Friday, April 30, 2010

"Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang" by Chelsea Handler

When I started this book, I found myself wondering why I'd wanted to read it. I even went back to my review of her previous work, "Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea", wondering if I'd liked it (I had mixed feelings). Luckily, I stuck with it, and it proved to be much funnier than said previous book.

The first two entries in CCBB are all about Chelsea and her childhood. "The Feeling" describes her learning how to pleasure herself at a slumber party (they keep their clothes on because actually touching yourself is dirty). "When Life Hands You Lemons" is all about her quest to get the perfect Cabbage Patch Doll, specifically trying to not only convince her parents to buy the doll but going into explicit detail exactly which doll she wants. These two entries are my least favorite, almost causing me to give up on the book. I'm not sure why I don't like her descriptions of her childhood (and yes, I know they're not entirely true, that she's being sarcastic, etc); I just don't find them funny, let alone mildly humorous.

Then we get to "Grey Gardens" and the book takes off. Chelsea is alone in the apartment, her boyfriend (and boss) Ted having gone away for the weekend, and rather than be productive, she chooses to spend her days wallowing in bed watching bad TV movies. I can totally relate to that! OK, I tend to sit on my couch in my PJs, but you get the idea. This much more amusing chapter is followed by "Dudley", a bulldog that plays into a huge practical joke her said boyfriend. I loved this chapter - a great joke, fabulous co-conspirators, and just super funny. I do feel sorry for Ted, though, as I'm also one of those people cursed with friends who can lie to me with straight faces about outrageous things and I will completely believe in their sincerity.

"Wedding Chopper" is an amusing scene at a wedding of one of Chelsea's friends, followed by the hysterical chapter "Black-on-Black Crime". Chels has asked her driver and friend Sylvan to go on vacation with her, Ted, and some other friends to Turks and Caicos. "Chocolate Chunk" as he's affectionately dubbed is a large black man in need of some good love, according to our girl. They have some general hijinks, then meet two "Mocha Mamas", Feliqua and Wendy, who also happen to be very, very drunk. Things go downhill quickly but in the most amusing way. Good stuff.

"Dear A**hole" is a letter addressed to Chelsea's dad, Melvin (aka Platypus and Popsicle to his kids), from a very disgruntled renter. Seems Dad left the Martha's Vineyard beach house a complete disaster zone, then charged $7900 for a week's rental to this group of twelve. With parents like this, who need enemies? Dad makes a repeat appearance in the next story, "The Suspect", as the kids try to convince him to sell the house. This is told through emails between the siblings and it's a riot. Highly recommend this story.

Finally we get to "Chunk", the story of how Chelsea got her beloved dog (he's on the cover of the book with her in a most suggestive pose). If you like dogs, you'll like the story. Heck, even if you're not a dog lover, you'll like the story.

Overall, I would give this a definite recommend. Just skip the first two stories (unless you like that sort of humor) and enjoy the rest!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

May 3rd, 2010 releases

It's been a while since I've tried to keep you up-to-date on the newest releases, hasn't it? I find myself with a few blissfully quiet moments, and since there are some (hopefully) good books coming out next month, I wanted to try to get back into the "new release" habit. Without further ado, let's look at next week, shall we?

Week of May 3
"Dead in the Family" by Charlaine Harris continues the tales of our beloved Sookie Stackhouse. This is the 10th title in the series, and hopefully this will be better than the last book. Looks like Eric is going to play a bigger part in this book, which is just fine with me. Unfortunately, it seems that his relationship with Sookie is going to be scrutinized by the new Vampire King, plus Eric's maker is going to show up in Bon Temps. There's also the issue of the weres going public, something that won't be welcomed by most humans, so you know that's going to get messy. And Sookie's fairy cousin, Claude, comes knocking at her front door looking for a place to live. Hmmm..... that sounds like an awful lot of stuff going on again, doesn't it? And that was my main complaint about the previous entry, too many plot lines for that small a book, not to mention way more violence than normal. I still plan to read this, though, just hoping it's not a horrible mishmash.

"Blue-Eyed Devil" by Robert B. Parker is the 4th book in his Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch series. And in case you hadn't heard (or read it here), Parker is no longer with us, having passed away from an apparent heart attack earlier this year. So this will probably be the final book in the series; the odd thing was that I was under the impression that this was always supposed to be a trilogy. Maybe he wanted to write about these characters more, or maybe he caved to his fans who couldn't get enough of them - either way, enjoy while you can.

"Innocent" by Scott Turow. In true-life fashion, the action of this book takes place 22 years after the first book, "Presumed Innocent", probably one of Turow's most famous and best works. He hasn't been writing a lot that I can tell, but word on the street is that this will be a fan fave and won't disappoint. The same characters from the first book, Rusty Sabich and Tommy Molto, are pitted against each other again. Not really my thing, but if you like suspense (and if you've been waiting all this time for the sequel), this might appeal.

"Mom Still Likes You Best: The Unfinished Business Between Siblings" by Jane Isay. If, like me, you have a sibling, then I'm guessing you're already looking at this title and thinking you might want (or need) to read it. Isay previous wrote about parents and their reactions to their children's spouses ("Walking on Eggshells") and now she turns her sights on what she calls the "horizontal relationships" between siblings. Often there is some level of rivalry between siblings, sometimes bordering on hostility, and that competitiveness doesn't always end with adulthood. Topics such as the care of aging parents and the division of estates are covered here. Best of all, it's not an overly long work, clocking in at a mere 192 pages. If I remember correctly, I asked for a copy of this for my specific branch - should be interesting to see how well it circulates!

"Tell-All" by Chuck Palahniuk brings on the usual strangeness of the man who brought us "Fight Club". This time he's doing a sort of homage to the name-dropping salacious tell-alls written by Hollywood stars (usually ones who have faded somewhat and need either the money or the rush of fame again). Chuck is not for everyone, but this sounds like it could be one of his most accessible works, as so many of us are drawn to the train wrecks that are often the lives of Hollywood "stars".

OK, that's going to do it until next week. Keep on reading, and don't forget, you're more than welcome to make comments (although I will be approving them first, don't forget!) and to make suggestions. Thanks!

Monday, April 26, 2010

"The Next Adventures of Guy" by Norm Cowie

(I apologize for the extreme delay in this review. I just found the one I did for the first book about Guy and his friends - from 2008! According to that review, I was going to read this sequel and review it "in a few months". Guess it has been a few, huh? Actually, about 24 months to be more precise! Again, sorry for the delay...)

Guy and his friends are back, having taken on the evil telemarketers in "The Adventures of Guy". Everyone knows that in every "Quest" you have to have a sorcerer, a warrior, and, of course, a sequel - thus "The Next Adventures of Guy". Our story opens with Guy and his pal, the sorcerer Thurman, running, then meeting Guy's elf friend Knob and Guy's little brother Seth. Thurman proceeds to tell everyone that they have to go on another Quest. What's the goal this time? Save the Earth! Seems there are some aliens headed towards our humble little planet, aliens who are not happy at all about the name of their planet. They have vowed to destroy us in order to exact revenge. And what is this awful name, you may ask? "Farfignuggen". Yeah, think of the VW ads from a few years back. I'm fairly certain this word is spelled just a bit differently; can't be slapped with a lawsuit!

The guys go to gather their Warrior from their first Quest only to find she's out of commission. Yep, she's pregnant with yet another set of twins, thanks to her overly fertile double uteri. Oh, and her name is Beth, a little factoid that was left out of the first book. Before they can go on their new Quest, the guys (including Guy) still need to find themselves a Warrior; they enlist Thurman's girlfriend, Wendy, who works at Wendy's fast food restaurant. She doesn't have double uteri or double PMS, but she is a redhead, which means she has extremely wicked anger abilities. With the gang firmly established, the Quest can begin!

Trying to describe one of these books is next to impossible. There are bits that are just completely outrageous, such as the scene where Wendy has an episode of "high beams", which enables the guys to get away from the evil gas station employees and evil OPEC guy, Oscar (who drives a Hummer, a very black and large Hummer, a vehicle with a hallway and doors to different rooms and who knows what else?). There's the Whomping Cloud, composed entirely of second-hand cigarette smoke and possessing the ability to "whomp" on buildings, cars, and people, thus destroying them. There's the Quest Mobile, Knob's used limo that belches out a cloud of black smog and drinks oil almost as often as the guys drink beer. There's all sorts of hijinks and potty humor and such. And there's still some really good barbs against Big Oil, George Bush and other political topics.

I enjoyed this book, even though as I said in the first review, it's very much a niche kind of title. It certainly wouldn't appeal to everyone, and yes, at times it's rather silly. But there are days when silly is exactly what you want. Just don't get Guy to say that he believes in something - he isn't known as "the Unbeliever" for nothing!

Friday, April 23, 2010

"Never After" by Laurell K. Hamilton, Yasmine Galenorn, Marjorie M. Liu, and Sharon Shinn

Remember all those fairy tales you were told as a child, how the princess found her prince and lived happily ever after? Remember that there was usually a fairy godmother or some other such being to help the story along? Remember how passive the princesses were, almost to the point of being helpless (think of how many needed "saving" from someone or something)? The stories here are a different take on those old, worn-out tales, no godmothers needed, no helpless, hapless heroines here.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this book was the story by LKH, "Can He Bake a Cherry Pie?", also the shortest entry in the book at a mere 36 pages. Why was I so shocked? Well, I haven't read anything by LKH since her Anita Blake series went off the rails (think that was around "Incubus Dreams"), and by that point nothing of hers was short. Also, there's pretty much nothing sexual in this story anywhere, other than the old lecher that has been promised our heroine's hand in marriage leering at her and goosing her. Elinore's father has arranged this deal, and she's not happy about it. Rather than disobey him outright, she declares that she's going to rescue Prince True; several females in the realm have also set out to rescue this famous Prince but none have succeeded - indeed, few have returned. Elinore leaves that very night before she loses her nerve, fully expecting to be one of those fated to die in her attempt. However, what she finds isn't exactly what she expected. Not a bad story, a little on the submissive female side for my taste, but overall a much, much better story than I expected.

"Shadow of the Mist" by Yasmine Galenorn takes us into the world of selkies and stalkers. Selkie Siobhan is pregnant with her first child, an event she's waited over 100 years for. At one of the happiest moments of her life, she receives a phone call that could change everything; the man she was "promised" to has finally tracked her down, intending to get her back (taking stalking to a whole new level, in my humble opinion). Frightened for herself, her baby, and her fiance, she contacts her friends, the D'Artigo sisters (from the author's Sisters of the Moon series) to help her solve her problem. The suspense isn't bad here, as I truly felt concerned for our heroine. A bad breakup is one thing, but to be hunted down by the ex for over 100 years? Truly terrifying. I had never read Galenorn before, but I enjoyed this tale.

Then we come to one of my favorite authors (as you know if you're a loyal follower of this blog!), Marjorie M. Liu, and her story "Tangleroot Palace". Princess Salina ("Sally" to her friends) has been ordered by her father to marry a warlord, a horrible ogre of a man if the rumors about him are true. She's desperate to avoid her nuptials at any cost and looks for a solution in the magical forest of Tangleroot. There's a Queen there that might be able to help her - or might just be the death of her. In her travels she meets and is invited to join a troupe of wandering entertainers, a motley group who allow her to be herself, plain old Sally. There's a very dream-like sequence involving the Queen, and even though I'm not entirely sure what happened, I still loved the story. Then again, Liu has never disappointed me yet.

Finally, Sharon Shinn provides probably the best entry, "The Wrong Bridegroom". It's always a good thing when the strongest, most entertaining story is last, isn't it? Sort of like saving your dessert or something.... Anyway, there's a contest being held at Castle Kallenore; King Reginald wants to find a husband for his daughter Olivia. She's agreed to marry the winner of the contest, the suitor in question having proved himself in a series of challenges such as strength, wisdom, and courage. One of the suitors is "the boy next door", a lad that Olivia has grown up with as he's one of her neighbors (can you really have neighbors when you live in a castle?) She finds him dull and boring, and hopes that the winner will be exciting and handsome. In fact, she settles her sights on one of the suitors after she sees him on the grounds during "off" hours. The tale follows the contest, and wouldn't you know it, the handsome guy does win - as does the neighbor. It's a tie, and Olivia has to choose. She picks Prince Charming, of course, and then insists that she needs to meet his family before they can be wed, thus buying her some time (her father wants a quick marriage). As a young lady of good standing, Olivia can't travel with her fiance alone, so his sister chaperones. They've barely left the castle (in a plain old horse-and-cart, no less!) when the other Bridegroom follows and joins them. The party grows larger and larger as Olivia's "wicked" stepmother joins the party too. This is the longest story, and as I said, probably the best. Not only are the main characters engaging, there's enough time for Shinn to develop the side characters as well, and no one is really what they seem. The pretty princess is in for quite a surprise, not just about her prospective husbands-to-be...

I would definitely recommend this anthology to those who like entertaining stories as well as fans of these authors. Quite refreshing to have our heroines rescue themselves, too!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Ivy Cole and the Moon" by Gina Farago

This book had been sitting around our branch for a long, long time. One day it was returned, and I realized that it was pretty much in two pieces (not uncommon with mass market paperbacks - they don't last long), so I withdrew it from circulation and prepared to give it a proper burial. And stopped. And looked at it again. And realized that I'd always sort of wanted to read it, so why not take it home and put it in my To-Be-Read pile? A much more fitting end than the trash can, right?

As usual, it sat around for a while, probably a good year or so. I finally picked it up about a month ago; something just told me it was the right time to give it a shot. Which I did...

Ivy Cole is a werewolf. This is nothing new to her, having been bitten and turned when she was still a child. Sure, it's a bit of a pain having to Change every month, but she's grown used to it, moving when people start to get suspicious, keeping to herself, and even accumulating her own pack of stray dogs. She's young, beautiful, and has headed back "home" to the small town of Doe Springs, North Carolina. Unfortunately for her, hiding her true nature in a such a small town is proving to be difficult. You see, Ivy uses her "condition" to handle problem people, preying on and killing abusers, murderers, and such. She's always very careful to make it look like an accident. Sadly, her latest victim, Clifford Hughes, has been discovered far sooner than Ivy had intended. The police know he was attacked by some sort of animal, and they're wondering if it's the same animal that has been attacking the local livestock.

Ivy is interviewed by Sheriff Hubbard and Deputy Melvin Sanders due to her connection to the victim - the grieving widow's best friend. It becomes obvious that Melvin is attracted to Ivy; the feeling is mutual, but of course, she's got that pesky "monthly condition" that he can never know about. Ivy is also under suspicion because of her work - as a dog trainer. The local police wonder if someone like her could train her dogs to attack and kill, especially her very large Shepard, Auf. Ivy does her best to throw them off the scent (no pun intended) while doing her own investigation; she knows that there's another werewolf in her area, one that needs to be dealt with before he/she exposes them both.

This isn't a bad book, but there are a few problems. I liked most of the characters, especially Ivy, but I felt as if the author was keeping them at a distance from us, the readers. I also figured out who the other were was early on in the book, even before the author let us in on the identity, something that I'm not sure Farago should have done. After all, don't you want the reader to be in suspense? When you write your reveal just a little over half-way, it feels premature. I think a few less hints and better timing would have made that part of the book more appealing. My biggest beef is the epilogue; the scene left me scratching my head and saying "when did that happen?" I know the "why" - a sequel, and yes, it's out - I checked on Amazon. But if you're going to have a scene that makes it clear that you'll be writing a sequel, shouldn't I as the reader remember what led up to that scene? Just a very weird thing to do.

I will hopefully be able to get my hands on the sequel, "Luna", and let you know if it's better. "Ivy Cole" is a solid entry, just not a stellar one.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Stephen Fry in America: Fifty States and the Man Who Set Out to See Them All" by Stephen Fry

I just adore Stephen Fry, and as it turns out, he adores me right back. Well, not me specifically, but myself as an American, that is. He begins this delightful book (and companion piece to a series he did for the BBC) by telling us that he was almost an American himself. His father was offered a job here in the States but turned it down, mostly because he didn't want his children to be brought up as Americans. Sad, yes, but when Fry found out this information, an alter ego was born - Steve. He's been fascinated with all things American since then, much to the dismay of his fellow Brits, who believe we are the dirt underneath their shoes. Fry says he doesn't really understand why so many of his brethern act so pompous in this matter; his tour was an attempt to show that America is just as great a country as he's always believed it to be, and that Americans are not bullish, arrogant, stupid creatures. I think he largely succeeds on that account, for which I will be eternally grateful.

The book is broken up into sections of the country, such as "New England and the East Coast", "The Deep South and the Great Lakes", etc. He does a fairly good job of visiting each state and giving "key facts" in cute little inserts, info such as the state's abbreviation, nickname, capital, flower, tree, bird, motto, and well-known residents and natives. (I love how he tells of trying to do the residents/natives for California, giving up at the letter "g"...) There are gorgeous pictures as well as silly ones, usually of Fry doing something the "natives" do, such as square dancing, fire fighting, etc. He gets to interview some famous people, too, such as Mitt Romney and Morgan Freeman. He laments our lack of good cheese and "proper" tea, but loves our foodstuffs (much to the chagrin of his pants). And it seems that most everywhere he traveled, he was greeted with hospitality and generosity.

What is very appearant is that Fry prefers the small towns that still have little Mom-and-Pop type stores and restaurants. He points out more than once that many of our bigger towns and, of course, almost all the major cities have been over-developed, all with the same sort of homogeneous buildings; hit any good-sized town off a major highway and you'll find the same things - McDonald's, Burger King, CVS (and almost always a Walgreens right across the street), Wal-Mart, Applebee's, etc. Sadly, he is very, very right about this, my own "little" town being no exception. Maybe that's why my hubby and I like what we affectionately refer to as the "hole-in-the-wall" diners and the "dives" where there's barely a floor; they have a distinct character about them, and usually have the best food for the most reasonable price.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves to travel, including those like myself who can't afford to do nearly as much as they used to. This is also a wonderful way to experience our country and realize that yes, it really is a great place to live, something that is easy to forget. Very funny, very moving, and very informative.

Monday, April 19, 2010

My life lately...

Well, as I'm sure you've guessed, it's been on the busy side. I finally managed to get all the planning done for Summer Reading 2010, no easy task in my book. I've been working with lists, lists, lists for our library system's ordering group, all with deadlines, until I've been certain that my eyes have permanently crossed. All while doing the usual day-to-day library business.

And then yesterday we learned that my husband's Uncle Jack passed away. He'd been sick for about a month, most likely congestive heart failure, but we really didn't think it would happen this soon. The good news is that he had just turned 79 in January and had survived three heart attacks and a stroke; as my hubby pointed out, he probably had 30 some years on this Earth that he shouldn't have had. I know Jeff is upset, as am I, but I know we're both glad that he went the way he did - at home with his wife of 50+ years sitting by his side, holding his hand, in his sleep. Very peaceful, can't ask for anything more.

So I'm not in the best of moods when I come in this morning and check my posts for comments, of which there is one, in Chinese again, directing people to yet another porn site. Glad I finally learned how to copy and paste in the Google Translator, and how to "trash" the offending post. So....... I have decided to be a blue meanie and make y'all get my express approval before your comments will be posted. Sorry, but I can't risk someone having a flame-out on their PC because they tried to read the comment. How and why this (or these - I'm not entirely sure) "commentors" feel the need to insert such crap is beyond me, but that's just the way it's going to have to be. Rest assured - if you're a real person with something real to say, you'll get your comment approved. I don't mind posting stuff that I don't necessarily agree with, but I will no longer post links to who-knows-what.

In weather related news, North Carolina will be experiencing the season known as spring after all. YAY! We were so cold for so long, then suddenly had a hot spell, temps near 90, etc. Luckily we have returned to more "normal" temps, which is nice. What is not so nice is the pollen! Evidently the extreme cold kept some of our trees from blooming when they normally do, leading them to bloom at the same time as everything else. So there's a lovely coating of yellowish-green dust on every conceivable surface of our cars, our apartment, etc. And my nose has just gone haywire, leading me to take one of the lovely little white pills each and every morning without fail. Oh well, price we pay for living in the South - stuffy noses, but no snow to shovel!

And that's pretty much it, folks. Thanks for sticking with me and the blog, and I'll try to carve out some time more often to keep you informed on all that is literary. See ya!

Friday, April 9, 2010

"90 Classic Books for People in a Hurry" by Henrik Lange

This little gem was turned in at our branch the other week. At first my co-worker and I thought it was a guide to "short" classics, works that were maybe no more than 100-200 pages long. But once we started paging through it, we realized that it wasn't a guide at all! Instead, this is a very, very funny look at the classics.

Lange has taken 90 titles and done 4-frame cartoons summing up each book. But wait - it gets better! The first frame of most every cartoon is the title of the book, so he's really telling you everything you need to know in a mere 3 frames. Brilliant! Works include "Ulysses", "A Confederacy of Dunces", "American Psycho", "The Lord of the Rings", and "Watchmen". Some work, some don't, much as any other collection. (We loved the one of The Bible).

This is definitely recommended by myself to all readers out there who have read a lot. I think this book works for me because, as an English major, I'm already familiar with many of the works depicted here, either having read them myself or just general knowledge. I can see where someone who isn't well-read might not enjoy the jokes here, but I think they could still appreciate it. Having said that... this is not a book that will help anyone looking for reviews or synopses of other works! I add this only because one customer review on Amazon showed that the reviewer completely missed the point of the book. I believe my blog readers are smarter and will get the jokes, but fair warning, right? Hope you laugh as much as I did!

"Spy vs. Spy: The Joke and Dagger Files" by David Shayne

If you read the previous post, you know about my quest to get hubby something to read. This was the second of the "Spy vs. Spy" books that my library system acquired, this being a collection of some of the artists who took over the strip after Antonio Prohias retired. There are various artists represented here, including Bob Clarke and David Manak, with Duck Edwing providing the ideas for the gags they illustrated. And, of course, there are a multitude of the strips that were done by Peter Kuper, including the ones that came out in color (all the previous strips had been in black and white).

There's a foreword by Hollywood movie producer and director J.J. Abrams, plus some extras by Kuper himself. Not really much new as far as info goes.

The strips themselves are still typical "Spy vs. Spy" fare, with the Black Spy and the White Spy trying to kill each other at every turn. What I found interesting was the difference in each take on the spies; the strips by Clarke and Edwing have a bit more humor to them than the originals by Prohias, including most ending with the "victorious" spy giving the V-for-Victory finger wave. And for some reason, that V sign at the end of the strips made me think of Nixon - or maybe it was a comedian doing Nixon - mumbling out "I am not a crook". Go figure - the mind makes weird connections.

Then you get to the Kuper strips, and there's a very noticeable difference in style. There's the shift from black-and-white to color. There's also a bit more sinister tone to the plots. And when a spy is killed, it's much more grisly than anything seen before, with bits of brain and heart and teeth flying out to the corners of the panel. A bit shocking in b&w, even more so when he started doing the color. And I can't say I enjoyed them as much, either. Plus there's the "Grey Spy" - a rather buxom woman that I honestly don't remember seeing before.

The book concludes with the kids' version of "Spy vs. Spy", which is much tamer, of course. Rather than try to kill each other, the spies are sending each other to the Principal's office. I wasn't impressed, but if I was a kid, I might enjoy them. The Grey Spy makes appearances in these strips, too. And finally, there are panels from the commercials that were shot for Mountain Dew starring the Spies, which I sort of (but barely) remember. Overall, not a bad collection of work, but I have to say this - a little "Spy vs. Spy" goes a long way. And this book is on the long side.

"Spy vs. Spy: Missions of Madness" by Antonio Prohias

Searching for something for hubby dearest to read, I came across information in our library system that we had just cataloged two different books of the old MAD Magazine cartoon "Spy vs. Spy". I knew he'd talked about that 'toon before and how much he loved it, so I being the good library lady I am (and good wife!), reserved both books. This one came first, which worked out well; Antonio Prohias was the man who started it all. After Mr. Man was done with this one, I decided to pick it up since I haven't read anything from MAD in forever.

The cartoons are good, a bit somber at times, I now realize. But after reading the foreword by John Ficcarra, the style makes sense. I had no idea that the guy who originally did "SvS" was from Cuba, that he'd fled that country after getting death threats, or that there's a lot of cold-war subtext to the strips. Once I read that information, I really paid attention to the strips, and yes, there's a certain air of futility that comes across after a while. After all, one spy dies at the end of each 'toon - it was up to Prohias which one would bite the dust. And there was no way to predict which one it would be, just that one would be dead. Of course, he was always resurrected for the next strip.

The one thing I think is very funny is my take on the spies. For some reason when I was young, I thought they were crows, not men! I do believe I was confusing the spies with the magpies from "Heckle & Jeckle". Yeah, I was a weird kid!

"The Visual Food Lover's Guide" by QA International

What a completely awesome and cool little book! The subtitle states that this small work includes "essential information on how to buy, prepare and store over 1000 types of food". A truer statement would be hard to find!

The book is small-ish, which I found refreshing. Most works like this are large and bulky; this is not much larger than a regular hardbound book, and I could totally see myself using it in the kitchen with no problem. The sections are nicely laid out and follow a logical pattern, dividing such basic categories like fruits and vegetables into smaller, more specific categories, such as tropical fruits and root vegetables. There are color pictures of each and every item, as well as the basic facts about each entry: what it is, what to look for when purchasing it, how to store it (and how long it will keep), and different suggestions for cooking/preparing it. There's even a small insert of nutrition facts on most items, too.

If you cook often, this may not be an essential item to have (but it would probably be nice - after all, sometimes you run into a recipe with an "odd" ingredient or two). If you're new to cooking or want to learn more and expand your repertoire, this would be a perfect reference guide for you. Even better? It retails for a mere $16.95, and when I looked around, it appeared that most etailers had a discount on it. Or..... you could always check your local library!