And The Winners Are…

… MYSTICA & LUSTY READER!!!

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Congratulations ladies!  You have each won a copy of Philippa Gregory’s new novel, The White Queen.  Please e-mail me your mailing addresses and I will forward your info to Kelly, Ms. Gregory’s publicist, so she can send your books to you.  planetbooksworldwide@gmail.com

To the rest of you lovely people who stopped by Planet Books and took time to enter in this giveaway, THANK YOU.  Keep checking back here because there are more book giveaways to come.  (I used the list randomizer function on Random.org.)

It’s An Honor Just To Be Nominated, Right?

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Earlier this week I received an e-mail from BBAW (Book Blogging Awareness Week) and learned that Planet Books was nominated for the MOST CHATTY award!  How excited am I?!  Extremely!  (There’s a lot of exclamation points going on here aren’t there.)  Turns out that the MOST CHATTY award represents the following:  “This blogger has a very ‘chatty’ style.  You feel like you could be sitting together, sipping wine, and chatting about life.”  How friggin’ COOL is that!?! 

Well, after being nominated (thank you SOOOOO MUCH to those of you who thought my blog was worthy of this awesome nod) I had to submit five posts that would represent the “chattiness” of my blog.  That was VERY HARD to do people!  I thought about going back to the beginning of Planet Books but my writing wasn’t as strong and conversational as it has developed into over the last two years.  (Side note: I can’t believe that Planet Books has been going here on WordPress for almost two years!!!)  I decided to stick with posts from this year and submitted a couple of book reviews as well as Sunday Salon posts and the random babbling post. 

We’ll see what happens but I’m curious about who else got nominated for BBAW awards and in what categories.  Are you one of those nominated bloggers out there?  If you are, CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Book Review ~ The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

the-school-of-essential-ingredientsSummary ~ The School of Essential Ingredientsby Erica Bauermeister

The School of Essential Ingredients follows the lives of eight students who gather in Lillian’s Restaurant every Monday night for cooking class. It soon becomes clear, however, that each one seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. Students include Claire, a young mother struggling with the demands of her family; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer learning to adapt to life in America; and Tom, a widower mourning the loss of his wife to breast cancer. Chef Lillian, a woman whose connection with food is both soulful and exacting, helps them to create dishes whose flavor and techniques expand beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of her students’ lives. One by one the students are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of Lillian’s food, including a white-on-white cake that prompts wistful reflections on the sweet fragility of love and a peppery heirloom tomato sauce that seems to spark one romance but end another. Brought together by the power of food and companionship, the lives of the characters mingle and intertwine, united by the revealing nature of what can be created in the kitchen.

Having recently re-located back to the DC area and wanting to create a book club with my friends, I thought that The School of Essential Ingredients would be the perfect first selection.  I think I hit the nail on the head folks!  Lit & The City ladies, what say you?  What a wonderful, fun, interesting, educational and cozy book author Erica Bauermeister has gifted the reading and cooking community with. 

The core of the story is about eight people coming together to take a cooking class at a local restaurant in (I think Seattle) the Pacific Northwest under the instruction of the restaurant owner and head chef, Lillian.  What we get when these people come together from all different backgrounds for one common goal, to cook, is nothing short of a wonderful, memorable and inspirational book.  There’s Helen and Carl, a married couple in their sixties or so, who though they have faced crisis in their marriage are stronger for it and have rekindled their romance.  The observations they make to each other about their fellow classmates are made from experience.  There’s Chloe, who at first is a lost soul looking for romance and a home in the wrong places but then finds love and family where she least expects it.  Claire, a young mother who is loosing herself in her daily life, has the shortest back story of them all but may have gotten the most out of the actual process of cooking.  Antonia is a woman who has left a life of peace, familiarity and family for a new adventure on a new continent but finds herself grounded by her past.  Then there is Ian.  A great character in and out of the kitchen and who finds himself in search of the next culinary challenge to take on. 

Of course I had some favorite characters because of their back stories.  My absolute favorite character was Isabelle and the metamorphosis that took place within her after the exit of her husband and she found herself.  Though now she suffers from memory loss and mix-matched memories, her life was rich with relationships, children and then the adventures she made for herself. 

Tom was my second favorite character because of the depths of his love for a woman and the sorrow that replaced that love.  Food played a huge roll in his relationship with the love of his life and attending the cooking class is equal parts difficult and therapeutic for him.  The curiosity and dread of finding out the details of Tom’s back story made his part of the book extremely effective for me. 

I must emphasize that there may be eight students and a teacher that make up this wonderful book but they are all held together by the tenth, and at times, most important character of all.  The food!  Erica Bauermeister had me salivating and my stomach growling throughout her intimate and divine descriptions of the class dishes and other recipes being prepared here and there.  It really was cruel and unusual punishment for me since our house with our new gourmet kitchen won’t be ready for another two weeks and then we still have to wait for our household goods shipment to arrive and be unpacked.  Erica’s talent for food writing is spectacular and at times I could smell the ingredients and the dishes as the characters prepared them in class and at home waft off the page and up to my nose! 

I look forward to discussing The School of Essential Ingredients with my book club, Lit & The City, but I also hope if you have read Erica Bauermeister’s masterpiece that you will share with us here at Planet Books your thoughts on it.  Erica Bauermeister’s website can be found HERE.

{Rating ~ 5 out of 5}

Book Review/Giveaway ~ The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

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Summary ~ The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Brother turns on brother to win the ultimate prize, the throne of England, in this dazzling account of the wars of the Plantagenets. They are the claimants and kings who ruled England before the Tudors, and now Philippa Gregory brings them to life through the dramatic and intimate stories of the secret players: the indomitable women, starting with Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen.

The White Queen tells the story of a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition who, catching the eye of the newly crowned boy king, marries him in secret and ascends to royalty. While Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, her two sons become central figures in a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the missing princes in the Tower of London whose fate is still unknown. From her uniquely qualified perspective, Philippa Gregory explores this most famous unsolved mystery of English history, informed by impeccable research and framed by her inimitable storytelling skills. – This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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The White Queen by Philippa Gregory kicks off a new series by the best selling and beloved author.  This time the focus is on the famed “War of the Roses” or “The Cousins’ War.”  The Houses of York and Lancastor battled for the throne of England between 1455 and 1487.  At the time “The White Queen” takes place, King Edward IV of York’s reign.  He privately married our heroine, Elizabeth Woodville, after a short courtship. 

The historical fiction that Gregory produces is wonderful.  It’s rich with storytelling and fact that has been blended perfectly together.  I have never read any of Gregory’s novels before but I can say that she has struck a positive chord with this new book as she introduces her readers to a new reign in England’s history.

From the beginning, I thoroughly enjoyed Elizabeth.  Her thoughts are strong and well written and her adventures from widow and mother to Queen of England and beyond held my attention.  Kind Edward was five years Elizabeth’s junior and because he married for love (or lust, because Elizabeth wouldn’t go to bed with him until he married her) and not for an alliance between countries, this caused weakness in his personal and professional relationships that make for good drama.  Of course there is heartbreak, romance and all the great aspects that are expected in a Philippa Gregory novel (I’ve read the reviews and seen the film adaptation of “The Other Boleyn Girl”).  However, I did feel that the flow felt a bit like a non-fiction work at times but for the most part The White Queen was a good read.

Thank you so much to Philippa Gregory’s publicist Kelly at Touchstone-Fireside Books for inviting me to read and review The White Queen and for sending me my beautiful copy of the book.  The cover art is exquisite!  Kelly has also offered to giveaway two copies of The White Queen to two lucky winners/readers here at Planet Books.  Please leave your name, e-mail address and the name of your favorite Philippa Gregory book so far for a chance to win.  This contest will conclude on Friday, August 21st at Midnight, EST.  Good luck!!  You can check out Philippa Gregory’s website HERE.

{Rating ~ 4 out of 5}

Friday Finds ~ August 14th, 2009

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Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.  While browsing book blogs,  Amazon.com, Washington Post.com, NPR.org, various other places on the Internet, and getting recommendations from friends, these are the books that either made it to my wish list this week or I downloaded the samples onto my Kindle from Amazon.com.

      

     

    

It’s Begninning To Hurt ~ James Lasden
Once on a Moonless Night~ Dai Sijie
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress~ Dai Sijie
The Earth Hums in B Flat~ Mari Strachan
The Magicians~ Lev Grossman
A Homemade Life: Stories & Recipes From My Kitchen~ Molly Wizenberg
Peyton Place~ Grace Metalious
A Good Indian Wife~ Anne Cherian
Her Fearful Symmetry~ Audrey Niffenegger
Sacred Hearts: A Novel ~ Sarah Dunant
Ines of My Soul ~ Isabel Allende

 

I Haven’t Forgotten You

I know it seems like I have neglected Planet Books a bit but I promise you, I have a real reason.  I started a receptionist temp gig last Monday and it was a very tiring and quick week.  This is my first full-time job in four and a half years and my body was not ready for the long schedule.  I have been reading though.  I received an ARC of Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen and have been able to read some during the quiet times at the front desk as well as before drifting, actually crashing, off to sleep at 9:00pm every night.  The White Queen will be available in stores on Tuesday, August 18th.  So far I am really enjoying it! 

This weekend was a whirlwind.  Hubby and I started things off by checking out the house and wow, are things coming along.  The painters were in on Saturday to start painting, the fireplace and the granite surround and mantel were complete, and the cabinets were in their boxes in the dining room waiting to be installed today (Monday).  Things are moving so quickly and the end of the month will be here before we know it.  We just may be all settled in and enjoying our new house with all our stuff in it by mid-September!

Saturday night we went to the Dave Matthews Band concert at Nissan Pavilion along with twenty-five thousand other avid fans.  I had not seen DMB live in concert since 2002 and Hubby had never seen them before.  I was a little disappointed with the set list this time around.  I sat for half the show as did many people and I have never done that.  The tunes they chose to jam on were not the liveliest of songs so I felt bored at times.  Over all I’m glad we went but I felt like the show lacked a special joyful vibe that DMB’s live albums over the last couple of years have displayed.  It’s not because we are all getting older that DMB was more mellow.  I know that they can rock it out hard core at Fenway Park, The Gorge and numerous other venues which I have live recordings of.  Why not Saturday in Bristow, VA? 

Sunday marked the beginning of my new book club here in the D.C. area.  I am keeping with the same theme as my book club I ran in Okinawa which was titled “Lit & the Island.”  Here I have named it “Lit & the City” and everyone loves the name.  Our members include friends of mine from many different chapters of my life who I have discovered all love to read and discuss books.  We had a lovely “Meet & Eat” event yesterday at a tapas restaurant in Maryland and though only six of us out of thirteen were able to make it, it showed that at least five or so members will always make it to our “Books and Brunch” meetings.  We will meet every fifth Sunday at a restaurant of the book selector’s choice.  We will take turns choosing books/restaurants and that person will also be responsible for discussion questions and leading the conversation.  I presented our first reading selection and gave away a copy of the book to one lucky winner at the table.  We are reading The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister and everyone is very excited.  If you have read this book please share what you liked or didn’t like about it.

To wrap things up this weekend, Hubby and I saw “Julie & Julia.”  What a wonderful glimpse into the life of Julia and Paul Child!  I loved Meryl Streep’s portrayal of America’s first celebrity chef.  We laughed and drooled our way through the film.  Amy Adam’s did a great job of playing an annoying and whiny Julie Powell.  I read her book, Julie & Julia ~ My Year of Cooking Dangerously, which was based on her blog a few years ago and enjoyed it in the written word much better than on the silver screen.  I will give the book some credit though because it inspired me to cook for pleasure.  I do want to read Julia Child’s memoir now and have downloaded a sample of My Life In France so I can check it out when I have the time.

What have you been up to?  Reading anything good this week?  Did you see “Julie & Julia” or another film?  Please tell us!

TLC Book Tour Review ~ Two Years, No Rain by Shawn Klomparens

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Summary ~ Two Years, No Rain by Shawn Klomparens

In San Diego County, it hasn’t rained in 580 days. But for weatherman Andy Dunne, everything else is changing fast…Only a few weeks ago, he was a newly divorced, slightly overweight meteorologist for an obscure satellite radio station, hiding his secret love for a colleague, the beautiful—and very much married—Hillary Hsing. But nearly overnight, Andy has landed a new gig, flying a magic carpet in a bizarre live-action children’s TV show. So what is affable, basically decent Andy Dunne going to do now that he can do practically anything he wants? With a parade of hot moms begging for his autograph and a family that needs his help more than ever, Andy has a lot of choices. First, though, there’s this thing with Hillary, their heated text messages, a long-awaited forecast for rain – and a few other surprises he never saw coming…

I really looked forward to reading Two Years, No Rain when Lisa at TLC Book Tours invited me to read/review it.  I loved the idea of a story written by a man about a man with real issues that if it were written by a woman about a woman would be considered chick lit.  I was not disappointed at all with Shawn Klomparens novel.  His protagonist is Andy Dunne and we meet him when he is newly divorced and working as a forecaster for a satellite radio station.  He likes his job fine but finds his love life is what keeps him up at night.  Actually it’s a secret, fantasy ridden love life with a pretty and witty Chinese-American woman named Hillary Hsingwho works for another company on the property.  She is in a suffering and failing marriage and, in my opinion, really teases the hell out of dear Andy.  Grrrrr. 

After fullfilling Hillary’s request/suggestion to audition for a childrens T.V. show and actually getting the job and much much more, things start to really take off for Andy and his story.  Things with Hillary get a bit heated and more public and we learn more about Andy and his family.  He really is a lovely, charming and likable character and one of my favorite’s in a long time.  I didn’t care for Hillary and her yo-yo actions towards Andy but things did get interesting from the reader’s point of view for them. 

The last part of the book was cool to read because Andy and Hillary go to Hong Kong on a business trip for Andy’s show and with two company paid plane tickets, really how could they not go together.  Having visited Hong Kong twice now and experiencing category 3 and 5 typhoons while living in Okinawa, I thought the descriptions of both the storm and Hong Kong and it’s surrounding territories was great.  I’m curious if the author, Shawn Klomparens, has ever been to Hong Kong himself.  I could easily envision the landscape and buildings in my minds eye while reading about Andy and Hillary’s crazy trip.

All in all, I enjoyed Two Years, No Rain and highly recommend putting it at the top of your TBR (to be read) stack.  You can check out Shawn Klomparens’ web site and learn more about him and Two Years, No Rain HERE.  You can also check out the rest of the TLC Book Tour for Two Years, No Rain HERE and see what they have lined up for the rest of this month. 


 

Friday Finds ~ July 31st, 2009

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Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.  While browsing book blogs,  Amazon.com, Washington Post.com, NPR.org, various other places on the Internet, and getting recommendations from friends, these are the books that either made it to my wish list this week or I downloaded the samples onto my Kindle from Amazon.com.

While in the Seattle area for my cousins wedding a week ago Hubby and I met up with my Sis and Bro-In-Law at Elliot Bay Book Company in Pioneer Square, located in downtown Seattle.  This bookstore is just incredible, cozy and a must see for book lovers visiting Seattle.  While browsing the shelves, I took note of the employee recommendations and some interesting looking books.  We also visited the Borders Bookstore in Redmond, WA and I found some other books that caught my eye and have been added to my Kindle sample download list, which has become my new way of keeping track of my TBR list.

    

 

  

The Housekeeper and the Professor
The Dollmaker
The Whiskey Rebels
Girlfriend in a Coma
Breakfast with Buddha
Dog Years
Pharmakon
Girl in a Blue Dress
The Dark Side of Love