April 20th, 2011
Charles Baxter - The Feast of Love - 25What I'm saying is: that day was here and then it was gone, but I remember it, so it exists somewhere, and somewhere all those events are still happening and still going on forever. I believe that.

The White Tiger - Aravind Adiga

April 14th, 2011

The White Tiger by Aravind AdigaBalram Halwai is a complicated man. Servant. Philosopher. Entrepreneur. Murderer. Over the course of seven nights, Balram tells us the horrible and transfixing story of how he came to be a success in life -- having nothing but his own wits to help him along. Along with a charisma as undeniable as it is unexpected, Balram teaches us that religion doesn't create virtue, and money doesn't solve every problem -- but decency can still be found in a corrupt world, and you can get what you want out of life if you eavesdrop on the right conversations.

Amoral, irrelevant, deeply endearing, and utterly contemporary, this novel is an international sensation -- and a startling, provocative debut.

In a book-length correspondence to the head of the Chinese government, Balram writes his views on the changing landscape of the global economy and the personal experiences on which his thoughts are based. His ideas are progressive and it must be his upbringing within the world of organized crime in India that has given him his unique perspective. He uses his experiences as evidence to bolster his credibility.

Aravind Adiga won the Man Booker Prize in 2008 for The White Tiger. I use the Man Booker Prize nominees list every year as a great source for my to-read pile. Sometimes I agree with the chosen winner, sometimes I do not. I have not read each book that was nominated in 2008 yet, but I was not disappointed with the Prize going to The White Tiger. I have never read a book like this before and I thought it to be very creative. This was a departure from what I normally read and that was as refreshing as it was frustrating. But I was pleased to see an author write in such a way to better display the main character's personality. I think all of this speaks to why Adiga was only the fourth author awarded the Booker Prize for a debut novel.



April 13th, 2011

My love affair with books is secret to some, well known to others. I do not try to hide it, in fact I embrace it.

The only obligation to which in advance we may hold a novel, without incurring the accusation of being arbitrary, is that it be interesting.
- Henry James

There are no words to describe the feeling of holding a book, breathing the air filled with the staleness of paper.

April 12th, 2011
Steve Martin - Shopgirl - 80As he turns away from her, she finally can name what disturbs her about him. He doesn't laugh.

Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life - Kim Severson

April 7th, 2011

Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life by Kim SeversonSomewhere between the lessons her mother taught her and the ones she is now teaching her own daughter. Kim Severson stumbled. She lost sight of what mattered, of how she wanted to live her life. It took a series of encounters with famous cooks to show her the life lessons she forgot and some she had never learned in the first place. Some were as small as a spoonful, and others were so big they saved her life. But always, the best lessons were delivered in the kitchen.

Marion Cunningham taught her that, in food and in life, it is fine to start over. Alice Waters taught her to preserve and be patient. Ruth Reichl taught her to compete only with herself. Marcella Hazan taught her to accept what comes her way. Together with Rachael Ray, Edna Lewis, Leah Chase, and Kim's mother, Anne Zappa Severson, these women offered her crucial wisdom just when she needed it most.

Kim Severson bares her soul in this memoir that chronicles how she found comfort and acceptance through and around food (with a little help from sobriety). She details many problems she had making friends, meeting her parents' approval and finding love. And the book was good, but it would not have taken much to make it better.

I am going to be a little tough on this book. The subtitle of "How Eight Cooks Saved My Life" sounds good and certainly looks good on paper, but the chronology of the book suggests otherwise. While the author candidly describes her problems, *my* interpretation was that her life was "saved" before she even met the large majority of these eight cooks. Let's call this book Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Changed My Life. It is certainly less dramatic, but I would still read that book.

The constant drive to compare her own life to Ruth Reichl was a distraction. I appreciate that Ms. Severson was up front and honest and admits that she has somewhat of a complex about Reichl. Reichl was a prominent (maybe the single most prominent) food critic. Severson becomes a food critic. Reichl wrote a memoir (followed by others) about how she developed into a foodie in Tender at the Bone. Severson writes this memoir. I am oversimplifying. If you read the book you will see it. It boils down to a seemingly compulsive need to best Reichl at a game where the cards are stacked in Reichl's favor. If Ruth Reichl jumped off a bridge, someone keep an eye on Kim Severson.

This book could stand apart from Ruth Reichl and I almost feel that the author does not truly understand that. The eight stories she shares in this memoir are inspiring for anyone who aspires to better appreciate food. To foodies, and more specifically food bloggers, Kim Severson's experiences are epic and the book offers some valuable insight into food and how to write about it.

This book just needs to be given to a good friend who could go through it and clean it up a little before it went to print. Overall I am more positive than negative on this book. I think food memoirs are interesting and Spoon Fed offers perspective that I had not read before.


April 5th, 2011
The Finkler Question by Howard JacobsonAt a certain age men began to shrink, and yet it was precisely at that age that their trousers became too short for them. Explain that.


April 4th, 2011

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

Inheritance by Christopher PaoliniNot so very long ago, Eragon—Shadeslayer, Dragon Rider—was nothing more than a poor farm boy, and his dragon, Saphira, only a blue stone in the forest. Now the fate of an entire civilization rests on their shoulders.

Long months of training and battle have brought victories and hope, but they have also brought heartbreaking loss. And still, the real battle lies ahead: they must confront Galbatorix. When they do, they will have to be strong enough to defeat him. And if they cannot, no one can. There will be no second chances.

The Rider and his dragon have come further than anyone dared to hope. But can they topple the evil king and restore justice to Alagaësia? And if so, at what cost?

This is the much-anticipated, astonishing conclusion to the worldwide bestselling Inheritance cycle..

This book will be available on November 8, 2011.

Pre-order your copy.

March 29th, 2011
Poke the Box by Seth GodinIf your organization refuses to start, is so busy harvesting that they have no interest in planting, perhaps your investment of time and effort is misplaced.

Sea of Poppies - Amitav Ghosh

March 28th, 2011

Sea of Poppies by Amitav GhoshAt the heart of this vibrant saga is an immense ship, the Ibis. Its destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean, its purpose to fight China's vicious nineteenth-century Opium Wars. As for the crew, they are a motley array of sailors and stowaways, coolies and convicts.

In a time of colonial upheaval, fate has thrown together a diverse cast of Indians and Westerners, from a bankrupt Raja to a widowed tribeswoman, from a mulatto American freedman to a free-spirited French orphan. As their old family ties are washed away, they, like their historical counterparts, come to view themselves as jahaj-bhais, or ship brothers. An unlikely destiny is born, which will span continents, races, and generations.

The vast sweep of this historical adventure embraces the lush poppy fields of the Ganges, the rolling high seas, and the crowded backstreets of Canton. But it is the panorama of characters, whose diaspora encapsulates the vexed colonial history of the East itself, that makes Sea of Poppies so breathtakingly alive -- a masterpiece from one of the world's finest novelist.

I consider The Man Booker Prize to be a great source from which to grow my "to-read" pile and it is where I first learned of Sea of Poppies. The book was shortlisted (basically it was a semi-finalist for the award) in 2008, losing to Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger, which fueled my desire; not only was it nominated for the award, it nearly won. I can understand the praise this book has received in its layers of complexity and the artful strokes the author used. However, this book lost me along the way with...just how artful the author was...and just how complex this story really became. Much of this book is not written in English, with its uneducated, slang dialogue between low-caste characters in India. Often the words were used in such a context that you can understand roughly what the author is saying, but it disrupted the flow of the book for me. I also found that the paradox of how complex the story was contrasted with how little was actually happening made this a long and drawn-out read.

I love watching professional hockey for its fast-paced action. This book was like watching a professional baseball double header, where you feel they should bring out the landscaping crew to trim down all of the grass you just watched grow.

I appreciate the author's craftsmanship, like I appreciate some paintings in a museum, but that doesn't mean I would hang them in my house. Admittedly, Amitav Ghosh sculpted Sea of Poppies in such a way that it was simply over my head. And I am a relatively well-read man, pushing 30, who just finished a post-graduate degree. If you have an eye for fine art, and the patience for major league baseball, you may well love this book. The dots poppy seeds are there, but I couldn't connect them.


2011 Edgar Nominees

March 23rd, 2011
Edgar Awards

Mystery Writers of America is the premier organization for mystery writers, professionals allied to the crime writing field, aspiring crime writers, and those who are devoted to the genre. MWA is dedicated to promoting higher regard for crime writing and recognition and respect for those who write within the genre...

Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce ... the Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television and film published or produced in 2010.
- Mysterywriters.org

- Best Novel -
Caught by Harlan Coben
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
Faithful Place by Tana French
The Queen of Patpong by Timothy Hallinan
The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton
I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

- Best First Novel -
Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva
The Poacher's Son by Paul Doiron
The Serialist: A Novel by David Gordon
Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto
Snow Angels by James Thompson

- Best Paperback Original -
Long Time Coming by Robert Goddard
The News Where You Are by Catherine O'Flynn
Expiration Date by Duane Swierczynski
Vienna Secrets by Frank Tallis
Ten Little Herrings by L.C. Tyler

- Best Fact Crime -
Scoreboard, Baby: A Story of College Football, Crime and Complicity by Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry
The Eyes of Willie McGee: A Tragedy of Race, Sex, and Secrets in Jim Crow South by Alex Heard
Finding Chandra: A True Washington Murder Mystery by Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz
Hellhound on his Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr and the International Hunt for his Assassin by Hampton Sides
The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science by Douglas Starr

- Best Critical/Biographical -
The Wire: Truth Be Told by Rafael Alvarez
Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making by John Curran
Sherlock Holmes for Dummies by Steven Doyle and David A. Crowder
Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and his Rendezvouz with American History by Yunte Huang
Thrillers: 100 Must Reads edited by David Morrell and Hank Wagner

- Best Short Story -
"The Scent of Lilacs" by Doug Allyn
"The Plot" by Jeffery Deaver
"A Good Safe Place" by Judith Green
"Monsieur Alice is Absent" by Stephen Ross
"The Creative Writing Murders" by Edmund White

- Best Juvenile -
Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon
The Buddy Files: The Case of the Lost Boy by Dori Hillestad Butler
The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee
Griff Carver: Hallway Patrol by Jim Krieg
The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman by Ben H. Winters

- Best Young Adult -
The River by ary Jane Beaufrand
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
7 Souls by Barnabas Miller and Jordan Orlando
The Interrogation of Gabriel James by Charlie Price
Dust City by Robert Paul Weston

- Best Play -
The Psychic by Sam Bobrick
The Tangled Skirt by Steve Braunstein
The Fall of the House by Robert Ford

- Best TV Episode -
"Episide 1" - Luther by Neil Cross
"Episode 4" - Luther by Neil Cross
"Full Measure" - Breaking Bad by Vince Gilligan
"No Mas" - Breaking Bad by Vince Gilligan
"The Next One's Gonna Go In Your Throat" - Damages by Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler & Daniel Zelman

- Mary Higgins Clark Award -
Wild Penance by Sandi Ault
Blood Harvest by S.J. Bolton
Down River by Karen Harper
The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths
Live to Tell by Wendy Corsi Staub