Day 31! The Final Day of Oktobookfest!

photo (37)It’s Day 31 and the final day of Oktobookfest!  Also… today is Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Day… so, one reveal and one review for the final day of celebrating books with Oktobookfest!  Fear not… I will still be posting fabulously bare book reviews after today, just not necessarily on a daily basis.

First up.. Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Day!

This month my Foodie Pen Pal was Gloria from Boston.  Gloria went out of her way to send me a very lovely package!  Fabulous almonds, a whole bag of wheat germ (can’t wait to bake with this!), a spice mix, an organic lollipop, some tea, some nut butter and a delicious piece of dark chocolate (of course I already ate this!).

If you are interested in the Foodie Pen Pal Program, here is some info:

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.

-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! 
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 
-Foodie Penpals is open to US, Canadian & European residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. Same with Europeans. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 

If you are interested in FoodiePenPals, sign up at theleangreenbean.com!  Try it, you’ll like it!!!

Review of the Day:  Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld.  Let me begin here by saying unequivocally that, in my opinion, Curtis Sittenfeld is one of the best new(ish) writers out there today.  I absolutely loved her first two books, American Wife, and Prep.  If you haven’t read these two books, they should immediately move up to the top of your list of books to read in the near future.  So, of course, as soon as her new book, Sisterland came out, I downloaded it immediately.

Sadly, I was disappointed.  Sisterland has a very interesting premise: identical twin sisters, both born with psychic abilities, lead very different different lives. One sister, Kate, went down the traditional path, marrying, having children and denying her gifts.  The other sister, Vi, leads a more non-traditional life, promoting her psychic abilities and eschewing any form of traditional behavior.  When Vi goes on television, predicting a cataclysmic earthquake, Kate is pulled out of her carefully constructed life and back into the world from which she was running.  Sounds interesting right? And it was…at times. Other times, though, Sisterland just missed the mark and, I was also very disappointed in the ending. While I still think Sittenfeld is a master storyteller, I just don’t think that Sisterland was her best work.  But, hey, it happens to everyone…remember Godfather III???? Not Francis Ford Coppolla’s best work either…

 

Day 30! What’s in my Bookshelf Wednesday Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

It’s Day 30 of Oktobookfest and it’s What’s in my Bookshelf Wednesday.  Continuing down my Top 10/20 lists, todays book review is Room by Emma Donoghue.

This book is extraordinary.  The story is told from the perspective of Jack, a 5 year old boy.  Jack has lived with his mother in an 11×11 space that he calls “Room.”  To Jack, “Room” is all he knows and all he needs.  He has his books, a TV, a bath, a table, and the wardrobe in which his mother tucks him away at night to keep him safe when scary “Old Nick” visits in the evenings.  What the reader comes to realize over time is that for Jack’s mother, “Room,” is her prison, where she has been held for over seven years and “Old Nick” is her jailer.  What makes the novel so extraordinary is that, despite the depressing nature of the story, due to the endearing nature of the child, Jack, it becomes a tale of hope, persistence and survival.

I repeat… this story is extraordinary.  Read it!!

 

Day 29! Time Travel Tuesday!

It’s day 29 or Oktobookfest and again, it is Time Travel Tuesday, where I repost old reviews from my days of book reviews on Facebook.

From Sept. 7, 2012

1) Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace by Kate Summerscale. I first came upon this book in the NY Times Sunday Book Review, which is not necessarily indicative of whether or not I will enjoy the book, but at least will guarantee a somewhat interesting topic and above mediocre writing. After reading the book review, I thought that this book was a “fiction based on fact” account of a Victorian woman’s adulterous affair and subsequent divorce. Obviously, the book review was about as engaging as the book itself and I must have really skimmed it, because it actually was a Non-Fiction account of a Victorian-era English woman’s alleged adulterous affair and subsequent, very public and scandalous divorce. It is unclear whether the eponymous main character had some rockin’ romps in the English countryside or whether she was merely another sex-starved Victorian Desperate Housewife who described her lusty fantasies in her diary. Either way, divorce ensued. I think that I would have loved this as the “fiction based on fact” novel that I thought it was when I made my mom buy it for me on our shared Kindle… replete with lots of ripping of corsets and tossing aside ascots and petticoats, maybe with some sonnets thrown in for good measure. However, as a factual book, it was just another story of how nasty people are in divorce (OK… maybe it was a bit more of a misogynist society back then, but, really, even today people are often horrible to each other during divorce). Camille Paglia fans.. you may love this one. I can’t say I hated it, but I still maintain it would have been more interesting as a novel.

2) Dark Places by Gillian Flynn 
So… I loved Gone Girl so much that I felt compelled to read more Gillian Flynn. Gone Girl was so fantastic that her older books must be great undiscovered reads!! Well.. undiscovered, maybe, great.. not this one. A good read, engaging, interesting topic, but not great. She definitely has a genre. Horror story, a truly despicable character in the mix, most of the other characters truly flawed but not altogether bad, and of course, a twist at the end. I did not read her other book, Sharp Objects, but I did read the sample. I am going to go with her first two books were her practice novels and Gone Girl is where she really hit her stride. Hopefully it will just keep getting better from here! If you haven’t read Gone Girl yet, what are you waiting for??? 

I stand by these reviews.  Fairly spot on, in my opinion.  Have I mentioned that you should read Gone Girl???

Day 28! Review: Cruising Attitude by Heather Poole

Finishing up our Oktobookfest Memoir Monday extravaganza is today’s review: Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crash Pads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet by Heather Poole**. Cruising Attitude is the author’s account of the in and outs, the ups and downs and the occasional turbulence of her fifteen years as a flight attendant on a major airline.

What did I love about the ins and outs?  I found it enlightening to learn that a flight attendant has to go through 6-8 weeks of intensive training, away from their family, learning the ins and outs of multiple aircraft.   And they do it in heels!  Well.. the women do, I think the men wear dress shoes. Those people that hand you your diet coke with ice, they went through boot camp!  Look them in the eye and say thank-you for that carbonated beverage, they may save your life one day!

What did I love about the ups and downs??  I think that I am a bit obsessed with memoirs. I am such a nosy girl; I love reading about other people’s lives. I really enjoyed reading about Poole’s highs and lows as a flight attendant; from her beginning days, her excitement and exhaustion during training, her boredom while waiting on reserve, her nervousness on her first big flight and her exhilaration when she mastered the lower lobe galley, to her days of seniority, as she brings her mom on board (literally.. her mom becomes a flight attendant and they even work flights together!) and meets her future husband in first class.

What did I love about the turbulence?   Usually, I really don’t like turbulence.  At all.  In fact, until recently, I had to drink a glass of wine on every flight, so as not to have a panic attack.  For those of you who don’t know me, I am not a drinker, one glass completely does me in.  However, it was really fun to read about the crazy passengers, the crew drama and the loony supporting characters like the cab drivers from Queens that Poole befriended in her early days, who would driver her to and from the airports for her shifts.  I won’t spoil your enjoyment of this great read by exposing any details of these hilarious accounts.  Instead, pour yourself a glass of really cheap white wine, preferably from a mini-fridge sized bottle, settle into your semi-reclining seat and enjoy the ride, turbulence and all.

I may have enjoyed the ride so much that, in my white wine filled mania, it is possible that I filled out an online application to become a JetBlue flight attendant.  It is also possible that they emailed me back telling me that I was a potential candidate for their in-flight crew..  I  think I see some turbulence in my future, and there won’t be any white wine to save me!

**Heather Poole, while still working as a flight attendant, is also currently the author of “Galley Gossip” on the popular travel website, Gadling. com.  Click here to check out her column.

 

 

 

Day 27! Suggestive Sunday Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Day 27!  It’s time for Suggestive Sunday, where I take your suggestions, read them and review!

Today’s Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, suggested by Jennifer K, an avid reader in her own right.   The Language of Flowers was a very easy read, so easy, in fact, that I read the entire book in one evening, while waiting in the Green Room at a local community theater while my son played keyboard in the pit orchestra.  Basic plot:  The protagonist, Victoria, a former foster child, damaged, ages out of the foster system, and, obviously wary of social interaction, finds she has a gift for helping others through the flowers that she chooses for them. The book weaves back and forth between Victoria’s present and her past, in particular, a time during which she lived in a stable foster home environment, with a mother figure named Elizabeth, who gifted Victoria an encyclopedic knowledge about flowers.  In particular, Elizabeth taught her the Victorian language of flowers (interesting word play with the protagonist’s first name by the author here), in which each flower represented a emotion or state of being.  When Victoria ages out of the foster system, she finds work in a boutique flower shop where her fluency in the language of flowers brings her customers love, romance, happiness and peace.  Along the way, she finds her own deeply rooted and yet emotionally challenged romantic relationship.

I enjoyed this book. Not quite as much as Jennifer K did, who declared it one of her favorite books of the year.  I loved the premise; a unique look at family, love, and commitment through the language of flowers.  It was a topic of which I had not previously heard and it was very interesting to learn how the Victorians believed each flower coincided with a particular emotion.  However, two of my primary pet peeves when reading are: 1) when I can guess what’s going to happen next and 2) when I feel that the story is too contrived and everything ties up too neatly at the end. Unfortunately, although I enjoyed The Language of Flowers as a story, it hit both of my pet peeves… I was continually guessing what was coming next in the story and although there were some twists and turns in the middle, the storyline came to too neat of a conclusion.  I prefer to read a good story with a clever ending, perhaps one you don’t expect; a story that leads you on a journey to a place you weren’t expecting to go but are exhilarated when you arrive.

Have you read The Language of Flowers?  What is your opinion of the book?  Leave your suggestions for next week’s Suggestive Sunday in the replies box below, or on BareBookReviews Facebook page!!

Day 26! Review: The Middlesteins: A Novel by Jami Attenberg

Day 26!!!  Review: The Middlesteins: A Novel by Jami Attenberg

Lethargy and obesity, not technically on the list of the Seven Deadly Sins, but, in my humble opinion, are two of the greatest plagues facing Americans today.  The protagonist in today’s book review, The Middlesteins: A Novel, by Jami Attenberg personifies the current American nightmare: we have too much to eat, and not enough of every thing else… love, time, ambition and peace. Edie Middlestein, Attenberg’s main character is every Jewish mother’s conundrum.  We love to feed our children (and everyone else that enters into our home), but, yet, we expect daughters to be thin (but not too thin….  that calls for more mandlebrot).  Edie, we are told, has been heavy since childhood, and at the time the book begins, she is a 60 year old, obese, diabetic, former attorney, whose children are grown.  Due to her ever expanding waistline, Edie has lost most of which she formerly held dear. Her health is deteriorating (she is diabetic and her doctor has recommended bariatric surgery), her husband has left her and her law firm has recently quietly forced her retirement.  Edie is a smart cookie (no pun intended), but she is doomed by lethargy.  Her children try to stop her self destruction, but Edie plows forward with her fork.  Along the way, Attenberg intersperses the main narrative with stories surrounding the supporting characters.  We peek at Edie’s wayward ex-husband, Richard’s, forays into the adult dating scene. We watch her daughter, Robin, slowly discard her protective layers to fall in love with her neighbor, Daniel.  We get a glimpse of her son, Benny and his svelte wife Rachelle’s less than perfect relationship as they plan the B’nai Mitzvah of their twins.  And finally, in an interesting plot twist (SPOILER), Edie finds love again with the proprietor of her favorite Chinese restaurant, Kenneth Song.  In the end, like in life, only Edie can save herself from her fate, but I won’t spoil the deliciousness of this book by revealing the ending.  Like Kenneth Song’s Sweet and Sour Chicken , The Middlesteins: A Novel delivers both the sweet and sour in life to the last page.  I savored every last morsel.

 

 

Day 25! F4F- Film Review: Timeline by Michael Crichton

Today is Day 25 of Oktobookfest and it is also Fantastic 4 Friday (F4F)!  On Fantastic 4 Friday, I review books that fall under 4 categories: Food (cookbooks or books about food), Fitness (and Health), Flirty (Sex, Romance, etc) or Film (books about film or books made into movies).   Today’s review falls under the category of FILM: Michael Crichton’s Timeline. 

Like all of the Michael Crichton books that I have read, Timeline is an amazing book!  Seeped in science and history, Timeline tells the story of a group of archaeologist/historians that go back in time to the fourteenth century to rescue one of their own, a professor who is trapped in the past.   Timeline is replete with quantum physics, time travel, medieval history, war, intrigue, heros and villain and of course, romance, and, as is the standard for Crichton novels, the characters are multi-dimensional, interesting and engaging.   There are villains (the arrogant genius, Robert Doniger, who created the technology for time travel), heros (Andre Marek, the historian obsessed with Medieval History), romantic leading ladies (the Lady Claire, Marek’s love interest) and so many more.  Timeline employs all the important devices to make a great novel and as usual, Crichton delivers a fantastic piece of work.  His novels are consistently brilliant, thought provoking and at the same time, entertaining.  Timeline, in my opinion, is one of his best… better than Jurassic Park, I’d read it again and again.  And.. I have.

But the movie… I would not see again.  Ugh.  While Crichton novels are consistently brilliant and entertaining, I am less impressed with Hollywood’s interpretation of his work.  I may be in the minority when I say that I didn’t love Jurassic Park, not that the movie was so bad (Spielberg rarely makes a bad movie), but the book was so much better.  I am stepping on my soapbox here…. why do the powers that be in Hollywood have to change so many key plots and or characters from a book when they make the movie???  Why??? Why??? Why???  In Timeline, they took out characters, added others and completely changed the personalities of others.  For example, the character of Marek…. in the book, he is a medieval obsessed historian, who speaks medieval languages, knows how to joust and understands all the customs and ideas of the time.  In the movie, he forces another (unknown in the book) character to come along on their foray into the past because this character (Francois) speaks French and he doesn’t.  Of course (SPOILER), Francois is killed half way into the movie (gratuitous violence anyone??) and the whole scenario is ridiculous anyway, because they didn’t speak modern French in the 1400s, so Francois’ language prowess would have been a moot point.  In the book, the time travelers have impressive technology implanted into their ears in order to be able to speak and understand the medieval language.  In the movie, they say they are Scottish (hence the hiring of the very easy on the eyes actor, Gerard Butler, to play Marek).  The movie focused less on the intricacies and quantum physics related to time travel, the fascinating history of medieval France or even the ins and outs of the Hundred Years War (the background for the conflict in Timeline), but rather all of these fascinating aspects of the book were merely catalysts to depict the cash cows of modern Hollywood… violence (there were lots of flaming arrows and sword fights and sex (no nudity but a lot of emphasis placed on the two main romances depicted in the novel, several climactic kisses, of course).  Another great book turned into a mediocre movie.  I am stepping off my soapbox now

Feel free to discuss.. have you seen the movie?  Read the book?  Do you have an issue with how Hollywood butchers most good books when they turn them into movies?  Did you like Jurassic Park??

Day 24! Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Day 24 of Oktobookfest!  Random Review:  Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

I originally read this book for as part of my book group, and interestingly, I was in the minority with regard to my opinion.  I really enjoyed it!  What I didn’t know before I read it was that the author, Ransom Riggs is a graduate of my high school (albeit about 15 years after I graduated), and, therefore, grew up in my hometown.  In fact, the beginning of the book is set in one of the smaller towns in the county in Florida in which I grew up (and still live.)  It was fun to read the author’s idea of a fictional version of Englewood, FL.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is part children’s/teen story, part time travel novel, part historical fiction, with a hefty dose of fantasy leading the pack.  It has been compared to the Harry Potter series, and while most would agree that it isn’t exactly on par with J.K Rowling’s epic fantasy novels, it is this reviewer’s humble opinion that Rigg’s writing is equally as good as that of Rowling.  Riggs is a fantastic storyteller.  Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was originally intended as a picture book for children, based on old peculiar photographs that the author had collected over time.  He was persuaded to write a narrative connecting the photographs and what resulted was Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.   The narrative is interspersed with the aforementioned photographs, each picture creating a character in the book.  The main character, Jacob, is an average teenager (or so he thinks…), who upon the mysterious murder of his grandfather, travels to Wales to uncover the truth surrounding his grandfather’s past.  It was his grandfather who collected the old photos, and when Jacob gets to Wales, he discover the mysterious, “Home for Peculiar Children,” run by an old woman named Miss Peregrine.  What ensues as Jacob tries to solve his grandfather’s murder is bedlam and intrigue: time travel, war, death, magic, ornithology, love, monsters, romance, and self discovery. Originally intended and marketed as a children’s novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (like the Harry Potter series) transcends age and can be enjoyed by all.

Bare Pairing

In Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, they eat a lot of goose. Daily, in fact.  I, personally have never cooked a goose, but I have roasted many a duck breast and have recently become obsessed with duck fat for cooking.  Click Here is the Food Network’s Christmas Goose recipe.

If you want to love duck fat as much as I do, check out Fatworks, a fantastic company out of Oregon that distributes high quality fats.

Day 23! It’s Wednesday! What’s in My Bookshelf??? Revisiting the Top 10 & Top 20

So… what’s in my bookshelf today?  It’s Day 22 of Oktobookfest and in celebration of What’s In my Bookshelf Wednesday, I will review one of the books that I had previously listed on my Top 10 & Top 20.  Click here to see my post about my Top 10 and Top 20 favorite books of all time.  Since they are my favorites, and therefore all still currently residing in my bookshelf, this will follow as a What’s in My Bookshelf Wednesday tradition until I have completed the list.  Whew… Evidently I like a challenge!

Today’s book review: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.

Really.. what is there to say about GWTW that hasn’t already been said? It’s a classic!  It’s an amazing story with unforgettable characters, set in a fascinating period of history.  It was made into a classic movie with famous actors (Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable), who now forever personify Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler.

In my prior post, I explained how I came by reading GWTW at age 11.  It was my mother’s favorite book when she was a child (obviously before she became Holocaust obsessed).  When she deemed me old enough to partake of her favorite piece of literature, she began begging me to read Margaret Mitchell’s masterpiece.  Of course, because I was in middle school, and therefore gawky, miserable and perpetually full of angst, and because I was naturally stubborn to begin with from birth, I (probably not so politely) declined her request.  She begged some more.  I probably rolled my eyes and ignored her.  Until… I wanted to read Forever.  Forever, the classic soft porn novel written by Judy Blume as her foray into adult literature, that was instead read by teens everywhere.  It was very popular in the early 80s and I HAD to read it!!  My mom definitely didn’t want me reading a book about teenage sex, but I guess she REALLY wanted me to read GWTW and I guess she decided that I had probably already learned all I needed to know from the “I’m OK, You’re OK”  books that she had bought me, from my friends (who knew as little as I did) and from  pilfered Playboy magazines.   So… like all good parents, she bribed me.  If I would read GWTW, I could also read Forever.  Well.. I dove right in and read all 1000+ pages of GWTW in three days.  Then I read Forever.  It was certainly memorable…. like forbidden fruit, except, I didn’t get it.  I really had no idea what was going on.  But, like any good 6th grader, I totally pretended that I did when talking about the book on the bus to school.  I probably had my headgear on too, so my speech may have been garbled, but that’s a story for another day…

Back to GWTW… Most people have seen the movie, but… as great as the movie is, and It is a classic, the book is SOOOOOOOOO much better.  There is so much more detail, so many more characters and a more in depth story in the book than in the movie.  If you aren’t aware of the plot, here are the basics:   Spoiled plantation girl, Scarlett, misses out on marrying the man of her dreams, Ashley Wilkes (Melanie gets him), she goes on to marry mutiple times, with her third husband/main man/nemesis being Rhett Butler (of “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” fame… which, by the way, is misquoted.. there is no “frankly” in the book).  There is the Civil War setting, there is slavery, there are jealousies, love affairs, deaths, disease, Sherman’s burnings and so much more.  If you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for???  Maybe my mother will buy you Forever if you do.