Monday, October 8, 2012

Yes Chef [Samuelsson]

Book: Yes Chef
Author: Marcus Samuelsson

Review: 'Yes Chef' is a memoir by famous chef Marcus Samuelsson. It chronicles his first years in Ethiopia, his adoption into a Swedish family (along with his older sister) and his trials and tribulations to get where he is today in the culinary world.

I am not a foodie so I read this more to find out about the journey of this famous chef. While I admire Marcus Samuelsson's work ethic and determination, his ability to push everything else to the wayside to further his career, really made him come off as an ass. **spoilers** He cheats on his girlfriend, gets another woman pregnant, and then doesn't even plan to pay child support until his upstanding parents tell him they will cover it until he can afford it. He then goes back to the girlfriend, continues on with her before eventually confessing and they break up. His grandmother, the woman who inspired him to cook and his father, who was a mainstay in his life, die, and he didn't even go to their funerals because he couldn't miss work. I understand he was in the middle of getting a VISA, but I believe the state department allows travel for that. It didn't even seem like he looked into it (work above all else!). There is a another chef in the book who gives him a huge break, tons of responsibility and then dies of a heart attack. Instead of leaving it at that, he tells us the guy had a drug problem. Be it true or not, I felt that was a little tacky. Especially considering Marcus doesn't even track down his own child until she is a teenager. He makes the excuse that he was trying to 'perfect himself' but come on-that is inexcusable. It sounds like the mother of his child is a saint because she never bade him any ill will (it was a one night stand. It is referenced that he was involved a few times over the years for decisions about their daughter and I wonder why he was involved in any decision making since all he provided as a check every month??). 

I didn't hate the book, it was just frustrating to listen to the author drone on wondering if his father abandoned him and his sister...meanwhile he essentially abandoned his own child. I enjoyed learning about the food industry as it's totally new to me. I didn't realize how competitive it was and how you need to be willing to move almost anywhere in the world to train if an opportunity presents itself. Samuelsson also tackles the issue of racism within the industry, and while he was discriminated against at times, he was also given many opportunities and was able to cook his way up in various kitchens. 

He has won Top Chef Masters, cooked for the White House and is the owner of several successful restaurants. His flagship restaurant, which he spends a portion of the book discussing (including the vision, financial backing inspiration for recipes) is the Red Rooster in Harlem. I've heard great things from people who have been there, but let's be honest. It's not a place for locals to hang out like your local diner Marcus-the food is not cheap! 

Overall-this is a story of a man who put his career above all else for most of his life. He is extremely talented, focused, determined and flawed-which is what makes this an interesting story. 

Grade: 3/5

Every Day [Levithan]

Book: Every Day
Author: David Levithan

Review: 'A' wakes up every day in someone else's body. It has been like this for as long as 'A' can remember (he is now 16). 'A' can access his host's memories and tries to get through the day without causing any problems. However, when 'A' is in the body of surly high school student Justin, he falls in love with Justin's girlfriend, Rhiannon. 'A' abandons his rules and cuts school to spend the day with her at the beach. 'A' makes a decision to tell Rhiannon what he is, but will she believe him? Will they find a way to be together when he's a different person every day?

Let me first explain that 'A' does not identify himself as a he/she. I felt the voice was more masculine so I'll refer to 'A' as a he.   My heart broke thinking of 'A' as a baby and child-to never have a home, loving family and stable environment must have been confusing and challenging on so many levels. To life a live where you are everyone and yet no one-how sad. Because of this, 'A' has never been able to express his unique personality and other than a personal email he set up to keep track of all of his hosts. When he finally meets Rhiannon and falls in love pretty much instantly (it's ridiculous but he's supposed to be 16 and emotions run high at that age) he finally has a purpose in life. He keeps coming back to her day after day in different bodies and tries to develop a relationship with her. Although she eventually believes he is what he says he is, she has a hard time accepting his different forms. 'A' struggles with her wavering feelings and has a difficult time empathizing. 

This was a very interesting concept for a book and quite unique. It was definitely thought provoking and well written. I thought the book started out very strong and even though the attraction to Rhiannon was light speed, I thought her reactions to 'A' were very realistic and true. I didn't exactly care for 'A's personality (he starts behaving like a stalker, but I understand where he was coming from, this girl was the first person he ever disclosed his true self to) and it became repetitive: 'A' wakes up in a new body, finds a way to get to Rhiannon's school. Rinse, repeat. Levithan's message throughout the book is very clear: love the person inside, not outside, which I thought was great. 'A' inhabited a few gay/lesbian bodies which might turn off some readers, but I thought it was well down. About halfway through the book I was wondering-how will this end? What will happen? Well, I was disappointed in how the Rhiannon story line wrapped up and Levithan had a great opportunity to explore a subplot involving a host who knew something happened to him and he did nothing with it. 

If you are looking for something unique for book club, this book would be a good choice. 

Grade: 4/5

Obsideon Butterfly [Hamilton]

Book: Obsideon Butterfly [Anita Blake #9]
Author: Laurel K. Hamilton

Review: Anita Blake travels to New Mexico to help Edward on a puzzling case. When she arrives, she is shocked to find that Edward, a cold blooded killer, has a secret life that includes a fiance and kids. As Anita tries to reconcile Edward's home life with his secret work life, they team up with another group of killers and work with the local authorities and supernatural groups to figure out what is going on and to solve the crime.

I was on hold for this book at the library for many months and it was worth the wait. This is the best Anita book so far!! First off-I am a huge Dexter fan (both the show and books) and Edward is essentially Dexter Morgan. A sociopath killer who wants to emote and cares for his fiance as much as he is capable (imagine Dexter and Rita). Edward is also very fond of the children. Deep down-they are both good guys. I also like when Anita is out of St. Louis, it adds for a more interesting read. Most importantly-the focus on this book was solving the case and Anita being a bad ass investigator/killer, NOT her ridiculous love life featuring Jean-Claude and Richard (she was on a break with both of them in the book and they both played extremely small rolls).  

Fab read!!

Grade: 5/5

Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night [Cole]

Book: Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night [Immortals After Dark #4]
Author: Kresley Cole

Review: Werewolf Bowen is competing in the Hie, planning to win so he can bring his mate back to life (she was killed about two hundred years ago running away from him during a full moon).  He has mourned Mariah for years and has never looked twice at another, until he meets Marieka, a witch and fellow competitor. After a steamy encounter in a tomb, Bowen is convinced she has cast a spell that makes him believe she is his mate. Males are only granted one mate in a lifetime and he cannot reconcile his feelings. Meanwhile, Marieka is not sure if she did or did not cast a love spell on him. As the Hie concludes, additional adventures take place.

This was a fun read! There was real tension between the main characters (Bowe trapped Marieka at one point, while she tried to kill him) and both characters had strong personalities and were interesting. I liked the "is she really my mate or did she cast a spell on me" theme as well as Bowe's brutal honesty when asked about what he would do about Mariah (his old flame). His ability to constantly put his foot in his mouth was humorous at times. Marieka, for her part, was a 23 year old who was always worried about being second choice and I felt her reactions to situations were pretty honest and real (well-as real as a witch and werewolf could be!). Cole also included an actually evil character in this book which was a nice because it seems that she introduces a lot of new characters, and all of them are 'good.'

I really enjoyed this one, it was so much better than the previous one. I'll read a few more in the series. 

Grade: 4/5

No Rest for the Wicked [Cole]

Book: No Rest for the Wicked [Immortals After Dark #3]
Author: Kresley Cole

Review: Turned into a vampire against his will, Sebastian Wroth lives alone and hates what he has become. When Kaderin, a fey warrior tracks him down to kill him, he welcomes her sword. However, Sebastian is shocked to discover that she is his bride (eternal mate, she causes his heart to beat) while Kaderin, who has been unable to feel emotions for a thousand years, starts to "feel" again when she meets him. The last time Kaderin spared a vampires life, he murdered her two sisters. She decides not to kill him, and is dismayed when he followers her as she competes in the Hie (Amazing Race for immortals) and tries to help her secure victory. 

I had a hard time getting through this book. The Amazing Race aspect should have made it interesting but as almost every character is immortal, there was no tension or concern about people getting seriously injured. However, the primary issue is I just didn't care for either main character. Sebastian was a knight when he was a human, so he was very chivalrous. He didn't have any edge to him and was extremely boring. The most scandalous thing he did in this book was squat in Kaderin's London apartment without her knowing. Kaderin, for her part, was essentially a sociopath for 1k years. I would think feeling any sort of emotion after that long would be overwhelming, but I didn't feel that reading the pages. She was pretty much a one track mind-win the Hie and use the prize to bring her sister's back to life. 

This one can be skipped. 

Grade: 2/5 stars