals. But after trying out the recipes in this book, my confidence was significantly increased; I'm not much of a cook but I was able to follow along just fine! And the food turned out Amazing! I'd say not quite like my mom's cooking but close enough that this cookbooks is very valuable to me!

The first recipe I made was the Easy Braised Chicken... it's sort of a stew with chicken, potatoes, and carrots. This isn't a meal I had really eaten before since it's quite Americanized, but it is packed with that Korean flavor I know so well and was DELICIOUS! We both love this meal. I've made it a few times and have also had my family over to eat it as well. I absolutely love this recipe and found it really easy to follow. The book's picture is up to the right, and my version is on the left.

The next thing I made was the traditional New Year's meal (that I eat throughout the year!) that Marja calls "Rice Cake Soup with Brisket" or as it's called in Korean, Dduk Guk (떡국). (Ironically, my mom makes her own Americanized version of this that is ridiculously amazing). But this was another that I just never saw myself making because I always saw my mother (when cooking this the traditional way) boiling an ox-tail in water for HOURS to make the soup stock and I just didn't see myself doing that. But this recipe actually is much simpler than that but still very good.

I've made various other meals such as the kimchi hot dogs that Jean-Georges came up with, kimchi fried rice, and (geez, can't forget this!) the Korean short-ribs (galbi-갈비) that are so popularly known as "Korean BBQ". It's so exciting to be able to cook these recipes for myself if I want rather than have to ask or expect my mom to do it or run out to a restaurant. This is my absolute favorite cookbook, and I highly recommend both this and the show! Check out the website The Kimchi Chronicles to see videos from the show, check out some of their recipes, and even buy a Korean spice kit in case shopping on your own in an Asian market makes you nervous!

Sunday Salon: Reading Goals??

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Happy Sunday everyone! 

This post was written last night, since I'm off seeing weekend clients as usual for my Sundays. =/ I've gotten to a good place with my work which was the main culprit from my extended absence from here, but my reading and blogging habits have apparently changed completely during that time! I just haven't been reading much at all. I have to say I had managed to work myself into a place where I was constantly pressuring myself to READ READ READ. And while it was enjoyable on the one hand, it got annoying on the other. In the past few months I've started probably no less than 15 books and have finished just one which I had to for a blog tour, LOL. Once I had that out of the way, which was my last official commitment, I started reading Paper, Scissors, Death by Joanna Campbell Slan because I had really been in the mood for a cozy and thought I'd start a new series. So far it's alright - good, but not as good as some of the other cozy series I've been reading. And I just haven't been in the mood to return to it. It's not the book's fault. A cursory glance around the room reveals at least five other books I also have not returned to but have not yet shelved with the others.

But I really miss being away from here and the community! What to do..

Anyway, along those lines, I've been thinking of book goals. Every year I basically have a goal of reading a certain number. It's always 100 books, and I've never reached it (LOL), but this year I am extremely far from that number. (I'm currently sitting at 43, and I'm estimating that I'll finish maybe 2-3 for the rest of the year). I'd rather not give myself a quantity goal since that does make me pressure myself to read sheer quantities. And it also dissuades me from reading potentially good books if the page count is too high. I don't really want to go for page count either. So I was wondering what kind of goals you all go for? I'd still like to do something to give myself a challenge for fun, but just not sure what.

In other news, Jason and I have gotten a big start on the holiday spirit this year. I've already been listening to Christmas music for a while, and we've done a ton of shopping already! I love our Millenia Mall during the hoildays because it's absolutely gorgeous! And today we braved the outlet mall which is insane any time of year. Last weekend we went and saw Million Dollar Quartet (the broadway musical bout the one time jam session involving Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash) which was so fun!! It was like going to a concert in the 1950's! These are some of the reasons I haven't been reading, LOL!

Hope everyone has a great weekend, and I will be trying to improve my commenting on everyone's blogs!

I'm Guest Posting!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Today I'm visiting Alyce over at At Home With Books talking about my favorite and least favorite of Kristin Hannah's books. Stop on by!