Month: July 2011

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

I am a sucker for a concept novel.  I like novels around a theme, with extra bits and pieces, with added online content, it it has bells and whistles, quirky goodness, tricky little gizmos, I’m going to buy it.  This does not always guarantee an excellent read!  I have spent a vast fortune – well a small fortune – buying the book with the awesome cover, just because it had an awesome cover.  That folks is why I bought this book.  Oh but it was a gooden, yay!

Filled with weird old photos of children who were the residents of a home for ‘peculiar’ children, this book is the story of Jacob’s Jewish Grandfather, and Jacob’s search for the truth behind his death, the dreams that plague him, the bizarre sight he saw as his beloved Grandfather lay dying in his arms.  Jacob is on a quest for the truth.  The truth it turns out is very scary, very hard to believe – in short very peculiar.  The photographs sit alongside the story, helping you to visualise the peculiar children and their very peculiar attributes.  I’m not giving more away than this for fear of ruining the surprises.

This book kept me up until 1am last night.  I just had to get to the end and find out what happened to Miss Peregrine and what decisions Jacob would make.  I was hooked from page 1 and basically did nothing else yesterday but read this book.  It is a cross-over novel, fits nicely into Young Adult or Adult and is a treat book.  Lovely!  Book trailer below.

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A visit from the goon squad by Jennifer Egan

Image from The NY Times, you can buy em as stickers: http://www.posttypography.com/site/index.php?action=news&id=826

Well crikey, where to start, there is a buzz around this book and tht is for a very good reason.  This is a book with no storyline, and that sounds totally bizzarre and it shouldn’t really work, and yet it does, beautifully!  The central characters in the book are Bennie and Sasha.  Bennie is ultra famous for nothing much except that he discovered a roch band who made it big, he is a music mogul these days and has all the trappings of wealth that go along with that.  Sasha is his assistant, loyal and always at hand to sort out any problems and smooth things over.  Each chapter of the book is about someone who has in some way or another been somehow involved, or is loosely connected with either Sasha or Bennie and their lives.  You have to pay attention as you read, I wasn’t always sure exactly whom I was reading about, and how they fitted into the scheme of things, but that is actually one of the best things about it.  You just have to trust that Jennifer Egan is going to take you to very good places and hang on tight while she sweeps you along on the journey.

The opening chapter is really engaging, Sasha is on a date that isn’t going paticularly successfully, her rampant cleptomania kicks in and she helps herself to a green wallet she finds lying in front of her in the handbag of a woman in the women’t toilets.  I loved Sasha, struggling with her demons and trying to be ‘that girl’ she was the person I wanted to get back to throughout the book, and sure enough we find out enough about her to figure her out a bit.  There are characters you will recognise, or at least recognise the type, and that is really what I thought the book was doing, showing you types of people you know, from the news, from the celebrity gossip columns and from the country clubs and magazines.  The book will take you on a journey, on a shifting timeline, forward to the future and back to the 1960s, you will travel across the globe and meet dictators and party animals, young children and disappointed movie stars.

There is lots of biting comment on the state of celebrity, lots of things you could take multiple ways, and most brilliantly an entire chapter from the point of view of a young girl and done in Charts (Microsoft Word Charts) slide style.  There is a lot to process, a lot to talk about and I’m dying for one of my friends to read it because I think that whoever you are you are going to get really different things out of it.  I love that.  A lot.

Read it, just decide you are going to and read it.

And it won the Pulitzer Prize this year, that’s a fairly high recommendation so you don’t just have to take my word for it.

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Chicken and dumpling soup – its good for the soul

I had an earache.  It was the weirdest feeling, it was in both ears and I felt all woolly. Seemed like a chicken soup night to me.  I’m always going to prefer Asian flavours in this circumstance so I made this up on the spot. That makes it more of a method rather than an actual recipe and you will have to do lots of adjustment to taste as you go, and just before serving adding anything you think will help the flavour – go mad, go crazy add as much or as little as you want.

 

The key ingredient is the dumplings, I buy them frozen from Countdown, I’m sure you can get them other places.  You can panfry them for Gyoza but I love them in soup.  Go check out the frozen food cabinets.

As soon as you decide to make this go out to your freezer and get some of these yummy dumplings (or gyoza) and cook them in the microwave according to the instructions on the packet.  They will cook a bit in the soup but you don’t want them to go all manky and soggy and fall to pieces.

Put about a litre of chicken stock into a pot and begin to heat it up. (You have the option of defrosting your carefully pre prepared chicken stock or using a litre container that you bought – try to get a low salt one because there is plenty of salt in our lives without adding more, and this is why you are not allowed to use stock cubes for this soup.)

Grate into the stock a 3cm (ish) peeled knob of ginger this will depend on your taste but I’m a ginger kind of girl.

Add about 2 tsp of sesame oil, 2 tblsp of mirin, 1 tblsp of soy sauce (light is better but whatever you have will be fine)

I like a limey flavour and I have some Boyajian oils in citrus flavours and I add a little of that but you could substitute some lemon or lime juice.

Chop up a red chilli (discard the seeds) (or add half a tsp from a jar which you handily have in the fridge) and add to the pot.

Let this mixture simmer away, while you grate or slice a carrot into long slivers, and slice a spring onion to match.  Add the carrot to the broth and half of the onion.  Let it simmer away for a little bit – about 3 minutes.  Add the dumplings and simmer till they are heated through and cooked. If you have some greens throw them in (could be Asian greens or some spinach, broccoli would be good, steam it and add).  Adjust the flavourings.  Add some grindings of white pepper and a little salt if you really need to.

Serve with the rest of the green onion on top and sit in a big comfy chair and enjoy.

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Meet Phillipa Finch

Phillipa Finch – the heroine of the emotionally thwarted.  From the ABC this is a cute little film for a game you can play on the iPhone – if only I had an iPhone I would probably be playing it now. It is sad and quirky and those are often my faves.  Go to the website. Have a look at Phillipa Finch’s waking heart.  A drawing machine for the emotions.  Yes really. If you were in Australia and near an ABC shop you could go and try one, but on the website you can watch it happening.  Awesome!  Really!  YouTube has all the videos which have played on TV and they make gorgeous viewing.

Image from the movie

Google – marketing 101

If you ever doubted that Google is HUGE then you haven’t been aware of the sheer marketing power and pulling power of Chrome and Google+.  Whoever does the marketing for Google is doing it so brilliantly.  You want the geek peeps to be desperate to try your new product?  Then make it by invitation only.  We will all be hanging out waiting, begging out Twitter buddies and FB friends for an invitation.  I got mine yesterday from the fabulous @heyjude from the Hey Jude blog and have spent a little time playing with it today.  Its my first day back from SLANZA conference where I was challenged, inspired and given a mission or two for my library.  One of those missions is to further engage my library with social media, be that Facebook, Google+ or more engagement with Twitter, I haven’t figured out which direction I’m going to go yet but I’m definitely going there.  In the meantime check out these two marketing videos from Google for the Chrome browser – If you haven’t tried Chrome you should really give it a go.

This is so gorgeous it may well make you go all gooey.

Now let’s hear it for Chrome via Lady Gaga (this woman is so cool – they will study her in marketing papers of the future I’m sure)

Sing you home by Jodi Picoult

I’ve recently finished this book, having sworn off Jodi a couple of her releases ago.  She seemed to me to be a little bit predictable, I felt I’d kind of finished with court room fiction and the issues based dramas that she tackles, and then I bought this book for my partner who reads them all – although had also been feeling a bit jaded with them.  Anyway after Sing You Home had been around the traps being read by others and they all raved over it, I thought oh well give it a whirl.

So glad I did.  It is a great book.  Of course it tackles the big issues of the day and in this book those are the difficulties facing those gay couples who hope to bring children into the world and raise them, and also the issues of frozen embryos sitting in storage created by married couples who have now broken up and who they belong to and what will happen to them.  Lots of issues.  Lots of conflicting views, ideals and expectations.  The lesbian aspect of the book had made me a little bit worried, but she does it really well.  Lovely romantic scenes, she explores the feelings really well and captures the togetherness and the isolation that often occurs in public situations for lesbians.  No words are minced when she deals with the unfairness of the law as it relates to homosexual relationships.

Then there is the whole religious thing, right wing evangelists manipulating and spending so much money to win in the law courts.  The conflicting feelings of Max the ex husband as he struggles with what is happening to him and the different directions he is being pushed.

I recommend the book to everyone.  This is as good a book as The Pact and Salem Falls which are my two favourites of Jodi Picoult and if you are a lesbian wanting a book which affirms this will be a good choice.

The  link below will take you to the Guardian website where Jodi talks about why she wrote the book and why she tackles these issues so frequently in her fiction.  Watch it here.