27 January 2013

When I'm Not Reading...

Just a quick post to share the shows I'm watching that are helping me de-stress from my new role at work and life, especially as I take some much needed time off from reading (who would ever have thought that).

Ripper Street, BBC America
My new favorite show, I think, just based on its premiere this past Saturday night. This mini-series is set about six months after the Ripper murders. The dynamic of the three main characters (the Inspector, his morally pure and tough sergeant, and an American doctor with too many secrets) is delightfully unique and, of course, the deep dark mystery of the first episode was uncomfortable and engaging. Looking forward to seeing more this Saturday.
Whitechapel, BBC America
I just caught up to season three, and this was a much better season than the one prior. Set in modern day London, Detective Inspector Joe Chandler battles daily with OCD and his Detective Sergeant Ray Miles, who initially cannot stand the peculiarities of his new boss, along with self-professed Ripperologist, Edward Buchanan. Managing the activities in the same Whitechapel district of Jack the Ripper, their first case dealt with a copycat killer in season one (only three episodes), which was superbly creepy. Season two wasn't bad, but not my favorite, however the most recent one was six episodes long and had a new case every two episodes. It was absolutely spooky. Season four is secured and should be released sometime this year.
Well, of course I'm watching Downton. Who isn't? This is the first time, though, that I'm watching it weekly versus catching up all at once six months later. The life and times of the fictional aristocratic Crawley family in the pre-World War II era are depicted, along with their servants (some loyal, some devious) is surprisingly interesting. Evening soap opera, I guess? Dunno, but I dig it.
Suits, USA Network
Well, I'm finally catching up on season two. Love this show. Mike and Harvey are perfectly cast as the unlikely duo at the premiere Manhattan law firm. Mike is brilliant, with a photographic memory to die for. Although he doesn't hold a degree from Harvard Law, he passes it off as though he does in order to secure the job. Harvey Spector, senior partner and Mike's mentor, knows all about Mike's lie and while he might be a wee bit of a snake, he ultimately has integrity even while constantly taking risks to keep life interesting. With a surprising cast of actors who knock it out of the park, my personal favorites are the boss, Jessica Pearson (who many of you know from the movie Serenity, or from the tv series Firefly) and Louis Litt, the overly eager and socially ignorant junior partner. Someone give Louis a hug and a chance to be with the in-crowd! He might be annoying, but I think his heart is in the right place and if you don't welcome him onto your team soon, his brilliance is going to go to the dark side. I'm currently catching up to the part in season two when we all want to #savedonna, Harvey's fantastic gatekeeper and redheaded legal secretary, Mad Men-esque, Donna Paulson.

What shows are you watching that I need to add to my list?


20 January 2013

The Sunday Salon: A Sabbatical

I knew I needed to take a mini-hiatus when I realized that it had been two weeks since I last posted and I hadn't really thought twice about it. In fact, I forgot about it completely. That was a sign.

I don't necessarily think this will be a long break at all. There may actually be a post or two even this week, but I am ruminating over whether or not to take a more formal break that would have an actual timeline with a "return" date, etc.

My new role at the company I'm at requires even more time and travel, and that needs to be a priority, of course. Add to that all the other distractions of life! So, while I'm still even more so on Twitter, I'm not going to feel so guilty if I don't post frequently for the next month or so.

Here's my current reading/listening list:
  • Reading The Burn Palace, by Stephen Dobyns
  • Reading A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin
  • Listening to the audiobook The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters, upon recommendation from Book Lust.
Thanks for your patience, friends and readers.


03 January 2013

Weekend Cooking: Toast (Film Review)

I'm sure many of you thought I was going to post about the fine art of crisped bread, warmed and slathered with butter and jam (which, yes, I actually am quite the expert on). In this case, Toast is a delightfully quirky film about Nigel Slater, the famous cookery writer, and his lonely childhood as he seeks comfort in food. Being on this side of the pond, and not much into cooking shows, memoirs, and the like, I shamefully admit that I was completely unaware of Mr. Slater, so I was simply swept away in a whimsical film starring Helena Bonham Carter, one of my favorite actresses.

Set in the 1960s, this imaginatively filmed story explains the very foundation for why Nigel Slater fell in love with cooking. When Nigel's mother passes away, neither Nigel or his father turn to each other for comfort.

The way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Truer words could not have been spoken for Joan Potter, played by Helena Bonham Carter, as she sashays her way into their lives, brilliantly cleaning and cooking, leaving her own unhappy life behind. Unfortunately, she is severely lacking in warmth, or even compassion, for the young boy who becomes her stepson, and although young Nigel is enamored with food and recipes and delectably edible creations (to the point that looking at cookbooks under the covers late at night with a flashlight instead of a risque magazine is the norm for him) he and his new stepmom never see eye to eye.

Instead, their mutual love of food and what it can do to win the notice and affection of Nigel's father is the center of it all, and the competition begins to heat up. Nigel's love affair with food continues throughout his young life, and when he decides to take Home Economics instead of Shop class in high school, he flourishes even more. Now, though, the competitiveness becomes a tangible thing between Nigel and his stepmother, as now Nigel understands the basics and the science of cooking good food. Can Nigel win his father's attention? Or will Joan maintain the sole adoration? When the battle comes down to lemon meringue pie, it is deliciously heartbreaking.

Though the film pops of humor, it's actually a very sad story. Nigel's memoir clearly translates well, and beautifully, to the big screen. This is not, though, a film for those who prefer a lot of movement and fast-pacing; instead, this is for those who are prepared to enjoy a slowly told, illusory and offbeat tale centered around food. With its brilliant moments of dark, sad humor, swirled around recipes and the 1960s, it's a film I'll watch again, and soon. The visual appeal of the time is wonderful and represented well with its soft hues, and there are some seriously heart-wrenching moments of contradiction as Nigel's father dismisses everything his young son tries to make, yet raves over everything Mrs. Potter throws together. I wanted to reach into the story and beg his father to notice his son, just once, to take note of Nigel's wonderful attempts to try, to make spaghetti bolognese, if only just to please his father.

Without question, Helena Bonham Carter is perfectly cast as the chain-smoking woman from the wrong side of the tracks who is hired as the family's housekeeper after the mother passes away, and who seductively wedges her way into their lives. Oscar Kennedy as the nine-year-old Nigel is unbelievably good and I can't wait to see how his career evolves. Freddie Highmore as the teenage Nigel knocks it out of the park, and I've just realized he was in the film Finding Neverland. Ken Stott as Nigel's father is *it,* he is the right guy for this role. Well cast, filmed, and directed.

Loved this movie. Clearly, I now need to read all of Nigel Slater's books.

Visit Nigel Slater:

Weekend Cooking is a weekly meme hosted by Beth Fish Reads. It is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, grab the button and link up anytime. You do not have to post on the weekend. Click here to see more of this week's participants.

Nigel Slater Image Credit from the BBC.


02 January 2013

Recently moving to Great Britain from Boston to settle the sale of her parent's house after many years since their deaths when she was a child, Maggie has settled into life across the pond and even has secured a job as the direct secretary of Winston Churchill. With her trusty roommates and close friends at work, Maggie's life begins to considerably change when the war finally comes right to her doorstep as bombs land in the neighborhood. Can she trust the people closest to her at the most crucial time in her career? Never once was she prepared to have the adventure of a lifetime so soon, or that spies, IRA activists, or even code-breaking would so naturally become part of her life.

I struggled with this one. It may be because my reading preferences have changed, or perhaps it was the narration, but any way you dice it, it didn't work for me. The narration for the main character of Maggie sounded much, much more mature than a twenty-four-year-old woman and while she may have grown up with her British aunt, she most assuredly did NOT sound like a woman who had grown up in Boston. It sounded as though the narrator tried desperately to deliver a type of American accent, but in fact, at several points throughout the narration, slipped into an odd Southern accent which was jarring. All the British characters sounded pretty much the same and it was rather difficult to identify who was who, other than a deeper voice for a man and a higher voice for a woman, so it was the most challenging to identify who was who when Maggie was only with her girlfriends. While the story was interesting, the narration couldn't maintain my attention and in fact took me three weeks to finish when it's only a little under ten hours of audio time. Unfortunately, I don't anticipate picking up the next in the series in audio. In reading other bloggers' reviews, it's clear I would have had a likelier chance for a better reaction had I read it instead. However, do take note of the majority of reviews on Audible.com, as it's evident others loved the audio. The average rating on Audible is 4 out of 5 stars for performance.

Fans of Jacqueline Winspear and the like, who enjoy the cozy thriller and mystery experience, may like this story. I would recommend reading it versus listening to it. Click here to listen to the Audible.com sample.

Others said:

Publisher: Random House Audio
Release Date: 4/3/12
Audio Time: 9 hours, 48 minutes
Narrator: Wanda McCaddon

FTC Disclosure: I purchased this book from Audible.com

About the Author
Susan Elia MacNeal is the author of the Maggie Hope series. She graduated from Wellesley and attended Harvard, with her work appearing in a variety of publications. She is also the author of two non-fiction works. She currently lives in Brooklyn with her family.

Visit the author: