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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

I know a lot of bloggers do weekly round ups, and I’m a huge fan. Typically published on Fridays, they get me excited for the weekend, and it’s always fun to catch up on things I’ve missed online during week. If there’s one person who never wants to miss anything on the old internets, it’s me.

I thought I would jump on board and start doing round ups, but I got to thinking about how Mondays are the day when I actually need the most motivation and distractions. Everyone knows Monday is the worst day of the week (sorry, Monday), so I thought it would be more fun to put together some things to look forward to for the week ahead.

Here we go!

I read Bon Appetit’s Southern issue yesterday, and it includes some seriously awesome looking recipes. I’m trying this one for Chicken & Dumplings tonight. It involves making your own gnocchi, and I can imagine that you could use them as a base for dozens of other dishes in the future. I’m also dying to make their Potlikker Noodles with Mustard Greens, Chickpea Stew and Stir-Fried Lettuces with Crispy Shallots, among many, many others. Bon Appetit is so good lately, do you agree?

This Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday! I am beyond excited that the Giants are playing. With my husband being from Indy, and me being a huge Peyton Manning fan as a result, we’d initially hoped to go to the Super Bowl in Indianapolis and watch the Colts play this year, but it wasn’t meant to be. But, let’s be serious: I’m from New York, so I’m just as pumped about Eli and the Giants being there. On Sunday, I’ll be making this recipe from Smitten Kitchen for Scallion Meatballs with Soy-Ginger Glaze and trying not to freak out, have a heart attack and die during the game.

From the above, you may be starting to think that I all I think about is food. You’re pretty much right, but in an effort to be a more rounded (and skinnier) person (the months in Italy took a toll, people!), I’m trying to get into a running routine. I set up my Nike+ account this morning, and I have to say: it is so cool! I have the Nike+ iPod sensor, which fits into a slot in the bottom of my shoe, and it makes running outside SO much easier. It syncs with your iPhone and a little voice alerts you to each mile you’ve completed as you listen to music (in my case, all 90’s jams). I was mapping runs using MapMyRun prior to this, and using the Nike+ sensor is just so much easier. After you finish your workout, you can upload the details to Nike’s website, where they save all the info on how far you’ve run, plus you can set goals for yourself and create a tiny avatar of yourself running and saying motivational things (see mine above). I highly recommend it. Disclaimer: you pretty much do need to have Nike shoes with the slot for the sensor in them for this to work. Luckily, there’s a Nike Factory store in NOLA, and they had some really affordable running shoes.

Lastly, here are a few more links to things around the web to spice up your Monday afternoon:

How to defriend people in real life.

Paula Deen has been getting so much flack lately that I kinda feel bad for her even though I am very turned off by her diabetes-announcement-strategy thing. I don’t want to pile on, but this slideshow from Complex showcasing her 10 Deadliest Recipes is worth a gander. They’re pretty gross (cheeseburger with donuts for buns or deep fried butter, anyone?).

There are so many great new restaurants opening in New Orleans it’s getting hard to keep track. Next on my list to try are the French-Vietnamese restaurant Tamarind at the new Hotel Modern and Manning’s, Archie Manning’s new restaurant in Harrah’s.

Speaking of Mannings, if you’ve been following the drama regarding Peyton Manning’s future in Indy, this article from yesterday’s New York Times is worth a read (sob).

I love the Best American Short Stories anthologies. The 2011 one is out and I can’t wait to finish it this week.

And, J. Crew has some awesome colored jeans. It’s important to wear bright colors, so people know you’re alive.

Happy beginning of February! Hope everyone has a good week.

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I’ve mentioned before that I love Ann Patchett’s books. She’s such a talented writer. She primarily writes fiction, but the nonfiction story of her friendship with writer Lucy Grealy (Truth & Beauty) is utterly fantastic. I read it a few weeks ago upon the advice of a dear, book-loving friend and I can’t stop thinking about it.

If you’re not familiar with their story, Lucy and Ann Patchett met in grad school at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Lucy had a rare cancer in her jaw when she was a child and a part of her jaw was removed as a result of her treatment. She spent the remainder of her life suffering through various facial reconstruction surgeries, crippled by feelings that she was ugly and unlovable. Despite this, she was an acclaimed writer and poet and published her own memoir on her struggle, Autobiography of a Face*.

In Truth & Beauty, Patchett recounts Lucy’s story, which her own adult life becomes intertwined with. It’s one of the most unique stories of friendship I’ve come across. As Lucy’s life becomes increasingly difficult (none of her facial reconstruction surgeries will take, leaving her physically and emotionally on the brink of collapse), Ann is there making heroic gestures: paying her bills, carrying her home from the hospital, etc.

I love Ann Patchett’s writing and I loved this book, so I was surprised to read some negative Amazon reviews – they’re pretty nasty. Readers accuse Ann of tarnishing her friend’s memory by portraying Lucy in a negative light while making herself seem saintly. Some say that she exploited Lucy by revealing nasty secrets about her and published the book to profit off of her death. Then, there’s the opposite end of the spectrum: people who are unwilling to believe that Ann could love Lucy so much in a platonic way and insist that the two were secret lesbian lovers.

I think it’s all craziness and the book seems to me to be Ann’s tribute to her friend and her way of grieving for Lucy’s loss. But it’s a very interesting topic for debate. Makes me wish I still had a book club to discuss it in! If you do have a book club (jealous), I highly recommend this book for it. Let me know how it goes!

*I also read Autobiography of a Face, and have to say, that I found Ann’s telling of Lucy’s story more compelling than her own. And I feel bad writing that because Lucy is dead and Ann clearly wants her readers to think Lucy is as dynamic and talented as she does, but if I had to choose between the two books, I’d pick Truth & Beauty. Just my two cents.

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A Visit From the Goon Squad

Have you seen this book around? I feel like every time I go into a book store it’s there, prominentantly displayed with its “Winner of the Pulitzer Prize” badge gleaming, challenging me to read it if I consider myself serious about reading anything other than chick lit. I avoided picking it up for months, and really the reasons were pretty superficial: the title contains the word “goon,” the cover artwork is weird, and most of all it’s based on the music industry. If there’s one thing I’m not interested in, it’s reading about hipsters complaining about how hard it is to produce their “art.”

Then I started reading that the author, Jennifer Egan, kind of dissed Jennifer Weiner and is a little embarrassed at her own success.  Interest piqued. I finally picked up the book a couple of weeks ago, and it was fantastic. Really, one of the best books I’ve read in I-can’t-remember-how-long.  Better than all of the books I so ringingly endorsed here.

And, to top it all off, I had one of the most amazing moments for a book nerd while reading it.  I had actually read an excerpt of the book in The Best American Short Stories 2010 anthology, and loved it. I remember nearing the end of the story in the anthology and being sad. I really wished the story were an entire book. Cue to 8 months later, reading this book: my dream had come true! Sidenote: if I had not been judging A Visit From the Goon Squad by its cover (literally) for so long, I would have found out it actually was an entire book much sooner.

One of the coolest thing about A Visit From the Goon Squad (and really the reason why it could be excerpted in a book of short stories) is the narrative style. Each chapter focuses on the experiences of a particular character during a particular period of time. Then, the next chapter kind of starts anew, picking up the narrative from a different character’s – whom you’ve already met in the story, in most cases in a minor role – vantage point, which in some cases is years before and in others is years later. What results is a story that’s not so much about the music industry or goons (not even sure where the title came from) as much as it is about the experience of moving through life.  It’s basically like meeting someone and wondering what her deal is – wondering why she is who she is, what she’ll go on to do – and then getting the chance to actually find out, over and over again.

Bottom line: it won the Pulitzer Prize for a reason and you should read it and I suggest doing so ASAP!

Ps – there is one chapter that’s written in Powerpoint (it’s not as weird as it sounds), so it might be difficult to read on a Kindle. I read the paperback.

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Summer Reading List

In between flying into Rome, checking into our fabulous B&B, wondering the cobblestoned Trastevere streets and eating two plates of pasta in wonderful Italian restaurants yesterday (more on all of this later), I overlooked the fact that September 6th was “National Read a Book Day.” My apologies to you, dear reader(s)!

One of my most favorite past times is reading. Especially on the beach (the photo up top is one of my favorites from my honeymoon). That being said, it’s a bit confusing to me why this holiday is scheduled for the day after Labor Day, but reading is fun any time of year, I promise!

So, without further ado, in honor of National Read a Book Day, here are 5 books I enjoyed this summer:

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror , and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson
I have a slight obsession with Nazi Germany during World War II. So, this book was pretty much a slam dunk for me. Erik Larson has mastered making historical nonfiction relevant and compelling, and this book is no exception. He brings to life Germany pre-World War II in a way that’s so vivid it’s almost romanticized. The uncertainty, fear and even excitement of the time is perfectly captured. It made me wish I could transport myself back to the era just to be a witness. Since I don’t own a time machine, I’ve settled for planning a trip to Berlin in December.

The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectactular Fall of a Serial Imposter by Mark Seal
Clark Rockefeller’s story is so completely ridiculous that it’s hard to believe that it’s true. As a Lifetime Original Movie junkie, I first became interested in his story when Eric McCormack starred as Clark in the movie Who is Clark Rockefeller? This book tracks the development of his life as a con artist, filling in the details of his many personalities with anecdotes from those he duped. It’s clearly the biography of a disturbed man, but I laughed out loud on several occasions.

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
This is the first book I’ve read by Jonathan Tropper, but it will not be the last. It’s the story of a dysfunctional family’s grieving process for their late father, filled equally with hilarity, absurdity and sadness. It delves into the tragedies that fill a life with humor and sympathy.  One of its central observations is how little we ever really know about what’s really going on in anyone’s life. Some deep stuff right there! But seriously, you’ll laugh out loud at this one as well.

Before I go to Sleep by S. J. Waston
I really can’t stop talking about this book. I have a feeling it’s getting annoying for people. I can’t help it, though. It’s been so long since I’ve become addicted to reading a book in such an all-consuming way. It really defines the cliched “page-turner” phrase. The book’s main character is suffering from severe memory loss. Each night when she goes to bed, the act of sleeping takes all of her memories away; when she wakes up she’s clueless about where and who she is. It’s a plot device that’s been explored in a few other mediums – the movies 50 First Dates and Memento to name a few – but never so well, in my opinion. The book is a bit like a maze. You’re constantly trying to figure out who to trust, what’s true, what’s an illusion. It’s the kind of book you’ll stay up until 3am to finish. When you arrive at work the next morning bleary-eyed and barely functioning, your coworkers will ask you how late you stayed out partying last night and you’ll have to be honest and tell them you were up home alone, reading a book.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
I read this book on my honeymoon (for proof, see photo above), and I really wish I were reading it again right now. Although, let’s be honest, the setting didn’t hurt. But, Ann Patchett is such a talented writer she can make even the book’s slightly unbelievable plot worth reading anyway, and maybe even make you not notice how strange it is until a couple of days after you’ve finished the book. Pharmaceutical researcher Dr. Maria Singh travels into the jungle to investiagate the disappearance of her colleague and uncovers a total different reality. Two warnings: (1) if you’re taking or about to take anti-malaria pills while reading this book, like I was, it will make you extremely paranoid, and (2) there’s a certain detail left undiscussed about the book’s resolution that is slightly bothersome. However, if Patchett decides to continue another book where she left off with this one, I am 100% on board.

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