Monday, February 28, 2011

Lunch Review! Silverglade's (8th Street)

If there is one word to describe Silverglade's, it has to be "solid". The deli/restaurant doesn't get wild and crazy with their offerings, but they serve the classics, and they serve them well. I have never been to the sister location at Findlay Market, but the location at 8th and Sycamore holds a special place in my heart as one of the first places I went out for lunch at after starting my job downtown. Out of the handful of times I've eaten here, I don't think I have been disappointed even once. That's certainly a lot less than I can say of some other places I've tried downtown.

Since it is located on 8th and Sycamore, it's a little off the beaten path for a lot of the downtown lunchers, which means that you can usually find a table without having to wait. That's A-OK with me.

The location is a large and open, with the deli taking up one quadrant of the space. Seating is located near the front, with a small wine selection and a cooler with soft drinks and beer in the back. The deli contains all of your various sides, cheeses and meats and they offer a espresso bar and various breakfast vittles in the morning. I've never tried the breakfast there, so I can't speak for it, but considering the quality of their lunch, I'm convinced it would be good.

(Breakfast goodies)

(Wine selection)

(Typical deli stuff)

They have a very large lunch menu, which includes soups, salads, and sandwiches (gourmet sandwiches and paninis). If you can think of a classic deli sandwich, odds are it is on their menu. One of the best parts about it being a combination deli/restaurant is that if nothing on the menu sounds appetizing to you (not likely), you have the option of custom-making your own sandwich with the available meat, cheeses, bread, and toppings. They are proud to serve Boar's Head meats, which is nice because you are pretty certain to be getting some quality meat on your sandwich.

Like I said earlier, I've never had a bad meal here, so I like to vary what I order each time I visit. Their menu is large enough that odds are you will have a tough time making a decision. They had a few new sandwiches when I visited, so I decided on a Cuban and my fiancee went with a Skilly Minnie, which is thin-sliced Boar's Head buffalo chicken breast with sprouts, tomato and cucumber on whole wheat. It looked really good. At Silverglade's you order at the counter, pay, grab your seat, and they'll call your name when your food is ready.

(Skinny Minnie)


The Cuban wasn't particularly authentic, but it was tasty. It featured salami and thin-sliced pork loin layered alternately, topped with Swiss cheese, pickles, and a swipe of dijon mustard. All that was tucked in a home made ciabatta bun which had been pressed to give it a crunch and get everything inside of it nice and warm. Regardless of authenticity, it was very, very good. All the ingredients went together just right, taste and texture-wise. In addition, I got the sandwich as a combo, so I had my pick of sides. I went with a bag of pesto and parmesan kettle chips. Pretty good, but I'm more of a fan of some of the other chip flavors (the chipotle for instance). My fiancee always get the same sandwich there, so there were little surprises for her. Good as usual.

This last visit has done nothing to shake my opinion that Silverglade's serves some of the best sandwiches in downtown Cincinnati. I love sandwiches, so this is big to me. Every sandwich I've ordered here I would have no problem ordering again in the future if they didn't have a menu full of items that sound equally as appetizing. I suppose there is always next time, right?

Location, hours, and menu can all be found on their web site: Enjoy!

Silverglade's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Friends of the Cincinnati/Hamilton County Warehouse Sale

The Friends of the Cincinnati/Hamilton County Warehouse is open on Saturday once per month. That Saturday was yesterday and I had some free time, so I decided to head over there and pick up some goodies

My catch:

American Pastoral by Philip Roth
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
In the First Circle by Aleksander Solzhenitsyn
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksander Solzhenitsyn
Lord of the Ring Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Fall by Albert Camus
The Ruins by Scott Smith
Sophie's Choice by William Styron
All is Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

The grand total for all of these books? $15.50. I don't think I will ever get over what a bargain their warehouse sales are.

Just as a reminder, the Friends of the Library's warehouse is open for sale every Wednesday from 10AM-1PM, the second Monday of every month from 5:30PM-7:30PM, and the fourth Saturday of every month from 10AM-4PM. I could not recommend these sales highly enough. The variety and quality of the content for sale just can not be beat.

More info can be found at

NYT Best Seller List (3/6/2011)

This list will appear in the March 6, 2011 print edition of the New York Times Book Review. The full list can be found here.


  1. TICK TOCK, by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  2. A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, by Deborah Harkness
  4. THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett
  5. DEAD OR ALIVE, by Tom Clancy with Grant Blackwood


  1. UNBROKEN, by Laura Hillenbrand
  2. KNOWN AND UNKNOWN, by Donald Rumsfeld
  3. I BEAT THE ODDS, by Michael Oher with Don Yaeger
  4. DECISION POINTS, by George W. Bush
  5. CLEOPATRA, by Stacy Schiff


  1. WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, by Sara Gruen
  2. CUTTING FOR STONE, by Abraham Verghese
  4. THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, by Stieg Larsson
  5. THE POSTMISTRESS, by Sarah Blake

Paperback Mass-Market Fiction

  1. DREAMS OF A DARK WARRIOR, by Kresley Cole
  3. SWIMSUIT, by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  4. THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, by Stieg Larsson
  5. DELIVER US FROM EVIL, by David Baldacci

Paperback Nonfiction

  1. HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent
  2. INSIDE OF A DOG, by Alexandra Horowitz
  3. THE BIG SHORT, by Michael Lewis
  4. COMMITTED, by Elizabeth Gilbert
  5. THE GLASS CASTLE, by Jeannette Walls

Friday, February 25, 2011

Review: Stalingrad by Antony Beevor

So I have come to a predicament. While reading this book, I realized that I have absolutely no idea how to quantitatively (or qualitatively) review a nonfiction book. The reviewing of a novel is a bit easier. It is both more organic and subjective than the review of a nonfiction book. Sure, I can dismiss a novel's characters, plot, or prose and that is my prerogative. The things which I can criticize in a nonfiction book are an entirely different animal. I can't really criticize a character or plot. I can judge how they are put forth to the reader, but facts are facts. Unlike others, I can't criticize facts; I just have to accept them for what they are.

To attempt to do my best to objectively judge any nonfiction books that are drawn by the random number generator, I'll use three measures (but reserve the right to add to or remove these measures). They are:
  • Accessible: I know a little about a lot and a lot about a little, so I'm more than likely going to need my hand held through a lot of nonfiction content. It should be readable enough for the lay person without being targeted towards a third grader.
  • Scholarly-ness (content sources): Tell me where you got the information you're telling me. Not too crazy of a concept. Doesn't need to have footnotes or anything, but a bibliography is obviously mandatory. Bonus points for good primary sources (government documents, diaries, letters, etc.).
  • Writing/Prose: Just because a book is nonfiction does not mean that an author can let the use of prose and good writing go to the dumpster. The author should use the topic and sources to tell a story.
So, there we go. An outline to review nonfiction books. Let's put it to work.

I have to admit: everything I knew about the Battle of Stalingrad I learned from Enemy at the Gates. While I really do enjoy that movie, I had a feeling that it probably wasn't particularly historically accurate. For instance, the individual Jude Law plays in the movie (Vasily Zaitsev) did exist in real life. And he really was a super awesome sniper. I just don't know how much further the truth goes. Here is one example:

Jude Law as Zaitsev: Dreamboat

 Vasily Zaitsev playing himself: Not so much a dreamboat

I'm sure you see what I mean. Because of my almost complete ignorance on the topic and my moderate interest in war history, I was quite pleased when the RNG chose Stalingrad by Antony Beevor. Stalingrad, as the name would suggest, chronicles the lead up to the Battle of Stalingrad during WWII, the battle itself, and the aftermath of it. Frankly, some of the content of the book was shocking to me. The battle was one of total war and the atrocities committed by both sides were sickening. With all of the media (books, movies, tv shows) created concerning the U.S.'s involvement in the Western Front, little has been created concerning the equally (if not more) crucial Eastern Front. This book is one of the more touted concerning the history of this battle.


As I noted above, I knew very little about the Battle of Stalingrad. At first, the book was a little difficult to get into. A number of the German and Soviet army and government terms and organizations were used without being defined, which was a bit difficult. I also had trouble often determining which armies and units were on which side when they were referred to just by number. The book could also use many more maps to help visually explain the movement of troops within Russia by both nations. I found myself lost when they were explaining where different armies were moving to, particularly during the German's beginning assault into Russia.

The final two-thirds of the book is much more readable and accessible than the first. It is in this part of the book where Beevor does his best work. He balances the high level overview of the war perfectly with the more human, anecdotal details concerning the conditions of the troops and the front. While the high mortality rate during the battle keeps Beevor from focusing on specific soldiers for any length of time, he does a pretty good job on focusing on the higher level officers who manage to stay alive for much or all of the war. When this book is accessible, you can burn through the pages easily. On the other hand, I found myself stuck or glassing over the dryer, denser sections.


In my opinion, this is where Stalingrad shines. In addition to the usual secondary sources, Beevor also manages to find and use letters sent from the front, soldiers' diaries, de-classified Soviet and German files and communication records, and various other primary sources. The sources are remarkably utilized; in particular, the diaries and letters reveal the humanity of soldiers from two nations who are often demonized and dehumanized by popular culture in the U.S. They also show the almost complete lack of care towards these soldiers by their nations' leaders and upper officers.


The writing in Stalingrad is decent enough, but mainly exists to bridge together quotes from the primary sources or paraphrase when it seems too many direct quotes have been used. This is probably for the best, as flowery or colorful writing would probably draw the focus from where it belongs, which is on the primary sources. I would say that the writing is just about average and there is no reason or way for it to be more than that.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this book was pretty good. It's not as good as I hoped it would be, but it does what it was supposed to, which is to tell the story of the Battle of Stalingrad. I found the anecdotal content much more interesting than the "10,000 foot view" content, but that's probably because, like most others who will read this book, I am not a military strategist. I probably wouldn't recommend this book to the general bookreading public, but for those of you interested in WWII (or war history in general), this will provide an eye-opening account of one of the less talked about events which largely shaped the world we live in today.

Accessible - ***
Scholarly-ness - *****
Writing/Prose - *** 1/2
Overall - *** 1/2


After I finished Stalingrad, the RNG chose The Lord of the Ring series for me to read. I've read the Hobbit, so I'm going to skip that one, but the rest will be read and reviewed one at a time. This is definitely one of those cases of "how have I not read this yet"?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Adventures in Brewing: Pt. I (Listermann's)

So, last weekend I finally got off my behind and went to buy brewing supplies for my first batch. I had been wanting to try brewing for a while, but it just never seemed like the right time. I decided enough was enough and headed over to Listermann Brewing Co.

Listermann Brewing Co. is located on Dana Avenue near a bunch of Xavier buildings. They do a brisk business online and while you would never guess from the storefront, they have a full-service retail storefront, as well. Also, those of you lucky enough to have attended the Cincy Winter Beerfest know that they also bottle and sell their own beer. They are located about three miles from me, which will be great in the future.

When you walk in the building, it is not immediately obvious where you are supposed to go. When I headed in, I was greeted with this:


Luckily I was warned about this from someone before I visited, so I headed up some stairs and, voila, into the store. Listermann has pretty much everything you could ever needs for brewing your own beer. It looked like they also carry wine making stuff, but that's not why I was there, so I didn't pay it a great deal of attention. The smell of the place is definitely unique. With all of the bulk grains they carry, it almost smells like a farm (in a good way).

Beer Kits




As you can see, they had A TON of bulk malts and specialty grains. They also had an industrial grinder that you could use to grind your selections on site. Definitely would save you a lot of hassle at home.

So, what did I go with? I wanted a "big" beer, but didn't really want an imperial IPA or stout. I wanted to try something a bit more unique with my first brew. Well, I had a ton of choices, but I picked a big 'ol hoppy American barleywine. I figured this would be a good first choice because it will force me to learn a bit of patience. It has to be dry hopped and aged for a little bit of time to take the edge off and taste "right".

I also got the best equipment kit they carried, which includes everything I need to brew, except a large brewing pot (on the way via Amazon).

Here was my final haul (equipment kit and beer kit):

The guys at Listermann could not have been any more helpful. I had done research before coming in, so I knew what I needed, but they were happy enough to help me fill in any of the gaps I had. They also gave me a business card with their number on it so that I can call if I have any questions at all. Thanks guys! I also picked up a couple bottles of Cincinnatus, their bourbon stout, while I was there. They were getting to the end of their stock until more is bottled, so I figured I should grab a couple.

More information about Listermann can be found on their website:

It looks like this coming up weekend will be when I officially start my first batch, so that should be interesting. I will be sure to take some pictures so everyone can see how this is progressing (fingers crossed)!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

NYT Best Seller List (2/27/2011)

This list will appear in the February 27, 2011 print edition of the New York Times Book Review. The full list can be found here.


  1. TICK TOCK, by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  2. A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, by Deborah Harkness
  4. THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett
  5. DEAD OR ALIVE, by Tom Clancy with Grant Blackwood


  1. KNOWN AND UNKNOWN, by Donald Rumsfeld
  2. UNBROKEN, by Laura Hillenbrand
  3. CLEOPATRA, by Stacy Schiff
  5. DECISION POINTS, by George W. Bush


  1. WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, by Sara Gruen
  2. CUTTING FOR STONE, by Abraham Verghese
  4. LITTLE BEE, by Chris Cleave
  5. THE POSTMISTRESS, by Sarah Blake

Paperback Mass-Market Fiction

  1. SWIMSUIT, by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  3. THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, by Stieg Larsson
  4. DELIVER US FROM EVIL, by David Baldacci

Paperback Nonfiction

  1. HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent
  2. INSIDE OF A DOG, by Alexandra Horowitz
  3. THE BIG SHORT, by Michael Lewis
  4. COMMITTED, by Elizabeth Gilbert
  5. THE GLASS CASTLE, by Jeannette Walls

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lunch Review! Raya's Lebanese Restaurant

Oh boy was I hungry this morning. I knew that it was going to be a big lunch day when 10:00 rolled around and my stomach was making noises alternating between those made by tectonic movements and those made by packs of various furry, carnivorous beasts.

To my (and my stomach's) horror, before I could go to lunch I had to do the dance I seem to do every time I go out for lunch. Literally. Every. Time.

"Sushi?" "Too light."
"Mexican?" "Too heavy."
"A burger?" "Ditto."
"Salad?" "Boooooooooring."
"A sandwich?" "Yeah. Let's get a sandwich. It's not like you eat one every day during the rest of the week from your lunchbox."

This is one of the curses of working downtown. Pretty much any kind of food you could want is within walking distance and you (or at least I) become paralyzed with choice. With pretty much every cuisine eliminated from the running, I first decided to go to Cafe de Paris and eat in Piatt Park, but it was a bit too windy to sit outside and read while eating my lunch, so, in a stroke of genius, I decided to head to Raya's Lebanese Restaurant and have a gyro.

I had been to Raya's once before and apparently liked it enough for it to pop into my head on the verge of starvation. It is located on Court St., next to the other restaurants that are propped up by HamCo./Krogers employees. There were two food trucks out front when I walked by: Cafe de Wheels and a hotdog one I didn't catch the name of. I can always go for a Wheels Burger, but I decided that I had probably been eating too many burgers lately.

Because Raya's is not much to look at inside, I didn't take any pictures. It's small and it has tables and chairs. It could easily be a venue for any other cuisine in the world. Not a knock; just saying.

I ordered a gyro and a side of hummus and, to be healthy, I decided to forego the fries. Hell-bent on destroying my chance to not be a glutton at lunch, the cashier countered that fries were free with any wrap that day. Ok, so I didn't forego the fries. In fact, I ate every one of them.

(Raya's: Healthy unless you like fries too much)

The food was about as good as I remember it. Gyros are pretty tough to mess up, but on the other hand, tough to make stand out. It was solid. It didn't blow my mind or anything, but I don't think I've ever eaten one that did. The hummus was a little underseasoned. It probably could have used some garlic.

Surprisingly, the fries were really, really good. They were well-seasoned and very crispy. I never understand why Mediterranean places serve fries as the default side with a lot of sandwiches, particularly since most of the time they just seem like such a poor effort. Perhaps it's because they're serving Americans who can't go a few hours without eating something fried. Who knows. Regardless, these were good. Would I rather be able to sub in something healthier and a little more authentic? Of course, but I'll take what I can get.

Is Raya's great? Nope. It certainly reaches the threshold for good, though. My fiancee has had their vegetarian combo before, which has hummus, baba ghanouj, falafel, and taboulli. So it's not that there aren't healthier options. It's just that I didn't want to eat them. I'm sure I'll be back. Good and cheap (<$10 for all of the above plus a Diet Coke) is an ok combo in my book.

Raya’s Lebanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cincinnati Re-Adventure's Super-Duper Cool Library Tour

Erica and Dan from Cincinnati Re-Adventure have put together a great few posts highlighting some of Cincinnati/Hamilton County Public Library's branch locations, plus the Mercantine Library. I haven't visited a number of these branches, so it was neat to see how each of them focuses on the needs of their patrons. It is really quite a customizable system. Strangely enough, I actually saw them while they were touring the Mercantile Library. I was, of course, too shy to say hello. Perhaps next time?

Without further adieu:

Madeira Branch
Norwood Branch
Corryville Branch
Main Branch and the Mercantile Library

While you're there, check out the rest of their stuff. They do a really great job. Cincinnati Re-Adventure was one of the first blogs I found when I moved to Cincinnati and their posts were extremely helpful for finding things to do around the city.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Volunteer for Bockfest!

As the weather starts to creep towards 60 this week, many of us are looking forward to February rolling over into March. For me, March has always marked the symbolic end of winter. Even when I was living in Grand Rapids and it would sometimes be dumping snow then, I knew it was winter giving its last effort at making us all miserable.

For Cincinnatians, the beginning of March also marks the occurrence of Bockfest. I'll admit: before moving here, I had never even heard of Bockfest. I saw a poster for it last summer and thought "goats and beer, huh?". Since I'm not quite normal, however, I didn't have the typical response one might have to that thought ("umm, what is wrong with this city?"). My thoughts were more like "count me in". So, after surviving the Winter Beerfest last weekend I figured a few weeks was enough time to get my wits about me and dedicate another weekend to drinking too much good beer. I would jump in feet first and really enjoy my first Bockfest.

What better way to get intimately acquainted with the weekend for the first time than to volunteer at it? I was made aware of the numerous volunteer opportunities at Bockfest by a number of bloggers and Twitter folk. Becuase of this, yours truly will be selling copious amounts of beer on Saturday, March 5 from 4:30-9:00. Come see me; I won't buy you a beer, but I will sell you one if you give me money. After 9:00, I myself will be able to take part in beer drinking and general merriment.

There are still volunteer opportunities for those of you who are interested in contributing. They can be found at:

There are good number of opportunities available to get moving and sign up for the spots!

More information on Bockfest weekend can be found on its website.

Bockfest runs from March 4 - 6 this year.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Lunch Review! Tom + Chee

(Store front on Court Street)

Grilled cheese is one of those foods that I just never seem to eat nowadays. It's not that I don't like them; in fact, bread and cheese are two of my favorite foods. It's just, unlike other folks the idea of making it just never pops into my head. I'm not sure if it's the simplicity of it or what, but I might have two or three of them a year.

Struggling mightily with the lunch choices downtown as usual, it struck me that I could go for something hearty. What is better on a cold day than a grilled cheese and some soup? With that in mind, I walked over to the Tom + Chee Court Street location to grab myself some of both.

(Part of the main chalkboard menu)

Tom + Chee is an order at the counter, have your name hollered, and sit to eat (or take it out, like I did) type restaurant. There is a pretty good amount of seating in their space, but it looks like only a few tables for large groups. There were a few people in front of me in line so I perused the nemu and settled on the turkey pesto grilled cheese and a cup of chili.

(Hard at Work)

(Adorable 'Super Fancy Tip Jar')

I ordered, paid, and picked up my food in less than five minutes. Saw this poster on the way out. I'm not sure if I could take one down, but it sure does sound interesting:

I hustled back to the office so the food didn't get cold and so I could fill my starving belly. I unwrapped the perfectly toasted sandwich and took a bite of one of the best sandwiches I've had since I've moved here. Thick, buttery toasted sourdough is perhaps the best type of bread for a grilled cheese sandwhich, and they nailed it. To my delight, the turkey was actual pieces of turkey, not the sliced turkey lunchmeat which drives me crazy in sandwiches like this one. They used just the right amount of pesto: flavorful, but not overwhelming. Finally, there was enough mozzarella cheese to hold everything together and counteract the crunch of the bread, but not so much that it made a sloppy mess.

The chili was great, too. It was more liquid than I'm used to eating, but they really nailed the flavor. It contained less beans and more meat (which is ok in my book), onions, small chunks of tomato, and green peppers. It had a heat presence, but wasn't too spicy. Overall, very well done.

Tom + Chee is flat out awesome. It drives me crazy that I haven't been here since they opened the store front, but I guess better late than never, right? I will definitely be back. There were five or six other things on their menu that I decided I must try.
Tom+Chee on Urbanspoon

Review: The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

It is amazing that no matter how many things change over time, just as many stay the same. Despite all of the advances (and perhaps, in some way regression) that occurred between the turn of the 20th century and the 21st, some things just didn't move an inch. One of these things, which just happens to be the topic of The Beautiful and Damned, is rich, spoiled kids acting like spoiled, lazy, drunk idiots. Just as the heirs to railroad, steel, and various other industries at the beginning of the century were celebrated by sensationalist media, today every hotel heiress and professional sports player's (or decrepit pornography mogul's) girlfriend has a reality television show. See the parallel?

Just as many of us, though outvoted by devoted watchers, wail and moan at the stupidity of these individuals living their life in front of a camera, people like F. Scott Fitzgerald were doing it back then. The difference is, he was doing it with much better writing. By the time he had written The Great Gatsby, he had nearly perfected the art of daming the repulsive, stomach-turning way in which the richest of the rich lived. The Beautiful and Damned finds him honing his craft. You can see the path from it to The Great Gatsby, but in thematic terms, he still has a ways to go.

Published in 1922, The Beautiful and Damned focuses on Anthony Patch, a young layabout who happens to be the grandson of Adam Patch, an industry mogul turned moralist. Young Anthony, expecting his grandfather to die in the near future, leaving him piles and piles of money, does what any infantile mind with no responsibilities and a large allowance would do: drinks; dines; parties; drinks; has drunken esoteric conversations with his other rich, drunk, vacuous friends; and drinks some more. In the midst of all this drinking he falls in love with, and marries, Gloria Gilbert, a young woman with a sense of self-entitlement that equals Anthony's, but a family fortune which doesn't. After getting married, they drink, party, loathe each other, and come up with plans for what they will do with all of their money when Adam Patch dies.

Adam Patch, on the other hand, has other ideas concerning his capacity for not dying. He just keeps hanging in there, staying alive. During all of this time, Anthony and Gloria's lifestyle is outpacing their allowances. The keep trading down in living conditions, but can't help but spend exorbitant amounts of money on social engagements. Eventually, Adam Patch does die, but to the horror of our young cretins, does not leave a single penny to Anthony. The two are both unwilling to find jobs and slowly move from upper to middle to lower class as the estate appeal goes through the courts.That is the plot of the book in a nutshell. There is a bit more, but I don't want to spoil the conclusion for anyone.

I didn't find The Beautiful and Damned nearly as powerful as The Great Gatsby in its denunciation of the way the rich lived during this time. This doesn't surprise me, however, as the latter is one of the greatest modern novels ever written. Fitzgerald's chacterization of Anthony and Gloria in The Beautiful and Damned just feels a bit heavy handed and over the top. They have literally no redeeming qualities whatsoever. While Gatsby may have been a showoff and was careless with his money and reputation, at least he had a capacity for tenderness and friendship. You still feel the tragedy at the conclusion of the novel. Anthony and Gloria, on the other hand, only inspire half-hearted contempt and quarter-hearted pity. Their behavior is too disgusting to feel sympathy for their tremendous decline, but pathetic enough that you can't hate them.

Fitzgerald's writing is top knotch here. He brings New York City at the beginning of the Twentieth Century to life with his descriptions of the decadent, swinging nightlife enjoyed by the uber-wealthy on one hand and the relative squallor endured by those not quite so fortunate. Seeing the habitat of Anthony and Gloria change over the course of the novel while their outlook remained static was quite interesting.

Is this the best book written in the 20th Century? No, definitely not. It is not even the best novel Fitzgerald wrote. Not even close. What it is, though, is a piece of social commentary that has stood the test of time. The themes are just as relevant today as they were almost one-hundred years ago. I know that I can turn on the television and find Anthony or Gloria on at least ten different channels. This is precisely while I think I'll just open another book instead.


Speaking of opening another book, the random number generator drew Staligrad: The Fateful Siege (1942-1943) by Antony Beevor. I'm a big WWII fan, so this one should be interesting. It will be the first nonfiction book that I'll have reviewed so far. That will be a bit out of my comfort zone, so I might make it a short review. We'll see. Also, posts will be sparse this weekend. I have friends coming in from out of state and we're all going to the Cincy Beerfest. Hopefully I make it through the weekend alive.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Mercantile Library: An Urban Oasis

On a recommendation, I went over to the Mercantile Library a couple of weeks ago. Located on the 11th floor of the Mercantile Building at 414 Walnut Street, this place is literally a fortress of solitude. I fell in love with it immediately and signed up for a annual membership ($55 for individuals; $90 family).

Walking in, the feeling you get is first 'class' and then 'scholarly'. They cram a great deal of very beautiful, ornate decoration into a relatively small space. I spent a few hours here last Saturday reading and the word of the day was 'silence'. With the librarian, a few other patrons, and myself in the library, you could literally have heard a pin drop. You would never, ever guess that you were a stone's throw from Fountain Square. In fact, you would probably never guess that you were in the city. The library is not stuffy, however. They encourage eating your lunch there and on Saturday, I did. I also did a bit of exploring and poked around a bit.

They had some amazing, very old busts of some famous folks. Below are only a few of what they had on display.

 (George Washington)

 (Charles Dickens)

 (Abraham Lincoln)

(Bell from the U.S.S Cincinnati)

The Mercantile library also has a full-service collection which is quite large for the square footage it takes up. Let's just say they use their space quite efficiently.

(Fiction lower, nonfiction upper)

(Wasn't entirely sure what these materials were)

(Unique aisle markers)


Overall, this place is awesome. I can see myself spending a great deal of time here in the future. The atmosphere is amazing for reading and it can be a nice reprieve from what is happening eleven floors below. I would recommend everyone to go at least give it a look, even if you aren't interested in a membership. It is one of the truly unique places in Cincinnati and I am so happy I was led that direction.

More information can be found at:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

NYT Best Seller List (2/13/2011)

This list will appear in the February 13, 2011 print edition of the New York Times Book Review. The full list can be found here.


  1. TICK TOCK, by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  3. THE INNER CIRCLE, by Brad Meltzer
  4. STRATEGIC MOVES, by Stuart Woods
  5. THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett


  1. UNBROKEN, by Laura Hillenbrand
  3. THE NEXT DECADE, by George Friedman
  4. THE HIDDEN REALITY, by Brian Greene
  5. CLEOPATRA, by Stacy Schiff


  1. WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, by Sara Gruen
  2. CUTTING FOR STONE, by Abraham Verghese
  4. TRUE GRIT, by Charles Portis
  5. WINTER GARDEN, by Kristin Hannah


  2. WILD MAN CREEK, by Robyn Carr
  3. HERE TO STAY, by Catherine Anderson
  4. DELIVER US FROM EVIL, by David Baldacci


  1. HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent
  2. INSIDE OF A DOG, by Alexandra Horowitz
  3. JUST KIDS, by Patti Smith
  4. THE GLASS CASTLE, by Jeannette Walls
  5. WHAT THE DOG SAW, by Malcolm Gladwell

Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Before the random number generator chose Never Let Me Go, I had never actually heard of it before. It landed on the master list because Time Magazine included it in their 'Best of' novel list. When I chose it, based on the title alone, I was thinking: "Oh geez, a romance novel. Lovely." Luckily, this novel is not actually in the romance genre. If anything, Never Let Me Go is a mystery. The form of it makes it very, very difficult to give details without spoiling surprising plot points, so this review will be relatively brief (plus Superbowl food isn't going to make itself!)

This novel, which was written by the British author Kazuo Ishiguro, is narrated by Kathy, a woman who is going through work and life transitions in a modern-day alternate-universe England. She takes this time to reminisce about her time at a special, insular school named Halsham and her friendship with two other students there. The narration traces the life of those three from early childhood to adulthood as they realize the existence of and then question the reason for various peculiarities at Halsham. Why are they at the school? Why are they not ever allowed to leave? Why, even as young children, do the students have the best of their art taken out of the school annually by a mysterious woman who seems to fear the children? All of these questions and many more are explained as the narration progresses.

The author does a tremendous job painting the characters for this novel. In particular, Kathy's two best friends, Ruth and Tommy, are brilliantly characterized. Ruth is somewhat two-faced: steadfastly loyal at times, yet willing to trash on Kathy and Tommy numerous times in the novel to impress others. Tommy is childlike and ebullient, yet with a vicious temper and is prone to ridiculous tantrums. Kathy herself is never really examined deeply since it is her that is telling the story. The most you find out about her is that she is somewhat sentimental (for a Halsham student, at least) and she has a very curious nature about her.

The narration has a very matter of fact way of telling the story, which at first bothered me, but then I realized it was purposefully done to reflect how Kathy was raised at Halsham. Concepts or occurrences that may seem absolutely outrageous to the reader are put forth by the narrator and are not analyzed or begged "why?". This is an interesting way for the author to deal with a very controversial topic. By taking his own voice out of the equation, he avoids the need to moralize on one of the two main themes of Never Let Me Go, which happens to be scientific ethics. The other, less sensitive them of the novel, is of course friendship. The interactions over time between the three characters is extremely interesting, especially in contrast with the way we are used to children acting.

Is Never Let Me Go worth a read? Heck yes, it is. Does it deserve a spot on a top one-hundred novels list? I'm not so certain. It is a very touching and eye-opening novel. If fact, I would actually describe it as heartbreaking. I just wouldn't put it in the same category as some of the other great novels that have ever been written. Because of this, I give Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro a 3.75 out of 5 stars (with 4 stars being the cut off for deserving to be on the list).


Next up for review: The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald! Also, you may have noticed that I've been posting a lot of non-book stuff lately. That isn't necessarily the way this blog is going, but I don't want to niche this in just as a purely book blog, so I'll be posting other content I feel is neat as I go along. I'm a well-rounded individual!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Rockin' out at the Mainstay

Headed to Mainstay last night to see a friend's band play. I had never been to there before, but it was actually a pretty decent time. They have a very good, reasonably-priced beer selection. Not just for a concert venue, but for a normal bar. You can also get bombers of your favorite cheap beer if you are so inclined (I'm not). Molly Wellmann was working the bar last night, which was a pleasant surprise. There was a bit of strangeness in the crowd, though, because there was a bike convention going on. Not rowdy, however, which was pretty surprising.

 Mad Anthony opened for Banderas, both of which put on a great show. I've seen both a handful of times. They always seem to bring the volume and energy. Forgive me for the pictures; phone cameras work like garbage in dark bars.