Sunday, June 26, 2016

Weekend Round-Up

Some of the week's best
Summer Reading Highly Recommended Books by  
JoAnne W.
"The Language of Threads" by Gail Tsukiyama  
Readers of "Women of the Silk" never forgot the moving story of Pei, brought to work in the silk house as a young girl. Now we learn what happened to Pei as she arrives in 1930s Hong Kong with a young orphan, Ji Shen, in her care. Soon Pei and Ji Shen find a new life in the home of Mrs. Finch, a British expatriate. But war, and the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, tear everything apart, and Pei is once again forced to make her own way, struggling to survive and to keep her extended family alive.\  
Helen had this to say about Gail Tsukiyama's books
Setting: I love delving into books about other countries since I feel like I learn about the language, history, customs, food, and people in an interesting way. Tsukiyama sets her books beautifully. She doesn't over do the descriptive sections (which turns me off) and instead allows the experiences of the characters to reveal the setting. Hong Kong in the 1930s and '40s was such an interesting time and I feel like I got to know the pace of life, the struggles for immigrants, whether Chinese or European, and the changes that took place as the Japanese took over during World War II.
Plot--Continuing the story of Pei as she leaves the insular life with her sisters working the silk is genius. I care about Pei and Ji Shen as well as the people who come into their lives. They face such hardship, but manage to take it in stride, remaining calm, centered and determined to persevere. The characters face such difficult situations due to the times and their social class but I still felt like there was always hope.
Characters--I love Tsukiyama's characters! Pei comes from nothing: a small village in rural China to the bustling city of Hong Kong and we are on that journey with her as she faces difficult times, good times, her loved ones dying and making new friends.
Writing--The only way I can think to describe Tsukiyama's writing is gentle. I feel calm when reading her books even though some of her characters are troubled. 

Kathleen K.
"Martha's Vineyard Isle of Dreams" by Susan Branch
Review from
In the winter of 1982, long before she became the watercolor artist and author we know today, Susan Branch, 34-years-old and heartbroken from the sudden and unexpected end of her marriage in California, "ran away from home" to the Island of Martha's Vineyard hoping to gain perspective.

It was meant to be temporary, a three-month time-out from the daily grind of being broken up and miserable, but within days of her arrival, alone and not quite in her right mind, Susan "accidentally" bought a tiny one-bedroom cottage in the woods ~ which is how she discovered she was moving 3,000 miles away from everyone and everything she had known and loved.

Funny, observant, touching, and addictive (you are not going to want this book to end), based on the diaries she has kept all her life, Susan Branch relates her inspirational tale of lost love and self discovery, her search for roots, purpose, and destiny with laugh-out-loud honesty. A road map for overcoming loss, following your heart, and making dreams come true, charmingly hand-lettered and watercolored in Susan's inimitable style, there are diary excerpts, recipes, and hundreds of photographs. 

Ever Ready
YA Novel "Frozen" by Mary Casanova  
Frozen is a mix of historical fiction, coming-of-age and mystery, set in 1920s Minnesota. The setting, the characters and the story make for a haunting, lyrical story as Sadie Rose's past is gradually revealed through the return of her memories from childhood.

Dotted throughout the book there are also references to the early wilderness preservation movement, prohibition and the suffragette movement, all of which Sadie finds herself part of. Although the pacing of Frozen is quite slow, it is steady and allows the characters and their relationships to intimately develop.

I liked Sadie as a character - she was tenacious without being overbearing, curious and clever, and I really wanted her to find what she was looking for. The secondary characters, Hans and Aasta, Owen, Trinity play an important part in Sadie's story and give her the strength and courage to move forward in her life.

Ever Ready
"Raymie Nightingale" by Kate DiCamillo
review from
Kate DiCamillo, the two-time Newbery Medal winning author of The Tale of Despereaux, Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, and Because of Winn-Dixie newest book is Raymie Nightingale, a middle grade novel.

It centers on a spunky 10-year-old named Raymie Clarke, whose father has just run away with a local dental hygienist. Raymie realizes that it’s up to her to get him back, so she concocts a plan: She’ll win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then once her father sees her photo in the paper, he’ll come home. But can she deal with the pressures of baton-twirling and new friends like Louisiana Elefante, who has a background in show-biz, and Beverly Tapinski, who has her own plan to sabotage the entire contest.

Raymie and DiCamillo share a childhood memory: DiCamillo’s father also left her family in the mid-70s, while they were living in Central Florida. “I guess it is [autobiographical],” she says, “Although I wasn’t thinking that when I was doing it. I was more like, ‘Let me tell this story right.’ But when you’re done with something you think, ‘I have some distance, and I can start to see what I’m doing.’”

Cook's notes: And let's not forget food and a drink while enjoying your favorite read. 
Tequila Lime Sheet Pan Chicken Nachos and Ever Ready's Famous Margarita
Recipe adapted from
  • Lime Baked Tortilla Chips or use your favorite tortilla chips instead
  • 5 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into small strips
  • 1 packet taco seasoning  (need only 1-1/2 tsp. seasoning mix from packet)
  • 1 TB. olive oil
  • 1 TB. tequila
  • 1 TB. lime juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup White Queso (store-bought}
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • 1 cup prepared pico de gallo or picante
  • 1 can Steamfresh Mexicorn, drained and patted dry with a paper towel 
  • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed, patted dry with a paper towel 
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro (optional)
  • Optional additional toppings: jalapenos,  refried beans, olives, or anything you love!
  • Garnish ideas: sour cream, avocado, guacamole, salsa, the list goes on and on!
  • Preheat your oven to 350 and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  • In a large skillet, heat your oil over medium/high heat
  • Add the chicken into the skillet and toss in the tequila, 1 tsp. taco seasoning, and lime juice, Stir to combine. Cook the chicken until fully cooked; about 5-8 minutes. Set aside.
  • Cover the baking sheet with chips single layer, slightly overlapping.
  • Arrange the chicken and onion over the chips.
  • Sprinkle with Mexican and drained black beans.  
  • Add spoonfuls of picante dip, drizzle the chips and chicken with the white queso, a little goes a long way. You don't want everything to get soggy.
  • Sprinkle everything with the shredded cheese
  • Optional top with cilantro.
  • Bake for approximately 10 minutes, rotating halfway through. You want the cheese fully melted and the chips starting to turn brown on the edges.
  • Remove from the oven and garnish with all your favorites: sour cream, guac, salsa, the works!

Margarita Cocktail
Cook's note:
I have saved my best Mexican recipe for last. 

The basic ration is 3 to 1 to 1/2 to 1/2 for one drink
This recipe makes three servings.
9 shot glasses of plain ( no alcohol) margarita mix ( I like to use Jose Cuvero)
3 shot glasses of Tequila
1-1/2 shot glasses Cointreau
1-1/2 shot glasses Grand Marnier
1 tray of ice cubes


In a blender crush one tray of ice cubes.
Add in rest of ingredients and blend till smooth.
Dip rim of glass in lime juice and then into salt, pour margarita  in glass.


  1. The margarita is my drink of choice in the summer with food hot off the grill. Your recipe sounds delicious.