Of Cookies and Books

Ever bake something amazing from scratch? Something so good, so rich, so satisfying that you can’t wait to try it again, but the next time you tweak the recipe to try to make it just a little bit better. Sometimes it works, and you produce the most deliciously gooey double chocolate chip cookies, but other times, you’re left with a pile of dried out, brittle briquettes are more suitable for acts of vandalism than human consumption. Books are like baking.

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When I come across a story I love, it’s natural to want more, but sequels are a risk. Sequels change the story, for better or for worse. At its best, a sequel strengthens our relationship with a character and gives the author an opportunity to explore and develop larger plotlines. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a great example. But a poorly written sequel has the power to turn readers away from a burgeoning series, and even characters they love forever. Jan Karon’s Father Tim series falls into this category for me, and Jim Butcher is headed down that path with his Dresden Files. Sometimes it’s better to stop while you’re ahead.

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When I was offered an ARC of the sequel to Justin Robinson’s Mr. Blank to review, I didn’t hesitate. I loved the first book so much. It was fast-paced and hilarious, and Robinson’s writing style is so engaging I had to quit trying to find quotes from his work to fit the title because every time I try to find one, I get carried off in the story again. I was eager to read it, but I did have to wonder if he could do it again. Just in case you’re wondering, he can, and he did. And you wanna hear something really crazy? Get Blank is even better than the original.

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It will come as no surprise to some of you that I am not always the sharpest crayon in the box, and it’s not hard for me to get lost among the twists and turns of a gumshoe novel. I’ll be the first to admit that I got tangled up a few times in Mr. Blank, but Robinson deftly set me back on the path every, single time. I never stayed lost for very long. This time around, I had no trouble at all in keeping up, and I could see where I was being led without anyone spelling it out for me. That is not to say the ending is predictable. It is not. But I could connect the dots on the significance of each event this time all by my own self.

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Robinson knows how to develop his characters. Even when they aren’t human, even when they’re pretty much identical to every other one of their species, Robinson manages to make them stand out, to make me care about them. And maybe even cry over them.

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The book isn’t perfect. The resolution was a bit abrupt, and the pursuit of the identity of “Mr. Blank,” the thread that ties this book to its predecessor and is the premise of the series is weak. But the writing is so solid, the story at hand so well developed that I look forward to other opportunities to revisit this world. And while it is a sequel, Get Blank really does stand on its own two feet.

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I devoured this book in a weekend, in one fabulous, children-raise-yourselves-because-Mommy’s-not-putting-this-book-down kind of weekend. It’s urban fantasy, it’s noir, it’s bizarre, it’s a delight. I give it 4.5 stars. I haven’t given an ARC a rating that high in a long time. It was my pleasure to do so this time.

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Want to win it? You know you do!  There are two ways to enter. I recommend both! Go here to learn about and participate in tomorrow night’s drinkalong. Go here to the contest’s main page.

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And what goes better with books than cookies? Nothing. Here’s the recipe for the double choco-chip cookies I made to eat while I read Get Blank. I futzed with the recipe so you don’t have to. You’re welcome!

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2 C bread flour
½ C cocoa powder, unsweetened
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 sticks salted butter, softened (not melted)
1 ½ granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

 

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Preheat oven to 375F. Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. In large bowl beat butter and sugar on high for 1 minute. Add vanilla. Beat to blend. Add eggs one at a time, beating for one minute between each. Slowly add dry ingredients to butter mixture and beat. Batter will be thick. Add the chocolate chips and mix until evenly distributed.

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Place batter on ungreased baking sheet in heaping teaspoonsful. Bake for 9 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool for 1 minute, then remove cookies to a wire baking rack.

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Makes: not nearly enough

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Now, make some cookies and read this book. It’s my top pick for summer reads. And don’t forget to click here to vote for my zoo to win $5K. Comment on yesterday’s post to let me know you voted.

Why Did I Get Out of Bed?

Breakfast has conspired to let me down.

My husband informed me last night as he was putting on his pajamas that we are out of oatmeal. I shrugged. I did think it was a little odd that he was putting on his pajamas to run to the store and buy my oatmeal, but he’s a boy, and boys are weird. So imagine my surprise when I get up this morning and realize he was putting his pajamas on to go to bed! It’s like our whole lives have been a lie.

I didn’t fall apart. Not totally, anyway. After I swept up the box of Cheerios I threw at his head, I remembered my backup plan.

A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law introduced me to an innovative new product called BelVita. I smiled and nodded at first, with no intention of actually eating the things because of this:

That sounds like it might hurt.

That sounds like it might hurt.

I am rather a passive type. I don’t believe I have ever grabbed anything or anyone by their biscuits. My limited knowledge of biscuits is that they are rather fragile things, preferring to be handled gently and never grabbed, lest they fall apart. I left them well enough alone.

Until a few weeks ago, when I discovered these:

Oh, dear Lord! Yes! A thousand times yes! Wait. Did I just accept this cookie's proposal? Maybe...

Oh, dear Lord! Yes! A thousand times yes! Wait. Did I just accept this cookie’s proposal? Maybe…

I bought. I know. I have read the nutritional information, so I’ll save you the trouble of telling me. They’re cookies. Breakfast cookies. Are you thinking I would oppose cookies for breakfast? Have we met? I grabbed morning by its biscuits, and with glee.

Anyway, these bad boys are my backup plan. They are just as good as they look. Maybe better. They have the power to make an oatmeal-less day almost bearable. Almost. Except for this.

If you didn’t click the link, I’ll tell you what it says. Because I like you and want you to live. It’s a recall notice. Issued 11 hours ago. Approximately the same time my husband was hauling on his flannel pajama pants. There’s a connection there, I’m pretty sure.

Wait, where was I? Oh, yeah. Nabisco has issued a recall for two flavors: apple cinnamon, and, you guessed it, chocolate.

There’s a number to call. In a way, I’m glad that they don’t expect me to take it back to where I bought them. I don’t remember where they came from exactly. I have a series of dealers stores where I get them. But they’ve asked us to just throw them away. Let me repeat. Throw them away! Am I going to take this lying down? Am I going to let a few metal bits stand between me and a chocolate buzz? I’ve got fillings. How different can they be, right? Wire mesh, fillings. Same diff.

Okay, maybe I have a problem.

***all images taken from BelVita’s very own Facebook page.