As many of you may know, I am no longer a New Yorker, so please check out my new blog A Library of My Own. If you are just reading Life and Times, you are missing out. Thanks!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Good Plain Cook - Bethan Roberts

The cool thing about reviewing books online is that sometimes I get sent random books to see if they are something I am interested in or not. The Good Plain Cook by Bethan Roberts was one of those books. I had never heard of it before but thought it sounded interesting and for some reason I really liked the homey cover.

Set in the 1930's, nineteen year old Kitty Allen answers an add in the newspaper for a position as a "good plain cook" for a wealthier household. Interesting thing, Kitty Allen doesn't really know how to cook that much. Even more interesting is her employers: wealthy Ellen Steinberg, her live-in lover/poet George Crane, and Ellen's teen daughter Geenie.

The book is about relationships. There's some triangles: widowed Ellen, George, and George's wife (yep, he's married). Then George sees a muse in innocent Kitty so there's another triangle. Then there's the gardener who is interested in Kitty but is he glamorous enough when there's a poet in the house? Last but not least, George's daughter Diana comes to stay and becomes friends with Geenie (not really a triangle there but they were my favorite characters).

And that's about it. I have to say one thing: Bethan Roberts can write. It felt like a classic. My problem: I'm not a big fan of those types of classic. While it kept my interest and I loved the writing, I was half-way through the book when I realized not much had gone on. And then when I got to the end I had the same feeling.

So it's really what type of reader you are that will decide if this is a good book or not. I loved the writing and I really enjoyed the side-story of Geenie and Diana. But at the end of the day, for me, it wasn't a bad novel, just slightly forgettable.

**Thank you Meryl Zegarek Public Relations, Inc. for the chance to read and review this book!

I didn't find any other reviews, but Medieval Bookworm reviewed her book The Pools and found it to be a "stunning book".

Friday, January 22, 2010

Love my hubby

I'm just going to take this moment to acknowledge my husband. He's an amazing guy, has great taste in music, does the laundry, got us dance lessons for Christmas, and is just wonderful. Oh. And he reads my book recommendations, how amazing is that? He even read my favorite, The Count of Monte Cristo...unabridged from cover to cover. Wow.

Right now he's out getting groceries so he can make us chicken parmigiana and picking up a movie. AND he signed me up for a walking/photo tour of Central Park tomorrow. Yippee!! I LOVE YOU!

Nephew News

If you've been reading my blog for awhile you may have seen a few posts about my amazing little nephew Cameron. I usually post something on his birthday like here and here.

The first time I wrote anything about him, I mentioned that he has a rare form of diabetes called Monogenic Diabetes (also called Neonatal Diabetes). He was born premature and was so tiny he just ate and ate and wasn't gaining much weight. But he was so happy and alert we had no clue. Here's a photo I took when he was a baby:

Finally, when he was a few months old, he crashed and it was discovered he had, what we thought, was Type 1 Diabetes. So poor little guy got had to get shots all the time and pricked to test his blood sugar level ALL the time. But my sister just didn't think things were right. So after some detective work (you can read more in depth on my other post and his bio on the Monogenic website) it was discovered he had a rare form of diabetes which is caused by a genetic mutation. And now he just has to take the pills a Type 2 person would take. Amazing!!

Oh, I should also mention that my sister and her family live in Anchorage, Alaska. A little while back, Cameron was asked to participate in the Guns N' Hoses hockey event where the New York Fire Department pared off against a team of Alaskan police and firefighters. The proceeds of the event went to the Anchorage chapter of the American Diabetes Association and the Scotty Gomez Foundation.

So here's a photo of my nephew at the event. I am so proud of him:

***Side note: This past summer my sister and I attended the first Neonatal Diabetes Day in London and got to meet the doctors from the UK who first discovered this genetic mutation and how to correct it. They are still working on Cameron's specific type of mutation. His type is even rarer and causes developmental delays.

Here's my sister with Dr. Fran Ashcroft and Dr. Andrew Hattersley

For more information, here's a few links:

An article about Lily Jaffe, the little girl with Monogenic Diabetes who's article my sister read and decided to see if Cameron had the same thing. Lily's Law in Illinois now requires physicians to report certain information to the Department of Public Health if a child is diagnosed with diabetes before 12 months of age. Here's another article about Lily's Law.

A YouTube video about the breakthroughs in Monogenic Diabetes.

An article about a life transformed by this breakthrough.

An article about another life transformed. My sister and I met Niona and she is a wonderful lady.

***Please, if you know anyone who has been diagnosed with early childhood diabetes, have them be checked for Monogenic Diabetes. This research is fairly new and many lives have been changed and improved.***

Thursday, January 21, 2010

1001 Update: Persuasion - Jane Austen

I read Jane Austen's Persuasion back in December and haven't reviewed it. I was a little lost for words since it is such a great classic and I can't believe I had never read it before. But then Alaine reviewed it over at Queen of Happy Endings and I thought, man up Amanda, just review it!

For those Persuasion newbies, here's the story:

Anne Elliot is 27 years old and unmarried. Agast! Her father, Sir Walter Elliot, has fallen upon hard times and is forced to rent out their nice home and move to a more modest abode in Bath. And who should rent their home, but the sister and husband of Anne's former flame, Captain Wentworth.

When Anne was 19, the Captain proposed and although Anne loved him, she was persuaded (get it?) by a family friend to turn down his offer. Scorned, she has not seen him since then. The Captain has made his fortune abroad and now is considered a fine catch. When the two finally cross paths again eight years later, he totally ignores her and pours affections on other (younger) women. Apparently hell hath no fury like a scorned man.

I was going to say, "Move over Pride and Prejudice, I've found a new favorite" but that's not entirely true. I still adore the wit and characters of P&P, so Persuasion is running a close second place. It doesn't help that I watched the movie shortly before I read the book. And wow. I think I've found a new crush. So yeah...move over Colin Firth as Darcy, I've found Captain Wentworth:
O yeah. The 2007 version has good eye candy. BUT...both the movie AND the book make me just want to slap these two characters. I mean. Anne is so passive and the Captain seems so heartless towards her. But I guess that makes the book enjoyable. The type of book you want to throw (but in a good way) and then pick it back up and continue reading until the hopefully happy ending.

So yeah, I loved both the book and the movie.

**Note: I read my version online at I just love the Penguin version's cover above.

**Another note: I've only seen the 2007 movie but heard that the older 1995 version is really good. Have you seen either one or both? Thoughts?

The 2007 Persuasion movie:

The 1995 version:
1001 Books to Read Before I Die Challenge

1% Well-Read Challenge (I'm at 33 books, I had no clue!)

Also Reviewed by:

Queen of Happy Endings
Stacy's Books
Fyrefly's Book Blog
Books. Lists. Life
Shelf Love
Book Nut
Book Bath 2007 Movie
Stacy's Books 1995 Movie
Blogul cu umbrela. The Period Drama Addict 1995 Movie

Creed of Violence Winners!

Thank you to all who entered my contest and promoted it via twitter. My husband just saw this book in our bookshelf yesterday and snagged it up. It's definitely a great read.

So without further ado, here's the five winners of the autographed copies:

Congratulations!! I'll be emailing you all for your addresses so Jim over at Kelley & Hall can get them out to you. Happy reading!

**PS. Tetewa -- I don't have an email for you so please email me at: nycbookgirl at gmail dot com Thanks!!

Olive Reader's English 101 Bookclub

I was reading the Weblog of Harper Perennial called The Olive Reader when I noticed that they are starting a little book club for 2010 called English 101. How cool!

They will be reading a book a month rehashing past favorite classics and some never read. January's book is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn -- which has been on my TBR list for way too long. I'm on chapter six and am already loving eleven year old Francie. Any girl who sits on her tree enshrouded fire escape while reading books from the library...well, yeah, she's already an all-time favorite character.

If you want to join in, here's the schedule for the year:

January - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
February – Brave New World
March – Poisonwood Bible
April – So Big
May – Daughter of Fortune
June – To Kill a Mockingbird
July – The Sheltering Sky
August – One Hundred Years of Solitude
September – The Golden Notebook
October – Native Son
November – Unbearable Lightness of Being
December – Their Eyes Were Watching God

Friday, January 15, 2010

Random NYC photo

I finally found my photo stitch program. This was taken at Central Park after our first big snow fall in December. You might have to click on it to see the whole photo.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Learning Patience in 2010

There a ton of pictures and posts I've been meaning to do but our Internet service is mysteriously down in our apartment. Time Warner...why do you hate us!?!? Just's probably something silly like pressing an "on" button or plugging something in. Until then, here's a couple pictures of my snow bunny-dog.

**Disclaimer: Photos were taken a few years ago in Southern Utah (Brianhead). We've gotten some snow here in New York but not THAT much!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Fun NYC Apartment

While I was writing my review of How to Save Your Own Life, I mentioned that my lovely apartment is currently having a HUGE mold problem which is driving my allergies, asthma, and eczema crazy...for like a year! We knew there was a leak over above our apartment which was supposedly fixed, but it wasn't until I moved our Christmas tree box from the closet that I knew something was awry.

Exhibit 1
The leak in our bathroom. The super kindly offered to fix it by painting the wall. I think that's how 99% of NYC apartment problems are fixed...just shellac over it with a huge coat of latex paint.

Exhibit 2
The culprit which was hidden by our tall Christmas tree box. The box actually stuck to the wall. So gross.

Exhibit 3

Robb got a mold test kit from Home Depot. This was just left sitting open in our living room for a bit and then closed. A few days later....even more disgustingly gross. I can't believe we are breathing and living in this air!!

Well, at least I've learned some lessons:

1) Super's don't really ALWAYS know what they are doing.
2) My allergist is HORRIBLE. (My derm doctors plain just told me they didn't know. Helpful.) I asked a YEAR ago if my problems could be due to mold and she told me's probably a food allergy. Uh huh. After eliminating most food, living off chicken and rice and my problems got way worse...I Googled allergy symptoms of mold and Ta Da!!
3) Go with my gut. I thought it was mold and was talked out of it. While there are some amazing doctors out there, many are still just in it for the money. Thousands of dollars later, I have learned this important lesson.
4) My body doesn't just plain hate me, which is what I was starting to think. A new year and moving on to being healthy and happy.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Jewel Trader of Pegu - Jeffrey Hantover

A long while back I was asked by Harper Collins to read and review The Jewel Trader of Pegu by Jeffrey Hantover. I was excited because it was already on my TBR list. I feel really bad that I haven't reviewed it earlier. It's quite an interesting novel.

Here's the plot:

It's 1598 and Abraham is a Jewish jewel and gem trader from Venice on his way to Pegu to buy and trade for his family. Pegu, now called Bago, is the capital of Burma (Myanmar) in Southeast Asia. In this exotic country, Abraham is faced with new people and new customs. Back in Venice, the Jewish people were forced into living in segregated ghettos and forced to wear certain clothing designating them as Jewish people (sounds vaguely familiar, doesn't it?).

Now in Pegu, he is treated as just another foreign trader. And foreigners are faced with interesting customs, such as this one: It's custom and an honor for brides to spend the first night with a foreigner.

As an upstanding Jewish man, Abraham is appalled. But his Pegu guide is appalled that he won't perform this honor for his people. Then Mya enters his life. Before she can become a wife she becomes a widow. And Mya shows Abraham that there may be things he's been missing from his life.

This was such an interesting novel. Abraham's story is written as a series of letters from Abraham to his cousin back in Venice. Interspersed are short chapters on Mya's thoughts. I thought this was a very personal and interesting way of presenting this story. My only problem is that I thought it was too short -- I wanted more! It made sense when I learned that the author, Jeffrey Hantover, is a cultural journalist. I felt that this novel worked more as a cultural study than a pure character driven novel. But I still liked it! Although, I do admit there were a few sections depicting some of the wedding night acts that made me blush and hope that no one was reading over my shoulder on the subway.

I love the books that have the P.S. section in them, such as this one. I learn so much and really enjoy reading the back-stories and extra information.

You can check out Jeffrey Hantover's website for his backstory to The Jewel Trader of Pegu as well as an excerpt.

**Thank you Danny at Harper-Collins for letting me read and review this book!

Also Reviewed by:

Devourer of Books
Booking Mama
Linus's Blanket

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Creed of Violence - Giveaway!!

I hope everyone had a great holiday season and a happy new year! To kick off this year, Jim over at Keeley and Hall told me that they have FIVE copies of the awesome book The Creed of Violence by Boston Teran. Wait...I meant to say five SIGNED copies!

I am pretty jealous. I love that Boston Teran's identity is unknown so having a signed copy is pretty cool. That and I really liked the book. AND it's going to be adapted into a movie!

Here's the deal:

1) Leave a comment with your email address or a way to contact you.

2) If you blog, tweet, Facebook, etc. about this, I'll give you an extra entry.

3) Open to U.S. or Canada residents (Sorry my international followers!!)

4) Contest is open through January 18th.

That's it!!

Check out my review of The Creed of Violence by Boston Teran
Check out my review of Giv: The Story of a Dog and America by Boston Teran

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How to Save Your Own Life - Michael Gates Gill

A little while back I was asked by TLC Book Tours if I wanted to read and review Michael Gates Gill's latest book How to Save Your Own Life. I had heard of his first book, How Starbucks Saved My Life -- a type of "riches to rags" sort of memoir but I had never read it.

So I said, sure I'll read it! Later though I wasn't so sure. I mean, I'm not really the "self-help" type of book reader although it is fairly short, around 200 pages. Surprisingly, this book came along for me at the perfect time.

If you haven't heard of these books, here's the gist:

Michael Gates Gill had been working for over twenty-five years as an ad agency director. He was born into a life of privilege and being in the Yale crowd, pretty much given his job and that was that. In one fail swoop -- he loses his job, his marriage, has a child outside of his marriage, and is diagnosed with a brain tumor. I And sometimes I think I have it hard! Down and out, he manages to get a job at Starbucks and his eyes are opened to a world where deadlines and blackberries are out, and being happy and helpful are in.

Honestly, the first two chapters were the best ones for me. For some strange reason, this book fell into my lap at the best time. Right now, my husband and I are contemplating a lot of changes. My husband has a master's degree in mechanical engineering and after working in the field for some years, he just has never enjoyed it and usually just plain hates it. So he's thinking about going back to school for something he actually wants to do. How scary but exciting! Actually, yesterday he put in his two weeks at work.

We are also in the middle of trying to move out of our apartment, even though our lease isn't up until this next summer. I've been pretty sick for about a year now with allergies and eczema. My doctor thought it was a food allergy but I am convinced now that it is due to a ton of mold in our apartment. I didn't have proof though until I pulled our Christmas tree box down from our closet and it was stuck to a ton of mold on the wall. Yeah. That is disgusting. So we are changing it. Getting out so we can get healthy and happy.

So when Gill wrote that if you are less than thrilled about what you are doing...change it!! -- well, that just spoke right to me. Don't wait until something drastic, like a brain tumor, makes you change how you live. We decided that while it's extremely scary to change our life to be happy, it's definitely more scary to stay where we are. One of his chapters or "lessons" is "Leap...With Faith", and that is just what we are going to do.

The rest of the book was, I thought, a nice memoir-ish about what Michael Gates Gill has been through and what he's learned. I especially enjoyed the sections on learning from your father and mother. His father was a writer for The New Yorker and just seemed like such a character. Even though his father passed away a few years ago, he is still continuing to learn from his example. I loved that. My husband and I both lost our fathers to cancer but I still think my father was an amazing example of what a husband and father should be. And our moms, well, they are just amazing ladies.

I don't know what I would have thought about this book had I not been in this place in my life. All I know is that I am glad I read it when I did.

Here's Michael Gates Gill at his new job:
Michael Gates Gill's TLC Tour Stops:

Monday, January 4th: Mid-Life Bloggers
Wednesday, January 6th: Books on the Brain
Thursday, January 7th: The Written World
Tuesday, January 12th: TexasRed's Books
Wednesday, January 13th: It's All a Matter of Perspective
Thursday, January 14th: A Novel Menagerie
Friday, January 15th: Nanny Goats in Panties
Tuesday, January 19th: Confessions of a Book-a-holic
Wednesday, January 20th: Thoughts of an Evil Overlord
Monday, January 25th: Silver and Grace
Tuesday, January 26th: Inventing My Life

**A big thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me read this book and to Michael Gates Gill for coming out with this book at the perfect time for me.