Archive for the 'I Heart Books' Category

Published by PaintingChef on 23 Jan 2012

My bedside table tells you that I love to read. Also that my heels are really dry and I’m easily persuaded by medical-looking packaging for remedies. Oh, and that I have a stuffy nose.

I’ve disappeared into a literary wormhole… seriously. I’ve always been a reader but over the past month I’ve been like an addict searching for a fix. Thank god for the library, right? Otherwise I’d be strung out AND homeless while Amazon lived happily on not even noticing that every penny of my vast, vast (snort…) fortune was now resting happily in its little hands.

Here are my latest fixes… (In no particular order other than my remembering what I’ve read) I recommend every. single. one.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Steps and Exes by Laura Kalpakian

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Beauty, Disrupted by Carre Otis (SHUT UP. I have a weird fascination with the models of the 90s. They were around when I would sneak out of bed to watch Cindy Crawford on House of Style and I was obsessed with Elsa Klensch’s “Style” on CNN. Headline News? I don’t remember. It was before I got all fatty and my teeth moved back to being jacked up because I promptly had my braces off and chucked my retainer into a drawer and never thought twice about it. DON’T BE LIKE ME!)

Gatsby’s Girl by Caroline Preston

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Red Mist by Patricia Cornwell Not sure why this one says the release date is September 2012 as it is sitting in my bookshelf and I have already read it… also the one book on this list that, while wasn’t BAD, was the most “meh” of the bunch. But I will ALWAYS read about Dr. Scarpetta, even though I kind of want to kick her in the teeth at this point.

So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman

The Soul Thief by Charles Baxter

Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister

Of Bees and Mist by Erica Setiawan

A Grown-up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson

The Face Thief by Eli Gottlieb

Now You See Him by Eli Gottlieb

Zero Day by David Baldacci

Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French

Your turn! What are you reading?

Published by PaintingChef on 16 May 2011

The things we aren’t talking about today.

Books? Again? More? Oh sure, why the hell not?

It’s not like we’re going to talk about painting… oh no. That would just remind me that I’m NOT painting and that I actually have a couple of paintings that I really need to do but all the NOT painting I’m doing to avoid attempting those paintings I’m supposed to be doing is going to be oh so very loud. As always, they are in my head. I know exactly what I want to paint. That’s never been the problem. I’m just too… scared to try and translate it. My artistic abilities are raw, at best. I can’t draw, I can’t manipulate the paint once its on the canvas. I don’t know how. So I end up covering and covering and getting frustrated and throwing a temper tantrum and then I just start drinking.

But I want to paint something for my new niece’s (NEW! NIECE! GORGEOUS AND PERFECT IN EVERY WAY!!!) nursery. I have a friend opening a restaurant and he’s reserved a spot on a wall for me and I. HAVE. NOTHING. My grandfather is turning 90 this summer and we are all going up to the Vineyard for a whole weekend of festivities and I know EXACTLY what I want to paint for him but I’m thinking my dad would love it even more but his birthday is in two days and we all know that THAT isn’t going to happen… but maybe it could? Maybe it’s in my head enough? Maybe… just maybe… he would certainly like it better than a golf shirt, right?

Hmmmm… I think I shall sketch this afternoon and just SEE how it goes…

And chef-ing. Let’s not talk about that either. I actually would love to talk about that. I would love to talk about the delicious beer onion and barbecue chicken grilled pizza I made for dinner this weekend. And how good it still smelled when Patrick heated it up for lunch a few minutes ago. Or my current obsession with fish tacos but how I always kind of say that quietly because it sounds oddly dirty to me. I can’t talk about the big three-layer cake I’m making for my mother’s retirement party (RETIREMENT!!) next week because I have no idea what it is going to look like.

I would actually kind of love to talk about ALL of that. But can I? Is this a food blog? Can you have a food blog if you had weight loss surgery? There are so many gorgeous food blogs and so many people who stun me speechless with their baking and cooking and talents. I? Made mint julep cake truffles and didn’t even remember to take a picture of them until I was holding one half eaten in my fist last week and only had my Blackberry camera on me. It was, to say the least, a tragic picture of chocolate gore. Tasty, tasty chocolate murder.

How when I stand in the kitchen, my thoughts slow down and become more mellow. Whether I am baking or grilling or braising or roasting, it all makes me calm. How just the right amount of thyme can make squash and zucchini melt in your mouth like butter. And if I close my eyes, I swear that I sense my grandmother sitting right there, sipping coffee and smiling at me, telling me to just trust my instincts.

Or about the Easter meal I cooked for a group of friends and family. Beautiful barbecue chicken, perfectly grilled and sweet and smoky and oh so moist and tender that I ate it cold out of the fridge two days later. Summer vegetable succotash served cold and loaded with fresh basil. And my favorite summer salad with strawberries, goat cheese, praline pecans and crisp spinach leaves. We all sat down and someone said it looked like a magazine spread. I? Was two (four) glasses of wine deep and probably would have dropped my camera had I even tried to pick it up. Not that it ever occurred to me any damn way.

(Oh look… we’re back to drinking. What a shock.)

What was the point? Oh yeah. I read books this weekend. “The Hunger Games” trilogy. All of them. Couldn’t put them down. Can’t stop thinking about them. But I’m still not reading those damn vampire books. I tried and I hated every single second.

Published by PaintingChef on 02 May 2011

The Stack(s).

I’m a stacker. I stack mail, to do lists, catalog but most of all, I stack books. Because I am usually reading two or three at once, I have a very scientific method to my book-stacking madness. Already read, reading (a migrating stack) and next in line.

Here are the current contents of those stacks…

Mermaids on the Moon by Elizabeth Stuckey-French

Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson

The Room-Mating Season by Rona Jaffe

The Final Testament of the Holy Bible by James Frey
Yes. THAT James Frey. I was mesmerized by A Million Little Pieces and even though it turned out to be mostly in his head, it was a very good story. And when he wrote Bright Shiny Morning, a book that WAS fiction, I was equally captivated. So when I heard about this one… I couldn’t resist.

The Bone Yard by Jefferson Bass

The Third Angel by Alice Hoffman

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

The New Yorkers by Cathleen Schine

What’s in your stack?

Published by PaintingChef on 04 Apr 2011

Hands down, the best version of “Where Are They Now” that ever existed.

Like most every girl about my age, I spent years wrapped up in the goings on of the Wakefield twins of Sweet Valley, Jessica and Elizabeth. Oh sure, people try and decide if they are a Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha or Miranda. Or maybe which one of Tara Gregson’s alters they might be. Team Edward, Team Jacob, which True Blood character, insert Harry Potter reference here, blah blah blah. But in the end ladies… you are a Jessica or you are an Elizabeth. I learned that when I was 10 years old and it hasn’t failed me yet.

Last week, Francine Pascal, the author of all but the very first Sweet Valley Twins/High/University books (Ann M. Martin wrote the first one, she of “The Babysitter’s Club” fame… by the way) released the long-awaited (at least by me) “Sweet Valley Confidential…ten years later” and it was like a love letter to those of us who grew up with those blonde haired, aquamarine eyed, perfect size six twins for so many years. I pre-ordered it and devoured it while Patrick was running the Knoxville Half-Marathon on Sunday morning… it was as close to a Sunday worship service as I’m going to get.

It was…well, actually if I’m honest, it probably wasn’t a great book. But that wasn’t the point. It was complete. I was satisfied. It covered the bases and I know what happened to everyone. And until there is a made for TV movie, I can close the Sweet Valley chapter of my childhood.

But that started me thinking about the other books I read and wondering what happened to the rest of those characters. Some of them were series and some were just books that were near and dear to my heart; books I would read time and time again. So here we go…

Whatever Happened To…

Anastasia Krupnik.
I loved Anastasia Krupnik and her bohemian family above all others. She was awkward and funny and fully versed in the smartass and snarky remark even at the tender age of 13. I wanted her to come to my slumber party and I wanted to sit with her in the cafeteria. I was envious of her room in a tower and wondered why my dad didn’t conduct opera on his stereo in the living room with his eyes closed. I DEMAND to know what happened to Anastasia. The possibilities are endless but I have no doubt that there were plenty of good stories.

The Sleepover Friends.
Kate, Lauren, Patti and Stephanie were in fifth grade and had sleepovers at each other’s houses every weekend. Their parents went collectively broke buying pizza and I loved these books… in secret. Because they were truly awful but damn if I didn’t want that long curly hair like Stephanie had. Four girls? You know there was a serious falling out once they hit high school… you just have no idea what it was over.

Anything by Christopher Pike
I still maintain, to this day, that “I Know What You Did Last Summer” is loosely based on the Slumber Party books by Christopher Pike. And those people were twisted. Mainly I just want to know how many of them ended up in prison or OD’ing…

Margaret Simon.
Are you there god, it’s me Margaret. TOTAL pre-teen angst. Again with the four girls (and Michael Patrick King thought he was an original…I scoff at you, MPK). Margaret, Gretchen, Nancy and Janie. In my ideal world, Margaret Simon and Anastasia Krupnik were roommates in college. I think those two would have hit it off. Those other girls were bitches…

Katie Welker.
I ADORED “The Girl With the Silver Eyes” by Willo Davis Roberts about a girl with oddly silver eyes and the ability to move things with her mind. Turns out her mom worked with a bunch of chemicals when she was knocked up with Katie and fucked her kid up but good. Katie wasn’t alone either… there was a whole herd of silver eyed kids with paranormal powers. Like little pre-teen X-Men.

Sure, more often than not, it’s better to use your imagination. (Although I was completely in love with “The Babysitter’s Club” as envisioned by Bret Easton Ellis and that’s the only reason those books aren’t on this list) But reading about Elizabeth and Jessica all grown up and getting caught up on all their friends and seeing that shit sometimes wasn’t all wrapped up with a big red bow wasn’t all bad. I like to think that these authors grow as attached to their characters as the readers do. Surely Lois Lowry wonders what Anastasia is doing right this very minute… (pause for brief google search to make sure Lois Lowry is still alive… she is but she also swears Anastasia was born in 1979 at the age of ten and is now only thirteen… party pooper)

Anyone you’d like to re-visit?

Published by PaintingChef on 30 Nov 2010

The magical, mystical free book-giving place.

So I have a bit of what might be loosely classified as an “Amazon Problem.” It generally goes something like this… see book, add book to shopping cart, make an ill-advised glance down to the little scrolling section just below book where I see many other books and suddenly I’ve bought 5 books instead of the one that I could have bought and called it a day, sign into simple one-click ordering that is SUCH a problem because when you don’t have to enter your card number, do you really have to think about the money you are spending?

It’s like if I spend cash. I know that the “cash” system works for most people but with me, it’s the opposite. If I have cash in my wallet, it is unaccountable, free money. As soon as its in my wallet, I consider it already spent. If I have enough cash, I’m like WHOOPEE! I don’t even have to think about this!

Note to self… look up “Unhealthy Spending Habits” in the dictionary. See self-portrait. Question whether bangs were really a good choice for you. (Hint? The answer is no. Ill-advised move number two of this blog post)

So. Patrick, in all his infinite wisdom, noticed the status of my ever-crowding and RECENTLY PURCHASED bookshelf and thought… Hmmm… perhaps this is an even bigger problem than the shoe pile?** (I am just now realizing that this post would be much more effective with photographs. Perhaps I should delay it a day almost a week and add them. Yes. I shall do just that. Moving on.) He then questioned whether or not I was aware of this magical mystery place where they let you take BOOKS! FOR FREE! FOR WEEKS! Just so you could read them.

Exhibit A. The recently purchased bookcase. Not shown. The pile of books on the kitchen counter. Also not shown. The TWO copies of Patricia Cornwell’s latest that showed up today because apparently I pre-ordered it TWICE. Awesome.


Which is all just a long way of saying that we spent a rainy Sunday afternoon at the library procuring library cards and checking out oh so many books. I took one step in that building and felt like I was home. First of all, gone was the strange odor that permeated the library I remember from when I was a kid. A strange mixture of feet and diapers? It was unpleasant. I’m so sorry for even bringing that up. Sunshine and puppies! Gumdrops and unicorns!! Cupcakes and pretty, pretty purses!

All better…

But there were SHOPPING CARTS! In the lobby!

Here is my only complaint about the library. I kind of have a hard time unless I know exactly what I’m looking for. How do you “peruse” the fiction section? I know the authors that I like but for the most part, I’ve read all their books. Here is where you come in.

What are you reading? Do you love it?

I’m a huge fan of Patricia Cornwell and Jefferson Bass so I’m trying to pick up the Kathy Reich series but I’m having trouble getting into them. I kind of want to punch Temperance Brennan in the nose. She seems kind of… whiny? I love David Baldacci and have read all his books except for the Camel Club series and I’d like to start that one but the first two are always checked out and I REFUSE to start a new series in the middle. I’ve read the Stieg Larsen books, loved them. I’ve read Jonathan Kellerman, Richard North Patterson and John Sandford.

I’m not a huge fan of John Grisham’s more recent offerings and the Twilight crap just doesn’t do it for me. I have a secret love of True Crime books and I’m also working my way through the resumes of Brett Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney (can someone please explain the ending of Imperial Bedrooms to me? SPOILER ALERT Did she kill him? Did Blair kill everyone? Was she stealing faces?). I love a clever and well-written memoir, anything David Sedaris touches and the occasional chick lit, provided it isn’t a bodice-ripping harlequin and the heroine doesn’t make me want to bury her in a shallow grave.


** For reference… shoe pile. Also? Cat questioning “Why no room for Lilly in shoe cavern?” (that looks oddly empty in this picture and maybe I should get down on the damn floor and shuffle some summer sandals around off the floor and pull out a few pairs of all those black heels and wear them once in a damn while.)