Friday, March 25, 2011

Good Enough To Eat Stacey Ballis

Good Enough to Eat
This was a very quick, very sweet read.  I liked the characters immediately and felt connected to the main character, Melanie's story.  I have read a number of different "foodie" series a la Diane Mott Davidson and while this revolved around food it had a completely different feel.  I do like that she included the recipes at the end look amazing and I might just give some of them a try.  This was a recommendation from Jen Lancaster (one of my favorites) and she did not disappoint!

From Publishers Weekly

Melanie Hoffman and her husband Andrew have been happily married for almost 10 years but when Melanie slims down to a trim size 6 after once tipping the scale at 290 pounds, her hubby leaves her for another chubby lady. Now divorced, the 39 year-old finds solace in her successful Chicago restaurant serving healthy gourmet fare. She has a small support group there consisting of her energetic, gay sous chef, Kai, a ballsy part-time cook, Delia, and her new roomie, a 24-year-old whimsical vagabond named Nadia. As Melanie slowly sweeps up the crumbs of fallen love, she finds Nathan and the handsome documentary filmmaker helps her overcome her body image issues. Ballis's (The Spinster Sisters) use of the enjoyment of cooking and eating as a continuous theme with featured recipes in the back is a nice addition, but the heart of her book lies within the jagged mind of Melanie and her daily struggle that most women, fat or thin, endure. Women will savor the brutal honesty of how Melanie sees her body, her battles with food, her failed marriage, and her fear of new love. (Sept.)

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From Booklist

Melanie, 39, is thrown for a major loop when, after she works hard to lose 145 pounds, her husband leaves her for a woman as heavy as Melanie used to be. Heartbroken, she throws her energy into the healthy-food café she founded, Dining by Design. Melanie is hanging on financially until she finds out that her condo association is assessing a hefty fee for a major repair, forcing Melanie to take in a roommate: free-spirited Nadia, who at 24 is on the run from a past she refuses to talk about. Despite their different backgrounds and ages, the two become friends, and Nadia starts working part-time at the café. The novel’s conflicts are few and relatively tame, but food lovers will certainly appreciate Ballis’ sumptuous descriptions of the meals Melanie and her friends cook up; and 40 pages of recipes are provided for readers eager to try their hand at some of the dishes. --Kristine Huntley

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkenan

This is a look at what happens to a marriage when you stop paying attention.  Julia and Michael are high school sweat hearts from a small town in West Virginia.  They take the plunge and move to the big city (D.C.) to make their way.   Michael becomes uber successful and the couple has everything they thought they ever wanted.  Everything changes when Michael has a heart attack and briefly dies.  He comes back a changed man and wants to look at his life and his marriage in a new light.  Julia, while not happy with their current situation, is not so sure about the new Michael. 

The story was very face paced and kept me wanting more (I read this is one night.)  I found Julia slightly annoying but that didn't make me want to stop reading.  Definitely would recommend this for a light, fast paced read.

From Booklist

High-school sweethearts Julia and Michael have left their humble West Virginia roots far behind for a glamorous life in Washington, D.C. As they achieve more in their careers—she as a high-end events planner, he as the CEO of his own sports-drink company—they lose themselves as a couple. After Michael has a near-death experience, he decides to give away all their wealth and focus on his relationship with Julia. But she’s not ready to forgive him for choosing his work over her when she needed him most. Pekkanen’s novel traces the couple’s attempts to make amends for allowing success to replace love. In her previous novel, The Opposite of Me (2010), Pekkanen delved into the complex relationship between sisters, and she now uses the same insightful tone in this examination of a marriage. The moving story and bittersweet ending will draw in readers. --Aleksandra Walker


“The impossible choice between true love and the trappings of success is explored in Skipping a Beat. Sarah Pekkanen proves masterful at creating nuanced, complex characters deadlocked with emotional conflict, and the story culminates in an ending that will leave readers breathless. Evocative and compelling, it couldn’t be more satisfying.”Jen Lancaster, author of Bitter is the New Black

"A provocative, poignant look at marriage, money and the things that matter most." —Beth Kendrick, author of The Pre-Nup

"Original, engaging, and soulful, Skipping a Beat explores the complexity of marriage and what it really means to share a life. I fell in love with Julia, a funny, flawed and utterly real heroine—and felt the weight of her dilemma with every page, all the way through to the surprising, satisfying finish." —Emily Giffin, New York Times bestselling author of Something Borrowed and Heart of the Matter

"Tender and funny in turn, Sarah Pekkanen has made modern marriage exciting in this imaginative and heartfelt tale of love and healing." —Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, #1 New York Times bestselling authors of The Nanny Diaries

"In her second novel, Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me) offers a wonderfully compelling, compassionate, and complicated portrait of the marriage of Julie and Michael Dunhill. Meeting in high school, the two were both determined to leave their hometown behind and make something of their lives, contrary to how they were raised. With Michael’s colossal and unpredicted financial success, these once loving sweethearts drift apart and find different foci for their passionate energies—Michael is completely absorbed in his DrinkUp company and Julie in her party-planning business. When Michael collapses on his office floor and dies for four minutes and eight seconds, their whole world changes, and both are left to reevaluate what they thought was important in life. For Julie though, this is a struggle to overcome the disappointment, sense of abandonment, and misunderstandings she’s harbored against her husband for years. VERDICT: In this compelling and satisfying read, Pekkanen offers relatable characters that move you and an ending that surprises and pleases. Highly recommended." —Library Journal, starred review

“A two-hanky weepy… A tragic turn of events redirects what could have been a predictable romance into a drama on the fragility of love and marriage.” —Kirkus

“An insightful examination of a marriage. The moving story and bittersweet ending will draw in readers” —Booklist

"This portrait of a couple forced to take responsibility for the breakdown of their relationship is at once heartbreaking and familiar." —People

“Intelligent and entertaining.” —The Washington Post

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

The Lover's Dictionary: A Novel

Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2011: In his first book for adults, popular young-adult novelist David Levithan creates a beautifully crafted exploration of the insecurities, tenderness, anger, and contented comfort that make romantic relationships so compelling (or devastating). Through sparingly written, alphabetical entries that defy chronology in defining a love affair, The Lover’s Dictionary packs an emotional wallop. For "breathtaking (adj.)," the unnamed narrator explains, "Those moments when we kiss and surrender for an hour before we say a single word." For "exacerbate (v.)," he notes, "I believe your exact words were: 'You’re getting too emotional.'" Ranging from over a page to as short as "celibacy (n.), n/a," the definitions-as-storyline alternate between heart-wrenching and humorous--certainly an achievement for a book structured more like Webster’s than a traditional novel. Proving that enduring characters and conflict trump word count, Levithan’s poignant vignettes and emotional candor will remind readers that sometimes in both fiction and life, less is truly more--and the personal details of love can be remarkably universal. --Jessica Schein

Friday, March 4, 2011

In a Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer Fleming

In the Bleak Midwinter (A Rev. Clare Fergusson and  Russ Van Alstyne Mystery)This was such a nice surprise.  I was reading my library blogs when I stumbled a cross a review of this series.  I was looking for something new so I checked it out.  What a little gem - I loved the writing, loved the character development and I truly did not see the end coming - a perfect mystery!

From Publishers Weekly

In this debut novel, a riveting page-turner from start to finish, born-and-bred Virginian Clare Ferguson, newly ordained priest of St. Alban's Episcopal Church in the small upstate New York town of Millers Kill, is faced with not only an early December snowstorm and the bitter cold of her first Northern winter but also a conservative vestry, who apparently expended all their daring on hiring her, a female priest. When a baby is left on the church doorstep with a note designating that he be given to two of her parishioners, Clare calls in police chief Russ Van Alstyne. The foundling case quickly becomes an investigation into murder that will shatter the lives of members of her congregation, challenge her own feelings and faith and threaten her life. With her background as an army helicopter pilot, Clare is not a typical priest. Smart, courageous and tough, she is also caring, kindhearted and blessed with a refreshing personality. Likewise, the other characters are equally well developed and believable, except for the young pediatrician, who speaks more like a hip teenager than a professional. It is a cast readers will hope to meet again, while a fast-paced plot keeps the guess work going until the very end. Along the way, there is an exceptionally spine-chilling confrontation. The vivid setting descriptions will bring plenty of shivers, but the real strength of this stellar first is the focus on the mystery, which will delight traditional fans. (Mar. 25)Traditional Mystery contest.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

This first novel, winner of St. Martin's Malice Domestic Award for 2001, introduces an unusual investigative partnership and a probable new series. Russ Van Alstyne, police chief of Millers Kill, and Clare Fergusson, new-to-town Episcopal priest, first meet when she reports a baby abandoned at the church. The two later discover the body of the baby's young mother. As the investigation progresses, Clare runs into opposition from staid church members, two of whom will do anything to adopt the child. With superb skill, exact detail, and precise diction, this highlights credible personal conflicts. For all collections.

Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.