Tuesday, October 27, 2009

No time to review, but I'm in love with The Nook!

Skipping the book review for today. I’m running a conference in Philadelphia this week, which leaves me with not much time for writing. However. I do want to offer a short rant about how absolutely ENTRANCED I am by Barnes & Nobles’ new e-reader, The Nook. If you haven’t seen much information on this thing yet, go take a virtual tour of it. It is almost everything I could want in an e-reader. It might be enough for me to buy it. I will definitely be going to touch and feel one at a B&N near me when they are released at the end of November. They have wireless downloading and free 3G like the Kindle, coupled with the ability to expand the memory with an SD card. There is also a limited lending feature where you can lend books to people for 14 days (if the publisher gives permission to do so) to anyone for a multitude of devices – not just The Nook. The things I’d like it to do that it doesn’t: have a more flexible lending feature (which no other e-reader does at all, so it’s hard to complain), allow access to Word documents, and have a full-color screen for reading comics/graphic novels (which would admittedly reduce the battery life significantly, so I guess what I really want is color e-ink!). But I absolutely believe this is the best e-reader that has been marketed so far, and I am more excited about it than I expected I ever would be about any e-reader. And it’s not just me, either – Gizmodo published this article about the eight reasons The Nook rocks. I wish B&N would send me a free one to review on this site!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

If You Can Get It for Free, the Recipes are Pretty Good...

I did read another book between The Concrete Blonde and this one - Lottery by Patricia Wood - but my book club is discussing that book at our November meeting and I don't want to spoil my contributions to the discussion because I know some of my club-mates read my blog. I'll review it after our November meeting :)

So, my curiosity was peaked about this book, French Women Don't Get Fat, a long time ago when I actually still watched The Today Show and I saw Katie Couric interview the author. I thought, That's a good point. French women really do eat bread and cheese and chocolate and drink lots of wine, but they are almost all thin and well-dressed and adorable. I finally scored a copy on BookMooch and then it languished in my to-read pile for months before I was finally in the mood to pick it up and read it.

Mireille Guiliano, the author, claims that she learned the science behind what most French women do naturally because she gained a significant amount of weight in her youth as a result of studying abroad in America and eating lots of processed food there, then coming home and going to university in France and eating lots of pastry. Her mother sent their family doctor to visit her and he kindly helped her remember the way to be a slender French woman. See, she's trying to identify with her primarily American audience by saying, "I know, I understand, I've been there - America made me fat too; it's not your fault but I can teach you better!"

Unfortunately, she doesn't seem to realize how condescending this is. And that pretty much sums up my feelings about the book. She doesn't say anything revolutionary. Apart from the recommendation for a cleansing weekend of eating nothing but Magical Leek Soup (her words, not mine) to kick-off your reconditioning, and her weird pushiness to eat yogurt all the time, this book largely gives average, common sense advice. Eat a balanced diet. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Eat bread and sweets and drink alcohol in moderation. Eat more fresh and fewer processed foods. Get your body moving regularly. Half the time I was rolling my eyes saying, "DUH. I know that already." And the other half of the time I was bristling from the condescension inherit in her stories. She tells these stories about American women she knew and befriended and taught these "French" secrets, and how they had miraculous weight loss and became happy and fulfilled! Hooray! The French have all the answers! Seriously, I know a number of French people who I like very much, who are good, kind, sweet, normal people. This lady, however, comes off as your stereotypical self-righteous Parisienne snob.

The redeeming part of the book is the recipes. She gives lots and lots of recipes. Most of them are pretty easy, and every one that I've tried so far is delicious. I have started making a version of her Baby Blueberry Smoothie for breakfast some mornings, and I love it. I've dog-eared about 25 recipes in the book that I want to try. So I say that if you stumble across this in the bargain bin and are interested in easy authentic French recipes, pick it up. If you get it for free, it's worth it for one or two recipes alone. Just don't read the rest of the book - it's not worth it. Flip straight to the recipes and enjoy those without subjecting yourself to the condescending attitude.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

When You Can't Identify with the Main Character...

Hoo-boy. It's been a while. I know. I've added the blog to my Tuesday to-do list, so hopefully once a week I will really, truly be here, giving you news and reviews and exposing you to fun stuff.

So. First things first. You may have heard something lately about the FCC cracking down on book bloggers. No, I'm not kidding. Apparently, there is some rampant problem with publishers *gasp* giving bloggers copies of their books for free, to read and review, and the bloggers not stating that they got a free book for this purpose. Can you say YAWN?! Seriously? Do our governmental agencies have so little to do that THIS is a major concern? Because I can think of a thing or two that they might do instead. So here's my disclaimer: I have not ever received a free book from a publisher. Ever. For any purpose. And I don't anticipate getting one in the future. With that, I'll jump down from the soapbox.

Okay. I read this book months ago, but I'm going to do my best. The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly is a book in his series of mysteries about Detective Harry Bosch. I picked this up because an author I adore recommended it as one of her favorite mystery series, and this her favorite of the series. I am a mystery lover, so I immediately put it on the to-read list.

The premise is that Harry was on a case a long time ago - something like 9 years ago - that was a serial killer case. And he shot and killed a guy who he had good reason to believe was the killer in a situation where he thought the guy was reaching for a gun. Turns out he was reaching for a toupee, but Harry didn't know that until after he had shot him. After the kill, though, all evidence pointed to the fact that he still shot the right guy - the scary Dollmaker serial killer. The guy's family, however, has now brought a civil suit against him for wrongful death. Meanwhile, bodies have started turning up again bearing the marks of the Dollmaker killings. Harry is caught in a courtroom drama combined with a fear that maybe he did somehow, despite the evidence, get the wrong guy and the Dollmaker is really still out there.

Sounds exciting. Didn't really grab me. There are a lot of fans of this series - a LOT - and I am no stranger to the mass market paperback series in the mystery section. I kinda like a lot of them. But this one...was fine. It wasn't bad, but I never bonded with the main character. I was also driven nearly insane by Connelly's habit of "recycling" famous people's names in his characters - something that I'm sure fans find cute, but Heironymous Bosch is already a famous, real-life 15th century Dutch painter. He doesn't also need to be a fictional LA cop in Connelly's books. John Locke also makes an appearance as a fictional psychologist specializing in serial killers and sex crimes. I prefer the real John Locke, the philosopher. And every time I read these names, I was jolted out of the story in annoyance.

I wouldn't discourage anyone from reading this book. The story is well-written and well-crafted; it had me guessing as to whodunnit until near the big reveal. I just...did not identify with Bosch. And have no desire to read more about his life. Maybe that's just a thing with me, but them's my two cents.