Decidedly Delicious!

This book was a delicious read.

Never have I read such a delectable story, full of food and mystery and a complex cast of characters. You can tell the author, Ruth Reichl, loves food, and her experience as a food writer and restaurant reviewer has added a flavor to her writing like no other I have read. I could almost taste flavors and feel the texture of the food in my mouth.

Here’s the story:

A young woman with an amazing palate, but who won’t cook, leaves college to take on a position as assistant to the editor of a food magazine called Delicious! which operates out of an old mansion in New York City. The magazine staff and other people she meets in New York are all well-fleshed out and interesting, and just when you’re settling into the story, we find out that the magazine goes under, and she is the only employee left, kept on to deal with the magazine’s guarantee. In between taking on a side job working in an amazing cheese shop and answering customer calls in the Delicious! mansion, our protagonist finds a hidden room and discovers letters that lead to a fascinating mystery.

My thoughts:

I can’t express enough what a wonderful book this was. It was just such a delight, with a mystery, wonderful characters, romance, history and food that just accentuates the story line. If you want a savory feast of a read, you should check out this book. I can’t remember how I found it, I think through some rabbit trails in Amazon searches, but it was one of the best books I’ve stumbled upon this year. Delightful and delicious!

 

 

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It’s All about the Audio (Books)

Confession: I’ve never been a huge fan of audio books.

I think this audio book aversion stems from one I bought from a sale bin at the bookstore one year for a road trip. The female narrator spoke in an almost comical, deep voice for the male parts in the story, and it drove me crazy. However, I had a great audio book experience with the first five Harry Potter novels on audio in the past and LOVED those. The narrator, Jim Dale, has a fabulously rich voice and wonderful British accent.

That was the extent of my audio book experience in the last ten years … until it recently occurred to me that my long and boring daily commute would be a tad less stressful if I lost myself in a book. And so, in the last year, I’ve listened to the unabridged versions of the following audio books:

  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
  • Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris
  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey
  • Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris
  • Yes Please! by Amy Poehler
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • What I know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey (I actually just started this one.)

With the exception of Wild, all of the above books were narrated by the actual author, which was a real treat. My two favorites were On Writing and Eat, Pray, Love.  The rest were good. Okay, more than good. They were funny, interesting, informative and entertaining. I enjoyed them all!

Given the choice between reading a book or listening to a book, I prefer to read. But, depending on the circumstances, audio books can be a convenient and enjoyable alternative. And now that we’ve gone mobile and can listen to them on our phones, it opens a world of opportunities. Anything that can help make boring tasks (like commuting) more interesting is a big win in my book (pun intended).

In other words … I now love audio books.

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Four Nights with the Duke

So, um, yeah, I read a romance novel over the weekend called Four Nights with the Duke. It was not my usual reading material, but more along the lines of something I would have read as a teenager. However, it was entertaining, a fairly quick read and pretty juicy.

As far as plots go, it was the usual damsel in distress blackmailing a handsome duke into a marriage of convenience to outsmart the evil uncle story. The duke and his glorious manhood seduced the large-bosomed, tipped with nipples like ripe strawberries, lady who happened to also be a virgin. Ahem. There ‘s lots of passionate, mind-blowing sex.

The usual cast of characters joined our oversexed duo; a drunk but utterly wise and charming uncle, the protective best friends, a crippled young heir, the cruel butler, the jolly butler (yes, both) and an untamed Arabian stallion. And this group faced the usual hurdles, with characters fighting their own feelings or doing what they think is best for other characters without discussing it with them first, etc.

With all the action, intense feelings and, well, sex, it’s hard to believe this book’s timeline was only about four days long. But it was a raucous four days. Whew.

 

Let’s be honest. We don’t read these books for their intellectual stimulation. Romance novels are fun, light reads. And this one fulfilled it’s purpose.

I’m actually considering starting a book club just for reading romances. Think how much fun the group discussions would be! “How many times did the author mention his glorious member?” or “Did her bosom heave too much?”

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New-World Speller from 1922

On one of my trips to visit my mom in Virginia, I ended up at a wonderful antique, vintage-hip store called Lucketts, in a restored, 100-year-old general store in Leesburg. It was a wonderful place to explore and spend a Saturday afternoon, imaging how many things I could put on my walls or what I could purchase to decorate every nook and cranny in my home. I saw so many cool vintage furniture pieces and decorations, but of course, I gravitated toward the old books. And I ended up buying one, the New-World Speller published in 1922.

 

Old BookOld Book 2

 

The book is made out of some sort of cloth, a little worse for wear, and the pages have a yellowish-brown tinge … it’s just glorious. I could easily get hooked on buying old books. And this little speller, for grades second through seventh, has some real gems, such as this page:

 

Old Book Indian

 

 

and I don’t know about you, but I didn’t sew, wash clothes or iron when I was in second grade.

 

Old Book Days of the Week

 

Each section has a message for the kids of that age. To the third grade children it says the following:

“The smallest word has some unguarded spot,

And danger lurks in i without a dot.    

– Oliver Wendell Holmes

Did you ever think what a wonderful thing a written word is? You join a few letters on paper and the word tells somebody else what idea is in your mind. Be sure that you join the right letters. If you look out for the “unguarded spot” in each word in the Third Grade, you will soon be able to use these wonderful tools in an independent way. Form the right habit now

 

The second grader who owned this book in 1922? Her name was Gladys Cook. She even signed her book:

 

Old Book signature

 

Some other tings I found in it that you probably wouldn’t find in our present day school books were:

  • Cookie spelled “cooky”
  • Mention of a stick of candy that only costs one cent
  • Ninepin
  • Iceman
  • A queer game

Finding a ninety-three-year-old school book like this makes me wonder what people ninety-three years from now will find from our school books that strike them as strange. Maybe the fact that we had physical books?! While I have a Kindle and love the convenience, there’s nothing like holding an actual book in your hands.

After this find, I may have to search for more old books in estate sales and antique stores. This is, by far, the oldest book on my shelf at the moment. Do you own any old books?

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Cultivating Thought

One of my favorite places to eat is Chipotle, mainly because I love their burrito bowls. They also have had some pretty cool advertising, with an app game and a haunting infomercial set to the song Pure Imagination. However, the thing I most admire about their brand image is their Cultivating Thought literary packaging.

Literary packaging.

Chipotle’s cups and bags display original writing from comedians, thought leaders and authors, illustrated by different artists. That’s pretty cool. Most the bags and cups I get from restaurants have the brand name or advertising of some sort. Not literature. And in a world full of advertisement, from our phones to our clothing, it’s pretty cool to see a company do something original and creative like this.

Must a cup, or bag, suffer an existence that is limited to just one humble purpose, defined merely by its simple function?

Chipotle’s goal with this initiative:

We’re hoping this will allow people to connect with the musings of these writers with whom they may or may not be familiar and create a moment of analog pause in a digital world, provoking introspection or inspiration, and maybe a little laughter.

My  bag had something from the Joy Luck Club best-selling author Amy Tan.

Amy Tan Punched

 

I couldn’t help but Tweet about it, and of course, they responded, because they are killin’ it on social media.

 

I fed both my body AND my mind at Chipotle. Can’t say that of many places!! (and no, I was not paid or asked to support Chipotle, and I bought my own meal. I WISH I could advertise for them!)

Have you seen any brand take this kind of stance with literature?

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The 5-Year Journal

In February, I bought a book called Q&A a Day: 5-Year Journal.

 

It has 365 pages with a different question/writing prompt for each day and lined response areas for five years-worth of answers. You can see over time how your answers have changed … or haven’t. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, because I love the idea of seeing my answers over five years, but I decided to hold off starting until yesterday, my birthday.

The question for April 21 was “What do you want to say when someone asks ‘What do you do?'”

I’ve wanted to be a lot of things over the years. I wanted to be Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman for a while. I really wanted to be a doctor for a while, and I still think about that often. I also find veterinary medicine appealing.  However, my official answer is one that has stayed pretty consistently the same throughout most of my life: I want to say I’m a writer, an author, that I have a published book. Despite this being an almost life-long desire, I haven’t set goals or moved forward much in pursuit of this. And that’s disappointing, but all is not lost. I am a writer. I have published a short story. My time isn’t done yet, I can still do this. Right?

I’ll be interested to see what my answer is to this next year. And the year after that. And five years from now.

What about you? What’s your answer?

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Jodi Picoult Tweeted Me!

Last week I sent out Tweets to about 15 best-selling authors asking them the same three questions, and the only one who responded was Jodie Picoult. But … Jodi Picoult! I had a total fan girl moment.

 

 

This was really exciting for many reasons. One of those being that the book she’s currently reading is one I’ve read, All The Light We Cannot See, and it’s a beautifully written book. It has a rather unique story line, following a young, blind French girl and an orphaned German boy during WW II.

 

Jodi Picoult though … she’s an amazing author. A MASTER storyteller! And I happened to have read her most recent book, Leaving Time, which was one of those books I devoured. It intertwined the study of elephants with a young girl’s search for her missing mother. I learned so much about elephants. They are fascinating, intelligent and empathetic mammals. I’ve always been impressed by elephants, but I learned so much more about them in this book.

 

One of the central characters helping the girl look for her mom was a psychic, and the plot line ventured into the unknown a bit, which I also found fascinating. The subject matter (elephants!), the excellent writing, the character development and the mystery … all of it worked for me. Jodi Picoult has dabbled in the paranormal before in her book Second Glance, which I also read and enjoyed.

I may try to Tweet more authors, to find out what they are reading or see what they have to say. One of my favorite parts of using social media is how much more accessible it has made some authors. Do you follow any of your favorite authors in social media?

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A Pirate’s Pleasure

When I hit my preteens, I discovered romance novels. And I was swept away by plundering pirates, cocky cowboys, valiant vikings and dashing dukes. I think my favorites were the historical romances set in London, involving carriages and ball gowns, illicit encounters in the gardens.

However, my absolutely favorite romance novel during that period, the one that stuck with me the most, was A Pirate’s Pleasure by Heather Graham.

 

From the back cover:

She was his defiant captive.

With her flame gold-hair and azure eyes, Skye Kinsdale was a prize beyond compare. Betrothed to a lord she’d never met, she set sail for America sworn to reject him on sight until the infamous pirate Silver Hawk seized her ship and banished all other men from her life. Burning with rage and passion, she was determined to destroy the arrogant buccaneer, to be free at any cost…

He Was Her Keeper…And Her Slave

The black prince of the seas, he was feared by pirate and privateer alike. Silver Hawk vowed he would have the vixen, make her crave his savage embrace. She was his—by law of the sea. The man who commanded a Caribbean kingdom swore he would teach his wild temptress to love, to surrender to the lawless thrill of…A Pirates Pleasure.

 

I think I may have read it more than once. The beautiful, innocent (yet defiant) female who is captured by a dangerously handsome pirate who wants to keep her for himself. How can a young girl resist such a story line? There’s a major twist in the book, about halfway through, if I am remembering correctly. I read this book twenty years ago! yikes.

My taste in books has changed a lot in the last twenty years. I don’t read as many romance novels, and those that I do read need a good plot and less innocence-ravishing.

You should read this book … if you ever daydream about sexual escapades at sea or enjoy fantasies of being kidnapped by pirates.

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I love spreadsheets

Reading Spreadsheets

I’ve always realized that I read a great deal, but I didn’t realize exactly how much until 2011 when I discovered the concept of a reading spreadsheet. Serious readers (my kind of people!) actually keep spreadsheets to track their reading. Spreadsheets! Reading! READING SPREADSHEETS!!

Item #65 on my list of guilty pleasures is … spreadsheets. (I realize how dorky this makes me sound, and I really don’t care. I love making spreadsheets.) It had never really occurred to me to mix reading and spreadsheets, but once it did, I knew it was a mix made in heaven. (I hate cliches. I try, try, try not to use them. #Fail) Now, with my reading spreadsheet, not only do I see how many books I read a year, but I track which authors I enjoyed the most, where I got the books from (lent from a friend, library, ARC, bought through Amazon, etc.) and which genres I tended to read the most. It’s been illuminating. I mainly read female authors, and I tended to stick to mystery, fantasy and general fiction. It was clearly time for me to change up my reading a bit!

The two most important things I’ve learned from keeping a reading spreadsheet though, is not only do I read lots and lots of books, but I’m spending too much money on books. So, after that first year, I dusted off my library card and began checking out more books at my local branch and discovered the convenience of downloading electronic copies from the library as well. I also signed up over at NetGalley, a website where you can sign up for free to read advanced copies of books. Anything to feed my reading addiction …

I have some friends who use Goodreads, which naturally tracks the books you read. And I’m sure others have different ways of doing it. And then there are those people who are reading this thinking, “Who the hell has time to track their reading, much less read more than one book a month?” (If this is you, then perhaps you’ve ended up here by mistake.)

When I googled “Reading spreadsheet,” the top result was a blog post on BookRiot (one of my most favorite book blogs), and the writer, Amanda Nelson, shares a fabulous spreadsheet that is more comprehensive than mine: The Ultimate Reading Spreadsheet.

So, let’s have it. Do you track your reading? Has it ever occurred to you to do so? What’s #65 on your guilty pleasure list?

 

Cover Photo by  Craig Chew-Moulding via Flickr

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Here we go again

I started blogging for the first time in 2008. My marriage was falling apart, and I felt lost in the world. But I started a blog, Texas Word Tangle, and for five years, I wrote about my life and my children, sharing funny stories and keeping it real. This saved me. It was an important creative outlet, and a place for me to document my life. I eventually left my husband, moved out on my own, changed jobs, and then for some reason, I stopped writing, for two years.

Now, it’s time to start anew. A new blog, a new site, a new focus.

Welcome to The Neurotic Bookworm!

Here I plan to talk about everything bookish. I will write book reviews, talk about books, possibly interview authors, visit book sites and quite frankly, write about anything and everything to do with books.

This blog is for me because it makes me so happy to talk about books. I love to read and I love to write, and this is a place for me to do both.

And so it begins!

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