30 March 2010

The Mango Season

The Mango SeasonI thought this book was okay (it just barely fell into the get-it-finished category instead of the abandoned pile, and if it had been any longer, it wouldn't have). The premise was interesting- an Indian woman who has been living in the US for seven years returns for a visit with the news that she's engaged to an American. There was a lot of potential, but the characters were either completely predictable or annoying, and I didn't really care about anyone in the book (except the fiance).

I liked Malladi's Serving Crazy with Curry better, but I probably won't bother with any more of her books unless one gets a good recommendation.

29 March 2010

Happy Palm Sunday

Originally posted April 9, 2006

And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way. And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen; Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven and glory in the highest. And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered, and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. ~Luke 19: 36-40

Palm Sunday is one of my favorite Sundays out of the entire year, and one that is sadly ignored by many members of the LDS Church. I started celebrating it 9 years ago when I was in Jerusalem and celebrated all of Holy Week with the Orthodox Christians in Jerusalem. I prefer Orthodox Easter because it is usually less touristy and there are a lot more locals participating. (See here for more on the celebration of Palm Sunday in Jerusalem.)

We met at Bethphage on top of the Mount of Olives then walked down the Mount of Olives through Lion's Gate to the Church of St. Anne where we sang and shouted hosanna. A somewhat familiar experience since I had been at the dedication of the Mount Timpanogos Temple the year before.

I always remember that particular Sunday on Palm Sunday now, but I also like to have an official beginning to this Holy Week when the most important event in history took place. So much that was good and bad happened this week, and I like to commemorate the entire week instead of just Easter Sunday. It's nice to begin and end the week with happy events.

And don't forget Saturday, the day before Palm Sunday, when Mary annointed Jesus (John 12:1-9). Unless it was on Tuesday (Mark 14:3-9).

So many of the praise hymns like "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty" and "Come, O Thou King of Kings" are beautiful songs to sing today. "All Glory, Laud and Honor" is one of my favorites:


All glory, laud, and honor
To thee, Redeemer, King
To whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring

Thou art the King of Israel
Thou David's royal Son
Who in the Lord's name comest
The King and Blessed One

The company of angels
Are praising thee on high
And mortal men and all things
Created make reply

The people of the Hebrews
With palms before thee went
Our praise and love and anthems
Before thee we present

To thee, before thy passion
They sang their hymns of praise
To thee, now high exalted
Our melody we raise

Thou didst accept accept their praises
Accept the love we bring
Who in all good delightest
Thou good and gracious king.

28 March 2010

Paul Among the People

Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own TimeDangermom (who can never be anything in my head besides Dangermom, even if she has a real name) recommended this one about Paul a few weeks ago. Since Paul's epistles aren't my favorite part of the New Testament, I decided to read it myself. Sarah Ruden is a classical scholar, not a biblical scholar, who comes at Paul from her own perspective of someone who's completely familiar with Greek and Roman society. Ruden uses Greek and Roman literature extensively throughout the book to illustrate her points. Her book is easy to read, but still thorough and interesting. She focuses on Paul's most difficult or controversial passages and puts them in the context of the time they were written. I've certainly seen this done before on a smaller scale, but not by someone with Ruden's knowledge or ability to write. My only complaint would be that I wanted more, not just pieces here and their about Paul's epistles.

And, like Dangermom points out, this book is rather unpleasant to read in some parts, because Greek and Roman society was unpleasant in some parts.

20 March 2010

Seattle's International District

Seattle's International District: The Making of a Pan-Asian American CommunityThis was hardly the most engaging history I've ever read, but it still did its job with a brief overview of the history of the International District.  There's room for something a little more interesting though.

19 March 2010

Zeitoun

ZeitounRarely do I get so angry when reading a book that I have to stop and remember that I'm really just sitting outside in the sun keeping track of the two-year-old. But I had to do that several times today while I raced through Zeitoun. The story here is infuriating, well-told, and should be required reading. And some people still say we have too many protections for the accused?

18 March 2010

Laghman Noodles

I learned a new way to make noodles last week and made them again tonight. These noodles aren't as complicated as completely hand-pulled noodles, but since I learned it from a Kazakh from Xinjiang, I'll count them as real laghman. Fortunately I'd made noodles before, or the instructions I got wouldn't have been enough. Here's what I did tonight.

about 4 cups all-purpose flour (this is the only thing I don't make with whole wheat flour)
2 eggs
about 1 tsp salt
enough water to make a stiff dough (at most one cup, and probably less- mine was a little softer than it could have been)

Combine the flour, eggs, and salt, then add enough water to make a stiff dough. If you have a food processor, use it. Our food processor has passed on to the dump, so I kneaded the dough by hand for about 7 minutes after it was dough. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it sit for a while. I let it sit for about 2 hours.

Break off walnut-sized pieces of dough and roll them into long, pencil-thick strips. After forming each strip, oil it, then coil it on an oiled plate (start in the middle and work your way out, then when the plate is full, start a second layer till the dough is all used up). Cover the coiled dough mound with plastic and let it sit till you're ready to cook the noodles (you want to let it sit for at least 30 minutes and more time is better).

Get a large pot of water boiling and have a bowl of cold water and a big strainer scooper thing (I don't know what they're called) ready. While the water is getting hot, start stretching the noodles. Take each noodle one at a time and pull it with both hands into a very long, thinner noodle. Work carefully so you don't break the noodles. Leave each pulled strip in a separate little heap on the counter until the water boils.

Holding your hands out, about 18 inches apart with the palms facing each other, take the ends of three little heaps together between your thumb and your palm and run them around the back of your hand. Bring the dough on top of your other hand and then down across the back of your hand. Bring the first hand around to pick the dough up again on top of the hand and then around the back. Repeat that motion to make a sort of figure-8 with the noodles. When you have all three strands wrapped around your hands, pull the noodles again by moving your hands farther apart (don't break them, but do give them a good pull), then drop them off your hands into the boiling water.

Stir the noodles to prevent sticking. They'll float to the top as the water comes back to a boil. Fish them out with the strainer about a minute or less after the water boils again. Dip them into the cold water, then transfer to a plate. It's easiest to keep each batch on separate plates because the noodles are so long that they're hard to get out of a communal bowl.

If you're making a lot of noodles, they'll get cold before you get them all done, so briefly dip them back in the hot water before serving to warm them up.

There are lots of things you can serve with laghman. I make a sauce with peppers and tomatoes, or I just like some vinegar and chili paste and vegetables on it. There are lots of recipes online for what to serve on top.

I still really like the hand-stretched noodles I've make many times, but I think the rest of the family prefers this style of noodles. And they're fun to make, and not too much harder than the hand-stretched. If you want to come visit, we can have a noodle-making fest.

17 March 2010

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetI'm glad I picked this one up because it turned out to be a good book. I especially liked that it was set in the International District in Seattle, but even if you don't care about Seattle, I think this book is still worth reading. It's an moving look at the internment of the Japanese during WWII from a Chinese-American teenager's perspective.

There were a few anachronisms (an online support group in 1986?), enough that I wondered if there was a late change in the date the older Henry's story happened. But there weren't enough inconsistencies to bother me too much. I also wasn't too excited about the direction the story was going at one point, but the last 50 pages pulled everything together very nicely.

I think I'll recommend this to one of my local groups. Definitely a good one to read in Seattle.

15 March 2010

Sea Glass

Sea Glass: A NovelI picked this one up on Julie's suggestion and also enjoyed it.  It was a little confusing at the beginning to keep track of all the different characters, but the author pulls their stories together perfectly into the climax.  Very well written.

12 March 2010

Beneath My Mother's Feet

Beneath My Mother's FeetI think I liked this book.  I had some conflicting feelings about it as I was reading, but the ending resolved a lot of my concerns.  It didn't end happily, but it did end the way it should have.  Definitely a different and good YA book with lots to discuss.

11 March 2010

Emma

Emma (2009)We tried this new adaptation of Emma last weekend and I was very happy with it.  It's the first time I've actually liked Emma, except in the book.  She's still a bit silly, like she's supposed to be, but she's a lot more than just a silly girl.  I thought it was very well done. 

So now, of the more recent BBC versions of Austen, I like Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and PrejudicePersuasion is, unfortunately, awful.  I'd like to see a remake of Mansfield Park; like Emma, at least before this version, Mansfield Park hasn't had a good film made of it yet.

10 March 2010

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance

So, I couldn't pass this one up after all the hype a few months ago. And even though it took those few months to get this one from the library, I think it was worth the wait. There was a lot I liked about this book, and a few things I didn't like.

First, I can definitely see why some people aren't excited about it. Elna Baker is pretty open about her life, and some of what she writes about would make some people uncomfortable. Some people also thought she was irreverent in places; I didn't feel that way, even though I disagreed with the way she explained some things about being a Mormon (I can't see why she stayed with the church past 20 if the way she describes it truly represents how she feels about it).

I liked reading about her journey though. Like I said, Baker is honest and tells her story well. It's fun to read, and it's fun to see how she changes. It's also a quick read. Baker reminded me a bit of a friend of mine, but I wondered if she'd be able to see past my Mormon-ness to be friends with me. I hope so.

So the verdict is that I liked it, but it's not for everyone.

09 March 2010

Dear Enemy

Dear Enemy (Classic Reprint)This is a sequel to Daddy-Long-Legs.  It's also epistolary, but it worked again for pretty much the same reasons Daddy-Long-Legs worked.  This one wasn't quite as charming, but I liked it.  It was more interesting in some ways, with so much about reforming an orphanage.  It's also worth reading.

07 March 2010

Jehovah and the World of the Old Testament

I was lucky enough to pick this one up from the library. I'd really like to be lucky enough to own it, but since we're trying to get rid of big heavy books instead of getting more, that's not going to happen. It would have been nicer to work through this book while reading the Old Testament, but it was still very interesting to read it on its own.

I've read more about the OT than your average Mormon, because I like it, so a lot of this was familiar, but it was still interesting to read, and it's put together nicely. And if you've generally stayed away from the OT, this is a very good place to start changing that. There are a lot of good and applicable photos, and very often when something was mentioned in the text that you wondered about, there was a photo of it. There are also many excellent sidebars. They might be the best part of the book. Kevin Barney's review has a lot of examples of what's in them.

I particularly appreciated the way the authors dealt with many of the sticky or uncomfortable issues and stories in the OT. Sometimes when you're talking about the OT with LDS readers, you either have to skip the uncomfortable parts, or they're just glossed over by saying that God can do anything. Personally, I thought it was good that the authors acknowledging that it's not necessary to think that Moses was wandering in the Sinai with 3 million people, or that the Documentary Hypothesis is worth discussing, or that there are historical problems with many parts of the Bible, like Joshua and Jonah.

Highly recommended.

03 March 2010

Daddy-Long-Legs

So, after complaining about epistolary novels on Monday, I went to the bookshelf and pulled off the next library book and it was another one. I still read it, and it made me reconsider my view on epistolary novels because it mostly managed to avoid the contrived letters. This one worked because the letters are all written by the same person to the same person, and the writer and the receiver don't know each other (well, sort of). So the author is free to use the letters to move the plot along because the letters seem natural.

This book is about 100 years old, and it's in generally the same category as books about young women like The Girl of the Limberlost and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. If you like those books, you'll like this one. But if you thought those books were overwrought and sentimental, then you still might try this one, because Jerusha, our heroine isn't at all, or not too much, sentimental. It's a bit predictable, but not terribly so, and it's simply a fun, quick read. Recommended.

01 March 2010

Ella Minnow Pea

Ella Minnow Pea
This was brought up as a choice at a recent book group, and even though ended up choosing a different book for the group, I still thought I'd read this one. I remember when it came out (almost 10 years ago!), but didn't read it then, I think because my mother tired of it. It seems like someone else reviewed it recently, but I can't be sure.

Anyway, I got tired of it too. It's a book with an interesting idea, but I didn't feel like it really went anywhere. Even though I felt like I ought to be more interested in the lives of the people in the book, I just didn't care about them. The book was clever, certainly. I think I also might not generally be a fan of epistolary novels (non-fiction is fine) because it always seems the letters are contrived to get the information to the reader. This one was no different. Still, it was a quick read, and fun in several parts, and not a waste of time.

Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's

Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's
This was a book group read that turned out to be a pretty good memoir.  There were parts that were rather detailed and long, but overall, I thought it was an interesting look at Asperger's.  It'll be interesting to discuss.

I do hope that it becomes more common to look at Asperger's not as a disease, but as a different way of looking at the world.  There are several things in Robison's life that felt uncomfortably familiar to me (especially the chapter on logic and small talk- I don't think I'll ever get the hang of small talk and I'd love some sort of signal that indicates that I'm not conversationally adept so people didn't get offended when I accidentally say the wrong thing (and that's why the majority of my socializing is in book groups)), and I think it's important that people realize that autism spectrum disorders create people who are different, not who are sick or damaged.