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Lightning Reviews are back with another trio of quick thoughts on a few selected books. We have a must-have cookbook, a Clueless graphic novel, and a YA book that blends fantasy, Chinese folklore, and high school!
- Lemony chicken with spinach and potatoes: This one is made in a skillet, and comes together very quickly (a number of the recipes are labeled as “weeknight friendly,” which I appreciate!). The flavors are simple but interesting, and I liked the wilted baby spinach. Usually spinach that’s not raw in a salad makes me gag.
- Lime ginger chicken with rice: This made a lot of rice, but it was delicious. There are a bunch of different flavors and the combination didn’t get boring. I wanted to keep eating.
- Italian sausage with peppers, onions, tomatoes, and polenta: I loved this recipe. It’s all cooked on a sheet pan, and the combination of textures and the balance of the sausage, the polenta, and the pepper/tomato mixture was perfect. We’re making this one again very soon.
- Mexican-style spaghetti squash casserole: I’ve made this three times already. I usually hate squash – I think it has a weird aftertaste. But by heating the spices in olive oil, then tossing the spaghetti squash and the chopped vegetables with that oil means that the spices permeates the squash and yay, no weird aftertaste! I have eaten a portion of this casserole every day for lunch for a week and have been very, very happy about it. (Seriously, yum.)
Clueless: Senior Year
author: Amber Benson
While nothing can match the divine quality of the movie Clueless, the graphic novel Clueless: Senior Year is a fun reunion with Cher, Dionne, and Tai, the main characters from the movie. If you haven’t seen the movie, you should watch it before reading the comic, because the comic will make more sense and because everyone should watch Clueless.
The story picks up on Cher’s last day of junior year. One of her teachers tells the students that they are being assigned a project. By the end of their senior year, they have to turn in a report on what kind of adult they want to be. Cher, Dionne, and Tai each get a chance to answer that question in their own chapters while Cher’s romance with Josh, her boyfriend who is now in college, suffers due to her experimentation with being an “activist-environmental-entrepreneurial grown-up.”
Cher’s storyline is, like Cher, adorable. She jumps into her project in the graphic novel with the same overboard enthusiasm with which she jumped into the Tai makeover in the film Clueless. It’s even more fun to see Dionne and Tai come out of Cher’s shadow and develop their own confidence. All three stories are relatable and celebrate both independence and female friendship, with some romance as well.
My favorite thing about this is the art. It matches the aesthetic of the movie but throws in some grunge drab for a visit to Seattle, and soft earth tones for a trip to Tai’s family farm. Movie fans will be pleased to see that Cher’s poufy pen (what did we call those?) makes many appearances, as does some Lisa Frank-inspired art and a lot of cassette tapes. It’s a fun love letter to the movie and to the 1990’s.
– Carrie S
The Epic Crush of Genie Lo
author: F.C. Yee
Y’all, I gotta tell you, I’m getting some great pitches from Twitter these days.
This was billed as a treatment of Journey to the West, and I totally admit that most of what I knew of Journey to the West is from The Forbidden Kingdom, which is not a good movie, and has significant problems, but also has Jackie Chan and Jet Li. As an introduction to “Hey you can read more about this!” for JttW, the film doesn’t suck and the fight scenes are glorious.
Anyway, The Epic Crush of Genie Lo is about our heroine, Genie, a Chinese-American high school student who is in the midst of college prep when a new student shows up and turns everyone’s life upside down, especially Genie’s. Quentin is annoying, and always around, and Things Happen around him….and he’s also the embodiment of the Monkey King. And he’s drawn to Genie because she’s a reincarnation of another member of the Journey’s party. Together, they have to save the world from escaped demons. And also get into college.
This was a FUN READ. Genie is hilarious, and fights so hard against destiny because goddammit, this isn’t in the schedule, and also this Quentin dude is annoying and clingy! I find that romances based on literal destiny can be dicey – I like agency in my romances. But they spend enough time together that Genie gets to know Quentin on his own terms and like him for himself, not just because they are supposed to.
There’s also some great tension between Genie and her mother which explores the children of immigrants dynamic. Add a little magic in there, and things get really fun. Yee also does a really good job of instructing the reader in the salient points of Journey to the West, so if you didn’t grow up with this tale as one of your childhood stories, you can still follow what’s up. I recommend this for anyone looking for fun adventure stories that invert a lot of destiny-romance expectations.
author: Cook's Country
I don’t usually review cookbooks here, but this book has been making me so happy, I had to share. I first borrowed this cookbook from the library, because the Cook’s Country/America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks can be costly, especially if I end up liking one or two recipes. I ended up liking this cookbook so much, I bought my own copy and have been adding recipes to our rotation since it arrived in July.
Y’all. Y’ALL. I love this cookbook. I love recipes where I can put a bunch of stuff on a sheet pan or in a dutch oven and let heat and time do their thing while I do all the other things I have to do. Some of the recipes are more hands-on than others, but the ones I’ve made I’ve enjoyed so much. Each section focuses on one container or method of cooking: skillets, sheet pans, dutch ovens, casserole dishes, roasting pans, and slow cookers. There are a set of recipes designed for each method, and I’ve tried several so far.
If you’re a vegetarian, alas, there aren’t too many recipes in here for you. Most involve meat or fish. And if you eat zero carbs, like no potatoes, rice, or pasta, the pickings get a little sparse.
But for my weeknight cooking rotation, this cookbook has made me so happy. I am trying new recipes in the next few weeks, and I’ll report back how they go. I love the ease and convenience of using one method or container for the food preparations, and so far the flavors and combinations have been terrific.
– SB Sarah
by Ian McLellan Hunter, John Dighton, and Dalton Trumbo (screenplay)
Sarah: I had my hair cut this week, and as I got in the car, I thought that having very short hair is very appropriate for watching this film.
“And Introducing Audrey Hepburn…” Oh, we have met, I assure you.
I love the long opening credits. And Edith Head did the costumes! Of course she did.
This is a trope that works for me – individual bound by a massive weight of duty and expectation finds a temporary escape to be themselves or the opposite of their lives. It’s a lovely mix of behind-the-scenes and public self vs. private self, both of which I love.
CarrieS: If I were going to present her with stuff it would be cookies, tennis shoes, and a puppy.
“I’m just being veeery happyyyy” yes dear, I know that’s exactly what happens to me when I eat creme brulee. No lie.
Sarah: I also love the tension in the boring “please meet everyone” scene where she nearly loses a shoe, and then the Cinderella reference when she can’t get it back on in time. Adorable. Also the relief that they helped her avoid a breach of protocol.
Though I question the protocol that requires all these people from different countries bowing to her
CarrieS: What is it about Italy and romance? How many romance movies have we looked at so far with an Italian theme?
Sarah: That said: here is some fun, though not sourced trivia:
The Embassy Ball sequence featured real Italian nobility, who all donated their salaries to charity. The reporters at the end of the film were real, too.
CarrieS: If there’s anything we should have learned from romantic comedy it’s, “Never make a bet.”
“What would you do for $5000” is a line with strange overtones when it’s spoken by one guy to another while grappling in a bar.
Sarah: “It’s nerves. Control yourself, Ann.”
Bugger off, lady! Girl is dramatically upset and it’s totally earned. And she gets a royal sedative.
Sarah: Nighttime gallivanting with a sedative in your bloodstream seems like a bad idea. But if you’re going to pass out on a low fence, Gregory Peck is the best thing that could happen, I think.
CarrieS: Peck improvised the Mouth of Truth so her reaction is genuine.
Sarah: I love the “dance” on the staircase going to his room.
“I’m terribly sorry to mention it, but the dizziness is getting worse.” I love the absurd politeness. I’m going to say this all the time now.
I love that he thinks he holds all the cards (ha ha) and he does not.
CarrieS: Gregory Peck should always be wet and disheveled.
Sarah: The haircut scene is one of my favorites. When I last donated my hair, and my stylist put my hair in a ponytail to cut it all off, even though we both knew what we were doing, I was so nervous, and so was she. Also why the hell is he back-combing her hair before he cuts it off?
And short bangs! She looks so good with short bangs. Interesting pacing note: she gets her hair cut at nearly exactly half way through the film. She buys ice cream and flowers at about 1:02 and the film is about 2 hours long. Epic change midway through!
CarrieS: Um they totally just smashed up a lot of other people’s stuff, people who probably didn’t have a lot of stuff to spare, and lied their way out of paying for it and that is a jerk move, also, how old are these characters supposed to be? Peck you are a little stalkery.
CarrieS: “You should always wear my clothes.”
“It seems I do.”
Sarah: I love how Joe is early on a varying level of jerk, and slowly does something unselfish. I also like the way the film parallels itself. Her princess agenda includes going to all these sites to improve trade relations and connections on one level, and her tour of Rome in semi-disguise is more personal, and focuses more on how real people in Rome live day to day. She’s supposed to be given a car which she will refuse, but then she steals a scooter and drives it all over Rome (and makes a big mess – geez, woman). And the movie begins with her dancing at a ball, distant, silent, and impersonal from each person, and midway through she’s on a barge dancing (scandalously!) close with Joe and actually talking to him. There’s the distance of her role contrasted with the intimacy and experience of her day as a (sort of) anonymous individual.
Her realization that her job and her role mean a lot to the people of her country: “Were I not aware of my duty to my country and my family, I would not have come back tonight, or indeed ever again.” Also: she’s wearing a dark almost-black dressing gown instead of white silk — o RLY?
CarrieS: The grab and hug just kills me. Every. Damn. time.
Sarah: They do a lot of subtle face reactions and they get my right in the hearty feels.
Also, I LOVE that the first question is like, “So, princess, what do you think about a European Union?” Well, let me tell you some things from the future! You’d better sit down.
Expressions of personal affection through bland press statements – I am terribly sorry to mention it, but I am a puddle of feels right now.
“I will cherish my memories here as long as I live.” I’ve seen this movie a mess of times, and I am all sniffly.
CarrieS: It’s an A movie, obviously. Am helpless before its powers.
Sarah: Meeting the press contrasting the opening meeting of the dignitaries — this movie’s parallels are so well done. My catnip, so much catnip.
And then he stays there, waiting longer than anyone before he leaves. Oh, gosh, this movie works so well on me.
I just did the dumbest thing: I wondered if there were fanfic for this movie. Can you imagine such a ludicrous question? Of course there is!
This is so timelessly effective and charming, and gets me every time I watch. It’s easily an A for me.
Complete aside for trivia via IMDB: The original writer, Dalton Trumbo, was blacklisted as one of the legendary Hollywood Ten, and therefore could not receive credit for the screenplay, even when it won the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture Story. Instead, his friend, Ian McLellan Hunter, one of the writers of the final screenplay, took credit for the original story and accepted the Oscar. Hunter did, however, pass on the $50,000 payment he received for the job on to Trumbo. Trumbo’s wife, Cleo, was finally presented with the award in 1993, long after his death in 1976. The Oscar she received was actually a second one, because Hunter’s son wouldn’t give up his father’s Oscar. Thus, two awards for Best Motion Picture Story of 1953 exist. The story credit was corrected to credit Trumbo when the restored edition was released in 2002, nearly fifty years after the original release.
The drunken Ann recites a poem, “If I were dead and buried when I heard your voice, beneath the sod my heart of dust would still rejoice.” which prompts Joe to declare her “well read.” The poem is actually an original work by Dalton Trumbo, the blacklisted writer.
Sarah: The history of the blacklist in Hollywood is both fascinating and very eerie given current political media climate. I really enjoyed this series from You Must Remember This devoted to the history of the blacklist. If you’d like to know more about it, I hope you enjoy it.
Is Roman Holiday a romantic classic for you? Or does it not hold up to modern scrutiny? Let us know what you think!
At the same time Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the western world, his armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe. The Fuehrer had begun cataloguing the art he planned to collect as well as the art he would destroy: "degenerate" works he despised. In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others, called the Monuments Men, risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture. Focusing on the eleven-month period between D-Day and V-E Day, this fascinating account follows six Monuments Men and their impossible mission to save the world's great art from the Nazis.
It's the book the movie was based on. I really wanted to see the move, but couldn't get past my dislike of movies with George Clooney and/or Matt Damon.
A note about the movie: Among those leaked e-mails from Sony studios was one from Clooney (who directed as well as acted) apologizing for the movie not doing very well. My brother saw it on one of those "entertainment news" shows where they tried to make it seem like it was a bad thing, but my brother said: "If anything, it makes him seem like an even nicer guy than you hear about. that whole "gentleman George" thing,"
The book was interesting, if long & is one of those forgotten stories of World War 2 that more people should know about it. To that end, they have an official site about the real men (& women) behind the story. And there's a monuments men foundation to help preserve art that is in danger from armed conflicts today. they are also looking for info on missing cultural objects from WW2 & other wars.
I've read several books about little known or forgotten people & stories of WW2 & am convinced that if a movie studio just did movies about them, they could put out movies for at least a decade.