Book Review | A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe

loving faithful animalSet in Australia, A Loving, Faithful Animal shares the stories of a members in a disjointed family dealing with issues. Sisters Ruby and Lani spend a good deal of time outside the home. Their father, a sometimes abusive, Vietnam Veteran lives there, but often leaves for indeterminate lengths of time. Sometimes bruised, when not tracking down her husband in seedy bars and motels, their mother prefers an escape that involves living in her memories. Lani’s promiscuous habits and other poor decision making mean young Ru is often fending for herself.

The writing in this book is impressive, but clarity is sometimes lacking. Rowe’s use of the informal “you” in addressing Ruby made the story easy to jump into. However, coupled with chapters devoted to alternating family members, it created an additional layer to process. Each character’s section emphasized different aspects of the family’s shared story and all the sections came together well to make a whole. Readers who want the whole story spelled out will find problems with this format because there are several gaps left in the narrative. This book would appeal to fans of artful or raw fiction, especially those interested in reading about dysfunctional families. It is set to be released in mid-September, soon you should be able to place a hold on it a library near you.

I received an advance reading copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading A Loving, Faithful Animal, you may be interested in Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh (2017).

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Film Review | The Daughter starring Sam Neill & Geoffrey Rush

Daughter_poster

After many years away from his birth town and father, middle-aged Christian returns home to attend his father’s second wedding. The relationship between father and son is tense, owing to something other than the fact that the upcoming wedding involves the 31 year old housekeeper his father had previously employed. As Christian reunites with his old friend Oliver, he pieces a few old secrets together that threaten to break apart Oliver’s family.

This Australian drama based on Henrik Ibsen’s play provided much more than I’d bargained for. The story line was intriguing and the characters were easy to relate to. The acting was very realistic without anything being overdone. Music set to the film worked quite well and served to enhance the movie overall. While the budget for this film couldn’t have been too much with it’s rural setting, I’m actually surprised it hadn’t drummed up more attention in the film world. Though it may bring on a few tears, The Daughter is certainly worth checking out from your local library!

Book Review | White Fur by Jardine Libaire

white fur arcWhite Fur takes place on the East Coast in the early 1980’s. Born-rich Jamey drops out of Yale after falling for Elise who grew up in the projects. For these two it’s like a spark at first sight and then, the more time they spend together, the deeper they fall. Jamey wants nothing more than to get away from his controlling 1% family who use their money for manipulation, while Elise cares only about being with the man she loves. As the two become one, they attempt to cocoon themselves away from their previous lives.

My plot description doesn’t do the novel justice. This book was better than I’d expected. It kept me engaged and wanting to read more. Libaire’s writing is clear and easy to follow, but maintains an artistic edge. Descriptions allow the reader to visualize certain passages, and some sections are graphic, but this is done in a gritty manner that is inoffensive to sensitive readers. White Fur would appeal to those interested in reading a magnetic love story or a story of boy-meets-girl from different social classes. This title is planned for release in May 2017 by Hogarth Press. I received an advance reader’s edition of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Film Review | Demolition starring Jake Gyllenhaal

indexOpening with a sudden car crash in which his wife loses her life, Demolition follows protagonist Davis (Gyllenhaal) as he transforms from a traditional member of society into a more free thinking version of himself. His father-in-law and boss (Cooper) asks him to take time away from his financial industry job after several out of character incidents at the office. Davis develops a correspondence with a customer service worker (Watts) and eventually meets up with her. The film follows as their relationship develops.
I found this film to be constantly engaging and fresh. The perspective explored seemed to be a theme that people are often unwilling to talk about or recognize: not everyone views success or happiness in the same light and fitting in is not always the most important thing. The acting and dialogue were realistic despite some destruction scenes that may have been a bit much. I’d recommend this film to those content bucking the mainstream, fans of Gyllenhaal and those looking for a good movie without too much drama. Check it out from a library near you!

Book Review | Wisconsin Supper Club Cookbook by Mary Bergin

book cover wisconsin supper club cookbook by mary berginIn Wisconsin Supper Club Cookbook, author Mary Bergin takes readers on a tour around approximately 40 local supper clubs. She addresses the question of what a supper club is and serves up historical facts in a very palatable manner, incorporating them within chapters on each restaurant. Added fact boxes at the end of select chapters serve to highlight other related notables. Bergin includes several recipes for most of the included establishments, spanning the whole meal from drinks and appetizers to main courses, sides and desserts. You won’t find many healthy or vegan recipes here though. These foods are more about tradition and include some heavy ingredients, but perhaps some at home tweaking will yield a family favorite. Although some great photos are included, an absence of captions make some images hard to decipher. The photo quality leaves many images visually less than appealing and many appear to be amateur shots. In the introduction the author mentions there being over a hundred supper clubs in Wisconsin, but only about 40 are included. A full list would have made for a treat of an appendix. Overall, the book was enjoyable and is recommended to Wisconsinites interested in local tradition and history or out-of-towners wanting to learn about supper club culture. Check out this book from a library near you.

Food Review | Café Du Qvondeyz On The Garret – Manhattan, KS

Three months ago, on November 14th, a special new Creole and Cajun restaurant opened in Manhattan. Café Du Qvondeyz On The Garret is located at 3003 Anderson Ave, suite 953 (in the strip mall where the DMV used to be next to Rays West). Chef Que Purdy came from Louisiana to join her daughter who was attending K-State. The Qvondeyz Family has been successfully catering in Louisiana since 1992.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes

After hearing great things about the food, I decided to give the place a try. I was also warned that the wait for the food might be longer than expected.

My partner and I split an appetizer of fried green tomatoes. These were very tasty. They were not at all greasy, the cornmeal breading was crispy and mostly adhered to the tomatoes, and the flavor of the tomatoes came through. The remoulade also had great flavor. I would definitely order these again.

As an entrée I ordered the fried Catfish Platter with sides of baked mac & cheese and green beans. The catfish was ok – it didn’t seem as fresh as I’d hoped, but at least did not taste fishy. The green beans were much more flavorful than I’d expected, but were rather cool. The mac & cheese was excellent, very creamy and hot. The toast was buttered and grilled and added to the dish. Maybe next time I would try the blackened catfish instead of the fried.

My partner ordered the Creole Jambalaya. This dish was well spiced and very flavorful. The serving contained a generous amount of chicken and sausage and was a hearty size. I managed to eat about a 1/3 of the rice and my partner still got enough to eat. I was glad that neither onion nor pepper flavor dominated this dish and I would certainly eat this again. Unfortunately, they had run out of corn bread at the time of our visit so we were unable to try it.

The food was the good news of our visit. As for the not so good news… At the time we dined, the kitchen exhaust fan was inoperable which caused a backup of cooking smoke in the dining area. Hopefully this will be fixed soon and will not affect future diners. The restaurant seems inadequately staffed and the waitstaff not yet fully trained. This, too, should improve with time. Because of this staffing issue, the wait for the food was longer than an average diner would consider acceptable. If you are prepared to wait for good southern food, it’s certainly worth a try.

Café du Qvondeyz On the Garret is open daily for lunch and dinner, but closed Sundays. Since I had issues finding the full menu online, I am providing photos below that I took of the menu in the restaurant.

Book Review | An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman

book cover an english ghost story by kim newmanAfter difficult times, Steven and his wife Kirsty decide to leave city life behind for a home in the Somerset countryside and a new start for their family. Both parents, daughter Jordan and son Tim immediately fall in love with The Hollow, a property previously owned by a famed authoress. An English Ghost Story explores the family’s discoveries about their new home being inhabited by spirits and the interaction between the ghosts and the family members. Things heat up as family members are torn apart and turn against each other.

Accessible to all readers, this book started out with an inviting storyline. While there are not regular chapter breaks, there are section breaks that Newman uses to switch focus between characters. Jordan is 17 and interested in her boyfriend Rick who has stayed in London. Little Tim is constantly playing soldier. Steven runs a business where he matches clients with funding. Kirsty is a bit up in the air about her role as Mother, keeping the family together and feeling like she wants to break out on her own. Each character is quirky and forms different relations with the spirits and magical objects in the house. The book is well written and keeps the reader guessing about what is real versus imagined and what will ultimately happen to the family in The Hollow. This novel is recommended for those interested in haunted houses, dysfunctional families or obsessed with a childhood author. Check it out from a library near you.