Friday, September 21, 2007

Roasting in Hell's Kitchen: Temper Tantrums, F Words, and the Pursuit of Perfection by Gordon Ramsay

As a huge fan of Hell's Kitchen (and most any cooking competitive show), I was anxious to read this one. Some people see Ramsay as extremely mean and perhaps a bit "showy" with his antics on TV. Who's really to say what's the real truth but after reading his book, I feel as if I can see where he might be coming from now. Sure, he is a perfectionist yet, I believe he is hard on his young chefs because he wants to see them succeed and be proud. As the book begins, Gordon tells of his extremely humble beginnings, damaged relationship with his father, love for football (soccer), working his way through the food industry, his family, and finally, his rise to media fame. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and could not put it down. Overall, great revealing read.

Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned by Alan Alda

I spotted this book several weeks ago at the used bookstore and it immediately caught my eye. I liked M*A*S*H and I love memoirs so I added it to my cart. In this book, Alda talks about his childhood and traveling with his parents who were in a burlesque troupe and latter, vaudeville acts as he watched his father perform from the stage wings and how significant of an impact this made on him. Alda, while fascinated with anything science, eventually decides to become and actor himself and the book follows his tough career of finding stage roles, scraping by with his family, and generally finding his voice. After filming a prison movie in Utah, he gets a call about doing a pilot in L.A. about a bunch of doctors in Korea. Alda actually considered turning the part down because he would be separated from his wife and kids but his wife encouraged him to go for it. While reading the section about his M*A*S*H experience, you get the sense that Alda finally found his voice. He was able to write and direct many episodes and finally felt as if he "fit in" as the cast was a huge family to him.
Overall, I thought that parts of the book were really great. However, Alda would go off on these tangents of talking way too much about acting methodology, etc. I found myself rolling my eyes quite a few times and generally wanting to skip portions of the book in order to get to the story. I was let down when reading this book because I think I had a different impression in my head of what it was going to be. It's not that I thought it was all going to be about M*A*S*H, it's just that I wish it flowed better and I didn't have to read about every single thought regarding acting methodology that passed through his mind, which I felt I was doing. It drove me crazy and I thankful when I finally read the ending.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Blood Doctor - Barbara Vine

Let me first apologize. I am no longer able to post at work and my computer at home is, well, a dinosaur of sorts. Thus, if it is okay with everyone, I will not post a picture of the book until/unless I can figure out how to do it correctly via e-mail!

The Blood Doctor.

Based upon the title, my immediate thought was that this was about a vampire or something to do with a hospital. If I hadn't enjoyed the previous Vine book, I am not sure that I would have started reading this one. But I did.

Martin Nanther, Vine's main character, finds himself in the midst of a mystery involving his great grandfather in Victorian England. Nanther is a biographer. He has chosen, for his current subject, his great grandfather, Henry Nanther, who served as a doctor in the court of Queen Victoria and was a specialist in the field of Hemophilia. Henry appears to be an upstanding citizen in his time. Queen Victoria thought so highly of him that she gave him (and his family) a seat in the House of Lords.

As Martin performs his research - combing through letters and interviewing relatives, he discovers that there is information missing. The pieces of the puzzle that is Henry do not fit together as nicely as they should. A missing notebook, a murder, interaction with a family and marriage into that family from below his station, children dying, and his desire to learn all he can about Hemophilia - each fact leaves Martin searching for answers that may be lost in the passage of time.

While Martin attempts to uncover the truth about Henry, his position as a Lord is in doubt as the House of Lords evolves and his wife battles with infertility. Martin must come to terms with his past, his present and in future as represented in the three storylines.

This book was neither fast paced nor a page turner. The characters were well developed as was the primary storyline - the mystery surrounding the life of Henry Nanther. I enjoyed the plots, but also the descriptions of the House of Lords and Victorian England.

The Blood Doctor is a book worth checking out!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tyrannosaurus Canyon - Douglas Preston

The title intrigued me, Tyrannosaurus Canyon. Not being a fan of science fiction or dinosaurs in general, I was hesitant to pick it up. But I did based on the author and the promise of a good read.

Well written, this book asks the reader to suspend belief in reality, just a tad. It is escapism, pure and simple.

Tom Broadbent is riding his horse through the Canyons of New Mexico when he hears a gunshot. Fifteen minutes later he finds the dying prospector, is given a secret notebook filled with specific columns of numbers, and promises to give it to the man's daughter.

Nothing is ever as easy as it seems it should be.

The prospector is not one who searches for gold or gems, or even archeological artifacts. This man searches for dinosaur bones.

The book evolves into a race against time. Tom must find the daughter while the sheriff attempts to solve a murder. A paleontologist in New York needs the dinosaur and has hired someone to find it at all costs. Finally, the US Government sends a classified unit into New Mexico to ensure that nothing is located.

Despite an abundance of characters and locations, the book is well written. It moves fairly quickly, and I didn't skip too many pages!

However, if you are looking for a serious read or a "that could happen," this is not your book.

*Note - an actual tyrannosaurus bone, with soft tissue, was actually discovered.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Crazy Ladies by Michael Lee West

I didn't know what to expect when I picked this one up but I was pleasantly surprised. While I was being distracted quite a bit while reading this one, I was always anxious to get back to where I left off and find out what else one of these women did next.

Set in the South, this book is about three generations of "crazy" women spanning from 1932 to 1972. The story begins with Miss Gussie as a murder is committed and she works hard to conceal the truth. As the story continues, we hear from Miss Gussie's maid, Queenie, her daughters and eventually her daughter's daughters. Their lives intertwine lots of craziness ensues with tons of highs and lows, and the story wraps up with a conclusion to the murder concealment at the beginning of the book.

Since each chapter is told from a different woman's view, I wondered how well the author would be able to set each tone apart. Surprisingly, I thought the author did a remarkable job. While reading her biography online, I discovered that she hold a nursing a degree from my alma mater. Apparently, according to the alumni website, her parents didn't think English was an acceptable major. Therefore, she practiced nursing and wrote on her stories on the side. This was the first book I've read by this author and I will certainly check out some of her other books.

Saturday, September 1, 2007


Written by by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and New York Times journalist Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics is a cavalcade of statistical exploration of things that you'd never imagine, but make perfect sense when all is said and done; Hmmmm.

I met Levitt recently in Boston at a conference after a keynote speech and was instantly intrigued by his work. I knew after hearing him speak I'd need to read the book and was pleased, though not surprised at the four word endorsement on the cover "Prepare to be dazzled." The endorsement was written by one of my favorite non-fiction authors I've read in the last few years, Malcolm Gladwell; who interestingly enough was the keynote speaker at the same conference the previous year.

While the subject of economics for me has both interesting and boring aspects, this book isn't a traditional view of economics but rather uses economic theory to explore socio-economic phenomena. Would you ever have considered that the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion could be linked to crime rate? How about the link between popularity of names and socio-economic status? These and a number of other extremely unique studies had me constantly using the phrase, "Holy Crap!"

I'm a nut for statistics and the fact that Levitt and Dubner have the ability to not only make them interesting, but captivating make this book a hit in my eyes. If you are interested in a preview, click the picture of the book. Incidentally, I mentioned Malcolm Gladwell earlier, he's authored two fascinating books entitled, "The Tipping Point" and "Blink" both of which are amazing reads.