Author: Kate Jacobs
Release Date: November 25, 2008
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Genre: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
From the dust jacket:
The sequel to the number-one New York Times bestseller The Friday Night Knitting Club, Knit Two returns to Walker and Daughter, the Manhattan knitting store founded by Georgia Walker and her young daughter, Dakota. Dakota is now an eighteen-year-old freshman at NYU, running the little yarn shop part-time with help from the members of the Friday Night Knitting Club.
Drawn together by the sense of family the club has created, the knitters rely on one another as they struggle with new challenges: for Catherine, finding love after divorce; for Darwin, the hope for a family; for Lucie, being both a single mom and a caregiver for her elderly mother; and for seventysomething Anita, a proposal of marriage from her sweetheart, Marty, that provokes the objections of her grown children.
As the club’s projects—an afghan, baby booties, a wedding coat—are pieced together, so is their understanding of the patterns underlying the stresses and joys of being mother, wife, daughter, and friend. Because it isn’t the difficulty of the garment that makes you a great knitter: it’s the care and attention you bring to the craft—as well as how you adapt to surprises.
This review contains spoilers of The Friday Night Knitting Club - if you haven't read it, please don't proceed!
I enjoyed The Friday Night Knitting Club and was really curious about its sequel, Knit Two. I approached this book with some trepidation though. How would Knit Two fare without Georgia, the beloved main character?
I was surprised to learn that Knit Two was actually still about Georgia, even though she passed away at the end of the first novel. In a lot of ways, this book was about coming to terms with Georgia's death, especially for Dakota and James. It's set five years after the first book, but those years haven't lessened the pain of losing Georgia any; if anything, they have become lost without her, not quite sure how to proceed in their lives.
My favorite story in this was probably Anita's. In these books, she is portrayed as the perfect matronly figure. It was nice to see her acknowledge a mistake she made in her past and try to rectify it. (I want to clarify: it's not that I liked seeing her make mistakes or anything like that, it's just that I enjoyed seeing her face a difficult situation from her past and conquer it with as much grace and dignity as she has shown throughout these books.)
I definitely sympathized with Catherine the least, and I can't really put my finger on why. I think I found her to be somewhat shallow. Also, she treated people badly, but then expected them to be there for her when she needed them. I understand that in some ways, she still hadn't recovered from Georgia's death, but I just wasn't sure what to make of her.
Knit Two is definitely a solid novel that fans of the original will enjoy. Is it as good as The Friday Night Knitting Club? Probably not. In fact, I probably wouldn't read it without having read the first novel. But if you have read the first novel, definitely read this one!
Author: Ellen Meister
Release Date: August 5, 2008
Publisher: Avon A
Genre: Chick Lit
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
From the back cover:
Bev is the Smart One, who finally leaves her artistic ambitions in chalk dust (and her humor-impaired husband in the arms—and legs—of his nubile protégée) to become a schoolteacher. Clare is the Pretty One, who married well and seems to be living a designer version of the suburban dream. Joey is the Wild One, struggling to stay clean and sober now that she's used up her fifteen minutes of fame as a one-hit-wonder rock star.
They love each other but mix like oil, water, and hundred-proof gin . . . a combination that threatens to combust over family tensions, suspected infidelities, a devastating accident, a stunning confession, and the sudden reappearance of their handsome, now all-grown-up former neighbor, Kenny Waxman, who's back in town making his mark as a TV comedy writer.
It seems they'll never understand where their differences begin and their own destructive tendencies end. Then it happens: the sisters discover a decades-old body stuffed inside an industrial drum and begin a bold, heartbreaking, and sometimes hilarious journey that will either bring them together . . . or tear them apart for good.I've heard good things about The Smart One by Ellen Meister, so I decided to go ahead and give it a try after leaving it languishing on my shelf for far too long. It was an enjoyable chick lit read about the relationships between sisters.
The Smart One was definitely a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the mystery portion of the novel - it added something extra to the classic chick lit formula. The discovery of the body and the suspicion that surrounds it are a real driving force in the novel. Though the entire "body in the industrial drum" storyline is actually secondary to the main plot of the book, I definitely felt like that was what was moving the story forward and creating a sense of urgency within the novel.
This book was very unique. These days, a lot of chick lit feels like it has been done over and over again. However, with The Smart One, I never felt like I was reading something that had been done before. The twist at the ending was also a very big surprise; Meister should be commended on her imagination and ability to write a very good story.
My one real complaint about The Smart One was the characters; I had trouble sympathizing with any of them. All three women seemed to be stuck in their stereotypes: the smart one, the pretty one, the wild one. They also didn't communicate with each other at all. Either they talked over/at one another or they didn't really listen to what the other sisters are saying. Now, sisters do have some trouble getting along and communicating, I can vouch for this with my own sister. But as we've gotten older and become adults, we've started communicating better and realizing that the other person is more complex and varied than we gave them credit for. It's the nature of growing up. So, then, why is Bev 35 years old but still doesn't realize there is more to her sister Clare than just being a pretty face? And why, when Clare tries to open up to her about her issues, does Bev immediately jump to judging her? (Not that what Clare was doing was ok, but I think her message would have gotten across more effectively had she been a little more understanding of the situation.) I'm not saying that people should be perfect, but by the age of 35 I would hope I had learned more nuance than is portrayed in this book. These issues would have been more believable had the sisters been closer to 25. (I realize I might be alone in this judgment and I might expect too much of people, but this did really bother me).
Still, The Smart One is an enjoyable book that anyone with a sister would probably enjoy. And in case you (like me) were wondering what exactly an industrial drum is, here is a picture:
Ok, I have a confession. I wasn't really looking forward to this episode. After last week's craziness, I just wanted to see what happened with everyone now that they're back on the island. But after seeing "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham," I'm really impressed! It was a great episode.
First, I can't believe how evil Ben is! I mean, yes I can, but him killing Locke was just crazy. I think he just wanted to figure out how to get back to the island and then when he found out, killed Locke, not knowing that was most likely the island's plan all along.
I think Locke actually came back to life - I don't think it's a Christian Shephard ghost type thing. But I'm sure we'll find out soon enough!
I'm glad they resolved the Matthew Abaddon storyline, I'm a fan of Lance Reddick (he's on Fringe now) and I was afraid that because of that, he wasn't going to make another appearance on LOST.
It was nice to see Walt again. I'm assuming he'll have to come back to the island soon, and I think it was interesting that Walt was dreaming about Locke's return. Do the other people from the plane want to kill him or was it just that they're suspicious because they don't know where he came from?
Ben was injured in the plane crash - very interesting. Obviously, the island is completely finished with him.
This episode really raised the question of who is "good" - Ben or Charles Widmore? Ben certainly isn't winning our trust right now, but let's not forget that Widmore sent people to the island to grab Ben and (most likely) kill everyone else on the island. I think that they're both simply trying to acheive their own ends, no matter what the cost.
I'm starting to think that the overall plot on the island is going to move towards trying to stop the purge of the Dharma-ites by Ben and Co. Assuming Widmore was their leader before Ben, is it possible that he ordered their murder? Who knows. Anyways, this was a great episode and I can't wait for next week!
In honor of A.R. Rahman's two Academy Award wins on Sunday night, I decided to feature one of his Bollywood albums this week. Dil Se has become a modern classic in India. The music is just amazingly beautiful, and the tracks are so different. Even if you are unfamiliar with this album, you might recognize the first song, "Chaiyya Chaiyya." It's an immensely popular song and was featured at the beginning of the Clive Owen movie Inside Man. Its got an amazing beat, and is a staple at any Indian party - it'll make you want to dance! "Jiya Jale" has more of a classical twist while still being modern (and I have to say, if you find the video, Shah Rukh Khan looks good in this song), while "Dil Se Re" and "Satrangi Re" both have great rhythms and are just incredible songs. My favorite, though, is "E Ajnabi" - it's got this quiet beauty and is such a powerful song, even if you don't understand the words (which I don't - though I'm Indian, I speak Telugu, not Hindi. Most people from India speak Hindi, but since I was born and brought up in the US, I don't!).
For a second entry, blog about the contest and link back here. For a third entry, Stumble a review of mine and leave a comment telling me which review you Stumbled. (Don't know what StumbleUpon is? Go here for an explanation.)
Unfortunately, due to shipping costs, this contest is open to US & Canada only. Giveaway ends on Monday, March 9 at 11:59 PM. Good luck!
Author: Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
Release Date: April 1, 1995
Publisher: DC Comics
Genre: Graphic Novel
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
From the publisher's website:
It all begins with the paranoid delusions of a half-insane hero called Rorschach. But is Rorschach really insane or has he in fact uncovered a plot to murder super-heroes and, even worse, millions of innocent civilians? On the run from the law, Rorschach reunites with his former teammates in a desperate attempt to save the world and their lives, but what they uncover will shock them to their very core and change the face of the planet! Following two generations of masked superheroes from the close of World War II to the icy shadow of the Cold War comes this groundbreaking comic story — the story of The Watchmen.
I honestly had no idea what to expect when I picked up Watchmen. My husband had read it and loved it, and said we were definitely going to see the movie when it comes out. I wanted to make sure to tackle the book first. I knew it had been one of Time's Top 100 Books since 1923, and I have heard over and over again how amazing the novel is. Therefore, my expectations were pretty high. I also figured, being a graphic novel, it would be a bit easier to read than a regular novel. Boy was I wrong!
First of all, Watchmen was really hard for me to read. I'm not sure if I underestimated it for being a graphic novel or the plot was just more complicated than usual, but either way I had to go back and review things multiple times. I also found the format incredibly difficult. I've never read a graphic novel before, so I figured that all the pictures would make it easier to read. What I didn't realize is that pictures means an extra thing to concentrate on. While it's not necessary to study each picture carefully, they are an important part of the storytelling and you can't simply skip them. Therefore, it actually took me a lot longer than I expected to complete Watchmen and I was exhausted at the end of it. I wonder if I should have read it in smaller sections, rather than trying to tackle the whole book at once?
The storyline was actually really good. The characters were very well developed. Like I said earlier, I had no idea what to expect from a graphic novel, so I pretty much held it to the same standards as a regular novel. It passed with flying colors. I loved the idea that this was an anti-superhero story. It gave the characters so much depth and so many flaws to overcome. You find yourself rooting for characters that seem to be pretty awful people, but there is always something underneath.
My only real complaint about the novel is the ending. I didn't like it. It's so unsatisfying and I just wasn't a fan of the whole explanation of what was going on. But then again, it fits with the tone of the entire novel. It wasn't written to be satisfying or what the readers want - it was written tell a good story and to be provocative, and it is definitely that.
Watchmen is by no means an easy read. It's dense, and if you're used to flying through regular novels like I am, this novel is going to seem like a stumbling block. The story is intricate and complicated. My expectations may have been too high going in, but Watchmen is definitely a novel worth reading.
Amy @ Passages to the Past
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Author: Linda Olsson
Release Date: February 24, 2009
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
Genre: Mystery, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
From the front flap:
On a midsummer day in Auckland, New Zealand, two events occur that will change composer Adam Anker's life forever. As a result, Adam embarks on a journey to uncover his family's past that takes him from New Zealand to Krakow, Poland, where he learns of his parents' fate during World War II, and finally to Sweden. There he meets the mother of his child for the first time in over twenty years and must face the impossible choice she once forced him to make.
Linda Olsson's first novel, Astrid and Veronika, introduced readers to her gorgeous prose and her extraordinary understanding of human relationships. In Sonata for Miriam, she once again charts that terrain that also explores the significant impact of history on individual lives.
The first thing I have to say about Sonata for Miriam is about the writing. Linda Olsson's prose is, quite simply, beautiful. The writing is lyrical, almost if Olsson is composing a song to the music in her mind. It seems to smooth out the storyline, cloaking everything in her gorgeous words. I think Sonata for Miriam is worth reading just for the amazing writing, but fortunately, the novel has other positive qualities as well.
Sonata for Miriam seems to have two plots running through the course of the novel, set off by the mysterious occurrence concerning Adam's daughter, Miriam. The first is the secret behind Adam's family history. Adam never knew anything about his mother's family and decides that the time has come for him to reconnect with his past. The second concerns Miriam's mother, Cecelia, and the circumstances in which she left Adam. As much of the novel is written to Cecelia (referring to her as "you"), I would argue that this is actually the more important of the two storylines. The first is something Adam needs to face before he is ready to confront Cecelia.
I really enjoyed reading about Adam's journey to find his "lost" past. As each layer of the past was peeled back, the reader (and Adam) discovered more information, more pieces of an incomplete puzzle. It was a well-written mystery, and when the final pieces were in place, it really paid off. For me, that was definitely the hook of the novel that kept me interested and moved the story along.
Once Adam has discovered the truth about his past, it is time to move on to Cecelia. This is where the only jarring transition occurs in the book; the narrator completely switches for no apparent reason about 3/4 of the way through the book. After reading Cecelia's story, it is understandable why Olsson chose to do this - only Cecelia could properly relate her own tale. While this is arguably the most emotional part of the novel, the whole transition didn't sit well with me. I felt like it happened too late in the book to really make sense.
I enjoyed Sonata for Miriam, despite the odd narrator choices. It's a beautifully written and moving book with a mystery that really drives the novel forward and keeps the reader hooked. I definitely want to go back and read Olsson's debut novel Astrid and Veronika.
Author: Dorothy Koomson
Release Date: March 25, 2008
Genre: Women's Fiction
Review: Originally posted at Curled Up With a Good Book
Rating: 4 out of 5
Kamryn Matika’s life is in shambles. Two years after she discovered her (former) best friend, Adele, had slept with her (former) fiancé, Nate, she has finally begun to accept what life dealt her and move forward. That all comes screeching to a halt when Adele manages to contact her, despite Kamryn’s attempts to cut off all communication. Adele is in the hospital dying and needs someone to care for her child, Tigan – Nate’s daughter, now five years old. As Kamryn comes to grips with this request and is reunited with Tigan, whom she always adored but could no longer bear to be around once the truth was revealed, her life begins to spiral out of control.
It doesn’t help that Kamryn’s beloved boss is retiring and that she was overlooked to replace him. If that’s not bad enough, it’s clear that her new boss, Luke, despises her for no reason – though she suspects it might have something to do with the way she looks. Add to that the fact that Nate seems to be interested in contacting her again (though he has no idea that Tigan is his daughter) and also, if Kamryn agrees to take on Tigan, there is a good chance she will not be allowed to legally adopt her because of race – a black woman adopting a Caucasian girl is difficult at best. As Kamryn plunges headfirst into chaos, she is surprised to discover the depths of her love for Tigan, as well as her capacity for forgiveness.
My Best Friend's Girl is an extremely interesting novel that deals with several serious issues. Physical abuse is discussed in the novel, although it isn’t really explored as a topic.
However, race does play a major role in the book. Because Kamryn is black and Tigan is white, the adoption process is best with difficult issues and hurdles. The social aspect of race tensions also infuses the narrative. In one situation, someone assumes that she is the “help” rather than Tigan’s guardian simply because of her race. At one point, someone comes just short of accusing her of kidnapping because the sight of a black mother and Caucasian daughter is so incongruous. It is an interesting but subtle exploration into race relations and underlying assumptions. It would have been interesting if Koomson could have explored these areas further, but it might have taken away from the storyline she is trying to present.
Most impressive is how the narrative ropes the reader in - this is one of those books that you stay up late in the night to read because not knowing the outcome before sleep is unbearable. Koomson keeps the reader guessing, making sure that the plot outcome isn’t blindingly obvious. In books like this, the plots are usually predictable, though enjoyable. Koomson surprises from the first few chapters. The twists and turns she takes, as well as what becomes the major conflict of the story, is unexpected and elicits the joy of being surprised.
I would recommend My Best Friend's Girl to any fans of chick lit and women’s fiction, as well as those who enjoy stories about best friends. It is solid and very enjoyable.
If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I got my official acceptance to the Oxford summer program this week! I'll be spending the month of July taking classes at Oxford University, and (hopefully) taking as many day trips as possible. I'm SO excited, and you can bet I'll be blogging from there!
This week, I did the TV Meme, participated in Teaser Tuesdays and Wordless Wednesdays, finally did the Interview Meme, posed my LOST recap, talked about the talented Kelly Sweet on Thursday Tunes, and participated in Booking Through Thursday.
Now, onto the stats!
Books I read this week:
The Writing on My Forehead - Nafisa Haji
The Trial and Death of Socrates - Plato (re-read for school)
Knit Two - Kate Jacobs
Sonata for Miriam - Linda Olsson
The Seance - John Harwood
Ingrid: Ingrid Bergman, A Personal Biography - Charlotte Chandler
The Chocolate Run - Dorothy Koomson
Delicate Edible Birds and Other Stories - Lauren Groff
The Watchmen - Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
Other reviews posted this week:
The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Dehli, 1857 - William Dalrymple [review]
Posed for Murder - Meredith Cole [review]
One True Theory of Love - Laura Fitzgerald [review]
The School of Essential Ingredients - Erica Bauermeister [review]
The Fire Gospel - Michael Faber [review]
The Pluto Files - Neil de Grasse Tyson [review]
Author: Neil deGrasse Tyson
Release Date: January 26, 2009
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
From the dust jacket:
In August 2006, the International Astronomical Union voted Pluto out of planethood. Far from the sun, tiny, and eccentric in orbit, it's a wonder Pluto has any fans. Yet during the mounting debate over Pluto's status, Americans rallied behind the extraterrestrial underdog. The year of Pluto's discovery, Disney created an irresistible pup by the same name, and, as one NASA scientist put it, Pluto was "discovered by an American for America." Pluto is entrenched in our cultural, patriotic view of the cosmos, and Neil deGrasse Tyson is on a quest to discover why.
Only Tyson can tell this story: he was involved in the first exhibits to demote Pluto, and, consequently, Pluto lovers have freely shared their opinions with him, including endless hate mail from third graders. In his typically witty way, Tyson explores the history of planet classification and America's obsession with the "planet" that's recently been judged a dwarf.
I have a confession: I have a small crush on Neil deGrasse Tyson. He's ridiculously smart and has a great sense of humor - who wouldn't want to hang out with a guy who has embraced his inner nerd-ness enough to wear this vest?
In The Pluto Files, Neil (I have decided we are on first-name basis) takes us through the short and sad history of Pluto, seemingly everyone's favorite planet (mine is actually Jupiter, but who's counting?) He chronicles Pluto's discovery and centers on the fact that it was the only planet discovered by an American. This became a prime reason there was so much resistance in this country to its demotion from "planet" status.
This book is really funny. Neil obviously has a great sense of humor and he never takes himself too seriously throughout the course of the book. He reproduces angry letters from seven-year-olds that he received during the Pluto debates and comments on the fierce affection people felt for our strange and awkward cousin of a 9th planet.
I recently reviewed Neil's book Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries [review] and absolutely loved it (of course). The Pluto Files is much less science-y; instead it focuses on the pop culture of the planet Pluto and the hilarity that ensued once he "demoted" Pluto. Of course there is some science in it - Neil makes his case very strongly as to why Pluto doesn't fit in with the rest of the planets. But it's incredibly easy to read, enjoyable, and doesn't take nearly as much brain power as you'd think.
The Pluto Files is also a gorgeous book. It is full of illustrations and pictures to enhance the reading experience (my favorite are the captions, in which Tyson often pokes fun at himself). It's also relatively short, which makes it that much easier to read.
I highly recommend The Pluto Files to anyone and everyone, especially if you are trying to read more non-fiction. It's a great and fun read, and you can't go wrong with Neil deGrasse Tyson. Seriously. LOVE him.
Author: Michael Faber
Release Date: January 6, 2009
Challenge: 2009 Pub Challenge, A to Z Challenge
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Satire
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
From the publisher's website:
Theo Griepenkerl, a Canadian linguistics scholar, is sent to Iraq in search of artifacts that have survived the destruction and looting of the war. While visiting a museum in Mosul, he finds nine papyrus scrolls tucked in the belly of a bas-relief sculpture: they have been perfectly preserved for more than two thousand years. After smuggling them out of Iraq and translating them from Aramaic, Theo realizes the extent of his career-making find, for he is in possession of the Fifth Gospel, and it offers a shocking and incomparable eyewitness account of Christ’s crucifixion and last days on Earth. Nakedly ambitious and recently dumped by his girlfriend, Theo sets out to share his discovery with the world in the form of a headline-grabbing U.S. book tour. Caught in the throes of his newfound fame, Theo fails to consider the global and cultural ramifications his discovery will have with God-fearing folks and religious zealots worldwide. Like Prometheus’s gift of fire, Theo’s book has incendiary consequences. A hugely entertaining, and by turns shocking story, The Fire Gospel is a smart, stylish, and suspenseful novel by the celebrated author of The New York Times best seller The Crimson Petal and the White.
I have to say, I really enjoyed The Fire Gospel. The book is basically a smart satire on the entire The Da Vinci Code historical thriller genre. In many of these types of books, the main character is noble, often fighting for mankind against the forces of evil. They have no interest in personal gain (Indiana Jones' "This belongs in a museum!" comes to mind.) Theo, on the other hand, is selfish and very ambitious. The bottom line is that he wants to be rich and famous. He really doesn't have much of an interest in educating the world or the truth.
I also loved the scenes during which Theo is translating the gospel. He constantly laments on how boring Malchus, the author, is. Yes, there are some "gems" within the gospel, but generally it really is just Malchus being boring. Every time one of these "church conspiracy" type books is published, the information is always shocking and very neatly worded. It's never long-winded or boring.
The fire storm after the gospel is published is what I've really been interested in. Too often, the historical thriller books end with the discovery (1) being buried or hidden because people aren't ready for the "truth" or (2) the book ends right before they are about to go public with the information. I loved reading about Theo's never ending book tour, how he was just like any other author. The mundane nature of the entire second half of the book overshadowed the nature of his amazing archaeological find. The fake Amazon.com reviews are an added bonus. The ending is a bit strange, but I guess it goes along with the story.
The reactions of the people are really what this book is about. At its core, The Fire Gospel is a retelling of the Prometheus myth - Prometheus steals fire from the gods and gives it to man. Then he's chained to a mountain as a punishment and vultures peck out his liver. (Theo brings a gospel to the world and enraged people etc. peck at him). This book is part of the Myths series: "The Myths gathers a diverse group of the finest writers of our time to provide a contemporary take on our most enduring myths. From the outset the idea was to approach writers from around the world and invite them to retell any myth in any way they chose." I think this idea sounds incredibly interesting and am going to check out more of these books. [website]
As you can probably tell, I read a lot of these "historical thrillers." I see them as brain candy and I love escaping every once in awhile. But I also liked The Fire Gospel. It pokes fun at the formulaic nature of these books. However, it is also very short, so it wraps everything up before the satire gets old and boring (though, like I said, the ending is just weird). Really, anyone who read and marvelled at the ridiculousness of The Da Vinci Code (on literary grounds, not on religious grounds) would probably enjoy The Fire Gospel.
Author: Erica Bauermeister
Release Date: January 22, 2009
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
From the dust jacket:
The School of Essential Ingredients follows the lives of eight students who gather in Lillian’s Restaurant every Monday night for cooking class. It soon becomes clear, however, that each one seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. Students include Claire, a young mother struggling with the demands of her family; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer learning to adapt to life in America; and Tom, a widower mourning the loss of his wife to breast cancer. Chef Lillian, a woman whose connection with food is both soulful and exacting, helps them to create dishes whose flavor and techniques expand beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of her students’ lives. One by one the students are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of Lillian’s food, including a white-on-white cake that prompts wistful reflections on the sweet fragility of love and a peppery heirloom tomato sauce that seems to spark one romance but end another. Brought together by the power of food and companionship, the lives of the characters mingle and intertwine, united by the revealing nature of what can be created in the kitchen.
If you've traveled around the book blogosphere lately, you have probably heard about Erica Bauermeister's The School of Essential Ingredients. I've read rave review after rave review of this book, to the point where I approached it with some trepidation. What if my expectations were too high? Would the book disappoint me? I honestly wasn't really sure what to think when I opened the book and turned to the first page.
I have to say, The School of Essential Ingredients deserves every bit of praise that it has been getting. Were my expectations too high? Maybe. But that doesn't change the fact that the novel is gorgeously written. Bauermeister's writing style is beautiful; the words are lush and wrap around you like a cozy blanket. Her prose leaves the reader feeling warm inside.
The book is awash with details that will definitely arouse the reader's senses. Don't read this book when you are hungry; it will probably be unbearable. As it was, I found myself craving the dishes they were making. It definitely left me with a new appreciation for the power of food and will probably inspire people to cook more and to enroll in a cooking class, though I don't think anyone will find a class quite like Lillian's.
The characters were also an integral part of The School of Essential Ingredients and they were all written very well. Each had their own story, their own hurts from which to heal. One would think that a book that featured this many characters would be a heavy tome. But The School of Essential Ingredients is a slip of a book; I don't know how Bauermeister managed to develop so many characters in so few pages, but she accomplished the task admirably. Erica Bauermeister seems to have the same magic with words as Lillian, the main character, has with food.
I definitely would not miss The School of Essential Ingredients. The book is so well written and enjoyable that it can't possibly disappoint. The expectations are high for this book, yes, but it deserves all the praise that has been heaped upon it.
This week’s question is suggested by Kat:
My books are generally arranged by genre/theme. For example, all my non-fiction books are grouped together, but then my NASA books have their own grouping within the non-fiction books. I also have an "India" area, where all my books about India reside, but these are sub-categorized by author (Rushdie books together, Jhumpa Lahiri books together, Indu Sundaresan books together, etc.) So I guess I can say that my books are arranged by genre and grouped by author.
I recently got new bookshelves for my room, and I’m just loving them. Spent the afternoon putting up my books and sharing it on my blog . One of my friends asked a question and I thought it would be a great BTT question. So from Tina & myself, we’d like to know “How do you arrange your books on your shelves? Is it by author, by genre, or you just put it where it falls on?”
That's my living room bookshelf. Now, the bookshelf in my guest bedroom/reading room is arranged three ways: there are the books I need to review, the books I haven't read, and the books I need to find a new home for. There's not much arranging beyond this, in terms of genre or author. And there are definitely books I haven't read out in the living room, but generally once I know I want to read them soon, I move them onto the other bookshelf.
Whew! To me it's simple, but when I spell it out like that it seems much more complicated!
Welcome to the Thursday Tunes! Each week, I will showcase music, whether new or old. Hopefully you will find something that interests you here!
This week, Thursday Tunes is all about Kelly Sweet, a contemporary singer who adds a touch of classical and jazz to her songs. Her voice is crystal clear and very beautiful, a great accompaniment to her mellow, low key songs. The way her songs are arranged ensures that nothing overshadows her jaw-dropping voice. (I'm a big fan of this new trend, which is a mixture of pop, classical, and jazz - I think it's great to listen to.)
Kelly currently has one album out, entitled We Are One, which is available for purchase from the Amazon MP3 Store for $8.99. My two favorite songs off this album are "Dream On," which is a cover of Aerosmith's hit song, and "Now We Are Free" which is a cover of Lisa Gerrard's song (if you've seen Gladiator, you'll probably recognize this song!). "We are One" and "Raincoat" are also wonderful, as is the entire album!
Ok, first of all...PLEASE TELL ME PENNY IS OK! When Ben said that he had a loose end to tie up, I had an incredibly bad feeling. Then he calls Jack from a payphone by the water all bloodied - not a good sign! We know that Ben vowed to kill Penny because Charles Widmore's men killed Alex. I really really really hope I'm way off base here, or that Desmond beat the crap out of Ben and he and Penny boated away safely.
So now Ben does actually get to go back to the island? I thought the person who moves the island doesn't get to go back? I can understand the exception for Locke because he is dead, but Ben? Maybe it's because he wasn't supposed to move the island in the first place? Or maybe he was just lying to Locke because he wanted the honor of moving the island.
What in the world did Sayid get arrested for? Did they figure out he was responsible for killing all the guys that they thought Hurley killed?
What happened to Aaron? We know that Claire told Kate not to bring Aaron back to the island last season. Did she leave him with Claire's mother, since we know she's in LA? And why did Sun leave her daughter behind?
I LOVED that Frank was the pilot - I was actually sad because I didn't think we'd be seeing him again. Hopefully he survived the "crash" and we'll be seeing him again soon. The other two new cast members (the air marshal and the guy who spoke to Jack in line at the airport) should be interesting as well.
Overall, I thought this episode was really great. The opening scene blew my mind! I'm so glad that they're back on the island, I thought the writers were going to drag this whole thing out much longer. As for the preview for next week, I can't really say I'm absolutely captivated by the whole Locke thing, though I'm hoping there will be plenty of scenes from the island. The reunion with Jin was awesome and I'm hoping we'll get to see more reunions next week!
1) What is one of your favorite books you read as a child?
Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series, to the point where these books remain my some of my favorite books into adulthood. Admittedly, they have some annoying characters, but the thing I loved most about them when I was a kid was that they really made me think. There are subtle connections between different books and different scenes in the same book. Sometimes, one book will refer to something that was described vaguely in another book - I loved hunting for these connections, and I discovered something new every time I read them.
2) If you were stuck in a hostage situation, which fictional character would you want with you?
Hmm...probably Hermione Granger. I'd just make her apparate us out of there! (I'd pick any of the other Harry Potter characters, except I know Hermione would get it right and I wouldn't end up leaving body parts behind!)
3) What is one of your favorite vacation memories?
Probably the first time my husband (then boyfriend) and I went to New York. I had mentioned early in our relationship that I had wanted to see The Lion King (the musical) for years. He surprised me with a New York trip and Lion King tickets!
4) What is one of the things you are most proud of in your life?
The Hindu Temple in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Back in high school, I was extremely involved with the Indian community in Tulsa. When we were raising money to build the temple, I did whatever I could to help. When we finally built the temple, every time we had a function there, my friends and I would be behind the scenes serving food, decorating, cleaning up, doing anything and everything we could to help out. I also taught dance with a very close friend of mine to younger kids. I'm really proud of the contribution we made to the temple and to the community!
5) If President Obama said you could decide what to do with 100 billion dollars of the stimulus package, what would you designate it to?
I would ask him to put it towards schools. I recognize that the problems with the education system are complex, and throwing money at it isn't going to solve anything. But public education is so important! I hate the idea that your entire future can be determined, in a large part, by where you go to school. Granted, all schools are never going to be equal. But teachers need to be paid more and crumbling schools need to be rebuilt. Schools need textbooks and computers. Some of our public schools are amazing - I'd love it if some of the stimulus money could go towards at least trying to make them all that way!
Here are the meme rules, in case you want to participate:
Author: Laura Fitzgerald
Release Date: February 3, 2009
Genre: Chick Lit
Rating: 4 out of 5
From the back cover:
Meg Clark believes in the "hokey pokey" theory of life, which demands that you put your whose self in; she even teaches it to her kindergarten students. But after the love of her life betrays her, and her father takes a flying leap off the pedestal she set him on, Meg has a hard time putting this theory into practice. What's the point of opening yourself up if your heart comes back a little more broken each time?
Now only one man receives Meg's full devotion: her nine-year-old son, Henry. She's happy with her single-mom life. She and Henry re taking on the world in their own lively way, and it's enough. Still, sometimes love finds you, whether you're ready or not.
Love comes to Meg in the form of Ahmed Bourhani, an exotically handsome Iranian-American who befriends her and Henry over a game of chess in a coffee shop. Meg knows that second chances require a leap of faith, and the result is more often a complicated mixed bag than a neatly packaged happily-ever-after. Sometimes in order to heal you have to hurt, but most of all you have to live your life and put your whole self in...
One True Theory of Love is a sweet, romantic story about a woman who needs to come to terms with the hurts of her past in order to be able to move forward in life. Meg is a great, complicated character, though she wears so much of her emotion on the surface. It's easy to underestimate her, and indeed, she underestimates herself more often than not. Meg is a very well-written woman and an extremely likable character that is easy to relate to.
At the beginning of One True Theory of Love, I wasn't entirely certain how to classify this novel. The description seemed like it was a book about a woman's need to live again after being crippled by past hurts, but the first few chapters of the book screamed "romance novel." The book equalized into equal parts romance and self-discovery after that (hence, why I classified it as chick lit). I quickly realized, though, that Meg is in no way crippled emotionally. While she was hurt deeply in the past, she decided to live happily rather than collapse into a bitter shell of a person. It's an amazing example of how to pick yourself back up after a huge setback. What I really liked about it is that it was in no way preachy; she didn't choose to live freely and happily because she is better than the rest of us. Meg did it because she had a son to think about, and she knew she was at a crossroads in her life. It really is a testament to the power of optimism!
Ahmed was an interesting character. I actually really liked the way he was treated in this book. He was Iranian-American. He got some questions about his culture; there were maybe a few pages discussing his feelings on Iran. But generally speaking, the only way the reader remembered that he was of a different background was because of his name. This isn't a book about a different culture, about what separates us. Instead, it was about what Ahmed and Meg have in common - their love for one another. I think this treatment stems from the fact that the author's husband is Iranian American. (Don't get me wrong, I adore multicultural fiction - it's one of my favorite things to read. But sometimes I enjoy reading about people's similarities rather than their differences!)
There were definitely some issues within the book - Meg's lack of closure, Ahmed's general distrust - but these are human issues that Fitzgerald writes very well. Neither of the character are perfect (which can sometimes be frustrating for the reader), but then again, if they were perfect then where would the enjoyment be in reading about them? In the end, One True Theory of Love is a very sweet novel about living life to its fullest and about putting your whole self in.
Thank you to Jennifer for sending me a copy of this book to review!
1. Name a TV show series in which you have seen every episode at least twice: The West Wing, Stargate SG-1
2. Name a show you can’t miss: LOST, Battlestar Galactica
3. Name an actor that would make you more inclined to watch a show: Any actor from a show I previously loved (as long as I liked the character they played!)
4. Name an actor who would make you less likely to watch a show: Sarah Jessica Parker and Debra Messing (sorry, can't stand either of them).
5. Name a show you can, and do, quote from: The West Wing and Friends ("You know, it's like a cow's opinion. It's moo.")
6. Name a show you like that no one else enjoys: Well, I'm sure other people love(d) these shows, but Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis! I love my sci-fi TV!
7. Name a TV show which you’ve been known to sing the theme song: The only song I can think of is Gilmore Girls, and I know that song really well!
8. Name a show you would recommend everyone to watch: Battlestar Galactica. It's one of those that people are turned off by because of the sci-fi name, but it's so much more than aliens and shooting!
9. Name a TV series you own: The West Wing, Friends, The 4400, Arrested Development, Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, The Tudors, LOST, Firefly, From the Earth to the Moon (miniseries)
10. Name an actor who launched his/her entertainment career in another medium, but has surprised you with his/her acting choices in television: Patrick Stewart. He's such a Shakespearean actor, I'm surprised he did Star Trek!
11. What is your favourite episode of your favourite series? Ok, I don't really have a favorite series! I love too many!
12. Name a show you keep meaning to watch, but you just haven’t gotten around to yet: Weeds, Ugly Betty, Veronica Mars
13. Ever quit watching a show because it was so bad? Private Practice, Grey's Anatomy, Brothers and Sisters, Heroes...(I know there are more, I just can't think of any)
14. Name a show that’s made you cry multiple times: Stargate SG-1 - why oh why do they keep killing off Daniel Jackson??
15. What do you eat when you watch TV? Dinner.
16. How often do you watch TV? We usually watch The Daily Show during dinner, and then an episode or two of something if we're free after dinner! I also usually watch something during lunch.
17. What’s the last TV show you watched? Fringe
18. What’s your favourite/preferred genre of TV? Sci-Fi/Drama
19. What was the first TV show you were obsessed with? Star Trek: The Next Generation
20. What TV show do you wish you never watched? Sex and the City
21. What’s the weirdest show you enjoyed? Babylon 5
22. What TV show scared you the most? X-Files
23. What is the funniest TV show you have ever watched? Arrested Development
24) What show was cancelled too early? Firefly, Arrested Development and the 4400
TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
- Grab your current read.
- Let the book fall open to a random page.
- Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
- You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
- Please avoid spoilers!
- Knit Two, Kate Jacobs, p. 53
Author: Meredith Cole
Release Date: February 17, 2009
Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur
Rating: 4 5 out of 5
From the dust jacket:
Lydia McKenzie is an artist whose medium is the camera. She’s having her first one-woman show. It is a series that ties to actual murders committed in the city’s past. Her method is to find a model—someone who can match in a general way the actual female victim—and pose her in the clothes and position in which the actual victim was found. The night of her showing, however, is disappointing; the owner of the gallery makes her pay for the invitations down to the stamps, hang the whole show herself, and rush for the usual wine and snacks. But what happens next is much worse: two plainclothes policemen shut down the event and take Lydia in for questioning. A young woman whom she knew well, and who was the model in one of her photographs, has been murdered. Worried that the police aren’t doing what they should, Lydia and another friend set out to find the killer.
Meredith Cole is one of the 2009 Debs at The Debutante Ball. If you haven't heard of The Debutante Ball, it's a group blog which features debut authors. I've either read or plan to read all the books they have featured or recommended and they have never once steered me wrong. I highly recommend checking it out if you haven't already!
Posed for Murder is the first mystery I've read in some time. I do enjoy mysteries, but I hate it when I figure out the ending halfway through the book, which is something that happens all too often. Posed for Murder, however, was a completely different story. In my arrogance, I thought I had the murders solved multiple times throughout the novel; however, Cole always threw me for a loop and moved in an entirely different direction. The ending was definitely a surprise, and a well-written one at that. Cole's storytelling ability and imagination should be commended; the entire book is a delight to read!
I also loved the main character, Lydia. She was so strong and resilient, but the best part is that she didn't even realize it. She felt weak in her situation and decided to do something about it by asking questions and finding out as much as she could about the murders. She didn't intend to become an amateur detective, but she couldn't imagine doing nothing and just waiting for the murderer to strike again. I think Lydia is a testament to the power within us; she is dealt an incredible blow in life but she doesn't let it stop her. She is strong because she has to be, because to her being anything else just isn't an option. I feel like if I were to meet Lydia one day and tell her "I admire you because you were so strong in the face of such horrible occurrences," she would say, "I'm not strong, I just did what I had to do!"
Meredith Cole is a great writer, and I hope we'll be seeing more from her soon. Posed for Murder was definitely left with some loose ends, and I hope that means this is the start to a series. I would love to read more about Lydia, and with Meredith Cole's imagination and writing ability, any sequels are sure to be just as great as the original!
Thank you to Meredith for sending me a copy of this book to review!
Edit: After writing this review, I happened upon a post at the Debutante Ball in which Meredith Cole discusses the second book in the SERIES - so it will be a series!
Author: William Dalrymple
Release Date: March 27, 2007
Review: Originally posted at Curled Up With a Good Book
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
William Dalrymple’s The Last Mughal is an incredibly detailed picture of the Indian sepoy rebellion against the British East India Trading Company in Delhi in 1857. The book centers on the last Mughal Emperor, Zafar. Though he was a Sufi mystic, a poet and a scholar, he was not an adequate war-time leader. By the time the rebellion occurred, Zafar was eighty; some say he was senile. Dalrymple paints a picture in which Zafar was forced to side with the mutineers because of a lack of options. He makes Zafar’s role in the Uprising a reluctant one.
The power of the Mughals had also eroded drastically by the time the Uprising occurred. At its height, the Mughal empire controlled the entire Indian subcontinent. By Zafar’s time, he barely had power over the Red Fort in Delhi. Though the East India Trading Company had to have Zafar’s permission in order to operate in India, they actually held most of the power by this point.
The remarkable thing about Dalrymple’s account is its sources. While he does draw from conventional accounts, he also uses “lost” sources that are being used for the first time. Dalrymple is effusive regarding “The Mughal Papers,” documents that show the Uprising from the Indian point of view. In this way, Dalrymple manages to composes a new, more complete picture of an important part of Indian history. He tries to make The Last Mughal as balanced a narrative as possible.
This is an important book for people wishing to understand the plight facing India today. Many Hindus today speak negatively of the Mughals, of the Muslims lording over the Hindus in India. However, in the 1800s, the Hindus saw the Mughals as the legitimate leaders of India. It is telling that although the Uprising was a mostly Hindu rebellion, they asked for the blessings of the Muslim leader of India. It is clear that Muslims and Hindus once lived side by side peaceably; Hindus attended Muslim madrassas, which were legitimate schools. So what happened to this friendship? Dalrymple ascribes this change to the “divide and rule” strategy of the British.
Though this book is excellently written and full of rich detail, The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857 is not for everyone. Sometimes the intricate details can overwhelm the finished product; Dalrymple loses the narrative at times. The book is also quite dense and slow-moving. If you are not very interested in the topic, it will most likely lose the reader in the first 100 pages. Finally, Dalrymple wraps the book up a little too quickly – more time could have been spent placing the Uprising in a larger historical context. The reader definitely needs to have some knowledge of Indian history in order to appreciate this book.
Still, The Last Mughal is remarkable in its detail and attention to history. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in Indian history.
Friday night, I went out with some friends from school and it was a little bit of a fiasco. Now that I look back on it, it was actually really funny - I'll have to tell you guys the story at some point!
review][entry page]. The book giveaway ends February 22, so make sure to enter if you haven't already!
This week, I wrote about six things that make me happy, the Amazon Kindle 2, 10 things I like that start with the letter "S", an overview of StumbleUpon, a review of the latest LOST episode "This Place is Death", the new Shopaholic movie, and the book blog survey results.
This week's Thursday Tunes featured James Morrison, a wonderful jazz/blues singer. I also participated in Teaser Tuesdays, Wordless Wednesdays, and Booking Through Thursday.
Now, onto the stats!
Books I've read this week:
Civilization and its Discontents - Sigmund Freud [school]
Marshmallows for Breakfast - Dorothy Koomson
One True Theory of Love - Laura Fitzgerald
The Pluto Files - Neil deGrasse Tyson
The Kingmaking - Helen Hollick
Posed for Murder - Meredith Cole
The School of Essential Ingredients - Erica Bauermeister
Just Breathe - Susan Wiggs
The Smart One - Ellen Meister
The Last Lecture - Randy Pausch
Reviews posted this week:
The View from Garden City - Carolyn Baugh [review]
Bound South - Susan Rebecca White [review]
The Book of Unholy Mischief - Elle Newmark [review]
This One is Mine - Maria Semple [review]
Fire and Ice - Julie Garwood [review]
Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell [review]