Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fellower blogger blends 2 of my favs

I visited one of the coolest blogs ever the other day, and quickly became a follower.

"Food for Thought" is a blog written by Once In a Blue Moon. She reads a book and then cooks food that is either a recipe from the book or that fits the book itself. Then publishes pictures of the food and the book in an artful way. Oh go visit the blog yourself because she explains it so much better.

But I have to rave about Food For Thought for several reasons. First, her pictures of her food are so artful and beautiful. She makes incredible photos.

Then there's the concept. how brilliant is it to combine food and books. It's fabulously wonderful idea, and I wish I had come up with it myself! And books right now have lots of recipes in them as well as being tied into food in so many ways. How perfect to blend them on a blog!

This is terrific and I am thrilled to have found her. Check out her most recent foodie book combo called Every Good and Perfect Gift. If you don't want to eat that pie after seeing her photos you aren't human!

And as for my participation... well, we'll see! for now, I am going to completely enjoy Food For Thought!

Eatin' and readin',

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Book 11- Knit the Season

Knit the Season is the third in the Friday Night Knitting Club series by Kate Jacobs, a series that never should've been, in my opinion.

In this tome, dead Georgia's daughter Dakota is trying to focus on her future: graduate from culinary school and run the knitting cafe and knit shop, Walker and Daughter. But life's changes have a way of causing havoc on plans. Anita is still trying to re-schedule her wedding to Marty after her son's fake heart attack canceled the last one. Catherine is trying to decide if she should be willing to love again as she furthers her romance with Italian Marco. Her other friends Darwin and Lucie are juggling their own new and expanding families.

Will it all come crashing down around Dakota when she's invited by her father James, whom she suspects of having a new girlfriend, to spend Christmas in Scotland with her great-grandmother and her maternal grandparents Bess and Tom? What happens if Peri decides to move to Paris to make her pocketbooks Vogue magazine famous? What will happen to Walker & Daughter? And will Dakota survive?

I adored the very first book The Friday Nigh Knitting Club. I thought it was smart and well written and never really gave any consideration that Jacobs might pen a sequel, let alone turn it into a series. I think this will be the last book I read about this particular crew because I'm just tired of it. It's taking on the drudgery and trudgery that a series can (and more often, sadly, does), and is no longer fresh and fun. The plot is stretch thin and Dakota oscillates between a child and a woman, while the adult around her who helped raised her are never sure to treat her like the little girl they knew or the adult she is, but this conflict doesn't come across well in the writing. There are often platitude lines that sound like something from a Hallmark card, rather than "real" dialogue. I think the story is a bit weak and cheeky, and could really be a Lifetime Movie for the Holidays plot.

I wish the characters the best, but my journey with them stops here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Book 10- True Blue

Thank goodness True Blue is OVER! for me This was the 'draggiest' thriller I've read in a very long while, which is a huge disappointment since it comes from one author I usually enjoy, David Baldacci.

This starts out with Mace Perry, a former cop, being released from prison into the custody of her sister Beth, the DC chief of police and somehow becomes almost a campy whondunit turned bring down the FBI turned terrorist plotting in the US book. Feh. Mace desperately wants back on the force after serving two years in prison for a crime she didn't commit. She gets her hooks into a case, thinking if she solves it she'll be absolved and can go back to being true blue again- *gag me with a spoon over the hokiest dialogue ever written about this*. Roy Kingman, a former NCAA BBall player, is a lawyer who's in on the case and the love story between he and Mace is one twisted romance.

Mace acts like a petulant child in one scene and in the next turn she's acting like a brilliant legal mind. Baldacci writes her character all over the place, turning her from acting like a risk-taking bitch to acting like a smart former cop to acting like a mush ball whiny girl to a sarcastic smart mouthed teenager.

And Baldacci needs an editor in a huge way. There were tons of mistakes in this book, just grammar errors to typos. I also want to say that if Baldacci had his character use the word "bandits" for the bad guys one more time, I would scream. The overuse of 'bandits' was SO pronounced that it was distracting from reading the book. Using the word 'bandits' so many times made me want to start counting and I did; when I reach 73 times, I quit and the book still wasn't finished. It was to the point of making me giggle when I read it. Someone give this man a thesaurus, PLEASE! And my over use... get my drift?

I was completely disappoint in this no thrilling thriller with flat lackluster boring unlikable characters, and a trite and over used storyline.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Book 9- The Gift

The Gift by Irish writer Cecelia Ahern is one of those "teach you a life lesson" sort of books, that just feels preaching, like a giant sermon or a Chicken Soup for the Soul sort of thing.

Lou is a jerk with a great job who buys lots of stuff and had lots of money but treats his family, his wife, and his children like crap, and claims he works all the time and is married to his job so he can provide for THEM even though we all know it's just for himself. Not only is he a crappy son (misses dinner with his parents on purpose, plans ways to avoid them, and hands off his father's 70th birthday party to his assistant that he's screwing), father (his daughter says she doesn't like him and his son screams in fear of him when Lou gets close, he doesn't know his children's ages, either) and husband (he cheats on his wife repeatedly with anything in a skirt and goes out drinking with the boys to avoid going home) but he's also a malicious employee, going after a job of a man who used to work in his office who had a nervous breakdown.

So he meets Gabe, a homeless guy and for some crazy reason he gives Gabe a job in the mailroom of his building. Then strange things start to happen and Lou is feeling stressed, knowing he has to be in two places at once. Gabe offers to help him out. And though they do look alike, this isn't a case where Gabe tries to be Lou's twin, but uses "magic" of sorts to help.

And there's a tragic ending. The entire story is told by a close to retirement age cop to a young kid who committed vandalism on Christmas day. The old cop tells the story to the bratty, foul mouthed teenager in an effort to teach him a lesson.

This story is trite and has been told in so many variations in the past, I was amazed it could get published again. I had zero sympathy for the main character Lou, none whatsoever. I realise it was released in time for Christmas but it still rings flat to me.

I was very disappointed in this novel because in the past I have been a fan of author Cecelia Ahern who authored PS I Love You and Thanks for the Memories. I always love that her books are set in Ireland, and specifically I was overjoyed at the settings of Dublin and Howth, both places I've been and have delighted in. But not even my joy with Dublin could make me enjoy this novel. Maybe the next one?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Book 8- Keeping Faith

Where is God? Who is God? Why do people say believers to need to have faith that God exists but why do some question those who claim to see God; why don't they have faith in the faith of others?

These are all interesting questions that may or may not be answered in Jodi Picoult's sixth novel Keeping Faith.

Mariah and Colin are getting divorced because he had an affair. Colin leaves to be with his mistress and seven year old Faith stays at home with her mother, who, 7 years earlier was committed against her will to a mental institution by Colin himself when he cheated on her then.

This time Mariah is stronger and she holds her life together with the help of her mother Millie and her daughter Faith. Then one day Faith has an imaginary friend to whom she talks; the friend's name is God. Faith was raised in an agnostic home of interfaith parents; she's never been to church or read the Bible. So when Faith suddenly starts chanting Bible verses when jumping rope, and muttering in Hebrew, her mother takes her to a therapist. And there is no medical reason that can be found that Faith couldn't not be talking to God.

Then Faith performs some healings, some miracles, and it makes news. Suddenly cult members, priests, zealots, the ill and infirmed, and non believers are camped out on Faith's front lawn. Ian Fletcher, millionaire because of his atheist beliefs (think of him as an atheist Billy Graham) shows up to try and disprove Faith, wanting to say she's a hoax, that she's a charlatan and her mother a heretic. And Colin decides that Faith couldn't be talking to God, that he mother must be driving her crazy and he sues for custody. And all hell breaks loose.

This was an engaging and intellectual novel. It's an interesting look at the situation of modern day prophets. As always Picoult dazzles.

The only thing I was left wondering about was the very, very ending, which I won't give away. Picoult is know for her ending twists, usually in the last 2-3 pages she smacks the reader with the total unexpected. I would love to discuss the ending with someone!

I strongly urge people to read this, if for nothing else, than to just kick your brain into thinking mode.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Book 7- Cleaving: A Story of Meat, Marriage, and Obsession

Cleaving is the second memoir written by Julie Powell who rose to fame in 2009 when her first book was made into a major motion picture called, sharing the title with her first memoir, Julie & Julia. Yes, this is the second offering from the woman who spent a year cooking her way through the Julia Child cookbook and extolling her wonderful, fantastic, supportive husband. Cleaving is... well, not that. At all.

I'm going to deviate a bit here from standard form so please hang with me, here.

First, I was excited about this book and looking forward to it for ages. I asked my public library to order it for me and they did. I didn't even have to buy it, and I was the first one to get it. I figured I would end up buying it eventually because I thought Julie& Julia was so brilliant and funny and poignant and just.... excellent that I would eventually buy a copy of Cleaving but I didn't want to wait until I had the funds to do that.

Cleaving is everything that Julia & Julia was not, which to me was sad. Cleaving is about Julie wanting to learn to be a butcher. Okay, cool concept, right? She wrote that she was always interested in butchery and she even thought butchers were sort of sexy. She went on a quest to find a place that would let her apprentice in a butcher shoppe. She wasn't looking to get paid, she just wanted to learn the art, to the learn the technique.

But Cleaving is more than Julie learning butchery of meat; she is certainly butchering her relationships. In this book, she also tells how she single handedly tore her marriage apart, because she wanted more from life. She was unsettled and wanted to 'find herself', which she actually wrote and I actually threw up in my mouth a little at the trite line written by a person I thought was a smarter writer than that. Not only did she write about her experience as a butcher's apprentice, but about how she had an affair with a man she called D and her obsession with him when it ended- serious stalker like obsession that bordered on the psychotic (and made me increase my hatred of Blackberrys even more...). She wrote in graphic lurid detail about her cheap and tawdry S & M sex with strangers, about her travels to Russia, Africa and Buenos Aires to learn more about butchery, and about hurting Eric.

She went into page after page detail about butchering, about how to break down a side of beef or tie a round or.... whatever she was doing. That reading was long and tedious, like reading directions. Written in Chinese. I finally just skimmed those sections, which is probably why I killed off this book in about a half a day. She also interspersed recipes but most of them had bizarre ingredients for things no one in the US can even buy or get unless they "know" a butcher.

Other than the reading was bogged and mired with too much detail about the butchering, the personal stuff was just has hard to read and to stomach as the butchering part in an entirely different way. She was so sad and depressed and maudlin. She was also creepy in her stalking, obsessive behaviors about this D person. I realize she was laying her soul bare but I was at a "enough is enough" point and wanted to scream and shout "get over him already"!! I think I muttered that often enough in my reading, and I even caught myself rolling my eyes over here drama queen ways. Yes, I rolled my eyes at a book. I've been in relationships where I've been dumped and have hurt but there is a line and she crossed it, in my opinion, with her behavior. Furthermore, she didn't appreciate the wonderful relationship she had with Eric. No, I wasn't there to know what it was like behind closed door, but in Julie & Julia she extols his many virtues, AND this continues in this book. She knows how great Eric is and how lucky she is to have such a husband, yet she continues to hack away at her marriage-- you know, butchering it. She had in Eric what all women seemingly want in a marriage yet she wanted... more? Something else? Maybe she's just a freaking crazy woman...

I was so disappointed because in Julie & Julia Julie was likable, sweet, smart, funny, and completely quirky. In Cleaving she's none of these things. I appreciate she had the guts to write a book where she laid it all on the line, like she did here in Cleaving, but it's such a drastic change from what she offered before, such a drastic change it read like it was about a different woman, written by a different person.

I was truly disappointed.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Book 6- Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor is the second book in the 'Logan Family' series. I've never read the first one, and have no intentions of doing so either, but though this is part of a series it's a solid stand alone novel as well.

This Newberry Award winning novel is for children in upper primary levels or lower middle school levels. The story takes place in Mississippi during the Depression. The Logan Family- Big Ma, papa, mama, and their four children- Stacey (a son), Cassie, Christopher, and Little Man- are different from other Black people because they actually own their own land. Papa works for the railroad during non cotton season and mama is a teacher at the local Black school. But this is during a time of civil right unrest and race tensions are running high. The Logan's take a stand and decide to ban a white store in a nearby town and other Black families join. This cause many bad things to happen. This story is told from the perspective of Cassie, an 11 year old Black girl. She chronicles her family's time during one year, in a sad voice.

I read this book because I'm in a middle school where it's being taught, and I want to be able to help my students. This is a sad, tragic story with no happy ending. Actually, there's no happy anything in this novel. Just one bad, sad thing after another happening to this family.

One of my students asked why they always have to read sad stuff, and I think it's a good question. Yes, there is certainly a valuable lesson to be learned from this story, the reading level is appropriate, the moral is strong, there's a cross curriculum with the historical aspect. Lots of good things in this story, but yet... it's just so tragically sad, with no hope of happiness nor redemption.