Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Face of Death by Cody McFadyen

This is the 2nd in the Smokey Barrett series. As captivated as I was by Shadow Man, I just didn't feel the same pull with this one. While it was still very good, and I did read it within a day, I don't think it was as exciting.

I believe the reason is because the newest serial killer focused on someone else out of Smokey's team. A young girl named Sarah. And honestly, I didn't believe Sarah was a great character. Sad, yes. Pitiful, yep. But not someone I really was interested in.

Someone has been following Sarah since she was 6, killing off everyone that she loves. Smokey's team gets involved when, after the latest round of killings, Sarah requests Smokey by name.

It all ends up a little complex, pulling in a child-trafficking case from eons prior.

This is still a decent mystery/thriller all on it's own. I just miss the fast-paced excitement from the first book.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Heat by Bill Buford

The real (long) title of this book is

Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany.

I got this as an audio book from the library and it took forever to listen to. Not because it's bad. In fact Buford reads the book exceptionally well. But because it made me hungry. I swear, everytime I listened to this, I was craving Italian food. It's a wonder I didn't gain 50 pounds just listening to this.

So Buford is a journalist who, accepting an invitation from Mario Batali, works in Batali's restaurant, Babbo, to get a feel for the business. His need to understand, really understand, Italian cooking has him traveling to Italy to apprentice with several famous cooks and butchers.

From becoming a butcher in training, to learning how to make handmade pasta (apparently the best kind) to researching the myth of Italian cooking, this book is a wonderful journey.

If you love food, just love it for the experience of food, this is the book to read.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Shadow Man by Cody McFadyen

It's been a long while since I read a book in 2 sittings in less than a day. A coworker lent me this book, claiming it was a great mystery and thriller. I was skeptical but am now a believer!

Smoky Barrett is the lead character, an FBI agent who was tortured, raped and left without a family by a serial killer that she had been chasing. Left with facial scars, Smoky returns to work (after much heartache and indecision) to hunt the newest serial killer.

Jack Jr. thinks he's the descendant of Jack the Ripper and he wants Smoky to be the person to hunt him. Targeting her and her team, this is a fast-paced chase to the end. Really, I found myself reading very very fast.

There are several twists and turns that I won't reveal. Suffice it to say that the ending twist did make me gasp.

This book is filled to the brim with great characters, the kind you actually want to root for. It has suspense, plot and enough visceral images to make you consider not reading it while you eat.

The first book in the series (the third is apparently out now), I'll be starting the 2nd

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill

I've been super scattered on reading actual books lately, so I've switched to audio books to keep me going while driving around and while knitting. This was on my list of books to read and since the library had it, I gave it a go.

This is a memoir type book about a man, who was born to privilege and lived a life of privilege. His parents had money, but not always time. He went to an Ivy League school and got a great job right out of college. Gill was a top executive for a long time, enjoying all the perks that went along with it. Until he was fired.

At age 64, virtually penniless, friendless and having lost his wife and children (sleeping around on your wife will do that), he desperately took a job at a Starbucks.

From there we begin his new adventure of redeeming himself. This may sound sarcastic or even sappy, but in fact, this is a really good story. Despite all his dumb mistakes and assumptions that he, as a rich white male, deserves more than others, he seems to really "get it" while working to serve others.

A good, uplifting memoir.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Art of Happiness at Work by The Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler

This seemed like the perfect book to pick up and read. I have deep respect for The Dalai Lama and I really needed some advice on how to be happier at work.

I used to really love my job. It was exciting, for the most part, and every day usually held something new and challenging in store. Nowadays, it's not like that. There's a distinct vibe of us vs. them in most cases, IT vs. Accountants. Some of the financial folk chose to think that anyone can program so they'll just take care of what they want and ignore us programmers. The work isn't nearly challenging enough either, although the people are.

Cutler interviews The Dalai Lama about various aspects of work in regards to happiness. For example, they chat about making money, the human factor of work, whether your job is just a job, a career or a calling, how to overcome boredom, how to have a right livelihood, etc. I appreciated his insight on all of the above. Unfortunately, while I think it's all good advice, it will be difficult to put into practice.

In one chapter, and throughout others, the importance of being self-aware is emphasized. I think a lot of people have that problem, to be able to look at themselves and their abilities undistorted and with a critical eye. All in all, the way to achieve happiness, at work or otherwise, is to begin inwards, by readjusting your attitude to all things and remembering that it's just work and that doing good and helping others is more important.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Another Librivox recording.

This was a blast from my childhood! Alice's adventures in Wonderland are exciting and begin with a trip down the rabbit hole to follow the white rabbit. I think The Matrix ruined this a little but I tried to ignore it.

Alice recounts her adventures in getting big and small, swimming in an ocean of her tears, meeting fun, talkative animals (for some reason, Bill the lizard endeared me), meeting up with the mad hatter and march hare at their permanent tea time, meeting and playing croquet with the Queen of Hearts (off with her head!) and being a witness in a trial about the Queen's stolen tarts.

A fun, short book to read when Wonderland seems a little less chaotic than your real world.