Friday, November 22, 2013

Giada's Feel Good Food (Giada De Laurentiis)

Giada De Laurentiis has certainly proven herself time and time again as a food force to be reckoned with. Between her many appearances on the TV circuit, her regular shows on the Food Network, and her many bestselling cookbooks, she's gained and earned a very loyal following.  In fact, my husband has stated that Giada’s Short Ribs with Tagliatelle would be his pick for last meal if ever he needs one. However, as she is a proud Italian, she covers many of her dishes with rich sauces and fills them with fatty cheeses. 

In Giada’s Feel Good Food, she turns the tables around, putting it out there that you can't eat these fatty dishes all the time and still expect to stay trim. While everything is fine in moderation, sometimes you just need to take care of your body by eating right. The book is filled with those recipes that she feeds herself and her family (including dessert), with little vignettes interspersed along the way about when she usually cooks them. She also puts in pages about how she packs when she travels, how she takes care of her skin and hair, and what she eats when she needs a sweet treat.

I always keep many of Giada's cookbooks on the counter, and this one will be no exception. The only nitpick I have is that I wish pictures were included for all the recipes because I always need to see what the finished product looks like. However, I realize space in these books is at a premium. All in all, I would definitely recommend Giada's Feel Good Food and look forward to making many dishes from it.


Snowblind (Christopher Golden)

Christopher Golden's Snowblind is an odd combination of a can't-put-it-down-book and roll-my-eyes-did-that-really-happen novel. My rating kept changing as I read, moving on a sliding scale from a 5 to a 3. It's very reminiscent of Stephen King, so if you're a King fan, you’ll probably really like Snowblind. However, there are parts of it that are just so ridiculous that you might find yourself shaking your head.

In the small New England town of Coventry, strange things happen when blizzards come. Long ago on the night of one of the worst storms, a bunch of people died in very strange ways. Fast forward to present day, and the survivors of that night (many relatives of those deceased) must hunker down to face another approaching snowstorm, all the while not knowing what really did happen to their loved ones.

I did not mention any characters for a reason. That's because there are a LOT of them, and none of them are particularly memorable. The plot is the star here, and as I said, there are times you won't be able to put this book down. But the last third of the book is really ridiculous, which unfortunately knocked the rating down a few pegs.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Ghost Bride (Yangsze Choo)

Yangsze Choo's stunning debut The Ghost Bride is one of those rare novels that sticks with you long after you read it.  Filled with hypnotizing, melodic prose in its dream world, it even seemed to make MY dreams more vivid.

Li Lan is the daughter of a bankrupt Chinese man and unfortunately, does not have many prospects for marriage.  The extremely wealthy Lim family makes a bizarre proposal that she become the bride in death of their deceased son.  While very rare, this ghost marriage would give Li Lan power and wealth for as long as she lived, but at what price?  On top of all that, she has fallen in love with the Lim's new heir, Tian Bai.  When the deceased son begins to haunt her dreams, Li Lan will do anything to stop him and get back to Tian Bai, even if it means that her own soul is placed in peril. 

It is in this spirit world that the true magic of The Ghost Bride happens.  Choo has written such a fantastical book where humans intermingle with spirits both in this world and the next.  Here's hoping that Choo eventually writes a sequel to this beautiful piece.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

The October List (Jeffery Deaver)

There are very few novels where I have been so surprised by plot developments that I have physically gasped and covered my mouth.  Jeffery Deaver has written something so original here that I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out how he did it.  Because you see, The October List is written entirely backwards; we start right with the ending and go straight back to the beginning.  Even the table of contents comes after the whole book.

As I first sat down to read, I was immediately confused.  I quickly figured out that Deaver had me right where he wanted me.  We start with the end, where a scared-to-death mother is desperately waiting for news about her kidnapped daughter.  In each successive chapter, we go back hours (or sometimes even minutes) before to see what brought us to that point.  Once I thought I had everything figured out, Deaver quickly threw something in my way that turned the entire (and I mean entire) plot around. 

I started off cursing this book and ended up praising Deaver’s genius.  I actually don’t think I would have liked the book as much if it WASN’T backwards.  Be sure to reread the first chapter to make the whole thing come full circle. 


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing (P.D. Viner)

P.D. Viner’s The Last Winter of Dani Lancing is a thought-provoking novel, asking the reader how far they would go to protect someone they love.  At times, it kept me on the edge of my seat, as all great books should do; at other times, I was left scratching my head at the author’s easy cop-outs.  However, all in all it’s a worthwhile read and one that I’m going to furnish with a rare in-between rating.

I’m not giving anything away by saying that the title character is dead, hence the title.  From the get-go, you know that Dani has died years ago, and her killer has never been found.  Her mother (Patti), father (Jim), and lovestruck friend (Tom) each are working for justice in their own way.  Patti is taking matters into her own hands, even if that means doing it in vigilante style.  Jim sometimes sees his daughter’s ghost but is trying to move forward as best he can.  Tom loves/loved Dani, but the feelings were not really reciprocated.  He is now working with the police force, who are reopening the case.

As is the norm now in books, the reader is jolted back and forth between time periods, eventually getting the whole cohesive story.  Viner does a wonderful job at making sure it’s a seamless transition, so the reader is not too jarred.  I talked before about easy cop-outs; I just feel that the author’s “coincidences” throughout the novel are borderline ridiculous.  That moved my rating from a 4 to a 3.5.  However, The Last Winter of Dani Lancing is a mostly well-written mystery that’s ideal for any time of year.