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To say I was excited about The World on a Plate would be an understatement. It’s a collection of all the things I love in life – talking about food, cooking, and learning about different cultures. So, when I got the email that I’d been approved for an advance copy, I was almost giddy.

The book wasn’t really what I expected. It’s more of separate informational pieces than anything else. This isn’t a bad thing, and I actually learned a lot while reading it. I also got a few ideas for what to do with my CSA vegetables this year, which coincidentally begin on May 26, this book’s official release date.

In general, I find it really hard to review nonfiction. What do you say? I guess the main thing that I noticed was that the facts were all there, but everything felt a little haphazard.

There wasn’t really any flow between one region and the next, and I couldn’t figure out the rationale for the recipes chosen. They’re not the most famous or the most popular. Perhaps they’re just the author’s favorites?

The selection of recipes left a lot to be desired. Take Peru, for example. Ceviche I get, it’s a classically Peruvian, very well-known dish. But Peruvian rice? Really? I’d have preferred to see something like lomo saltado, ají de gallina, or even chicha morada! In the section on Ethiopa, injera is mentioned several times, and the author even goes on to suggest where you might find a recipe, but for some reason didn’t see fit to include it in her book. She did, however, feel the need to include the Korean soondae (blood sausage encased in pig intestine) only to turn her nose up at it.

I also felt that some of the sections dragged as the descriptions of regional variations became tedious and monotonous. Some chapters come across as almost a little pretentious, as if the author feels that she needs to prove that she knows everything there is to know about Moroccan or Japanese or Thai food. Her (multiple) soliloquies on curry felt a little over-the-top as well. In addition, something was wrong with both versions of this book that I received – the Kindle copy was garbled almost beyond understanding starting around 80%, and the PDF I received crashed at Africa and refused to keep going. I hope that the final version for sale doesn’t have these problems, but it caused me to skim the majority of the last 20%.

Of course, there was some good. There are several recipes I would love to try, provided that my advance copy doesn’t expire too quickly. I did also enjoy the realization that cuisine around the world isn’t too different. Sure, the proteins might be different, and a spice or two may have changed, but the building blocks are very similar.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy! This book will be released on May 26, 2015.

Final rating: a low ★★★☆☆

For my 2015 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #14: a nonfiction book.

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Let me be honest for a minute: I never would have read this book if not for my 2015 reading challenge, which stipulates that I must read a graphic novel. I’ve never read a graphic novel before, so this was an experience for me.

Most of this first volume is just setup: Charlie, a Hollywood film writer, goes to party one night. He wakes up the next morning having no recollection of the previous night, and to make matters worse, he finds the lead actress for his current film dead. Not wanting to be blamed for her murder, Charlie covers it up. Next thing he knows, the papers are calling it a suicide and he can’t even tell anyone what really happened.

The biggest thing for me with this story was the characters. They all look pretty similar – mostly middle-aged men in suits – and we don’t learn enough about them that they stand out for any other reason. The file was so huge that it froze my Nook several times, so I couldn’t keep flipping back and forth to the list of characters, either. I guess that was a little disappointing to me. I couldn’t keep track of who was friends, who was enemies, and what everybody’s role was because they were just too similar.

But what I did like was the setting. Brubaker and Phillips did a great job pulling me in to old Hollywood, with all its corruption and drama. If only the characters had been as well-developed as the backstory.

The only other thing I can say is that this volume ends in quite a cliffhanger. This first volume is a lot of background information and not a whole lot of action. Charlie complains a lot about what’s happened, but he doesn’t really do anything. We’re introduced to a lot of characters, but nothing actually happens aside from the initial murder. I can’t say that I’ll be coming back to find out what happens next, but I can see how the cliffhanger might draw someone back.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy!

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

For my 2015 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #40: a graphic novel.

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When we last saw Lily and Lo in Ricochet, Lo was back from rehab and 90 days sober, with a brand new outlook on life. Lily was regularly going to therapy and proudly 90 days celibate. In Addicted for Now, Lily and Lo must come to terms with living in the real world. Lo has access to alcohol again. Lily has to deal with sleeping next to her boyfriend without giving in to her compulsions. Staying sober was easier without access to alcohol. Staying celibate was easier without sharing a room. But both Lily and Lo are determined to make it work.

Of the three Addicted novels I’ve read so far, Addicted for Now is by far my favorite. I think that’s because instead of being about their addictions tearing them apart, this book focuses much more on their recovery, on finding healthy ways to deal with their triggers and focus their energy on more positive things. It also builds the relationships a lot more, particularly the relationship between Lily and her sisters.

Of course, no book is complete without some serious drama, so Lily has to deal with someone threatening to out her secret – to release to the press that the heiress to Fizzle is not just a sex addict, but one who’s gone so far as to hire male prostitutes. Knowing that the news would cause Fizzle stock to plummet, not to mention make their already strained relationship with her parents worse, Lily withdraws more and more into herself, becoming afraid to even step out of the house. The news hits Lo hard as well, since he knows that Lily has made significant progress, but still isn’t ready to reveal her secret. Lily worries that the stress will drive Lo to the nearest bar. And when the leak is revealed… I was both shocked and not at all surprised.

I need to catch up on my recent Netgalley approvals, but then I’ll be diving headfirst into Rose and Connor’s story. I can’t wait.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

For my 2015 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #43: a book that takes place in your hometown. (I would like to mention that Princeton, NJ is not my hometown, but I could not find any books that take place in the tiny Wisconsin town I was born and raised in.  Princeton is, however, where I live now, so I figured it’s close enough.)

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Annie Roth has led a very sheltered life. After her mother died in a terrible accident just months after Annie was born, her grieving father forbade her from having any semblance of a social life. Barely allowed to leave the house, and always supervised by her brothers, eighteen-year-old Annie decided that the only way to be happy was to go to college on the other side of the country.

 With the help of her new roommate, Cami, Annie makes a list of twenty things she’d like to do before she’s out of her teens. Annie has just over a year to do things like have her first kiss, go skinny dipping, go on a road trip, and get a guy’s phone number. Lucky for her, she meets a great group of friends very quickly, all of whom are happy to help her cross things off her list. The only problem is Ryan, who’s not only Cami’s cousin, but also best friends with Chris, the guy Annie’s been seeing. Annie can’t get Ryan out of her mind, but he’s too loyal to Chris to let anything happen. 

Annie is one of those characters that you can’t help but root for, even when she’s doing something completely idiotic. I just wanted her to be happy, to finally break away from the confines of her family and do what she wanted for a change. That’s the thing about this story. You can’t fault Annie for anything that she does, because she’s never experienced anything. Her overbearing father kept her from learning basic life skills, like not going off alone with random boys when she’s drunk. And the more that her friends didn’t understand, the more that I sympathized with her. While I was in no way raised under the same circumstances as Annie, I was pretty naive and innocent when I left home for college. It’s a learning experience, as much for how to be an adult as it is for academic knowledge.

So, like I mentioned, I loved Annie. I also loved Cami and Ryan. Chris, eh. He kind of annoyed me from the beginning. But overall, this book was really good. I started reading at 9pm and figured I’d just read a few chapters before going to bed. Well, next thing I knew, it was 1am and I was done. Done, and dying for more.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a free copy.

For my 2015 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #41: a book by an author you’ve never read before.

Final rating: 

★★★★☆

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It’s 1964, and amid a blizzard, and despite that fact that he’s an orthopedist, Dr. David Henry has just delivered his wife’s first child – a healthy, beautiful, perfect baby boy – Paul. Much to his surprise, a second baby is born as well. This time, a baby girl with Down Syndrome. In a spur of the moment decision, with his wife unaware, Dr. Henry asks Caroline Gill, the nurse assisting with the delivery, to take the girl away to an institution. As Caroline makes the long drive to the institution, she can’t help but feel how wrong the whole situation is. And when she gets there, she can’t go through with it. Caroline and Phoebe leave, setting up a new life of their own in a new town, far away from anyone who might recognize them.

Meanwhile, Norah Henry spends the next 25 years believing that her daughter died at birth. Over the years, the pain hasn’t lessened. In fact, as she watches Paul grow up, she can’t help but imagine what Phoebe might have been like if she’d lived. Would she have his same love of music? Would she be as headstrong as he is? Would she be athetically inclined, like him? Or maybe she’d be completely different. Norah and Dr. Henry grow apart as his secret wedges its way between them. When Dr. Henry gave Phoebe to Caroline, he thought he would be saving his wife a lifetime of heartache. He never imagined that he would ruin their marriage.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is one of those books that sticks with you. While I was reading it, and still now, days later, I’m wondering what I would do if I were any of the characters.

How would I react if my husband told me my child had died at birth, and that he didn’t want a memorial service or any kind of formal burial? Would I be suspicious? Or would I just accept it? Could I live with a man who didn’t want me to discuss the heartache of the loss of a child?

What if I were in Caroline’s shoes? Would I be able to deliver a baby to an institution as ordered? Would I have the strength to raise a baby – with special needs, no less – all by myself, in secret, away from all my family and friends? Would I tell the mother, or would I keep it quiet as the father requested?

It’s easy to say that you’d do the right thing. You’d tell the mother. You’d question your husband. But what reason would you have to believe that your husband lied to you, that your baby wasn’t really dead? And as the nurse, wouldn’t you be concerned that the mother might call the police, that you might be charged with kidnapping, that the father might retaliate against you?

It’s hard to say that I enjoyed this book, because I’m not really sure if I did. How much can you enjoy a book that punches you in the gut and rips your heart out? But the story is good, and I kept coming back for more. A little each day, because I couldn’t handle much more than that. This book is definitely not for everyone, and at other times in my life, I probably would have liked it less. Thankfully, I read this one at the right time.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

For my 2015 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #17: a book a friend recommended.