Book Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

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This novel was quite tough. I chose to read To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee from my Summer Reading List as my next literary journey. As you can see, this book was well-loved by it’s previous owners, and I bought it from a charity book fair earlier this year. This was my first time reading it though, for some reason my school’s syllabus didn’t include this as prescribed reading. I’m stalling. I know. There’s just so much to say about this Pulitzer winning novel – I don’t really know exactly what to say.

It’s a story of love, family and friendship set in the South of the US in the 1930’s. It’s about the relationship between siblings, and how that friendship changes as one sibling seemingly grows up faster than the other. And about how even though the nature of the sibling friendship changes, the bond remains. It’s about the childlike exploration of the imagination by storytelling. Conjuring up fantasies and demons alike in the mind, all in the name of playing pretend. It’s a beautiful story of the love of a father for his children – and how raising them unconventionally would affect them for years to come. How neighbours help to love and raise these children. It’s about how a young girl can be a rough and tumble little tomboy – but be so adored by the people around her – even capturing the heart of a boy who (I think), would love her until the day she died.

More than that though, it is a story that shows the reader how cruel human nature is. Unflinchingly, the author takes us through the injustices of the automatic judgment passed onto people who are different than ourselves, and the consequences of these judgments. It deals with class. The automatic banding together when others are different than our own class. It also, very humblingly, shows the reader how absurd this bigotry is. The distinction between race, class, occupation or even heritage are redundant when one chooses to look at the person behind these labels, and reveal their true nature and humanity – good or bad.

As always – I am trying not to reveal too much… I can tell you that through the narration of Scout Finch, she tells us the tale of her life. The good, the bad, the heartbreaking and the moments of pure joy. I understood how they were raised by her mannerisms, her attitudes and her actions during what was arguably the toughest, most trying time in their family’s lives. All throughout the novel, I had this complete feeling of foreshadowing – pressing on my heart. And when I couldn’t hold it anymore, I found out. And I wept. The author so very cunningly made me a part of Scout’s story that I couldn’t understand the feelings I was feeling until the very end.

It is an excellent read – but really not a lighthearted novel. I feel enriched as a human being for reading it.

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Deep Fried Tequila Bites

Recently, we had a team building getaway, where we had a cook off between two teams – Boys vs Girls. Obviously, us girls won! (It was to be expected, and very unsurprising, really) It was such a fun night, filled with seductively flirty bubbles from the champagne to the absolute worst grimacing from the Jagermeister. We played with our colleague’s gorgeous little girl, we played with dolls on our own (don’t ask), ate amazing food and tried to play 30 Seconds, but couldn’t get far… Our boss is a cheat!

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We decided that since we would win anyway, we would take care of dessert. We found a new recipe that’s been making the rounds on the internet recently, and decided we would give it a try. Deep Fried Tequila Bites. What’s not to love, right? It’s really simple if you don’t make the cake. We bought some Madeira cake – which is just a traditional English sponge cake. We cut the cake into big cubes, soaked them in tequila and deep-fried them in canola oil. Just dust them with some icing sugar when they come out, and you’re done! We also got some Cloudy Lemonade Lollies to serve with these boozy little morsels.

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The reception to them was not so good. But the concept is. They were just VERY Tequila. So here’s what we learnt: Don’t soak the cubes. The longer you soak them, the stronger they get. We used an entire bottle of gold Tequila, which should have been an indication for us that we might have been too heavy-handed. Next time, I’ll just brush the cubes with Tequila with a pastry brush. I also think that I’ll try to use lemon sponge cake, to tie the concept together. Also, make sure your oil is hot enough, so the cubes will brown and crisp up quickly and evenly. Our oil started out too cold, but very quickly turned to too hot. If we could have just evened out the temperature at that sweet spot, it would have gone great. We would have liked to serve it with Lemon Sorbet, but couldn’t find any. The lollies were great though, but the sorbet would have been the perfect smack in the face for this dessert.

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Give it a try if you’re brave enough! I think it would work really well with a Mexican themed dinner party, but really, who needs an excuse for anything Tequila??

Book Review: Invisible Monsters

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Continuing on my Summer Reading List, I read Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk. I actually finished it two weeks ago, but I’ve been having the hardest time formulating my thoughts to review this novel. Which, I guess, is a reflection of the novel itself. It is an intensely disturbing yet captivating story. I read in in two days or so, yet I found myself speechless by the end of it. I tried to explain the story to my beau, but it left me (and him) even more confused and dazed.

The novel is based around self-loathing models and secretive, boisterous drag queens, on a cross-country road trip trying to find themselves while scamming innocent random bystanders to fuel their addictions. It is a sad, violent, disgusting, profound story, and it surely will make you think. It is a bit hard to read, like a Schizophrenic with ADD trying to tell you story. It jumps around quite a bit, and interrupts itself many times, playing off like a film of the mind.

The themes of the novel however, are relevant to every reader. Attention – the desperation to get it, the anguish of not wanting it; self-loathing; jealousy; hatred mixed with love and the blurry lines in between; addiction; self-mutilation; struggling with identity; the sham that very often is veiled as family values and the constant search for meaning and acceptance.

It is a rollercoaster ride of anguish, disgust, sadness and absurdity so intense – it becomes funny. If you can stick to it, you’ll find an amazing plot twist, and you’ll be sucker punched by the culmination of the novel. It assaults your mind like few novels can.

There was a profound quote in the book that has stuck with me: “When we don’t know who to hate, we hate ourselves.” I find it very accurate, completely true and utterly crushing.

Next up on the list is To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Now go, get your geek on and read a book!