What to do when comfort reading isn’t comforting?

Hello from a long absence.  I wish I’d been buried in a book for the last month or like my beloved Thursday Next trapped in the book world itself.  Instead, Holly and I lost our dad at the beginning of December.  That I won’t go into but to say that he was the absolute best in every way and nothing is going to feel quite right for a long time. He’s half the reason we’re both the readers that we are and absolutely the reason I love fantasy.

So time has passed, even though it feels like everyone should be frozen in grief and I keep finding myself at a loss for what to do with myself.  Immersion in a new book is always my comfort – but I just don’t care.  I don’t want to admit how many hours of Food Network I’ve watched rather than find anything that makes me actually think.   I’ve read some smutty romances but even those are kind of meh.

I’m afraid to pick up a book that I want to love because I don’t want my whole mood to color the experience. Babycakes has actually found a new series WORSE than the Rainbow Fairies – it involves Royal Ponies.  Maybe I’ll read with her so I can get my hate reading out and move on to something of my own…

I think I started out wanting to ask for a magic book that would make me feel better and lighter and ready to read anything I want and think about anything without being sad.  Too bad I know there’s no such thing.    So instead I’ll just say that we’ll be back eventually.

Boss Babes: A Happy Book and Giveaway

Boss Babes: A Coloring and Activity Book for Grown-ups, Michelle Volansky

Published September 20th 2016 by Workman Publishing Company
Paperback, 96 pages
Source: Copies received from Publisher

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A playful and play-filled ode to strong women, BOSS BABES is a coloring and activity book filled with fun facts and whimsical black-and-white line drawings celebrating female powerhouses from Beyonce to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Dolly Parton to Malala, Tina Fey to Serena Williams. On every page is a portrait to color or an activity to complete: Connect the dots to conjure J.K. Rowling’s patronus. Complete the Beyonce crossword (12-DOWN: Who run the world?). Decorate Flo-Jo’s nails, decode Cher’s most recent tweet, design a new jabot for RBG, color in Frida Kahlo’s flowers, and more!

My brain is too mentally and emotionally tired to read at night given the state of the world and my own life, so Boss Babes has brought some much needed levity to my house.  Here’s how I can best tell you this is a fun book – nearly every day I’ve been stealing my copy back from my 6 year-old who wants it only for herself.  How to make it clear that I need to design RBG’s jabot and not her?  

The activities are definitely adult, though they aren’t going to make you think too hard. I love the range of women Volansky included though obviously RBG is my favorite!  What other book can you think of that includes Cleopatra, Sally Ride and T. Swift?  Pick it up for yourself or I think this would be very fun in a Christmas stocking for your personal best boss babe.

So to spread the joy and the awesome women, here’s a Rafflecopter Giveaway for one copy! US only.  No giveaway accounts please and the entries close 11/22.

Who’s your best Boss Babe that you’d like to see included?

Thank you Workman Publishing for this super fun book and giveaway copy! 

Review: Generation Chef

Generation Chef, Karen Stabiner

Published September 13th 2016 by Avery

Hardcover, 288 pages

Source: e-ARC received from publisher

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Inside what life is really like for the new generation of professional cooks—a captivating tale of the make-or-break first year at a young chef’s new restaurant.

For many young people, being a chef is as compelling a dream as being a rock star or professional athlete. Skill and creativity in the kitchen are more profitable than ever before, as cooks scramble to reach the top—but talent isn’t enough. Today’s chef needs the business savvy of a high-risk entrepreneur, determination, and big dose of luck.

The heart of Generation Chef is the story of Jonah Miller, who at age twenty-four attempts to fulfill a lifelong dream by opening the Basque restaurant Huertas in New York City, still the high-stakes center of the restaurant business for an ambitious young chef. Miller, a rising star who has been named to the 30-Under-30 list of both Forbes and Zagat, quits his job as a sous chef, creates a business plan, lines up investors, leases a space, hires a staff, and gets ready to put his reputation and his future on the line.

Journalist and food writer Karen Stabiner takes us inside Huertas’s roller-coaster first year, but also provides insight into the challenging world a young chef faces today—the intense financial pressures, the overcrowded field of aspiring cooks, and the impact of reviews and social media, which can dictate who survives.

I’ve become a Top Chef addict and I love trying the food of Chicago’s celebrity chefs like Rick Bayless and Stephanie Izard so I was really excited to read this story of a new NYC restaurant opening and through their first year.  My husband jokes about opening a diner one day and I think this book proves my nerves could never handle it!  From the attempts to find backers, to find the perfect location and then to both hire and retain the best staff – that’s not even getting into the cooking.  You clearly need nerves of steel to open your own kitchen especially on this kind of scale, in New York – at age 26!

The access Stabiner had to the Huertas staff to put this book out was fantastic.  I can’t imagine how she basically lived at the restaurant for a year and didn’t insert herself into the story.  Just reading along I was so nervous for the critics reviews to come in so I can’t imagine how Stabiner didn’t let her own emotions show.  I thought it was so interesting to follow how Miller first conceived of Huertas and then let the concept flow a bit to meet the wants of both his customers and reviews.  I also enjoyed the glimpses into the paths that other chefs took from Izard to others in California or Minnesota; it was very cool to see how differently things move all over the country.  

I would have liked the personal stories between Miller and his partners and staff to be more in depth, but that’s just me being kind of voyeuristic perhaps.  After all these people were still working together largely when the book was published and that might have been a bit much.  I really felt like I needed to follow this with a reread of Sweetbitter for a really juicy peak behind the kitchen walls.   

Let me just say I am hugely proud of myself for stifling the urge to Google Huertas until I finished this book!  As I read I was so extremely curious to know if they were still in business or what might have happened.  I managed to control myself – yes I don’t peak at Christmas presents either – but it was satisfying search to run as soon as I put my kindle down.  Now I know where I’d like to go when I finally visit New York one day because Miller’s food sounds delicious. If you like food and watching the restaurant industry this is definitely a fun read – and hungry read. Have snacks handy!   

Thank you Avery for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Nonfiction November: Choosing My Nonfiction

I’m slow but I’m here for week two of Nonfiction November!  Thank you Rachel at Hibernator’s Library for keeping this going this week!

What are you looking for when you pick up a nonfiction book?

I’m definitely a mood reader so I have to pick up a book that fits at that time.  For example based on my anxiety right now due to the state of the world I’m going to be looking for lighter nonfiction.  Something that tells an engrossing story like Into Thin Air or The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and The Missing Corpse.  

Do you have a particular topic you’re attracted to?

Always feminism and biographies or autobiographies of awesome women.  Bring them on!  I’m always interested in Lucrezia Borgia and currently obsessed with RBG.  Otherwise I am pretty much all over the board in my interests.  I am curious about more hard science books – like Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity after Shannon at River City Reading recommended it – but I think I need shorter the better for that kind of topic. 

Do you have a particular writing style that works best?

I don’t think so?  As long as I’m interested I’m in -even if it takes me 4 months like Romantic Outlaws did in the end.   I would probably pick up narrative nonfiction first given a shelf of options. 

When you look at a nonfiction book, does the title or cover influence you?

Totally!  I can’t imagine not at least picking up a book just based on a great title or cover.  I mean – The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu or again The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse?  I get so very curious right away!  I really need to pick up Severed: A History of Heads Lost and Found – I forget who recommended this but thank you!

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Review: A Change of Heart

A Change of Heart, Sonali Dev

Published September 27th 2016 by Kensington

Paperback, 352 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

28439392Dr. Nikhil ‘Nic’ Joshi had it all—marriage, career, purpose. Until, while working for Doctors Without Borders in a Mumbai slum, his wife, Jen, discovered a black market organ transplant ring. Before she could expose the truth, Jen was killed.

Two years after the tragedy, Nic is a cruise ship doctor who spends his days treating seasickness and sunburn and his nights in a boozy haze. On one of those blurry evenings on deck, Nic meets a woman who makes a startling claim: she received Jen’s heart in a transplant and has a message for him. Nic wants to discount Jess Koirala’s story as absurd, but there’s something about her reckless desperation that resonates despite his doubts.

Jess has spent years working her way out of a nightmarish life in Calcutta and into a respectable Bollywood dance troupe. Now she faces losing the one thing that matters—her young son, Joy.  She needs to uncover the secrets Jen risked everything for; but the unforeseen bond that results between her and Nic is both a lifeline and a perilous complication.

I give Sonali Dev a ton of credit just for the premise of this book.  It is extremely brave to start out by murdering a character that was so great in your last book – The Bollywood Bride.  I think it was pretty brave to make Jen a less than perfect character.  Jen’s perspective is told in very brief snippets of her journal entries and she’s not all warm and fuzzy as one might expect a newlywed to be.  This this contrasted sharply with Nic’s crushing grief and memories of his beloved – again a really bold route for a romance.  So we find Nic trying to drink himself to death on a cruise ship  2 years after her murder when Jess comes and tries to snap him into action to find Jen’s killers in India.  

Honestly the truth of Jess’s story was pretty easy to figure out and once I knew what was coming I just couldn’t get past it.  Also as much as I liked Jess, to be truthful I didn’t want Nic to get past it either!   The poor guy was suffering enough and I was anticipating some painful moments when he found out why she was really there.  That kept me from feeling all the love between Nic and Jess the way I was meant to.   Based on the other reviews I’ve seen though I’m in the minority here – maybe maybe I just need lighter overall when I’m feeling like a romance?  Romance reading is an total escape for me so I need happy.  This was busy with sexy romance, mystery, and past heartbreaks and other readers are loving it.   

I do hope Dev continues with the Bollywood books in the way that I’m guessing because I like her characters and I like seeing the interaction between books.  I will absolutely read whatever she writes next!  I’m going to have to reread The Bollywood Affair though to get back to my own original Sonali Dev love affair.

Thank you Kensington and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review! 

2016 TBR Challenge: I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith

Published: 1948

Source: Chicago Public Library

31122Through six turbulent months of 1934, 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain keeps a journal, filling three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries about her home, a ruined Suffolk castle, and her eccentric and penniless family. By the time the last diary shuts, there have been great changes in the Mortmain household, not the least of which is that Cassandra is deeply, hopelessly, in love.

Ok so I’m basically failing at our self made 2016 TBR Challenge.  But if I’m going down without reading those 10 books, at least I picked up I Capture the Castle.  This was just a delightful read.  I almost felt like I was a kid meeting Anne Shirley for the first time again. Or Emily Starr and the letter bills that she filled with her writings.  So if you enjoy either of those LM Montgomery heroines you should definitely pick up I Capture the Castle.  

Yes, Cassandra’s family is kind of ridiculous, but they have a lot of charm.  I kind of wanted to poke her father and hug her stepmother – but I still enjoyed them all!  Maybe I didn’t love how things played out between Cassandra and her sister, though that could be simply because my sister is my favorite and I couldn’t do those things!  This was a short, sweet and sometimes silly read.  Definitely one I needed this year.  If you need a book to put a smile on your face leading into November I definitely recommend this one.  I just spotted Primary Colors on my bookshelf – now more than 10 years waiting to be read. Maybe that will have to be my next challenge attempt for a swing in the opposite direction…

Just Couldn’t Finish: The Devourers

The Devourers, Indra Das

Hardcover, 306 pages

Published July 12th 2016 by Del Rey

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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On a cool evening in Kolkata, India, beneath a full moon, as the whirling rhythms of traveling musicians fill the night, college professor Alok encounters a mysterious stranger with a bizarre confession and an extraordinary story. Tantalized by the man’s unfinished tale, Alok will do anything to hear its completion. So Alok agrees, at the stranger’s behest, to transcribe a collection of battered notebooks, weathered parchments, and once-living skins.

From these documents spills the chronicle of a race of people at once more than human yet kin to beasts, ruled by instincts and desires blood-deep and ages-old. The tale features a rough wanderer in seventeenth-century Mughal India who finds himself irrevocably drawn to a defiant woman—and destined to be torn asunder by two clashing worlds. With every passing chapter of beauty and brutality, Alok’s interest in the stranger grows and evolves into something darker and more urgent.

Shifting dreamlike between present and past with intoxicating language, visceral action, compelling characters, and stark emotion, The Devourers offers a reading experience quite unlike any other novel.

The description for the Devourers is certainly correct that this book is dreamlike.  At first I was entranced. Alok meets a stranger standing outside a party and feels like he’s in a dream himself and I was drawn right in.  The story begins as kind of spellbinding and then the details became violent, gritty and honestly just too gross for me.  

I was ready to get into the idea of Indian werewolves – or many multicultural werewolves as it appeared to be going – but the darkness and the rape just overwhelmed me honestly.  The cover is beyond gorgeous and this book is getting rave reviews so maybe this was just a miss for me.  The Devourers promises quite a story and an emotional one at that, just be ready for really visceral reactions as you’re reading.

Thank you so much NetGalley and Del Ray for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest opinion.