Show Us Your Books July

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Summer reading season is officially here! I’ve been spending many hours on the porch drinking tea and reading books (and maybe eating a burger or two.)

When I first went to tally up my books, in my mind I hadn’t read much in June. But then I looked at the numbers, and I had actually read twelve books — 6 were paper and 6 were audio.


Save Me The Plums by Ruth Reichl — This was a glorious audiobook read by the author. I thought I was signing up for tempting descriptions of food when I bought this, but there were so many other nuggets about working motherhood, corporate politics, and recovering from mistakes that I loved. I ended up taking many long walks the weekend I listened to this just so I could finish.


Great Beach Reads

Daisy Jones And The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid — This was excellent brain candy. It was reminiscent of a VH1 documentary, and I read it all in one sitting. I read the print book, but I heard the audio version is amazing.


Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser — A thriller about a missing mom, and the aftermath of her disappearance. Did she flee on her own, or did someone take her? Was it the husband? What about the missing money? This was perfect for laying on the beach while my kids built sandcastles.


Moody Reads To Dwell On

Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella — This is the book that Field of Dreams was based on, and I’ve been meaning to read it for years. It’s different from the movie, but it has that same dreamy and hopeful feeling.


Burial Rites by Hannah Kent — I read this for a book club, and it was perfect pick for that. I appreciated that the love affair I thought the author was building towards never happened.


The Guineveres by Sarah Domet — This book was without place or time, and it worked. I enjoyed the characters.


The Near and Distant Past

The Boat People by Sharon Bala — An important read considering what we’re facing in our country these days. This book gives a face to the refugee crisis. Wish I could make this required reading for all of America.


Tear Down This Wall by Romesh Ratnesar — A non-fiction audiobook that I downloaded from Audiobook Sync. I’m of the age where I can remember when the Berlin Wall fell, but had no real idea of what that meant at the time. I appreciate books that help fill in the gaps now. I’m going to recommend this one to my 11 year old as well.


The Future

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King — This book went on a little too long for my tastes, but the afterward at the end of the audiobook by the authors made up for it. I love getting a glimpse of what goes into writing books.


Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins — This was a re-read for me. I’m not a huge fan of this book, but I really liked the ending.


Audiobooks to Take Your Mind Off Things When You’re Home Alone and Cleaning For HOURS

(Or Maybe That’s Just Me)

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling — My favorite of the series. I could listen to this audiobook again and again.


The Lost City of Z by David Grann — I liked this armchair adventure story, minus the description of all of the snakes and other creepy things that can kill you in the Amazon.


Life According to Steph

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Bookish Gifts I'm Giving This Year


It's no surprise that I give a lot of books for gifts. (Note: I rarely get books because everyone says I have read them all. My TBR says differently! Is this a common book worm problem?)

Here's what I'm giving this year:

For my history loving husband:

Grant by Ron Chernow -- I got him both the hardcover and the audio versions. It would drive me crazy to go back and forth, but this is his new preferred way.

For my reluctant reader son:

Guinness Book of World Records -- My son isn't a big reader, but he loves trivia. I think he'll love finding obscure facts (and might even try to break an obscure record or two!)

For my bookworm jr. daughter:

I know she is going to go nuts over this personal library kit. I predict a lot of playing library in my future. Let's hope she doesn't charge late fees! (She'll be getting several books as well, of course.)

For My Secret Santa:

Food Anatomy by Julia Rothman -- An illustrated history of food- doesn't it sound just perfect for snow day reading? I hope she enjoys it.

What are you gifting this year?

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[REVIEW]: The Underground Culinary Tour By Damian Mogavero and Joseph D’Agnese

The Underground Culinary Tour by Damian Mogavero and Joseph D’Agnese appealed to me because it combines two of my favorite things: food and data. I love the idea that restaurants can collect data on their business, and use it to come up with insights that will improve their operations.

The business of data collection takes place on the backdrop of The Underground Culinary tour, a marathon of eating that allows CEOs of chain restaurants to taste what's new and edgy in New York City. The only catch is they have to pace themselves because all of the eating takes place in about 48 hours.

I enjoyed this book, but don't have a culinary background. I'll admit I skimmed large parts that seemed geared to restaurant professionals. However the basic background of the software that the author invented, and the tales of the Underground Culinary Tour made this book worthwhile for me.

Note: A copy of this book was provided by Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review.



REVIEW: Everyone is Italian on Sunday

If you love vegetables and Italian food this book is for you. For anyone who is stuck on the 30 minute gimmick and the cutesy sayings Rachel Ray is known for, put those aside and get ready to cook from this book all summer long.

This is not your usual spaghetti, meatballs, and chicken parm Italian cookbook. You'll find those things, but you'll also find dozens of recipes for eggplant, a whole chapter on using up garden veggies, and no less than three variations of mashed potatoes. (There's also a whole chapter devoted to cocktails, and some pretty damn good looking desserts.)

I read this book right after my herb garden started producing, so the first recipe I made was Savory Fennel, Rosemary, and Honey Oatmeal. It was amazing! The oatmeal was just the right mix of hearty food and tasty flavor. I can't wait to request this book again once the full garden starts producing, and cook through the vegetable section.

Other cookbooks that make you want to eat all your veggies:

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Two books about cupcakes

Cookie Monster cupcakes from my daughter's first birthday

Cookie Monster cupcakes from my daughter's first birthday

Cupcakes are everywhere - they've come to symbolize the little treat we all need now and then. So, of course, I've read a few books that feature them. A large section of chick lit is made up of women who hit rock bottom, and rebound by open shops that sell flowers, yarn, or baked goods. I'm not complaining. There's something comforting about these books. Just like cupcakes, even our brains need a little bit of something sweet every now and then.

How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue is chick lit with a twist. Yes there's down on their luck girls who open a bakery, but there's also something sinister going on. But, recipes are included!

Meet Me at the Cupcake Café by Jenny Colgan is one of my current reads. The story is lite, and predictable, but just what I need at the moment. This one has recipes too, which is always a plus. (Note: this book has quite a few sudden point of view changes, and does things like refer to skiing and snowboarding as if they are the same thing. It hasn't bothered me too much, but figured I should give fair warning.)

Are you a fan of these "I lost it all so I opened a shop" type books?

REVIEW: 100 Recipes: The Absolute Best Ways To Make The True Essentials by America's Test Kitchen

If you need simple, tasty food that your kids will actually eat may I suggest 100 Recipes from America's Test Kitchen? I've looked at books like this before, and have been disappointed by lists of crazy ingredients or fancy twists on basic food. This book isn't like that. It contains basic recipes that use the best ingredients cooked in the best way.

A real sign of how basic these ingredients are: I was reading this book in the car on the way home from a hike, and saw a recipe for Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts. I decided it looked good, and was able to cook it from things I had on hand. That never happens to me due to the small children who live in my house and eat through all available ingredients as if they were a swarm of locusts.

I've never been tempted to cook through a cookbook before, but this book might just get me to do it. It seems as if it can get me to rise above the daily beat down caused by my lack of time combined with my suspicious of anything that is not pasta kids - at least once or twice a week.

I got this book from the library, but I'm planning on buying my own copy using cash money from the bookstore. That's saying something.

If you too are beaten down by life, here are some more cookbooks that might bring you back from the dark side:

REVIEW: The Dinnertime Survival Cookbook

I came across The Dinnertime Survival Cookbook by Debra Ponzek when I was looking for something else at the library. The title brings to mind one of those books that tells you how to survive the apocalypse or a terrorist attack. Dinnertime has invaded us, and it is something we must survive. The book isn't like that though. These aren't quick let's throw something on the table type recipes. They're hey, you have to eat anyway, so why not make it fresh and delicious type recipes.

Just because this isn't a quick cooking cook book doesn't mean that the recipes are complicated. Most have just a handful of ingredients, but they are good and flavorful ingredients. I made the Baked Mac And Cheese the day I brought this cookbook home, and my whole family loved it.

If you're in a cooking rut, struggling with wanting to serve whole foods to your family but need ideas, or want to give a great cookbook as a gift I'd recommend this one!

Other Great Cook Books For Busy Families:

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