Posts by: April @ The Steadfast Reader


BEA16: Hopes and Dreams

Posted 9 May, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in blogging, books and publishing, Reading, Topics

BEA16 Hopes and Dreams

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. I’ve been consistently sick for about three weeks and because of that pretty consistently hopped up on cough syrup while at home.

Work has been an unholy nightmare of the best kind. There’s a contested judge’s election that is turning into nasty politics, inter-office drama, and the usual suspects. We finished up jury trials in April and don’t have jury trials again until mid-June. I’ll admit that I’m feeling a little antsy and would like some intellectual stimulation to break things up. After trials in June I won’t have jury trials until September. I’m going to need some good reading.

BEA is near. I’ve finally started looking into where I need to be when to get the most out of it. More or less I have to admit that really what I’m most excited about is getting to hang out with Catherine (Gilmore Guide to Books) and Shannon (River City Reading). There do look to be some interesting titles being dropped and I’m hoping to find some titles that will amaze and excite me so maybe I can start reviewing a few books here and there again.

Okay, Reader. What have you been up to? Roll call for those of us going to BEA! 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Weekend Gourmet: Staplehouse

Posted 17 April, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Places, Topics

staplehouse
Staplehouse
: Atlanta, Georgia

Experience Date: April 16, 2016

Price: $85 per person for five courses, $40 additional for wine pairing (six pours) – includes gratuity

I read quite a few articles about Staplehouse before we went last night. It’s being hailed as one of Atlanta’s up and coming new restaurants. I have to agree for the most part. On the whole, the food itself was quite good. My main issue with the experience was how damn loud it was in there. Also, the atmosphere was a little more laid back than I felt like I was paying for.

But let’s talk about the food.

Amuse Bouche: Party for the mouth! Buttermilk curd on crackers, sushi, and foie gras balls. I don’t remember what those sticks were. Those balls are covered in hazelnuts and are absolutely heavenly. It was paired with a surprise sparkling wine, I think it was an Atmospheres out of Loire, France. It was light without being too sweet.

staplehouse amuse bouche

amuse bouche

1st: Excellent Alabama blue crab with fresh asparagus, radishes, and egg yolks. The dish was initially a little bland until I managed a bite that also included an egg yolk. The saltiness of the egg allowed for the flavor in the rest of the dish to come out and I was really impressed. It was paired with a gentil vin d’alsace, a white wine that was just the right balance.

staplehouse crab

blue crab, asparagus, radish, egg yolk
Wine: gentil vin d’alsace, MEYER-FONNÉ, alsace, france 2014

2nd: Absolutely one of my favorite courses. The homemade ravioli was so fresh it melted in my mouth and was cooked to perfection. The green garlic and snap peas on top definitely were the perfect added crunch to make the dish just right. It was paired with a pošip out of Croatia, (that’s a white wine). I’m not sure that I’ve ever had Croatian wine, but it was an excellent pairing to go with both the pasta and the vegetables.

staplehouse ravioli

ravioli, green garlic, koji, snap peas
Wine: pošip, ZLATAN, hvar, croatia 2012

3rd: Poached sablefish. I pointed out to my husband that we didn’t get fish forks or knives with this course.  Poached fish generally isn’t something I care for, but in my experience when you have a phenomenal chef, foods you don’t normally care for can be made magical. This did not happen for me with the poached sablefish. The lime was overwhelming in this dish and the texture of the fish was something akin to warm sushi. I like sushi. I like cooked fish. I don’t like that state in between. This course was a fail for me.

The wine pairing was decent, but didn’t save the course. It was a Napa Valley Chardonnay that was unremarkable. Not bad, but unremarkable.

staplehouse sablefish

sablefish, salami, lime, nasturtium
Wine: chardonnay, TRUCHARD, carneros, napa ca 2014

Bread Intermezzo: Potato sourdough with homemade salted thyme butter. Heavenly.

bread intermezzo!

bread intermezzo!

4th: Meat course! Steak. The cut is best described as the top of the ribeye. Just like the ravioli, it was cooked to melt in your mouth perfection and topped with whipped fat – which I know sounds a little iffy – but I promise you was absolutely delightful. The charred vegetables on the side here should not be overlooked as they were a perfect compliment in both flavor and texture. The wine was a nebbiolo (red). To me it was a little like a cabernet in how it was a bit heavier and more bold than I generally like in a red, but paired with the beef, it was just right.

staplehouse steak

bear creek beef, spring onions, english peas, smilax
Wine: nebbiolo, BORGOGNO, ‘no name’, piedmont, italy 2011

5th: Dessert. Strawberries and butter cake. Sounded a little dull on paper, but Staplehouse delivered strawberries in a couple of different ways. Homemade sorbet, fresh strawberries, and strawberry bark were presented. The cake itself was a bit dry and lackluster. The most notable thing for me about this course was that it was paired with a moscato, which I normally really dislike – but this moscato wasn’t cloyingly sweet and it was paired perfectly with the strawberries.

staplehouse dessert

strawberries, butter cake
Wine: moscato d’asti, vietti, piedmont, italy 2014

Chocolate Truffles: Made in house! Surprise!

Cheers! Home made chocolate truffles!

Cheers! Home made chocolate truffles!

Overall: More or less this was worth the money for me. Like I said before, I felt that the casualness of the venue and the staff to be a little bit underwhelming considering the price. However, I get the idea behind trying to get the millennials who are allegedly ‘less casual’ in their desire for dining experiences.

Personally, I don’t need the white tablecloths and the guys with crumb sweepers – though they are nice touches. But I do require a certain amount of formality based on the price. This isn’t to say that the staff wasn’t incredibly knowledgeable about what they were serving, but …. the price just makes me wish that it was a little quieter and the tiniest bit more formal.

Worth a trip.

So Reader, what do you think? Any amazing recommendations for me? Anyone else been to Staplehouse?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Sunday Salon: Easter Edition

Posted 27 March, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in memes, musings

sundaysalon-200-pixshark

Time // 12:04 EDT.

Watching // DVRed episodes of The Walking Dead. Trying to catch up so me and Mr. SFR can watch the final episodes of this season together. Is there weird sexual tension between Rick and Michonne or is it me? Edit: Just finished the episode.. oh shit!

Also, Better Call Saul might be the most underrated show on television. I love it.

Joined // Snapchat. All the kids are doing it, you can find me there as steadfastreader. I’ve also been using a new app to track my water intake called Plant Nanny. It’s adorable and pretty effective. Apparently, your water intake should be based on your weight and activity level. Right now I’m supposed to be drinking 102 oz a day.

Plant Nanny

Plant Nanny

Playing //  Games with co-workers last night! We played Zombicide which is a totally bitchin’ cooperative game where you get to kill massive amounts of zombies. It was all fun and games until I was sacrificed to save the rest of the group. Easter appropriate.

Also started playing the computer game Factorio. It’s fun, but likely to be a giant time suck.

Reading // A bunch of stuff. Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, which I’m enjoying. A People’s History of the United States is hard listening, but I think absolutely necessary. Also still wending my way through Gaiman’s The Sandman.

Hmmm… I feel like there’s more, Reader but I guess I’ll have to edit the post as it come to me later. How’s your Easter Sunday going?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Three for One Thursday: Tournament of Books

Posted 24 March, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

 mini

Bats of the Republic by: Zachary Thomas Dodson

Mini-Synopsis: A historical fiction/dystopian fiction crossover bound together with a beautifully illuminated text.

Mini-Review: This book is clever and manages to straddle two very different (seemingly incompatible) genres at the same time. But first, a word of warning. This book absolutely must be read in the hardcover edition.  No Kindle or other ePub versions, no ARCs. I also have my doubts about how well a library copy would hold up. The story is enough to hold it’s own – but believe me this book is a thousand times more enjoyable if you read it as Dodson (who incidentally is both the author and ‘illuminator’) intended it to be read.

Other Trusted Reviews: Shannon @ River City Reading

Rating: 4 stars

The Sellout by: Paul Beatty

Mini-Synopsis: A satire of epic proportions about an African American man sitting in front of the Supreme Court on some very… interesting charges. Touches on different facets of modern American life such as the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, and the father-son relationship.

Mini-Review: Look, this book is hardcore laugh out loud funny. But being a middle class white lady there are points where I felt uncomfortable with the laugh out loud nature of it. As Catherine from The Gilmore Guide to Books put it so eloquently:

“There is a cognitive dissonance in seeing the n-word over and over and over. As In ‘I should NOT be reading a book that uses this word like a comma” but I know it’s a satire.”

YES. EXACTLY THAT. This book is highly enjoyable but sometimes I feel like I’m not really allowed to be laughing at it. Despite that, I have to recommend it.

Other Trusted Reviews: Heather @ Bee’s Book Buzz

Rating: 4.5 stars

A Spool of Blue Thread by: Anne Tyler

Mini-Synopsis: Cradle to grave story about Abby and Red, family life, and growing older.

Mini-Review: This book is pretty well… meh. I really disliked Abby for the majority of the book and quite frankly I just didn’t care about most of the characters. This isn’t to say that Tyler doesn’t do a decent job in fleshing them out – quite the opposite. I just really didn’t care for them. The writing itself is done well enough – but it’s not enough to bump it up into ‘enjoyable’ range for me.

Other Trusted Reviews: Catherine @ The Gilmore Guide to Books

Rating: 2.5 stars

Bring it in, Reader. Thoughts or feelings on any of these? How have your selections been faring during the Tournament of Books?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Let the Tournament (of Books), Begin!

Posted 7 March, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

tournament or books first round bracket

Let the games begin! Today is the first day for the 2016 Tournament of Books. So it was time to queue up the brackets and see where things fall. I did abysmally in my predictions last year, but maybe this year I’ll do better.

Pre-Tournament Play-In Match:

Avenue of Mysteries vs. A Spool of Blue Thread

I’m probably about 75% of the way through John Irving’s Avenue of Mysteries and despite feeling like I’ve read this book before, I am enjoying it. I’ve had zero interest in A Spool of Blue Thread, so I’m rooting for the Irving novel. This is far from my most informed decision.

Tournament Proper

Fates and Furies vs. Bats of the Republic

I’ve read both of these books, at this point I’m rooting for Fates to take the Rooster. It hate it that Bats was matched up against it this early in the Tournament because I think Bats is an excellent and unique book in its own right. But I will be very surprised if it takes out the sheer literary amazingness of Groff’s Fates & Furies.

The Sympathizer vs. Oreo

I haven’t reviewed The Sympathizer yet, but I was pretty amazed by it. I thought the author did an astounding job in taking this American back to the horrors of the Vietnam war – and how those horrors were perpetrated on both sides. Oreo, on the other hand, I couldn’t even get more than fifty or so pages into. I’m down for The Sympathizer.

The Turner House vs. Ban en Banlieue

I only read The Turner House and I enjoyed it. I didn’t make it to Ban en Banlieue, so I can’t make too much of an educated guess on this one – but The Turner House is a solid read.

Our Souls at Night vs. The Whites

Look, I don’t think that Our Souls at Night will take the Rooster, but if The Whites knocks it out in the first round I will be pissed. As I said in my review I think that Our Souls at Night is a gorgeous piece of writing, while The Whites is just… not.

A Little Life vs. The New World

I didn’t particularly care for either of these titles, but I think that A Little Life has both a solid fan base and actual beautiful writing in its corner. The New World, for me, had neither of those and its most redeeming quality was the fact that it was very, very short.

The Book of Aron vs. The Tsar of Love and Techno

Both of these books were well written and readable. (I don’t think I’ve reviewed either of them). But as much as I love holocaust literature The Book of Aron was more susceptible to old tired tropes that are a part of that genre. The Tsar of Love and Techno, on the other hand, created a whole new historical fiction world for me. I’ve not read much about the U.S.S.R. or how Russia is after the fall of the U.S.S.R. and The Tsar of Love and Techno made me want to learn more.

Avenue of Mysteries (?) vs. The Story of My Teeth

This is making the assumption that Avenue of Mysteries wins the play-in round. But regardless, I know little to nothing about The Story of My Teeth, other than the fact that a few of my most trusted bloggers DNFed it or didn’t enjoy it. Here’s hoping for Avenue of Mysteries.

The Sellout vs. The Invaders

I’m probably going to be in the minority here, but I have to root for The Invaders. That book, so slim, yet so epic was fabulous to me. The Sellout was excellent, no doubt. It’s a fabulous satire, laugh out loud funny at times, but The Invaders has my heart.

So, these are my picks for round one. How are you feeling Reader? Will you be following along? 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Sunday Salon: Working Edition

Posted 28 February, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in blogging, musings

sundaysalon-200-pixshark

Time // 12:20 PM EDT

Or it could be named: “It’s Sunday so why not work, edition.” Just got off the phone with a victim who said to me,”I can’t believe your working today.” Yeah. Well. At least I’m working from home. Then I took a phone call from a defense lawyer. The fun never ends.

Hubs is refinishing the doors to the fireplace so it looks less eighties-fabulous. We’ll see how that turns out.

Reading // my way through the Tournament of Books Shortlist. Let’s look at how it’s going. Watch your Instagram.

Tournament of Books 2016 Short-List

  • The New World by Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz – review
  • The Sellout by Paul Beatty – Currently in DNF status. Trying to revive.
  • Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson – Read
  • The Turner House by Angela Flournoy – review
  • Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff – review
  • Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf – review
  • Ban en Banlieue by Bhanu Kapil – I’m worried about the availability of this one.
  • The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli – Owned and on the list to read.
  • The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra – Read
  • The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen – Read
  • The Whites by Richard Price – review
  • Oreo by Fran Ross – Semi-DNFed
  • The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard – Read
  • The Invaders by Karolina Waclawiak – review
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – review

Play-In Round

  • Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving – Just bought the audio, let’s face it… I was going to read this anyway.
  • A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler – Zero interest. Might read it if it actually gets in.

I’m pretty amped at my progress, but also a little disappointed with the selections this year. I haven’t found nearly as many that have blown me away the way they did last year.

I also started The Man in the High Castle after finishing the first season on Amazon Prime. The series appears to be only related to the book in the loosest sense. We’ll see.

Ruffled Feathers // yesterday with my coloring post. I didn’t mean to and in retrospect I wrote it because I really felt alone in not getting the coloring fad. Now I know I’m not. 🙂 Still, good for the colorists! Just not for me.

Edit // Oh! I almost forgot! We went to the circus yesterday (husband’s idea). We all know that among my causes animals and the environment rank pretty low on things that concern me, but I had to stop and think about the absolute hubris of man, of (hu)man(s) in the 21st century that we train wild and majestic animals like tigers and elephants to entertain us by doing parlor tricks. It’s disconcerting to me. Perhaps I think too much. The dogs, horses, and camels don’t bother me… why not? My only guess is that they’re domesticated. I knew there was something else I wanted to put out there. Okay, more working.

I thought I had more to say, but I have a pile of cases that have to be reviewed before arraignment on Wednesday not to mention motions to prepare for tomorrow. What are you doing with your Sunday, Reader?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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What I’m Going to Say May Sound Indelicate: Adult Coloring

Posted 27 February, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in musings

adult coloring, really?

Confession time. I don’t get this adult coloring craze (or the crazy day planner thing for that matter). I’ve tried. My boss bought me the Art Therapy Star Wars coloring book for Christmas, and even my love of Star Wars can’t make me get into it. My favorite page is this one full of Yodas (the only page I’ve come even close to making any real progress on) that one of my best good friends J. and I colored while waiting for a verdict to come back (guilty on all counts, yay me!).

yoda coloring

Now, what I’m going to say may sound indelicate, is adult coloring the death of women’s intellectualism and creativity? It’s clearly been branded a ‘woman thing‘ and we are eating up the marketing like no one’s business (or perhaps more accurately big business). Now, I’ve seen the countless articles on how allegedly therapeutic it can be. But the fact is, that the science doesn’t seem to be there to support it.

“Some people are adamant that coloring books are a path to mindfulness, meditation and some kind of psychological nirvana,” Malchiodi said over the phone. “I find that many of the loudest proponents are actually those that create the coloring books.”

-Cathy Malchiodi, art therapist

The Guardian

So back to the death of women’s intellectualism and creativity, I certainly consider myself a work-a-holic in a relatively high-stress profession. What did women used to do to de-stress? I contend they used to read. They used to knit, crochet, play piano, and yes, create art through painting, drawing, sketching, or even doodling. They used to write. Work crossword puzzles. Now. We’re coloring. I’m not saying that moms and work-a-holics alike aren’t still doing these things, but for every hour we devote to coloring is an hour that we are not doing these things. We are spending our hard earned dollars on prefabricated art for us where our greatest thought is only to choose colors and shading to fill in at our leisure. To me it’s a bit of infantilization that my generation has been seeing it it’s men for a long time.

Is this our fate, ladies? Are we to continue to prop up large corporate publishers only to allow our minds to atrophy? I don’t know. I’m not a therapist or a doctor. This is clearly only my opinion and despite it, I have no wish to shit on people who this works for to help them relax from the increasing stresses of modern life. As usual, this is just me airing another unpopular opinion.

Finally, a word of warning to my dearest colorists out there. Remember my best good friend J.? She colored so hard she ended up with trigger thumb and is looking at the possibility of surgery (I laughed, I confess). So be careful.

coloring dangers

Gurl. I love you. Get some markers.

So, Reader. Thoughts? I’ll end with a paraphrase from the wise Amy Poehler. If this is your jam, that’s great for you! Not for me.

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Three for One Thursday: Tournament of Books Reviewlettes

Posted 25 February, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Tournament of Books Reviewlettes

Reviewlettes!

With seventeen books on the short list of Tournament of Books, it’s always unlikely that I’m going to get around to writing full reviews for all of them. That’s when I turn to my teeny-tiny reviewlettes! Enjoy!

Our Souls at Night by: Kent Haruf

One Sentence Synopsis: Two widowed octogenarians start a relationship based on sleeping in the same bed at night.

Itty bitty reviewlette: This was a gorgeous little book. Addie and Louis start their relationship merely by sleeping in the same bed and having someone to talk to in the dark, after years of being lonely because of the deaths of their spouses. This is a gorgeous book about the simple things that can be found in life, even at the most unexpected times. This is a book for those of us that love character studies. Not recommended if you need a great deal of action.

Rating: 4.5/5

The Whites by: Richard Price

One sentence synopsis: New York City police detective grapples with unsolved crime, corruption, conscience.

Itty bitty reviewlette: Meh. This is a crime novel that will probably be described as ‘gritty’. It really wasn’t for me. The ending had a certain appeal but overall I couldn’t bring myself to care about most of the characters, which of course, is way worse than hating them. Recommend for people who like ‘gritty’ crime fiction. Not for me.

Rating: 2.5/5

The Turner House by: Angela Flournoy

One sentence synopsis: A house in the rough part of Detroit that has seen the lives of a family of thirteen children and their parents may have to be sold.

Itty bitty reviewlette: I was really pleasantly surprised by this book. I felt Flournoy was smart not to break into the lives of all thirteen of the children, but to focus on a select few. I found an interesting juxtaposition between the older children, the parents, and the younger siblings. Still, there was a really ingrained sense of family in this book which I enjoyed. A great character novel where the characters are well written and fleshed out. Recommended.

Rating: 4/5

Whatcha think, Reader? Any of these appeal to you? How do you think they’ll fare in Tournament of Books 2016?

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Sunday Salon: Justice Scalia Edition

Posted 14 February, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in memes, musings

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Time // 8:11 A.M. EDT

News // In U.S. politics, of course Justice Scalia is dead. It’s too soon for the Dick Cheney jokes, but there you have it. This is a huge game changer both with the court and with the upcoming presidential elections. President Obama, for his part, has vowed to have a replacement appointed before he leaves office — but whether he can do that remains to be seen. Vox published an interesting article on who he might nominate and who has the best chances of getting confirmed, assuming the Senate Republicans aren’t just blocking nominations to be politically difficult.

But can they really do that? The Washington Post seems to think they might and SCOTUSblog talks about the possibility of a recess appointment if that happens. I can’t find the article that I read last night discussing the idea that in the event of a Hillary or Bernie victory that President Obama gets appointed. It’s not unprecedented, William Taft was appointed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1921, after his presidency. I’m not going to lie, Michelle, also a lawyer, would make a pretty badass appointee as well. (That is unprecedented.)

political scalia

Look, I make it a practice of never being happy when an individual dies, no matter how repugnant I may find them. I wish those close to him my most sincere condolences, but I think the court is in a position to be better for the American people. We shall see. In the meantime NPR has five opinions from Justice Scalia that you really should read. If nothing else, the man could write a mean dissent.

Anything Else? // I’ll admit that Scalia dominated dinner conversation between me and Mr. SFR last night and it’s still occupying my thoughts today. But I have also been doing some decent reading this week. Finished up at least one more book slated for the Tournament of Books. Started Oreo which is also on the Tournament of Books short list, but I’m finding myself exhausted by racial discourse recently. I’m aware that from the position of privilege from which I sit that’s not really a fair thing to say, but my frustration lies with people of my own privilege and station refusing to recognize it.

Simply by the virtue of the fact that I am white means I am privileged.

The fact that I am white and well educated makes me very privileged.

The fact that I am white, well educated, and socio-economically can be considered (at least) middle class makes me extremely privileged.

Why is that so hard for white people to say/recognize?

Lent // Of course I’m not Catholic, but I do like the practice of Lent and my goal is to get 7,000 steps in a day. I’ll tell you, a proactive goal is much harder than a goal of giving something up for me. Though in the reverse you could say that I’m giving up sitting on my ass. 🙂

Okay Reader, I’ve been a political minefield this morning. How’s your week been? Feelings on Justice Scalia? White privilege? Been reading any books?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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