Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Review: Insatiable by Gael Greene

From Insatiable- Critic.com

The tastiest, most uninhibited memoir in years, INSATIABLE is a feast for the senses and an aphrodisiac for the soul.

"Nobody knows the truffles I've seen," writes Gael Greene, the revered restaurant critic for New York magazine whose fierce wit and sensuous prose changed the way Americans think about food. Now Greene, the author of the sensational bestseller Blue Skies, No Candy , lifts the lid on her most outrageous subject yet—herself. And, oh, what a pot-au-feu it is, bubbling over with piquant humor, saucy celebrity sex (Elvis, Eastwood, assorted star chefs), and some of the most epic, lovingly described meals in literature (at Troisgros, Tour d'Argent, Moulin de Mougins, La Pyramide, Lutece). From Manhattan's swankest boĆ­tes to the gourmet shrines of France and Italy, this is the story of a woman who made a fabulous career out of dining on someone else's dime.

With her passion for fine food, her nose for hypocrisy and social humbug, and, above all, her appetite for love and adventure, Greene traces her rise from Midwestern Velveeta beginnings to Detroit journalist wannabe to powerful critic of New York magazine, un grand fromage in the world of food, just when food was becoming a national obsession. Love and food, foreplay and fork play, haute cuisine and social history—all become inextricably linked as the author embarks on a lifelong quest for a god in the kitchen and a master chef in bed. Along the way there are intimate portraits of the culinary icons of our time - Henri Soule, Andre Soltner, James Beard, Craig Claiborne, Alice Waters, Jean Troisgros, Julia Child, Michel Guerard - and revealing looks at New York's legendary "in" spots and their invisible caste systems - The Colony, Elaine's, La Grenouille, "21," Le Cirque, Odeon, and Balthazar.

Earthy and delicious but also penetrating and astute, Greene's memoir belongs on the narrow shelf of amorous and gastronomic classics.

I became interested in reading this book after watching the entire Bravo series called Top Chef Masters, which is a reality show that pits professional chefs against each other as they cook their way to a one hundred thousand dollar prize for their favorite charity and the honorary title of being a "Top Chef Master" (which by the way, went to Chef Rick Bayless on the season finale.)

Author Gael Greene is also one of a panel of three judges on the show who get to taste the culinary endeavors each competing chef produces each week as they vie for the top prize.

This memoir first published in 2006, is a delicious account of Ms. Greene's fascinating life as a food critic for New York magazine.
My God, this woman has figuratively eaten her way across Europe and back, and she tells all as we follow her on her sojourn from some of New York's most famous, and infamous dining establishments, to the quaint little bistros, and great restaurants of France and Italy.
And she made a handsome living doing this-how grand is that?

Her lusty appetite is not limited to the dining room either-This author embraces life fully-she names names and dates, and describes her encounters in such a tantalizing, yet tasteful way. Compared to most of us, she has lived "larger than life" and makes no apologies-(I loved it when she wrote of seeing two very famous men together on the cover of Time, and realized that she had slept with both of them.)

Foodies will love this book for the almost poetic, gastronomic descriptions, and Ms. Greene's own recipes peppered throughout the pages.
Biographiles will adore her sheer honesty,delight in her amazing adventures, and sympathize with her disappointments.
You almost feel like you are there with her for the ride.

I'll rate this book the same way they judge the food on Top Chef Masters- It was a juicy, decadent,utterly satisfying read.
I give this book 5 stars.

Disclosure: I purchased this book myself and my opinions as always, are my own.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Change Is Good!

You've probably noticed that things look a little different around here.
Well everything can use a little sprucing up now and then, and this little corner of the blogosphere has needed it for some time now.
I wish that I could take the credit but I can't, it all goes to Sara Bonds over at Subjective Beauty.

You've probably seen Sara's work before and not even realized it.
She does the most fabulous blog make-overs, and her signature designs are popping up all over the place.
I wanted something fresh and cohesive to tie it all together, and it was just like she read my mind.
Sara worked with me to get just the look I wanted, and I am thrilled with how everything turned out.
Now if only my my hairstylist were so easy... ;-)

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Hard Goodbye.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver passed away last week.
She was of course, the sister of John and Robert and... Ted.
Mother of Maria, daughter of Rose.
Founder of The Special Olympics...Benefactress of a great many philanthropic endeavors...
I sat and stared rather blankly at the TV screen as I heard this sad news,
But all I kept thinking was that Arnold Schwarzenegger lost his mother-in law too.

We brought her home Saturday morning,
for it was her wish to come home.
My husband stated "I don't know if I can do this"
I reassured him "Yes you can...I'm here".

...I secretly wondered if I could handle this.
I wondered if you'd mind. I wondered if you were aware.
I prayed to God for guidance...

The people from Hospice were amazing.
They brought us a hospital bed and an oxygen tank...
...and the morphine.

Together, my husband and myself and my sister-in law turned her, bathed her,
wiped her brow, and held her hand.
Always talking to her. Hating to leave her side, lest she slip away.
Yet praying for release of her pain.

...Don't leave just yet.
Open your eyes one more time.
I can't remember if I told you what a wonderful mother and grandmother you are...

...I know that you'd hate this.
To be so vulnerable.
You who were always so strong.
The one we always turned to.
The one with all the answers.
The fixer of our problems...

We assured her that all would be fine.
That we were OK.
That she could go.

...Please linger just a while longer.
There is so much left unsaid.
I need to thank you.
For everything.
I need you to know that you were my role model and I tried to be like you...
...I need you to know that I loved you...

Early last Monday morning, my husband lost his beloved mother,
and I lost more than my mother-in law.
I lost my friend.
Rest in peace dearest Lil.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I Don't Want to Sleep With You, I Just Want You to Feed Me

Lately I have been watching Top Chef Masters on BRAVO.
It's a reality show featuring some world-renowned, some quasi-famous, chefs who are competing for money for charity.
Every week there is a $10,000 winner, and also one of them is eliminated from the competition. At the end of all this drama, someone will walk away with $100.000 for his or her charity.
I like this show. I like men who can cook. There is just something so sexy about a man in an apron. I have a mad crush on Anthony Bourdain who stars in No Reservations on the Travel Channel. He's not a contestant though. I don't think he wears an apron on his show either.
Acclaimed French chef Hubert Keller is competing, and looks fine in his culinary whites. He can cook for moi' anytime.
There were a few women competing in the initial qualifying rounds, but only one of them made the cut for the finalists.

I find the judges to be interesting as well.
Namely, Former New York Magazine Restaurant Critic, Gael Greene.
She wrote a memoir a few years back called Insatiable which I plan to review in an upcoming post.
From the excerpts I've read, this book is a tell-all of how she ate her way to the top.
So to speak.
She may just be my new idol.

My silliness aside, I'm truly interested to find out how one becomes a Food Critic.
You are paid to go to nice restaurants and eat, and then write your opinion.
Not that I'm planning on changing careers mind you, I'm just curious about stuff like that.

And did I mention...Elvis...Clint...Burt...
Stay tuned.

Get Your Read On: Water Witch by Deborah LeBlanc

From FSB Media

Dunny knew from an early age what it meant to be an outsider. Her special abilities earned her many names, like freak and water witch. So she vowed to keep her powers a secret. But now her talents may be the only hope of two missing children. A young boy and girl have vanished, feared lost in the mysterious bayous of Louisiana. But they didn't just disappear; they were taken. And amid the ghosts and spirits of the swamp, there is a danger worse than any other, one with very special plans for the children -- and for anyone who dares to interfere.

This fast-paced thriller begins in the dark, and mysterious Bayou, deep in the heart of Louisiana.
There the villain "Olm", performs centuries old rituals hoping to gain favor with his ancestral "Great Warrior Spirit" whom he hopes to please by offering blood sacrifices. In Olm's deluded mind, he feels that the God "Tirawa" is displeased with him and he needs to offer a larger sacrifice.
This leads to the kidnapping of two young children.

Meanwhile living in Texas, our heroine Dunny Pollock is called upon by her younger sister Angelle, to come to Louisiana to help locate the children.
Dunny is not a cop-she just happens to possess a special talent for finding things.
Dunny has polydactyly-in the form of an extra pinky finger on her left hand, and she discovered at an early age that the extra digit acts like some kind of a divining rod.

She not only helped her neighbors find water on their land, but also found oil on her grandparents land. She has also been able to find missing items including a lost pet, but never before has she tested her gift on finding people.
In fact, she is ashamed of her power and has done all she can to hide it.
All of that is about to change once she sets foot in Baton Rouge.

With all the folklore I grew up hearing about, I think that The Bayou is always the perfect setting for a little paranormal-even if you're a little skeptic.
I really loved the character of "Poochie" the slightly demented (or as we prefer to say down South, "eccentric") grandmother-in law of Angelle. Poochie has more than a touch of ESP herself, and she plays a vital role in helping Dunny with the search for the children.

I enjoyed this book and read it practically in one sitting.
It has just enough of the paranormal without being too out there, although there was some creepiness of evil visiting Angelle's house and assaulting her, that didn't quite gel with me.
My thanks to Anna at FSB Associates.com for sending me this review copy.

About the author from FSB Media

Deborah LeBlanc is an award-winning author from Lafayette, Louisiana. She is also a business owner, a licensed death scene investigator, and an active member of two national paranormal investigation teams. Deborah's unique experiences, enthusiasm, and high-energy level make her a much sought-after speaker at writer's conferences across the nation. She also takes her Passion for literacy and a powerful ability to motivate to high schools around the country.

She is the president of the Horror Writers Association, the Writers' Guild of Acadiana, Mystery Writers of America's Southwest Chapter, and an active member of Sisters in Crime, the National Association of Women Writers, and International Thriller Writers Inc. In 2004, Deborah created the LeBlanc Literacy Challenge, an annual national campaign designed to encourage more people to read, and soon after founded Literacy Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting illiteracy in America.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Review: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

Yesterday I was reading a group of mini-reviews posted by Mo at her blog Unmainstream Mom Reads and one of them reminded me that I had this title still sitting on my shelf about 3/4's read.

I hate to get that far into a book and abandon it, so last night I pulled it out and finished it.
I was quickly reminded of why I didn't finish this book, and I'm not talking about all the disgusting, horrific ways (and there were loads of those) that the main character, Patrick Bateman murders people.
I mean, come on, I expected him to kill people-after all he was a psycho.
What made me yawn and dislike this character was his incessant name-dropping.
Frankly, the man was a "Label Whore".
God, he prattled on and on about Hugo Boss this and Ralph Lauren that until I couldn't stay awake.
He didn't limit his spiel to just his own wardrobe either-he would pick apart bit by bit every other character in the room's attire as well, so by the time you turned the page you knew the brand-name of every stitch of clothing they had on, right down to their drawers, and all their accessories to boot.
When he went out to eat (which was often) you were rewarded with the name and ingredients of every item on the menu, including all the labels on the wine list, plus whatever his companions were eating and drinking as well.

OK. I get it that the author was showing us some weird OCD going on with this man, but seriously, when he bought a new entertainment center and went on and on about every single component imaginable, from the CD player to the sub-woofers, right down to the gold-plated AV jacks, I just wanted to stab myself in the eye.

Maybe this is what the author was trying to achieve-if so-Brilliant!
After reading this book, my dislike for Patrick Bateman was so intense that I felt I could strangle him myself...preferably with a silk Hermes' scarf from Bergdorf's or a pair of Perry Ellis trouser socks-black of course.

After all, plain old pantyhose just wouldn't do.

About The Author from randomhouse.com

Bret Easton Ellis is the author of four previous novels and a collection of stories, which have been translated into twenty-seven languages. He divides his time between Los Angeles and New York City

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Review:The Blue Star by Tony Earley

From Hatchette Book Group.com

Seven years ago, readers everywhere fell in love with Jim Glass, the precocious ten-year-old at the heart of Tony Earley's bestseller Jim the Boy. Now a teenager, Jim returns in another tender and wise story of young love on the eve of World War Two. Jim Glass has fallen in love, as only a teenage boy can fall in love, with his classmate Chrissie Steppe. Unfortunately, Chrissie is Bucky Bucklaw's girlfriend, and Bucky has joined the Navy on the eve of war. Jim vows to win Chrissie's heart in his absence, but the war makes high school less than a safe haven, and gives a young man's emotions a grown man's gravity. With the uncanny insight into the well-intentioned heart that made Jim the Boy a favorite novel for thousands of readers, Tony Earley has fashioned another nuanced and unforgettable portrait of America in another time--making it again even realer than our own day. This is a timeless and moving story of discovery, loss and growing up, proving why Tony Earley's writing "radiates with a largeness of heart" (Esquire).

I've carried this book about with me for the past week.
If work and Life hadn't got in the way, I would have finished it long before now.
Truthfully, it flowed along so easily that I didn't really want it to end.

The story is set in 1940's America just before World War II.
Jim Glass is poised to graduate high school and take his place alongside his kinfolk, and more than likely live out the life he has always known in the small town of Aliceville.

Jim has also fallen in love.
He's fallen the way that we all fall when we are young and hormones are raging.
Of course Chrissie Steppe is not the perfect girl for Jim. Slightly wrong side of the tracks and all, so to speak, with a boyfriend overseas to boot.
And that naturally, is what makes her all the more desirable.

This is a beautifully written novel, I felt like I was watching it happen, and even if you wern't born or raised in that time, you are drawn back to it.
This book is sweet, funny and sad.
And as corny as it sounds, Tony Earley has written a Norman Rockwell painting.
I don't know how else to describe it. Just read it.
My thanks to Valerie from The Hatchette Book Group for this review copy.

About the author from hatchettebookgroup.com

Tony Earley is the author of four books: Here We Are in Paradise, a collection of stories; the novel Jim the Boy; the personal essay collection Somehow Form a Family; and The Blue Star, a novel forthcoming in Spring, 2008. A winner of a National Magazine Award for fiction, he was named one of the twenty best writers of his generation by both Granta, in 1996, and The New Yorker in 1999. His fiction and/or nonfiction have appeared in Harper's, Esquire, The New Yorker, The Oxford American, The New York Times Book Review, Tin House, Best American Short Stories, New Stories from the South and many other magazines and anthologies. He is a native of western North Carolina and a graduate of Warren Wilson College and The University of Alabama. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife and daughter, where he is the Samuel Milton Fleming Associate Professor of English at Vanderbilt University.

Cooler Contest

Monday, August 3, 2009

Get Your Read On: Dancing With Ana by Nicole Barker

From the website dancingwithana.com

Beth is a lucky girl…

She comes from a loving family. She has three best friends. She loves to surf and lives five minutes from the beach. She also recently discovered that the boy she’s grown up with has the most amazing green eyes…
Beth has every reason to smile. Every reason to be happy. Every reason to feel blessed.

Then why is she sticking her fingers down her throat?

Sixteen year old Beth Baxter’s life merely resembles the one she’s always known. Her father has left. She is falling for Jeremy Duscana and the diet she started has somehow turned into an obsession. Yet her three best friends remain the same, always there for her.

But even their love can’t save her from herself.

Dancing With Ana. A story about the journey to acceptance of one’s own reality, the incredible bond that exists between friends and a love that truly endures all things.

In Dancing With Ana, Nicole Barker has written a fine, sensitive book that looks at the very real issues young girls face. The peer pressure to be perfect, and unrealistic views of body image begin young, and are enforced by the media daily.
If you're an adult reading this, you'll find yourself looking back and remembering that one "perfect girl" in high school-the one you both revered and hated because try as you might,
you could never be quite as popular, or pretty.

Or maybe you were that "perfect girl"...but you had a secret...

From the website:dancingwithana.com

...Ana is definitely a character in the book…a main character. She is a strong force, a reliable friend found in despair, a manipulative enemy. You want to please her, earn her acceptance and admiration. You want her to go away, forever...

...Ana will take you away from your family, friends, life.

This is the truth. This is anorexia...

Although the genre of this book is Young Adult, I believe this is a story that should be read and shared by both parent and child.
This story begins with four friends who decide to go on a diet, but for one of them, it quickly spirals out of control.

Fueled by not just the desire to be thinner, but by a deep need to have some kind of order in her life,
Beth Baxter's unhappiness due to her parent's recent divorce, and feelings of rejection by her father is played out by her obsession with the one thing she has found that she can control-her weight.

Also touched upon is another issue of self-injury or self-mutilation.
Beth's friend Rachel has chosen this sad, seldom talked about, and self-destructive mechanism of coping to deal with the pain and anger of a neglectful, abusive home life. (I found myself really wanting a happy ending for Rachel and I hope that perhaps this subject will be explored more fully by Mrs. Barker in another book.)

In summary I believe that this is an excellent book to be read,shared, and discussed by teens and their parents, and educators as well. I'd like to thank the author herself for sending me this review copy. To learn more about this book, please check out her website

About the author:

Nicole Barker grew up in Portland, Oregon and attended Southern Oregon State College in the town of Ashland.
Nestled in the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains, Nicole took to writing while pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Humanities with a strong emphasis on early childhood development.
Shortly after graduation, she spent several months traveling around the United States and parts of Canada.
Nicole now lives in south Florida with her husband, two kids, two dogs, toads,
frogs, hermit crabs and fish. She is currently working on her second YA book.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Book Review: Now What? by Laura Berman Fortgang

It's been a while since I read a "self-help book".
It's not that I have anything against them-in fact I find them useful-(Raise your hand if you read Dr. Wayne W. Dyer's Your Erroneous Zones back in the seventies)

And tell the truth. Even if you didn't read it, weren't you just a little bit curious about The Secret by Rhonda Byrne?
Now that book just made me feel bad to learn that I had brought all my troubles upon myself, just because I thought about them, therefore I attracted them-(hey, I'm not making this shit up-it really says this in the book...)

I personally loved Dr. Dyer's book. I caught him on PBS the other night promoting a new book and he's really "Zen-like" now, but darn-it-I still like him and will probably buy his new book as well. Much of what he says now is oddly similar to what I read in The Secret but I guess I just like the way he says it better.

Which brings me to the book I want to talk about today,
titled Now What? 90 Days to a New Life Direction by Laura Berman Fortgang.
First a bit about the author.

From FSB Associates.

Laura Berman Fortgang is a nationally renowned speaker and life coach, helping individuals, small businesses, and corporations forge new directions and weather change. Recently ordained as an interfaith minister, she lives in Montclair, New Jersey.

and from laurabermanfortgang.com

...Laura appearances on Oprah, The CBS Early Show, NBC's Today, Good Morning American, various nationally syndicated and cable outlets and many others, combined with major print media such as USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, MONEY and many international newspapers have paved the way for most of the successful coaches in the industry today.

Through her coaching company, InterCoach, Inc./Now What?™ Coaching, Laura has provided coaching to diverse clients ranging from homemakers, celebrities and Fortune 500 companies to NASA and the Army Corps of Engineers. Her company was voted one of the top 100 companies to watch in NJ...

First off, this isn't a book you sit down and read in one or two sittings and suddenly you are this brand-new person.
It's really a guide with good, sound, practical, and doable advice, and you find yourself flipping forward and backward to research the individual chapters as they pertain to you.

Or if you prefer, you may follow each chapter through the weekly program laid out in the two parts of the book.I particularly liked the small self-reflective exercises that appeared throughout each chapter.
There's also a resource guide in the appendix with valuable leads and tips for your quest toward self-growth and change.

I think it's a great book to keep on your desk or in your bag for easy reference, because the author writes with contagious energy-she walks the talk-and you can feel it, and as I read through, I couldn't help but wish that I could hear her speak in person.
I guess I like the way she says things too. :-)

My thanks to Caitlin at fsbassociates.com for this review copy.