Monthly Archives: May 2015

Currently Reading + Upcoming Reviews

You’ll probably see a flurry of French cooking books on here. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself before the 6th annual Paris in July Reading Challenge takes place. At least, I hope it does. I haven’t heard any news or seen any icons for it yet. Either way, I’ll still be celebrating. Most notably by going down to the Santa Barbara French Festival this year. It should be lots of fun and I expect to come home with lots of little trinkets and treats.

Just Finished Reading
Two very wonderful and insightful books looking at life across the pond. What’s best is that these two books don’t bash US customs and traditions in order to elevate the European counterparts. We can do that on our own just by reading about how life is lived over there. These two books provide readers little windows through which we can peek into another country’s traditions and home life.

That's Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us In a French Kitchen: Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France

  • That’s Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us by Erin Moore
  • In A French Kitchen: Tales & Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France by Susan Hermann Loomis

Just Started Reading
One is an ebook and the other is eaudio, yet both were chosen strictly for their pretty covers. Also, the print copies are all checked out and inundated with numerous holds at my library. So e-copies are all I have for now.

The Miniaturist  The Uninvited Guests

  • The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
  • The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

Put Down & Forgot to Pick Back Up
Note to self: audiobooks by Neil Gaiman  only. Listening to his wonderfully dreamy voice read his dark stories is really the best way to experience Neil Gaiman books.

For the life of me, I can’t get myself to finish Bring Up the Bodies even through I am enjoying it. I have about 60 pages left, and I’m reading it at a pace of 5 pages a week. I’ve already reached the maximum number of renewals for my library copy too. I do plan on finishing it though. I’m too close to the end not to. I’m just not sure how eager I’ll be for book #3 in the trilogy.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell, #2)

  • Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
  • Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Book review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (Gabrielle Zevin)

The Storied Life of A.J. FikryTitle: The Storied Life of AJ Fikry
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Source: Library Copy
Publisher: Algonquin Books, 2014

Although this was published over a year ago, this is a title I’ve been seeing making the rounds on book blogs and on library carts over the past few months. It was actually this month’s book club selection for a library book club that I incidentally ended up skipping.

I fall into an odd spot with this book. My memory of the book is fonder than my thoughts were while I was reading it. This book is an ode to readers and their books. From the first page to the last, the book is filled with notions and quotes that readers will cherish, relate to and appreciate. Although those sentiments and the general story were memorable, there was still much left untouched within the story. The story begins with an awkward sell to a bookseller, A.J., from a publishing sales representative, Amelia. A.J. suffers two major losses at the start of the book. The first is his wife Nic in a tragic car accident. The second is a rare manuscript of Tamerlane, an extremely rare collection of poems by Edgar Allan Poe, said to be worth 400 thousand dollars. After returning home from an early morning job, A.J. finds something unexpected and life-changing tucked away into his store. This then starts a change in his life, taking his down different paths than what he could have ever imagined.

The characters are interesting, diverse and quite dysfunctional on many levels. Those parts of the story I liked. At times the story and the quotes were too sentimental, maudlin even.  It was very purple-prose. Much of the story was predictable and many of twists were cliché. The pacing was too choppy for me. Things just happen from leaping over years, with no transition and no depth. Everything just falls into place, no trouble or effort involved. It was a cop-out gimmick. For all the drama purported through the character’s and their descriptions, there is virtually no conflict in the book. Everything resolves neatly, everyone communicates, is empathic and sympathetic all the time. Its an ideal world of fiction. Maybe that was the author’s intent?

Weekend Cooking: Picnic in Provence

 Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard
Source: Library Copy
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co, 2015
ISBN: 9780316246163
Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes This is the sequel to Lunch in Paris which I absolutely adored. Its one of my favorite French memoirs. The sequel finds us in a small Provencal town of Céreste with Elizabeth, Gwendal and their newest addition to the family, baby Alexandre. What I appreciated the most in this book was Elizabeth’s insightful views on parenting and the difficulties of parenting that no one ever wants to talk about. She spent a good portion talking about her difficulties bonding with her son. I think its something all new parents go through at some point of the early years.
Although Bard has lived in France for 10 years, she still feels like an outsider, always learning and growing. Although, as a side-effect, she lives inbetween worlds. Neither fully at home in France nor in the US. Her observations are poignant, and her chapters are short and to the point. She doesn’t dwell too long on any one topic and at times it seems like the chapters are lifted directly from a journal she kept. What I liked about the book is the small town they moved to. Céreste is incredibly small, and hardly even shows up in the guide books. Although it’s now found a place on the map with the emergence of Elizabeth’s and Gwendal’s ice cream shop,  Scaramouche, in the town square. I’ve always loved Provence. When I think about my honeymoon, I think most about my time in Arles, not Paris. Surprise, surprise. I like the small glimpses into the casual everyday lifestyle of the country, rather than the generic generalizations of big-city living. I sort of wish I reread Lunch in Paris before picking up this book, because I feel like Elizabeth’s voice as a narrator has grown and matured in the years between the books.  
At some point between books, Bard also wrote a cookbook? She makes a slight mention of it in one of the chapters, although I haven’t come across any cookbooks penned by the author. Unless she meant the recipes in these books. These wonderful sounding recipes that make your mouth drool with hunger and anticipation. One thing that I’ve always loved about Bard’s recipes is that she provides a mix of recipes from her life in the states and her life in France. Each recipe has a special story and place in her heart. It makes me want to jot down little stories that go with some of my family’s favorite meals and kitchen concoctions.
Sadly, with the book having a large number of holds on it at the library, I couldn’t keep it for as long as I would have liked. I didn’t get a chance to make any of the recipes in this book, although reading it did inspire me to pick up some new-to-me ingredients in the grocery store and try to create my own recipes for dinners. Most of which were semi-flops, so nothing worth reposting, unless you want a what-not-to-cook guide.