Tag Archives: New York

Invisible City by Julia Dahl

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Invisible City by Julia DahlInvisible City by Julia Dahl
Series: Rebekah Roberts #1
Narrator: Andi Arndt
Published by Macmillan Audio on May 6, 2014
Genres: Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Length: 7 hrs 49 minutes
three-stars
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Just months after Rebekah Roberts was born, her mother, an Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn, abandoned her Christian boyfriend and newborn baby to return to her religion. Neither Rebekah nor her father have heard from her since. Now a recent college graduate, Rebekah has moved to New York City to follow her dream of becoming a big-city reporter. But she’s also drawn to the idea of being closer to her mother, who might still be living in the Hasidic community in Brooklyn.

Then Rebekah is called to cover the story of a murdered Hasidic woman. Rebekah’s shocked to learn that, because of the NYPD’s habit of kowtowing to the powerful ultra-Orthodox community, not only will the woman be buried without an autopsy, her killer may get away with murder. Rebekah can’t let the story end there. But getting to the truth won’t be easy—even as she immerses herself in the cloistered world where her mother grew up, it's clear that she's not welcome, and everyone she meets has a secret to keep from an outsider.

I almost didn’t get pass the first hour of this audiobook. Rebekah is young. The story is told in the first person and I had a tough time relating to her. I don’t need to hear about her and her roommate’s marijuana use, about her sex life, especially no details please. I understand that her mommy abandoned her, but she was like 6 months old at the time. Yes, I get that she has anxiety issues, but she dwells on everything – she’s young, 22, only months out of journalism school and still relatively new to New York. I was going to tire of her quickly, but once the actual mystery kicked in it was a lot better.

I will say the narrator had the perfect voice for Rebekah. It was like Rebekah was telling me the story. She did well with the other characters to, but she was best at Rebekah, which is how it should be in a first person narrative.

This is actually the second mystery I’ve read/listened to recently that dealt with an American population I’m not very familiar with, this time around it’s Hasidic Jews. They are a very insulated community, by choice, and Invisible City uses that apartness well. The Jewish community in Brooklyn has enough money and influence to more or less police themselves, so when the woman’s body is discovered, even though the police are there, she’s taken away by the Jewish people, with no autopsy and the investigation seems to pretty much stall out. But Rebekah, egged on by an old friend of her mother’s, a man who says he’s on the police force, keeps asking questions.

Rebekah is young and new at the job, which I think is supposed to excuse her from some stupid mistakes. She’s also easily offended by her boyfriend who seems like an honestly good guy who’s just trying to protect her. I’m not a Rebekah fan, still, although she grew on me a little. She just makes bad decisions, not that that’s unusual in a female amateur detective. The mystery, however was good, especially the insights into the Hasidic community. I also like how it shows the variety of people in the community – those who don’t fit and end up leaving to some extent, those who find it empowering, those who are harmed by its secretiveness and reluctance to accept help from outside.

If I could have read the same mystery with a different protagonist, I think I would have enjoyed it more. I’m not sure if I’ll read the next in the series – based on the end of this one it will have something to do with Rebekah’s mom and I don’t know that I want to read all the mother-daughter drama that’s bound to result in.

About Julia Dahl

julia dahl

Julia Dahl was born and raised in Fresno, California. She stumbled onto the staff of her high school newspaper in 1994 and has been chasing stories ever since. These days, she specializes in writing about crime and criminal justice. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and cat.

Review: Sous Chef by Michael Gibney

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Sous chef

Title: Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line 

Author: Michael Gibney

Published: March 25, 2014 by Ballantine Books

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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The back must slave to feed the belly. . . . In this urgent and unique book, chef Michael Gibney uses twenty-four hours to animate the intricate camaraderie and culinary choreography in an upscale New York restaurant kitchen. Here readers will find all the details, in rapid-fire succession, of what it takes to deliver an exceptional plate of food—the journey to excellence by way of exhaustion.

Told in second-person narrative, Sous Chef is an immersive, adrenaline-fueled run that offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the food service industry, allowing readers to briefly inhabit the hidden world behind the kitchen doors, in real time. This exhilarating account provides regular diners and food enthusiasts alike a detailed insider’s perspective, while offering fledgling professional cooks an honest picture of what the future holds, ultimately giving voice to the hard work and dedication around which chefs have built their careers.

In a kitchen where the highest standards are upheld and one misstep can result in disaster, Sous Chef conjures a greater appreciation for the thought, care, and focus that go into creating memorable and delicious fare. With grit, wit, and remarkable prose, Michael Gibney renders a beautiful and raw account of this demanding and sometimes overlooked profession, offering a nuanced perspective on the craft and art of food and service.

I’ve been in the mood for foodie books lately and Sous Chef actually lived up to what I expected from it. It is what it’s billed as, 24 hours in the life of a sous chef. It’s fiction, but Gibney has spent years in restaurants and it is a true picture of the behind the scenes. I learned some of the terms and practices that go with a professional kitchen. Gibney gives a good idea of the types of people cooking draws, of the personalities and egos and how they all come into play. By writing in the second-person, he makes you feel a part of the story, makes it more immediate.

This is not a book that’s big on plot or character development – it’s not supposed to be. If you’re like me and love food network tv, and are fascinated by what goes on in a restaurant that we don’t see, you’ll enjoy this one. It does, however, take away some of the mystery and magic to dining out. But we are reminded, time and again, that it is food services, it’s about serving the best food you can to the customers.

It’s a quick read, too, which make sense, given the limited time frame. I have to admit that I’d like to get to know some of the characters more, but I guess that’s the point, too. They represent the various people working in kitchens in New York, but we’re not allowed into their personal lives, just the part they bring work, and the bar afterward.

Audiobook Review: Delicious! by Ruth Reichl

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Delicious

Title: Delicious!: A Novel

Author: Ruth Reichl

Read by: Julia Whelan

Category: Fiction

Audio published: May 6, 2014 by Random House Audio

Rating: 2½ out of 5 stars

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Billie Breslin has traveled far from her California home to take a job at Delicious, the most iconic food magazine in New York and, thus, the world. When the publication is summarily shut down, the colorful staff, who have become an extended family for Billie, must pick up their lives and move on. Not Billie, though. She is offered a new job: staying behind in the magazine’s deserted downtown mansion offices to uphold the “Delicious Guarantee”-a public relations hotline for complaints and recipe inquiries-until further notice. What she doesn’t know is that this boring, lonely job will be the portal to a life-changing discovery.

Delicious! carries the reader to the colorful world of downtown New York restaurateurs and artisanal purveyors, and from the lively food shop in Little Italy where Billie works on weekends to a hidden room in the magazine’s library where she discovers the letters of Lulu Swan, a plucky twelve-year-old, who wrote to the legendary chef James Beard during World War II. Lulu’s letters lead Billie to a deeper understanding of history (and the history of food), but most important, Lulu’s courage in the face of loss inspires Billie to come to terms with her own issues-the panic attacks that occur every time she even thinks about cooking, the truth about the big sister she adored, and her ability to open her heart to love.

I was disappointed in Delicious! It guess it just wasn’t the food novel I wanted to read. Quiet Billie, who grew up in the shadow of her older sister, heads off to New York on her own and surprise! Everybody loves her. She meets marvelous foodie people. She finds the perfect job(s) and is the one employee kept on after her magazine closes, which leads to a wonderful, marvelous discovery to her lonely hours in the empty mansion. It’s all just a little easy; she’s too perfect. Did I mention she has an amazing palate, can pick out the ingredients in seemingly any dish, but doesn’t cook? And I guessed the secrets a little early.

I will say the food descriptions were mouth-watering. And the people were a colorful lot who I would enjoy meeting.

Whelan did a wonderful job reading the book. It was like Billie was telling us the story herself. We could hear Billie’s innocence and hope and longing in her voice. She disappeared and just the books was left, if that makes sense.

Maybe this is more chick lit than I wanted? All I know is, by about halfway through the audiobook, I didn’t really care. I did finish it, it wasn’t bad, it just didn’t strike a chord for me. I wanted more than a fun fluffy story. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a light story where the girl moves to New York and has everything work out just perfectly, go for it.

What’s your favorite food novel?

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