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we are women who love entertaining, reading, cooking, and drinking great wine. Follow us as we quest to forge city-life, career, and a full schedule with our domestic aspirations all while maintaining friendships with strong, independent women around our area! With the help and inspirations from our book club socials, we will blog about books, cooking, entertaining, friendships, and anything that will help you come up with unique ideas to form a womens social circle of your own!

This is your link to other women who love the simple pleasures of life, home, and friendships.

UPCOMING EVENTS

June 20 - Movie on the Pier

June 29 - The Forgotten Garden

Book Ratings

Our ratings:

A = Put on top!

B = Add to your list

C = Decent read

F = WALK AWAY´╗┐

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Tuesday
Jan242012

Layers, Layers, and more layers - Food Trends 2012

Living in the NYC area there are many great places to eat and there are always new places and foods to try. As it is a New Year I decided to research what is up and coming in food and wine in 2012 – and there are some amazing dishes, and drinks coming our way. For your reading pleasure I have highlighted my favorites and since I have a terrible obsession with sweets I have also given you a bit more in that department. You will thank me later.

Here is an overview of what we can expect in 2012;


  1. Pork Belly is the new Bacon. With the rise of Porchetta, bacon lovers will unite and expand their palates. Pork Bell is sinful, fatty, but oh-so-tasty.


[image from Pig Pig's Corner]


  1. Gluten-free is here to stay. We knew it was coming - and now in 2012, you will see an explosion of GF options in restaurants, cookbooks, grocery stores and more. We have a fantastic vegan food truck here in Hoboken, called the Cinnamon Snail, which has won many, many accolades for their tasty food options. Here are some great GF ideas for party snacks for your next gathering:


[goat cheese pops from TheKitchn]


  1. Meatloaf is what's for dinner. In 2012, look for great recipes with sun-dried tomato, piccoline olives, asiago cheese, and much more!


[image from Ligher & Local blog]


  1. Move over – Napa; We make great wine too! In 2012 you will see more wines from the wine-growing and wine-making regions of Virginia, the north shore of Long Island and the Finger Lakes in upstate New York . All of their wines are as good if not better than their California counterparts. One great example - Dr. Frank’s Riesling from the Finger Lakes region is a fruity, floral delight.

  2. Scandanavian influences - especially, the open-faced sandwiches. It's very similar to the french tartine sandwich, but not necessarily served warm. Thanks to the popularity of Stieg Larsson's Dragon Tattoo trilogy, the open-faced sandwich is HOT. We even featured these in our New Year's post as great bites for your guests!

While I enjoy wine, meatloaf, and pork belly, I adore dessert much more. And 2012 is a wonderful year for my sweet tooth. 2011 was the year of the cupcake and while the cupcake is a delicious, bite sized treat the trend for 2012 is luxurious and decadent. And nothing says luxury better than the American layer cake.

While the layer cake has roots in British dessert cookery, our version is a bit sweeter. My personal favorites hail from the South — chocolate, triple lemon chiffon, and of course Southern Living had a wonderful array of red velvet cakes too. I also discovered some new and tasty options over on myrecipes - toasted coconut cake, dark chocolate stuffed layer cake, and for those of us who are creative and patient try out Martha Stewart’s Rainbow Cake.


After all of your layers have been iced and the cake is a pillar of perfection you will need a cake stand to display your work of art. Take a look at the vintage cake stands I found on Maxie B's Bakery, Rosanna, and Clara French Ceramics – fun and festive just like that moist and delicious cake.

For those of you who are more traditional I found some beautiful glass options on At Home with Kim Vallee – perfect for keeping the cake fresh and tasty.

[image from Kim Vallee]

And lastly, if you want to combine two food trends from 2012, combine the layer cake with the Scandanavian open-faced sandwich - the Smörgåstårta!! Try these savory sandwich cakes inspired from TheKitchn.

[image from TheKitchn]

Wednesday
Jan182012

State of Wonder Recipes - a few of the favorites

HIGH PROTEIN QUINOA ALMOND BERRY SALAD

Submitted by Jen H. - adapted from Oh She Glows

Ingredients:

3/4 cup dry quinoa

1 pint strawberries, sliced (2.5-3 cups)

16 oz. fresh blueberries (1.5-2 cups)

1 cup cherries, pitted and sliced

2 tbsp pure maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener)

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp fresh lime juice (or lemon might work!)

Pinch of kosher salt

1/2 cup almonds, chopped

 

Directions:

1. Cook quinoa according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, chop the fruit and place in a large bowl.

3. Mix the dressing ingredients (maple syrup, balsamic, lime juice, salt) in a small jar and adjust to taste if necessary. Note: You may have to double the dressing recipe if your salad is quite large.

4. Fluff cooked quinoa with a fork and add to large bowl with fruit. Combine. Pour on dressing and mix well. Serve immediately or chill in the fridge until serving time.

 

BAKED OATMEAL

Submitted by Jessica H.

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup walnuts or almonds, toasted and chopped

1/3 cup fine-grain natural cane sugar

1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

2 cups milk (I used vanilla soy milk, since it's a little thicker than skim and has more flavor)

1 large egg

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3 ripe bananas, cut into 1/2-inch slices

1 1/2 cups huckleberries, blueberries, or mixed berries (I used a bag of frozen mixed berries- just nuke them for a minute to soften them up)

Maple syrup, for drizzling

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Combine the oats, half the nuts, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk the milk, egg, half the butter, and the vanilla.

3. Arrange bananas in a single layer on the bottom of the coated baking dish. Sprinkle with two-thirds of the berries, then cover with the oat mixture. Slowly drizzle milk mixture over the oats. Gently tap dish on a work surface to distribute liquid. Scatter remaining berries and nuts across the top.

4. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is nicely golden and the oat mixture has set. Let cool slightly. Drizzle with maple syrup.

 

CRANBERRY SALSA

Submitted by Victoria G. - adapted from Allrecipes

Ingredients:

1 bag of cranberries, fresh or frozen (12 oz)

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1 bunch green onions, cut into 3 inch lengths

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

2 limes, juiced

¾ cup white sugar

1 pinch salt

 

Directions:

1. Combine cranberries, cilantro, green onions, jalapeno pepper, lime juice, sugar, and salt in a food processor.

2. Chop to medium consistency.  Serve at room temperature.

 

 

 

BRIE EN CROUTE

by Lauren T. - adapted from Paula Deen (this isn't exactly Lauren's recipe, it's a secret recipe, but it's close enough)

Ingredients:

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, pre-packaged

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 cup walnuts

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 (8-ounce) wheel Brie

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

Crackers, for serving

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Defrost puff pastry for approximately 15 to 20 minutes and unfold.

3. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Saute the walnuts in the butter until golden brown, approximately 5 minutes. Add the cinnamon and stir until walnuts are coated well.

4. Place the walnut mixture on top of the Brie and sprinkle the brown sugar over the mixture.

5. Lay the puff pastry out on a flat surface. Place the brie in the center of the pastry. Gather up the edges of the pastry, pressing around the brie and gather at the top. Gently squeeze together the excess dough and tie together with a piece of kitchen twine.

6. Brush the beaten egg over top and side of Brie. Place Brie on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes until pastry is golden brown.

7. Serve with crackers.

To give a special look, cut extra pastry into heart or flower shapes and bake until golden.

Tuesday
Jan172012

New Year - New Book, "State of Wonder" by Anne Patchett

The Bookhostess has been up and running for over a year now with our book club having just had our 2nd anniversary.  So in order to revamp the site a little bit more, we decided to incorporate a new book review format into our blog. The new format will allow us to feature members who have helped make our book club so successful along with showcasing the events, and the book itself.

After an action packed holiday season we began the year with a highly attended Brunch event hosted by one of our longest-standing members - Jessica H.

Jessica H.

Some tidbits about Jessica H: Jessica is what we like to call a perpetual student.  Always studying and learning, Jessica is currently working hard on her law degree after finishing her undergrad and MBA degrees (Go Irish!).  Jessica has an adorably friendly cat named Dudley who, surprisingly, is only the 2nd fattest cat in our book club.   Jessica likes to provide our book club with great discussions on crazy television shows on TLC and Bravo such as Toddlers and Tiaras - her commentaries are quite hilarious. 

Jessica's motto in life: I don’t really have a motto per se, but one of my favorite quotes is, "Don't try to make life a mathematics problem with yourself in the center and everything coming out equal. When you're good, bad things can still happen. And if you are bad, you can still be lucky.” from Barbara Kingsolver’s “The Poisonwood Bible”.  Life doesn’t always go exactly as you think it should, but you always end up where you need to be.

Why did you choose our book club?

I was looking for a way to meet some new girlfriends in the area who shared a similar interest in reading.  I’m a huge bookworm and love discussing what I read, so I was really happy to find such a friendly group of bright women to share my thoughts (and wine) with!

What have been your favorite books thus far?

One of my first books with the book club was “The Help”, and I really enjoyed it.  I also really liked “The Thirteenth Tale“, “Water for Elephants”, and “Room”.  This book club is great because we read so many different types of books; I end up reading things I may not have selected on my own but then love.  I usually pass our selections on to my mom, which she loves as well! 

And now onto State of Wonder

 "Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist with a Minnesota pharmaceutical company, is sent to Brazil to track down her former mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, who seems to have all but disappeared in the Amazon while working on what is destined to be an extremely valuable new drug, the development of which has already cost the company a fortune. Nothing about Marina's assignment is easy: not only does no one know where Dr. Swenson is, but the last person who was sent to find her, Marina's research partner Anders Eckman, died before he could complete his mission. Plagued by trepidation, Marina embarks on an odyssey into the insect-infested jungle in hopes of finding her former mentor as well as answers to several troubling questions about her friend's death, the state of her company's future, and her own past.

Once found, Dr. Swenson, now in her seventies, is as ruthless and uncompromising as she ever was back in the days of Grand Rounds at Johns Hopkins. With a combination of science and subterfuge, she dominates her research team and the natives she is studying with the force of an imperial ruler. But while she is as threatening as anything the junglehas to offer, the greatest sacrifices to be made are the ones Dr. Swenson asks of herself, and will ultimately ask of Marina, who finds she may still be unable to live up to her teacher’s expectations."

Why did you chose this book?

I was looking for something interesting, contemporary, and not too heavy.  “State of Wonder” was on one of Oprah’s lists of recommended reads for the year, and I thought it sounded like a good story.  I was a little weary because I wasn’t a fan of “Bel Canto”, also by Ann Patchett, but I really enjoyed “State of Wonder”.

What did you like about the book?

I liked how the book had elements of travel, romance, science, and mystery.  Although, the story took a bit to get to the dramatic climax, it was so well-written and lush, that you forge through the entire story feeling like you were there in the Amazon, exploring and observing everything as each character did.  Patchett does a wonderful job with each of her character development, allowing us to really understand the main character, Marina, and really connect with her persona and life.  She really searches and explores human nature, moral dilemmas, and ethical decisions with all of her characters in such a way that we can see the tragic realness of her character developments.  

I find myself thinking about the book, the themes and the characters even days after finishing the book.  Both the honesty and the deceit that the characters exhibit is intriguing.  She does a fantastic job encompassing the theme of human versus nature, observing versus participating, and the course of human nature. 


What didn't you like about the book?

The dramatic climax and ending of the book is all wrapped up in the last 25 pages of the book.  We felt that Patchett did so much work on the character development of each of her characters including the Lakashi Tribe and the Amazon, that the ending happened very abruptly and fast.  When the story ended, we were all left wondering why she decided to end it so suddenly without any clear conclusion or wrap-up of her characters’ lives.  But it could have been perhaps because she wanted to continue with the theme that human nature doesn’t end in all happy conclusive endings.

Would you recommend this book and why (discussion themes))?

I definitely recommend this book to a female friend; I’m not sure any of my guy pals who are readers would be into it.  One topic to discuss is the Lakashi tribe’s ability to remain fertile for their entire lifespan.  Would we all really want that as an option?  It seems a little unnatural to me, but I’d like to hear what the rest of the ladies think about this prospect.  Another great discussion that we had was when Annick Swenson poses the question to Marina, “the question is whether or not you choose to disturb the world around you; or if you choose to go on as if you had never arrived.”  Humans versus Nature. 

What cusine theme did you select for your bookclub and why?

We chose Nuts & Berries for a brunch theme, because it seemed very natural and organic to surviving in the jungle.  Another great theme could have been mushrooms, because the mushrooms in the novel are what Dr. Swenson and her colleagues have been trying to preserve and hide from mankind for years.

Can you share your favorite dish from the brunch?

Favorite dishes from the event have to be the cranberry salsa that Victoria G. made, berry quinoa salad by Jen H., and of course, Lauren T.'s Brie en croute which is always a book club favorite!  I made the Baked Berry Oatmeal.

OUR BOOK CLUB MENU:

Banana walnut bread, Walnut Goat Cheese quiche, Toasted Oats, Baked Oatmeal, Sticky Walnut Bites, Berry Quinoa Salad, Cranberry Salsa, Rasberry bars, Vanilla pudding pie with berries, Brie en Croute

FINAL GRADE: B+  Great read, great book club book


Tuesday
Jan102012

Party Idea: Book Exchange Party

As the New Year starts, everyone has their list of resolutions, most often - lose weight, eat healthy, and READ MORE.  We all have a growing list of book recommendations that we've either read about or have heard from a friend or family member as "must reads"; but most often, we tend to not have the time to read them or catch up on them unless we get a 2 week vacation on some remote island beach.  It's like the scene from "The Holiday" when Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet are exchanging houses, Cameron Diaz gets on the plane to England with the intent to catch up on all of her reading, but instead goes to sleep.

To promote as much reading for our members and in order to encourage our members to read different genres from recommendations, we threw a Book Exchange Party.  Each member was to choose 1 book from their own wishlists, read it, recommend it, and then randomly choose another member's books to read for the next meeting.

 

Kathleen and I wanted to add some little accents around the party that reminded people of a school library.  We were able to find a lot of fun antiques on etsy like an old metal pencil sharpener with freshly sharpened No. 2 pencils, library date stamp, and vintage letterpress wood block letters saying "SHHH!".  We also had custom-made library cards, library book labels, and book-page pinwheels made on etsy.  Lastly, we created fun retro-glasses for our girls to wear.

Each girl brought the book they read, filled out their library book labels so that we knew which book belonged to whom, and filled out their library card for others to fill in to borrow.

Some of the book favorites that were read: "The Paris Wife", "Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertant Education of a Reluctant Chef", "The Book Thief", "The Lotus Eaters", "The Hunger Games", "The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" and "A Thousand Splendid Suns".

Everyone had to bring a bottle of wine and a dish that represented their book in some way.  Needless to say, the ladies went all out and we had a smorgasboard of different flavors.

Here are some more pictures from our party.  And if you are wondering, yes, the pictures on the far right are red wine in chocolate shots and they were FANTASTIC.  We really know how to get our parties going until the wee hours of the night.  It's always a fun night :)

Tuesday
Jan032012

Calendar Girl

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a great New Years' and a wonderful holiday!I had a wonderful holiday filled with great food, wine and plenty of time with my amazing family and friends. And now it is time for 2012 to begin!

As a self-proclaimed neat freak I love charts, schedules and calendars! And I can't think of a better way to begin a new year than with a new calendar!

For the past few years I have relied on the standard and boring Microsoft Word pintables. Then I
discovered Etsy.com and all of the amazing options. I really do not know what we all did before Etsy.com

Now I just need to make a decision – but here are some of my favorites.

At first I wanted a wall calendar with room for notes or important dates. Take a look at these gems – taken from Olive and Ruby, Albertine Press, and Winifred Studios.


During my search I came across these dainty teacup inspired calendars. Adorable – perfect for gifts,
purses or your desk. There are loads of them on Etsy.com but these made me smile. Alice B Gardens, The Cameras Eye, and Petek Design


Gusosos Land created these amazing and stylish bookmark calendars – perfect for the bookworm.


Thursday
Dec292011

RINGING IN THE NEW YEAR!

It's going to be a new year and a new set of blog posts!  After a crazy whirlwind of events the last half of this year that has kept us too occupied, Kathleen and I are ready to get back to business and focus on our blog adventure!  Our new year's resolution?  INSPIRATION.

I don't know about you, my fellow bloggers, but I'm just about ready for 2011 to end so I can turn a new leaf over for 2012.  Be focused, be inspired, and be grateful - that's my motto going into 2012.  What are everyone else's new year's plans?  This year, the hubs and I actually have New Year's plans and are heading down to sunny Palm Beach, FL to drink champagne with the Palm Beach socialites spear-headed by Melania Trump.  How did we ever get invited and what the heck are we getting ourselves into?  I don't know, I just made a promise to myself to ease up on the wine + champagne so I don't make a fool out of myself ;)

If you don't have plans, you might be getting pressure from your friends to throw a fancy schmancy shindig, right?  Have no fear!  We have come up with some simple, last-minute ideas for you to throw together a successful New Year's Eve par-tay!  Just like you, we were in the same situation this time last year..

1. Decoration

BALLOONS.  One might think balloons to be quite kiddish in the realm of party decor, but I beg to differ!  Balloons are WONDERFUL!  They bring about a festive atmosphere to any party and add a lot of dimension to your party decorations.  You can tie a bunch around each chair of your dinner party to create a semi-private, enclosed area; or hang them loosely about.  Take a look at these inspirations from Martha Stewart and Shauna Younge:

 

CLOCKS.  10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1.. HAPPY NEW YEAR!  Bring your countdown to life with the help of clocks hung around the place.  A year ends, a new year begins - so goes Father time.  Vintage clocks would be superb in the decor.  Think old pocket watches thrown about.  You can find a ton on Etsy.  Here are some inspirations from Whimsy Decor and Martha Stewart:

 

2.  Food - let's face it, it's last minute, you are inviting 20 or so of your dearest closest friends, you don't have time to plan an elaborate dinner menu.  Just focus on some elegant, yet fun finger foods and champagne.. lots and lots of champagne.

CHEESE PLATTER.  A delectable cheese platter presented in a beautiful way will always dress up any party.  I'm not talking about buying cheeses from your big-chain grocer, go to your gourmet cheese shop and have them pick out 5-6 different cheeses from creamy to nutty to pungent, an olive tapenade spread, marinated olives, dried sausages, fig jam, grapes, and 2 loaves of freshly baked baguette.  Display is key.  You can find some wonderful cheese platters on Sur La Table or Pottery Barn, or find a creative way to display them like on a cake display tray. Create decorative cheese markers and voila.  This platter never disappoints guests.  These cheese displays are inspired from Martha Stewart, Roost, Seven Swans, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

 

TARTINES, CROSTINIS, AND TARTS.  These are the most elegant-looking, easiest finger foods you can make.  Emphasis on EASIEST.  Starting off with delectable sugar-coated cranberry brie crackers, pear walnut ricotta crostinis, avocado fries with dip served on individual soup spoons (which you can get at crate & barrel for cheap), cracker-thin crust margherita pizza (you need something for the men to eat),  cherry tomato herb tart, and various kinds of open-faced sandwiches known as tartines.  For the Tartines, Pepperidge Farms makes miniature bread loaves, you can make cream cheese smoked salmon tartines, curry chicken salad tartine, the possibilities are endless - but if you need ideas, click on this link.

 

DESSERT PLATTER.  I'm not a big dessert person when I drink, but sometimes a little nibble of something sweet is just so satisfying.  To keep with the finger foods type of menu, why not have some sugar dusted wontons on hand (this recipe is for peach, but I'd do pear since it's such a nice winter fruit).  These wonderful jars full of cheesecakes would be fantastic for guests as take-home gifts as well as eat as is!  And of course, the cupcake craze is still kicking - you can decorate simple vanilla cupcakes with glittered crowns for NYE.  And no party is a party without jello-shots!  But maybe dress it up a little bit and make CHAMPAGNE jello shot desserts (you know, to be somewhat sophisticated).

 

DRINKS.  Have lots and lots of champagne on hand.  At our party last year, my sister and I bought red and green grapes, put them on skewers and froze them.  Once the champagne was served, we plopped a frozen skewer into each flute to serve as both an icer, dessert, and drink!  You can also buy these cute-as-a-button perfectly pink sofia champagne cans complete with swirly pink straws!  If you are serving those wonderful jars of cheesecakes, why not add to that motif with eggnog served in miniature mason jars (or baby food jars if you can't find mini mason jars).  And of course, add a DIY swizzle stick for some NYE flair.

 

HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

 

xoxo, Thu & Kathleen

Friday
Sep302011

Little Bee 

June 25, 2011

Little Bee by Chris Cleave  

Rating:  B+

Summary:  (From the publisher)

WE DON'T WANT TO TELL YOU TOO MUCH ABOUT THIS BOOK. It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know something, so we will just say this: the opening scene on the African beach scene is horrific. The story starts there, but the book doesn't. And it's what happens afterward that is most important.  Immensely readable and moving …While the pretext of Little Bee initially seems contrived —two strangers, a British woman and a Nigerian girl, meet on a lonely African beach and become inextricably bound through the horror imprinted on their encounter—its impact is hardly shallow. Rather than focusing on postcolonial guilt or African angst, Cleave uses his emotionally charged narrative to challenge his readers' conceptions of civility, of ethical choice.  Once you have read it, you'll want to tell everyone about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens either. The magic is in how it unfolds. -- Simon & Schuster

What we liked: It is an amazing story, and we can't recommend it enough. Without giving too much away we thought it was a terrific book about the weaknesses and flaws in human nature.  The range of emotions you get while reading this novel is quite compelling. The forging of a relationship built on a horrific connection, distinguishing between doing what is the right thing to do, and making amends with the past.  The novel has 2 narrators, Little Bee and Sarah, both from 2 very different worlds and different realities which will become one reality – the true grit of the novel unfolds little by little.  Cleave draws a stark realism of the great divide between the modern, flawed world of Sarah and the brutality and innocence of Little Bee’s.  We found the social issues in this novel to be fascinating, and added a great deal to our conversations.  And we all agreed we LOVED Little Bee and all of her insights into her life. She was only 16 years old, but she had experienced a life-time of pain and heartache.  Her development of her identity and life after the incident on the beach was thoroughly explored from her innocence-to-reality in Africa to the time spent in the immigration detention center to coming face to face with the man who could have done more for her and the woman who saved her life. 

What we didn’t like:  Not much to dislike here – but some of us were expecting more of a social justice story-ending and felt a bit jilted.   The other main character, Sarah, was a bit disappointing too as far as character development.  We think the author meant for us to connect more with Sarah, being that she was the modern-day woman of western civilization, but what we found was a slightly self-involved woman who, yes – did a noble act for Little Bee, but wasn’t willing to move beyond her own state of mind to be a strong, understanding person for her husband, her son, and Little Bee, until the end when it was too late.

Final Thoughts: Every book club should read and discuss Little Bee. 

Book Discussion Themes:  Social Causes and Social Responsibility.

Suggested Food Theme: Dishes containing HONEY

Our Menu: Apple Honey Matzo Cake, Honey Wild Rice Salad, Goat Cheese Crostini with honey drizzle, Honey Walnut Shrimp, Honey Chicken Skewers, Honey-Dijon Potato Salad, Honey and Goat cheese Fig Muffins, Mixed Greens with Honey and Mango dressing.

Friday
Jun032011

Solitude of Prime Numbers

April 10, 2011

Solitude of Prime Numbers

Rating: B

 

Summary: A prime number can only be divided by itself or by one—it never truly fits with another. Alice and Mattia, both "primes," are misfits who seem destined to be alone. Haunted by childhood tragedies that mark their lives, they cannot reach out to anyone else. When Alice and Mattia meet as teenagers, they recognize in each other a kindred, damaged spirit.

 

But the mathematically gifted Mattia accepts a research position that takes him thousands of miles away, and the two are forced to separate. Then a chance occurrence reunites them and forces a lifetime of concealed emotion to the surface.

 

Like Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, this is a stunning meditation on loneliness, love, and the weight of childhood experience that is set to become a universal classic.

 

What we liked: We all enjoyed the novel and felt it was a great read. While the story can be a bit sad at times the characters are easy to identify with. We found the story very realistic and while it wasn’t a “romance” novel or a “fairytale” you will find yourself rooting for the characters. Giordano writes with tremendous empathy for the loneliness that his characters endure which many of us could relate to.  He thoroughly develops his characters and their recognition of one another's loneliness in each other's lives with great depth and subtle beauty.  Like a sad symphony, you go through both character's adolescence of trying to fit in and accepting that they are indeed prime numbers and will always be that.  Somehow, these two find each other in their lives and become a crutch in each other's lives.  In this relationship, grows a love and mutual understanding for one another and they learn to be apart from each other, but still be there for each other, because they will always be connected.  We loved how he incorporated his PhD in the novel being that he is working on his doctorate in particle physics and great knowledge of math in both the title and in Mattia's course of study in mathematics.  Mattia is the one who realizes that he and Alice and their relationship are comparable to the rare mathematical phenomenon in which 2 prime numbers will follow next to each other in a sequence.  This is what he believes binds them.  This was a great debut novel on the complexities of loneliness, love, and human nature.

 

What we didn’t like: One of our readers also felt a great deal was lost in the English translation as she read the novel in the original language.  The ending is a bit disappointing though, because the author goes through great lengths developing his characters as the prime numbers, leading us to wonder if they will ever be together.

 

Final Thoughts: This was an easy, enjoyable read for everyone.

 

Themes: Loneliness, adolescent bullying, parental relationships, cutting, anorexia

 

Food Theme: Italian Brunch

Menu: Bruschetta with ricotta & marmalade, Asparagus wrapped with smoked salmon, melon and panchetta, tiramisu, polenta with sausage-zuccini tomato sauce, whole wheat foccatia, panzanella, lasagna, apple streudel, artichoke bread, mini frittatas

Thursday
Jun022011

Mysteries of Pittsburgh

March 27, 2011

Mysteries of Pittsburgh

Book: Mysteries of Pittsburg by Michael Chabon (Fiction – General)

Rating: F

Summary: Art Bechstein is the son of a mob money launderer. Bechstein's father wants him to succeed in a legitimate career, but when he graduates from his Pittsburgh college, he has only a vague hope for a summer of adventure before he commits to the rest of his life. Bechstein almost immediately meets a charming young gay man, Arthur Lecomte, and his friend, a highly literate biker named Cleveland Arning, who become his partners in many summer adventures. Bechstein begins a relationship with an insecure young woman named Phlox Lombardi. As his attraction to Arthur grows over time, it destabilizes both relationships and reveals his possible bisexuality. Bechstein is also troubled when Cleveland begins moving deeper into the city's organized crime families, drawing him closer to his father's dangerous mafia connections. All of Bechstein's relationships with his family, friends, and lovers become more and more entangled, causing a series of falling outs and unforeseen consequences.

What we liked: Overall we didn’t enjoy too much about this novel but some of our “Pittsburgh” residents loved it for sentimental reasons. This is an easy read and focuses on Pittsburgh.  It was definitely written in a dry male voice, so perhaps a male reader would enjoy this book more.

What we didn’t like: Many of us felt this was a bit dull and slow moving – some even felt it was trying too hard. The writing and story line are an attempted similarity to “Great Gatsby” and “Catcher in the Rye” but without the depth or action.  It's a coming-of-age novel, but we found the characters in the novel were very poorly developed and we could not connect to any of them.  The characters were confusing, frustrating, and very self-absorbed.  There is no rhyme or reason to their actions, they just do it and the writer doesn't embellish on anything more.  It's just there.  The writing style was also very bland and the story line seemed far removed from what most of us would see in a "coming-of-age" novel.  The only significance of Pittsburgh for the novel was that it took place in Pittsburgh, rather than that, the author really didn't pay much homage to the steel city.  The story line itself doesn't go anywhere.  There is no climax to the story, just a bunch of random happenings that just seem to be thrown about in the novel to make things seem interesting.

Final Thoughts: Please spare yourself.

Themes: Coming of age after college, sexuality.  To be honest we did not discuss too much about this as many of us disliked it so much.

Food Theme: Hometown favorites

Menu: Pierogies (pittsburgh), Quesitos (puerto rican), Mini-Primanti Bros sandwiches (pittsburgh), Pizza strips (rhode island), french toast bread pudding (philly), wheat crepes (bulgarian), berry shortcake (wisconsin), chicken pesto wraps, grapefruit-Campari compote

Thursday
Jun022011

Room

March 18, 2011

Room

Book: Room by Emma Donahue (Fiction – General)

Rating: B

Summary: To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.- From the publisher

What we liked: Another great fast read! Emma Donoghue does an amazing job capturing the thoughts, and emotions of a young boy. As the reader we were all transported to the “Room” based on her detail and descriptive language. Altogether, it makes for horror, humor, hope, suspense and sadness.  It's amazing how spot on the author was able to portray a curious, intelligent, and yet very socially handicapped young child through the stream-of-consciousness narrative.  Furthermore, Donoghue does a fantastic job paying attention to the little details of the Room that one would never think of to the scope that Old Nick goes through to make sure they stay in the Room without notice from the outside world.  Through Jack's innocence, you see the lengths that Ma goes through to both protect Jack and keep his mind occupied with simple joys in his life.  Through Jack's innocence, you travel through his emotions trying to grasp what he had always known in Room to his new place in the real world.

What we didn’t like: We felt that Donoghue should have given more life to the "Ma" character.  We wanted to get inside her head more, being held captive for 7 years and we felt that she needed to give her character a voice.  And lastly the issue we all had was the breast-feeding at age 5.

Final Thoughts:  Overall, it is a good read, albeit a bit disturbing.

Themes: We spent a great deal of time discussing abduction; past, present and future.  And a lot of discussion on breast-feeding.

Food Theme: Favorite dish

Menu: Black bean & Rice trifle with Plantain spoon, Spaghetti Bolognese Vegetarian style, Chocolate dipping sauce with fruits, Mac n Cheese, Spinach & Artichoke Dip, Pizza, Meatballs & Italian bread, Mini Baked Brie, Marinated Grilled Veggie, Antipasto platter or Gooey Butter Cake and Rice Krispie Treats.