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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bad to the Bone

Bad to the Bone: Memoir of a Rebel Doggie Blogger  by Bo Hoefinger
Published by Citadel Press Kensington
Trade paperback, $14.95
Books about dogs are a huge trend now, with many of them on the bestseller lists. I am a dog lover; we had Malcolm, a beautiful basset hound, for seven blessed years, so I admit I'm a sucker for dog books.

Bad to the Bone: Memoir of a Rebel Doggie Blogger tells the story of Bo the dog, through his eyes and words. It started as a blog, BoKnowsOnline.com, and he also posts on Dogster.com.

The book started as a Christmas gift for Bo's "mom" from Bo's "dad", and after people suggested it would make a good book, it came to be.

The book is cute, and there are several humorous passages. Bo goes to work with Dad on a Saturday, and Bo describes the event as if he were working at the office himself. (My husband used to take Malcolm to work, so this vignette amused me.)  Bo says:
"I had read in Business Week that companies value employees more if they show leadership skills, so decided to initiate an exchange of ideas. I raised my leg as high as it could reach and left my first business message, right on the cubicle wall located by the entrance."

Bo was fired shortly after that incident.

Bo discusses his "dad's" inability to give good presents to his "mom". Mom got Dad a watch for his first gift and he got her a sweatshirt with Opus the penguin on it. Dad got Mom a vacuum cleaner for Valentine's Day and even though she returned it, for Christmas he got her a Roomba. Dad is a slow learner.

Mom is not a good driver, and Bo's description of how she got her car stuck on top of a wall is pretty hilarious.  I'm glad dogs can't talk, because if they could, imagine all the awful (true) things they'd tell their parents about each other.

Bad to the Bone brought back many sweet, funny memories for me of my dog. I laughed out loud several times reading about Bo's adventures. The only criticism I have about the book is the over-reliance on scatological stories. We know that dogs and cats can be gross, and there were a few too many stories about elimination for my taste.

Rating 3 of 5 stars

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Five- Volume 10

Friday Five- Five Shows to See Before They Close

There are so many Broadway shows closing in the next few weeks, it makes me sad. If you are planning to come to New York over the holiday, make sure you see at least one of these fantastic shows.

1. Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson- From the moment you walk into the theatre, you know this is going to be a crazy show. The place is bathed in red lights, including over the audience. There are portraits of famous Americans throughout, and a horse hanging upside down over the seats. Benjamin Walker wears Jackson's sexy pants, and the show, while telling Andrew Jackson's life story, has as much to say about the rise of today's populism (Tea Party, anyone?) as Jackson's time. And the music rocks! Closes January 2.

2. In the Heights- Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote this high energy musical (and won the 2008 Tony for Best Musical) about the life of a group of Hispanic-Americans living in Washington Heights. The hip-hop music and dancing is phenomenal. This is the show to take your teenage daughter to see, I liked it better than Wicked. It's this generation's West Side Story, without the maudlin deaths. Closes January 9th.  

3. A Little Night Music- Elaine Stritch and Bernadette Peters share the stage in Stephen Sondheim's musical. Hearing Peters sing "Send in the Clowns" gave me goosebumps and made me tear up, it's a magical moment on Broadway not to be missed. The entire company is wonderful, and each one gets the chance to shine with a solo. Closes January 9th.

4. Rock of Ages- Can't get your guy to go to a Broadway show? Take him to this one. Strippers, 80's rock songs  from Foreigner, Twisted Sister, Pat Benatar and a sense of fun will keep him happy, as will the drinks they bring right to your seat. This show is touring the country with American Idol's Constantine Maroulis, who was nominated for a Tony last year for his performance. (Yeah, I laughed too until I saw the show, he was so good!) Closes January 9th. 

5. Next to Normal- This Tony-winning show (best score, best actress Alice Ripley) is about the dissolution of a family because of mental illness. It sounds like a real downer, and it will make you cry, but it also has some funny moments, and the score is amazing. Look for the touring company of this show as well. Closes January 16th.   

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

NYC Holiday Windows

Photo by Tattooed JJ

I went on a tour of the holiday windows on Saturday, when the temperature was a sweet 45 degrees. I started with Macy's windows which, as a book lover, was really enjoyable. The story of Yes, Virginia There Is A Santa Claus, and one scene was set in a library- heaven!

Next, I headed to Fifth Ave., which was crazy crowded. Lord & Taylor's windows depicted scenes created from holiday memories sent in by shoppers. Most were very traditional, Moms baking, kids getting a bike, families watching Christmas specials on TV, but I liked the disco Christmas best.

It was up Fifth Avenue to Saks windows, which featured the fantasy of little Annabelle. The design and the clothing were spectacular, so very creative.

Across the street is Bergdorf Goodman, and their windows were similar to Saks. They combined modes of transportation with designer clothes and also were amazing, it's almost sensory overload. It's titled Wish You Were Here.

Barney's were my favorite windows, A Foodie Holiday, featuring famous chefs. The first window highlighted Innovators & Geniuses, like Julia Child and Thomas Keller.

Next was the guys windows, with Mario Batali, Emeril, Guy Fieri and more.

I loved the ladies' window, with some of my favorites- Barefoot Contessa, Paula Deen, Rachael Ray and Martha Stewart and Sandra Lee. They are all wearing Snuggies. Rachael's face is in a clock, representing her 30 Minute Meals, and Sandra Lee has a Cuomo campaign button on.

If you have the chance, make sure to check out the incredibly creative windows around town. Happy Holidays to all!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Maisie Dobbs Read-Along

Book club girl is sponsoring a  I'm Mad for Maisie Read-Along  starting in January. If you don't know who Maisie Dobbs is, she is a female private investigator living in 1920's London. I loved the first book, and am so looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Jacqueline Winspear, the author of the series, has done such a wonderful job researching the post-World War I life in London, you really feel like you are submerged in the middle of that era. The characters are well-drawn, and I particularly like the relationship between Maisie and her assistant Billy.

Maisie deals with many men and women who have been scarred by war, and that also makes it a timely read. She is also the only female private investigator in London, which has its own complications.

I hope you'll join us on our journey with Maisie; I for one am so happy to be a part of this adventure.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

booksnyc Immigrant Challenge

Colleen at booksnyc.blogspot.com has a terrific challenge for 2011. It's called Immigrant Stories Challenge 2011, and you can read anywhere from one to as many books as you want for the entire year.

The books must focus on the immigrant experience in any country, and I'm excited about it because one of my goals for 2011 is to read all of the books I have on my shelves (and in my closets). This challenge will help do that with such books as:

Little Bee by Chris Cleave
The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
Beautiful Maria of My Soul by Oscar Hijuelos
and Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson, which will be my first book for the challenge because so many people have put it on their Best of 2010 lists.

I have two great books to recommend for anyone who wants to join this challenge-
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, which is about an American family of missionaries in the Belgian Congo in 1959 and
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, the true story of a Syrian-American man who is arrested on terrorism charges following Hurricane Katrina.

I'm looking forward to participating in Immigrant Stories Challenge 2011, many thanks to Colleen for hosting this!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Five- Volume 9

The Friday Five is Back! If you are lucky enough to have a Trader Joe's near you, you know they have great prices. I'm so happy that a new one opened on 72nd & Broadway. I just hop on the M72 bus and I'm there and back quickly. This week it's 

Five Things I Always Buy at Trader's Joes:

1. Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels- They only carry them at Christmas, so I stock up. They are so tasty, and they make the perfect hostess gift. If you invite me to a holiday party, you are definitely getting a box!

2. Cranberry Bread Mix- Another seasonal item, this is the best quick bread mix I've ever had. Easy to make, too.

3. Heart Healthy Whole Grain Cranberry Oatmeal- I eat this every morning. It has flaxseed in it and 6 grams of fiber per packet. A great way to start the day.

4. Jumbo Cinnamon Rolls w/ Icing- My family loves cinnamon rolls, and these are the best we've tasted. They beat Pillsbury by a mile. Keep them in the frig for weekend breakfasts.

5. Extra Virgin Olive Oil- A huge bottle costs just $5.99 and it has a nice flavor too. I use a lot of olive oil to cook with, so this is a necessity.

What are your must-buys from Trader Joes? Share in the comments section.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Grisham fans will enjoy

When No One is Watching by Joseph Hayes
Published by Synergy Books
Paperback, $14.95

Fans of John Grisham's novels should add this novel to their To-Be-Read list: Joseph Hayes' When No One in Watching.

The story begins as Blair Van Howe is driving his friend and colleague, Danny Moran, home after a celebration for a big legal victory. Danny is passed out drunk when Blair hits another car, seriously injuring the other driver.

Van Howe uses Danny's phone to call 911, and moves Danny into the driver's seat, then flees the scene. The next day, he is scheduled to announce his candidacy for the U.S. Congress, and this would derail his career, which would make his wife and her politically powerful father angry.

Danny has no idea what happened; the last thing he remembers is drinking in the hotel bar. He knows he has a problem with alcohol, but he has never gotten behind the wheel of a car after drinking.

The rest of this fast-paced novel follows the ascent of Blair Van Howe, whom everyone thinks is the next Golden Boy of politics, and the descent of Danny Moran, who loses his job, his wife, and for awhile his freedom, after the driver of the other car dies.

After Danny's loyal daughter begs her dad to get help, he becomes involved in Alcoholics Anonymous. The author says that his father, an alcoholic who got sober and devoted his life to helping others, was the inspiration for Danny. He clearly understands the life of an alcoholic, as he describes Danny's life:
"Even after nearly ten years of sobriety, Danny still craved routine in his life, and the flexible job hours enabled him to live that way. He made his to-do lists every day and followed them with uncompromising discipline. He drank his soft drinks and ate his snacks precisely in accordance with his schedule."
Hayes adds a dash of ethics to this interesting political thriller, one that fans of John Grisham's novels will enjoy. There are the requisite bad guys hired by the father-in-law, the gruff cop who-can't-forget-this one-case, and the greedy, power hungry wife, but it is Danny Moran who is the stand-out character.

Danny Moran and his life bring this novel a notch above the usual run-of-the-mill political thriller and Hayes' experience with his dad helped him create the world of alcoholics, with its successes and setbacks.

Rating 3.5 of 5 stars


Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
Published by William Morrow
Hardcover $24.99

The effects of children bullying each other has been a hot topic in the news recently, but bullying has been around for a long time. It's one of the themes in Tom Franklin's devastating novel, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter.

The narrative swings back and forth between the late 1970s and the present. In the 1970s, Larry Ott is a young, lonely white boy from a lower middle class family who befriends the new boy in town- Silas, the son of single black mom. There is some kind of connection between Larry's family and Silas' mom, and enough clues are given that the careful reader will figure out the relationship well before the characters do.

The boys enter high school and grow apart as Silas becomes a baseball star, and Larry becomes the target of bullies. As the mother of two grown sons, I found Larry's sad, tormented, day-to-day existence heartbreaking to read. Why can't kids see the awfulness of what they are doing to each other? Larry escapes into books, and becomes an avid reader.

When a pretty girl from school asks Larry to take her out on a date to the drive-in, Larry and his parents are thrilled. His father, who is a bully himself, even loans Larry his car. Larry's hope for the date is ruined when she asks him to drop her off to meet her boyfriend, go to the drive-in alone, and then come back and pick her up after the movie.

Larry does as he's told, but when he arrives at the place he dropped her off, she is nowhere to be found. He goes home and the next day, he becomes the only suspect in her disappearance. She is never found, but everyone in town believes that Larry killed her.

His life becomes even lonelier than before. His home and property is regularly vandalized, and when another girl disappears twenty years later, Larry is again a suspect.

Silas has returned home as a sheriff's deputy, and he is part of the investigation into the disappearance. He feels bad about how he has ignored Larry, and he is the only one who doesn't believe Larry is guilty.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter successfully combines mystery with literary fiction. Fans of both genres will be pleased with this incredible novel. Franklin has created two fascinating characters in Larry and Silas, both with flaws, and I liked how the concept of integrity is approached in both men.

I find books that explore the male psyche intriguing, and this one is exceptional.  The book is so well crafted, every word so thoughtfully placed.
"Silas felt flattened by the truth, or the telling of it, his lungs empty and raw and the spaces behind his eyes throbbing."
The masterful way Franklin puts the reader into Larry's sad world creates such empathy, this book should be read by high school English classes.
"His eyes were closed but he felt water-not even tears, just water- spilling over his cheekbones, dripping off his jaw and chin."

The book reminded me of George Pelecanos' The Turnaround, both combining a long-ago mystery with race relations, how a decision made in youth can affect someone his entire life, and the concept of forgiveness.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter has ended up on many Best of 2010 list, and deservedly so. Larry Ott is a character I won't soon forget.

Rating 4.5 of 5 stars

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Amy Sedaris at Borders

One of the funniest people on the planet is Amy Sedaris. She made an appearance at Columbus Circle's Borders store last week, and she drew an overflow audience.

We heard Amy before we saw her, as her distinctive voice with its hint of a southern twang rang out on the store's public address system. She invited store shoppers to join us in the events area of the store and wished us all a "Happy Holiday!"

She started with the obligatory photo op, seen here, promoting her humorous book, Simple Times, Crafts for Poor People, a follow up to her successful book on hospitality, I Like You!

Instead of the usual reading, Amy showed the audience a few of the crafts from the book. First, with the assistance of an  overly eager fan, she began pulling items out of her bag and demonstrated making homemade twist ties, using tape she stole from a television appearance.

I have to say that this craft looked like something a person who lives in the subway might make, but that was probably the point. She's Martha Stewart for the slightly off-kilter.

Next she invited a stylish young lad, Johnny, who was wearing a plaid shirt under blue jean overalls tucked into boots. She had Johnny create a craft using lettuce as a bed, then placing five rings of pineapple on the lettuce. Inside the pineapple he put a peeled banana, topping that with mayonnaise and a cherry. You can imagine the visual had the audience giggling.

Amy kept the audience in stitches with her non-stop repartee, and answered questions, most of which revolved around her character Jeri from  Comedy Central's Strangers With Candy. Although that show ended a while ago, it still has many fans, and Amy gave them what they wanted. She is very quick on her feet, reacting to everything that happened and poking gentle fun at the people who asked a question.

I've seen Amy and her brother David in person, and if they ever wanted to raise money for a charity, they should auction off a dinner with both of them; they'd make a killing.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Rest in peace, Elizabeth Edwards

So sad about Elizabeth Edwards. I read both of her books, and got to meet her last year at a book signing. She was very kind, spoke to everyone, held their hand, even though she took a press beating that day. May she rest in peace, reunited with her beloved son Wade.

Bookreporter.com Celebrates the Holidays!

More holiday book fun! I received this press release from one of my favorite book websites, bookreporter.com, and if you haven't visited them in awhile, now is the time. I always get great suggestions for books to give as gifts with their fabulous Gift Guides.

Bookreporter.com Celebrates the Holidays with
Daily Book Contests, Author Holiday Blogs, and Gift Suggestions for All

NEW YORK—Bookreporter.com, the flagship website of TheBookReportNetwork.com, is sharing the holiday spirit with readers this year with Holiday Cheer Daily Book Contests, a What to Give/What to Get Gift Guide and Author Holiday Blogs.

The Holiday Cheer Daily Book Contest, a new feature this year, spotlights books that readers can enter to win each weekday. On select days there will be bonus prizes, either holiday-themed items or books from Bookreporter.com’s Bets On selections. Readers need to enter to learn if that day is a “bonus day.”

Bookreporter.com’s other holiday features returning this season include a What to Give/What to Get Gift Guide--- an extensive guide to help readers pick out gifts for everyone on their shopping lists, including adults, teens and children --- and Author Holiday Blogs, where top authors share their favorite books to give and receive.

“Our Author Holiday Blogs, where authors share their own personal stories about book giving and receiving, is one of our readers’ favorite features. I am so appreciative of the author contributors who once again will be sharing their personal stories this year. Each post sheds some new light on the idea of gift giving and getting. Some readers follow this blog daily to read the stories, while others have told me they settle in close to the holidays and read them all at once. Coupled with our featured holiday books we have something for everyone this holiday season,” says Carol Fitzgerald, President of TheBookReportNetwork.com, the parent company of Bookreporter.com.

The holiday excitement is not limited to Bookreporter.com as Teenreads.com, TheBookReportNetwork.com’s teen site, also hosts a Holiday Basket of Cheer Contest, and there are What to Give/What to Get gift selections for teens on Teenreads.com and children on Kidsreads.com.

Bookreporter.com’s holiday features include:

Holiday Cheer Daily Book Contest--- Readers must register for the contest each day, and they can also opt-in to a daily holiday e-mail alert spotlighting the featured titles.

What to Give/What to Get Gift Guide--- For everyone on your shopping list from children to adults, Bookreporter.com has it covered this holiday season with gift suggestions for everyone on your shopping list, featuring more than 85 titles in 14 different categories--- including Eat, Drink & Be Merry (cookbooks and culinary tales), Faces & Places (biography and memoir), Great Choices for Booklovers (fiction and nonfiction), Holiday Spirit (perfect selections for holiday reading) and many more.

Author Holiday Blogs--- Favorite authors including Nelson DeMilleDaniel SilvaLisa Scottoline and more than 30 others share their favorite memories of giving or receiving a book at the holidays.

Holiday Basket of Cheer--- This popular annual contest returns to Teenreads.com. Between November 12th and December 13th, readers can enter to win a basket filled with seasonal goodies plus ten great books for teens.

Teenreads.com What to Give/What to Get Gift Guide--- For everyone who loves young adult books, Teenreads.com has a gift giving guide that’s perfect in this season of giving and getting.

Kidsreads.com What to Give/What to Get Gift Guide--- From picture books to chapter books to a young celebrity biography, this gift giving guide for kids has something for children of all ages.

For more information…


About TheBookReportNetwork.com:
Bookreporter.com is part of TheBookReportNetwork.com (TBRN), a group of eight websites about books and authors that have become gathering places for a devoted community of more than 1.6 million booklovers since 1996. TBRN’s other sites include ReadingGroupGuides.comGraphicNovelReporter.comFaithfulReader.comTeenreads.comKidsreads.comAuthorsOnTheWeb.com and AuthorYellowPages.com, a searchable directory of author websites.

Unique Books to Give for Christmas

(Reprinted from the Book Report column 12/5/10 of the Citizen)

Books are great things to give as gifts for everyone on your Christmas list.
This month’s column will focus mostly on books that were perhaps overlooked, but deserve to be read, and your gift recipients will be impressed at how much thought you gave in choosing a unique gift for them.

You can give children a lifelong love of reading by buying them a book for Christmas. Comedian Jeff Foxworthy, who also hosts Fox TV’s Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader has written a children’s picture book, Hide!!!. Featuring fun illustrations by Steve Bjorkman, it’s a combination of Hide and Seek and Where’s Waldo, with counting skills tossed in.

Books for older kids include local author and former NFL player Tim Green’s The Big Time, the latest in his Football Genius novels.  Fantasy lovers will enjoy Adam Gopnik’s The Steps Across the Water, about the residents of U Nork, sister city to New York. Older girls will appreciate Maureen Johnson’s Suite Scarlett and Scarlett Fever which follow the adventures of 15-year-old Scarlett, whose family owns a funky boutique hotel in Manhattan.

A wonderful gift for mothers, grandmothers, and young women just starting out is Adriana Trigiani’s Don't Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from My Grandmothers If you love her novels, her first non-fiction book is just as fabulous.  It tells the story of her strong-willed, amazing grandmothers, and gives advice that young women today would be wise to follow.

Greg Mortenson spoke at this year’s Auburn Education Foundation Inspiring Speaker Series about his book Stones Into Schools, and it will appeal to the person with a social conscience on your list.

Rebecca Skloots’  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks has deservedly won many awards and is still on the bestseller list. This true story combines race, poverty, science and medicine in a compelling manner.

Fans of Jeannette WallsThe Glass Castle will also like Heather Sellers’ You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know, about a woman who is unable to recognize the faces of people she knows, including her boyfriend. Her difficult childhood with parents who clearly shouldn’t have raised a child is heartbreaking.

Lots of people will be buying Keith RichardsLife, but for another look at rock and roll, Sam Cutler’s You Can't Always Get What You Want, about his days working for the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead is a good choice. The section on how the tragic concert at Altamont came to be is fascinating.

Young baby boomers will enjoy Alison Argrim’s Confession of a Prairie B*#ch about her growing up on the TV series Little House on the Prairie. It’s funny, gossipy and moving.

Fiction lovers have many fine choices available. Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You is hilarious and sad, and if you are spending any time with your family this holiday, you’ll appreciate it.

Jess Walter’s The Financial Lives of the Poets tackles the topical subject of the financial crisis as it impacts a family through unemployment, adultery, raising a family, caring for an elderly parent, and drugs.

David Nicholls’ One Day follows two people on one day for twenty years, from their college fling through middle age.  You will fall in love with Em and Dex, and this book has gotten lots of positive buzz this year.

Anyone who liked The Lovely Bones will love Emma Donoghue’s Room the story of five-year-old Jack and his Ma, who are being kept in a shed by a bad man. It is told in Jack’s voice and it is the most remarkable book I have read in many years.

Blame by Michele Huneven tells the story of a young woman who kills two people while driving drunk. The scenes in prison are so difficult, but her struggle for redemption and a life after prison is realistic. This is a gut-wrenching, unforgettable book.

Mark T. Mustian’s, The Gendarme, tells the story of an elderly man remembering his life as a soldier in the Armenian genocide during World War I.  It’s a hard look at the effects of war on those who fight it, and the suffering of innocent people caught in the middle of war. It’s simply stunning.

Fans of Daphne du Maurier will love Maggie O’Farrell’s The Hand That First Held Mine. She expertly weaves two seemingly disparate stories together and the denouement is surprising and fulfilling.

Those who liked Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo should try Jo Nesbo’s The Devil’s Star His crime novels are hot sellers in Europe, and it is only a matter of time before he conquers the Unites States best-seller lists.

Spy novels are fast and fun, and Joe Finder writes about modern industrial spies. Paranoia is one of his better books, and the first book in his Nick Heller series, Vanished has the potential to rival Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar series.   

For the John Grisham fan on your list, try Joseph Hayes’ When No One Is Watching, the story of a rising politician who kills a man in an accident and leaves his drunken passenger, his best friend, behind to take the blame. It’s a real page-turner.

Cookbooks abound this season, and some of the best include Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa- How Easy is That?, perfect for those who want to improve their skills. Bakers will enjoy The Gourmet Cookie Book from the editors of Gourmet Magazine.

Pam Anderson’s Perfect One-Dish Dinners is great because it gives you appetizer, salad and dessert recipes to accompany such tasty dishes as Salsa Verde Chicken and Chicken Pot Pie with Green Apples and Cheddar Biscuits.

For the expert chef, Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table is perfect. Just ask to be invited over when they make the Chocolate Eclairs as a thank you.

For more information on each book, click on the titles and for more great book suggestions, go to Books Are Great Gifts, and bookreporter.com's What to Give, What To Get Guide.

Happy Holidays to all and may Santa leave you a great book under the tree!