Thursday, August 27, 2009

Catching Fire

I was able to get my hands on an advanced copy of Suzanne Collins's Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games, which is being released September 1st! If you aren't familiar with The Hunger Games, see my review here and then read it. I loved the book and have been eagerly awaiting the sequel. It picks up shortly after Katniss and Peeta have returned to District 12. The President of Panem is unhappy with Katniss's behavior during the Hunger Games, which has sparked acts of rebellion in some of the districts. Katniss fears for her family's safety, but the punishment the President has in mind is something she never expects-and neither will you.

That's all I will say because I really don't want to give anything away. But it's a fantastic read. The book takes off right away and never looses momentum. I was trying to read it slowly, so I could make it last longer, but I wasn't able to put it down. All the major characters from the last book are back, along with a few new ones that we will hopefully see again in the next book. Some people complained that the ending of The Hunger Games was too open-ended. I disagree, but the ending of Catching Fire is a total cliffhanger! Nothing is really resolved, and the fate of many of the characters are unknown. That wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have to wait for the next one!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Waiter Rant

If you've read Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, you already have some idea of what it's really like to work in a restaurant. In Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip-Confessions of a Cynical Waiter, Steve Dublanica also provides insight into the workings of a restaurant, but he also has a lot to say about one topic we don't hear much about from Bourdain: the customers. Dublanica spent years working as a waiter in upscale restaurants in New York and says that restaurants bring out the worst in people. He has plenty of stories of rude, obnoxious, selfish, and just plain mean customers that are unbelievable. I thought this book would be humorous, and sometimes it is, but most of the stories are so horrible, it's just shocking. Nonetheless, it's a great gossipy, tell-all that really shows customers at their worst. It will certainly make you think twice the next time you go out to eat.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Strength in What Remains

Tracy Kidder's new book Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness is a compelling story of genocide, healing, selflessness, and perseverance. When violence between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes irrupted in Burundi in the early 1990s, Deo narrowly escaped death and spent months on the run, hiding in forests. He finally escaped from Burundi in 1994. He was 24 and had completed three years of medical school. When he arrived in New York City, he had very little money, no place to stay, and could not speak English. He ended up living in Central Park, delivering groceries twelve hours a day, making only $15. But his tenacity drove him to keep working, and eventually, with the help of new friends, he was able to enroll in Columbia University, and later Dartmouth, to complete his medical degree. He then went to work for Partners in Health with Paul Farmer, and began working on building a health care clinic in Burundi.

Kidder is a wonderful writer and storyteller. I loved his last book, Mountains Beyond Mountains, and this one is just as good. He has this ability to get to the heart of his "characters" and make you feel like you know them. He also has great talent for describing life in Africa, as well as life on the streets of New York City. Burundi and the places Deo lived in New York City are so foreign to us, yet you feel as if you are there. Although there are many tragedies, this is an inspiring, engaging story that shouldn't be missed.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Julie & Julia is finally here!

Yay! Julie & Julia, the movie based on Julie Powell's memoir, Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen finally opens today. Meryl Streep plays Julia Child, the adorable Amy Adams plays Julie Powell, and Nora Ephron directs, so this is sure to be a funny, feel good, chick flick. Just what I need right now.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Pretty in Plaid

If you have not read any of Jen Lancaster's books, you should stop what you are doing and go out right now and get them. Well, at least finish reading this blog, then go get them. Having just finished her fourth book, Pretty in Plaid: A Life, a Witch, and a Wardrobe, or the Wonder Years Before the Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered, Smart-ass Phase, I can tell you that I have yet to find another nonfiction writer that makes me laugh so hard. I have cackled my way through each of her books and her latest continues to be fresh and fun.

Jen chronicles the early years of her life during the 70s, 80s, and 90s and how clothes were such a big part of her identity. Although Jen is a few years older than me, there was so much that I identified with in this book. In the 70s, the Girl Scout uniform and the number of badges on your sash set you apart from everyone else. If you grew up in the 80s, you probably remember Jordache jeans, Bass penny loafers, Izods, and your first Liz Claiborne purse. In the 90s, your sorority letters and lavaliere were the foundation of your wardrobe. After college, you are faced with finding the dreaded interview suit, and then realizing that now that you are on your own, you can only afford to shop at discount stores.

I have said before that Jen's stories aren't uncommon. Her life is pretty normal, and most of us have had similar experiences. But it's her personality and the way she tells the stories with her sarcastic humor that make reading her books so much fun. Jen is also completely confident in herself and makes no apologies for who she is, which is so refreshing. If you are looking for a trip down memory lane, a fun story, and a great laugh, Pretty in Plaid will not disappoint.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Help

Every once in a while a book comes along that you just love. And everybody else loves it too. It's one of those books that gets out mainly by word of mouth. Everyone is reading it and talking about it. It's a book that will appeal to just about any reader. Last year, it was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. A few years ago it was Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, The Secret Life of Bees, and The Kite Runner. I find these books hard to come by. Yes, good books are written all the time, but there are few that are "sure bets," meaning you can give it to just about anyone and they will like it. The Help by Kathryn Stockett is definitely one of these books. Set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s, a young white woman decides to compile the stories of the colored maids that work for the white people in town. Stockett captures the voices of these women so well. Each character is very well defined and their stories are so engrossing. Stockett does a wonderful job of conveying the racial tensions in Mississippi and the fear these women have over telling their stories. The audiobook is exceptional and incorporates four different narrators, which makes the characters' voices even more distinct. This was one book that I was sorry to reach the end. The Help is Stockett's first novel, and she has set the bar pretty high for herself. I'm looking forward to reading more by this talented author.