The Literature Café

Great books and yummy food!

Book Review Tuesday

The Bird Sisters Review

Twiss and Milly live in Spring Green, Wisconsin in the same house that they grew up in and have become the “old ladies that tend to injured birds”.  However, they are so much more than that.  Rasmussen brings us these elderly sisters story of love, sacrifice, loss and commitment using memories.  It is very authentic in depicting how fast life changes because of one moment or accident. birdsisters

This novel was pretty good and entertaining.  There were many things that I liked about it.  Rasmussen has a gift for description of setting and details that at times feel as if you are reading poetry.  “So with each snarl of thunder and each flash of lightning, each realization that her father wasn’t coming back for her, she stuck to the safety of hating her mother…” (Rasmussen).

The character development is excellent, since you reminisce on your childhood and how funny and fun things seemed at that time.  Told almost entirely using flashbacks, the use of elder characters is fresh since it deviates from the current and I believe it deals with an often forgotten community.    It has been a long time since I have read a novel where the main characters are elderly women filled with wisdom and naiveté at the same time.  Filled with drama, sentiment and relatable themes, I believe that many will enjoy this novel.

From the very beginning of The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen, I started craving biscuits with jam and, later on, cakes that are mentioned in the novel.  This novel is the perfect example for what I want The Literature Café to be: if you read this novel, why not do it while eating biscuits with jam?

Exactly, you can! So, here is my recipe for biscuits that I hope you enjoy as much as I do!

Cinnamon Biscuits

CinnamonBiscuits2 cups of all-purpose flour

1 ½ tablespoons of granulated sugar

2 teaspoons of baking powder

1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of salt

3 tablespoons of chilled butter (or margarine), cut into small pieces

¾ cup of low-fat milk (or whole)

½ cup of sifted powdered sugar

2 teaspoons of low-fat milk

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

  • Combine flour and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender (or 2 knives) until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add ¾ cup of milk, stirring until moist.
  • Turn dough into a floured surface and knead 4 to 5 times.  Roll dough to ½ inch thickness and cut with 2 ½ inch biscuit cutter.  Place on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until golden.
  • While biscuits bake, combine powdered sugar with rest of milk; stir well with whisk.  Remove biscuits from oven and drizzle glaze over hot biscuits.
  • Enjoy alone or slice them in half and spread the jam of your choice!  I like Smuckers Strawberry jam!

 

Let me know how these turned out for you!

P.S. Besides the biscuits recipe given here, there is another recipe for this book to come.

Have you read anything where the main character is a senior citizen? Did you enjoy the biscuits? Let me know.

Book Review Tuesday

To Kill a Mockingbird Reviewto-kill-a-mocking-bird-first-edition

A few weeks ago I promised myself that I would finish and post this review.  I was a bit nervous (how to do it justice?) and some time constraints. It is such a splendid book, though!  So, here it is now my official review of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Told in the female voice of a child, To Kill a Mockingbird is the story of two children coming of age, forcefully at times, in a Depression stricken southern town of Maycomb, Alabama.  Scout and her brother Jem are force to come to terms and deal with very adult situations like racism, rape, revenge, poverty and social status.  Scout also as a young girl has to deal with the meaning of being a girl and the behavior of a proper lady. The conflict is simple a black man is accused of raping white woman and Atticus Finch, Scout and Jem’s father, has taken on the case to defend the accused man called Tom Robinson. 

However, it is also what happens in between this trial that is really the magnificence of this story.  Scout and Jem really come to their own conclusion on these events and try to have a “normal” childhood.  The reader can almost feel like he or she is there playing along with Scout and Jem. We can reminisce too on our childhood memories and how easy the world and its problems seemed.  Harper takes us on good and bad adventures through the eyes of this child and I believe that it is a good technique to tell this particular story.  If the story were told through Atticus’ eyes or Tom’s the magic and strength would probably be missed.

This is truly an American classic, not just because of the subject manner, but because Harper Lee is really what I consider a great author.  If you have not read it, I highly recommend it.

Also, in the novel one of the yummy foods that are mentioned is Poundcake!  You can enjoy reading this novel with a slice of the poundcake from the recipe below and a cup of coffee.

Cream Cheese Poundcake (Yields 1-10 inch bundt pan)creamcheesepoundcake

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese

1 1/2 cups butter

3 cups white sugar

5 eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and grease a 10 inch tube pan.
  • In a large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar gradually and beat until fluffy.
  • Add eggs two at a time, beating well with each addition. Add the flour all at once and mix in. Add vanilla.
  • Pour into a 10 inch tube pan. Bake at 325 degrees F (160 degrees C) for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Check for doneness at 1 hour. A toothpick inserted into center of cake will come out clean.

 

St. Patrick’s Day: Book Review Day

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, today’s featured book review is by award-winning Irish author Cecelia Ahern.  Although my favorite is P.S., I love You, I chose to review her second novel Love, Rosie (also known as Rosie Dunne or Where Rainbows End).

Cecelia Ahern’s second novel tells the story of Rosie and Alex through letters, notes, e-mails and instant messages.  It’s a story about friendship, love and fate.  Rosie and Alex are best friends growing up together in Dublin. Unfortunately, Alex and his family move to America leaving Rosie behind.  She is sad about this and plans to study in the United States, but fate always keeps them separated with just the letters and e-mails to keep them going.  Will these be enough to make the friendship last?

Ahern writes in a fresh, funny and touching manner that always feels like a guilty pleasure, especially in this novel since you are given permission to read the characters e-mails, letters, notes and so on.  However, I have to agree with other reviewers that at times you wish the story were told in more substantial dialogue.  The plot of fate getting in the way of your plans works, since a lot of people can relate.  As we say sometimes life throws you a curve ball.  The characters are well develop and relatable.  Even if you get tired in the back and forth of the letters, notes, etc. the reader will find that they still want to know the end and that you are engaged in the story.

Book Review Tuesday

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor

This novel explores the lives of seven women in Brewster Place, a ghetto that is shut off from the rest of the city by a brick wall.   The women’s names are: Mattie, Etta Mae, Lucielia, Kiswana, Cora Lee, Lorraine, and Theresa.  The novel is divided into seven stories.  These women do not start off living in Brewster Place; different circumstances in the human condition brought them there.    The main character is Mattie Michael, since she is present in most of the stories.  After the story of Mattie’s arrival, the novel continues with the rest of the women and their narratives.the_women_of_brewster_place

 

When I first read The Women of Brewster Place, I was very surprised since Gloria Naylor published this novel before graduating from her Bachelors degree.  The themes and plot of this novel are very intriguing and, as many African American novels, no matter what happens the characters always have hope and a fire to keep on fighting.  The themes of community, love, sisterhood, oppression and liberation are by no means new, but Naylor manages to intricately introduce these and connect them with the history of the African American culture following the Civil Rights Movement.

Also, Naylor’s descriptions of both the characters and of Brewster Place are very detailed and relatable.  By the end of the book you feel as if you know these women and have shared things with them that will stay with you for the rest of your life.  You laugh and you cry with these women and with Brewster Place, since it’s as if Brewster Place were alive and a character on its own.

One of the most important things to take away from this novel is that it does not matter where you live you should always have love, community and the responsibility to improve.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I do! Let me know if you have read it!

Book Review Tuesday

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Set in New Orleans, this is the story of Edna Pontellier, a woman that has been married for some time and has two children.  As a wife and mother, Edna is at times uncomfortable and at odds with what is expected of her.  She has various friends that are free to express themselves and Edna yearns for this.  Through this novel we experience the questioning of the roles of wife, mother and women.   

I have recently finished reading this novel for the first time and must say that this was a very good read appealing to the reader in many ways.  As I have explained in other posts I am an English graduate student, but my bachelor’s degree was in psychology so there is a great number of American fiction that I have yet to discover; The Awakening51WW8GZ48FL__SL160_ was one of them.  Quite frankly and honestly I could admit that if I had read this sooner it may not have made the same great impression that it has left in me today.

As a recently married woman or as a person that has many responsibilities this text has a greater meaning to me.  Its description of a woman’s search for her identity in a time where the responsibilities as a wife, mother, and a hostess, in general as a woman conflict with the growth of her free will, passion and desires is marvelous and typical of Chopin.

Chopin handled the various elements of fiction, like plot and character development, with great precision and intellectual style.  The use of New Orleans as the setting is a smart choice, since there is no city that radiates free will more than this.  As someone that has recently been there, I find that it brings back many feelings and experiences that make me want to go again.

There is great mystery and excitement to this novel since Chopin is not a predictable writer, but a writer that set out on a mission to make the reader interpret the novel’s message on their own.  This is the whole point of literature; one must discover the themes and messages on his or her own.

Hope you enjoy it too!