Monday, March 29, 2010

One for the Money: Who should be in the movie?

The first book in the Stephanie Plum series, One for the Money, is being made into a movie. Katherine Heigl has been announced in the lead role. I'm not very enthusiastic about this casting choice because she seems a little too model-esque for the character. Anyway, I thought about which actors and actresses I would like to see fill the shoes of the book's characters.

Stephanie Plum
Stephanie lives with her hamster Rex in an apartment in Trenton, New Jersey, just blocks from her parents. Stephanie is a curly-haired brunette (part Hungarian, part Italian). After losing her job as a lingerie buyer she gets a job working as a bounty hunter for her cousin Vinnie. A Rangers hockey fan with a steady diet of junk food and extreme dislike for exercise, she gets herself into unpredictable and hilarious situations. Cobie Smulders is the actress I would most like to see play this role. Cobie currently plays Robin on How I Met Your Mother and I think she is a great comedic actress. My second choice is Ginnifer Goodwin (Big Love).

The Cuban-American Ranger is an intimidating bounty hunter who takes Stephanie under his wing. Stephanie is unsure about his age (anywhere from 25 to 35). Just his presence in a room makes women's hearts beat faster. My choice is Adam Rodriguez (CSI: NY, I Can Do Bad All By Myself) because he has an intense yet seductive quality about him. My second pick is Alex Meraz (Paul in New Moon); he's a couple years too young for the role, but other than that, he'd be perfect.

Joe Morelli
Morelli, a cop, is the guy Stephanie is supposed to bring in on a charge of murder; he also shows up in subsequent novels. Morelli grew up in the same neighborhood as Stephanie and they have a history together. He is Italian and very attractive. My top choice to play Morelli is Henry Cavill (Charles Brandon on The Tudors television series) because he has the ability to smolder on screen. He just better have a believeable American accent. If he is unable to hide his British accent, my top choice is Eddie Cahill (CSI: NY). Other possibilities: Antonio Cupo (Elegy) or Alex O'Loughlin (The Back-Up Plan).

Grandma Mazur
Grandma Mazur lives with Stephanie's parents in the Burg. A fan of attending wakes, she also hilariously speaks her mind and likes to get in on the bounty-hunter action. Because of the character's unflinching honesty Cloris Leachman immediately popped into my mind.

In One for the Money Lulu is a hooker who helps Stephanie by providing her with information about the boxer Ramirez. In subsequent installments of the series Lulu is a partner to Stephanie in her outrageous schemes, to hilarious effect. Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe is my choice for this role. She definitely has a light and comedic side to her, which she displayed in TV and press interviews when she was promoting Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire.

Other roles to cast:
Stephanie's Mom
She would prefer Stephanie had a regular job where she didn't have to worry about being shot. She always sends Stephanie home with leftovers, and each dinner is followed by homemade dessert.

Stephanie's Dad
An Italian man of very few words, he prefers to watch TV, read the paper, or concentrate on eating; as long as he is able to refrain from joining in on the conversations of the women in his life, he is happy.

Benito Ramirez
A boxer who abuses women and does not take kindly to Stephanie's meddling in his life.

What are your ideas on casting these characters? Do you think Katherine Heigl is a good fit as Stephanie Plum?

Interested in starting to read this series? Find it in the catalog!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lunch in Paris

I was immediately skeptical about this book. Really? Do we need another book about relationships and food (think Eat, Pray, Love and Julie & Julia)? Or another book extolling the virtues of French women's eating habits (think French Women Don't Get Fat)? Surprisingly, maybe we do need another book in this genre. First off, the chapters are quick so the read is a breeze, and Bard has a nice sly wit as evidenced by the opening line: "I slept with my French husband halfway through our first date."

Second, I actually found this book to be a bit of a magnifying glass into contemporary France (Francophiles take note). It is as much a memoir of Bard's romance as it is a cultural study of Paris and France. And it's nice to hear about France from an American insider, which is not as romanticized as it could be, yet still appreciates what the culture has to offer. Naturally, she approaches her acclimation to French living through the food culture: daily visits to the street market, preparing complex dishes, and then leisurely savoring them. It is comfort food for Bard on a new level.

Each chapter ends with a few recipes. Most are too complicated or adventurous for me, but hardcore foodies will probably find some new ideas.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cute Author Alert: Joshua Ferris

Of course, we love our favorite authors for their wit, but sometimes we love them for their author photos too.

Author Jason Pinter once proclaimed Joshua Ferris "the Edward Cullen of the literati."  A title that surely made Joshua Ferris cringe.  After all, he's a sophisticated novelist, not a sparkly vampire, and his readership is much older than your average R-Pattz fan.  Though with his alluring blue eyes, adorably scruffy (not fwoopy) brown hair, and nerdy hipster style, Joshua Ferris is a bookworm's sex symbol. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Baking Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

"Sorry I smell like frosting, I just love to bake."
~ Drew (Jon Hamm) to Liz (Tina Fey), 30 Rock
This wonderful quote explains my state of mind on a recent Friday afternoon when I decided to test out three recipes from the cookbook Martha Stewart's Cupcakes: 175 Inspired Ideas for Everyone's Favorite Treat (2009). I just felt the urge to bake. Each recipe is accompanied by a color photo so lovely and delectable you'll want to enlarge the photos, frame them, and hang them up as art. The recipes are divided into categories: Swirled and Sprinkled, Dipped and Glazed, Simple and Sweet, Filled and Layered, Piped and Topped, Birthdays, Holidays, and Celebrations. The recipes for various occasions rely heavily on decorating techniques and ingredients, like marizpan, that are quite intricate and, in my opinion, look more like play-dough creations than cupcakes. The end of the book features tips for essential baking tools and techniques.

I decided to test three recipes: Brown Sugar Pound Cake, Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes, and Peanut Butter-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes. I also wanted to make the Yellow Buttermilk Cupcakes but could not locate cake flour at the store and decided that three recipes were enough for one marathon baking session.

The Brown-Butter Icing for the Brown Sugar Pound Cake calls for brown butter, which I have never made before. The recipe does not provide detail about letting the butter get too brown; I ended up burning my first batch because I thought the brown color I was seeing in the pan was okay. I looked up brown butter online for some tips and then made a second, successful batch. I also probably could have added a couple more tablespoons of milk to the icing. The picture in the book shows the cupcake with icing running down the side, so I figured I could just spoon the icing over the top letting it run over; I soon realized that I wouldn't have enough icing, and some cupcakes were frosted more than others. VERDICT: Very tasty, moist cakes with lovely vanilla-flavored icing. I'm already thinking of when I can make them next.

I had to try out the Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes because of the alluring photo: a single Oreo cookie placed at the bottom of the muffin tin, covered with the cheesecake filling on top. Yes, please! VERDICT: A simple-to-follow recipe that yields yummy small portioned cheesecakes.

The recipe for Peanut Butter-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes was fun to make because of the chocolate batter and peanut butter filling components, which are alternately spooned into the muffin tins. By swirling a toothpick in the batter a chocolate/peanut butter marble design appears. I think I rushed this step; the finished cupcakes looked like they had layers of chocolate and peanut butter, instead of being a chocolate cupcake filled with peanut butter. VERDICT: Addicting combination of chocolate and peanut butter. 7 out of 7 cupcake testers agree that these cupcakes are awesome; this joins my collection of "go-to" recipes. Because the recipe only makes 12 cupcakes I will definitely double or triple the recipe for future baking sessions.

Lovers of sweets and baking, this is a must-read cookbook. Just remember that the photos accompanying the recipes display a perfection that is only achieved with food stylists and photographers that hang with Martha Stewart. Even though the cupcakes I made (pictured) do not look as pretty as the examples in the book they still taste delicious.

Martha Stewart's Cupcakes: 175 Inspired Ideas for Everyone's Favorite Treat:
Find it in the catalog!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Classic reader's block

I have found the perfect place to broach this topic and I'm curious as to what others might say.

I think we all experience what I'll call "reader's block": you are absolutely unable to finish a book. Sometimes, and most annoyingly a classic book. (One you should read; one you should be able to read.)

Well, I encountered such a book. I was assigned The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck for a high school English class, as many of us are. (Part of the problem could be traced back to the fact that I was supposed to read it over the summer.) I started the book, read most of it, and fully grasp it's significance in literature, but I could not finish it. Unfortunately, nor did I want to. I didn't have the patience to read the whole novel, let alone a whole chapter about a turtle crossing the road. I feel a joke coming on here . . . Anyway, I'll keep this short, unlike the book.

Anyone else experience this phenomenon? With what book(s)?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Help yourself: He's Just Not That Into You

Can a book make you a younger, thinner, better person? Probably not, but we test and review self-help and diet books anyway.

He's Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo.   

I was definitely skeptical about this book before I read it.  It's a little hard to take seriously a book inspired by an episode of Sex and the City, especially when one of the co-authors of the book has exceptionally silly hair .  I also wasn't into the movie version of the book, though Justin Long was charming in it.  That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by this book.  It's a breeze to read, funny, and offers sound advice to women receiving an abundance of mixed messages from the jerks that they are dating.