Wednesday, November 28, 2012

for the love of the restaurant.

I am not exactly the fine dining kind of gal. Manfriend and I rarely go out to eat because we'd rather cook at home where it's pants optional. But that's a story for another day. My next review is about the art of restaurants, a book that does not focus on the chef's (for once), but the restaurant owners themselves.

The Art of the Restaurateur by Nicholas Lander includes all aspects of what makes a great restaurant, written by popular restaurant owners. Lander travelled the world to speak with 20 industry leaders who run the top of the top restaurants, from public figures Danny Meyer (Union Square) in New York, Jo Bastianich (Mario Batali's partner) and Trevor Gulliver (St. John in London) to equally accomplished but lesser-known individuals. You will see that the food itself plays a smaller role than one might think. Atmosphere, design, location, and organization matter a great deal as well when creating a fabulous restaurant.

As a former restaurant owner himself, Lander takes his reviews of others' restaurants very seriously, while making The Art of the Restaurateur an honest portrayal of the life of a restaurateur in many corners of the world.

Monday, November 26, 2012

perfect give for the graduating high school senior.

I have a few seniors in a study hall that I supervise in school. I really, really like them. Makes me think that teaching twelfth grade English would be pretty kick ass, considering seniors for the most part are all finished with any and all state tests. When I received a copy of How to be a Person: The Stranger's Guide to College, Sex, Intoxicants, Tacos and Life Itself, I couldn't help but think that this would be such a fun gift to give them at the end of the year. Anonymously, of course.

Linda West and Dan Savage, along with many others, put together this humorous, yet very educational guide filled with real-life scenarios that cover being gay, hangovers, relationships, drugs, alcohol, herpes, and anything else that a college- age kid will be up against in these four crucial years. These scenarios can and will happen to anybody. Some of you will get an STD, some of you may find yourselves in a compromising position with your professor, some of you may want to try ecstasy, or even do your own laundry without your mommy. This guide has everything you need to survive college. I especially enjoy the chapter on How to write good, because honestly, you can get rid of chlamydia pretty easily, it's much more difficult to break bad writing habits.

This would have been nice to have in 2004 when my crazy ass hit the college scene. I learned a few of these things the hard way, but you (or your kid) won't have to!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

don't jump the gun.

In Wait: The Art and Science of Delay, Frank Partnoy argues that we think and act too quickly. In business, in our human interactions, and in both major and minor life decisions. There are two types of people in the world, those who are naturally impulsive, and others who take literally an hour to figure out what they want for breakfast. I go through moments where I am both of those people. Basically, Partnoy believes that we should wait as long as possible before making a decision. As in, if it has to be made more quickly, then make it. If you can get away with waiting a while to mull it over, do that. Because "good things come to those who wait."

My opinion? Well no shit we are impulsive, look at all the debt that Americans accumulate. Look at how many people get divorced. Impulsiveness is an epidemic in this country. We want what we think we want, and we want it now. Procrastinators of the world, unit! Really though, each and every one of us can benefit from reading a book that helps us properly make decisions.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

savoring the seasons...

Hey! Happy Thanksgiving! While you're sitting on the couch being a big fat can read my blog...about food. Yeah, maybe this isn't the best time...

There are very few books that make me WANT to be a housewife/homemaker/Donna Reed, and Savoring the Seasons with our Best Bites by Sara Wells and Kate Jones is definitely one of those few. My mom actually told me about these gal's first book, Our Best Bites, and she is so obsessed that she won't even let me borrow it, rude. I was lucky enough to get their follow-up cookbook for review.

Sara and Kate deliver more than 100 all-new recipes featuring fresh ingredients and holiday-specific dishes, neatly categorized into seasons.  These lady's include precious time-saving tips, recipes that are a little more sophisticated, and they DO NOT include nutritional information. Honestly, it's the holidays, a time for indulgence and savoring moments AND flavors. The beautiful colored photographs make this collection of recipes a really fabulous gift as well.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

more collaborations.

I am totally digging James Patterson's latest collaboration with Maxine Paetro in Confessions of a Murder Suspect, and I am definitely not giving Patterson all of the credit with this one.

Sixteen-year-old Tandy Angel comes from a family of outstanding achievers. Her parents are self-made millionaires. She and her three siblings surpass all other kids in strength, intelligence, performance, talents and focus. Matthew is a famous football player, ten-year-old Hugo has muscle strength beyond imagination, Tandy's twin brother, Harry, is a prodigy in art and music, and Tandy is an absolute genius. Is all this talent genetic, is it normal? Could it be their strict upbringing? Or are we missing something?

Regardless, all of this success comes crashing down when Tandy's parents are found dead in their bedroom. With no sign of forced entry, Tandy and her brothers are the main suspects for murder. Tandy decides she's going to do everything in her power to discover the truth. She begins her own investigation; interrogating the neighbors, searching through drawers and doing anything possible to shed some light and clear the family name. Along the way, she uncovers shocking secrets about everyone in the Angel household, including herself...

Friday, November 16, 2012

i, am ready for another.

I went through a very long James Patterson review drought, and then I drank, and drank, and drank up, lucky readers.

For those of you who are not already familiar with this series, Michael Bennett is a very unique character in the world of James Patterson. He is a highly decorated NYPD detective, which is normal, but he is also a widower with 10 children. Whoa. With the help of Mary Catherine, the family's full-time nanny and Seamus, his lovable grandfather (who, interestingly enough, is a priest), Bennett does a pretty amazing job juggling his professional and his personal life.

In I, Michael Bennett, Detective Bennett is up against Manuel Perrine, the head of the Mexican drug cartel, a ruthless and mega-rich sociopath. As suspenseful and riveting as the previous books in the series, this one divides the action between New York City and the Bennett's vacation house in Newburgh, NY, where the large family hides away after the capture of Perrine leads to the death of one of Bennett's closest friends and colleagues. We soon discover that there is no hiding from the violence Perrine creates, even from his jail cell. The ending is very abrupt, which leaves me wondering what kind of tricks Patterson has up his sleeve for the next installment.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

for your reading pleasure...

I really like James Patterson. I like his writing style, his characterization, and the way that he collaborates with others to create all types of genres. My student's summer reading assignment was Maximum Ride, which is the first book in a young adult series by Patterson, that was really enjoyable to read and to teach.

More recently, Patterson released the novel NYPD Red, which is a collaboration with Marshall Karp, and a laugh out loud murder mystery, if that makes any sense. The writing was clever, the reading was easy, and I had a lot of fun page after page. Here's a little taste...

Detective Zach Jordan is a member of the NYPD Red squad. His unit is responsibly to protect celebrities from screen, stage and sports and anyone else rich enough to deserve special treatment. Jordan's partner has recently been injured on the job and he is 'temporarily' partnered with Kylie McDonald, which is super awkward because they used to date. McDonald attended the academy with Jordan and is (of course) drop dead gorgeous . But she is now happily married, to a Hollywood screenwriter. The novel begins as New York is hosting 'Hollywood on the Hudson' and  NYPD Red will be stretched thin to protect the stars that have descended on Manhattan. A much despised producer ends up dead, and the two Red unit detectives spend most of the novel chasing a killer who clearly has a special vendetta against the Hollywood "big wigs," and plans to carry out his murderous acts just like in the movies. And then there's Jordan trying to get a grip on his attraction for McDonald...just to make things a bit more complicated.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

if i had known then what i know now...

When I was in the eighth grade, I remember my English teacher asking us to write a letter to our future selves to be opened when we graduated high school. At the end of my senior year, she delivered all of our letters to us. She was pretty much the best teacher ever, and has been a bit of a mentor to me during my first year of teaching. I remember being eighteen, reading that letter, and thinking, I really hadn't changed all that much. It wasn't until I was in my mid-twenties, and found the letter again, that I realized how much I had grown. I still haven't traveled to Australia like my younger self had always dreamed, but I have crossed so many other things off my bucket list. Look at me, I am a first year English teacher in my teeny tiny county, which is practically unheard of in this economy. You don't really notice how far you've come until you take the time to look back at where you've been.

What started me on this tangent is my latest read, The Letter Q: Queer Writers' Notes to Their Younger Selves edited by Sarah Moon. This is a collection of letters written by sixty-four award winning authors to their younger selves. Some include letters (like mine) they had written to their older selves in school, and include a response. Some are filled with advice that they could have used when they were those little kids. These letters were surprisingly powerful, inspirational, as well as funny. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll think back on your own childhood, and all those stupid mistakes you made, and all those worries that didn't actually matter at all.

If you could write a letter to your younger self, what would it say?

Friday, November 9, 2012

a novel that's a bit cutesy.

At the beginning of The Color of Tea, protagonist, Grace Miller is drowning. Not literally, but figuratively drowning in her life.  Her marriage was struggling, she had been moved to China to follow her husband's career, she desperately wanted to become a mother but her chances were slim. Grace was stuck in a life that she seemed to have no control over. Then, she stumbled upon a closed down cafe, and realized what she had been missing: purpose and desire.  That was when Grace decided to make, serve, and sell the finest Parisian inspired macaroons that Macau has ever seen.

Once Lillian's was open it was like reading a whole different book. Grace turned into this loving and spontaneous woman as she met many new faces and shared her passion with the locals in a culture she was extremely unfamiliar with. Author Hannah Tunnicliffe took her debut novel from rather depressing to truly inspiring.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

literary fiction lovers.

The Thing About Thugs is a dark-humored satire that contains everything that makes 19th century British literature so enticing: love, sex, murder, grave-robbing, humor...the works. Tabish Khair's novel follows several characters, including a self-professed Indian thug, a trio of Englishmen who turn criminal, along with various others who complete the package. The chapters are pretty short, sometimes just a page, so the book is one of those that you can dip in and out of a little at a time, yet still follow along easily.

A series of brutal murders start to take place in the city, during which the heads of the victims are stolen. However, there is no real mystery in this story, it more focuses on the social status of the time period. Rich versus poor. Khair paints a pretty bleak picture of Victorian London where most of the action takes place. The novel is very literary, like one you'd read with your AP English class. As an English teacher, I appreciated all of its elements.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

a children's book with a cause.

Mimi and Maty to the Rescue!: Roger the Rat is on the Loose! is a fabulous true to life children's book that every age can get something out of. As an animal lover myself, this story spoke to me. I was the little girl who found a bird with a broken wing on the sidewalk and took it back to my dad to fix, and cried for a whole day when nothing could be done.

Author Brooke Smith  uses Mimi to demonstrate to young people about such vital subjects as compassion for all creatures, co-operating with people, and learning responsibilities and how to act responsibly. This inspiring adventure and the illustrations by Alli Arnold tie everything together in a nice bow.

**For a chance to win a FREE copy of this book, email your name, address and this book title to:!