May 26th, 2011
Eragon by Christopher PaoliniPeople have an annoying habit of remembering things they shouldn't.

City of Ember

May 25th, 2011

City of EmberBill Murray, Tim Robbins and Saoirse Ronan star in this heart-thumping, edge-of-your-seat adventure that comes to light in this exhilarating family film based on the best-selling novel by Jeanne Duprau.

For centuries, the residents of the underground City of Ember have flourished in an amazing world of glittering lights and quiet contentment. But when the City's massive power generator begins to fail, the street lamps start to fade -- along with the hopes and dreams of the townspeople. Now it's up to two courageous teenagers to follow a trail of clues left by the ancient Builders and find a way out of Ember before their world is plunged into darkness forever!

A group known only as "The Builders" has built a city around a giant power generator, surrounded by darkness. The city, called Ember, has flourished for 200 years but now the generator is beginning to fail. Many of Ember's citizens panic, others accept on blind faith that The Builders will return to the city and save them all, and two teenagers decide that they will find a way out. To even suggest that there is life outside Ember is treason. The two young protagonists must work against authority to try and save everyone. 

I got this movie because Bill Murray plays the Mayor of Ember. I enjoy Murray's body of work and was curious to see what he would bring to this part and this movie. I knew it was a children's movie, but I did not know anything more. Suffice to say City of Ember is for a very young audience and Bill Murray should not be a reason to see this movie (he wasn't bad, he just didn't need to be good either). Instead of reading that as a negative, hopefully that will serve to encourage parents to allow their young children to see this. 

Everything is watered down, scaled down for a younger audience. The suspense is light. The "scary" parts are not scary. This movie would be a fun sci-fi flick for the little ones and it is cute enough to watch with them. This is not really a movie that adults should see on their own. I liked the idea, I thought the story was very creative. I'm encouraged that there are stories like this out there that young sci-fi fans can enjoy.


May 24th, 2011
Thank You For SmokingNick Naylor: You know the guy who can pick up any girl? I'm him. On crack.

Weber Grill Restaurant - Chicago, IL

May 23rd, 2011

Backyard grilling and smoking from the people who make backyard grills and smokers. This sounds like a winning concept. We even sat at the bar looking in on the "open kitchen," A/K/A the giant charcoal grills. Being one who loves me some backyard bbq, this really was the ideal situation in which to find myself. But in practice everything fell apart. Watching the burger-and-steak assembly line was neither educational nor appetizing. Maybe my expectation for food prep was out of line with the location. Maybe I wanted fine dining and maybe they have the efficiency goals of a place with a drive-thru window.

To start, the pretzel rolls and cheddar-garlic-onion spread were awesome.

Next, the Fire-Roasted Artichoke & Spinach Dip was very good. My recommendation is to have them leave off the hefty dollop of sour cream that tops the dip just prior to service. I'm probably the only one who would have them leave tomatoes/pico de gallo off as well. But I found it a strange contrast of cold veggies to fire-roasted dip. I'm like that. But the dip itself and the grilled pita wedges comprise what is probably my favorite spinach-artichoke dip.

I ordered a three-item combo plate. I wanted their "signature" bbq ribs, brisket and pulled pork. The pulled pork was either good or just soaked in too much bbq sauce...or both. The ribs were overcooked and not what I had hoped for as a signature item. The brisket was awful. It would be more accurately listed as jerky than brisket. It was tough, dry and unimpressive all around.

The two biggest standouts are the artichoke dip and the brisket. Together, they make me ultimately say this: This is a fun place to meet for happy hour and some appetizers. As bbq goes, there are just better places to eat.

Fountain at Rubicon

May 20th, 2011

Napa Valley

Texas de Brazil - Chicago, IL

May 19th, 2011

Texas de Brazil is a Churrascuria, or Brazilian steakhouse. This is more of a concept restaurant, and that concept is meat. The servers, or Gauchos, swarm over the dining floor delivering freshly cut slices of heaven slow roasted beef, pork, lamb and chicken. Diners signal their appetite with a marker - a green marker means Gauchos will bring you what they have and a red marker means you are not interested. Even if your marker is green, you can turn down anything offered at any time. You do not HAVE to take what they bring you. The wait staff is also great about asking if there is anything you want sent to the table.

The house specialty is Picanha, a prime cut top sirloin served wrapped in its own rendered..."marbling." Texas de Brazil also offers (in no particular order) garlic picanha, flank steak, parmesan chicken, leg of lamb, parmesan pork, pork loin, Brazilian sausage, chicken breast wrapped in bacon, pork ribs, beef ribs, lamb chops, filet mignon and filet mignon wrapped in bacon. My favorites were the beef ribs and the Brazilian sausage. My mouth is nearly watering just remembering them.

They also offer a stocked salad bar with an incredible number of fixings. (But we all know that's just the ploy to fill you up so you can't eat as much slow roasted deliciousness.)

We drank an awesome Rioja (Marqués de Cáceres 2001 Rioja Gran Reserva). We stuffed ourselves silly. And then, for good measure, we ordered dessert. I do not know how I was able to even consider dessert, but I am glad I did; the pecan pie was so good.

The interior had low lighting offering privacy and a romantic atmosphere that contradicts both the hustle and the bustle of the Gauchos. I do not know that I would go here as a date-night destination or with clients. With friends it was a great night out.

The Drop

May 18th, 2011

The Drop by Michael Connelly

The Drop by Michael ConnellyHarry Bosch has been given three years before he must retire from the LAPD, and he wants cases more fiercely than ever. In one morning, he gets two.

DNA from a 1989 rape and murder matches a 29-year-old convicted rapist. Was he an eight-year-old killer or has something gone terribly wrong in the new Regional Crime Lab? The latter possibility could compromise all of the lab's DNA cases currently in court.

Then Bosch and his partner are called to a death scene fraught with internal politics. Councilman Irvin Irving's son jumped or was pushed from a window at the Chateau Marmont. Irving, Bosch's longtime nemesis, has demanded that Harry handle the investigation.

Relentlessly pursuing both cases, Bosch makes two chilling discoveries: a killer operating unknown in the city for as many as three decades, and a political conspiracy that goes back into the dark history of the police department.

This book will be available on November 29, 2011.

Pre-order your copy.

May 17th, 2011
F. Scott Fitzgerald - This Side of Paradise - 163SHE: Let's pretend.
HE: No -- I can't -- it's sentiment.
SHE: You're not sentimental?
HE: No, I'm romantic -- a sentimental person thinks things will last -- a romantic person hopes against hope that they won't. Sentiment is emotional.

The Jefferson Key - Steve Berry

May 16th, 2011

The Jefferson Key by Steve BerryFour United States presidents have been assassinated—in 1865, 1881, 1901, and 1963—each murder seemingly unrelated and separated by time.

But what if those presidents were all killed for the same reason: a clause in the United States Constitution—contained within Article 1, Section 8—that would shock Americans?

This question is what faces former Justice Department operative Cotton Malone in his latest adventure. When a bold assassination attempt is made against President Danny Daniels in the heart of Manhattan, Malone risks his life to foil the killing—only to find himself at dangerous odds with the Commonwealth, a secret society of pirates first assembled during the American Revolution. In their most perilous exploit yet, Malone and Cassiopeia Vitt race across the nation and take to the high seas. Along the way they break a secret cipher originally possessed by Thomas Jefferson, unravel a mystery concocted by Andrew Jackson, and unearth a centuries-old document forged by the Founding Fathers themselves, one powerful enough—thanks to that clause in the Constitution—to make the Commonwealth unstoppable.

Intelligence operative, and Berry's cash-cow and serial hero, Cotton Malone has to match wits with Jonathan Wyatt while attempting to solve a conspiracy that has roots as deep as the US Constitution. (Wyatt is first introduced in Berry's e-book The Devil's Gold; a 40-page teaser that is not required reading, but still worth your time.)

This is not my first Steve Berry, but it is my first Cotton Malone. I normally pass on this type of character because this guy can literally do anything...think action-hero Robert Langdon in Angels and Demons (yes I'm still bitter about that). But I was drawn in by the intriguing concept of the Commonwealth; I am a BIG fan of conspiracy theory.

The Jefferson Key avoided that "action hero" story line...for the most part. And I greatly appreciated it. The suspense in this book was intense. I would provide an audible "dun dun dunnnnn!" at the end of a large number of chapters. Though I will admit that there were almost too many cliff-hanger chapter endings if you can imagine a suspense author's version of crying wolf.

I thought that Mr. Berry did a commendable job of balancing history with fiction. He wove an intricate web and it made for a great read. I liked this book and have been recommending it to others like I recommend it to you.


Sunset in Grand Haven, MI

May 13th, 2011

Grand Haven, MI