Book Review: American Terroir by Rowan Jacobsen

The following review originally appeared on Book End Babes, a website devoted to a love of reading and to learning about new authors.

love food. I am a foodie and I will try anything that you put in front of me (except octopus). I also love to cook and absolutely love to bake. During these summer months, I love to use what I can find at the local farmer’s market. It’s nice to know where your food comes from. But do you REALLY know where your food comes from?

American Terroir Savoring the Flavors of Our Woods, Waters, and Fields, was a book I borrowed from a colleague, who could not stop talking about it. From the back cover:

The first guide to the “flavor landscapes” of North America, American Terroir explains how local conditions such as soil and climate affect the flavor of iconic American foods. Complete with recipes and a resource section for finding the best place-specific foods, it’s the perfect companion for any self respecting locavore.

I got more out of this book than I thought I would. I love dark roast coffee, but now I won’t drink it. Did you know that dark roasting ruins the coffee bean? We can blame this on Starbucks. I’m terrified of bees, but now I laugh when I see them. Once you’ve read a bee referred to as a “flying penis” you can’t help but laugh at them as they fly by.

Speaking of bees, that little honey bee that’s in your refrigerator, do you know what kind of honey it is? Did you know honey never spoils?

I learned so much about salmon and honey and coffee and avocados and mussels. Literary fans, did you know there was a Green Gables mussel?

My favorite chapters encompassed the foods I love to consume most: wine, chocolate and avocados. But the most intriguing chapter of this book to me was the chapter on forest gastronomy. Why yes, I think I would love to go through the forest and pick lily petals for salads. If I’m ever in Quebec, I want to eat at the restaurant this chapter is centered around.

If you love food, this book is a great read for you. It will make you want to travel to see these processes and land in person. I want to go to Michoacan to see the avocado trees and eat the ham that is supposed to be better than prosciutto. I want to go to Prince Edward Island and eat a Green Gables Mussel, to Alaska for the fresh king salmon and to Chiapas for chocolate.

Have you read any good food-related books? Share them in the comments!

Support Your Network and a Stellar Indie Film

I’ve talked a lot in this blog about how important it is to have the support of your writing community and how important it is to support them. My personal writing network has cheered me on and supported me in all of the endeavors I have started in the past year and my ideas for the future.

Now it’s my turn to give back.

You all met her as Jamie Lee Scott back in December of last year when she was featured in my Seven Questions segment. Since then Jamie Livingston-Dierks has published another book in the Gotcha Detective Series, Textual Relations, and has written a short film.

No One Knows was written in a single sitting as the result of a single thought: “What could be the worst thing that could happen to you if you looked in the wrong window?” This led to another thought: “What would you do to keep your deep, dark secret?”

This led to the development of a screenplay:

A story about family, public perceptions, and secrets. What would you do to keep your secret? 

The Smiths could be any family. They could be your neighbors. When twelve-year old Jason looks in his neighbor’s window at , he learns he’s not the only kid living in an abusive environment. What he learns will change his life.

Now with a producer, director and cast in hand, No One Knows in the funding stages. If you love to support your fellow writers donate. If you love indie films donate. If you have a deep, dark secret donate. Every dollar will help make this awesome film possible. And if you can’t donate, spread the word about the film via Twitter and/or Facebook. To donate, head over to the Indiegogo page.

Thanks in advance to all of you who support this film and one of my biggest supporters.

Book Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

The following review originally appeared on Book End Babes, a website devoted to a love of reading and to learning about new authors.

I received Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) as a gift from someone who loves The Office as much as I do.

From the book jacket:

“Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”

Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!

In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.”

I loved this book! It was funny, but not too over the top. I love Mindy and like many people, I wasn’t familiar with her early work. Mindy does a great job to categorizing her life into major milestones, whether good or bad, in a humorous, factual manner. As someone who wasn’t the most popular girl, I really connected with Mindy as she dove into her early childhood, the friendships she developed and how it’s a great thing when you don’t peak in high school.

I also love her drive! Mindy is a great example of how drive and determination and sometimes not being sure of what you are doing is okay. You just dust yourself off and keep going on in the pursuit of reaching your dreams. I was just tickled when I found out she was the writer behind my favorite episode of The Office! The Dundies! If you haven’t seen that episode, I suggest you watch it immediately. Season 2 Episode 1.

Mindy’s witty insight into life is great. Her take on one-night stands (which I totally agree with) made me laugh so hard. But my favorite chapter was the one in which she outlines the rules of best friends. I agree with every word she wrote.

If you are looking for an easy beach read for the summer months that will leave you feeling good, this is the book for you! Have you read Mindy’s book or the book of any other female funny ladies? What did you read and what did you learn?

Writing About Yourself is Hard

Writing about yourself stinks. And I don’t mean writing an autobiography. I’m talking about cover letters.

There’s a point in all of our lives, whether you are a writer or not, where you get bored with what you are doing and decide to throw yourself back out into the water with the sharks.

I’m at that point right now. I am not unhappy with all of the opportunities that have been afforded to me over the last year. I think they just pointed me down the right road after I was stuck at the fork. I want more of what I’m doing and I want it to be challenging.

It has been a while since I looked for a new position in the traditional manner. I’ve been lucky enough to have been referred for much of my work. Now I remember why I love referrals. You don’t need a cover letter.

I hate cover letters. I spend entirely too much time crafting these documents. Why is it so hard to talk about yourself? I think it’s the pressure that comes with this brag letter.

  1. Grammar and Spelling: In my full-time position, I see terrible misspellings, uses of the wrong word and just plain bad sentence structure. I think this has made me overly obsessed with perfection on cover letters.
  2. First Impressions: This cover letter is supposed to be a first impression snapshot of who you are as a person and what you and your skills can bring to an organization. Obviously you want to look good on paper. But if you look too good are you disqualifying yourself? If you don’t look good enough will they just delete your email?
  3. Length: The jury is still out on how long cover letters should be and where you should be attaching them electronically. The options vary based upon the method in which you are applying for a job. I find that I just have to use my best judgment, take a stab at it and hope for the best.
  4. Accomplishments: Sure you think something is a great accomplishment to brag about, but really, is it an accomplishment to the hiring executive?

I think we should do away with cover letters all together. Just look at my resume and bring me in to talk to you face-to-face. I’m much better talking about myself when I’m in front of someone else who is asking me what they really care about, not about what I think they care about.

Do you hate writing cover letters? What challenges have they brought you and have you found ways to overcome them?

Robin Roberts: An Inspiration to All Women

I love Robin Roberts. I’ve been watching her on Good Morning America for as long as I can remember. I’m an ABC girl and I’m not ashamed to say so.

When I was in school and thought about becoming a journalist, I started to really pay attention to the female journalists that I loved. Robin Roberts was one of my top three. I began to, and still do, admire her because she is real;  always at ease. I wanted to be able to tell the story of another person with such finesse. I wanted to be good at what I did despite whatever was going on in my personal life.  I still aspire to have the ease and love of the job that Robin shows us each day.

I start my day with Robin and the GMA team. I followed along with everyone else when she announced, underwent treatment for and beat breast cancer. I cheered to myself the day that she came back to the GMA set because I missed having her in my life each morning. Robin is part of my routine.

As I watched the video of her announcement this morning, I thought back to when I was in college and when I decided I wanted to encompass the traits of my favorite journalists. But today, it’s not only the job-related traits that I admire in Robin. I admire her strength, courage, fight and openness to share with the world her struggles and her hope.

All women can take lessons from Robin Roberts. Find happiness in who you are; strength when times are tough; peace in knowing you are not alone; and always remember to smile.

Robin, I wish you the best as you fight this new challenge in your life. I just know you can beat it!

Book Review: Textual Relations by Jamie Lee Scott

The following review originally appeared on Book End Babes, a website devoted to a love of reading and to learning about new authors.

For those of you have been reading BEB for a while, you know that a few months back I reviewed Jamie Lee Scott’s Let Us Prey. This novel was the first of the Gotcha Detective Agency Mysteries.

I was lucky enough to be a beta reader for Textual Relations, but before I tell you about it, you need to read the synopsis!

Mimi Capurro, owner of Gotcha Detective Agency, hasn’t seen her old college flame since they teamed up to find a killer several months earlier. Now, after breaking and entering into an alleged predator’s home, Mimi and Charles find a murder victim on the floor in his bedroom. When homicide detective Nick Christianson and his new partner, Piper Mason, arrive on the scene, this is not the way Mimi expected to see Nick again.

Even though it’s his job, Nick is loath to find the killer. That is until a teenage girl with ties to the victim disappears. Now Mimi, Nick and Charles race against the clock to find the killer and hopefully find the girl in the process.

I cannot praise this book enough! One always worries about the sophomore book in the series, but Jamie brings it. I absolutely loved the story line. It’s timely, well researched and written from an interesting perspective.

All of my favorite characters are back and the role of Charles is even bigger. He is one of my favorite characters of the Gotcha agency! He’s sassy, nosy and tells it like it is! I love that Jamie has developed his character to have some new depth.

We also get to meet some new characters throughout the course of the novel, some who I can see playing a huge role in the next book. I absolutely adore Nick’s new partner Piper and the affect she has on Mimi.

And for those of you who love Mimi and Nick, the tension is back! They have the tension of ABC’s Castle and Beckett and in Textual Relations things start to heat up again! Mimi gets to see a new side of Nick and comes to a big realization about what she feels in her heart.

And the end! What a teaser! You’ll be screaming really, c’mon, I want to know where this is going now! But, like me, you’ll just have to be patient.

If you haven’t read Let Us Prey, I highly recommend that you read that before diving into Textual Relations, but it’s not necessary. It’s a great read too!

How many of you like to read mystery series? What’s your favorite?

Book Review: Private Games by James Patterson & Mark Sullivan

The following review originally appeared on Book End Babes, a website devoted to a love of reading and to learning about new authors.

Those of you who have read my posts here on BEB know my love of James Patterson. I refer to him often. So when my mom passed along his latest book, co-authored with Mark Sullivan, to me I was thrilled to review such a timely book for you all!

A synopsis of the book from James Patterson’s website:

Private, the world’s most renowned investigation firm, has been commissioned to provide security for the 2012 Olympic games in London. Its agents are the smartest, fastest, and most technologically advanced in the world, and 400 of them have been transferred to London to protect over 10,000 competitors who represent more than 200 countries.

The opening ceremony is still hours away when Private investigator and single father of twins, Nigel Steele, is called to the scene of a ruthless murder. A high-ranking member of the games’ organizing committee and his mistress have been killed. It’s clear that it wasn’t a crime of passion, but one of precise calculation and execution.

Newspaper reporter Karen Pope receives a letter from a person who calls himself Cronus claiming responsibility for the murders. He also proclaims that he will restore the Olympics to their ancient glory and will destroy all who have corrupted the games with lies, cheating, and greed. Karen immediately hires Private to examine the letter, and she and Nigel uncover a criminal genius who won’t stop until he’s ended the games for good.

When I read this, I thought, how ballsy to write a book complete with terrorist activities set at the 2012 London Games before they even happen. But then I read the acknowledgements in the back of the book. If the International Olympic Committee provided information and tours of the site of the games for this book to be accurate, I consider that a stamp of approval.

For those of you who read Patterson’s novels, you may already be familiar with Jack Morgan, the owner of Private International. He is one of my favorites of Patterson’s characters, behind Michael Bennett and Alex Cross. While he plays more of a minor character in this novel that takes on his company’s name, his presence was welcome in this novel.

Peter Knight, a new character introduced in this novel, is one of the best I have seen written. Patterson and Sullivan did a nice job of creating a story that interweaves Knight’s personal and private lives with an interesting family twist of characters. (I don’t want to give this one away)

And the who-done-it; I didn’t predict who did it until I got toward the very end. Cronus, this novel’s evil and tormented character, has a story like no other. It’s dark and twisted and he is absolutely insane at points. How they can craft a character like this, I cannot wrap my head around.

For a Patterson novel, this was a slower read which I appreciated. I can normally fly through one of his books in a few hours, but I really loved all of the details and the accuracy of this novel. I could not put this one down. I really hope that Peter Knight is a character that hangs around.

Are you a James Patterson fan? Or are you just a fan of sick, twisted murders? Who are some of your favorite murders from your favorite mystery writer?

Book Review: Black Wings by Kathleen Toomey Jabs

The following review originally appeared on Book End Babes, a website devoted to a love of reading and to learning about new authors.

When I read the synopsis of Black Wings, I was intrigued. OOOH, a Naval Mystery. Here’s what sucked me in:

LT Bridget Donovan suspects the worst when her former Naval Academy roommate, Audrey Richards, perishes in a botched take-off from an aircraft carrier. The Navy says it’s an accident, but facts don’t add up. Could it be suicide, or murder? Donovan’s unofficial investigation into what really happened, both during their past Academy days and in Richards’ final hours, forces her to examine the concepts of honor, justice and the role of loyalty in pursuit of those ideals.

I personally don’t know much about the Navy as my close friends are in the Army and in the Air Force. I was a tad worried that I might not be able to decipher the book because of the jargon. It’s written so clearly and any jargon that Toomey Jabs uses is explained in context.

I feel like the last few reviews I wrote for you were about fictions with strong female characters. Black Wings is no different. Lieutenants Bridget Donovan and Audrey Richards are two strong women fighting to find their place in the male-dominated world of the Navy.

I find it so interesting that Toomey Jabs plays up the stereotypes of women in the Navy so well and this scenario provides a lot of insight in to what women in the military still may be facing. She tells us in the acknowledgements that she drew upon some of her experiences in the academy and the people she knew there. I’m curious to know which experiences she brought into this work of fiction and if some of the evil guys are based on those characters.

I loved the almost always optimistic Audrey, who even when she was afraid she would lose it all, still fought against sexism and against the taunting of the men. “Onward and upward” she would always tell Bridget, her best friend, confidant and roommate.

But it was Bridget who made this novel for me. Maybe I really liked her character because she reminded me of myself. If I was Bridget, I would go after the truth, no matter what the price. Whether you work in Public Affairs like Bridget, or are a journalist like Gleason, you are always looking to find out the truth and to make sure the whole story is told.

Gleason is an interesting character. I would even consider him a main character, even though he isn’t always in the dialogue. He’s the driving force behind Bridget’s quest for the truth and helps her piece together what really happened to Audrey.

And the who done it, it depends which part of the mystery you want to solve. I figured it out toward the end, but was stunned to hear about the other players in Audrey’s plane crash. In some parts, you can draw your own conclusions.

I usually don’t like epilogues. I feel they always tie the story in a nice little bow at the end. Not this one. Toomey Jabs leaves you wanting more and more and more. If you are reading this, I WANT A SEQUEL! Bridget makes a huge decision in the epilogue and I want to know more! I want to know how it affects her life, her career and the Navy!

This page turner is a MUST READ!

Have any of you ever read a Naval mystery? If you have, share your recommendations with us!

Book Review: Blood Orchids by Toby Neal

The following review originally appeared on Book End Babes, a website devoted to a love of reading and to learning about new authors.

Those of you who have read my past reviews know a good murder mystery warms my heart, especially the ones that I cannot put down. Toby Neal is a fantastic writer and I cannot wait for the next books in the Lei Crime Novel series. But first, let me tell you about why I LOVED Blood Orchids.

 Hawaii is palm trees, black sand and blue water-but for policewoman Lei Texeira, there’s a dark side to paradise. Lei has overcome a scarred past to make a life for herself as a cop in the sleepy Big Island town of Hilo. On a routine patrol she finds two murdered teenagers-one of whom she’d recently busted. With its echoes of her own past, the murdered girl’s harsh life and tragic death affect Lei deeply. She becomes obsessed-even as the killer is drawn to Lei’s intensity, feeding off her vulnerabilities and toying with her sanity. Despite her obsession with the case and fear that she’s being stalked, Lei finds herself falling in love for the first time. Steaming volcanoes, black sand beaches and shrouded fern forests are the backdrop to Lei’s quest for answers-and the stalker is closer than she can imagine, as threads of the past tangle in her future. Lei is determined to find the killer-but he knows where to find her first.

Neal has created, dare I say, a character that can rival that of James Patterson’s Lindsay Boxer? Lei is a strong woman struggling to deal with the demons of her past. She has drive, ambition and loves to get herself into situations she might just not have needed to be in She’s ballsy and I love it. Her partner, Pono, provides balance to Lei’s character and serves as the rock in her life.

Neal obviously did her research before writing this novel and it paid off. The descriptions of the Hawaiian settings made me feel the warmth of the sun. The use of Pidgin throughout the novel creates another layer of authenticity. I don’t feel like the novel could have been set anywhere else.

This story wouldn’t be complete without some sexual tension with a leading male figure, in this case Detective Stevens. Their first meetings reminded me of how it was for Castle and Detective Beckett. The development of the relationship between Lei and Detective Stevens is interwoven beautifully into the narrative of story without taking away from the crimes. It’s constantly there in a subtle way that makes you want to turn the page to see what happens not only on the case, but between Lei and Stevens as well.

I am so happy this novel got placed into my hands. I loved it and would have read it cover to cover if life didn’t continue to move around me. And you are not going to believe who done it! I did not see this coming AT ALL!

I cannot wait for the next books in the Lei Crime Series to come out. Toby Neal you have created a novel that has lured me in for life! Everyone should rush and download or buy her book now! You won’t regret it!

Who are some of your favorite female heroines? Do they keep you checking to see when the next novel is going to come out?

Are You a Dragon?

I came across this USA Today article about the Year of the Dragon and business when researching a blog for one of my clients. As I read its focus on small business, I thought about how it related to my writing career.

As many of you know, I’ve been thinking about taking the risk and moving out into freelance land. The last time I talked about this, I was very uncertain and didn’t think I could do it. Now, it is starting to feel more and more right in my gut. I have two fantastic freelance positions with steady work that I enjoy and take pride in.

So, I’ve decided I’m going to be a dragon. This is the year that I’m going to jump off the side of the building (with a safety net of course). Besides the obvious wealth that comes from the Dragon, ambition, virtue and change seem to be the most appealing virtues of the Chinese New Year for me.

I’ve been harnessing the courage to follow my dreams. I’ve been looking for more opportunities to give back to the community. And change, I’m planning a lot of it this year.

Are you are Dragon?  Gung hay fat choy!