Posts made in January, 2020

Book Blog: Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith

Posted by on Jan 31, 2020 in Blog, book blog | 2 comments

I review everything I read and post reviews on Goodreads and LibraryThing. That’s not enough. Good books are meant to be shared. Therefore, I’m spotlighting some of my favorite reads here on my site.

don't read the comments

Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith
out now; Indiebound, B&N, and Amazon

I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Don’t Read the Comments is a YA book that is incredibly timely, realistic, and well done…. but wow is it a hard read at times. Frankly, this book is a horror novel about what the internet and social media are like for women in this era of Gamergate and trolls. Don’t get me wrong–I loved the book and I am absolutely adding it to my shortlist for the Norton Award for next year–but I also pushed through reading it as fast as I could because there’s no denying it was triggery.

Divya is a passionate teenage gamer with a streaming channel and social media presence. Her increasing clout have started to garner her much-needed promotional items and sponsorships, but also, trolls who don’t want a girl–especially one of color–taking up space in ‘their’ world. When a troll mob ambushes Divya and her devoted Angst Army, that’s horrible enough, but when the threats become physical in reality, that’s something else.

Meanwhile, gaming is Aaron’s whole life–or would be, if he didn’t have to put in hours in his mom’s medical practice. His real passion is writing the plot for a new game publisher-start-up (though it’d be nice if he could get paid) and playing loads of other games, too. When he and Divya meet in-game, they strikes up a friendship that feels absolutely genuine–even as troll attacks against Divya escalate and her life begins to unravel.

Smith really nailed every element in this book. Every character and relationship resounds with truth, from Divya and Aaron’s adorably geeky connection to their love and exasperation for their parents. The gaming world comes across with 100% realism. As an old school gamer myself, I ADORED the shout-outs to old and dear favorites of mine like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy III (with a necessary note that this is the original American Super Nintendo release), plus casual mention of things like roms to play old games. Some revelations about Aaron’s dad were especially delightful.

Of course, part of the realism is the horror aspect: trolls, doxing, and the persistent harassment that women endure online. This is all sadly accurate, too, but I love how Smith brings everything together in the end with thoughtfulness and care. Nothing about this book is sugar-coated and easy, but there’s still a spirit of hopefulness that is necessary in their world and in ours.

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Bready or Not: Ultimate Chocolate Cookies

Posted by on Jan 29, 2020 in Blog, Bready or Not, chocolate, cookies | 0 comments

Ultimate Chocolate Cookies! Say that in a gravelly announcer-guy voice. ULTIMATE CHOCOLATE COOKIES!

Bready or Not: Ultimate Chocolate Cookies

These are loaded with chocolate–melted into the dough and with bonus chocolate chips, too! Oh yeah, and cocoa!

Bready or Not: Ultimate Chocolate Cookies

The addition of espresso powder (or instant coffee) amps up that chocolate flavor, too. If you don’t keep that around for your cookies and brownies, it’s a good habit to start.

Bready or Not: Ultimate Chocolate Cookies

I mean, amping up chocolate flavor is DEFINITELY a good thing.

Bready or Not: Ultimate Chocolate Cookies

You might even say it makes things… ultimate.

Bready or Not: Ultimate Chocolate Cookies

Modified from AllRecipes Magazine February/March 2015.

Bready or Not: Ultimate Chocolate Cookies

These cookies are a must for chocoholics! Note that the cookie dough needs to set for at least 30 minutes prior to baking. Makes 50 teaspoon-sized cookies.
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chocolate, cookies
Author: Beth Cato

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips 1 bag, divided
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder Dutch process or regular unsweetened, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar packed
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder or instant-coffee granules
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  • On the stove top or in a microwave, melt 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, warming until smooth. Set aside to cool.
  • In another bowl, stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a big bowl, beat together the butter and two sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, scraping bowl to make sure everything is combined. Follow up with espresso powder and vanilla, then the melted chocolate. Stir in flour mixture. Fold in the remaining chocolate chips.
  • Cover mixing bowl and let dough stand for about 30 minutes so that the chocolate can set.
  • Preheat oven at 350-degrees. Use a teaspoon scoop to place dough spaced out on parchment-covered cookie sheet or seasoned stoneware.
  • Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let set on stove about 10 minutes before moving cookies to a rack to completely cool.
  • Store in sealed containers at room temperature. Cookies may crisp up more after 1 day, but keep quite well.
  • OM NOM NOM!
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Book Blog: Jinxed by Amy McCulloch

Posted by on Jan 24, 2020 in Blog, book blog | 0 comments

I review everything I read and post reviews on Goodreads and LibraryThing. That’s not enough. Good books are meant to be shared. Therefore, I’m spotlighting some of my favorite reads here on my site.

Jinxed

 

Jinxed by Amy McCulloch
out now; Indiebound, B&N, and Amazon

I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

This tense, smart middle grade book establishes a near-future Earth where only the poorest people have smart phones. Anyone who’s anyone has a baku, which is a companion robot, computer, and accessory all in one. Lacey Chu is a brilliant young engineer with her hopes set on getting into an elite school that fast-tracks graduates to the Moncha corporation, where Monica Chan invented bakus. Lacey is devastated when she isn’t accepted, and embarrassed when all she can afford is a measly level one scarab baku. But when she finds a piece of junk and hauls it home to her workshop, she’s stunned to find it’s a cat baku unlike any other. She fixes it up. Suddenly, her school rejection is undone. She’s in! But as she starts her dream school, she realizes her baku, Jinx, is truly unique. He doesn’t obey orders, as if he…. is alive.

This book is so much fun. You can’t help but love Jinx. He’s such a cat. Lacey is a great heroine, a kid with dreams and genuine drive. I found the book breathless in pace. I didn’t want to put it down! My only complaint is that the book ends on a tortuous cliffhanger.

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Bready or Not: British Flapjacks

Posted by on Jan 22, 2020 in Blog, Bready or Not, breakfast, british, chocolate | 2 comments

Time for flapjacks–British-style flapjacks, which are like American granola bars! This recipe, modified from British baking goddess Mary Berry, is super-easy and delicious.

British Flapjacks

In advance of my big trip to the UK last June, I wanted to make numerous British, Scottish, and French goodies so I could then find the legit thing over there to see if I did it right.

British Flapjacks

I ended up eating a lot of different flapjacks. Not only are they common to find at bakery counters everywhere, but in grocery stores I found a lot of what Americans call energy bars are labeled as flapjacks instead.

British Flapjacks

This particular flapjack is more like a bakery-style flapjack: like a toffee-rich granola bar. A drizzle of chocolate, I found, added some necessary contrast and balance.

British Flapjacks

My husband took these to work. A Scottish-born co-worker gave one a try and actually asked, “Is this a flapjack?” I cheered and danced when I heard that. I did it! I made a recognizable flapjack!

British Flapjacks

I found the original version of this recipe in Mary Berry’s cookbook Baking with Mary Berry. Unlike most (or maybe all) of her other cookbooks, this one is in American measurements, though it still features loads of British goods. Click on the picture below to find it on Amazon.

I modified another recipe from this book, too. Find my take on British-style Gingerbread here!

Bready or Not: British Flapjacks

What the British call flapjacks are more closely related to American granola bars. Chewy and delicious, they are perfect for breakfasts and snacks. Recipe modified from Mary Berry's recipe in Baking with Mary Berry.
Course: Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine: British
Keyword: bars, chocolate, granola
Author: Beth Cato

Equipment

  • 8x12x1-inch pan (small jelly roll pan)

Ingredients

Flapjacks

  • 9 Tablespoons unsalted butter 1 stick plus 1 Tablespoon
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar packed
  • 2 1/2 cups rolled old-fashioned oats

Chocolate Drizzle

  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon shortening

Instructions

  • Preheat oven at 350-degrees. Line pan with aluminum foil and apply grease or nonstick spray. Set aside.
  • In a large saucepan, gently heat the butter, corn syrup, and sugar until everything is melted together with the sugar dissolved. Stir in oats to completely coat.
  • Scoop everything into the prepared pan. Use an uneven spatula to spread out evenly.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Let cool for about 5 minutes. Leaving contents in pan, slice into thin rectangular bars. Let completely cool.
  • Use foil to lift contents onto cutting board. Slice again to separate.
  • In a microwave-safe bowl, heat up chocolate chips with shortening, cooking in 20 second bursts and stirring well between each time, until chocolate smoothly stirs together. Use a fork to drizzle over flapjacks.
  • Store in sealed container at room temperature.

OM NOM NOM!

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    Book Blog: The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese by Kathe Lison

    Posted by on Jan 17, 2020 in Blog, book blog | 0 comments

    I review everything I read and post reviews on Goodreads and LibraryThing. That’s not enough. Good books are meant to be shared. Therefore, I’m spotlighting some of my favorite reads here on my site.

    whole fromage

    The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese by Kathe Lison
    out now; Indiebound, B&N, and Amazon

    New life goal: become a cheese knight.

    That is a real thing in France, if you are so blessed by one of many local brotherhoods/sisterhoods of local cheese. The facts of cheese knighthood are among many very real delights described in this book by Kathe Lison, a Wisconsin native who arose from humble beginnings of Kraft boxed macaroni and cheese to explore the cultural and historical nuances of French fromage. If you’re a history geek (ME!) who loves cheese (ME!) with a yearning to travel, even if vicariously through literature (ME! ME!) this book will hit all of your sweet spots (and savory spots besides).

    I found out about this book by listening to a podcast of the author in conversation with travel guru Rick Steves upon the subject of French cheese. The book delves much deeper into the subject, and does so in an easy-to-relate-to breezy tone. Chapters focus on cheeses such as Salers, chevre in southwestern France, Camembert and the mythology around it, Reblochon, Comte, Roquefort and its caves, sheep cheese of the Pyrenees, and of course, Langre and its cheese knights. There is a great deal about traditional methods of cheesemaking, the ever-changing industrialization of it, and the peculiarities of AOC labels and terroir.

    This was my first book of 2020 and I hope it sets my destiny for the year–one filled with delicious artisanal cheese.

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