Saturday, November 6, 2010

Firefly Lane

In high school (again... could've been middle school), I read On Mystic Lake by Kristin Hannah. Good book, from what I remember.

Grandma purchased another of Hannah's books this summer, and lent it to me. (Of course, it got in my pile of books-to-be-read-soon, so I had it for about a month before I actually read it, but that's not the point.) I had a hard time getting into this one, to be honest. This may have been in part due to the fact that I was annoyed with the beginning--it starts with a bit of a cliffhanger, and the rest of the book is a flashback. I hate flashbacks.

The book focuses on Kate and Tully, friends who grew up on Firefly Lane in a small town in the northwest. It follows them from the tumultuous times in the 70s, throughout their thirty-year friendship. When they meet in middle school, Kate was the undeniable geek, and Tully was the ultimate cool girl. They form an odd but strong friendship, which is what keeps them going at times, and alters their lives beyond recognition. Throughout the book, Tully is the leader and Kate is the follower, but Kate has many strengths of her own. Each girl has a face she shows to the world, and face she only shows to the other--or herself. They each struggle with insecurities throughout life, some of which they never share. In the end, there is a horrible betrayal, and some pretty disturbing news.

Overall, I would rate the book 3/5 stars. The plot was interesting, and characters were well-developed. However... there are aspects that I very much dislike. The cliffhanger-then-flashback is not a feature I appreciate in any book. Especially when the cliffhanger makes you expect one thing.... which * *plot warning* * is not what actually happens. The ending isn't what I expected at all, and I felt that it wasn't appropriate to the rest of the book. In the end, I thought that the book was worth reading and would recommend it, but I can't help but think of this book with annoyance.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Lady Elizabeth

My ideal trip to the mall includes a very extended trip to the bookstore. The clearance section of Barnes & Noble is one of my favorite places...I could spend 20 minutes in Kohl's attempting to pick out clothes and 2 hours in Barnes in Noble. And yes, I am that level of a dork. :-D

The clearance section is actually where I found The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir. I already took the sticker off, so I don't recall how much it was now, but maybe 5, 6 bucks. It was well worth that!

I have always been interested in England royalty, especially in the 1500s. The story of Henry the 8th is fascinating--gruesome, at times, but fascinating. In high school (possibly middle school...), I read The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell. It was fascinating--I would recommend it--and I have been interested in this story since then. I've picked up a few books since then, but they simply went into the pile of "books-Serena's-collected-but-not-yet read." This is a book I purchased a few months ago, and read last month.

It was fascinating. This story chronicles the life of Elizabeth, daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, from the time she was an infant to the time she becomes aware that she is the Queen of England. (I saw 'aware' because it ends before her actual coronation.) It describes her thoughts, feelings, and actions, as she goes through her life as the 'bastard' second daughter of the King. It describes her times in exile, her times in danger, her relationship with her servants, and her planning as she believes she is ascending to the thrown. Elizabeth is a vivacious character, whose strengths are inspiring and her flaws are damning.
In her lifetime, Elizabeth goes from being Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King Henry and Queen Anne, to Lady Elizabeth, the bastard daughter of a traitor and the King. She endures multiple stepmothers, none of whom last, but one of whom bears the son that becomes the heir to the throne. Surprisingly, there is little animosity between the siblings--Edward, Elizabeth, and Mary (the daughter of Henry's first wife). At least, there is little animosity at first. As Edward becomes King, then Mary becomes Queen, jealousy and differences in religion tear the siblings apart. The threat of treason and the death that would ensue is constantly hanging over everyone's head, and no one knows who will be accused-and hung-next. Elizabeth has multiple situations where she is afraid for her life, and her actions during those periods are both realistic and inspiring.

Throughout the book, Elizabeth struggles with many issues, and overcomes in the end.

I will say that I am uncertain on the historical accuracy, but it was fascinating regardless. I am looking forward to reading further books by Alison Weir, and to reading more about this era in England's history.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Best Apple Bread

When my in-laws visited last, I went with Sue to get some apples from a local orchard. They had a good deal, so we each got 1/2 bushel.

FYI, 1/2 bushel is a LOT of apples. I am not entirely sure what we'll be doing with most of the apples, but that's OK--we're finding things to do with it! Drying apples, apple pie, apple bread....

Apple bread sounded fantastic the other day when I was in a baking mood, and I stumbled across this recipe. I copied the recipe into word to make it easier to print, and... promptly lost the original site. Oops. So, I have no idea where this came from, but it's pretty good.

The Best Apple Bread

3 Cup finely chopped apples
2 Cup sugar
1 Cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Teaspoon Vanilla
3 Cup all purpose flour
2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon salt

Peel and finely chop enough apples to equal 3 cups. Set aside.
Stir together sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl.
Stir together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; add to sugar mixture, stirring just until blended. (Batter will be stiff.) Fold in finely chopped apples.
Divide batter evenly between 2 greased and floured 9- x 5-inch loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pans, and cool on wire racks.

Serving Size: 1 slice
Yields: 10 slices/loaf, 2 loaves
Calories: 207
Mmm... yum!

Opinions: I took some to work, and one loaf to my parents when we visited for Daddy's birthday. (The Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie recipe I made for Daddy will be posted later!) Everyone loved it! Definitely will make that again!

The only problem is that it cracked in the middle--still tasted yummy! :)

Comments are love!