Saturday, June 30, 2012

Strange choice for the official song of the 2012 London Olympics?

So today I discovered that this is the official song of the 2012 London Olympics

Don't get me wrong, it's a cool song. I really like the syncopated piano notes at the beginning and the epic guitar riffs at the end. And I adore Muse; they are my favorite band after all. But when I think "official Olympic song" I think more this:

Not this:

I mean, the song starts off innocently enough, but then it gets pretty hardcore. I'm envisioning mosh pits at the opening ceremonies.

What do you all think? Is it an awesome song that will motivate the Olympic athletes? Or is it an unsuccessful attempt try to stand out and be different? I will say this: In a way I kind of like that they didn't just pick some cliche pop song. Despite the fact that I think the lyrics in this song are kind of cliche and hokey, the music is not and for that, I stood up and took notice. Maybe they were trying to ruffle a few feathers by choosing a more hardcore/alternative rock song because that gets more publicity. Then again, it can't be getting that much publicity if I'm just now finding this out and Muse is my favorite band. But I don't live in the UK where Muse is much more popular so maybe this has been brought up over there.

Food trucks are finally infiltrating Michgian

I have been lamenting for a while now that Michigan hasn't caught up to the rest of the country in terms of the popularity of food trucks. Last weekend I finally got a taste (pun intended) of what some of the big cities around the country have been experiencing for a while now.

It appears as though Michigan is finally starting to catch on to the food truck trend and last Saturday, in the city of Ferndale, they shut down a section of East Troy right at Woodward and The Woodward Avenue Brewers conducted a "Truck Stop" so to speak. A handful of food trucks were there to sell their wares and wile the crowd with their delicious offerings.

Shutting down the street for the food trucks
The main reason I wanted to go to this event was simply because I've never experienced the pleasure of food truck cuisine before, which is quickly appealing to accomplished chefs from around the country for the simplicity of being able to move around from place to place and not have to worry about the expenses a brick and mortar restaurant would require of them.

The second reason I wanted to go was that it was advertised on the flyer that the event was dog-friendly. As a pet owner who longs for the pet-friendliness of Europe here in America, I appreciated a poster declaring pets welcome. I mean, I hate to go there, but my dogs are much better behaved in public than a lot of kids are (heck, they're better behaved than I was when I was a kid!). My husband and I like taking them to different places and putting them in different social situations because 1) it tires them out and so they are better behaved at home - where they DO tend to get in trouble. 2) They like people and always relish in the attention they get when they're around a big crowd. Plus, dogs are always a good conversation starter. It's impossible to be anti-social when you have a dog.

A long line is always a good sign at a food truck
So the event was successful to me in two regards: 1) The food was phenomenal and 2) Our dogs had a good time (though, as you will see, they wished we would have shared some of the food with them).

The first food truck where we stopped to eat had a really long line, but it was the one I wanted to try the most, and any time you have a long line of people waiting for food, that's always a good sign. The food truck was called El Guapo - Fresh Mexican Grill and they do a lot of Mexican fusion dishes. Here is a look at the tacos they offer for example:

My husband and I ordered three tacos at El Guapo and shared them.We ordered the pork belly confit
the braised beef
and the Korean beef
While all of the tacos were delicious, I have to tell you how smitten I was with the Korean one in particular. It was just the perfect blend of spicy and sweet with the added fresh crunch of the Asian slaw inside a soft, pillowy tortilla. I still dream about that taco. And Frank is still ticked off with us that we didn't share with him.

Hungry customers waiting for a travelburger at Ned's
The second place we went to was Ned's Travelburger. Ned makes his burgers so they're shaped like a sausage and then sticks them in a hot dog bun instead of a hamburger bun to make them easier to eat and also so the condiments can sit alongside the meat and you can get "the best bite in every bite".  The burger I ordered was the TravelPiggy and had ground pork, Dearborn ham, swiss cheese, and pickles. After eating this burger, I have to agree with Ned. A burger shaped like a hot dog is much easier to eat.

A hot dog shaped burger from Ned's
By this point, you'd think my husband and I would be full and ready to go home but oh no. We were still hungry. So we went and tried the Taco Mama truck where my husband ordered a Phily cheese steak taco (YUM!) and I ordered some chorizo rice (Double YUM!)

Again, Frank and Guenter really wished we would have shared our bounty with them

As if all that food we just consumed wasn't enough, we couldn't leave without stopping by the local ice cream place, Treat Dreams, that makes probably the best (and most unusual) ice cream in the metro Detroit area.
I ordered an ice cream sandwich with lemon basil ice cream between two sugar cookies. Oh Heavens. To say that was way better than any chocolate and vanilla ice cream sandwich you buy from the freezer case at the grocery store is an understatement.
Don't bother me when I'm eating my ice cream sandwich!
More cute pugness: wishing they could have some ice cream

Despite the fact that they didn't get to sample any of the food, the pugs basked in the glow of all the attention they received from doting dog-lovers. When we finally left, they immediately crashed in the car, tired and happy from their evening of people (and food) watching.

I hope more events in the future advertise dog-friendliness. When well behaved, they bring such happiness to the people around them. Maybe it's just me, but I think it's impossible to be unhappy when you're around a dog.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Freedom to Read giveaway hop

This blog hop is hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer, and Mundie Moms

For my portion of the blog hop, I am giving away a copy of:

Eat the City by Robin Shulman
Publication Date: July 10, 2012
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 352
Genre: Non-fiction
Audience: Adults
Disclosure: Thanks to Crown Publishing for providing a copy of the book for this giveaway.

From Goodreads:
New York is not a city for growing and manufacturing food. It’s a money and real estate city, with less naked earth and industry than high-rise glass and concrete.   Yet in this intimate, visceral, and beautifully written book, Robin Shulman introduces the people of New York City  - both past and present - who  do grow vegetables, butcher meat, fish local waters, cut and refine sugar, keep bees for honey, brew beer, and make wine. In the most heavily built urban environment in the country, she shows an organic city full of intrepid and eccentric people who want to make things grow.  What’s more, Shulman artfully places today’s urban food production in the context of hundreds of years of history, and traces how we got to where we are.

 In these pages meet Willie Morgan, a Harlem man who first grew his own vegetables in a vacant lot as a front for his gambling racket. And David Selig, a beekeeper in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn who found his bees making a mysteriously red honey. Get to know Yolene Joseph, who fishes crabs out of the waters off Coney Island to make curried stews for her family. Meet the creators of the sickly sweet Manischewitz wine, whose brand grew out of Prohibition; and Jacob Ruppert, who owned a beer empire on the Upper East Side, as well as the New York Yankees.

Eat the City is about how the ability of cities to feed people has changed over time. Yet it is also, in a sense, the story of the things we long for in cities today: closer human connections, a tangible link to more basic processes, a way to shape more rounded lives, a sense of something pure.

Of course, hundreds of years ago, most food and drink consumed by New Yorkers was grown and produced within what are now the five boroughs. Yet people rarely realize that long after New York became a dense urban agglomeration, innovators, traditionalists, migrants and immigrants continued to insist on producing their own food. This book shows the perils and benefits—and the ironies and humor—when city people involve themselves in making what they eat.

Food, of course, is about hunger. We eat what we miss and what we want to become, the foods of our childhoods and the symbols of the lives we hope to lead. With wit and insight, Eat the City shows how in places like New York, people have always found ways to use their collective hunger to build their own kind of city.

ROBIN SHULMAN is a writer and reporter whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Slate, the Guardian, and many other publications.  She lives in New York City.

Terms of giveaway:
To enter, use the Rafflecopter widget
Must be 13 or older to enter and have a US mailing address 

Monday, June 25, 2012

It's Monday! What are You Reading?

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen and Kellee  over at Teach Mentor Texts also host a kidlit version of It's Monday! What are You Reading?

What I'm currently (still) reading:

Blind Spot by Laura Ellen

Books I read and loved last week:

The Happy Hocky Family by Lane Smith
This is one of those books you just have to read to understand the experience. This story isn't necessarily a story, but more like a series of different vignettes on each page. Each vignette is either interactive in some way or asks kids to make some inferences or ask questions of what's going on in the scene. It's one of those books that teachers can read aloud and undoubtedly kids will be picking the book back up to dig deeper into the subtler aspects of the story and illustrations. 

A is for Salad by Mike Lester
Any book that makes me snort AND laugh so hard I cry is worth a gander. You totally need to read this book. It will have you howling with laughter (at least I hope so - otherwise I'm just easily amused, which could be the case).

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson

Audiobooks finished last week:
A Wind in the Door by Madeline L'Engle
This book is the perfect example of why fantasy/sci-fi is just not my genre. Most of the time I felt like I was listening to another language.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth
As it stands, I don't understand what all the hoopla surrounding this series is about. Why is everyone in the blogosphere and on my Goodreads friends list giving this book (and its predecessor) five stars?  What am I missing here people? As it stands, I feel like the loser in high school who sits by herself in the cafeteria because she's not cool enough to sit with the popular kids and even the un-popular kids don't want her to sit with them because they think she's too weird and therefore lowers their street cred. I want to like this series so bad. I just can't get past the lack of believability that this world could exist (yes, I know The Hunger Games isn't exactly believable either, but somehow Suzanne Collins MADE you believe it while you were reading). Or maybe Roth's world building just isn't vivid enough for me. I don't know. I will have to figure out exactly what bothers me and writer a lengthier review about it later.

What I reviewed last week:

From What I Remember... by Valerie Kramer and Stacy Thomas

Weeknights with Giada by Giada DeLaurentiis

And did you see my post about my excitement regarding the fact that The True Meaning of Smekday is going to be an animated feature produced by Dreamworks? This is epic people.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

My version of Starbucks Passion Tea Lemonade

I used to make fun of people who were addicted to Starbucks. I didn't understand how or why anyone would regularly pay $5 for coffee. But, I can't drink coffee. It tears up my stomach. It's not that I don't like it; it just doesn't like me.

But then I started teaching and families started giving me Starbucks gift cards as Christmas and thank-you gifts. At first I started giving them away, but after doing that a couple times, I realized that they have drinks other than coffee there. Thus my addiction to chai lattes was born. Then I ventured to green tea lattes and vanilla frappuchinos.

Then last summer I introduced myself to the passion tea lemonade and it was all over. Last summer though I had a lot of gift cards to spend so I didn't bat an eye every time I was thirsty and had a hankering for one of these delicious beverages. This year, however, I think I only got one Starbucks gift card at Christmas which has been long since spent. If I didn't come up with my own recipe soon, my wallet would be bowing down to the Starbucks gods all summer. 

There are a few recipes going around Pinterest right now about how to make Starbucks Passion Tea Lemonade. Many of these recipes are using store bought lemonade like Simply Lemonade, which I have tried and to me it tastes "simply" awful. I personally think Simply Lemonade tastes fake no matter how "all natural" they try to claim it is. Even my husband, who is not picky in the slightest when it comes to food and drink, said that Simply Lemonade is nasty.

So I have created my own passion tea lemonade recipe by doing it the slow, old-fashioned way of using real lemons.

Beth's version of Starbucks Passion Tea Lemonade
Basking in the sun with a book and a less-than $5 beverage
7 Cups Water
3 Tazo passion tea bags
3/4 cup lemon juice (from about 6-7 lemons)
3/4 cup agave nectar or 1 cup simple syrup

Fill a tea kettle with 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Steep passion tea bags for 5+ minutes. Let cool.

In a pitcher, pour in the lemon juice, agave nectar (or simple syrup), 1 cup water and cooled passion tea. Stir.

Fill a tumbler with ice, take a book with you out on the patio, enjoy the fruits of your labor, and relish in the fact that you just saved yourself $5.

Like what you see? Check out my other food-related posts this week:
Recipe: Flank Steak with Black Beans
Cookbook review & recipe: Weeknights with Giada and grilled cheese with spinach and pancetta
Restaurant review: Logan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Friday, June 22, 2012

Flank Steak with Black Beans

One of my favorite cuts of meat is flank steak because it is fairly inexpensive and while it's a tougher cut of meat, if you cut it and cook it right, it is flavorful, moist and juicy.

My favorite marinade is this Rachael Ray recipe for Korean Barbeque flank steak but recently I have come to fall in love with the following recipe from Food Network Magazine which is flank steak dry rubbed with chili powder and then topped with black beans and cilantro. It's a quick, simple meal that packs a big flavor punch.

Flank Steak with Black Beans
Adapted from Food Network Magazine, December 2011

1 & 1/2 pounds flank steak
3 teaspoons chili powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
15 oz. can black beans, drained

1. Sprinkle steak with chili powder and salt. Heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add steak and cook about 5 minutes per side for medium rare.

2. Transfer steak to a cutting board and let rest 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add onion and tomato paste, stirring until onion is soft, 2-3 minutes. Add chicken broth and beans and bring to a simmer. Coarsely mash beans with a spoon; continue cooking until slightly thickened, about 4 more minutes. Add salt to taste and garnish with cilantro.

4. Slice the steak and top with black beans.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Life with Dogs: Never a Dull Moment

For the past couple years our one pug Frank lost all his energy. He lost that spark of life that was in him and for a while we thought it was because he had a slipped disc in his back. We had him on pain meds, which helped, but he still wasn't himself.

In the spring both our pugs had their annual vet visit for vaccinations and the like, which is when our vet noticed that Frank's hair looked really thin and lackluster. She suspected that he wasn't in pain at all, and that he really had low thyroid levels. A week later, the results of a blood test confirmed that he, indeed, had hypothyroidism.

Now he is on a thyroid supplement and within a few days, we noticed a marked improvement in his quality of life. So much so that he's making up for lost time - and getting himself into trouble.

Prior to his low energy issue, Frank was a dog that needed to be walked daily or he would get into things he wasn't supposed to: the bathroom trash, any food left on the end table or coffee table. My husband and I used to say it's a good thing he's not a lab or else our kitchen counters would be in danger too!

Well now that he's back to his old self, we have to remember what it's like to have a dog that gets into trouble. On Sunday we went over to my in-laws house with the dogs and got to talking around the kitchen table and so we weren't paying attention to the dogs. My sister-in-law went into the guest room where her purse was and came out to the kitchen holding a half empty bag of trail mix and said, "Frank was eating that out of my purse."

That's when panic set in. The trail mix was full of raisins! As many dog owners are aware (and if you're not, you need to be!), raisins and grapes are extremely toxic to dogs because they can cause renal failure.

After a panicked call to the emergency vet down the street, they told me to bring him in and they would force him to vomit them up.

We brought him into the office and they took him to the back room to give him an injection of something that would basically make him empty the contents of his entire stomach. Better them than me! An hour, many piles of regurgitated raisins (along with a feminine hygiene product that he must have rooted out of the trash, nasty dog!) and almost $200 later,  an injection was given to reverse the process and he was ready to go home.

Does this look like the face of a dog that just came back from the emergency vet?
Before they brought him back out, they mentioned to me that despite the gross-out factor of having to deal with all the stuff he puked up, they thought he was the cutest thing because once they gave him the reversal injection, he was back there  wagging has tail, just happy as a clam.

Once we brought him back to my mother-in-law's house, he immediately started begging for food and looking for trouble. I wish I were that chipper after I puked my guts out. Guess somebody didn't learn his lesson. We're definitely going to have to keep a much more diligent eye on that trouble maker.

Dogs. Gotta love how simple their minds are.

The only good thing about this recent rash of 90+ degree heat here in Michigan is that all I have to do is walk Frank around the block and he's tired out for the rest of the day. Given how much trouble he's getting himself into, I need all the leverage I can get.

Cookbook Review: Weeknights with Giada

I have always been a fan of Giada DeLaurentiis ever since I saw her on Food Network's Everyday Italian. I learned a lot about food and cooking from watching her show and I loved that everything she made always had an Italian spin on it.

In recent years, she's moved away from the Italian-themed and now cooks a variety of cuisines in her current show, Giada at Home. Once she moved away from the Italian focus, I haven't felt as connected to her food. When her show was Everyday Italian, I would say a majority of the recipes I gleaned from Food Network came from Giada. But once she started moving away from her Italian roots, I just wasn't feeling her food as much as I did before. The show and the food just didn't have as much heart and soul to me

Weeknights with Giada was a great reawakening and reminder as to why I loved her food in the first place. In her latest cookbook, DeLaurentiis is now a busy mom with the task of feeding, not just her and her husband, but her daughter Jade. And as we all know, kid palates can be picky to say the least. So not only does she take the task of creating quick and easy meals in this book, but many of them are kid-friendly as well. I personally do not have children myself, but I appreciated the quick, easy, and yet innovative approach to the food she presents in this book.

As someone who is always looking for something new to learn and try in my own home kitchen, I have found that not many cookbooks can offer much that excites me anymore. I feel like I've hit a plateau in what I can learn in the kitchen. So when I find a cookbook with great recipes that have me trying something new, I feel like a kid in a candy store. Not only does Giada deliver on the new and exciting, but she also manages to make good on her promise that the meals will be quick and easy.

Caramelized Onion, Sausage and Basil Pizza
So far I have made three dishes from this cookbook and all of them have been successes. The one I loved most, however, was the Grilled Cheese with Spinach and Pancetta, which I posted further down this review. But I also really enjoyed how easy, simple, and delicious the Caramelized Onion, Sausage and Basil Pizza was (pictured here). What was so interesting and innovative about the aforementioned grilled cheese was that Giada takes the cheese, spinach and butter and purees it in the food processor to create a cheese spread, so when you grill the sandwich on the panini press, it gets perfectly creamy and gooey in the center. And, as promised, it took almost no time to make.

So if you're looking to get out of a weeknight meal rut and want to try something new and different, yet will be on the table in less than an hour, I highly recommend giving this book a try. I always check out cookbooks from the library to "test drive" them first since they can be so expensive. I want to know I'm going to use a cookbook before I buy it. This one definitely delivered in what it advertised and now has a place of honor on the bookshelf in my dining room (when it's not being used, that is).

Grilled Cheese with Spinach and Pancetta
Adapted from Weeknights with Giada

In the following recipe I used prosciutto instead of pancetta because, well, I had prosciutto in the house. To make it more pancetta-like, I crisped it up in a non-stick pan before adding it to the sandwich.

Serves 8

Vegetable oil cooking spray
6 oz pancetta, sliced 1/8 inch thick
1/2 stick (4 T) unsalted butter
2 cups (8 oz) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 cups (8 oz) shredded mild Cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
2 packed cups (2 oz) coarsely chopped baby spinach
16 slices  country-style white or whole wheat bread

1. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 400.

2. Spray two baking sheets with vegetable oil. Lay pancetta in a single layer on the baking sheets and bake for 12-14 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Cool for 5 minutes, then crumble.

3. In a food processor, combine the butter, both cheeses, salt, oil, and 2 tablespoons water. Blend until smooth, adding a little more as needed, until the mixture is smooth. Add the spinach and pulse until just combined.
4. Spread cheese mixture over 8 of the bread slices. Top with crumbled pancetta (or prosciutto) and place remaining bread slices on top. Grill the sandwiches in a panini press* until golden and crispy. Cool for 2 minutes before serving.
Ooey, gooey, and oh so yummy!
*If you're like me and don't have a panini press, there are lots of creative ways to press down a sandwich in a regular non-stick or cast-iron pan. The easiest way for me to do it is to just take a pot or a pan, place it on top of the sandwich and weigh it down with a large can of tomatoes. I like to call this the poor man's panini press (Hey! I save myself $100 from having to buy a fancy panini press). Yes, the sandwich doesn't come out as pretty as it would in a panini press, but it tastes just as good to me. So don't fool yourself into thinking you can't make panini just because you don't have one of those fancy kitchen gadgets that just take up room in your cupboard anyway. 

Weeknights with Giada: Quick and Simple Recipes to Revamp Dinner by Giada DeLaurentiis
 Published: March 27, 2012
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Pages: 238
Genre: Nonfiction/Cookery
Audience: Adults
Disclosure: Library and Purchased Copy

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Holy Jim Parsons Batman! SMEKDAY's going to be a movie??!!

So I'm just mindlessly perusing Twitter this afternoon when Adam Rex tweets the following:
Here is the link to the official announcement Adam put in his tweet. If you don't want to read the whole thing, this is the gist of it: Dreamworks is producing the movie. Jim Parsons is playing the voice of J. Lo (the alien, not the singer) and Rihanna is playing the voice of Gratuity. It will be released at the end of 2014.

I have made it quite clear in every social media outlet I can as well as my own classroom that The True Meaning of Smekday is one of the funniest, most endearing books in all of children's literature. And Bahni Turpin gave probably the best performance in the history of audiobooks (that's right Harry Potter and Jim Dale lovers, you heard me). So much so that I pimp this book out to anyone looking for a good audiobook recommendation.

It was through my own persistence, and well, a small bribe from Adam Rex by way of pouring chocolate syrup over his head that my students voted it 6th grade March Book Madness champion at my school over THE HUNGER GAMES this year. That is not a small feat - especially given the fact the The Hunger Games movie came out around the time of the competition.

Back on May 1, this was the #1 book I put on my Top Ten Tuesday list for books I want to see made into a movie. So yeah, to say that I squealed with delight when I found out that not only would this book be made into a movie but that JIM freaking PARSONS was going to play the alien Boov J.Lo???? Squealing is perhaps an understatement. You see, J.Lo the
This man might already be an alien so he'll be a great voice of one :)
alien is my favorite character in all of literature. And Jim Parsons plays my favorite character in all of TV sitcom. So the fact that he's going to be the voice of my favorite book character, well, 2014 can't get here soon enough!

More so than even The Hunger Games, this is a movie I hope producers get right and they don't change the story so much that it's almost unrecognizable. I want movie-goers to see what endeared me and many of my students to Adam Rex's quirky humor and not create some heavily-produced, faux version of the original story. Jim Parsons, I know you're a comedic genius and all, but if you're reading this (because I'm sure he reads book blogs all the time, yo), please listen to the audiobook and take some notes from Bahni Turpin. Your performance will absolutely be better for it.

(As a side note, even though the character J.Lo in the story is an alien and not the actual singer, how hilarious would that be if the REAL J.Lo wrote and performed a song for the movie? Hey Dreamworks, make it happen!) 

Read my interview with Adam Rex about The True Meaning of Smekday

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop: ARC of Paris in Love by Eloisa James

This blog hop is being hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Uniquely Moi Books

For my portion of the blog hop I am giving away my ARC of the following book:

Paris in Love by Eloisa James
Publish Date: Apr il 17, 2012
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 258
Genre: Memoir
Audience: Adults

From Goodreads:
In 2009, New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James took a leap that many people dream about: she sold her house, took a sabbatical from her job as a Shakespeare professor, and moved her family to Paris. Paris in Love: A Memoir chronicles her joyful year in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

With no classes to teach, no committee meetings to attend, no lawn to mow or cars to park, Eloisa revels in the ordinary pleasures of life—discovering corner museums that tourists overlook, chronicling Frenchwomen’s sartorial triumphs, walking from one end of Paris to another. She copes with her Italian husband’s notions of quality time; her two hilarious children, ages eleven and fifteen, as they navigate schools—not to mention puberty—in a foreign language; and her mother-in-law
Marina’s raised eyebrow in the kitchen (even as Marina overfeeds Milo, the family dog).

Paris in Love invites the reader into the life of a most enchanting family, framed by la ville de l’amour.

Terms and conditions:
Must be 13 or older to enter and have a US mailing address 
To enter, use the Rafflecopter widget

From What I Remember... by Stacey Kramer & Valerie Thomas

Max Langston and Kylie Flores revolve in completely different social circles. Max is the popular, albeit arrogant jock with the gorgeous, overbearing girlfriend. Kylie is the studious braniac who will soon be giving a speech at graduation as her school's valedictorian.  In one swift move by their masochistic English teacher, Max and Kylie are paired up to help each other write one final paper, two days before graduation. Max decides to blow off the assignment, but with her valedictorian status hanging in the balance, Kylie needs Max to be cooperative.

When he finally agrees to help and meets Kyle at Starbucks the next morning, in a twist of fate, Max and Kylie end up in the back of a truck headed for Mexico with no passports and no way out. What happens next is a thrill-ride through Mexico in an attempt to make it back home before graduation. If you love mad-cap road trip novels, then this is the book for you.

You know how movies like American Pie and Old School are so bad they're good? That's pretty much the gist of this book. It reads like a pedestrian, formulaic movie plot (my Goodreads/Twitter friend Kristin described it as the YA version of The Hangover which is a perfect representation of this book) and yet, one that you don't want to stop watching. It's a great, fun fluff read that would be perfect for someone in need of some brain candy. Given that I read this book just as the school year was ending, trust me, I was in need of some brain candy. Don't be on the lookout for much depth in this book. It was written by two screen writers which is definitely why the book reads so much like a movie plot. Again, this is not a BAD thing, it just means there's not much going on in the literary merit department.

From What I Remember... by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas
Published: May 15, 2012
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 462
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Young Adult
Disclosure: Library Copy

Monday, June 18, 2012

It's Monday! What are You Reading? 6-18-12

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen and Kellee  over at Teach Mentor Texts also host a kidlit version of It's Monday! What are You Reading?

So I didn't get a lot of books read last week since I had LASIK done on Monday. I wasn't supposed to read, watch TV or use the computer for at least 24 hours, but then there was (and still is) a healing period to go through and when your eyes feel like sandpaper, you tend to not want to read much. As of right now, my eyes are doing much better and  are starting to feel normal again. It still floors me that I can wake up in the morning and see right from the moment I wake up. I still catch myself going into the bathroom before bed with the feeling that I need to take my contacts out. I wonder when that habitual tendency will wane.

What I finished last week:
From What I Remember... by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas

What I'm currently reading:
Blind Spot by Laura Ellen
Thanks @brianwyzlic for letting me borrow your ARC! You are awesome!

What I'm currently listening to:
Dog On It by Spencer Quinn
A Wind in the Door by Madeline L'Engle

What I reviewed last week:
Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm

Fresh Mexico and Mexican Made Easy by Marcela Valladolid

Restaurant Review: Logan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Oh, and just to show you:
1) How awesome libraries are at saving you money
2) How obsessive I am at trip planning
I give you my #bookstack of travel guides I checked out at the library to try to help my husband and I decide where we want to go on vacation this summer.
We have it narrowed down to:
1) Miami and the Florida Keys
2) San Francisco, Napa, and/or Yosemite

What say you? Where do you think we should go?