Monday, August 30, 2010

It's Monday, what's on the cover?

The InsiderEverything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour

Every Monday I take a look at the covers of books I'm reading. I was lucky enough to win The Insider by Reece Hirsch from Goodreads. I'm a sucker for a mystery. That cover looks a little shady. Something sinister happened in that building. Somebody died. I know who, but I don't know why yet. Everything is Going to be Great by Rachel Shukert is kind of busy. It's like they couldn't decide what to put on the cover. Rachel Shukert went on a tour of Europe during college, and did everything under the sun!

Notes: Reviews of The Life You've Imagined and The Panic Zone will be posted this week. Happy reading everyone!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

In my mailbox: The all YA edition

HushThe Twin's Daughter 
Low Red Moon
In my mailbox is a weekly meme brought to us by Kristi at The Story Siren ( In my ever expanding attempts to broaden my horizons, I am taking part in some fall blog tours. Thanks to Bloomsbury I have some wonderful books for review:

Low Red Moon by Ivy Devlin (Review+interview on Sept. 24)
The Twin's Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted (Review+interview on Sept. 29)
Hush by Eishes Chayil (A review will be posted on Oct. 1)

Plus I've got the trailer for Low Red Moon. Stay tuned! And, Happy Reading!!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Blog Q&A with Elaine B. Fischel

Here are a few questions I had for Elaine B. Fischel, author of Defending the Enemy:

1. Your return to the U.S. was postponed many times. When it was time for you to return it was before the verdicts and sentencing. If given the chance, would you have wanted to stay for the verdicts and sentencing?   I would not have wanted to stay for the verdicts at the war crimes trial. When the actual work for which I was hired to do ended and the halls of Ichigay were empty, I knew I had to return to the real world. My glorious adventure had ended when I was no longer being helpful. With Bill Logan already gone and John Brannon not needing my help, as he waited for the verdicts, I knew there was to be no more changing my was time to go.

2. When you became ill with TB after returning, a drug to treat it was available to you in the U.S. While in Japan the son of a friend of yours also became stricken with TB, but you were not allowed to get the drug for him. In the book you mention the irony of this. He eventually died, were there any feelings of guilt or sorrow?   There were tremendous feelings of sorrow when Mr. Enomotor's son died of tuberculosis. This happened after my efforts to obtain streptomycin for him failed, I felt a huge sense of shame that I could not come to the rescue. When I was diagnosed with advanced active tuberculosis just six weeks after I had started law school, that newly discovered drug saved my life. I contrasted my good fortune with my failure in the Enomoto mission. I felt the sorrow of the Enomoto family all over again. MY feelings were more of sadness and despair about life's inequities than guilt, as I knew I had tried every way I knew to obtain streptomycin when it first came to the American military forces in Japan

3. In the aftermath, many felt the trials were more about politics than justice. Did the outcome change how you looked at the law? Change your faith in the law?  The verdicts in Japan did indeed lessen my faith in the law. It was a realization that the law is not sacred. It is interpreted by humans. Eleven nations sat in judgment of these former war leaders. Different conclusions were reached by many as to the guilt of the individual defendants. I could not help but think that there was no evidence that could have been presented to a particular judge that would have persuaded him to be l00% impartial in his ruling. But it was so much better than taking out an accused person and shooting him. I thought of the irony in the old joke: "Give 'em a fair trial and then hang 'em" I do have faith in the law to this day but it is tempered with the belief that you also have to have a bit of luck on your side.

4. I know the times were different, but how come there was so much socializing?  The occupation of Japan was a peaceful one. Americans for the most part were kind to the Japanese and sincere in their mission to bring democracy to that country whether they wanted it or not. And I do think they wanted it. I was fortunate that my two bosses always sang my praises so that the Japanese felt I was helping them in more meaningful ways than just typing documents. Japanese respect hard work and thus respected me as an individual and included me in the many events that were planned for those higher up in the Occupation echelon than a mere secretary.

The amount of fun things I did surprised even, me. I had always considered myself somewhat of a wallflower but my athletic skills at tennis and ping pong changed my image when I was any place surrounded by men. They never thought a female to be that skilled in sports. And of course, there was certainly a shortage of females to provide social contacts for the huge army of service and civilian people in Occupied Japan.

I was fortunate to meet wonderful men in the service and outside the service. And developing a friendship with Emperor Hirohito's brother, Prince Takamatsu, was the cherry on the sundae. That plus a good deal of luck in meeting the nicest of human beings--both Japanese and American.

5. In 1960, you went back to Japan with your mother. Have you gone back since?  I went back to Japan in l982 and 2005. The l982 trip was memorable for my visits with Hiroko Kawano, Admiral Shimada's daughter. My friend, Daphne, a former court reporter at the trials, who had stayed in Japan as a permanent residence, had invited me and the changes since l960 amazed me. I touched Japan in 2005 on a cruise vacation, which did not give me enough time to do what I wanted to do. And that was just to wander and absorb the scenery in the places I remembered the most. But it was not to be.

My take on: Defending the Enemy

I wasn't alive on December 7, 1941, but I know it was an important day in history. The bombing of Pearl Harbor has been talked and written about for decades, but what about the people who were responsible for it. I tried to think back to what I was taught, but all I can remember is that the Japanese military had a part in it. Elaine B. Fischel played a part in defending Japanese war criminals, and her book Defending the Enemy takes you inside the trial.

In the spring of 1946, the 25-year-old Fischel left her family in California, embarking on the long journey to Tokyo. The young secretary found herself on this journey under the guise of possibly becoming a court reporter. Instead, Fischel found herself working as a stenographer for the prosecution--an unglamourous and unfulfilling position at the time. Spending her days typing, didn't appeal to her. Fischel came to Japan with hatred for the defendants, but when the chance came to work as a secretary for the defense, she embraced it. Working for the defense offered the chance to do more meaningful work.

American and Japanese attorney were assigned to the case. American attorneys were assigned to appear as if the defendants were getting the best defense possible, but the courts made attempts to thwart their efforts, even accusing them of being too passionate. After all where is their sense of loyalty?

Fischel's loyalty is questioned by her own family. Fischel and her mother wrote letters to each other throughout her two and a half years in Japan. Some of her family died as a result of WW II, so how can she defend them. "I came over here after seeing the U.S. cartoons expecting to see 26 monkeys sitting in court and being on trial, and yet there are 26 men up there each with individual personalities and faces."

Part of her understanding came from interaction with the defendants. Fischel learns enough Japanese in order to communicate with her clients better. She socializes with some of the Japanese elite, including Prince Takamatsu, whom she develops a long friendship. Trips to the beach, mountainside, and the homes of the locals were welcome diversions after long hours working with defense attorneys William Logan and John Brannon. Despite the internal conflicts Fischel knew she was a part of something special.  Working on the case reinforced her desire to go to law school.

It's always good to learn a little history. There are legal documents, articles and pictures dispersed throughout the book, which helps the reader see Japan through Fischel's eyes. Despite the heavy subject matter, the book doesn't get bogged down in legal lingo. She was just a young woman trying to make the most of her situation. Fischel's account brings humanity to a disturbing subject matter.

Rating: Give it a try

Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. To learn more about the book and author Elaine B. Fischel, visit:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hop, Hop, Hop

Book Blogger Hop Every week Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books ( hosts a Friday night blog hop. Put your link in, post a comment and you can discover a lot of great blogs. Make sure you leave a comment on the blogs you find it helps drive up traffic for my fellow book bloggers. The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week. This week Jennifer also wants to know: Do you use a rating system, and if so, what is it and why? With my first reviews, I didn't use a rating system. After looking at other blogs, I saw many people had a rating system. Take a look at my sidebar on the right to get a look at my rating system. I didn't want to use the standard stars or letters, I thought words were better for me.

Here are some blogs I came across:

Notes: A review of Defending The Enemy is pending. I have to finish the last 80 pages. Look for a review this weekend. Reviews of The Panic Zone and The Life You've Imagined will be up late next week. I'm also taking part in some YA blog tours!! YIPPEE!! I haven't made the totally switch to YA, but the opportunity came along and I don't want to pass it up. Next month I will be reviewing Low Red Moon, The Twin's Daughter and Hush as part of a blog tour. Take a look at my sidebar to see what I'll be reading in the coming weeks!! Happy reading!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My take on: The Tourist Trail

I confess, I am guilty of judging books by their cover. The cover of The Tourist Trail is quiet and unassuming. A bunch of penguins coming out of their perches in the ground, doesn't scream "ADVENTURE" to me. Glad to know I was wrong.

Biologist Angela Haynes lives in her own little world. She spends her days at a research station--The Tourist Trail-- in Patagonia counting and observing the behaviors of penguins. Angela lives in a world with little human contact or deep human relationships. She has a crush on a colleague, Doug, but chooses not to act on it because he is younger.

Her only real connection is with a male penguin--Diesel. But even Diesel manages to find a mate, leading to pangs of jealous for Angela. Her bubble is about to burst when mysterious animal activist Aeneas appears. Having been labelled an "eco-terrorist," Aeneas is on the run not only from the law, but most of all from FBI agent Robert Porter. The charismatic, and equally volatile Aeneas has developed a loyal following through his group, the Cetacean Defense Alliance (basically they don't like whale poachers). But his group has gone beyond the normal boundaries of protest. Resorting to violence, arson and murder--all in the defense of animals.

Early on Aeneas comes off as a zealot, but his interactions with Angela offer a softer side to him. He helps her care for the penguins, and develops an understanding for her connection with Diesel. Angela initially fights her attraction to Aeneas, but the enigmatic man is too much to resist. She heads off with him on a ship to Antarctica, with Robert on their trail.

Robert is looking for redemption, having let Aeneas slip through his fingers before. While undercover as "Jake," Robert lets his feelings for the beautiful Noa, cloud his judgment. As Jake he can do all the things Robert can't--be carefree and take life as it comes.

The book lost me a little bit in Part II, which is when we are introduced to Ethan. The young computer programmer has fallen in love with Anna--another CDA follower. It took me a couple of chapters to realize the author John Yunker had gone back in time. After being invested in Angela, Aeneas and Robert, I thought the book was shifting focus. Angela is completely absent in Part II, but Part III sees the return of all the characters.

The conclusion is filled with action. Robert's relentless pursuit, and it's conclusion are very suspenseful. I was trying not to speed through the last 30 pages, but I wanted to know what happened. I won't give it away, but it is very satisfying. The story is told from the point of view of Angela, Robert and Ethan. I was surprised, that Aeneas didn't get a turn at-bat, but the different points of view offer a complete picture of him. Angela's view is one of love, confusion and at times fear. With Robert, Aeneas is that old foe he can't get rid of. At first Ethan fears Aeneas, but even he can't resist the charm. Author John Yunker's own experiences travelling to Patagonia, Norway and Antarctica served as the inspiration for The Tourist Trail. If you don't already, you will come away from this novel with a better understanding for nature.

Rating: Superb

Notes: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review. For more information about The Tourist Trail and author John Yunker visit:

Notes to self...

.....Get more organized before you get even more nutty than you already are.
.....Learn to say NO!!!! September and the first two weeks of October are BOOKED for review!! I know there are so many good books out there, but they will still be there when you're ready!!
.....But by all means continue to buy books that you won't read for at least a few months. Spoil yourself!! I know it's so hard to resist, and there's nothing wrong with it.
.....Constantly checking, won't make your order come any faster.
.....Get cracking, reviews of The Tourist Trail, Defending the Enemy, and The Life You've Imagined need to be posted soon.
.....Young adult novels are not just for young adults. There is no shame in reading a book aimed at teens. REALLY there isn't!! Trust me!!
.....Get some more acting lessons before you do a video blog!! You weren't looking your best!
.....If you did your hair more often, you won't have to wear that hat!

Monday, August 23, 2010

It's Monday, What's on the Cover

The Panic Zone (Jack Gannon)

Every Monday I take a look at the covers of books I'm reading. My pile is getting bigger, but I'm enjoying it. Reviews of The Life You've Imagined and Defending The Enemy are coming soon. It's been a while since I read a mystery, so when the opportunity arose I went for it. The Panic Zone by Rick Mofina is a mystery thriller. Love the red, makes me think of fire. A bomb has gone off, and it's up to reporter Jack Gannon to figure it out. I'm wondering how this all comes together, but I'm enjoying the ride. I have another mystery waiting in the wings with The Insider by Reece Hirsch. Stay tuned! Happy reading!

Friday, August 20, 2010

My take on: Blindsided

The summer before my junior year of high school, I had the opportunity to go to Alaska. I got to see killer whales, glaciers and all kinds of fish up close. The following spring, I went to Paris with my French class. I got to see the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Le Chateau de Chambord, World War II monuments and so many other things. I thought of these experiences while reading Blindsided by Priscilla Cummings.

What if I had not been able to see all of that? It would have been a totally different experience. More sensory than visual.

In Blindsided, Natalie O'Reilly is a 14-year-old girl, who has been losing her eyesight since she was 8. Her early memories memories are filled with colors, family and the animals on her family farm in Maryland.

From the outside, Natalie is the typical teen. She has friends, gets good grades and is on the student council. But inside, Natalie is crumbling. Born without an iris, Natalie's doctors have been preparing her for the inevitable. As long as she remains positive, Natalie thinks it's ok to ignore her mounting accidents, bumps and falls. She has so much going for her--why does she have to accept losing her eyesight.

"She was fourteen now, on the brink of so much, and maybe, from now on, she would have to get through it by doing what she had always done: tune out the naysayers, like turning off a radio station with too much static. And hope for the miracle."

Natalie wants to wallow in denial, but her parents want her to accept reality, and send her to a school for the blind. Natalie sees the school as a way to enhance her skills, rather than preparing her for life as a blind person. Her roommate Gabriella a.k.a Bree is a lot like Natalie--deep in denial. They eventually form a deep friendship. Another accident forces Natalie to face reality.

Walking with a cane, learning Braille, learning how to count steps and learning how to accept her fate is daunting but necessary.

"It is easier to be blind than to pretend you're not blind."

I found this little gem on my recent spy mission to the YA section of Borders. I wanted to see what was the appeal. I always thought you needed to be a teenager to relate to teenage problems. It's nice to know that isn't the case. I'm not a total YA convert, but Priscilla Cummings' writing swayed me in a big way. Her writing totally captures Natalie's teenage angst. I found myself wanting to cry for Natalie. Not many books make me want to cry, but Cummings came very close. How can you prepare to lose something as precious as your eyesight? In your teen years you feel invincible. Nothing is going to bring you down. Natalie holds on to that belief. The book is also very well-researched. Cummings spent a full academic year attending school with blind students. With such a perspective, Cummings fully captures the emotional roller coaster.

Rating: Superb

Come on, lets Hop!!

Book Blogger HopEvery week Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books ( hosts a Friday night blog hop. Put your link in, post a comment and you can discover a lot of great blogs. Make sure you leave a comment on the blogs you find it helps drive up traffic for my fellow book bloggers. The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week. This week Jennifer also wants to know: How many blogs do you follow? I think it's about 20. I don't get to read them everyday, but there are some I check on a consistent basis. There is a lot of good content out there, and I like to keep up.

Here are a few blogs I came across:

Notes: A review of Blindsided by Priscilla Cummings is in the works for tomorrow. For my first foray into Young Adult novels, it was wonderful. Seven months after I bought my laptop, I just realized I have a webcam. I was going to buy a camera!! Thank goodness I'm too cheap to shell out more money. As soon as I figure out how to work it, I'm going to post a video blog!! Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dear spammer, I am not stupid!

It's time for my Thursday gripe.

Everyday I check both of my e-mail addresses almost every hour. Since I started blogging, it's become an obsession. Some of my e-mail is worth reading, others not so much. I have to laugh when I get an e-mail saying," URGENT!! I need your help. My father, who is worth $7,000,000, has passed away. I need some poor sucker to help me get it into the U.S. I need to keep it out of the hands of the evil chief in my village. I am willing to give you 60% of the money, if you just help me get into the U.S. All I need is your name and your bank account, so I can clean it out. I trust you can help me!! Contact me ASAP!!"

The sad thing is some people fall for this. If I ever did anything like this, these people would be really disappointed!! There's not much to steal, except cobwebs, from my bank account!!

Note: I'm getting there with my reading. I hope to have a new review posted by Friday or Saturday. Which one I don't know. I like the first half of The Tourist Trail, but it seems to be shifting focus. It's becoming a different book for me. There's still another half to go, so hopefully that changes.

Monday, August 16, 2010

More covers to peruse

The Life You've Imagined: A NovelBlindsided

Yes I've added two books to my reading pile. I went from reading three books at once to four. I'm still reading Defending the Enemy by Elaine B. Fischel and The Tourist Trail by John Yunker. Why increase my reading? I've started taking notes while reading. I was against it for the longest because it would feel like homework. But I realize the notes are helping me remember themes and key points better.

On to the business at hand. The Life You've Imagined by Kristina Riggle isn't out until next month, but thanks to HarperCollins I have a copy. The title intrigued me first. It made me think, am I living the life I've imagined? Not yet. The characters in the book don't seem to either. I'm 100 pages in, and it's possible they will get there by the end. The three women could be on their way to the life they've imagined. From the looks of it, they're walking to some place sunny and happy. Maybe they're on a path to a better life.

Blindsided by Priscilla Cummings is my first foray into the Young Adult world. So far so good. When I saw it at Borders, the cover attracted me right away. The young girl on the cover is losing her sight. She looks like she can still see something, but her vision is fading fast. Hopefully this is the start of love affair with YA novels

P.S.: Look what came in my mailbox last week!! A Curable Romantic by Joseph Skibell is set for release next month. The lovely people at Algonquin Books sent me a copy. I didn't even know I was on the list!! It was a nice surprise after a long workout!!

A Curable Romantic

Friday, August 13, 2010

My take on: Based Upon Availability

The next time I stay in a hotel all of my belongings -- even the toothpaste -- will have a really loud alarm attached to them!!

Why? Because a character named Morgan in Based Upon Availability has STICKY FINGERS!

Upon first glance, I thought this was going to be a light read. Look at that cover. It's fairly light and cheerful with those flowers on it. But those windows are closed, hiding  what's inside -- a dark and humorous novel by Alix Strauss.

Four Seasons hotel manager Morgan has long been haunted by the death of her sister Dale. She never got the chance to say goodbye. Fearing she was too young, Morgan's parents did not allow her to attend Dale's funeral. Ever since, Morgan has been searching for the human connection that she lost. Long looks at Dale's photos and reminiscing about the sound of her voice and her smell aren't enough. She makes excuses to see gallery owner Trish. A friendship with Trish  allows Morgan to imagine how life with Dale could have been. Giggles and gossip over lunch, the anticipation of a wedding and maybe having a niece or a nephew. But it's just a fantasy.

When friendship isn't enough, Morgan goes on "room checks" to relieve hotel guests of their property. They won't notice small things missing? Who is going to miss a pill or two? But one of her larger thefts, a sex toy, I have a hard time believing that wouldn't be missed!!

Along the way we meet other women who are searching for that same human connection. A washed up rock star Louise A.KA. Lou who comes to the Four Seasons to dry out. Trish is obsessed with her weight and speaks of herself in the third person. Ellen badly wants a child to save her marriage, no matter the consequences. Anne desperately wants to be free of OCD. Robin's sister, Vicki, unlike Dale is alive but their relationship is dead, leading Robin to do something strange and funny! I won't say what, but it involves handcuffs and Kahlua!

The ties that bind them all are Morgan and the Four Seasons hotel. The story is told from several points of view. Sometimes that's a problem for me. It can be hard to keep each character straight, if the point of view shifts within the same chapter. But that isn't the case here. We hear from each woman individually. All of them can see their own flaws, but others can't. Strauss' writing is smart and often unpredictable. This is the first book I've read where a character feels empowered by a sex toy, I just wasn't expecting to read that. I've never been to the Four Seasons (not in my budget), but Alix Strauss weaves together an often sympathetic, funny and dark portrait of what could be going on there.

Rating: Superb

Notes: I received a copy of the novel from the publisher at the request of the author. For more information on Alix Strauss, visit:

A little bit of death with your coffee!

Death Becomes Them: Unearthing the Suicides of the Brilliant, the Famous, and the NotoriousWho gets lost with a GPS?


I had August 13 marked down on my calendar as the day to meet author Alix Strauss at the Port Washington library. I even put a reminder about it in my iPhone. I borrowed the GPS from my step-father, stopped at Dunkin Donuts for breakfast and then I got on the road at 11:30. Should have been plenty of time to go 10 miles and arrive at noon right? Wrong!!

The GPS chose this day, Friday the 13th, to not work properly. The address wouldn't come up. So I resort to my "trusty" iPhone. A phone that hasn't worked right since I took the 4G update!! Steve Jobs, I blame you for this!

I found directions on the library web site. Great right? Nooooooooooooooo! I got on and off the L.I.E. ok, but I read the directions incorrectly. I went right when I should have went left!! I end up five miles out of the way! At this time the GPS decides to work, and somehow I manage to hit EVERY red light on the way. If you've read my blog before, you know I have issues with the DMV. So it was in my best interest to not run a red light, again!

I make it to the library at about 12:20ish. I have to say, I am jealous of that library. A separate room for computer work, a reading room, vending machines and the library itself is on several levels. Those of us with one-room libraries are jealous!

Back to the reason I was there -- Alix Strauss. I enter the room and quickly realize I was the youngest person there. I am visually challenged, but I don't think I saw anyone my age. But I did see a man in a purple shirt slumped over sleeping. I arrived mid-sentence. Ms. Strauss was speaking about photographer Diane Arbus, and how she committed suicide.

Yes. Suicide. Which leads me to wonder how the man in the purple shirt could be sleeping? How can talk about death make one sleepy? Plus, discussions about death and depression go very well with a side of coffee.

Ms. Strauss has always had a fascination with human behavior. So much that she wrote a book about some of the most famous suicides, Death Becomes Them. The book is now on my TBR pile. When I read it is another matter. If you're still with me, don't worry I'm almost done.

I did learn a few things along the way: Author Anne Sexton tried to kill herself nine times before succeeding. Sexton even planned her death for a full year. Sigmund Freud died in one of the first cases of assisted suicides. Vincent Van Gogh had a lot of "issues," including epilepsy and mental illness.

Do I need to know these things? No. But I must admit I have a curiosity about human behavior as well. I think we all do even if we don't want to admit it!

Awards are fun

Ms. C at Coffee Tale Reviews ( , another book review blog, was kind enough to award me with The Versatile Blogger Award. Thank you.

There are 4 rules that come with the award:
1 - thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them when creating the award post
2 - share seven things about yourself
3 - pass the award on to 15 recently discovered blogs
4 - contact the bloggers to let them know about the award
I must confess 15 blogs would be hard. I'll go half with 7. Here are seven things about me:
1. One day I want to get paid to write. I went to college thinking I would write that great novel I have inside of me. In the closing days of college, I chose an internship and the potential for a paying job. I let those dreams of writing fall away. This blog is my first step.
2. I don't like coconut in my candy but I love it on my shrimp. Why am I telling you this? I have no idea.
3. I'm a long-suffering Mets fan.
4. I can easily spend several hours in a bookstore. I love getting lost in bookshelves!
5. If it wasn't so dangerous, I would want to fly the space shuttle!!
6. I'm visually challenged. I have to wear glasses or contacts. If I wasn't such a chicken, I would get eye surgery.
7. In the six years that I've had my license, I have never pumped my own gas!! Out of habit, I go to the full service gas station.
Most of these blogs aren't new to me, but they are some of my favorites:

Let's go on a hop!!

Book Blogger Hop
Every week Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books ( hosts a Friday night blog hop. Put your link in, post a comment and you can discover a lot of great blogs. Make sure you leave a comment on the blogs you find it helps drive up traffic for my fellow book bloggers. The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week. This week Jennifer also wants to know: How many books do you have on your to be read shelf? Wow!! I don't have an exact count. I think it's close to 150!! I'm probably being conservative. It grows by the day.
I need some opinions, check out this recent post:

Here are some blogs I came across:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My take on: The Recipe Club

"Wild Duck with Cherry Orchard Sauce!"


"Cheerful Salmon Croquettes!"


"Potato Latkes with Homemade Applesauce!"

Hungry still!!

"Chocolate Chip Cannolis!!" -- Torture

Rule No. 1 never ever read a book about food and friendship while you're hungry!! I was often reading The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel at 2 or 3 A.M., not exactly the time to fire up the stove.  Food is not the main focus of the story, it is more of a backdrop. A rather tasty backdrop!! Lilly Stone and Valerie Rudman had been friend since childhood, but a blowup in their teen years led to a 26-year estrangement. The death of Valerie's mother sparks a renewed communication between the two. The renewed friendship quickly dissolves again. Israel and Garfinkel then take us back in time to the start of the friendship. A friendship told through their letters to each other. Lilly and Val start a club between themselves -- A recipe club.

Their early recipes seem a little complex for pre-teens, meatloaf, mac and cheese and chess pie. But if you grow up with a love of food as these two, it's second nature. As Lilly and Val grow into young women, cracks in their friendship begin to surface. Lilly is wild and brash, she wants to explore life outside of the box. Who needs college? She wants to be aloof and wild like her mother "Katherine the Great," but her father Isaac would rather Lilly be more like Val, who follows the rules, is practical and wants to go to college. Lilly wants to explore new things and meet new people, while Val wants things to remain the same. Val has a special bond with Isaac, a bond that Lilly never had. A bond that leads to increasing jealousy. Val spills Lilly's secrets to her father, leading to a 26-year estrangement. Even after they reconnect, a long buried secret could tear them apart again.

Food and friendship are a part of our everyday lives -- especially women -- and The Recipe Club paints a very powerful, tasty picture. The novel is told through letters and e-mails between Lilly and Val. The letters start off very sweet. Tales of experiences in camp evolve into stories about boys, growing up and what they want to with their lives. Sometimes those letters were angry, but at the end of the day friendship still prevails.

Rating: Give it a try

Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. For more information on The Recipe and authors Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel, visit

Is it just me?

The Handmaid's Tale (Everyman's Library)

Lets set the stage: A novel set in the near future in the Republic of Gilead. A totalitarian society, where women don't have power. Some women are force to be concubines. Sound interesting? Some say yes, but I say no. I never found The Handmaid's Tale to be interesting. Why am I bringing this up? A couple of days I jumped into a Twitter discussion. The topic: 'Books others liked but I didn't." From the posts I read, I was alone in my dislike for The Handmaid's Tale. I didn't read this book by choice, it was assigned to me. I think it was college, but the more I try to remember I think it was my high school Advanced Placement English class. If it was high school, I'm pretty sure I didn't have a taste for dystopian/science fiction novels at 17. Even now I don't have an appreciation for books like that. A little fantasy here and there isn't bad, but I like my books closer to reality. Is it just me? What does everyone else think? What are some widely-praised books that you didn't like? Hmmmmmm????

Notes: A review of The Recipe Club will be coming later today. A review of Based Upon Availability and a recap of an appearance by Alix Strauss will be posted late Friday. Stay tuned!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Two new covers

Defending the Enemy: Justice for the WWII Japanese War CriminalsThe Tourist Trail 
Finished Based Upon Availability by Alix Strauss over the weekend, and I loved it. A review will be posted at the end of the week. Ms. Strauss will be speaking at a local library on Friday, and I will be posting my thoughts on the reading and the book then. Still engaged in The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel. I'm now diving into Defending the Enemy by Elaine B. Fischel and The Tourist Trail by John Yunker.

The cover on Defending the Enemy is rather simple: a cherry blossom. The book is about a former legal secretary and her experiences during the Japanese war crimes trial. It's been a while since I read a memoir, plus I see this as a way to brush up on history. The cover seems so simple for someone charged with such a tough task. With The Tourist Trail cover it might be hard to tell, but those black marks are penguins. Yes, penguins! Ever wanted to know what goes on at a penguin research station, well I'll find out for you.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

In my mailbox: Budget buster edition

The InsiderThe Panic Zone (Jack Gannon)North of BeautifulIn my mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren ( Anyone can participate in IMM and you are not limited to only sharing books that arrive via your mailbox. You can also share books that you've bought or books that you've gotten at the library. I'm not sure I'll do this every week, but this past week was a good one for me.

 For review: The Panic Zone by Rick Mofina, The Insider (via good reads) by Reece Hirsch.  Bought: North of Beautiful by Justina Headley, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, before i fall by Lauren Oliver, Blindsided by Priscilla Cummings and Lipstick Jungle by Candace Bushnell. I decided to invest a little time in the YA section of Borders. For the longest I've had a brain lock on Young Adult books, but recently my interest has gone up. I need a little perspective before I close my mind completely from the genre. I spent an hour in the YA section alone. I have to admit I was a little skeptical. Most of the books I saw were paranormal romance, and to be honest Twilight has turned me off books like that. But after a little digging, I found some books I liked. I went in the store with a $50 budget and spent $75. It was all for a good reason!! I bought Lipstick Jungle for two reasons: 1) it was only three bucks and 2) I figured one adult book would justify my other purchases!!!
Lipstick Jungle
Before I Fall
The Book Thief