Archive for the ‘Beach Reading’ Category

Twilight! (Stephenie Meyer: Twilight; New Moon; Eclipse; Breaking Dawn)

Posted by nybookworm on July 18, 2010

Hi, my name is NY Bookworm and I am an adult who loves the Twilight series.  Ok, love may be too strong but I would lend them to you  if you told me you were looking for a gripping commute read (discreetly, of course or perhaps even using a kindle).   The Twilight books, like the Harry Potter books and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, are children’s/teen books that have found a wider audience among adults for a good reason – they are well-written, imaginative and entertaining.  As I’m sure many of you know by now, the books tell the story of the “forbidden” romance between a seventeen-year old girl, Bella, and her strikingly handsome vampire classmate Edward.  The romance  is drawn out over four books that introduce the reader to the world of good and bad vampires, werewolves and the rainy northwest.  I have not met anyone who read Twilight but managed to restrain themselves from buying the other three books- New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn.  If you manage(d) to read only one I’d like to hear from you in the comments. 

You can buy all four Twilight books at:  http://www.amazon.com/Twilight-Saga-Collection-Stephenie-Meyer/dp/0316031844


Posted in Beach Reading, Contemporary Fiction | Leave a Comment »

Jim Ferguson: One Thousand White Women- The Journals of May Dodd

Posted by nybookworm on November 23, 2009

One Thousand White Women was another book club selection and a very quick read.  This novel is set in 1875 and imagines what it would be like if an obscure  and true historical event – the request by a Cheyenne chief to be sent 1000 white women for intermarriage with his tribe to further cultural harmony- were actually fulfilled rather than ignored by an outraged US government.  The story is told through the fictional journals of May Dodd, a woman from Chicago who was one of the initial troop of women volunteers sent out to become Cheyenne wives.  The motley crew of volunteers described in Dodd’s journals includes women released from insane asylums and prisons in exchange for their service as well as women abandoned by their families and generally down on their luck.  The journals are mostly about Dodd and the other women’s personal struggles integrating into the nomadic Cheyenne lifestyle but also includes vague historical references to the establishment of reservations and the ongoing conflict between the Native American tribes and the white settlers.   I enjoyed this book because it was a quick read with an offbeat topic, though frankly a little more salacious than I think it needed to be.   This may not be an entirely fair comparison but I am a huge fan of James Fenimore Cooper and so can’t help but compare all novels on this topic and set around this time to his novels.  While One Thousand White Women was enjoyable it does not hold a candle to the Cooper books and if anything I think it made me long to reread the Leatherstocking Tales to remember how a great frontier story of Native American life is told. 

Amazon Link to One Thousand White Women here: http://www.amazon.com/One-Thousand-White-Women-Journals/dp/0312199430

Posted in Beach Reading, Historical Fiction | Leave a Comment »

Giulia Melucci: I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti

Posted by nybookworm on May 17, 2009

I_Loved_I_Lost_I_Made_SpaghettiI wanted to like this book and its author, Giulia Melucci, because she was self aware enough to write this book and to honestly reflect on her failed relationships but I had a hard time.  This book is Melucci’s story of her adult dating life from approximately aged 22 to 40 with recipes she cooked during relationships and at transformational moments sprinkled throughout.  Truthfully, the recipes (almost all of which looked so good I stopped dog earring pages because I realized I was marking every page) were the best part of this book.  It was difficult to read through Melucci’s failed lover affairs precisely because she is self-aware enough to chronicle all of her doubts and hesitations, almost all of which surfaced almost immediately into relationships, some of which she ended up carrying on for years.  She is someone who clearly wants love and a family but who gets in her own way so much through the choices she makes and the way she approaches dating that it is hearbreaking and because she knows precisely what she’s doing, it is difficult reading.  But since this book probably has more recipes that I’d love to make than most of my cookbooks, I recommend it and think it is actually worth owning.

Link to the book here: http://www.amazon.com/I-Loved-Lost-Made-Spaghetti/dp/0446534420

Posted in Beach Reading, Biography/Autobiography, Chefs/Food, Nonfiction | Leave a Comment »

Peter Mayle: A Year in Provence

Posted by nybookworm on April 19, 2009

topper-provence1British writer Peter Mayle’s books chronicling his relocation to and life in Provence, France have become one of the most widely read travel books around.  A Year in Provence (1991) is about Mayle’s first year living in Provence with his wife and their quest to restore an 18th century farmhouse at the base of the Luberon mountains.   I read somewhere that when it was first published, the publisher agreed to print 3,000 copies and promised to give Mayle a discount to buy them to give as Christmas gifts. The first printing sold out within a few weeks and this book as well as his subsequent chronicles of Provencal life have now sold several million copies worldwide.  No matter how many books are written on the topic and how trite the idea becomes of relocating to an idyllic southern European country with a slower paced lifestyle and fresh local food, this type of travel book will always find an audience because we’ve all bought into the myth  (or at least those of us in big cities glued to our laptops).  We use to have the American Dream- we now have the Provencal or Tuscan dream.  But I digress.  This book is good not just because it sells an idea whose time has come but because the story is told with just the right amount of that wry wit Brit writers are able to convey with facility.  Mayle manages to poke fun at French culture and stodgy traditions while good naturedly maintaining a clear veneer of admiration for his subject.  His books are immensely entertaining and even more so if you’re a fan of French food (truffles, tarts, wine and various innards make several appearances).   I have read all of his books on Provence (Toujours Provence, Encore Provence and Provence A to Z) and have enjoyed all of them mostly because Mayle is a great writer who manages to hold your attention and capture your imagination even while he tells you how much better his life is than yours.

Amazon link here: http://www.amazon.com/Year-Provence-Peter-Mayle/dp/0679731148

Posted in Beach Reading, Chefs/Food, Funny, Nonfiction, Travel | Leave a Comment »

Maeve Binchy: Tara Road

Posted by nybookworm on April 13, 2009

tara-roadThis was another airport bookshop purchase but one I did not regret.  Maeve Binchy is, of course, the Irish-born novelist whose fictional stories of life in Ireland have become bestsellers all over the world, and in some cases, made into successful Hollywood movies (see Circle of Friends).  Tara Road (also made into a movie) is much like her other novels, set in Ireland and filled with Irish characters, many of whom are almost caricatures of Irish protagonists you might imagine populate Dublin and its surroundings.  Tara Road’s main character is Ria, a petite dark-haired woman, who goes on to marry a good-looking, fast talking real estate agent and build a life with him in a house on Tara Road, an upscale residential street in Dublin.  Tara Road  is the story of Ria’s life which, of course, does not turn out exactly as planned.  I like Binchy’s books for vacation and leisure reading and they really are an interesting glimpse into modern Irish life.  Binchy herself has lived in Dublin her whole life, so I have to assume her potraits are fairly accurate .  If you saw The Holiday (the movie where Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet exchange houses for Christmas) you’ll see some similarities.  Warning: this is a long book but it goes fast and was difficult to put down.  Another warning (or not?) this was an Oprah’s Book Club selection. 

Amazon link here: http://www.amazon.com/Tara-Road-Oprahs-Book-Club/dp/0440235596

Posted in Beach Reading, Contemporary Fiction | Leave a Comment »

Anthony Bourdain: Kitchen Confidential

Posted by nybookworm on April 7, 2009

anthony_bourdain31Kitchen Confidential is more or less Anthony Bourdain’s autobiography of his working life as a chef- the restaurants he worked at, his cooking philosophy and his work ethic.   Unlike some of the other chef autobiographies that have been written, Bourdain is actually a writer and definitely has a distinct conversational tone that makes his writing very approachable.  He makes it very clear from the beginning that his chief aim is to provide a realist view of the life of a chef.  To that extent, there are many pages spent describing the nocturnal life, the manual labor, the sexists and vulgar kitchen atmosphere, the lack of room for creativity and the ungrateful diners.  At times there is definitely a feeling that he’s trying very hard to discourage home cooks aspiring to culinary school to forget it.  That being said, this book was published in 2001, at the naiscent stages of the Food Network and celebrity chefs and it is definitely a condemnation of the glorification of the celebrity chef.  Bordain wants us to understand that it is a gritty, thankless job that very few home cooks could ever endure across a lifetime.  Ironically enough Bourdain himself has since become a celebrity chef/writer of sorts with his own travel show (No Reservations) and follow-up books and articles.  He has become far less famous for his cooking (he was a chef at Les Halles an NY brasserie) than his writing about cooking and having eaten at Les Halles, to me, that makes sense.  He continues to be an inflammatory and entertaining contrarian voice to the Rachel Rays and Bobby Flays of the world and this is not the last of his books that will be reviewed on this site.

Amazon link here: http://www.amazon.com/Kitchen-Confidential-Adventures-Culinary-Underbelly/dp/0060934913

Posted in Beach Reading, Biography/Autobiography, Chefs/Food, Funny, Nonfiction | Leave a Comment »

Nick Hornby: Slam

Posted by nybookworm on April 5, 2009

tony-hawkI guess Slam (2007), Nick Hornby’s latest novel,  is supposed to be for “young adults” but the airport book shop didn’t tell me that so I read it anyway.  This book is about a teenage Tony Hawk devotee (famous pro skateboarder for those of you as uncool as me) who impregnates his also teenage girlfriend.  Don’t worry I didn’t just give away the ending.  The story is told from the point of view of Sam the impregnator and has that naive narrator angle  that works so well when addressing uncomfortable adult topics.  Although the plot is about as cliche as you can imagine (broken home, lonely teenager, no experience with sex, etc.)  since this is geared toward “young adults” the story is cute and fun to read.  It makes for good airplane reading and it’s not like you’re reading Twilight or anything so don’t be embarrassed to buy it.

Amazon link to Slam here: http://www.amazon.com/Slam-Nick-Hornby/dp/0399250484

Posted in Beach Reading, Contemporary Fiction, Funny | Leave a Comment »

Stephen Clarke: A Year in the Merde

Posted by nybookworm on March 29, 2009

merde_While we’re on the topic of British parodies of the Under the Tuscan Sun genre of travel writing, I should mention another good example: A Year in the Merde (2004).  The title is actually technically a parody of Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence and is intended to allude to the author’s less than stellar first year living in Paris.  Other than the title, the book is not actually a parody, it’s just a funny description of the narrator’s year in Paris trying to open a chain of British-style tea shops.  If you’ve been to France or are a connoisseur of French stereotypes you will find this hilarious.  This is a great break if you’ve just read a difficult or depressing book (more of those to come later) and excellent vacation reading.  The good news is, if you like this there is a sequel titled, of course, Merde Actually which is more of the same.

Amazon link to A Year in the Merde here: http://www.amazon.com/Year-Merde-Stephen-Clarke/dp/1582345910

Posted in Beach Reading, Funny, Travel | 1 Comment »

Bill Buford: Heat

Posted by nybookworm on March 27, 2009

heat_bill_bufordI mentioned Heat (2006) in one of my earlier posts because it was one of the first food/chef-related books I read and it was a great beginning.   Heat is Bill Buford’s attempt to understand the “back office” of an expensive up-market restaurant, in this case Babbo in NYC ,which is the flagship restaurant of famous Italian (cuisine not heritage) chef Mario Batali.  In order to do that he begins by working all of the shifts of the Babbo kitchen and progresses to follow the path of Batali’s training by going to Italy to apprentice under a pastamaker and a butcher.  Buford is a journalist by trade and his style of analytical writing works with this format and topic.  You learn all kinds of things about the kitchen of an expensive restaurant you’d rather not know (e.g,  they cook all of the pasta in one pot the entire night) but it is a fascinating look into a world that most of us would never otherwise see.  This is a great book if you love food, enjoy dining out or generally love a book to make you feel like you’re spying on a world you would never otherwise be permitted to enter.

Amazon link to Heat here: http://www.amazon.com/Heat-Adventures-Pasta-Maker-Apprentice-Dante-Quoting/dp/1400041201

Posted in Beach Reading, Chefs/Food, Nonfiction | 2 Comments »

Sara Gruen: Water for Elephants

Posted by nybookworm on March 23, 2009

water-for-elephantsI read this book for my newly formed book club.  This was actually our first assigned book and I ended up missing the meeting.  If I had been able to attend, I think I would have said that it was an entertaining book about a novel topic that was written well enough. It isn’t the type of book where you read passages over and over again to yourself because the writing is so beautiful but it is also not the type of book you take months to finish.  In other words, it’s a perfect vacation book and I happened to read it on vacation so it was well chosen.  It’s about a circus veterinarian, now in a retirement home, recounting his days with the traveling circus when a circus still used trains and had bearded ladies and conjoined twins as sideshows.   Gruen did her research so many of the tales woven into the story are from historical record, which I appreciated.  This was a fast read and if you’re looking for a happy book on a creative topic this is your man…so to speak. PS: There is also some lighthearted romance.

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