A Monday Hodge-Podge

Happy Monday interwebs!!

The Read-a-Thon has come and gone!  It was a complete blast even though I failed to participate for the full 24 hours.  My weekend just got much busier than I had previously expected.  I managed to read 200 pages and thoroughly enjoyed connecting with everyone, participating in mini-challenges, and flying through I Capture the Castle!  Thanks so much to everyone who made the event so successful – organizers, hosts, cheerleaders, etc!

Friday night we hosted our annual poker party which meant I didn’t get to bed until 4am!  Trying to read on no sleep was very difficult and definitely affected my total page count.  Saturday night we went with friends to dinner at Verde in Brookhaven and then on to the Netherworld Haunted House – one of the best in the country.  We actually went several years ago, so this was our second time.  They switch it up every year though so it was still a lot of fun.  I love being scared.  However, I was injured during the walk through – my poor toenail has seen much better days!  The below picture is of Josh Hutcherson (Peeta from The Hunger Games) who’s in town filming the second movie.  He visited Netherworld last week!

Afterwards, we didn’t go straight home so, yet again, I couldn’t keep reading.  Jimmy took a group of us out for Taiwanese snacks from his favorite little bakery place.  There was bubble tea, salt and pepper chicken, Asian sweet potato fries (best things EVER), and other sweet treats.  As a result, we didn’t get home until 1am.  I tried to be active in the Read-a-Thon again but fell asleep.  I didn’t wake up until after lunch today!  So. Tired.

My big news is my new Samsung Galaxy SIII phone I purchased this afternoon!  I’m so excited to finally be in the 21st century.  I’ve always owned really basic phones with no interesting features whatsoever.  Now I can take pictures, listen to music, video chat, and download apps until my heart’s content.  Plus, Best Buy had an awesome deal on this phone – we ended up paying well under $100.  Take that iPhone 5!

Lots of reviews to be posted this week since I’ve actually finished a couple of books.  Just gotta get around to writing them!

Read-a-Thon: Beginning Post!

Yay!  Happy Read-a-Thon everyone.  So excited to be participating for the first time and plan to update the blog every 3-4 hours with my progress.  I also plan to visit the social networks and visit blogs for about 10  minutes each hour!  I couldn’t narrow down my book choices to a small stack.  I really, really tried, but failed.  Instead, all unread (and even some read) books in my house have an equal opportunity to be selected at some point today!  I’m starting out with I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith!

Pretty much have the whole day to myself.  The Hubs doesn’t understand what a read-a-thon is so he’s so confused right now.  He thinks it’s some huge competition where I have to beat everyone else and read the most pages.  I would lose.  Have had about 4 hours of sleep.

Good Luck everyone!!!!

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Update #1:  Hour 3

Just past 10 am here on the east coast and I’ve managed to read for a good portion of the first two hours.  I did get a late start (8:20), have spent some time taking care of my dogs, and now have had an extended computer break so I’m almost ready to dive back in.  Really enjoying I Capture the Castle!

Pages read: 65

Update #2: Beginning Hour 5!

We’re closing in on the final few seconds of the fourth hour!!  The time has really flown by.  Wheat Thins and water have been my best friends so far.  Jimmy has finally woken up (so jealous of his sleeping in) to go have lunch with his parents while I stay here and continue reading.  About to go have some hearty potato soup to keep my strength up!  Still trying to decide whether or not I’m going to take some time off tonight and go to the haunted house with friends.  I Capture the Castle hasn’t  become boring yet – a sign of a really good book when you can barely hold your sleepy eyes open!

Pages read since last update: 45

Total Pages read: 110

Update #3:  Hour 8 – I’ve won a prize!

So, I took a 2 hour nap after lunch which was much necessary if I’m to continue reading.  And while I slept I won a prize!  Not sure what I’ve won, but will journey over to the main blog shortly to find out.  Also, a book came in the mail just now!  Have decided to have dinner with Hubs and friends at 7 and then go to the Haunted House.  Will probably get home around 11 or midnight which still leaves me plenty of hours to read!

Pages read since last update: 41

Total pages read: 151 (I’ve been asleep!!!)

Update #4:  Hour 12 is quickly approaching!

Headed out for the haunted house!  Will continue reading when I get home.  The Hubs has disrupted my reading the past hour by having friends over so I’m behind where I wanted to be, but have still had a blast!

Pages read since last update:  46

Total pages read:  197

Update #5:  It’s 1 am!!

So I’m back from my festivities and hope to get some more reading in tonight before passing out!  I probably won’t update this post again until tomorrow morning with my final tallies.  I hope everyone continues to have an awesome readathon!  I’ve enjoyed my first time out exceedingly and hope to have less distractions next go around.

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Challenges:

Introductory Questions:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?  Atlanta, Georgia!!

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?  Um…see post above where I couldn’t narrow it down.  I love ALL THE BOOKS!

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?  My homemade potato soup.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!  Hi!  I’m Brooke and head of this lovely blog dedicated to books and whatever wackiness is currently taking place in my life – right now I’m on a food blogging kick.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?  I’m looking forward most to connecting with everyone throughout the day and coming together over the awesomeness that is books.

A Storm of Swords Journal – Part 16 (SPOILERS)

Pages 864 – 924 – THE END!!!

Jon:

Jon has pretty much taken over the position of teaching the newest Watchmen sword skills.  He’s just such a great leader especially for a boy so young.  You know he’s destined for great things.

Stannis summons him one night sending Melisandre to retrieve him.  Jon is very curious but also apprehensive about Melisandra and the Lord of Light.  Stannis believes Jon to be innocent of the crimes Slynt wants him punished for and has a very special offer to make him.

Basically, Stannis wants to partner with Jon – to have Jon give up being a member of the Night’s Watch and return to Winterfell to rule as Lord Jon Stark.  Kings have the ability to legitimize bastards and Stannis is offering Jon that opportunity.  Jon is a bit gobsmacked.  Stannis also wants to partner with the Wildlings – to allow them to live in The Gift – probably so that he can have extra soldiers on his side and to keep one enemy at bay.  To help this partnership, Stannis wants Jon to marry Val – aunt to Mance Rayder’s heir.  Oh, and Jon must give up the old gods to worship the Lord of Light.

Wow – that’s a lot for a boy to take in.  Jon asks for time to consider the offer.  You can tell he’s not entirely thrilled with the notion of betraying the Watch again, but he’s always wanted to shed the bastard baggage.  We shall see!!

Tyrion:

Tyrion’s down in the black cells not so patiently awaiting his death.  These are the same cells that held Ned Stark in his final days.  Suddenly, the door opens and Tyrion knows his life is at an end.

Except that it’s Jaime come to save him!  Jaime explains to Tyrion that he owed him a debt.  Jaime finally admits to Tyrion that Tysha – Tyrion’s first wife – was not a whore at all, but exactly who she claimed to be.  She really loved Tyrion, but good ol’ Tywin made Jaime lie.  Tyrion has no forgiveness for Jaime in this matter and even slaps him!  Tyrion trots off to find Varys on his own.  They are going to smuggle him out of Westeros and across the sea.

Tyrion meets up with Varys and they travel through secret tunnels deep in the castle’s belly.  Varys tells Tyrion they are beneath the tower where the Hand’s chambers are and Tyrion demands directions to the Hand’s chambers – his father’s chambers.  Once there, Tyrion finds Shae in his father’s bed and kills her.  Next, he kills Tywin – his own father.  A bad ass scene if there ever was one.  CAN. NOT. WAIT. FOR. THIS.  HBO better get it right.  I finally feel like the old Tyrion is back and badder than ever.

Samwell:

Stannis wants the new Lord Commander chosen by the end of day.  Sam conjures up enough courage to play the two vote leaders against one another so that Slynt won’t win.  Unfortunately, neither man is willing to bow to the other.  Sam gets discouraged, but puts the idea of a new Commander in their minds – Jon Snow.  Both men seem willing to believe Jon might be a decent leader, not as great as they would be, but close.  Sam seals the deal by lying to both men – stating that Stannis is going to put the other in power if the men don’t choose.  Well played, Tarly.  Well played.  I like this new found confidence in our dear Sam.  Can’t wait to see his character development in future books.

Jon:

This chapter is bittersweet knowing that Jon doesn’t appear in the next novel.  I will miss my husband of the North.

Jon’s still working through his decision and having a bit of internal turmoil over whether to accept Winterfell.  But finally, a divine intervention of sorts makes his decision for him – Ghost returns!!!  Oh Ghost, how we’d missed you.

The final vote goes down for Lord Commander and Jon gets chosen.  YES.  He’s finally arrived at the doorstep of his destiny.  He owns the Wall now and must face Stannis.  Until next time, Jon, until next time.

Sansa:

What a bizarre chapter.  That singer dude is still after Sansa’s body.  Weird.

Sansa wakes to a snow storm and heads out to the garden.  She begins to build a castle and this takes up the rest of the day.  Of course, the snow castle she’s building is Winterfell and before long Littlefinger joins her – helping her finish some of the more difficult sections.  Littlefinger is creepy like a child molester.

Little psycho Robert joins them in the garden and proceeds to destroy the castle.  Sansa gets pissed and Robert has one of his episodes.  Next Littlefinger attacks Sansa with his tongue.  Disgusting.

Lady Lysa calls Sansa to her chambers or whatever.  Sansa is prepared to be punished over the Robert incident, but instead Lysa goes batshit over seeing Sansa kiss Petyr.  Lysa is pretty much trying to kill Sansa, but Littlefinger comes to the rescue and pushes his darling wife out the sky window.  Bye bye, Lysa.  What the hell is Littlefinger up to?  He pushes the blame onto the sleazy singer.  A fun scene, but very odd.

Epilogue:

Nothing much to say here other than:  Zombie!Catelyn.  She’s joined Beric and his men as an undead thing.

Atlanta Restaurant Review: Mary Mac’s Tea Room

Ah, Southern food.  How I do so very much love you – at least when you come out of my mother’s kitchen.  But alas, most restaurants fall short of my mother’s brilliance and I’ve never found that go-to comfort food spot.  Would Mary Mac’s come to the rescue?

The restaurant is an Atlanta staple and somewhere I urge all visitors to check out.  Even the Dali Lama has dined at this most Southern of establishments!  The decor is somewhat dated, but you can enjoy browsing through the wall-of-fame photos taken of all the famous people who have visited.

I’m going to dock the restaurant a couple of points on service solely because of the hostess who seated us.  She was obviously in a pissy mood and wanted nothing to do with customers.  She brought us into a dining room and just stood there while we had to guess which table we were supposed to sit at and then threw our menus at us.  Wow.  But then we were rescued by our server who was fantastic and super helpful.  So things turned around quickly.

People will tell you to order the fried chicken and I’m not going to argue with those people, but I ordered the cubed steak with brown gravy.  Cubed steak with gravy is my most favorite meal of all time EVER.  My mom cooked this for me instead of baking a birthday cake.  Served with lima beans and mashed potatoes, all mixed together, is my idea of heaven on earth.  Mary Mac’s didn’t have lima beans, but did have butter peas which are just as yummy.  And they didn’t have mashed potatoes – WHAT?  So I substituted cheese grits and hoped for the best.

The sides were awesome.  Loved the peas and grits – both were a bit under seasoned but a little salt cured this travesty.  The cubed steak wasn’t so lucky.  Try as I might, the salt just couldn’t save this particular serving of beef.  The steak itself was tough and filled with grizzle.  I wasn’t able to cut it with my fork which is a huge no-no.  Plus, the gravy had a chalky flavor, so obviously the flour mixture wasn’t done properly.  I believe the gravy was missing milk or cream.  My mom makes this dish with milk gravy which works well.  Perhaps Mary Mac’s should do the same.

So, I’m still on the lookout for my perfect Southern comfort food outside my mom’s kitchen.  Jimmy did enjoy his chicken liver and onions – saying that the liver was a bit over salty but still managed to retain a lovely liver flavor.  He was less impressed with his turnip greens and sweet potato souffle.  He also liked the batter on his order of fried okra.  We both agreed that the prices were fair so we’ll probably go back at some point, and this time I’ll order the fried chicken!

(Picture courtesy of restaurant’s website)

The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

I’m fascinated by Louisiana and the New Orleans area – always have been.  There’s just something so uniquely Southern about this part of the country, an almost haunted feeling of past meshing with present that intrigues me so much.  So when I know a story is set there, I absolutely cannot resist.  The Cutting Season, Locke’s second novel, captures the tension of antebellum plantations and modern day perfectly, only enhancing my obsession with the spirit of Louisiana.

Caren Gray has come home again, back to Belle Vie, the plantation where her family spent generations as slaves cutting cane and where she grew up while her mother played cook to the current day owners, the Clancy family.  But now Caren is manager of the property and trying to come to terms with her family’s history and how to reconcile an ugly past with a promising future.  To complicate matters, a migrant field worker is found murdered on Belle Vie’s property and now a killer is on the loose.  Before long, Caren realizes that this present tragedy is all too similar to a past crime against her ancestors.  Can Caren find the killer before someone else gets hurt or an innocent party is thrown in jail?

Attica Locke can write, plain and simple.  I loved settling down in her prose for hour after hour of time more than well spent.  The Cutting Season really transcends any sort of typical murder mystery to become this haunting historical mystery novel full of atmosphere and a strong sense of place.  There’s so much more to care about within these nearly 400 pages besides the whodunnit.  Caren’s relationship with her mother and her own daughter is nuanced and complex.  The bridges and gaps between who we were, who we are, and who we will be are deeply studied and brilliantly realized.  I believe Locke has written a novel worthy of any college classroom that simultaneously satisfies picky plot-driven readers.  I can’t wait to pick up a copy of her first novel – how did I ever miss it to begin with?

I will say that the first third of the novel travels a bit slowly.  Locke spends a hundred or so pages painting a detailed picture of Belle Vie, her characters, and the murky past that will come into play so heavily during the much more quickly paced latter half.  But hang in there and you won’t be disappointed.  And the killer is far from easily spotted.  I suspected multiple shady and not-so-shady characters throughout the pages!  The resolution was so tightly plotted and realistic – these events could so easily happen in real life that it almost felt like really well done narrative nonfiction.  I literally googled the historical facts surrounding the murder case before remembering everything was fiction!

All-in-all, a great read and a perfect selection for October – just the right amount of spookiness and atmosphere for Halloween.  Attica Locke is an author you don’t want to miss out on, I promise!

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Thanks so much to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for providing the review copy in exchange for my honest review.  Check out the other tour dates here!

Black Water Rising, Attica Locke’s first novel, was shortlisted for the prestigious Orange Prize in the UK in 2010. It was nominated for an Edgar Award, an NAACP Image Award, as well as a Los Angeles Times Book Prize and a Strand Magazine Critics Award.Black Water Rising was also a finalist for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award.

Attica Locke has spent many years working as a screenwriter, penning movie and television scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros., Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, HBO, and Dreamworks. She was a fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmakers Lab and is a graduate of Northwestern University.

A native of Houston, Texas, Attica now lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and daughter. She is a member of the board of directors for the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. Most recently, she wrote the introduction for the UK publication of Ernest Gaines’s A Lesson Before Dying. Her second book, The Cutting Season, will be published by HarperCollins / and Dennis Lehane in September 2012.

Monday Rambles…

Happy Monday everyone!  Here’s to a fantastic week!

Just wanted to ramble for a minute about a couple of things.  First, congrats to Heather from Raging Bibliomania for winning the Paul Harris giveaway!

In other news, I’m super excited to participate in the Read-a-thon this weekend.  It will be my first time joining in and only the second time I’ve pledged to read for 24 hours straight.  We’ll see how well I do!  I think I’ve got my book selection narrowed down to three titles, but the TBR shelves are always available for backups!  Now I just need to concentrate on what snacks will keep me strong.

I didn’t do a Sunday Salon post, but my weekend in general was mostly fabulous.  We’ll ignore the ridiculously terrible UGA loss.  Yesterday, Jimmy and I attended the Taste of Atlanta food festival in Tech Square.  We had so much fun and the fall weather was fantastic.  Basically, 90+ restaurants set up booths and you get to go around tasting their food.  Eating is one of my favorite activities so this event is essentially heaven.  Then we went tie shopping for Jimmy and who knew ties were so freakin’ expensive?  Geez.

Okay, y’all, my ramblings are coming to a close.  I have a book review of The Cutting Season by Attica Locke scheduled for this Wednesday, so be on the look out!  Not sure what book I’ll pick up next, but have been eyeing our next book club selection Arcadia by Lauren Groff.

Enjoy your week!

Atlanta Restaurant Review: Baci

Baci is a local joint just around the corner in Town Brookhaven. The same people who run Cafe at Pharr also own Baci. Jimmy and I decided on dinner and a movie Saturday night – then headed out with nowhere in particular in mind for our grub.  We generally end up in Town Brookhaven when we’re craving supper and don’t have a ton of time.  They also regularly have good Scoutmob deals at several restaurants and that’s exactly what landed us at Baci.

The decor was lovely, the lights were turned down low to create a romantic atmosphere, and there was even a bar with a couple of televisions that didn’t take away from the small restaurant’s ambiance.  We opted to sit outside and had no problems getting a table.  Not very crowded for a Saturday night, but I suspect the price point affects many diners as well as lack of marketing.

Our waitress was super sweet – almost too saccharine in the way only Southerners can be (I’m allowed to say that being a Southerner and all).  But she kept our glasses full and checked up on us the proper amount.  She did have a couple of mess-ups – never bringing us our bread and forgetting to apply the Scoutmob discount first time around, but her genuine effort allowed us to forgive her.  She seemed rather new.

Baci’s food is an eclectic mix of Mediterranean and Eastern Asian cuisine.  Jimmy was immediately put off by the prices and the fact that they misspelled gyoza – their special appetizer of the night (they wrote geyoza both on the menu and the specials board).  I’d also like to add that Jimmy was in a very grumpy mood and nothing would have satisfied him so I’ll temper his moodiness with my own opinions, promise!

For our appetizer, Jimmy wanted the fried goat cheese balls so that’s what we ordered.  They came out very quickly and Jimmy approved.  They had a lovely fried coating and the goat cheese flavor was strongly satisfying.  I’m not the world’s biggest goat cheese fan, but these were good.  The cheese was slightly on the dry side and had a fun texture.  Jimmy also noted that the sauces drizzled on top were delicious.

Our entrees were also served in good time.  I ordered the Baci burger made entirely of Kobe beef.  What impressed me most was that all the toppings (besides the cheese!) were served on the side so I could make my own burger.  These sides included mixed greens, tomato slices, housemade pickles, mustard, ketchup, and onions.  I slapped on some greens and tomatoes and went to town!  The burger was supposedly cooked medium, but I think probably closer to medium well.  It was tender and juicy, but nothing particularly flavorful.  A decent burger, but I’ve had better.  The housemade pickles were divine.  The fries that came with the meal were also tasty, even Jimmy approved!

Jimmy selected one of the night’s specials – Israeli schnitzel with fingerling potatoes and side salad.  He cleaned his plate – I mention this because he said his meal was okay, but a bit too simple – groan, groan, moan, moan.  If he cleans his plate, he liked it despite what comes out of his mouth!  He did say his schnitzel had a nice crisp to it, but that it was a little too greasy – you could definitely see a shine going on.

Our first impressions of this restaurant were lightly positive.  Our meal totaled $39 and we both ordered cheaper entrees.  Without the $20 off due to the Scoutmob, we’d probably not have eaten here.  I think we’d give this place another shot as long as we had a coupon in hand.  Of course, most restaurants now charge an arm and a leg except for fast food which is such a shame.  Thank goodness for websites like Scoutmob!

(Pictures by Angel Wings Photography)