January Voting Selections

It’s that time again, Litwits!  January is only two months away (can you believe it?) so we need to get down to business and make our monthly book selection.  Bianca has selected this month’s options and she decided to make it a Jodi Picoult month!  I’m super excited to finally read something by Ms. Picoult and hope y’all are too.  Should generate some awesome discussion.  You’ll be receiving the voting link later Thursday night or early Friday morning, but here’s a little preview of the books:

House Rules: Jacob Hunt is a teen with Asperger’s syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, though he is brilliant in many ways. But he has a special focus on one subject- forensic analysis. A police scanner in his room clues him in to crime scenes, and he’s always showing up and telling the cops what to do. And he’s usually right. But when Jacob’s small hometown is rocked by a terrible murder, law enforcement comes to him. Jacob’s behaviors are hallmark Asperger’s but they look a lot like guilt to the local police. Suddenly the Hunt family, who only want to fit in, are directly in the spotlight. For Jacob’s mother, Emma, its a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it’s another indication why nothing is normal because of Jacob. And over this small family, the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder?
Sing You Home: In the aftermath of a series of personal tragedies, Zoe throws herself into her career as a music therapist. When an unexpected friendship slowly blossoms into love, she makes plans for a new life, but to her shock and inevitable rage, some people- even those she loves and trusts most- don’t want that to happen. Sing You Home explores the delicate boundaries of identity, love, marriage and parenthood. What happens when the outside world brutally calls into question the very thing closest to our hearts: family? Once again, Jodi Picoult gracefully brings the hidden tensions of life sharply into focus in this poignantly honest novel.
Mercy: The police chief of a small Massachusetts town, Cameron McDonald, makes the toughest arrest of his life when his own cousin Jamie comes to him and confesses outright that he has killed his terminally ill wife out of mercy. Now, a heated murder trial plunges the town into upheaval and drives a wedge into a contented marriage: Cameron, aiding the prosecution in its case against Jamie, is suddenly at odds with his devoted wife, Allie, seduced by the idea of a man so in love with his wife that he’d grant all her wishes, even her wish to end her life. And when an inexplicable attraction leads to a shocking betrayal, Allie faces the hardest questions of the heart: When does love cross the line of moral obligation? And what does it mean to truly love another?
Handle With Care: Every expectant parent will tell you that they don’t want a perfect baby, just a healthy one. Charlotte and Sean O’Keefe would have asked for a healthy baby, too, if they’d been given the choice. Instead, their lives are consumed by sleepless nights, mounting bills, the pitying stares of “luckier” parents, and maybe worst of all, the what-ifs. What if their child had been born healthy? But it’s all worth it because Willow is, well, funny as it seems, perfect. She’s smart as a whip, on her way to being as pretty as her mother, kind, brave, and for a five-year-old an unexpectedly deep source of wisdom. Willow is Willow, in sickness and in health. Everything changes, though, after a series of events forces Charlotte and her husband to confront the most serious what-ifs of all. What if Charlotte should have known earlier of Willow’s illness? What if things could have been different? What if their beloved Willow had never been born? To do Willow justice, Charlotte must ask herself these questions and one more. What constitutes a valuable life?

Happy Birthday, Litwits!

October’s meetup marked the 2 year anniversary of the best book club of all time – and yes, I’m completely biased.  We met at Victoria’s to discuss Arcadia by Lauren Groff and party down!  Festivities included a White Elephant-esque book gift exchange, a huge gift basket raffle (congrats Jennifer!), and one awesome bookish cake.

While we had all of the fun activities planned, we also made time to discuss our book of the month – Arcadia.  The story begins in the late 60s and follows Bit from childhood, through adolescence, and into adulthood as his life is shaped by the commune he’s born into and the people he meets there.  Yes, there are many, many hippies.

The ladies had strong feelings about this book.  Many were not fans and weren’t afraid to share their disappointment.  Others found the human connection to nature, the history of commune living, and some of the individual characters fascinating.  The naysayers disapproved of the slow nature of the plot and how nothing really happens – EVER.  Arcadia truly is a character study – brief glimpses into the positives and negatives of a free society hidden away from mainstream consumerism, but ultimately destroyed by a leader with a messiah complex.

Some members praised Groff’s powerful women and how often women really were the backbone of the novel.  I, personally, loved that the novel didn’t preach HIPPIES ARE AWESOME or HIPPIES ARE THE DEVIL!  Instead, Groff expertly showcased the pros, the cons, and everything between.  Unfortunately, the hippies fell flat for me and the story just wasn’t my cup of tea.

While Arcadia didn’t win a ton of new fans, it definitely managed to incite some great conversations about communal living, education, humanity’s relationship with nature (we might have talked about snakes for 15 minutes), and porn.  Because we always end at porn – some how, some way.

 

Atlanta Restaurant Review: 57th Fighter Group and Downwind Restaurants

The Peachtree-Dekalb Airport a few miles from my house just happens to be the second busiest airport in Georgia and houses two really fun restaurants that sit almost on top of the runways!  PDK was a WWI training base and is rich with history. Locals and tourists alike will enjoy the unique experience of dining at either restaurant and watching the planes come and go.

Jimmy and I headed to 57th Fighter Group for dinner a couple of weeks ago with another Scoutmob deal in hand and then to Downwind a few days later for some Wednesday night trivia!  These restaurants are old, very local, and not meant to impress with fancy decor.  The atmosphere is all about the air traffic which is non-stop!  Also, a great family place filled with kids super excited about the airplanes.  You really can’t go wrong here – the food is even much better than expected!

At 57th, I ordered the flat steak with garlic mashed potatoes.  The steak was cooked perfectly and quite tasty – also the perfect 6 oz. size.  The garlic mashed was creamy but a bit lacking on the garlic flavor. Still, very little to complain about.  Jimmy ordered half the menu!  He had a bunch of appetizers.  He loved the ceviche and the beer cheese soup.  You must order the beer cheese soup as that’s a crowd favorite and so delectably cheesy.  He also downed some fried shrimp and homemade fries.  I gotta say – the fried shrimp were fairly pedestrian but the fries were delicious.  Prices are reasonable but not exactly cheap.  Portions are very sizable, though, so you never feel like you’ve been skimped on quantity or quality!

Word of warning: if you decide to go during yellow jacket season, be prepared to battle with those little monsters the entire time.  The restaurant does their best to set up traps and whatnot, but there are just so many of them!  And I’m terrified of flying, stinging things so this made dinner a very anxious time for me until the sun set and temps got cooler.  Of course, you can always sit inside near the huge windows and watch the planes safely tucked away from nature as well.

 

(P.S. The building you see off in the distance beyond the runways is the CDC!  They have an awfully fun view)

A few days later, we had dinner at Downwind with friends and participated in the trivia night hosted every Wednesday at 7 pm.  The fried calamari was delicious and my grilled cheese with ham was fabulous.  The fries were a bit boring.  Everyone seemed to enjoy their food.  The ham on my sandwich was very flavorful and cut into sizable slices which I was pleasantly surprised to discover.

Overall, the service is a bit on the slow side, but these are mom and pop joints where your attention is always on the planes and rarely ever on where your waitress is!  The food could have been terrible and I’d still go back because there’s just something so mesmerizing, almost soothing, about planes taking off and landing.  Make sure to sit outside to enhance your experience and listen to those beastly jet engines!  Highly recommended dining experience!

Welcome to the World Ashlyn!!

Monday night my sister, Shay, gave birth to her daughter – Ashlyn Elizabeth Schie!  I’m super excited to have a new niece and to be an aunt 5 times over!  Ashlyn weighed in at 7 lbs. 2 ounces and is a bundle of cuteness.  Shay is doing great and excited about becoming a mom!  I now feel ancient knowing that my little sis has a child.  Congrats to Shay and Russell and welcome to the family Ashlyn!  Can’t wait to meet you in a couple of weeks!

 

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Smith’s novel saw me through the entirety of my read-a-thon participation and was an absolute delight to spend several hours reading.  If you think you’ve never heard of her before (and many of her novels are out of print), she wrote 101 Dalmatians!  What more do you really need to know after that?

I Capture the Castle could be described as a young adult/coming of age tale about a precocious 17-year-old in early 20th century England.  Cassandra and her family live in this cozy, little hamlet and their house is a dilapidated old castle!  Her father made money initially off writing a critically acclaimed novel, but then spent some time in prison after threatening a neighbor with a  butter knife and never wrote again.  They live in extreme poverty with seemingly no way out.  Cassandra, her older sister, younger brother, father and stepmother (who loves getting naked outdoors) are completely sequestered away from modern society and come off as very eccentric – basically, freaks.  Rose and Cassandra’s hopes appear to rely solely on finding a rich husband, but with no marrying men about what’s a girl to do?  Enter their new landlords, the exceptionally rich Cotton brothers straight out of America and you’ve got yourself a little golddiggery on the horizon!

Smith’s novel is excellent, but on the same eccentric side as her characters.  Cassandra is our narrator via her diary and you honestly wouldn’t know she was 17 except that she tells you so in the first few pages.  I constantly thought of her as 12-14 with her naivety being so overwhelming.  You really get a sense of how closed away this family is from anything remotely normal.  But this aspect also makes Cassandra and her family super charming and refreshingly unique.  You never really know what’s going to happen next due to the family’s quirks and that made the pages easy to turn.  The Cotton brothers help ground the novel in actual reality when the Mortmain family seems sure to transcend into fairytale land at any moment and add just the right amount of romantic intrigue.

The best way I can describe how I felt reading I Capture the Castle is enchanted.  I wanted to climb the castle’s walls, hold midsummer bonfires, and get swept away by the riches of London right along with Rose and Cassandra.  If I have any complaints, it’s only that sometimes the Mortmains seemed a bit too unrealistic, but that was also half the fun.  And let me just take a moment to recommend the film version because I watched it a year or so ago and loved it!  Henry Cavill stars and he’s a bucket full of fried chicken – YUM!  Notice how I just got real Southern on y’all?  That’s what Mr. Cavill does for me.

So don’t waste anymore time reading this post – go pick up a copy of I Capture the Castle pronto!

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Knocking ‘em down one book at a time!  Loving my classic’s list!

Atlanta Restaurant Review: Farm Burger

Atlanta has seen an explosion of fancy burger places over the past few years – too many, if we’re being honest.  I mean, how different can a burger be, right?  One of the most popular joints is Farm Burger which opened its first store in Decatur awhile back and now has offerings in Buckhead and Dunwoody.  Farm Burger boasts grass-fed healthy beef, farm to table menu, and adult milkshakes.

The Dunwoody location just had their Grand Opening a few miles from my house so Jimmy and I decided to check them out one Friday night.  We had a 2-for-1 milkshakes coupon which was pretty exciting.  The restaurant itself is small and farmhouse trendy.  They have a full bar and large picnic table communal seating, plus regular tables.  Jimmy and I opted for a table outside, as we always do when the weather is nice.

Service was a bit hit or miss.  I’ll give them a few more weeks to get everyone trained up before really being bothered.  Your order is taken at the bar, you get a number, and the food is brought out to you.  The server taking the order at the register was very slow and the line (yes, there was a line) moved at a snail’s pace.  Our table server was awesome, though.

The food!  I ordered the No. 6 – burger with bacon, pepper jack cheese. salsa verde, and sunny-side up egg.  It sounded yummy.  Jimmy ordered the No. 1 – burger with aged vermont white cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, and FB sauce.  I was so excited, y’all.  But when the food reached our table I was immediately dismayed.  My burger was a leaky, sopping mess.  I literally could not pick the little guy up without all the toppings sloshing out.  The bottom bun was soaked through.  My burger was eaten with a knife and fork – unacceptable.  As far as taste was concerned, the toppings were well done and lovely.  They have this awesome thick cut bacon and the salsa verde added just the right amount of heat.  The egg was perfectly cooked and delicious.  The beef, however, left a lot to be desired.  It was cooked to the exact right temp (medium), but almost flavorless and slighty dry.  I attribute this to the healthy, sans-fat beef cut which is less flavorful than fattier patties – but it’s like they forgot they could season the meat.  The toppings also kind of overpowered the burger.  I’d love to go back and build my own with less toppings and see what I think then.

Oh, the fries were just okay!  Nothing to write home about.  Jimmy’s burger had some lovely onions on top and a great smell.  He thinks FB is just okay.  Besides burgers, FB also has appetizers, salads, and soups – all of which I’d love to try.  As for the milkshakes, Jimmy ordered a chocolate cherry malt which he liked and I got the Mint which was awesome.  They use real mint and the flavor was tremendous.  This FB also has a Morelli’s ice cream counter tucked into the side which lots of patrons were enjoying.  Something for everyone!

Overall, decent food and I do want to go back once the newness has worn off to taste a broader array of selections.  Word of warning:  these burgers ain’t cheap.  And to me, that’s kind of a problem.  Who wants to pay $10 for just a burger?  By the time you add on fries and a drink, you’re at $15.  Too much.  Their cheapest burger (the build yourself) is $6.50 with the basic toppings for free, but fancy toppings start to quickly $1 and $2 you to death.  These prices are why people can’t buy 100% healthy food which is a shame.

Now I’m on a quest to find my favorite Atlanta burger!  Wish me luck!

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

I can’t believe I’ve lived almost three decades and this is only my first run-in with Agatha Christie!  I feel so ashamed!  October seemed like the perfect time to remedy this tragedy and so I picked up And Then There Were None off the TBR shelf.  Such a fun theme read for the Halloween season!

The basic premise involves 10 seemingly random people brought together on Indian Island (a small island off the coast of England).  One by one, the guests begin to die and eventually surmise that the killing must be an inside job due to there being no one else on the island!  The remaining victims are in a race against time to discover the true killer if they are to survive to see the mainland again!  Brilliant.

I don’t know what else can possibly be said about Agatha Christie.  She met all my expectations and more.  Her tale was expertly crafted and I suspected every single character of being the murderer at some point.  And I can guarantee that once the full story is revealed everyone will be pleasantly surprised at how things went down.  Readers will also encounter some fantastically written characters, especially the strong female lead character of Vera – loved her!

And there is so much suspense!  I know a lot of readers might think this book rather tame as compared to modern day slasher flicks, but I honestly preferred reading certain parts of this novel in the daytime rather than the dark of night!  And I love slasher flicks, but well done suspense is timeless.

So if you need a very quick, delightfully spooky Halloween read – please consider And Then There Were None!  I almost want to go back and read it again now knowing the details uncovered at the end of the story.  I can’t wait to read another Christie novel to see how well her other novels stand up to this winner.

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My first Agatha Christie!  Perhaps I should add more to my Classics Club List?