Member Spotlight: Bianca!

What is your earliest (approx.) reading memory? 

Reading a whole book to my parents! I distinctly remember the book had a purple cover and it was about a bird who ate too much during the summer, so he couldn’t fly south with his friends because he was too fat. He spent the winter hopping around, scrounging for food, thus he lost weight and was able to fly just in time for spring. All his friends came back and they had a nice summer together and he vowed not to eat too much ever again. The End.
What are your favorite kinds of books to read?
I love reading books that transport you to wherever
the book takes place. I love feeling so engrossed in a book that during the day I wonder what the characters are up to, or feeling like this day is weird because it’s real life and not at all what is happening in the book. I love dramas. Anything by Jodi Picoult, I LOOOOOOOVE, talk about intense!!
Other than your passion for books, what should members know about you?
I also have a passion for food that I didn’t cook and LOVE getting dressed up and going to new restaurants and old faves. I’m also obsessed with Groupon and Scoutmob and try to find new places through there, since I’m not a millionaire.
Also, I’m planning my wedding for May and loving every second of it!!
Name your favorite restaurant in the Atlanta area (or two or three!).
ONE Midtown Kitchen
TWO Urban Licks
Sushi House in Buckhead
Cafe Intermezzo (for dessert and drinks)
Urban Flats is my new fave
The Grape
Clearly I can go on and on and on…
If you could get on a plane bound for anywhere tomorrow, where would you go and why?
In this moment, it would be Bora Bora, because we just watched the end of XXX (Vin Diesel is totally by guilty pleasure!) last night and at the end they go to Bora Bora and it looks sooo amazingly luxurious and relaxing…
Aside from that, I don’t think I could pick just one place. I really want to go to New Zealand, Thailand, Greece, Japan, Costa Rica and the DR, I would also love to go back to Spain and Italy.
Although if I was seriously handed a ticket tomorrow, I may have to be lame and say San Antonio, because I haven’t seen my parents since Easter and there is LOTS of wedding planning to do out there!! 🙂

Book Review: Empire by Orson Scott Card

You first have to understand that Orson Scott Card wrote one of my favorite books of all time – Ender’s Game.  I actually read Ender’s Game as part of my ninth grade curriculum and have reread the novel a couple of times since – plus, I finished the Ender’s Saga a couple of years ago (there are three additional books in the series).  In a way, I kind of view Ender Wiggins as my Harry Potter.  That being said, Empire is no Ender’s Game.

Card was asked to create a world around a video game idea and thus, Empire was born.  We’re a bit into the future to the tune of a few years, not decades or centuries.  In the first few pages, the President and Vice President are both assassinated.  Before long, the US has found itself smack in the middle of a second civil war – this one being fought red vs. blue.  Instead of a boy genius, Card now has us following an old Delta command unit whose leader works an office job at the Pentagon in anti-terrorism.

Empire is political – you need to know that up front, and the politics are anything but balanced.  Sure, Card does occasionally try to argue both sides, liberal and conservative – but all too often these brief moments seem forced or merely an afterthought.  Writers are supposed to write what they know, right?  Card is very much a conservative so it comes as no surprise that the Liberals are the enemy – the bad guys.  I’d have been much more pleased if he had reversed the situation and removed the reader’s ability to say – boy, I sure saw that one coming.

The novel does highlight the duality and division of our country’s two-party system, the ugliness of war, and warns of something many Americans believe could never happen – another civil war.  The action is non-stop and the pages turn freely.  If you can divorce yourself from choosing sides or identifying with any one ideal, you can probably enjoy this book as a fun, sci-fi thriller.

I rated this book a 2/5 because I’m heavily biased.  Empire doesn’t come close to Ender’s brilliancy and the story just feels too choppy – kind of like someone wrote something because they were asked to, not because the idea grew organically in their own imagination (huh, imagine that!).  Plus, they killed my favorite character mid-way through the novel which left me kind of floundering to find someone else to believe in.  Boo!

A little warning – this book is the first in a series, so the ending will fall a bit short.  Also, I don’t plan on reading the next novel.  I’m beginning to get a bit peeved at everything having to be a series now-a-days.

Pages:  344

Year Publish:  2006

Next review:  The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Ummm, Yum: Recipe for Seasame and Cilantro Chicken Pasta Salad










Well, hello delicious food lovers.  During one of the early Litwit meetings I brought a recipe that a few of you requested copies of.  And now we have a blog!  So here it is.  It’s something my wonderful formal boss at the YMCA turned me on to and that I’ve modified a lot since.  (Can I take credit for it now?  Probably not.)  It’s simple to make and definitely one of my favourite dishes.  Eat and enjoy!


  • 1/2 cup seasame seeds
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup light soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons seasame oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 package bowtie pasta (12-16 ounces)
  • 3 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • green onion, chopped (optional)


  1. Heat a small skillet over medium heat.  Pour in sesame seeds and heat until lightly toasted, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Alternatively, pre-toasted sesame seeds can be purchased in place of those that are still raw.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add bowtie pasta, and cook for approximately 8 to 10 minutes (until al dente).  Drain pasta and rinse under cold water until cool.
    Transfer into large mixing bowl.
  3. In a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid, combine olive oil, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, ginger, and pepper.  Shake until well mixed.
  4. Pour sesame dressing over pasta and toss until evenly coated.  Mix in chicken, cilantro, and green onion (optional).
  5. Great served hot or cold and even better the second day! Buying an already prepared rotisserie chicken and removing all the meat is a great way to simplify this recipe.  One average sized rotisserie should do the trick!

Taking the Litwits into 2012!

While I realize that it’s only October 2011, some exciting things are being planned for the new year!  We want to take a great book club and make it SPECTACULAR!  One of the first things we plan to do is get our members more involved!

Here’s the deal:  A couple of months ago, I emailed the 8 members who attended our very first meetup back in September 2010 and have loyally participated ever since.  This email thanked them kindly for their devotion and rewarded them with a new voting system to be unrolled in 2012.  We’ll still be voting on 4 books each month, but this time around one of the 8 members will be selecting the four books we vote on.  This way, our longest loyal members get more of a say in what we read, and our newer loyal members still get to vote and make the ultimate decision.  Such a win-win.  Super thanks to Victoria for helping devise this plan!

The other four months will be randomly selected novels as usual.  In 2013, we’ll choose a new selection of ladies to do the choosing – incentive for y’all to stick around!  As always, anyone can add/nominate a book to add to our list we randomly select titles from – just email me, post something on the meetup site, or voice your opinion right here on the blog!

Other ideas are in the works as well.  We’re talking over things like more group outings, Litwits merchandise, and ways to jazz up the conversation!  If you have any ideas, wishes, or comments – please let us know about them!

Side note:  I totally have a thing for owls…especially when they are reading and look slightly pissed off.  You know you do too, don’t lie!

Lydia by Tim Sandlin: A Review

It’s probably only fair to preface my review of Tim Sandlin’s newest novel by admitting that I have read almost all of his brilliantly weird books. Sandlin’s novels have retained their place in my personal library since I was a high school student, searching for any sign that life wasn’t quite as strange as I was beginning to suspect it was. Sandlin’s novels were filled with characters and situations far more abnormal than I could even imagine experiencing.  It was, and still is, a great comfort. A biased reviewer, you say? Well, maybe.

 Lydia is the fourth installment in what was originally intended to be a trilogy of novels centered on the exploits of the slightly hapless (but undeniably lovable) Sam Callahan. The GroVont Books begin with his life as a teenage boy, forging through puberty with only the world’s most what-were-you-thinking inappropriate mother for guidance (enter, Lydia). Thrown into the smaller-than-small town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Sam sits at the center of a constant whirlwind of women whom we come to appreciate for all their beautiful idiosyncrasies over the course of each of the original novels. At the top of the heap is his first love, Maurey, whom he unwittingly impregnates at the ripe age of 14 (enter daughter, Shannon). And by the time we reach Lydia, our favourite characters are all grown up (well, age-wise at least).

Sam and his wife are (quite appropriately) running a home for unwed mothers, Maurey manages a successful ranch, Shannon is giving that whole early mid-life crisis thing the old college try, and Lydia has just been released from prison for just your general run of the mill bit of misconduct (you know, trying to poison Ronald Regan’s dog). Hard as nails feminist that she is, Lydia emerges from prison actually having lost some of her edge. Prison, it seems, may just be the only thing hard enough to expose her soft side. She returns to Jackson Hole the worse for wear (in her own mind, at least) and reluctantly ready to chip away at an almost ungodly amount of community service.  Well, reluctantly may be an understatement. Deeply resenting the aging process that she feels has failed her, Lydia is sentenced, fittingly enough, to record the life story of Jackson Hole’s soon-to-be Centenarian, Oly Pederson. So there we are, all caught up.

Sandlin’s stories, so often based in the sweeping landscapes of Wyoming, always makes me want to do one thing – hop into a truck and drive out west.  Through Oly’s simple and poignant memoirs, Lydia takes on a whole new scale. His life takes us from the disaster of the Great Quake in 1906 San Francisco into the Europe of World War I and beyond. We even get a taste of booze and art-filled Paris in the early 1920s, complete with a fistfight between our hero and Piscasso himself. At first, giving pages away to a new (and at the same time very old) character felt like losing time with the characters I had come to love after so long. The more I read, though, the more I got addicted to Oly’s storytelling. His oral history weaved some of the richest parts of the novel. Suffice it to say I will never look at a nursing home resident, sitting peacefully in their chair, in the same way again.

What I love most about Sandlin’s novels is the accessibility of his characters.  As unique as they are identifiable, his characters are real and gross and sweet and we get the chance to see them in all their shining craziness. As a reader you almost get the sense that Sam’s flaws and thoughts are really straight from the truest parts of Sandlin himself, which in some cases could be a flaw in the narrative but in this case feels like a unique opportunity to gain insight into charming author himself. And Sandlin, as an author and a person, is accessible. Just look him up online. You’ll easily stumble upon a plethora of Sandlin material; a short journal he wrote during his 1997 book tour, a website for the Jackson Hole Writer’s Conference that he helped to found almost 20 years ago. Hell, he even has his own WordPress blog. Happily, I’m no stranger to being able to access the man behind the curtain. Three years ago I began to harbor my own dreams of flying off to Jackson Hole for the writer’s conference held there each June. When I called to get more information, I was surprised to receive a return call from a very chilled-out guy calling himself Tim. I loved that even as a fairly successful author he wasn’t above doing the foot work for a project he was passionate about, inspiring possible authors to write, write, write. During our brief conversation, I swear I held it together (for the most part) and came away from the conversation sounding relatively calm, aside from one or two mumblings of “I really am a big fan of your work.” (Resisting the urge to tell him I’d be more than glad to have his literary babies despite the age difference, of course.)  Either way, he was kind and encouraging and talking to him while in my backyard dressed in pajamas was a surreal and wonderful moment. Something I hold dear, along with his novels and their many lovable and hapless characters. Although I must admit Lydia is not my favourite book in the expanded GroVont series, I definitely needed a new Sandlin book in my life. Sandlin’s self-proclaimed “four-book trilogy” finally feels finished with this surprising last addition. Not overplayed, just a chapter ready to close.

Tim Sandlin

When it comes to Sandlin’s newest novel, the verdict is simple. Read it. Read them all. Maybe you will rediscover as I did that we are all both hopelessly flawed and impossibly optimistic.

Book Review: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

I recently finished Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club which I somehow managed to escape reading throughout my high school and college careers.  Asian-American literature seems to be lacking in our curriculums across the country – something I hope is remedied in the near future.  Tan’s novel follows four sets of mother/daughters – the mothers all from the China and the daughters all first generation Americans.  Interestingly, Tan begins her story with a father:

“My father has asked me to be the fourth corner at the Joy Luck Club.  I am to replace my mother, whose seat at the mah jong table has been empty since she died two months ago.  My father thinks she was killed by her own thoughts.”

Normally, I would have stopped this blog quote after the first sentence, but this time I couldn’t.  Every sentence Tan has written demands attention and is so essential to her stories and their lasting resonance.  This flow and seamless stitching is so remarkable for a novel that began as separate short stories.

The four mothers tell their tales of immigration, growing up in China, being women, and becoming mothers almost desperately so that their daughters won’t forget their Asian heritage, but more importantly, won’t forget the truth about who and what their mothers were and are.  The daughters strive to separate themselves from their mothers, to find their own identities as American, modern women despite the pull of their foreign inheritances.  The push and pull of new and old, east and west is so strong that at times I felt too outside of the story to appreciate the delicacies and details.  Almost like I was eavesdropping on a forbidden conversation that was never meant for me – someone who has never even been outside of America.  My ancestors immigrated long ago during the 18th and 19th centuries, far too disconnected from the present day.  But that’s exactly what these mothers are afraid of – that their children, grandchildren, and so forth will eventually erase every lingering characteristic of their family’s origin – and then I feel guilty all over again.  My husband (who has total street cred since he moved from Taiwan in 1987) assured me that this guilt is something deeply felt among all children of recent Asian immigrants.

Many times I felt this novel was teaching me lessons about my husband’s family that I had never been able to understand – lessons that my husband couldn’t translate into words (he prefers movies!).  One scene that struck me was the definition of how an Asian mother shows her love for her daughter, “not through hugs and kisses but with stern offerings of steamed dumplings, duck’s gizzards, and crab”.  I rarely go out to eat with the hubs and his parents because they always push food on me, forcefully encouraging me to eat loads of dishes that utterly disgust me.  That behavior would pass as rudeness at my house, but they just want to show me who they are – they want me to like them, to be a member of the family and food is such a huge symbol of family in Asian culture.  To say no is to reject family – you have to eat the sea urchin that is still moving!

Sorry for the digression!  All the Litwits should read The Joy Luck Club.  Why?  Because we’re all someone’s daughter and many among us are mothers.  And sometimes we need a reminder of why these roles and relationships are so important – and how these familial bonds tie, not just our immediate families, but our global families together.

Rating – 4/5

Pages – 288

Published – 1989

Scene from the movie:

Member Spotlight: Melissa!

Earliest Reading Memory:

I remember reading Cat in the Hat over and over with my mom. I still know some of the lines by heart! I also loved anything by Richard Scarry and Wacky Wednesday was one of my other favorites. The first non-cartoon book I remember reading was a Fudge book by Judy Blume; I think it was Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. 

My favorite kind of books to read:

Chick Lit (especially British or Irish), books about ESP/Mediumship (made up that word on the spot!), books about dogs (both fiction and non), mysteries (but not scary ones) and books that take place during WWII.

Other Passions:

My husband, my dog, the beach, music, computer games, reading (oh, I forgot, I wasn’t supposed to mention that one!), travel, shopping

Favorite Restaurants:

I don’t really have any. It depends on my mood. Current regular spots are Thaicoon, Melton’s App&Tap, Brickstore Pub and Bambinellis

If I could get on a plane to anywhere:

Probably back to Italy… We’ve been to Rome and Venice, but I still want to go to the Amalfi coast, Florence and the little villages along the way. I loved the food, the feeling and the Italian-ness of it all 🙂 If I couldn’t go there though, it would be France (Paris, the Southern coast, wherever!). Or Israel. Or London. Or Costa Rica. I’m sorry, I’m not very good at making decisions!

Kindle Daily Deal!

Another fantastic book has been listed as the Kindle Daily Deal – The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley at $1.99.


In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth-the ultimate betrayal-that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her…

Showtime’s Brilliance

Sunday night is really one of the best nights of television out there – if you have Showtime and AMC.

Showtime’s fall season got started last night and I was not disappointed! The new season of Dexter has begun! Harrison is now a toddler starting pre-school which means Dexter is going to have to start teaching his kid how to be awesome. He wants to enroll Harrison in a Catholic school despite his own lack of religious belief.  Our new Big Bad is Colin Hanks partnered with old, spanish man who’s name I have forgotten – they catch a pregnant snake, remove a man’s intestines, and, of course, replace them with the baby snakes!  Awesome.  These killers are supposedly spreading some religious message – see a pattern so far?  Religion is going to be our new season’s theme!

What makes me love Dexter so much is how utterly mind-boggled I get sometimes cheerleading for a serial killer.  I mean, Dex’s hammer time joke when he kills his old high school classmate made me chuckle out loud – and then I was like – is it appropriate to laugh at someone’s murder?  Oh…and Dexter attends his 20 year reunion and plays touch football – genius.

Showtime’s new series, Homeland, premiered after Dexter.  I gotta say, didn’t have high expectations going into this one.  I have a love/hate relationship with Claire Danes, but Gideon (from Criminal Minds) is on my television again!  This show blew me away.  Powerfully intense stuff folks – and what a role for Damian Lewis.  He plays Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody, a POW found in a hole in Iraq 8 years after he goes missing.  Claire Danes works for the CIA as some sort of anti-terrorism analyst who received intel earlier that a rescued POW would be a ‘double agent’ turned by his Al Qaeda captors with a plot a against America!  Also, both Danes and Lewis will be suffering from mental health issues – an interesting juxtaposition.  Go watch it now!!! My vote for Best New Show of the Season!!