The Song of Fire and Ice…and Cupcakes

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.

Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

-Back Cover

Hello out there! I am, in fact, alive. You may wonder what I have been doing for the past 4 months. Here is a sampling: full time job, night classes, cooking, cleaning, mourning the loss of Milly (my pet fish), spending time with family, friends, frantically shopping when I woke up and realized that Christmas was only two weeks away, playing in the pitiful amount of snow that we have accumulated, playing with my Christmas toys that Santa brought me, etc.

Oh, and A Song of Fire and Ice Series.  That.  After some calculating (which was difficult because I don’t always work with numbers this big), I have concluded that that monstrosity of a series is a full 4,864 pgs.  Compared to Harry Potter, that may not be so bad, but this series is no Harry Potter.  This series is dense with detail and imaginative ideas that make you stop and think.  I read sloooooowly.  I have been working on this series since Thanksgiving and just finished yesterday.  For me, that is an epic amount of time to spend on one story.

The patience that it required for me to work through this masterpiece is evidence enough to show you that it was fantastic.  If it were a food, it would be my request for my last supper.  If it were a person, we would be best friends.

Because I could not handle having this level of emotional connection with a book, I began to associate the book with George R.R. Martin instead.  Of course, by now, I am familiar enough with him that we are on a first name basis.  As I worked my way through his story, I routinely talked to George, asking him why he had the characters do certain things or when I would get to see another character again.  Now that I have not touched the series for a full day, I am starting to miss George and our (albeit incredibly one-sided) conversations.

I could ramble for hours about this series, but I am going to leave you with this instead.

What I Liked:

  • Incredibly detailed
  • George isn’t afraid to kill a main character who you love (or hate)
  • The chapters are told from a variety of perspectives

What Drove Me Crazy

  • Incredibly detailed
  • George isn’t afraid to kill a main character who you love (or hate)
  • The chapters are told from a variety of perspectives

Conflicted much?  Yes.  Read this series.  Now.  Go use those gift cards you got over the holidays. Let me know your burning questions and thoughts in the comments.  Oh, and make these cupcakes too.

Read on for the recipe…

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Short Reviews of Long Books

So the summer definitely took me away from the computer.  I did not post nearly as often as I had intended (though, to be fair, I had grand aspirations about daily posts), but I read far more than I thought possible.  This bookworm was apparently verrrrry hungry.

Here’s the thing.  I would love to do a beautiful, happy post for every book read or movie viewed over the summer, but I’m not going to.  It’s too overwhelming.  In fact, it has kept me quiet for the past week as I struggle to even begin talking about my summer.  Instead, I will give you a description of the book or movie in under 11 words or less and my thoughts in 20 words or less.  Feel free to add more ideas in the comments.

The Piano Teacher: A Novel by Janice Lee.

Summary: Sad woman and sadder man have affair in Hong Kong.

Thoughts: This historical backdrop (Hong Kong during WWII) was intriguing, but I didn’t like any of the characters.  Meh.

The Twilight Saga Collection by Stephenie Meyer

Summary: Bella must choose between creepy vampire and not-as-creepy-but-still-superhuman werewolf Jacob.

Thoughts: It teaches teenagers that the best kind of love is obsessive, controlling, and dangerous.  No thank you.

Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

Summary: 3 witches, one a fairy godmother, must stop a happy ending.

Thoughts: Hilarious.  This is my first Pratchett novel and I now want to read the entire Discworld series.

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

Summary: 3 photographers and their relationships as they photograph the Vietnam war.

Thoughts: Well-written and intricate storylines.  The background and the characters are fascinating.  I want to study photography, or go to Vietnam.

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal

Summary: Sweet valley twins, 10 years later.  Sex, betrayal, and swearing.

Thoughts: So bad.  I read it because I loved the series.  It makes no sense and I hated both twins.

Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

Summary: Love triangle in Greece during WWII.

Thoughts: Loved it with 15 pages to go.  Then almost threw it across the room.  Still love it.

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Summary: Follows two friends through school, love, and duplicity.

Thoughts: I may have used up an entire tissue box on this.  Read it if you want a good cry.

French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mirielle Guiliano

Summary: The title pretty much says it all.

Thoughts: Commonsense advice aside from drinking leek broth for three days and purchase enough champagne to have at every dinner.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (for the fifth time, at least)

Summary: Big brother knows all.

Thoughts: Love it.  Love it.  Love love love love it.  It gets better with every read.  Read it.

 

Phew!  Now that I have those out of the way, I can get back to posting on what I am reading right now!  Trust me, I have an awesome one coming up 🙂

Room by Emma Donoghue

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.
-Back of the Book

This summer, I decided to make a drastic lifestyle change. In an attempt to save my bookcase, and my wallet, I have been acquiring my books through the library and loans from fellow readers. Of course, this pains me. Some of the books that I have read in the past few months, I have wanted for my very own.

Other books, I have yearned for, but are reserved at the library for months.  I, unfortunately, am not the only person who wants to read them.

One such book was Room by Emma Donoghue.  I read about it on other blogs, saw it skyrocketing in the NYT Bestseller Lists, and saw the beautiful cover at my local bookstore.  Yes, I still go to the bookstore in the same way that a recovering drug addict likes to mimic his old habits.  I pick up books, gaze longingly at their back covers, smell the new book smell, and even sit down in a chair to peruse them.  Then, I put them back and trudge sadly outside, making a mental list of books I WANT.

I went to the library in search of Room and my librarian told me that if I get on the list to reserve it, I should probably get it around October.

And as if this struggle weren’t enough, then Borders decided to put on a giant sale (sob) and I could get the book for half off.  My resistance could last no longer.

I read this book in less than 24 hours.  As in, I began it as soon as I broke down and bought it and went to sleep hours after my normal bedtime because I wanted to know what happened.  Eventually, my eyes insisted on sleep, but my brain kept thinking about it.  My dream that night consisted of me, living in my bedroom, with a book case that was overflowing with books.  In fact, the books started multiplying, threatening to overtake all of my living space.

While I do not have room for an infinite number of books, I am fortunate to have more space than Jack and his mother do.

Imagine being Jack, growing up with your only concept of the world an 11 X 11 room and a TV.  Meanwhile, Ma knew what the world is like and was locked into a room and raped.  Now, she is trying to raise Jack the best way she can.

The book is divided into two halves.  The first half is cramped into the tiny space known to Jack as Room, culminating in a daring escape attempt.  The second half is in Outside, and focuses on how Jack and Ma manage being Outside of Room after 7 years (for Ma) and his entire life (for Jack).

This story, told completely from Jack’s point of view, is phenomenal.  It is a coming-of-age story, a thriller, a commentary of our world, and a tale about how strong the relationship can be between a mother and her child.  I would read it at the beach, with a classroom of students, or late at night with a flashlight.

If I Could Change One Thing…  I would like to see a meeting between Ma and Jack and their captor (Old Nick) after they are Outside.  The only flaw in the second half of the book is that while it remains incredibly interesting, it cannot match the narrative tension of the first half.  Meeting Old Nick again would have certainly raised my blood pressure.

Other Reviews

Jack’s Macaroni and Cheese

One of Jack’s favorite meals while he is imprisoned in Room is Kraft macaroni and cheese.  Yes, the kind with the yellow cheese powder.  I decided to make the same style of macaroni and cheese, but with real cheese.  I am quite pleased with the result.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of cooked short pasta (I chose spirals because that is the best kind, obviously)
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Procedure

  • While the pasta is cooking, mix the flour, salt, and pepper in a medium saucepan.  Add in 1/2 cup of milk and whisk to get the lumps out of the flour.  Add in the rest of the milk.
  • Heat the mixture over medium heat until it reaches a simmer.  Make sure you are stirring frequently.
  • Add in the cream cheese and stir until it melts.
  • Lower the heat and add the garlic, mustard, and shredded cheese.  Once the cheese melts, you can pour it over the cooked noodles.  Stir and eat.

It is the same style as Kraft, but wow, a little effort can go a long way.  It is tastier and healthier than the original and I think that Jack would approve (once he got over the change in color).

Shudder Island (and how it relates to homemade potstickers)

Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio team up for a fourth time for this adaptation of Shutter Island, a novel by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River). The film opens in 1954 as World War II veteran and current federal marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner, Chuck (Mark Ruffalo), ferry to Shutter Island, a water-bound mental hospital housing the criminally insane. They have been asked to investigate the disappearance of Rachel Solando (Emily Mortimer), a patient admitted to the asylum after she murdered her three children. As Teddy quizzes Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), the head of the institution, he begins to suspect that the authorities in charge might not be giving him the whole truth, and that a terrible fate may befall all the patients in the spooky Ward C — a unit devoted to the most heinous of the hospital’s inmates. Complicating matters further, Teddy has a secret of his own — the arsonist who murdered his wife is incarcerated on Shutter Island. Driven to confront his wife’s killer, and stranded on the island because of a hurricane, Teddy must unravel the secrets of the eerie place before succumbing to his own madness.

-MSN Movies

When I was little, I distinctly remember reading the R.L. Stine Goosebumps book Be Careful What You Wish For.  It is this “scary” book meant to show kids that sometimes, you wish for something you don’t really want.  You may wish that your annoying sibling disappear forever, but when you notice his absence, you instantly regret it.

I certainly have moments like this.  “Oh, I wish it were warmer!”

…Months pass…

Whah! Why are all the flowers blooming?  My allergies are going to kill me!”

See, never happy. 

 Shutter Island conveys a similar message.  Curiosity totally kills the cat.  Leonardo Dicaprio is on this island to find the answer to two very important questions and he is not going to enjoy the answers.  In the original movie trailers, I thought that this movie was a horror movie.  It turns out that it is a film full of suspense and moral dilemmas that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Only after watching the entire movie (and perhaps re-watching it) are you able to understand the full implications of the ending.  Don’t worry, I won’t give it away 🙂

Now, you may be wondering, how on earth do potstickers relate to this?

Well, I had an epic fail in my kitchen.  EPIC.  While I could have just sat and cried about it(and I might have, I won’t lie), I decided to turn it into a learning experience and share this lesson with you.  Ahem.  Here it is.

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