Welcome to Ivory Owl Reviews

Just browsing?
Click on any of the above photos to jump to one of my popular posts (on desktop version)

Want to see what's new?
Scroll down for my most recent posts (desktop and mobile versions)

Looking for something?
Use the search box in the right hand column (desktop) or at the bottom of the page (mobile)

Dinner and a Book: The Farm by Joanne Ramos and Enchilada Stuffed Shells

The Farm by Joanne Ramose (May 7, 2019 from Random House
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review* 

Goodreads Summary:
Nestled in the Hudson Valley is a sumptuous retreat boasting every amenity: organic meals, private fitness trainers, daily massages--and all of it for free. In fact, you get paid big money--more than you've ever dreamed of--to spend a few seasons in this luxurious locale. The catch? For nine months, you belong to the Farm. You cannot leave the grounds; your every move is monitored. Your former life will seem a world away as you dedicate yourself to the all-consuming task of producing the perfect baby for your ├╝berwealthy clients.
Jane, an immigrant from the Philippines and a struggling single mother, is thrilled to make it through the highly competitive Host selection process at the Farm. But now pregnant, fragile, consumed with worry for her own young daughter's well-being, Jane grows desperate to reconnect with her life outside. Yet she cannot leave the Farm or she will lose the life-changing fee she'll receive on delivery--or worse.
Heartbreaking, suspenseful, provocative, The Farm pushes our thinking on motherhood, money, and merit to the extremes, and raises crucial questions about the trade-offs women will make to fortify their futures and the futures of those they love.

My Review: 

"Maybe because the baby she is now carrying is a stranger's, the child of someone who invents cures for cancer, or someone who gives more money away then Jane will ever see in her lifetime."

What would it take for you to be a surrogate? Would you feel fulfilled knowing you made someone's dreams come true? What if it was possibly the only financially feasible option for you to provide a better future for your own child?  Now, imagine a sanctuary where the surrogates to the super rich are able to receive the absolute best care during their pregnancies...but best care for whom? Do you think this center would be concerned with the mother's mental and physical health beyond how these factors affected the fetus? Add in the layers of class systems, immigration, race, and technology and the already complicated arrangements of surrogacy are taken to the next level in Joanne Ramos' The Farm.

Is this a science-fiction or futuristic novel? I don't think so. Ask yourself: Is it so much of a stretch to think there aren't "Farms" in our world full of human trafficking, sweat shops, and cheap labor?  While we obsess (rightly so) about the loss of reproductive rights in the myriad feminist dystopian novels that flooded the market in the last few years, take a moment to consider the other end of the spectrum where women capitalized on their reproductive power. 

This book had a few flaws within storylines, but I am beyond willing to overlook them for the total story. Loved this one and lots of food for thought!

Speaking of food...here's the recipe for the Vegetarian Enchilada Stuffed Shells in the picture above:

Ingredients12 ounces jumbo pasta shells(3) 10-ounce cans red enchilada sauce (I used 2 mild/1medium)1/4 cup light sour cream(1) 15-ounce can black beans drained(1) 15-ounce can corn(1) 4-ounce can green chiles drained1  red bell pepper (chopped)1/4 red onion (chopped)8 ounces shredded Mexican or Cheddar cheese 1/4 cup green onions (chopped)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray 9" x 13" pan with non-stick spray and set aside.
  2. Boil shells for 6-7 minutes in large pot of salted water. Drain and let cool.
  3. Combine enchilada sauce, sour cream, beans, corn, chiles, peppers, and red onions and heat to warm (not hot) in a medium saucepan. 
  4. Holding a (slightly cooled) shell in one hand, use a slotted spoon to scoop the filling into the shell and place shells side-by-side in the pan until completely filled. 
  5. Pour extra filling and sauce over shells and in cracks. 
  6. Top all shells with the shredded cheese, and bake for 15-20 minutes. 
  7. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle top with green onions.

Review: The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker (January 15, 2019 /Random House)
*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher*

Goodreads Summary: 
In an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a freshman girl stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics who carry her away, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. Then a second girl falls asleep, and then another, and panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. As the number of cases multiplies, classes are canceled, and stores begin to run out of supplies. A quarantine is established. The National Guard is summoned.

My Review:Do you ever pick up and put down a book multiple times before you pick up momentum or do you move along if it doesn't catch you right away?

I changed my mind about 10 times as I read The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker. I was so excited to read this book that I took it on vacation to Cabo with me in November. I read a few pages but couldn't get into the story. I thought it was just because my brain was hazy on booze and sunshine. I tried to get into again at the end of December when I wanted to wrap up any unfinished books before the New Year, but it still didn't grab me. I put it aside and then picked it up this last weekend and read it all in a single day. Part determination and part the fact that the story finally grabbed me. As I read I had so many conspiracies about what was going on, but one smaller storyline (Rebecca's) has stuck with me more than the entire rest of the book.

Review: Fireside Chat with a Grammar Nazi Serial Killer by Ryan Suvaal

Fireside Chat with a Grammar Nazi Serial Killer by Ryan Suvaal
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Seventeen gruesome killings across the United States, within a span of six months and there is one clear connection among victims. They were all writers.
While media is decorating the murders with sensationalist stories, and law enforcement is playing catch-up, the homicidal maniac remains elusive and secretive. Things get very interesting, when one day she decides to appear on an internet talk show for an honest fireside chat.

My Review:
Do typos make you grit your teeth? Do dangling modifiers make you murderous? One woman has decided she just can't take one minute more of messy grammar and goes on a killing spree to retaliate against the onslaught of incorrect apostrophes, sentence structures, and grammatical mistakes. This is a quick little read (23 pages long) that will have any word nerd cracking up.