This is the second book in the Don Tillman series. If you haven’t read the first one, this review may contain spoiler.
The Rosie Effect
By Graeme Simsion
After completing both The Wife Project and The Rosie Project in the precursor to The Rose Effect, Australian genetics professor Don Tillman and wife Rosie move to New York where Don works at Columbia and Rosie is finishing her PhD and MD.
The pair are married less than a year. Don is still adjusting to the new way of life with Rosie – less planning, more spontaneity – when Rosie tells him that she’s pregnant. Don sets out to learn everything he can about pregnancy and being a father… hiding it from Rosie (who feels like he isn’t interested) and getting himself into a world of trouble in the process.
Review/Recommendation: I started The Rose Effect with high hopes. I loved The Rosie Project, but was disappointed in its sequel. I will admit that I had a hard time focusing on much of anything while reading this book – I was in the last weeks of my pregnancy and nesting; and my son was born when I was halfway through the book, adding fatigue and an influx of visitors to the mix.
All of that being said, I just wasn’t as into this book as I was The Rosie Project. Simsion introduced a new group of characters in this book – Don’s men’s group. Some of these characters appeared in The Rosie Project, but they have a larger role in the sequel. They are a sort of support group, offering advice (both good and bad) and sharing their lives. I enjoyed these characters, although I did feel that their role in the book surpassed that of Rosie.
For me, the Don-Rosie relationship was incredibly weak. Rosie withdrew from their relationship, and thus, her role in the story felt diminished. I have a hard time with the idea that one person in a committed relationship could withdraw so much, especially given that the couple were expecting a child, that they would scarcely be present.
I do wish that this book lived up to the expectations I had set, based on its predecessor. Have you read this pair of books? Am I the only one disappointed in the sequel? What did you think?
Today, I’m excited to welcome Maeghan from The Way to His Heart. Maeghan and I met a few years ago and have kept in touch ever since. It’s been a pleasure watching not only watching her own family grow, but also her blog. Maeghan takes gorgeous photos of family-friendly recipes and has had recipes featured by Cooking Light Magazine.
Maeghan, thanks again for posting today – Sophie and I can’t wait to try out your muffins!
When you’re expecting your second child you really focus in on what things to plan for. You’ve been down this road before and you know exactly what it will be like. I think the biggest part for me was making sure that my daughter was still taken care of and feeling loved while we welcomed her brother into the world. Back when I was expecting my son George, I took some time away from my blog, The Way to His Heart, to settle into our new life and other blogger’s helped out and wrote some wonderful guest posts. Now that Liz will be welcoming her son, she is doing the same and it is my time to return the favor.
I met Liz a few years back at the Mixed conference, along with chatting on a cooking forum. She was actually pregnant with her daughter at the time and I was away from mine for the first time. What I wanted to offer to her, and to you, is a great and delicious snack when she’s in a rush. These Banana Chocolate Chip Bran Muffins are absolutely delicious and my daughter and husband have no clue that they are remotely healthy for them. Not that clean eating needs to be hidden, but with the wonderful banana and chocolate chips, you may not even notice the oat bran, honey, and molasses. You can feel good about snacking on these and know that when you’re in a rush, like a new mother definitely can find herself often, you have something nutritious to snack on. The best thing is that these muffins can be frozen, so Liz can make them ahead of the baby’s arrival and pop them in the freezer, then grab a few at a time whenever she wants one.
I hope you enjoy these muffins as much as we do! Congratulations on the arrival of your son, Liz. I can’t wait to see and hear all about him!
Banana Chocolate Chip Bran Muffins
- 1 1/2 cup oat bran
- 1/3 cup skim milk
- 3/4 cup mashed over ripe bananas (about 2 medium)
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/3 cup molasses
- 4 Tbsp miniature chocolate chips, divided
Pre-heat the oven to 350 F and lightly coat 10 muffin cups with a nonstick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, combine oat bran, milk, banana, and vanilla extract. Set aside and allow to to soak for at least 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together.
In a glass measuring up, stir together the melted butter, honey, and molasses until thoroughly combined. Once the oat bran mixture has soaked long enough, add the honey mixture to it. Then, add the flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in 3 tablespoons of chocolate chips.
Divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of chocolate chips onto the tops of the batter and press them slightly into the batter.
Bake for 19-21 minutes, or until the tops bounce back from a slight touch. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool until cool.
Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days or freeze.
*For a vegan version, use coconut oil, non-dairy milk, and maple syrup or agave in place of the honey.
Yields 10 muffins
Source: Amy’s Healthy Baking
Last time I was on maternity leave, I had all of these plans to accomplish so much – lots of cooking and reading and blogging; lots of time crafting; even some home improvement projects… and for the 3ish months I was at home, almost none of that got done. Don’t get me wrong, Sophie was a super easy baby. But between the constant flood of family and friends visiting, I didn’t get to touch most of what I had wanted to. And when I did have a moment of quiet, I was too restless to sit and read.
So this time around, I wanted to be prepared. While I really hoped for a quieter time at home, I didn’t want to leave you without a new book to check out. Thus, I asked Heather from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks to write a book review for me. Heather is an avid reader and cook – I have no idea how she manages to find the time to do everything while also working full-time, so if you haven’t visited her blog, I highly recommend you check it out. This post will give you a little taste of what you can expect.
Thanks for joining me this week, Heather! I’ve got Orphan Train on my to-read list, for that next quiet moment!
by Christina Baker Kline
Synopsis from Goodreads
The author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be delivers her most ambitious and powerful novel to date: a captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask.
Nearly eighteen, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. Just months from “aging out” of the child welfare system, and close to being kicked out of her foster home, a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvie and worse.
Vivian Daly has lived a quiet life on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly discovers that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.
The closer Molly grows to Vivian, the more she discovers parallels to her own life. A Penobscot Indian, she, too, is an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past. As her emotional barriers begin to crumble, Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life – answers that will ultimately free them both.
Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.
Review/Recommendation: The story follows two very different characters. Molly is a year old whose father died when she was 8 and whose mother is in and out of jail. She has been hopping from foster family to foster family for the last 9 years and she can’t wait until her 18th birthday when she’ll be free from the craziness. She can’t take the families that keep her for the money and want nothing to do with her.
Vivian is 91 years old and lives alone in a big mansion. On the outside it appears she has a wonderful life. She was married for 50+ years, she has an amazing house, money, and someone to help her keep the house.
Molly meets Vivian when she goes to her house to help her clean out her attic as part of her community service hours. She has to complete 50 hours from stealing a book from the library. When Molly and Vivian begin going through the boxes it’s clear that Vivian simply wants to reminisce and not really clean anything.
Molly finds herself fascinated by Vivian’s story. It turns out the old woman is much more like Molly then she could have ever dreamed. Vivian’s family came to America when she was just a child. When a fire kills her entire family Vivian is left alone. She is quickly sent to a home for orphan’s and begins her journey on the Orphan Train. As Vivian goes from city to city she both hopes she will be chosen by a family and fears it.
Molly learns that Vivian had her fair share of bad families. The two grow close as they recount the stories of their childhoods and growing up as orphans. It’s an unlikely friendship that blooms into something more as the two grow emotionally attached.
This is a beautiful story about a present day orphan and an orphan back in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The similarities and differences are startling. The journey that Molly and Vivian takes together is something that only the two of them could possibly share.
I found Molly to be an intelligent young woman who has a lot of great characteristics but is unfairly judged by many people, including the woman she is living with. She dresses like a Goth but inside there are deep emotions of a trouble teenager.
Vivian is lonely and longs for the days when she was happy. Her life started out rough and while she is now comfortable there is still something missing. Can Molly help her find the piece that is missing?
Rating: I give this book 4 ½ out of 5 stars.
Almost two weeks ago, we welcomed Luke Jordan into our little family. Arriving more than two weeks early, Luke is a tiny little thing – 6 lbs. 12 oz. and 19 inches long (11% percentile in weight and 6% in height).
Everyone is home – healthy and happy. Luke sleeps amazingly well and tolerates all of the loving his adoring big sister lavishes him with. Sophie is constantly looking for “my Luke.” She loves to hold “it,” cuddle him, and kiss him. She’s been helping Mommy burp the baby and bathe him, and is already trying to share her toys with him.
We couldn’t have asked for a happier, more loving welcome for our sweet boy. We’re looking forward to creating new memories together as a family of four.
Hi everyone! My name is Eva, and I blog over at Eva Bakes. I want to thank Liz for allowing me guest post on her blog today.
I’m willing to bet that most of you reading this are peanut butter fans. Am I right? How about chocolate peanut butter? That’s supposed to be the ultimate peanut butter combination, as I hear. Well, I am one of those very strange birds that doesn’t like peanut butter. This has nothing to do with allergies. I just don’t like the taste or texture of peanut butter. That’s OK – more for you.
Anyway, my husband bought me a cookbook by Food & Wine called Best of the Best. It’s a compilation of the 25 best cookbooks they found in 2012 (yes, I know… I am making this recipe 3 years late. Sigh). Since I am a dessert blogger, I went straight to the dessert section.
Since my husband is a peanut butter fanatic, I wanted to make this pie for him. He was gone on a business trip for a few days, and my 4-year and I decided to surprise him with this pie. The pie was actually easier than I imagined to put together and didn’t take as much time as I originally thought. When my husband returned from his trip, he was excited to find this pie in the refrigerator and asked when he would be able to eat a slice.
If you enjoyed this recipe or are a fan of sweets, I hope you’ll stop by my blog sometime and check out all my desserts!
Chocolate peanut butter pie
- 1 cup graham cracker or vanilla wafer crumbs (you can use chocolate sandwich cookies too)
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 3/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (do not use natural or homemade)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
- 8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped finely
- 1 cup heavy cream
Make the crust: Process the crumbs in a food processor or high-powered blender. If you don’t have either of these, you can put the cookies in a zip-top bag and crush them with a rolling pin or other cylinder-like object (like a bottle of wine). Transfer to a medium bowl and add the sugar. Mix well. Then add the melted butter and mix until the crumbs resemble wet sand. Transfer the crumbs to a 9-inch pie pan and press the crumbs on the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Set aside.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Make the filling: In a large bowl, mix together the brown sugar, corn syrup, cream, peanut butter and vanilla until smooth and free of lumps. Add the eggs until well incorporated and pour the batter into the prepared crust.
Bake in your preheated oven for 40-45 minutes or until the edges are puffy and the center is soft (it may appear underbaked, which is OK).
Allow the pie to cool while you prepare the ganache.
Make the ganache: Placed the chopped chocolate in a medium sized bowl. Microwave (or heat in a saucepan) the heavy cream until very hot. Pour over the chopped chocolate and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes. Whisk the cream and chocolate together until smooth. Pour this over the pie. If desired, garnish with chopped peanuts. Allow the pie to cool and the ganache to set completely. You can also serve with dollops of whipped cream.
Any leftover pie should be stored in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.
Yield: One 9-inch pie, about 8-10 servings
Source: Slightly adapted from Alisa Huntsman, via Food & Wine: Best of the Best; pages 105-106
In honor of Cinco de Mayo next week, I’m sharing a recipe that’s been on my to-make list for years. I’ve been bookmarking recipes for Restaurant Style Salsa for what seems like ever. After all, the best part of going to a Mexican restaurant is the chips and salsa. Well, that and the margaritas, but I can’t indulge in those quite yet. I’ve got to tell you, I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to make this myself. It was super easy and just as additive as the stuff they serve at the restaurants.
Adapted from Mountain Mama Cooks
In a large food processor, pulse the following ingredients for 30 seconds, or until desired consistency:
- 1-14 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juices
- 1-10 oz. can diced tomatoes and chilies mix (i.e. Rotel), with juices
- 1/2 a small onion, roughly chopped
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed/chopped
- 1 jalapeno, seeded (or not, if you prefer your salsa spicier)
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- juice of 1 lime
- small handful of cilantro
Taste. Adjust seasonings if needed.
Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
This month’s What’s Baking? theme was chosen by Nicole from Seven Ate Nine – Bake With Garlic. At first I was excited by the theme, the chance to do something a little more savory. But then I started worrying about what to make. With Easter entertaining on the agenda, I decided to accompany my usual Beef Wellington with fresh bread, inspired by this month’s theme. The “baking” was twofold – first roasting the garlic until soft and sweet, flavoring good olive oil, and then using the two components to bake into bread.
I’ve made fresh focaccia bread once before and was impressed with both the ease and the wonderful flavor. This recipe produced the same results. Like most fresh breads, it’s takes a little while to make, due to the rising time, but the result is worth the effort. (For your convenience, I added the time required for each step in bold, at the step, in case you need to break up the steps or plan your day around them.)
Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia
Adapted from Kitchen Konfidence
Makes a 9×13 pan
- 1/2 c. good-quality olive oil
- 1 large head of garlic, top cut off
- 2 1/4 tsp. (1 envelope) active dry yeast
- 1 3/4 c. warm water
- 4 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. fine sea salt
- 2 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh rosemary (from 4 springs)
- flakey sea salt
Roast the Garlic and Flavor the Olive Oil: Preheat oven to 300°F.
Place olive oil in a small oven-safe bowl. Add garlic, top-side down. Cover bowl with foil and cook until garlic is soft, 45-60 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool before removing garlic from oil and removing garlic cloves from the skin, setting aside the cloves to use on the bread later. If needed, pour oil through a mesh strainer or cheesecloth to remove solids. Set aside.
Time: 1 hour
Make the Dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer, gently stir warm water and yeast with a wooden spoon or plastic spatula to dissolve yeast. Allow to sit until the mixture begins to foam, about 5 minutes.
Transfer bowl to the stand mixer and fit with the dough hook. Add flour, fine sea salt, and 2 Tbs. roasted garlic olive oil. Mix on low speed, stopping periodically to scrape dough off hook, until mixture is smooth and slightly sticky, 10-15 minutes.
In a clean bowl, place 1 Tbs. reserved olive oil. Add dough ball to bowl and turn to coat completely in oil. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set in a warm place to rise. Dough should double in size, about 2 hours. (Note: In my house, I find that dough rises best when placed in the kitchen while I’m using the stove/oven or by my gas fireplace, left on. I apparently keep my house too cool for dough to rise easily without an additional heat source.)
Time: 2 to 2 1/2 hours
Rest: Place 1 Tbs. reserved olive oil in a 9×13 baking dish (I used a Pyrex dish). Spread, ensuring bottom and sides are coated.
Uncover and punch down dough. Transfer to prepared baking dish, stretching so that it covers the entire dish. Cover again with clean towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Time: 45 minutes
Bake the Bread: When dough is resting, preheat the oven to 450°F.
After dough has finished resting, use clean fingers to a dimple dough (pressing slightly with fingertips, all over). Brush with remaining roasted garlic olive oil (you may have some leftover) and add reserved garlic cloves. Sprinkle with flakey sea salt and chopped rosemary.
Place in oven and immediately lower temperature to 375°F. Bake until golden brown, 20-30 minutes.
Allow to rest on a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.
Time: 30 minutes + time to cool slightly (additional 15ish minutes)
Winter In Books:
Yes, this title is appropriate – spring just arrived this week!
Surprisingly, I’ve spent a lot of time reading (on and off) over the past few months. Amid frantic knitting to finish a baby blanket for my BFF, I’ve managed to get multiple books going at a time – one audio for the car, one on my iPad, and one hardcover (for when I can’t bring my iPad along). I read and reviewed a light romance novel for you and a few mystery-suspense novels that I don’t plan on reviewing on here. If you’re interested, you can check out the list of books I’ve read on Goodreads or check out my profile for what I’m currently reading.
In addition, Paperback Book Swap changed their policy, from providing a free service enabling members to swap books at will (you pay the shipping), to charging 50¢ per transaction. I haven’t used the site much in the past few years, since I have been doing most of my reading on an e-reader, so I decided it wasn’t worth keeping my account active. I quickly cashed in my remaining 5 credits for old copies of a few J.D. Robb mysteries before the policy change kicked in and retired my account.
J.D. Robb’s In Death Series
Cashing in at PBS, along with the audio books that have been sitting in my car this summer, inspired the rest of this – a review of J.D. Robb’s In Death series. There are almost 40 books in the series (published 1995-present), of which I’ve read or listened to about half of them.
The Story: In Short The series begins in the year 2058. The 50+ years into the future setting is well established and apparently through the made-up vocabulary and technology used consistently throughout the series. Characters drink “tubes” of Pepsi and encounter droids as servants and security personnel. There are a number of references to the existence of human settlements “off planet,” including both prisons and vacation destinations. Both legal (i.e. Sober Up, blockers) and illegal (i.e. Zoner) drugs are foreign to the present-day reader.
This is the world of Eve Dallas, a leading homicide detective in New York City. Throughout the series, the reader watches as Dallas solves case after case and rises in the ranks of the New York City Police Department. The further into the series one reads, the more that the reader learns about what makes Eve, well, Eve – from an abusive father to living in the foster care system to her eventual relationship with a sketchy Irishman turned legitimate businessman.
Review: Over the past several years, I have enjoyed several of these books. I find them easy to pick up and although the stories are loosely linked, I’ve found it them easy to read out of order. I don’t find any of the story-lines particularly complicated, but they’re entertaining, which is the reason I regularly return to the series (and most of books in the mystery and suspense genre) anyway.
One of the strongest features to the series are the characters. Each of the major characters, and there’s several that appear in each book, all have their own distinct personality. Eve is the hard ass; sidekick Delia Peabody is a little wonky, electronics division Ian McNab reminds me of a surfer, and husband Roarke is highly intelligence and slick. As I read (or listen to) one of the books, I’ve grown to imagine the characters based on Robb’s description of the characters but also their very unique voice, which shines through best in the audio version of the books.
This series is actually one of my favorites to listen to on audio book. The content is light and fast-paced so that I don’t get distracted. However, I think the best part is that the narrator, Susan Ericksen, is excellent. She has narrated every book that I’ve listened to (as far as I can tell, she may have actually narrated the whole series to date). For me, this continuity makes a huge difference in which series I will continue to listen to on audio book and which ones I’ll switch back to the old-school books.
If you’re a fan of mysteries/suspense novels and haven’t given J.D. Robb a try, I’d recommend it. The futuristic setting is a fun twist. Bonus points if you give the audio books a shot.
Carved in Bone
By Jefferson Bass
Dr. Bill Brockton runs the Body Farm, a nickname for the Anthropology Research Facility, a “postmortem-decay research lab” at the University of Tennessee. Brockton is a forensic anthropologist who studies rates of decomposition and effects of nature, among other things, upon victim’s bodies at the Body Farm. He regularly assists local law enforcement on cases and testifies in court.
In Carved in Bone, Dr. Brockton is asked to assist in a case in Cooke County, Tennessee. The body of a young woman is discovered, oddly well preserved, deep in a cave. But the case is more than what Dr. Brockton bargained for. Before he knows it, he’s knee-deep in Cook Country’s illicit activities, surrounded by people he doesn’t trust, and a target for who knows who.
Review/Recommendation: The first book in the Body Farm Series, published in 2006, Carved in Bone starts off pretty slow. I felt like I was reading an episode of FOX’s Bones, but much slower-paced and without the wit and fun banter of the tv show’s characters. The story starts to pick up about a third of the way through the book, when the characters are all introduced, although there are still parts that seemed to drag a little bit.
That being said, I did like the story, once it got going. Actually, the story line was the best part, for me. I read a lot of mystery and suspense novels, and I definitely didn’t feel like this was a story that I had already read elsewhere.
However, I do feel there was significant room for improvement. I could have used a bit more wit and humor in the dialog. In addition, the investment in the characters was also lacking. There was a good mix of characters – some more likable than others and a few that evoked feelings of pity – but I didn’t have strong (positive or negative) feelings towards any of them.
I am not sold on whether or not I’ll be hooked on the series like I am books by some of my favorite mystery authors, but I thought the book was entertaining enough to reserve the second book in the series from the library. I’m hoping that the slow start and lack of attachment to the characters was due to setting the scene for the series and won’t be repeated with each book.