While frozen hot chocolate does not sound like the right kind of thing for December, it is a great nostalgic and refreshing treat even in winter. This version is inspired by that classic New York City institution Serendipity who is famous for one thing - its decadent frozen hot chocolate that little tourists and NY princesses have been enjoying for decades. The restaurant (and frozen hot chocolate) make a brief cameo in Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rivka Brunt which was a real sleeper hit for me. I had not heard anything about the book before I picked it up and about 10 pages in I was deeply in love with the book. It is an emotional coming of age story of an awkward girl - June Elbus - living in suburban New York in the eighties. I immediately connected with the character. June, at 14, is a little weird, a little overweight, she likes to wear lace up boots and medieval style dresses and hang out alone in the local woods and pretend she lives in medieval times. June is lonely and isolated and the only person in her life that gets her is her gay uncle Finn, who is a painter that lives in New York and is dying of AIDS. This is the eighties so the disease is new and something to be kept under wraps. In stark contrast with June's positive relationship with her uncle is the fractured relationship she has with her older sister Greta - the two of them used to be thick as thieves and then Greta became mean and is cruel and mocking to her younger sister. The book is about these two relationships and June's rough passage into young adulthood.
B.A. Shapiro's The Art Forger is a fun thriller about a piece of art that was stolen as part of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art heist. For those of you that don't know the story, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a gem of a museum in Boston located in a charming old mansion. The works that populate the Museum are the collection of a rich eccentric and ardent art collector, Isabella Stewart Gardner, who established the museum in 1903. In 1990 thieves dressed as Boston police officers entered the Museum and stole 13 art works (including works by Rembrandt, Manet, Degas, Vermeer). For decades the robbery went unsolved - just this year the FBI announced they knew who the thieves were, but the location of the stolen art remain undiscovered. Here in Boston this theft has been the stuff of urban legend - with rumors swirling that Whitey Bulger was behind the theft. With this backdrop, B.A. Shapiro creates a fictional account of one woman's connection to a work allegedly stolen as part of that heist (a fictional painting by Degas entitled "After the Bath). The novel's heroine, Claire Roth, is a struggling artist who has been blackballed by the art world because of a scandal in her past. To make ends meet she does copies of Degas paintings for a website called "reproductions.com". One day a sexy and successful art dealer, Aiden Markel, asks her to make a reproduction of one of the Degas' stolen in the Gardner heist - in return she will get a lot of money and more importantly a one woman show at his gallery. From here Shapiro quickly sweeps the reader into a suspenseful and interesting mystery. An explanation of the pad thai, pictured above, after the jump and below.
The Language of Flowers is a book with a heroine that loves to eat, so there were many many options presented for bookcooker. Perhaps if it was another season I would have selected another type of food that Victoria voraciously ate (roast chicken, homemade ice cream, peanut butter muffin), but since I read the book as autumn sets in, I knew immediately as I read the words that I had to make maple doughnuts Who can resist maple donuts? While these donuts are fluffy and sweet, The Language of Flowers is a book about serious issues - foster care, homelessness, trust issues. While these serious issues are the focus of the book, I must admit, in some ways the book reads a bit fluffy - there is a lightness to it that makes it feel a bit like one of those 80's after school specials - tough stuff turned into soap opera. Despite that criticism, I really enjoyed the book but maybe felt a little guilty reading it. Just like how I felt after eating one of those doughnuts.
Hello old friends! After a bit of a hiatus (a little bit of a writing rut, reading rut, cooking rut and enjoying life outside the blog) I am returning to bookcooker. I hope you will bear with me as slowly get back on the horse! I made these pretty little muffins a while ago, when the recipe appeared in the New York Times. It was perfect timing, because I had recently read two (very different) books that this recipe was perfect for - Where'd You Go Bernadette and Bringing Up the Bodies. Where'd You Go, by Maria Semple is a unique novel where much of the story is told through letters, emails and various other documents, like memos. It is the very funny story of a daughter's search for her brilliant but more than slightly off mother (Bernadette) set in the milieu of affluent and politically correct Seattle. A disastrous chain of events is set off when Bernadette gets into a dispute with her obnoxious neighbor concerning some unruly blackberry bushes on her property (inspiration for the blackberry part of the muffin.) Bringing Up the Bodies is Hilary Mantel's riveting second book in her series of books about Henry VIII's right hand man - Thomas Cromwell. This book follows the downfall of Anne Boleyn - and while this tale has been told many times before, unsurprisingly Mantel brings new wit and intelligence to the story. While Anne is certainly a compelling distraction, the story is really about Thomas Cromwell - his relationship to the mercurial king and how he manages to survive yet another upheaval in the house of Tudor. Those around Cromwell give him the nickname "Crumb", hence the crumb part of the muffin. A two for one recipe was the perfect impetus to get me off my bum and back to blogging. Here we go.