Book Cupidity

Book Cupidity

Lover of genre fiction; Romance, SFF, Fantasy, Mystery, Thriller and Horror. I read the occasional classic and a cookbook or two.

"Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction."  Erich Fromm

If it's a book, I'll read it.

BC's Bingo Update One - With Bonus Marker Reveal


My Card:




Reading Completed:


   The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle



  Stinger by Robert McCammon



  The Haunted Mesa by Louis L'Amour




Marker Legend:












     READ and CALLED



!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
2 Stars
The Haunted Mesa by Louis L'Amour
The Haunted Mesa - Louis L'Amour

A good idea with total mediocre execution. The prime example of a 'it's okay' book. A perfect fit for the two star rank.


Mike Raglan is a myth debunk-er - a profession he stumbled up on in his youth when outing a sham magician. Called on all over the world, he travels and investigates the magical, supernatural, and otherworldly - and while he's not a cynic and seeks these things in part because he too wants to believe, he's skeptical and therefore able to dig out the facts.


For this reason, when his scientist friend stumbles upon something really weird on the site that he's building, a middle-of-nowhere-mesa, and finds himself in some really weird trouble...Erik knows just who to call (or in this case, write. It's set in the 70's.)


There was some question about whether or not this would fit in my 'Supernatural' square. After all, L'Amour writes westerns, right? The book flap indicated that it was a possibility that L'Amour would go there, so I gave it a shot. As he was a life long student of Indian history and Indian mysticism, even if it didn't fit, I knew I'd learn something along the way. I did enjoy a little tidbit here and there AND it definitely went supernatural.


The premise of the book revolves around the disappearance of the cave dwellers that were in this part of the world prior to the Hopi, Ute and Navajo Indian. This area, the four-corners of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, is home to many ruins and mystery - and at the time of L'Amour's writing - undiscovered history.


Mike's friend Erik stumbles upon what might of happened to these people, and while Mike is looking for Erik who has disappeared, he is reminded of all the lore and myth that surrounds this area...eventually locating doorways to the "Third World" or another dimension from which the cave dwellers came and went. The story concludes with Mike crossing the veil, rescuing Erik who was being held prisoner there, along with a couple of other people who'd found themselves stuck on the other side.


The Haunted Mesa had all the promise of a great read, but L'Amour's writing kept it from being anything special. His constant use of questions in the Mike's inner dialogue to move the narrative along was beyond frustrating and felt very amateurish..."Where had Erik gone? Was he okay? Is there really something to these old tales? Was he going to go after him? Was he stuck there? Where was Erik?"...over and over and over again.


Additionally, Mike lacked any conviction in his decisions, which made him a weak hero. I'm sure that this is actually L'Amour's schtick - Mike was no hero, he was just an everyday man who was trying to make the right, brave choice. I'd be okay with that but Mike had apparently been all over the world to include dangerous places, knew things like jujitsu and how to handle a gun, and was somewhat of a survivalist. You can't have it both ways - he was either someone who spent a great deal of time being brave and high-spirited, or he was an indecisive wet-rag. He needed to pick one for conviction of character.


I can't say I'd recommend this, but I'm glad I read it because it knocked one more book off the ole' Mount TBR, and another off L'Amour's catalogue.


5 Stars
Stinger by Robert McCammon
Stinger - Robert R. McCammon

McCammon delivers for me a second time. Gruesome and riveting but with a lot of heart. My sample size is small yet as this is only my second McCammon, but I might prefer him to King.


A small Texas town is rocked by the crash landing of an object of unknown origin. While something a little strange is going on with a local veterinarians young daughter who interacted with the busted up remnants first, the foreign object is not anything that the nearest air force base and personal can't contain and research...that is until a follow up arrival on a much larger scale brings a less than friendly visitor with a mission - one who traps a whole town for one terrifying night.


At 550 pages, I really expected to be reading this for awhile. Fortunately, it moves at such a great pace that I didn't even notice the pages flying by until I reached the end.


McCammon creates not only a story that sucks you in, but an atmosphere that is palpable. A hot, dying Texas town, isolated, and withering since the local mine shut down and took away all the jobs, not only feels uncomfortable and weathered, but also desperate...and thus the book opens. It's inhabitants are beaten, on edge and divided - when the unspeakable comes and threatens their very lives and the lives of everyone on the planet really, they are given one good reason to fight, for each other.


And in case I am making this sound like puppies and bedtime stories, know that I'm glossing over the fact that this messed-up mucous monster from deep space likes to snatch people, eat them, and use it's advanced alien technology to recreate symbiotic extensions of itself in the skins of its victims to go out and destroy more people with a mouth of needle teeth and metal saw type hands.


There is plenty of death and gory violence and characters of all walks and colors - everyone is a little rough around the edges, but the hope in humanity is what really makes this book shine. I loved it.






5 Stars
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
The Ballad of Black Tom - Victor LaValle

Something about today really compelled me to read this book. A couple of days ago, Obsidian Blue reviewed a different Victor LaValle book and in her final thoughts she mentioned that The Ballad of Black Tom was recommended. Even though in this bingo game I've already started Stinger (Square: Aliens), Dracula (Square: Vampire), and The Haunted Mesa (Square: Supernatural) in just the last couple of days, I ignored the Bingo call this morning, avoided making progress on those books that I've already started...and ignored the fact that Diverse Voices is no where near any sort of Bingo'ing strategy (see below), to read The Ballad of Black Tom






I'm SO glad I did! 


This little novella is strange - the tale a riff on Lovecraft source material - but it packs a punch. I enjoyed reading the story of Tommy Tester, with his sly, conman skills that he employs to patch together a living for he and his dying dad in 1924 Harlem.


“There were others who would have called him a scammer, a swindler, a con, but he never thought of himself this way. No good charlatan ever did.”


I really enjoyed this while I was reading it, I liked how each page built steadily to one strong, bass chord of dread in the end. I loved it more once I finished it - once I let my thoughts sort of marinate in the soulful conjure music of Tom and his blood stained guitar. 


“Nobody ever thinks of himself as a villain, does he? Even monsters hold high opinions of themselves.”


This is heartbreaking and has it's terrifying moments, but it's somehow satisfying all the same. There's not much I find I really want to say about the journey because it seems like sharing any little piece of the story could somehow lessen the overall effect, but it was good. Really, really good. It deserves every award it's been bestowed. 



Halloween Bingo - BC's Master Reading List

I have searched through all my books for double, double, toil and trouble...

basically un-bagging and re-bagging about a dozen or so old horror paperbacks of my husbands and looking through my own stacks going for just the right mix for my Halloween Bingo brew, err reading.



And! I made some room on my books shelf to keep them all together:




My ingredients books for mayhem making :



   (Undecided)  Either a cozy or another Christie or other more slashy, gory or bloody type that I'm sure I can dig up if for some godforsaken reason I haven't had enough of that after all the rest.


  Stinger by Robert McCammon


  The Howling by Gary Brandner


  Mirror Image by Sandra Brown


  Jamaica Inn by Daphne DuMauier


  Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews


  Cat on the Scent by Rita Mae Brown


  Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit


  The Haunted Mesa by Louis L'Amour


  In the Woods by Tana French


  The Sentinel by Jeffrey Konvitz


  Dracula by Bram Stoker


  Dark Matter by Blake Crouch


  Moon over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch


   The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett


  Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill


  The Omen by David Seltzer


  Dark Shadows: The Salem Branch by Lara Parker


  The Ripper by William Dobson


  The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie


  The Grave by Charles L. Grant


  The Cats by Nick Sharman


   (Undecided) Nalini Singh or Octavia Butler


  Frankenstein by Mary Shelley




This is quite an ambitious list. I'm hoping to ignore all other responsibilities and read all of them, then celebrate on All Hallow's Eve by reintroducing myself to my children and eating candy until we all pass out.


Game on!







!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
1 Stars
Wifey by Judy Blume
Wifey - Judy Blume

Oh, sweet heaven baby crocus, where do I start? Well, let's start here. I'm not really leaving anything on the table for this one, so buyer beware. I'm going to spoil this good.


I finished this book this afternoon and was disappointed to say the least. My hunch is that this book had it's heyday when it was released and wasn't meant to really stand the test of time.


Sandy Pressman is a wife and a mother of two, circa 1970. The expectations of her life is what you'd expect of white suburbia at this time - and she's fulfilled those expectations. She married a solidly employed guy, they had a couple of kids, they live in a 3 bedroom, she has a dinner schedule. Pot Roast on Thursdays, don't forget.


Sandy is discontent, to say the least. The source of her discontentment seems to be her husband, Norman, who fills a specific role in their relationship and nothing more. He's the provider. Sandy may want more from her life but it isn't until a strange morning visitor on her lawn performs a lewd act that she is snapped out of haze of discontent. .  This one event seems to be the catalyst to the answer to a question that Sandy didn't know she was asking - that what she needs more of, seemingly, is sex.


Here's where it starts...and for me, where it ends. We aren't a chapter into this book and I'm just certain that what we'll find that what Sandy really needs is an emotional connection, and that we'll wade through a story - perhaps a lurid story, I'm never really afraid of those - of someone who may or may not find what they're looking for.


This is not that story. I'm not actually sure what this story was and quite frankly wondering if I'm just too stupid to get it because I'm in the minority on this one - people may not love it, but they have found value in it. As for me, I found this to be a colossal waste of time. So much so, that I'd like to rant about it for a minute.


Sandy, after being shocked by the act on her lawn and the fact that she saw another mans erection that's not her husband, starts spiraling into fantasy land. Sometimes she just carries these sexual fantasies through to their conclusions in her head, sometimes the real life encounters that she falls into are less than fantastical. I think those are supposed to be funny, but they're anything but humorous to me.


First, there is the encounter with her drunken brother-in-law who is perhaps feeling a little insecure about his life with his wife, her sister. She resists his advances at a wild party at first, but basically capitulates when she realizes that she is indeed a little turned on despite the fact that she's not really attracted to her brother-in-law, and really, he was not really paying attention to her half-hearted protests and it also feels so good, so why not? Before she really had a chance to figure out all the consequences for herself, it felt so good that she was having a such a good time that she finds herself laughing toward the end...only to find that her brother-in-law is immediately sobbing and remorseful.


And so it goes. Here's my problem with this and a couple other fantasy scenes carried through. There is only the act. There is not a moment of attraction, there's not a moment of thought about what she wants or what the ramifications are, or even what would follow, there is no emotion or realization about what she's missing in her life - Sandy basically gives up any power as a character when she can't think past the part that feels good - and it's so incredibly frustrating because she actually has a regular sex life with her husband, one in which she finds completion, even if she finds it boring and emotionless. What's my point here? My point is that this isn't a character who gets caught up in the moment experiencing things in her life that she didn't think previously possible, this is someone who is displaying weak moral character with a side of complete lack of judgement. Even though she hates that she's called emotionally immature in her own story, she is indeed, emotionally immature.


Could this be forgiven? Sure! If she found a semblance of emotional growth in the rest of the story. But instead, it goes down like this:. Sandy screws her brother-in-law, fantasizes about screwing a plumber and cabana boy, meets a friends husband for dinner and an X-rated movie with bonus time afterword (he can't keep an erection however, and this too is supposed to be funny (?)...but I just can't get past the part where she, once again, falls into a situation where she protests and quickly submits after a nudge or two), is propositioned by a married man and a kid caddy (seriously, she's suddenly the most desirable woman in the tri-state area) and finally starts a real affair with an old fling, who is also married with children, and expects this lightening relationship to a turn into a real commitment. For the first time, she experiences tenderness and cuddling in the afterglow, and isn't it swell.


When that doesn't work out for every reason that you knew it wouldn't, (he loves his wife, can't abandon his family, why can't they just have this relationship on the side?), she realizes her kids don't need her like they once did, she has no place in her husbands interests of golf and tennis and pushy attempts and getting her to fit in at his country club, AND she finds out she has somehow contracted gonorrhea. That last was probably the fault of that married schlep who showed her tenderness, he spent a lot of time tenderizing other women before her, I gather.


At this point, Sandy considers suicide. I suppose this is where I should be sympathetic, but I really HATE everyone in this book by now and can gather no sympathy. I hate that Sandy is stupid, that she betrayed her sister, that she can't figure out a healthy way out of her life, that she can't find a hobby, that she lives in fear and is a victim while knowingly hurts her husband. I hate that her husband is a jerk, that he ignores her few cries for help, that he does hit her when he finds out about her infidelity.


But most of all, I hate how this book was handled. I don't like how everyone is emotionless robot about real issues and at the last minute, Blume throws in a twist with a secret good deed of Norman's in an attempt to show that he does have feelings which brings Sandy and Norman into a space where they can talk  I hate that this book is full of unaddressed racism, handled as casually as dinner conversation. I hate that if this is book about women being stuck in their choices, why Sandy and Norm stay together, but Sandy doesn't have an ounce of remorse for her actions and seems to stay because there is no other choice.


In the introduction, Judy Blume explains that she left her marriage and took her two kids away and sat down after being a best selling children's author and wrote this book. While she says that this story isn't a representation of her own story, I have to wonder what the purpose of this particular book is - it oozes bitterness, discontent and not a single sound choice. It seems odd to me that the woman who made a way for herself to leave an unhappy place would write a book with such a desolate conclusion. 


In the end, Sandy does not find contentment, she finds a sort of compromise about what Norman is willing to do in their sex life. Yuck. *shakes off frustration*







Happy Eclipse Day!
Happy Eclipse Day!

Hopefully the weather clears out (fingers crossed)...we will be toasting totality with our local dairy's special 'Eclipse Milk'. Looks yum, right? (Cookies and Cream flavor)

Am I right?
Am I right?
Halloween Bingo, The Sequel

I think in the world of horror flicks, the sequel is supposed to be the money grab with the even more ridiculous plot and the impossibly resurrected monster.

I expect no less from us,  minus all the money and threat of being eaten. I expect ridiculous (in all the best ways) and am looking forward to waking up to 82 notifications.


Bring on the beasties! Come forth the crawlies! Make way the murderesses!



Behold, my card:






My current stack:





    The Haunted Mesa by Louis L'Amour


I'm fairly certain this will fit that square - perhaps someone can chime in if they wholly disagree. I'm going to read a fair amount of horror with this game, so I'm looking at this as a palette cleanser.


   In the Woods by Tana French


Obsidian Blue recently reviewed this book and absolutely sold me. Plus, bonus that it fits the square and it's sitting among my shelves yet unread.


  Dark Matter by Blake Crouch


Post 2000 Horror novel, check! Blake once made me cancel dinner with his other work, so I'm sure I'm going to be viscerally challenged in some way.


  -OR-     Stinger by Robert McCammon


Now, I'm not sure which square this will land husband *thinks* it might work for Aliens but it's been a long time since he's read it. Either way, it's a versatile book because it will also work for Genre: Horror as well as 80's horror. I'm probably looking forward to this one the most. I LOVED the last McCammon book I read.


    Mirror Image by Sandra Brown


Any reason to read a Sandra Brown - one of my favorite escapist authors when I just want to turn off my brain. An easy fit.



   Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Mauier


I picked this book up last year during Halloween Bingo for the group read that everyone did...I just couldn't get to it at the time. It's happening this year, for sure. Woot!



   Moon over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch


I expect everything after my ride in the Rivers of London. Fingers crossed!



More is to come...soon.



Many thanks Moonlight Reader for my very own Bingo Card and to both Moonlight and Obsidian Blue for being our creators, distributors, and directors!

5 Stars
How to Fight Presidents: Defending Yourself Against the Badasses Who Ran This Country - Winston Rowntree, Daniel O'Brien

This is book about how to beat up presidents and it is perfect. This book is so perfectly kickass that if you don't agree, I'm sure this book will find a way to kick your ass. There's a lot of ass kicking in this book. I'm talking like this because I'm coming off some type of violence induced endorphin high and how I really wanted to start this review was... "In a world... where you have to defend yourself against the badasses who ran this country..." (using my deep, gravelly voice, of course), but I thought better of it because maybe no one would get it.

Anyway. Some ( husband for example) may wonder what I'd possibly enjoy about a book that's a humorous biographical view of each president, focusing on just how to defeat each in hand to hand combat. My answer is... what's not to love? Let me count the ways:

It has the history. O'Brien loads you with the most relevant and interesting facts and stories he could dig up to prepare you for battle. Teddy Roosevelt and the most pissed off fox in the forest is a personal favorite of mine. If you're going to defend yourself, you better know the brand of crazy you're working with.

It's inspiring. I'm currently tearing a page out of Washington's book and going to win a war based on my will alone.

It's funny. And therefore, highly entertaining.

"“If Mr. Fantastic and Professor X had a baby, there would be tons of questions, but also it would be Abraham Lincoln.”

It has new and creative uses of about every obscenity I know. I'm always looking for a wordsmith.

It's loaded with references to the male genitalia.

Here, I pause.

There's something you should be prepared for, dear reader, should you take on the lessons within this book. You're going to run into an enormous amount of penis. Penis jokes, Penis envy, Penis measurement. Waving penises. This book discusses the penis more than any of my favorite romance books.

In fact, the chapter on Johnson *alone* might have more uses and variations of the penis than all the romance books I've read this year, combined.

I know that JFK has seen more action than all my reads this year combined. And possibly the president who thought it was unAmerican if you didn't do it in the snow. I think that was Adams.

Clearly, this book is not for the faint of heart. You'll need a healthy sense of humor, but I will say for all the crude and or/rude delivery, it is balanced with smarts. In between jokes, there is some wonderful insights and even if you're a buff, I think a couple of takeaways could be had. I certainly had several (real, honest ones unrelated to the comparison of the presidents mettle vs. ball size).

The Unique Blogger Award Tag

The lovely Midu has tagged me for a fun blogger award and though I've missed my own promised deadline to play along, I'm dedicating the next 15 minutes to her thoughtfulness! (And hiding from my family - I've fed them, so maybe I can get through this...HA!)



The Rules:

  • -Share the link to the blogger who has shown love to you by nominating you.
  • Answer the questions.
  • In the spirit of sharing love and solidarity with our blogging family, nominate 8-13 people for the same award.
  • Ask them 3 questions.

Midu's Questions:


1- Which book/genre brought you to reading? What was it in that book/genre that captured your imagination and attention?

I came up with three different books/authors that really hooked me into reading at varying stages of my youth and at first I couldn't tell you that they related to each other at all. Upon reflection however, I think that they do all have a little common thread. They're all really freaking weird.


Apparently, freaking weird is what captured my attention.


First is a book that probably is only known to a certain set - kids who grew up in the 80's, perhaps? Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar. This children's book is a compilation of stories about all the kids who have class on the thirtieth floor of a school that was built vertically instead of horizontally by mistake. The thirtieth floor is the weirdest. The teacher is the stuff of nightmares (she turns naughty kids into apples and eats them) and the class is full of students with strange abilities. There are no morals to the story or higher thinking to be had with this book...unless the lesson is to behave or be digested. I do remember it to be humorous, but the crazy is what sticks

with me.


sideways stories from wayside school


The second book that I remember really grabbing me and consequently had me begging to go to the library for more, was Dean Koontz's Cold Fire. This book had supernatural/suspense/mystery elements all woven together but what I remember most was that it was INTENSE. I remember finishing it at bedtime and laying in bed staring at the ceiling wondering how I was ever going to sleep again. But it is weird. It's Koontz and isn't his early stuff (and Odd Thomas) synonymous with weird?





Lastly, and it pains me a little bit to admit this, I went through a V.C. Andrews phase. I read a lot of them. They were...salacious is probably a good word here and wrong and I somehow devoured a great many of them before some adult had enough sense to quit buying them for me. They get the weird tag too - any other with a preoccupation with incest (it appears in more than one series) gets the weird tag.



Ruby - V.C. Andrews  Dawn - V.C. Andrews,Andrew Neiderman  Heaven - V.C. Andrews  





(Ruby, the Landry series, was my favorite and introduced me and led to my fascination to the Bayou).



2- Which book can/have you re-read multiple times? What was in that book that had such an impact on you?


The Last Days of Summer is my favorite book and I've read it several times. It's an epistolary novel, done very well. It's a coming of age story against a background of baseball and the second World War. It's hilarious, moving, and really just makes me believe the resiliency of people, the importance of love and laughter, the desire to do good things in our world, every time I read it.



the last days of summer



3- Is there a genre that you loved while younger but grew out of love with as you got older? Which is it and what made you give it up?


Thankfully, this hasn't happened to me. I hope it never will. I have noticed that I take an overall wide berth around literary fiction, much more so than I used to...I sort of tire easily at the emotional manipulation that I've experienced reading them and wondered if the entire genre is just aiming to depress me. But I won't count it out, I'll still read one or two a year, though mostly on recommendation. My current Lit Fic read is Empire Falls by Richard Russo...and it's been languishing on my nightstand for months at something like two chapters in...but I won't let it defeat me.


Empire Falls



I had a lot of fun going down memory lane a bit here, so while I'm not going to tag any one specifically...feel free to share the answers to my questions on your blog or in the comments - my inquiring mind wants to know! :)




My Questions:



1.) Was there a book that you ever had to 'hide' to keep from people discovering that you were reading it - whether from a parent because it was forbidden, or because you were simply embarrassed, or whatever! -What was it? (I read V.C. Andrews - clearly, I have no shame and we're all book lovers here, this is a safe place.)


2.) What is your favorite book to movie? You have to be a fan of both. Share why you liked both.


3.) What book do you recommend to everyone that will listen?



Thanks for reading all, and I hope to read your answers somewhere! :)

4 Stars
Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky
Indemnity Only - Sara Paretsky

Pretty early on in this book, my husband remarked that Kathleen Turner played the role of V.I. Warshawski in a movie of the same name. Even if I wasn't a fan of a couple of her film roles, anyone who's ever heard her voice will likely find it hard to forget. Needless to say, the voice in my head did its damnedest to replicate that distinctive husky allure with all of V.I.'s dialogue. I think that's why I liked the book a little more than maybe I should have.


V.I., let's call her Vic, her friends do, is a once-upon-a-time district attorney who became less than enchanted with the system. Putting her intelligence, wit and background to good use, she goes into private detecting - mostly insurance fraud and cheating spouses. That is, until a certain Union leader knocks at her door with a missing daughter. Vic gets into more than she bargained for (or is paid for) when her first interview turns out to be a dead man.


I'm no stranger to mysteries and detective stories and they tend to run along the same vein- a tough, smart, loner who gets in over their head with a doozy of a murder is usually what gives the story a pulse. In my experience, it's the side characters that give it heart. That's certainly the case here with Indemnity Only. From Vic's naive fling Ralph, to her resilient and steady clinic doctor and best pal, Lotty, and all friend and foe in between, Paretsky sketches characters that are interesting and realistic, veering mostly away from caricature. I say, if you can write a fourteen year old girl and not resort to annoying teenage stereotypes, you're doing pretty good. Then again, this book is from 1982. Maybe teenagers had more substance then. I kid, I kid.


Speaking of 1982. Though the story is old, I wasn't terribly hung up on how dated it was - about everything technologically has changed in the world around us, yet people somehow stay the same and the motivations of greed and guilt are still, unfortunately, ever present. Nothing really suffers on the age front though I can see how some references might fly over heads. I'm not going to say how many flew over mine, but I will proudly state that I was tickled to see Kolchak mentioned.


I see now that this series is in the double digits. I'm not running out finding the next book or anything, but I wouldn't pass it up if I came across it.

Homemade Poptarts

After pie, I decided I must try these pop tarts that Whiskey and others were mentioning. They sounded THAT awesome and amazing and wonderful and like they were going to give me a sugar induced coma, that I had to try them RIGHT AWAY. Tasty Tuesday Challenge accepted.


I used the pie dough recipe from the Art of the Pie book. I used the filling ingredients from Whiskey's link - I used a heaping measurement for the flour because that felt right to me, and dark brown sugar because that's what I had on hand, and a scant measurement on the cinnamon because I like my cinnamon scanty.


Here's a picture of the little toasty twins:




I did not roll the dough out thin enough to make more than a few- with one rolling, without a re-roll of the scraps, I could do only 4. Still, I was very happy with the 4 that were made:




The filling is really good and in terms of flavor, it tastes like nostalgia BUT...Yodamom was right, once you try these, there's no going back to the box! We're definitely doing these again sometime, trying a fruit version using jam.




5 Stars
Art of the Pie - a personal pie experience
Art of the Pie: A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings, and Life - Kate McDermott, Andrew Scrivani


Funny thing happened to me with this book - I actually didn't LOVE it the first time I read it. I thought it was a little trite, a little cliché, a little too cutesy..."In life, like in pie, you must vent"...and so on.

I read this over a month ago and something just told me that I needed to withhold my initial judgment until I could actually make the pie. After all, once you get past the introduction (which was mostly about how pie making can be applied to live and vice versa) the pie making teach part of the book is bountiful with loads of information, experience and understanding in making a pie in whichever way you want to tackle it - from types of dough to alternate ways to roll and how to create all the fillings that go in between: hot, cold, sweet and savory. It's not just a list of her recipes, she gives you practical knowledge with tactile insight.

And that's the thing that gave me pause before rolling my eyes too hard - I've made pie before. I wouldn't say I'm heavily experienced or even super successful (there's a difference between edible and awesome, agreed?), but I've done it and anyone who's made pie before knows that it takes a certain touch -- in short, it is an art. With that in mind, why not take some of her 'feelings' advice into account and give this an honest go? I think the best way to review this is to just give you a taste of my journey making my own pie, the Kate McDermott way.

First, I waited until I could be totally chilled, relaxed and in a good space. I chose a Sunday when we had no plans - when I could play with the kids, get them involved if they wanted or work on it while they were busy chasing each other around the house. I didn't even let their crashing and yelling disturb my pie-zen. It helped that mid-day my parents came to pick them up for fun. I'm not going to lie, this is when I *actually* made the pie. ;)

First, the dough. I've only ever made all shortening crusts. One time when I was trying to be a better person, I tried my hand at an all butter crust. The all butter crust did not love me. The all shortening crust is how I was taught and makes a serviceable dough. McDermott has a recipe for half shortening and half butter and this is what I went with because it's what I had on hand - she recommends using leaf lard for pie dough but that was a little too much commitment for me at this point. She has recipes for all butter, gluten free and many more.

McDermott's dough making tips may have not changed my life, but they changed my dough game FOREVER. First, I chilled all the ingredients and tools (rather than just the fat and water). That means that I put the measured flour, salt, shortening, and butter in the freezer. I put the mixing bowl in the freezer. I put the ice water in the freezer. Only when everything was super cold did I start to assemble the dough.

Secondly, I prepared a dish of ice cubes on the side. Why, you ask? One of Kate's tips is that if you use the 'smoosh' method, which means that you combine the dough ingredients by hand, that cold hands are optimal and to use ice. When the heat from my hands started warming the fats a little too much while smooshing, the handy bowl of ice was there for me to cool them off again for further smooshing action.

Lastly, I've read a lot of dough recipes and McDermott's description of what the dough should feel like and look like was a little different. She said the fat should have varying sizes including pea and almond sized pieces and when adding the cold water, once you can pinch the dough together and it holds, it's ready. The variation in fat size was new to me…I’ve heard pea sized again, but always assumed I needed a more consistent size and texture and also looked for the dough to ‘come together’ instead of the pinch method. Here’s what my dough looked like after it was ready to turn out and wrap into ‘chubby disks’ to chill:


Once chilled, here's my rolled dough - bottom crust:

I meant to get a picture of the apple filling once I piled it in and dotted it with butter. But I guess I was so worried about the dough that it slipped my mind. One thing I did do, as recommended by McDermott, was use a couple varieties of apples. Granny Smith and Gala made it into this pie, at 70/30 ratio respectively. One thing I did NOT do that she recommended was leave the skin on the apples which seemed ALL WRONG. I just couldn't bring myself to do that to my pie.

My pie filled, fluted, and vented:

I tucked this baby into the oven. There was some fussing over the bake, 20 minutes at 425 degrees, 30 minutes at 375, and a final ten minutes with a sugar sprinkling. Here's the finished product:


Because my pie making day was very chill and lazy, I didn't do what all our grandmothers or legitimate pie makers do which is make it in the morning so that it's cooled and ready after supper. I made my dough mid-afternoon and did an early evening roll and fill. Basically, it came out of the oven at 9pm - too late to be cooled and consumed last night.

This is fine. Pie for breakfast gives me another reason to get out of bed in the morning. Here's the only shot of filling I have:


You might have noticed from my pictures my scarred farm kitchen table, general mess of my pie making, heavily scratched and used pie tin. There are very few areas in my life that are shiny, new, or perfect. I lean towards comfy, relaxed, well-loved and well enjoyed - maybe even a little damaged. Even scarred things can have a lot of life left to give. I feel like that myself most days - a little imperfect, but with some use yet. Maybe a little of that pie-as-life or life-as-pie has rubbed off on me in the end. I say all this because this was THE BEST PIE I HAVE EVER MADE.

True to myself till the end, I can't even get you a good shot of the piece I enjoyed with my coffee at work, here's a shot of it 'tossed' in my to-go container. But seriously, look at that flake!


Overall, this book was quite valuable to me – I used more techniques than I could even journal. For example, I’m convinced ‘thumping’ the dough before rolling made some sort of difference. I also listened for the ‘sizzle-whump’ to check for doneness. Most of all though, I loved the approach to pie making the most – it doesn’t have to be perfect. Her advice gave me room to try new things and, in retrospect, her tone wasn’t pretentious and allowed me be okay with any failure. You can tell that her heart is in teaching this craft.

This makes total sense.

Chocolate, coffee and Books. My three favorite things.

100 Essential Novels Scratch Off Chart?!

A good use for all those pennies I have laying around! 

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