The TBR List: Nick Dunne

Nick Dunne: The most polarizing character in "Gone Girl" |

We saw Gone Girl. We loved it.

Everyone I know who's seen the movie — whether they've read the novel or not — has felt the same. Most of my friends agree that the movie did an excellent job capturing the tone and spirit of the book, although some scenes were (ahem) embellished and some details omitted. By and large, the Gone Girl movie is an excellent adaptation of the novel.

(Side note: Mariam did an awesome pairing of Gone Girl and blood orange caramels that I highly recommend you check out.)

The one point of contention I've encountered centers on Nick Dunne, one of the story's two central characters. His wife, Amy, is the titular girl who goes missing on their fifth wedding anniversary. Nick is immediately and widely suspected/accused of being the cause of her disappearance.


Did anyone else find that Nick was much more sympathetic in the movie than the book?

He admits he's not a good dude. We know this. Yet in the movie, I found myself forgiving him for his strange nonchalance about his missing wife, for his indiscretions. As my husband observed, "He had flaws, but they were really normal flaws that so many people have." The same cannot be said for Amy.

Maybe it's the Ben Affleck effect.

My take's a little different: Nick was a bad dude — a bad husband — who got stuck with an impressively vindictive wife whose crazy overshadowed his misdeeds. Amy definitely overreacted, but he still deserved some degree of punishment. Of course, Amy's way of teaching Nick a lesson was brilliant at best and psycho at worst.

That, I guess, is the limitation of film. Amy's overt revenge tactics come across brilliantly, but Nick's internal evil is mostly hidden away. You get a lot of Nick in this movie (a whole lot) but not enough to make you hate him. It doesn't kill the movie, but it's a loss.

At the end of Gone Girl the book, I felt like Nick and Amy deserved each other. At the end of Gone Girl the movie, I couldn't say the same.

(Photo adapted from Elen Nivrae)


- Kitchen shelving porn.

- Ready-to-eat cookie dough!

- Must. Visit. Turkey. #wanderlust

- In a literary map of the United States, Illinois is Native Son.

- Who wants to accompany me to Silicy to hunt some amazing cannoli?

- Yeah, I need to make these pistachio and dark chocolate rice krispie treats posthaste.

- I cannot believe that some cities are making it illegal to give food to the homeless. Shame.

- Mindy Kaling won't let anyone tell her she should be an outsider. On another note, her Diwali party looked amazing.

- Fast CoDesign killed it this week. Case in point: Read more novels. Electric kettle makeover. Snacks as design muses.

- I don't even like country music, but I am in love with this characterization of Friday Night Lights as one long country song.

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At The Table With...Joy of Joyous Reads

An interviewer with book blogger Joy of Joyous Reads |

Today we're chatting with Joy, a mom, book blogger and Canadian. The tagline for Joy's blog, which is delightfully named Joyous Reads, is "Reviews. Recommendations. Rants." That's awesome because books can be a source of pleasure, but they can also make you crazy. I like a person who isn't afraid to rant. Joyous Reads covers a wide variety of books, and I really appreciate the number of female authors that appear on the site. Also, Joy is a self-proclaimed hoarder who often posts pictures of new additions to her book collection. As you'll see below, she has bookshelves to die for.

Read on to get to know Joy!

What is your all-time favorite book, and why?

This is a really tough question, but I’ll have to go with On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. This woman has a way of flaying me to pieces only to put my delicate pieces back together again. The problem is, I’m almost, always never the same person from when I started her book. Any book, of her book, for that matter.

What meal do you love to cook, and why?

Once upon a time, I’d endeavored to create a food/book blog. I think I only managed to cook, and post one recipe. But it’s one that I’m proud of: garlic shrimp scampi. You can’t really go wrong with pasta…unless you’re one of those, gluten intolerant folks. My family is not very receptive to any food containing seafood of any kind, but for some reason, they adore this!

What is your favorite food scene from a book, and why?

I can’t say I have any. From my immediate memory, I guess a scene from The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley where Lord Anthony finally showed his true madness whilst he was sharing a meal with Rebecca Bradley. Here, he proposed to the beautiful American actress, who looked uncannily like his grandmother, Violet. The creepy factor was definitely through the roof when he insisted that they were meant to be. The thing is, she’s only half his age, and there’s an allusion to Rebecca being poisoned (I feel there should be an ominous sound effect inserted here).  

Coffee or tea?

Iced coffee when I’m reading. Tea when I’m indulging on a scrumptious dessert.

What is the last book you abandoned, and why?

Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead. About halfway through the book, I realized that I was just going through the motions. It was a hefty sci-fi, which is not a favourite genre to begin with. But in an effort to expand my reading horizon, and since I was familiar with the author’s previous work, I thought I’d give it a go. Unfortunately, it was just not for me. I was unable to ascertain what the book was about even after quite a few chapters.
Color-packed bookshelves in the home of Joy, who blogs at Joyous Reads.

Color-packed bookshelves in the home of Joy, who blogs at Joyous Reads.

Author you'd most like to meet for dinner, and your order?

Leonard Cohen. I’ll order moon cake and tea.

Where do you go to find new recipes?

Dinners at my house are so predictable, it’s not even funny. Since my family is full of picky eaters, I tend to be unadventurous in the kitchen. But when an inspiration to cook something strikes, I find my recipes from Food Network (avant-garde, I know!).

Where do you go to find new reads?

Goodreads, book blogs, social media recommendations. I also follow Huffington Books. They have lists!

Tell us about your blog — the inspiration for it, why you blog, and your favorite aspects.

I’ve always been a reader. Unfortunately, no one around me reads as voraciously as I do. I was frustrated. Why can’t I talk to anyone about a book? Why do they laugh at me when they see me sniffling in a corner because of a book? I thought about joining a book club. But I’m not a social butterfly. I’m an introvert who most rather spend all her nights buried in a book. Four years ago, I found this book loving community in Goodreads. The more time I spend in there, the more I realized that there’s an alternative outlet for my thoughts.
I’ve been blogging ever since then.

What are your favorite blogs, and why?

Bookswept [ATTW] writes lovely reviews accompanied by wonderful pictures. It’s been an inspiration.
Bookshelf Porn shows pictures of the prettiest, awe-inspiring bookshelves.
A Guy’s Moleskine Notebook inspires me to write better book reviews.

Connect with Joy: Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram

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"Flight Behavior" by Barbara Kingsolver & Spiced Sweet Potato Spread

Flight Behavior is, unexpectedly, about transformation. Hook it up it with this next-level spiced sweet potato spread.

Flight Behavior at first tricked me into thinking it would be about something so simple as a wife sneaking off for a tryst in the mountains. In the opening pages, we join our protagonist, Dellarobia Turnbow, as she hikes into the woods behind her home and happens upon an orange blaze so arresting she believes it must be a sign from above.

The blaze, of course, is not an otherworldly flame but a massive, displaced group of Monarch butterflies. Kingsolver devotes many pages to explaining how the so-called "King Billies" ended up in Dellarobia's Appalachian backyard, and why that is more likely a harbinger of doom than a sign of hope. She uses tourists, eco-activists, schoolchildren, journalists and scientists to demonstrate how few realize what the butterflies' arrival means.

The message comes through loud and clear: Not only does climate change definitely exist, it is something to be feared, and mourned. The characters who deny this are, perhaps unsurprisingly, cast as closed-minded, silly, even dumb.

Dellarobia, who had a promising future before she got pregnant at 17 and married the disappointing father, is treated more kindly. It is her transformation, her rediscovery of a desire for learning she all but abandoned 10 years prior, that sucked me into this book. As Dellarobia learns about the challenges facing the butterflies, then joins the fight to save them, she also starts taking control of her life. Her progress often stalls, and she takes many missteps. But flawed as she is, Dellarobia feels real and I couldn't help but cheer her on as she — forgive the metaphor — shed her cocoon and emerged anew.

If this book were only about the butterflies or about Dellarobia and her family troubles, I probably wouldn't have liked in. But with Kingsolver's thoughtful (granted, at times heavy-handed) prose connecting the woman's struggle to the insects', it became a tale worth devouring.

Spiced sweet potato spread inspired by "Flight Behavior" by Barbara Kingsolver |

The question of fate erupts often in Flight Behavior. Was it the butterflies' fate to lose their home in Mexico and end up in Appalachia? Was it Dellarobia's fate to be orphaned and become a teen mother? It is the town's fate to suffer devastating, near-Biblical rains that lead to the destruction of so many livelihoods?

In Dellarobia's case, at least, fate exists only insomuch as she believes in it. As she starts to recognize her own potential and assert her independence, she goes from an unhappy housewife to relatively happier, more satisfied working woman. Similarly, the humble root vegetables in this spiced spread transform into something worthy of your attention.

Spiced sweet potato spread inspired by "Flight Behavior" by Barbara Kingsolver |


Makes about 2 cups


  • 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • dash cayenne powder, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons tahini


Preheat oven to 450ºF.

Grease a baking tray with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil. In a medium bowl, combine sweet potato chunks with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, garlic powder, paprika and cayenne powder, if using. Using hands, mix until all pieces are well coated, then spread in a single layer on baking tray.

Roast potatoes on middle rack for about 15 minutes, or until fork-tender. Shake tray to prevent sticking or burning occasionally. 

Remove baking tray from oven and allow to cool until potato pieces can be handled. Add potato pieces, remaining 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and tahini to food processor and pulse until pureed, scraping down sides as needed.

Serving at room temperature with crackers or as a sandwich spread. Another option: put an egg on it.

Keep leftovers refrigerated in airtight container.

Spiced sweet potato spread inspired by "Flight Behavior" by Barbara Kingsolver |

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The TBR List: Fall Cooking

The weather turned in a blink. Our building switched from air conditioning to heating, there are signs in the elevators asking residents to sign up as trick or treat stops and socks have worked their way back into my wardrobe.

This is the time that I looked forward to all summer — a time when bumping around my little kitchen with a blaring stove or humming oven would provide finally welcome heat. But between my vacation last week and a professionally challenging-yet-rewarding few days since my return, my microwave has been my most-loved appliance of late. The closest I've gotten to cooking is throwing together the pantry meal above, which combines cooked egg noodles, sliced onions, frozen peas and kale, Parmigiano Reggiano, and these genius frozen basil cubes. Also #butterlapse.

I hope to properly get back into the kitchen next week, but in the meantime I'm dreaming of apple desserts, risottos, pot pies, slow-simmered sauces, baked potatoes and more. What do you think I should make when I get back in the kitchen?


- Kids tasting fancy food.

- Literary Starbucks is literally perfect.

- I like to think of The TBR List as a mini articles club.

- Blanket season is here. I'm eyeing this cable knit beauty.

- Speaking of cozy (weren't we?) this chair is a reader's dream.

Paperbacks and hardcover still outsell ebooks. Which do you buy?

Ina Garten's Instagram has exactly the pictures I would expect it to have.

- While I was vacationing, the New York Times apparently decided brunch is for jerks. (I disagree.)

- Pasta and eggs is one of my favorite solo meals. Stephanie's version is more labor-intensive but I'm sure it's worth it.