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!

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?

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?

Book Review: Admit One: My Life in Film by Emmett James

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

I was looking for something different to read this new year and my friend Jen loaned me the Kindle version of this book. I’m glad she did! I loved it!

The book’s description from Amazon:

Set in Croydon, South London, in the 1980s, Admit One details how self-deprecating writer Emmett James escaped from the pains of adolescence by going to the cinema. Through wry wit and observation, the writer reflects, obsesses, and rages about film and its correlation to our pasts. Life soon imitates art, and the narrator finds that his true calling is in transcendence from one side of the screen to the other. He decides to leave England for the only place where he can realize his dream of becoming an actor–Hollywood.

We follow the narrator on his numerous adventures: as he jumps from forgery to pornography to crashing the Academy Awards under the alias of a nominated writer. All the while, the films that inspired each tale contextualize this humorous collection of stories. The narrator ultimately provides a unique insight into the fascinating industry of film, eventually himself stumbling into the biggest box-office grossing film of all time.

This book is hysterical! I laughed most of the way through it. I love that each movie captures a different growth stage in James’ life. This was an interesting way to journal his life and I thought it worked well! And for those of you who haven’t heard about some of these movies, there is a synopsis of the movie to start each chapter.

My favorite chapter is the Ghostbusters chapter. The story that surrounds it and the disappointment that ensues is comical. James’ writing style is something like I have never read before. If you are looking for something different and funny to read. Pick this one up. You won’t regret it!

Book Review: The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe

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 reviews in the past, know that I am a huge fan of mysteries and all things fiction. This review may have you confused.

I’m a huge fan of impressionist paintings, particularly Monet. A colleague of mine was reading this book and I was absolutely intrigued by it. That and the fact that it made the New York Times Bestseller List. (I’m a book snob like that sometimes)

The description complements of Amazon:

Though they were often ridiculed or ignored by their contemporaries, today astonishing sums are paid for their paintings. Their dazzling works are familiar to even the most casual art lovers—but how well does the world know the Impressionists as people?

Sue Roe’s colorful, lively, poignant, and superbly researched biography, The Private Lives of the Impressionists, follows an extraordinary group of artists into their Paris studios, down the rural lanes of Montmartre, and into the rowdy riverside bars of a city undergoing monumental change. Vivid and unforgettable, it casts a brilliant, revealing light on this unparalleled society of genius colleagues who lived and worked together for twenty years and transformed the art world forever with their breathtaking depictions of ordinary life.

I love a good biography now and then, but this read more to me like fiction. I breezed through this biography quickly, intrigued by the intertwining of my favorite impressionists, how their paths crossed and their individual stories. I felt like I got a new insight into each of the painters famous paintings, many of which were ridiculed at the time of their creation. Roe describes the stories in such detail that you can feel the pain, anguish, disappointment and joys of each depicted artist throughout their journey.

My favorite fact from this book is the dynamics between Manet and Monet. I had always known that their names had caused confusion in the art world, but the book dives in past that. It’s an interesting story.

If you love art, the impressionists or just want to become more knowledgeable, this is a great read. Great last minute gift for the art lover as well!