Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Books

Forgive the long preamble… Or SKIP to the actual Review.

It’s rare that I have an entire day to read. It’s even more rare that I read an entire book in one day. But yesterday brought about that perfect storm.

On Friday night we held the first meeting of our new book club. (I was worried it might be cancelled by the unexpected snowfall that took us all by surprise. But several of us really NEEDED that girls night out so Josh warmed up his trusty 4Runner and safely delivered us to Heather’s house.)

We discussed our February selection and then talked at length about what we would read next. I had never even heard of the book we decided on, The Girl on the Train, but a quick glance at the description on Amazon and I was ready to dive in. (The fact that the book was currently OUT oF STOCK at Amazon was a sign of its popularity. And, I later learned that there are 67 “holds” on the 5 copies at our local library.)

When I got home I downloaded a “sample” of the book on my iPad. Let me tell you, whoever figured out the “stopping point” of that sample selection was BRILLIANT! The sample included the first full chapter, plus the first paragraph of chapter two. The stopping point left me hanging so I immediately returned to Amazon and purchased and downloaded the entire book.

I spent the bulk of Saturday inside the head of the three narrators: Rachel, Megan and Anna.
.

20150301-092945-34185997.jpg
Rachel rides the same train every morning and evening. She’s a rather miserable and lonely individual with a drinking problem. Every day she passes the same houses on her train ride and one house, and it a occupants in particular, capture her attention and her imagination.

Megan is one half of Rachel’s idealized perfect couple. “They’re a match. They’re a set. They’re happy, I can tell. They’re what I used to be, they’re Tom and I five years ago. They are what I lost, they’re everything I want to be.” But Megan and Scott aren’t perfect.

Anna is Rachel’s ex-husband’s new wife. The mother of his new baby daughter. And the occupant of her former dream home. She is also the recipient of Rachel’s drunken, harassing phone calls.

The three perspectives, told from varying points in time, were weaved together in such a compelling fashion. I could hardly put this book down, and yet when I did, I was completely satisfied. I would highly recommend it.

The Girl on the Train is ultimately a suspense story (it’s been compared to Gone GIrl, Rear Window and Gas Light) but it is also a story that reminds us that things are not always what they seem – especially people.

Book Review: Serena by Ron Rash

Books

I’m excited to be participating in a book club this year. My first. My good friend LaDawn in SD has been in a book club for years and it sounds like a blast. But for whatever reason, I never took the initiative to start one of my own. So color me happy when a group of ladies I adore decided to start one this year and invited me!

Our first selection was Serena by Ron Rash (soon to be a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper). Despite making it to #34 on the New York Times Best Seller’s list, this is not a book I would’ve chosen for myself. But that is precisely why I’ve always wanted to be in a book club. To broaden my horizons, try new things, break out of my “same old same old” pattern.

Serena_PB_300_450Serena is set in North Carolina during the Great Depression. Serena and her husband Pemberton, both greedy and ruthless individuals obsessed with establishing a lumber empire, make for highly unsympathetic protagonists. And this is likely the reason I didn’t care for the book.

While the description of the Appalachian Mountain setting was vivid, I found the cast of supporting characters to be more like an unnamed chorus in a musical. The characters did have names, but for me they were virtually indistinguishable from one another – except for the creepy one-handed Galloway, of course. Galloway was Serena’s henchman, much like Dr. Frankenstein’s Igor.

So, no…. I didn’t love the first book selection for our newly formed book club. But I’m certain I will love book club itself. And I can’t wait to discover what we read together next.

What are you reading?

Salmon with Vodka Sauce

cooking, FOOD

A few months ago, our wonderful neighbors Tom and Alice drop – shipped a fresh caught Alaskan Salmon filet to our doorstep…just because! I had to do something special with that special fish. So I researched a recipe for salmon with vodka sauce. In a word, it was DIVINE!

I made it again tonight using store bought salmon. The fish wasn’t as flavorful (duh!) but ohmygoodness that SAUCE. Seriously amazing
Check it out…
image

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil for the sauce, plus 1 tablespoon olive oil for the salmon

1 large white onion, finely chopped

1 28-ounce canned crushed tomatoes

2 minced garlic cloves

1/4 cup vodka

1/2 cup heavy vream

4 fresh basil leaves, whole

1 teaspoon of salt for the vodka sauce

1/4 teaspoon salt for the salmon

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 pound fresh salmon filet with skin

1 pound penne pasta

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425F.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, saute onion in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil for 8 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the garlic and let it cook with the onions for 2 minutes.

Add in the tomatoes, Vodka, heavy cream, basil leaves, salt, pepper, and butter.

Stir the mixture until well combined. Bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes stirring occasionally.

Place the salmon (skin side down) on a foil lined baking dish (or better yet – a Pampered Chef baking stone!)

Rub the salmon with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil and bake for 12 minutes. Allow it to cool slightly to the touch.

Gently flake the salmon with a fork into bite size pieces. add the salmon to the vodka sauce and gently stir.

Cook the salmon with the vodka sauce for an additional 3 minutes.

Prepare the pasta according to the manufacturers instructions.

Creme Brulee for this Valentine’s Day

cooking, FOOD, Special Occasion

I wanted to make something special this Valentine’s Day and I think I succeeded!

image

A quick internet search turned up this simple recipe and then I just needed a quick trip to Bed Bath and Beyond to score a hand-held food torch.
Hope you had a great day with your sweethearts!

Ingredients
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 cup heavy cream
3 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons white sugar, divided

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).Whisk 3 tablespoons sugar and cream in a microwave-safe bowl until well combined; heat the mixture in microwave until warm, 1 to 2 minutes, and whisk again to dissolve sugar. Whisk in egg yolks and vanilla extract until smooth.Pour cream mixture into 2 ramekins. Set ramekins into a roasting pan and pour in enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.Bake in the preheated oven until creme desserts are set but still slightly jiggly when shaken, about 50 minutes. Remove ramekins from hot water and chill in refrigerator until cold, at least 2 hours.Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar evenly over the top of each dessert. Use a kitchen torch to lightly toast and melt the sugar topping until brown and bubbly, about 30 seconds. Let the sugar topping cool before serving.

I topped mine with chocolate filled raspberries. Yum!

Creme Brulee for this Valentine’s Day

Random Observation

I wanted to make something special this Valentine’s Day and I think I succeeded!

image

A quick internet search turned up this simple recipe and then I just needed a quick trip to Bed Bath and Beyond to score a hand-held food torch.
Hope you had a great day with your sweethearts!

Ingredients
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 cup heavy cream
3 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons white sugar, divided

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).Whisk 3 tablespoons sugar and cream in a microwave-safe bowl until well combined; heat the mixture in microwave until warm, 1 to 2 minutes, and whisk again to dissolve sugar. Whisk in egg yolks and vanilla extract until smooth.Pour cream mixture into 2 ramekins. Set ramekins into a roasting pan and pour in enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.Bake in the preheated oven until creme desserts are set but still slightly jiggly when shaken, about 50 minutes. Remove ramekins from hot water and chill in refrigerator until cold, at least 2 hours.Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar evenly over the top of each dessert. Use a kitchen torch to lightly toast and melt the sugar topping until brown and bubbly, about 30 seconds. Let the sugar topping cool before serving.

I topped mine with chocolate filled raspberries. Yum!