Thursday, May 27, 2010

So here's the dealio on the contest-o!

In honor of my 50th book of 2010, I am giving away a $20 gift certificate to Amazon. The only hitch is you have to suggest a book for me to read in your comment.

(And here is where I can test how well you read my blog because you can't suggest something I have already reviewed this year.)

I will keep this contest going until Tuesday at 9 a.m. so the three people who read this blog will have plenty of time to post.

Good luck! (And make sure you leave your email address with your comment!)

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Book #50 of 2010

Book #50 of 2010 was "The Spellmans Strike Again" by Lisa Lutz.

At the ripe old age of thirty-two, former wild child Isabel "Izzy" Spellman has finally agreed to take over the family business. And the transition won't be a smooth one. First among her priorities as head of Spellman Investigations is to dig up some dirt on the competition, slippery ex-cop Rick Harkey--a task she may enjoy a little too much. Next, faced with a baffling missing-persons case at the home of an aging millionaire, Izzy hires an actor friend, Len, to infiltrate the mansion as an undercover butler--a role he may enjoy a little much. Meanwhile, Izzy is being blackmailed by her mother (photographic evidence of Prom Night 1994) to commit to regular blind dates with promising professionals--an arrangement that doesn't thrill Connor, an Irish bartender on the brink of becoming Ex-boyfriend #12.

At Spellman headquarters, it's business as unusual. Doorknobs and light fixtures are disappearing every day, Mom's been spotted crying in the pantry, and a series of increasingly demanding Spellman Rules (Rule #27: No Speaking Today) can't quite hold the family together. Izzy also has to decipher weekly "phone calls from the edge" from her octogenarian lawyer, Morty, as well as Detective Henry Stone's mysterious interest in rekindling their relationship ... well, whatever it was. Just when it looks like things can't go more haywire, little sister Rae's internship researching pro bono legal cases leads the youngest Spellman to launch a grassroots campaign that could spring an innocent man from jail - or land Rae in it. The Spellmans Strike Again is hands down the most hilarious, thrilling, and moving book in this bestselling, award-nominated series. And it proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Isabel Spellman, no matter how much she matures, will never be able to follow Rule #1: Act Normal.

This is by far one of my favorite series of all times. I didn't want to finish the book because I knew it was going to be the last one. How will I get my Spellman fix now? I do appreciate that Lutz let the characters go before they become formulaic and stagnant like so many authors do with their series. (I am a little worried that there are plans to make a movie about the book -- I can't seen any current actress doing Izzy justice.)

I know that her writing can be off putting to some readers - the footnotes and constant referring to previous books. But I think if you give the books a real chance you will see that Lutz does a great job with it. Her books are some of the funniest I have ever read. You can't help but love the dysfunctional Spellmans.

So I promised that when I got to Book #50, there would be a contest. And there will be one with a real prize. I will be back with details later. For now, I will tell you the next book that I am reading ... "False Mermaids" by Erin Hart.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Spring is sprung (finally)!

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Book #49 of 2010

Book #49 of 2010 was ... "Garlic and Sapphires" by Ruth Reichl.

Ruth Reichl, world-renowned food critic and editor in chief of Gourmet magazine, knows a thing or two about food. She also knows that as the most important food critic in the country, you need to be anonymous when reviewing some of the most high-profile establishments in the biggest restaurant town in the world—a charge she took very seriously, taking on the guise of a series of eccentric personalities. In Garlic and Sapphires, Reichl reveals the comic absurdity, artifice, and excellence to be found in the sumptuously appointed stages of the epicurean world and gives us—along with some of her favorite recipes and reviews—her remarkable reflections on how one’s outer appearance can influence one’s inner character, expectations, and appetites, not to mention the quality of service one receives.

I can't give this book a five-star review because there is a bit of disconnect between myself and the author. I don't eat the way she does nor I suspect do most of my friends. Its hard to relate to someone who thinks foie gras is a normal weekly meal. Personal tastes aside, Reichl is a phenomenal writer. I might not want to eat the things she is eating but she makes you feel like you are right there next to her. She has an amazing gift for describing both the flavor and aesthetics of food - it is clear she is a true gourmand.

I did find her "characters" (and the emotions brought up by them) to be a bit contrived - she seemed to be trying to prove personal growth during the process. Clearly, she is not your average American eater and there is no point in pretending otherwise. She still does a spot on job of relating the microcosm that is upscale New York dining.

If you are a foodie or just like a lushly detailed memoir, I think you will enjoy this book.

(And her recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara will definitely be added to my cooking repertoire.)

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Book #48 of 2010

Book #48 of 2010 was ... "Family History" by Dani Shapiro.

Rachel Jensen is perfectly happy: in love with her husband, devoted to their daughter Kate, gratified by her work restoring art. And finally, she's pregnant again. But as Rachel discovers, perfection can unravel in an instant. The summer she is thirteen, Kate returns from camp sullen, angry, and withdrawn. Everyone assures Rachel it's typical adolescent angst. But then Kate has a terrifying accident with her infant brother, and the ensuing guilt brings forth a dreadful lie—one that ruptures their family, perhaps irrevocably.

I enjoyed everything (as much as you can enjoy seeing someone's life shattered) about this book except the ending. It is every parent's worst nightmare in print and I felt Rachel's anguish over her crumbling family. But the ending, ugh. Shapiro seemed to decide the previous pages were too depressing because she made the ending so neat. Yes their daughter is still crazy but suddenly her husband is home and her son (who she had previously worried was delayed) is speaking in full sentences. It did not seem the least bit authentic to the rest of the story. I think she'd been better off ending it with more loose ends. It would have fit better with the tone of her book.

Up next is a food critic's memoir ... "Garlic and Sapphires" by Ruth Reichl.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Book #47 of 2010

Book #47 of 2010 was ... "Lake of Sorrows" by Erin Hart.

American pathologist Nora Gavin has come to the Irish midlands to examine a body unearthed at a desolate spot known as the Lake of Sorrows. As with all the artifacts culled from its prehistoric depths, the bog has effectively preserved the dead man's remains -- his multiple wounds suggest he was the victim of an ancient pagan sacrifice known as "triple death." But signs of a more recent slaying emerge when a second body, bearing a similar wound pattern, is found -- this one sporting a wristwatch.

Someone has come to this quagmire to sink their dreadful handiwork -- and Nora soon realizes that she is being pulled deeper into the land and all it holds: the secrets to a cache of missing gold, a tumultuous love affair with archaeologist Cormac Maguire, and the dark mysteries and desires of the workers at the site. As they draw closer to the truth, Nora and Cormac must exercise the utmost caution to avoid becoming the next victims of a ruthless killer fixated on the gruesome notion of triple death.

I like Hart's last book (Haunted Ground) and this follow-up was not a disappointment. I love the historical and archeological information that Hart puts into her mysteries. I think because I love historical fiction more than mysteries, I didn't feel like the story was bogged down (no pun intended) into historical information. For me, it enhanced the story.

Looking forward to reading the next one in the series, "False Mermaids".

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Friday, May 14, 2010

These Happy Golden Years ...

For no other reason than I like this quote, I am linking to this essay by Laura Munson in the NY Times.

When life’s knocked us around. And our childhood myths reveal themselves to be just that. The truth feels like the biggest sucker-punch of them all: it’s not a spouse or land or a job or money that brings us happiness. Those achievements, those relationships, can enhance our happiness, yes, but happiness has to start from within. Relying on any other equation can be lethal.


Its such a simple truth but one that most of us fail to absorb (including myself). A skinny body, a fancy car, a big house ... or anything we grab onto ... will not bring contentment if we don't first like ourselves.

So grab that mirror, take a long hard look and ask yourself: "What is my happiness rooted in?"

(We will now leave the Oprah show and return you to your regularly scheduled program.)

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Book #46 of 2010

Book #46 of 2010 was ... "Nadia Knows Best" by Jill Mansell.

When Nadia Kinsella meets Jay Tiernan, she's tempted. Of course she is. Stranded together in a remote Cotswold pub, with a snowstorm raging outside—let’s face it, who would ever know? But Nadia’s already met The One. She and Laurie have been together for years—they’re practically childhood sweethearts, and she still gets goosebumps at the sight of him. Okay, maybe she doesn’t see that much of him these days, but that’s not Laurie’s fault. She can’t betray him. Besides, when you belong to a family like the Kinsellas—bewitchingly glamorous grandmother Miriam, feckless mother Leonie, stop-at-nothing sister Clare—well, someone has to exercise a bit of self-control, don’t they? I mean, you wouldn’t want to do something that you might later regret.

I am getting to the end of the Mansell books that are available here in the United States (or more specifically at my library). I always enjoy her books for what they are -- light and fluffy. "Nadia Knows Best" did not disappoint.

Up next (or currently) is ... "Lake of Sorrows" by Erin Hart. Its the second book by Hart featuring pathologist Nora Gavin.

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Friday, May 07, 2010

Nashville flooding

I am sure you have read about and seen pictures of the devastating floods in the Nashville, Tennessee area. Dave, Jacob and I lived in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (just south of Nashville) for about two and half years. In fact, Jake is actually a Southerner by birth. ;) We are still in contact with a number of people who live there including my friend Katie.

Her Granddad and Great Aunt Cha Cha were particularly hard hit by the flooding. Please visit her blog (Shoemacres is the Place for Me) and keep them in your prayers.

(And if you happen to be in the Nashville area maybe you can lend a helping hand.)

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

R.I.P., Ernie Harwell

Ernie Harwell, the iconic voice of the Detroit Tigers, passed away last night after a nine month battle with cancer.

I admit to not being a great sports fan of any variety and I probably won't often post about sports. But you couldn't grow up in Detroit and not instantly recognize his voice. He was as much the voice of the entire city as he was the voice of the Detroit Tigers. He transcended sports because he was a class act in a city (and a sport) where there are very few who fit the bill.

In facing death, he was quoted as saying that death was the next great adventure and a gift handed down by God.

A class act to the end. Rest in peace, Mr. Harwell.

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Monday, May 03, 2010

Book #45 of 2010

Book #45 of 2010 was "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese.

Sister Mary Joseph Praise, a devout young nun, leaves the south Indian state of Kerala in 1947 for a missionary post in Yemen. During the arduous sea voyage, she saves the life of an English doctor bound for Ethiopia, Thomas Stone, who becomes a key player in her destiny when they meet up again at Missing Hospital in Addis Ababa. Seven years later, Sister Praise dies birthing twin boys: Shiva and Marion, the latter narrating his own and his brothers long, dramatic, biblical story set against the backdrop of political turmoil in Ethiopia, the life of the hospital compound in which they grow up and the love story of their adopted parents, both doctors at Missing.

As another person noted, the size of this book can seem a bit daunting. It is a hefty book and it took me longer than average to get through it. But it is worth the time invested into it. Verghese is a vivid storyteller who kept my attention even when describing intricate (and graphic) details of a surgery.

Up next is more fluff to balance out the seriousness ... "Nadia Knows Best" by Jill Mansell.

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Saturday, May 01, 2010

Contest alert!

When I hit Book #50 of 2010, I will be giving away a gift certificate to Amazon. There will rules and regulations and such but for now all you need to know is keep checking back

(Of course, it might take me a year to get to #50 because my current book is taking me forever. If I didn't mention before I am reading "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese. It is good but definitely not a quick read.)

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