Grilled Cheese, Please

Title: Grilled Cheese, Please

Author: Laura Werlin

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC

Pages: 158

Genre: Cookbook

Mmmm, grilled cheese. What could be more homey and comforting? In this new cookbook by Laura Werlin, the humble grilled cheese sandwich is taken far beyond it’s Wonder-bread-and-American-cheese roots. From breakfast (Monte Cristo Sandwich) to dessert (The Sweetest Thing), from North (Philly Cheese Steak) to South (Pimento Grilled Cheese), from East Coast (The Vermonter) to West Coast (The Californian), all manner of grilled cheese is covered here.

The first section of the book could have been labeled Grilled Cheese 101. The basics of the sandwich are covered here, including choosing the right bread and maintaining the right temperature. Who knew that you should grate your cheese for maximum meltage? Werlin encourages the use of a sandwich maker for many of the recipes, so if you have one in your kitchen, this book is for you.

There are so many tasty recipes in this book to talk about, but my favorites are the Sweet-Tart Cheddar and Chorizo, with yummy Braeburn apples; the Creamy, Cheesy, and Smoky Croissant, made with, mmmm, Brie (notice I keep saying “Mmmm”); and above all, the Cuban, complete with recipe for Cuban roast pork. And, while I could never eat one because my doctor would have a cow, the Cheesus Burger intrigues me. It’s a 1/3 pound hamburger between two grilled cheese sandwiches. That is both delicious and disturbing.

This is a specialty cookbook, so it probably won’t see daily use. But if you enjoy grilled cheese and want to get a little creative with it, this book is worth investing in.

Note: I received an electronic galley of this book for reviewing purposes. The book will be published on 03/08/2011.

Published in: on November 30, 2010 at 2:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Distant Hours

Title: The Distant Hours

Author: Kate Morton

Publisher: Macmillan Publishers Limited

Pages: 673

Genre: Fiction

The Distant Hours is really two stories that intertwine. The first story is that of Edie, a single girl with a great job, living on her own in London. Her father is recently retired and at loose ends. Edie is not close to her mother, who is somewhat aloof and formal. One day, the mother, Meredith, receives a letter mailed to her in 1941. The letter upsets Meredith and she begins to cry, but will not tell Edie what the letter was about. Edie decides to investigate and so their story begins.

The second part of the story is of the Blythe sisters, Percy, Saffy, and Juniper, who live together in the decaying Milderhurst Castle. Their father, Raymond Blythe, wrote a famous children’s book, The True Story of the Mud Man. These sisters hold their own secrets, including the true story behind writing of the Mud Man, a mystery that scholars and fans have wondered about since it was written. Edie visits the castle to meet the Blythe sisters and answer the questions she has about her mother. But she begins to discover more than she bargained for.

I have to say I didn’t really connect to any of the characters on a personal level, as I had little in common with any of them, but the story was so engrossing that it didn’t matter. I did, however, find myself caring about Edie, Meredith, and the Blythe sisters and what happened to them, especially Edie. The characters were well developed, as if Morton had gotten to know each one personally before writing about them.

Despite the book being just a bit too long, I felt that Morton maintained a high level of suspense throughout the narrative. Each time I thought I was about to solve a piece of the puzzle, a whole new mystery popped up. I found the two storylines, that of Edie and her mother and that of the Blythe sisters, to be well executed, one never impeding the other. All of Morton’s books contain shifts in time, going from the present to the past and back, but she seems to have mastered the use of that plot device, and no confusion arose as I read.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as I do all Kate Morton books. It is definitely worth the time you invest in it. Don’t be intimidated by the size of this book: you will get caught up in it and breeze right through. It may even be one you lose sleep over!

For an interesting article on Kate Morton herself, read this:

Published in: on November 27, 2010 at 7:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Extra, Extra!

Hey everybody!  If you have a minute, pop over to The Book Lady’s Blog, share what you are reading right now for FridayReads.  Or, if you’re on Twitter, comment with the #fridayreads hashtag.  There are “bookish prizes” to be won and that’s always a good thing.

Published in: on November 26, 2010 at 6:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Kicking Off Fabulous Fridays

Today is our first official Fabulous Friday! Mom and I are just back from our annual Black Friday shop-a-thon. This year we started at midnight and shopped through the night until 9:30 am. As usual, the kids made out like bandits. I bought a pair of those toning sneakers, so that means I’ll have to revive my defunct fitness plan and start walking again.

And now, on to the review! This Fabulous Friday review is of a very popular book at our house. Let me introduce you to our Panel of Experts. (I’m not comfortable putting my ‘honorary’ nieces’ names on my blog, so I’m going to use their nicknames.) Muffin is 7 1/2 years old, please remember the ½. She is just beginning to explore chapter books, but still loves to be read to from picture books. Cupcake is 4 years old. She can’t read yet, but is wicked good at memorizing books and ‘reading’ them back to you. They will be weighing in at the end of the post.

Title: Parts

Author: Tedd Arnold

Publisher: The Penguin Group (Puffin Books)

Length: 32 pages

Ages: 3-8

Parts is the story of a boy who is falling apart. Literally, it seems. His problems start when he combs his hair and discovers some strands left in the comb. Could he be going bald at five? Then he finds some mystery fuzz in his bellybutton. Is his stuffing coming out? The comic misadventures continue for the unnamed little guy until he works himself into a frenzy of worry. “The glue that holds our parts together isn’t holding me!” he frets.

I appreciate the way the story builds kid-friendly suspense without actually scaring them into wondering if they, too, will come apart. The writing is simple enough for a younger child to easily follow the story, while older children will enjoy it also, if for no other reason than the slight gross-out factor. (Think boogers and brains on the floor.) The illustrations are detailed and really compliment the story. (I like his little superhero action figure that keeps popping up.) And the lesson that certain bodily functions are normal is gently presented. Look for the bonus lesson that parents are not always perfect in their parenting skills.

If you enjoy this book, there is a sequel called More Parts that deals with common phrases that can easily be misconstrued by a little one, like “I’ll lend you a hand.”

What the Panel of Experts Thought

Muffin enjoyed the book, although she loftily told me she knew all along what was happening. Cupcake was laughing so hard, she couldn’t give an opinion. I took it as a success when it became the bedtime book of choice three weeks running.

So, what kids’ books do you find yourself reading over and over?

Published in: on November 26, 2010 at 2:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Welcome to The Average Jane!

My name is Suzanne and I love books. (Lots & lots of books!) I don’t have a degree in literature and I am not in the publishing industry, although I do write for fun and sanity. I really am just your Average Jane. So why should you read my reviews? Because I will give you the real low-down on a book. No hype, no buzz, no pretentious critiques.

Chances are you lead a busy life with many responsibilities and a demanding schedule. You don’t want to waste your precious free time on a boring book. That’s where I come in. I’ll give you a brief summary of each book, with no spoilers, so you know what you’re getting into. Then I’ll let you know if it’s worth your time and effort. I’ll focus mainly on fiction, covering both popular titles and maybe some that haven’t hit the mainstream yet. Occasionally, I’ll throw in a worthy non-fiction book, mostly biographies and cookbooks. A recurring special feature will be Fabulous Fridays, when I will discuss children’s books. On Fabulous Fridays I’ll be assisted by my ‘honorary’ nieces, ages 4 and 7, who are indeed fabulous!

Here are a few fun facts about me, so that we can get to know each other better.

Things I Love

Children’s laughter; salted caramels; clean sheets; Netflix; my popcorn-loving dog.

Things I Hate

Reclining movie theater seats; racism; okra; washing dishes; Southern stereotypes.

Albums I’m Listening to Now

Hemingway’s Whiskey- Kenny Chesney

Phantom of the Opera Soundtrack

Movies I’ve Seen 264 Times

All About Eve, The Philadelphia Story, An Affair to Remember, The Sound of Music

Sexiest Man Alive

Richard Armitage

Woman Whose Skills I Want

Dorie Greenspan

Charities I Support

Family Traditions

Black Friday shopping with Mom; yearly viewing of the Anne of Green Gables trilogy; spontaneous day-trips to Apalachicola or Destin (Florida).

How I Spend My Free Time

Reading (natch!); sewing; quality time with the family; cooking & baking; trying to work my MP3 player.

And what would a book blog be without….

Authors I Love to Love

Jane Austen (without the zombies, thank you!); Kristin Hannah; Kate Morton; Louisa May Alcott; John Grisham; William Shakespeare (Francis Bacon? Christopher Marlowe?); Carlos Ruiz Zafon; Clive Cussler; Anne George

My Top 5 Fiction Books (This week!)

1. Pride & Prejudice; 2. The Forgotten Garden (K. Morton); 3. Southern Sisters Mysteries (A. George); 4. Much Ado About Nothing; 5. Memoirs of a Geisha (A Golden)

My Top 5 Children’s Books

1. The Monster at the End of This Book; 2. Skippyjon Jones (J. Schachner); 3. Henry & the Buccaneer Bunnies (C. Crimi); 4. Today I Feel Silly (J.L. Curtis); 5. Parts (T. Arnold)

Whew!  That was a lot about me.  Now I want to hear from you.  Leave me a comment and introduce yourself.  Be sure to tell me your favorite authors- you never know when they’ll show up on The Average Jane.

Published in: on November 24, 2010 at 1:48 am  Leave a Comment