Monthly Archives: June 2013

Paris in July…what to do?

What to do this July to celebrate Paris, when I can’t actually be in the city of light? Read about it and torture myself, I suppose.

Books on Shelf

  • Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
  • Paris Was Ours edited by Penelope Rowlands (A reread)
  • Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Mah

Movies to View

  • Any Jean-Luc Godard film
  • Midnight in Paris
  • Paris Je t’aime
  • A Cat in Paris
  • An American in Paris

French Cooking/Eating

  • Madeleines (a tried and truly yummy cookie!)
  • Coq au Vin (my friend made this once and it was amazing…I’ll see if I can recreate it following a Julia Child recipe)
  • Macarons (I bought the cookbook ages ago, and have yet to do anything with it…)
  • Lunch at Left Bank for Bastille Day
  • Barefoot in Paris – Ina Garten recipes!
  • The Little Paris Kitchen Cookbook- Rachel Khoo
  • French bread. I made some before, and I’ll be trying to make some again. Its  yummy. I could live off of bread, no seriously, I could really live off of bread. Send me to a deserted island with a fully loaded ebook and a bread factory and I will be as happy as a clam.

Music for the month

  • Carla Bruni
  • Coralie Clement
  • The entire French/Paris selection of the Putomayo albums (I love these collections!)
  • Enjoy lunch or coffee at the Farmer’s Market listening to the live French trio perform, pretending I am have on the Rue Cler, shopping the fromageries and boulangeries to my heart’s content.

Study Lessons

  • Pick up a book on Renoir or the Impressionists (my favorite art style and period)
  • Go to a museum exhibit on the above (if there are any around…seems unlikely. All the good stuff is at the Musee de Orsay anyway)
  • Learn a French word a day, or just practice using my elementary French everyday avec mon mari et ma bebe.

What will you be doing this July?

Weekly Recap + Links of the ‘net

This has been a fairly decent reading week. 2 reviews posted in one week, I think that’s some kind of a new record for me. =p Loads of books read with the baby bookworm and loads of new books I’m still making my way through (eyes on you Joseph Heller).

LibraryThing posted their Early Review titles this month, and for the first time in a long time, there is nothing that captures my interest. Sad. But, in the meantime, I signed up for Penguin Book’s First to Read program, where I can receive early copies of titles. Their system is a little bit inventive in that there are all sorts of ways in which I can gather points to help me get more books and other stuff for free.

I’m very much enjoying The Big Disconnect and should have a review up next week. As far as non-fiction/parenting guides go, this book is well researched, well-written and does a fantastic job of scaring the pants off of me in regards to raising my child in such a tech-savvy world, particularly in the Bay Area of California, tech central. But more on that next week…

Books I reviewed this week

  1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  2. The Log on the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck

What I’m reading this week

  1. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  2. The Fountain of St. James Court or The Artist as an Old Woman by Sena Jeter Naslund
  3. The Big Disconnect

Books with the Baby Bookworm

  1. Arthur’s Dream Boat by Polly Dunbar
  2. Piggies by Audrey Wood
  3. A Hug For You Margaret Anastas
  4. Quick Duck by Mary Murphy
  5. A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na
  6. Baby Cakes by Karma Wilson
  7. How Does Baby Feel by Karen Katz
  8. Webster J. Duck by Martin Waddell

All the links in the world (for this week at least)

The Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck

The log from the Sea of CortezThe Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck
Age: Adult
Genre: Memoir/Nonfiction
Source: My Copy
Publisher: Penguin, 1976
Find this book at your local library

In 1940, Steinbeck’s good friend, Ed Ricketts died after a terrible car accident. Ricketts is best known in Steinbeck’s works as Doc. The Log on the Sea of Cortez is almost two books. The first is a moving and loving tribute about Ed Ricketts and his role in the community in Monterey and Salinas. The second book is a memoir, a slow-paced, somewhat mundane account of their trip around the Gul of California in search of sea specimens for examination and study. Steinbeck has taken Ricketts’ log of the account and along with his own ideas and commentary, has created a detailed account of their trip with their colorful, if not goofy, crewmen.

Towards the middle of the book, it becomes largely philosophical, seeing as how Ricketts and Steinbeck loved to talk about mostly philosophical topics. The book is likewise filled with interesting tidbits about the cities they visited and the people they encountered. The book, like their journey, really takes the reader away from our fast-paced, technology driven lives. There is a huge sense of calm reading the book, and I think that is because their trip was calming, and quite meditative. Don’t get me wrong, it was incredibly boring at times, more often than I want to admit, since I love Steinbeck. But somehow I was able to get through his 200+ pages of fish-gathering chapters and yet I gave up on Hemingway’s short account of hunting in Africa. Sorry. Steinbeck always trumps Hemingway in my opinion.

Despite being boring (I would read the book to lull my infant to sleep…it worked quite well every time,) there were so many gems of Steinbeck’s gift with writing sprinkled throughout the sea specimen collection paragraphs. There are perhaps too many thoughts I underlined and pages I dog-eared so that  I could return to a favorite or interesting passage. His humor is subtle, but it is ever-present throughout the entire account. I did prefer the first part, the tribute to Ed Ricketts more than their journey, but overall, it is a great read for anyone interested in going beyond Steinbeck’s fiction and really learning about his life, his thoughts and his unique ability to understand and fit into the world around him.

The Ocean At the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Age: Adult
Source: Publisher
Publisher: William Morrow, 2013
ISBN: 9780062255655
181 pages
Find this book at your local library

When a middle-aged-man returns to his childhood home for a funeral, he takes an unexpected stroll down memory lane, remembering parts of his childhood from when he was 7-years-old and met Lettie Hempstock. Soon, history comes flooding back to him as he recollects sitting by the duck pond, or what she called her ocean.

Childhood memories are sometimes covered and obscured beneath the things that come later, like childhood toys forgotten at the bottom of a crammed adult closet, but they are never lost for good.

Neil Gaiman doesn’t write sequels, but the Ocean At the End of the Lane is like a distant cousin of The Graveyard Book and Coraline. Its a short novel, and I’m not quite sure if its meant for adults, kids or teens. It is written from the perspective of a 7-year-old, with innocent thoughts and fears, but much of the content is adult; frightening and surreal. This book, like the Graveyard Book, starts with a death. Like Coraline, the other mother, Ursula Monkton, is much more creepy and cruel.

This incredibly short book is more like a dream than a novel. Everything happens so quickly, so smoothly, but all the events and people seem incongruous somehow. As much as I loved and devoured this book, it is so easy to get lost in Neil Gaiman’s prose, hearing his voice narrate the book… I digress, fangirl that I am. As much as I enjoyed this book, I felt that one of the biggest faults was Lettie Hempstock’s nonchalance confidence with ridding the world of Ursula Monkton. It halted the suspense of the novel at times. Although Gaiman’s descriptions and eerie setting more than made up for that. Its not my favorite of his books, I think it could have been and should have been expanded, but it is a good read for a solitary, quiet evening.

Weekly Recap + Loads of Links!

This guy reads.cafeparaacordarosmortos:Homem lê o jornal, sentado num candeeiro público, enquanto uma revolução acontece debaixo dele.Lisboa, 25 de Abril de 1974 Carlos GilAwesome People Reading

This has been a fairly active week on the blog. One of my favorite book blogging events is going to be starting in a couple short weeks, Paris in July. I don’t have anything planned as of yet, but I do still have a number of books that take place in France waiting to be read on my bookshelf. As for events, we shall see. I might not get farther than baking a batch of madeleine cookies.

Reading is going well, I’m making progress in all of my books. It helps to have books stashed all over the house, so that no matter where I sit down to breastfeed the little bookworm, I can just pick up the closest book and start reading.

I received an incredibly amount of books in the mail this week as well. Its nice to be back on the publishing radar after a brief hiatus.

Books I received in the mail

  1. The Ocean At the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (Score *does the Snoopy dance*)
  2. The Wet & The Dry by Lawrence Osborne
  3. The Big Disconnect by Catherine Steiner-Adair, Edd
  4. Along with 6 picture books from Reading Rockets as part of their Start With A Book giveaway.

I also started a new page on the blog to discreetly track the picture books we have been reading to the little one. I won’t backtrack to what we read in the past. It will start fresh as of this weekend. Don’t expect to see too many of those reviews on the main page though. This will stay mostly a blog for adult works.

Books I reviewed:

  1. All My Friends by Marie N’Diaye

Non-Review Posts:

  1. Start with a book (or 6)
  2. Its Coming…My Favorite Time of the Year

Upcoming Reviews:

  1. The Ocean At the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  2. The Log on the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck

What I’m currently reading:

  1. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  2. The Fountain of St. James Court or The Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman – Sena Jeter Naslund

The Links!

All My Friends by Marie N’Diaye

All my friendsAll My Friends by Marie N’Diaye translated by Jordan Stump

Age: Adult

Format: Book

Source: Publisher via LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Publisher: Two Lines Press

ISBN: 9781931883238

Find this book at your local library

In this brief yet poignant collection of short stories, author Marie N’Diaye takes us into the minds of the unstable and their fractured lives and relationships. From an aged professor haunted by a past student, to a former actress falling apart, or a mother abandoning her son. N’Diaye deftly examines the minds and thoughts of people who we’d rather brush under the carpet. This book will leave you unsettled, but it in incredibly well written (well translated) and gives the reader much to think about after each story.

In the first story, an aged professor falls in love with a former student, now his housekeeper. This is followed by a tale of a back and forth between a doctor and a patient over her dead husband. The third story, is remarkably sad, as it is about a young boy who wants to leave his impoverished life by becoming a sex slave, like his next door neighbor. Then Brulard’s Tale about a minor actress and her stream of consciousness thought patterns becoming more and more claustrophobic and paranoid. The last story is about a mentally challenged women who goes on a bus ride with her son, but knows that she will be returning without him.

The author has created five stories in which people lose their grip on reality, the most compelling of which was fourth story, Brulard’s Day. This story reminded me of Knut Hamsun’s Hunger. The inner workings of the mind of someone’s sanity slowly unraveling as bystanders watch, unaware or indifferent. At only 140 pages, this book is a quick read, but not a light read. It’s not exactly a beach read, with the gentle tide of waves in the background. It is more of a moody cafe book, with a few cups of coffee with some ambient music in the background.

Its coming…My favorite time of the year

Hosted by BookBath and Thyme for Tea

Will you be signing up this year? Do you have any plans for Bastille Day? I was hoping to go down to Santa Barbara for their big, fat French Festival, but alas. It is not the cards this year. Maybe I can find something local in the Bay Area.

If you signed up before, then you know the drill, otherwise, here is a recap of the rules:

The event will run from the 1st – 31st July and as always there will be no rules or targets in terms of how much you need to do or complete in order to be a part – just blog about anything French and you can join in. Some ideas for the month might include:
– Reading a French book – fiction or non-fiction
– Watching a French movie
– Listening to French music
– Cooking French food
– Experiencing French art, architecture or travel (or remembering travel experiences)
– Or anything else French inspired you can think of…

Start with a Book (or 6)

I tried in vain to keep separate blogs for the adult/teen books I read and the children’s books I read. You know that saying, “starting a new chapter in life”? Well, having a child isn’t starting a new chapter. Its an entirely different book, in a different genre, quite possibly by a different author. This is all to say, that I’ll somehow be figuring out how to merge these two elements of my life into this blog. As much as I’d like to keep my mom-self separate from my adult-self, its not something I care to invest too much time into. Besides, kids books are usually way more fun than adult books. Being the avid reader that I am, it feels only natural to read to my child. We read to him almost every night, immediately after bath-time. This is the foundation for some fun shelf-searching at the library for library books. Its also incentive to enter into giveaways for children’s books. A couple weeks ago I entered a giveaway hosted by Reading and actually won! I won 6 wonderful picture books for my little bookworm, Arthur.

IMG_0445[1]The package also came the following books: Hide & Seek by Il Sung Na, The Eagles Are Back by Jean Craighead George, The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen, Orangutans are Ticklish by Steve Grubman, Alex the Parrot: no Ordinary Bird by Sephanie Spinner, & Snakes by Nic Bishop.  with some great booklets on themed reading; gardening and flight.

Reading Rockets is a fantastic organization that I just recently discovered.

We bring the best research-based strategies to teachers, parents, administrators, librarians, childcare providers, and anyone else involved in helping a young child become a strong, confident reader. Our goal is to bring the reading research to life — to spread the word about reading instruction and to present “what works” in a way that parents and educators can understand and use.

Now that my own little bookworm is about to hit the 4 month marker, (4 months already!), I’ve seen his interest in books grow exponentially. Since day 1, I’ve been reading to him. Whether its the Steinbeck book I’m reading, or picture books and board books I check out from the library. Over the course of the past 4 months, I’ve seen his interest grow and his attention span just mystifies me. He can pay attention as we read some really long books (ie. Bear Feels Sick by Karma Wilson). At first, he would just stare at the reader rather than the book, but now his gaze drifts towards the book and the illustrations.

This is part of the reason why I am so excited to have won these books. Although some of these authors are new to me, Il Sung Na is one of my favorite children’s book authors and illustrators. His visuals are amazingly colorful, full of texture and dimension. Same goes with Chris Van Dusen. All of the books are visually appealing and all are informative and fun.

Weekly Recap and a few links

Look! A Book ArchA Book Arch@Apartment Therapy – pretty idea, especially if you can coordinate the spines to create a cool theme or image.

Weekly Recap

This has been a better week for reading. I finished a book, reviewed another and will have another review in the works for next week. Hopefully I’ll have finished another book over the weekend. I’ve signed up the little bookworm for our library’s Summer Reading Program this year. He may only be 4 months old, but it’s never too early for reading! We read to him every night, 2-3 books. I’m amazed at his attention span every time. He seems to enjoy the longer books, although he prefers the colorful images of the short board books. Mostly he’ll just stare at my husband or I as we read, watching our face and smiling his goofy smile. I also love that he reacts to the different author when I read to him from my books. Steinbeck lulls him to sleep, while Joseph Heller makes him cry. No wonder it’s taking me so long to finish Catch-22.

Books I reviewed:

Books I finished:

  • All My Friends by Marie NDiaye

Books I’m currently reading:

  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • The Log on the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck
  • The Portrait of an Artist as an Old Woman, or The Fountain of St. James Court by Sena Jeter Naslund

The Links! All the wonderfully interesting links found online this week.

Becoming Americans in Paris by Brooke Blower – review

Becoming Americans in Paris : transatlantic politics and culture between the World WarsBecoming Americans in Paris: Transatlantic Politics and Culture between the World Wars by Brooke Blower
Age: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction
Source: my copy
Publisher: Oxford University Press, 2011
ISBN: 9780199737819, 266 pages
Find this book at your local library


According to the author:

Analyzing both American and European perspectives, this book does askwhy Americans went to Paris — the primary question driving much of the literature on the subject — but what happened once they became conspicuous participants in the capital’s public life. What impact did they have on the city? How did Parisians and other Europeans interpret their presence? And what difference did this overseas movement make to Americans’ sense of themselves and their culture. 

First of all, I won this book from a giveaway held by Wonders and Marvels. Its taken my longer than I’m proud to admit to finally reading this book.

This book is definitely not a bit of light reading, in case you are wondering. Although it is densely packed with information, Brooke Blower’s writing style makes it easy and entertaining to get through. As to her theme of the book, it really felt like a long catalog of reason of why Americans are hated in Europe. It seems like many of the reasons still resonate today. In generalized words, Americans are pompous, loud, demanding and unsympathetic to the way of life in the country they are visiting. It seems that the French absolutely hated the American presence in Paris.

This book did open my eyes to many aspects of history that took place between the wars that I never learned about in history classes. It’s a very niche era to discuss, particularly with the American/French dynamic. I never knew about the European Sacco and Vanzetti riots, particularly the French reaction to the American execution of two Italian immigrants. I also didn’t realize how much the French resented American expats trekking onto their land, and turning quaint locations in tourist attractions. This book covers a lot of ground in regards to politics, culture, racism, and celebrity expats. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with a keen interest in history, French history, American history or the interwar years.