Category Archives: Books

French Film Friday – Movie Review

What's in a Name? Poster 

Last night I watched this incredibly funny movie, What’s in a Name? The film is actually an adaptation of the play, which was also written by film’s directors, Matthieu Delaporte and Alexandre de La Patellière.

The premise: Family dinner. When Vincent announces the name of his future son, he starts a chain of reactions and revelations that spark debate, controversy and some pretty incredible truths about how the family really feels about each other.

The film stars Patrick Bruel in the lead role of impish Vincent. Most of the actors are new to me, but I’m really just beginning to delve into the world of contemporary French films.

My husband watched the movie with me and we both agreed that the entire premise of this movie would never really take off in the US, unless it was an under-funded indie film. Even then, I wonder. The entire movie takes place in the living room of Babu (Vincent’s sister). She and her husband are hosting dinner for her brother, his wife and Babu’s childhood best friend Claude. During the course of the dinner, Vincent announces the results of the ultrasound (a boy) and then the selected name for his son. I won’t reveal the name, but it sparks a heated discussion between all of the party members. This revelation leads to some other revelations about each person at the dinner party. Its kind of like that episode of Friends where the entire cast snitches on each other to Monica and Ross’ parents.

Vincent’s seemingly innocent joke about the baby’s name goes too far and soon everyone is digging up the past as they fling insults at each other. The actors themselves are precise and impeccable in their acting and intensity of emotion that they bring to their parts. No one misses a beat.

The New York Times has a wonderful review of the film if you don’t mind a few spoilers about the name reveal.

French Cinema

I think I’ve hit a wall on French memoirs and fiction. I think I’ve pretty much read everything I want to/need to read. Although I am discovering picture books set in Paris with my son (he loves Madeline and Babar right now), I haven’t been indulging in as many French travel books as before. They all seem repetitive and it really seems like Scandinavia is really plugging their culture as the hip new thing everyone should be obsessed with. There are a number of books about hygge and other elements of Danish living that are flooding the  blogs and bookshelves right now.

All this is a long-winded way of saying that I’ve been delving more and more into French movies. Contemporary, fun, and interesting French films. Since there is no Goodreads for movies, I figure this blog is the best way to really document what I’m watching.

I’m not quite sure what is it about French films. Its not even that they are set in France. Its really the stories that they tell. Maybe its the limited budgets, but the stories are so much more streamlined and less hyperbolic than American movies. There is so much less fluff, less nonsense, less arbitrary supporting characters.

I’m playing a bit of catch-up with this post, but hopefully I’ll have a weekly movie review coming up on this site. Well, maybe weekly. Or as often as I watch a French film.

Le Chef Poster

(2012)  A young chef, Jacky, keeps getting fired because he gets creative in the kitchen. An older chef, Alexandre, puts up a battle, knowing that he’ll soon be bumped from his coveted position to make room for another young chef who specializes in molecular gastronomy. In a world of food, friendships and rivalries, Jacky & Alexandre work together to save Alexandre’s job.

 

Haute Cuisine Poster (2012) This is a wonderful biographical movie about chef Danièle Delpeuch and how she was appointed as the private chef for François Mitterrand. She dealt with an enormous amount of sexism in the kitchen, but nevertheless, produced some amazing meals for the president. Its a wonderfully touching and inspiring movie.

All That Glitters Poster

(2010) Lila and Ely are best friends who live just on the outskirts of Paris. They go to the clubs on the weekends and are your typical party-girls with hears of gold.  When Lila begins a relationship with a wealthy Parisian, she and Ely soon begin living a lie about their own financial status, putting a strain on their friendship as well as on their relationships with their families. I really adored this movie. Anyone who is not born into glamour or wealth can appreciate the motivation of these two girls to keep up with high-society.

Blind Date Poster (2015) Fed up with living under her father’s thumb, a young pianist finds an apartment to call her own. On her first night, she runs away thinking its haunted. Further inspection leads her to find out that its actually her neighbor. A shy, reclusive artist who hates sharing the thin walls with anybody.  Things get interesting when she moves in and won’t stand for his demand for absolute quiet. Its a very cute and funny love story. I can picture an early 80s American version with Meg Ryan.

The Intouchables Poster

(2011)  This one is my absolute favorite that I have seen so far. I can safely say I like it better than Amelie (ducks undercover). This is the story of a man who becomes quadriplegic after a paragliding accident and his rough-around-the-edges caretaker. The two form an unlikely friendship. Philippe is a young aristocrat surrounding by pity, Driss is recently released from jail and looking for any way to support his mother and their large family. This movie is actually based on a true story. It really reminded me of Jojo Moyes Me Before You. Its sentimental, but not a tear-jerker. The characters are authentic and relatable without feeling forced. I highly recommend this movie if you ever have the chance.

1/3 Dinner: Orange glaze chicken with pearl cous cous & steamed veggies


The glaze is adapted from an America’s Test Kitchen recipe. The original recipe is for chicken, but it works wonderfully for tofu. 

I cooked the cous cous in chicken broth, but it still tasted super bland until I added the minced parsley. 

All in all, dinner was healthy, bland and quick to make. I feel like the plate is missing something, something of substance. Maybe we needed bread? Or salad?

1/2 Kitchen attempts

I didn’t work today, so now I’m sitting in the messiest little kitchen, waiting for my Oven-Fried Chicken to finish baking in the oven. 

I’ve spent nearly all day in the kitchen today. 

  • Bread – I attempted the Pain Ordinaire recipe from the book The Art of Bread. I’ve followed this recipe 5 times already with no success. I’m wondering if it’s my oven or the recipe that is off. The bread is burnt and under baked no matter what I try. The trouble with bread is that there are too many variables, and I can’t figure out which step is out of alignment. 
  • Scallop potatoes – This recipe is a sped up version from America’s Test Kitchen. I had to use milk & butter in lieu of heavy cream & I cut up too many potatoes. But I think it tastes OK. 
  • Chips – I had leftover potatoes from the scallop potatoes, so I wanted to make chips. They burnt to a crisp in the first 5 minutes. 
  • Oven-Fried Chicken – this recipe is from my old faithful cookbook Better Homes & Garden New Cookbook: Bridal Edition. Its still in the oven, so no comments yet, but I feel fairly confident it’ll turn out decent. I have to make something that didn’t work from this book. Turned out better than I could have imagined! The best thing I’ve made all day! 

New year, new direction

2017 Resolutions

  1. Bake something (bread, cookies, cakes, etc) 1x a week
  2. Read 1 book off my Goodreads To Read list once a month
  3. Learn how to properly bake a basic loaf of bread
  4. Cook 1 new vegetable a week

My list isn’t very extensive. There is more I want to add to it, but I don’t want to make too many promises that I can’t follow through. My work schedule has shifted, so now I’m home at a reasonable time & can actually cook for my family again. I want to expand my kitchen skills and really push myself out of my comfort zones. 

There will be failures, but there will also be some success stories. Hopefully more of the latter. Maybe this blog will keep me motivated to follow through on my cooking adventures. Or at least, give me an outlet from which I can learn from my mistakes. 

Luke’s Diner Day!

lukes16 years ago, Gilmore Girl premiered on TV and has thus madly influenced the copious levels of coffee I drink daily, the books I read yearly and the pace of my speech, quips and oddball humor.

Now that Netflix is reviving the show for a mere (but highly anticipated 4 episodes!) they partnered with 200 coffee shops around the US to convert them into mini-Luke’s Diners to pass out free cups of coffee for the first 200-250 people.

I actually went to visit on these Luke’s Diners to get my complimentary coffee and coffee sleeve, because who turns down free coffee??

The line was long, but the people were friendly. There were more Gilmore Girl fans than not. Although I am baffled at how long people will wait in line for a free cup of coffee as a promo for a TV show they don’t even watch.

Here are my goodies and takeaway’s from this morning adventure:

The line. There were just as many people ahead of me as there were behind me.

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My Cup with promised Lorelei coffee quote:

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The sleeve. Note – there is nothing special underneath the sleeve itself. Just a quote and a Snapchat filter on the actual coffee cup.

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The No Cell Phone Sign:

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It was a fun morning, and I’m glad to see so many people excited for the show. I’m not sure if I’ll spend my entire Black Friday watching all 4 episodes, or if I’ll space it out over time and savor the humor. What will you do? Have you tried my Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge yet? Cuz…I kind of gave up on it a while ago. Although the spirit of reading is still strong with me. Just not blogging or reviewing. Those flames are gone. =p

Paris in July 2016 – Reading Adventures

If there is anything that would bring me out of my blogging hibernation, its probably my favorite yearly event. Paris in July hosted by the wonderful Tamara at Thyme for Tea.

Paris in July 2016

 

Paris Reborn: Napoléon III, Baron Haussmann, and the Quest to Build a Modern City
I don’t have much on my plate this summer. I’m currently reading this book:

Its a view of the political world and dealings of the Paris restructuring of the 1860’s under Napoleon III’s empire with Baron Haussmann at the helm. Its an interesting read, although I wish it included more maps, better pictures and more talk about the effects of the renovation and demolitions on the inhabitants of Paris, rather than the political dealings of government trying to get this grand project underway.

 


I recently stumbled on this amazing walking tour of Paris via my library’s Hoopla account:

Its an hour-long walking tour of the some of the most scenic and idyllic views of the city of light. Its technically meant for those passing their productive time away on treadmills and elliptical machines, but I prefer to watch the views pass by from the comfort of my computer chair.

 

I don’t have any other grand projects in mind beyond the usual. Watching some French movies, listening to French music and bringing home some picture books set in France for my preschooler. He’s already well-acquainted with the Eiffel Tower. In fact, almost everything he builds with blocks he calls “The Eiffel Tire.” We’ll see where the rest of the month takes me.

 

Hello from the other side

Oh my goodness, I did not quite realize how long its been since I last posted a review or anything on this site. Is anyone still even following?

I am reading, quite a lot actually. I’m enjoying “most” of what I’m reading. I just have very little time to actually write concrete posts on here anymore. Its probably best to just friend/follow me on Goodreads.

Currently Reading:

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper (Fills the void left by Harold Fry)

&

How To Be a Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Tudor Life (So detailed! If only I could my hands on her other title How to be a Victorian.)

This doesn’t cover everything, but here’s snap shot of what I’ve read recently that I both liked/didn’t like.

What I liked:

Vincent This graphic novel by Barbara Stok is a wonderful snap shot into a most tumultuous and inspired time in Van Gogh’s life spent in Provence. The story is interspersed with text from the letters Vincent would write to his brother Theo. Its a great book, although not really for anyone who isn’t familiar with Van Gogh.

 

 

Paris Is Always a Good Idea Paris is Always a Good Idea y Nicholas Barreau is a cute and predictable little story set in Paris. I liked all the characters, but its such a typical chick-flick/rom-com set in Paris. Ah. Barreau should be writing screenplays for movies. I’d go to every one. In this book, Rosalie Laurent sells wishes at her little postcard shop. When traveling to Paris, a clumsy New York professor stumbles upon a certain book in her store that sends both of them down a mysterious guessing game as to the origins of the book’s story.

 

What I didn’t like:

Only in Naples: Lessons in Food and Famiglia from My Italian Mother-in-Law Only in Naples by Katherine Wilson was all over the blogs a few months ago. I listed to the audiobook and I regretted about every minute of it. The narrator is aggravating and self-indulgent. Her memoir of food and family is really just about her making fun of Naples and its residents. I couldn’t connect to her and her portrayal of everyone in her life just really made her out of touch with reality. She is an heir to the Wilson family fortune, the Wilson brought to fame in Castaway. Maybe she and I are on just two different planes. The only parts of her memoir that I enjoyed was her time talking about her pregnancy and parenting in Naples. Even then, it felt like the stories were forced, made to be far too precious.

This Too Shall Pass A pretty cover does not always make for a good story. This Too Shall Pass by Milena Busquets is a story of a young women dealing with the grief of losing her mother to cancer. The author does a great job capturing those early moments of grief after the death of a parent. Although I could understand and relate to Blanca’s emotional confusion, there was something off about the book. It’s told in a stream of consciousness style in Blanca’s voice. It’s a short book, though.

March Recap

March was also another busy, busy month. Busy at work, busy at home, busy moving. Again, the best place to track what I’m reading and what I think of the books I’m reading is Goodreads. I hope that I’ll be back to writing individual reviews on here in April. Or at least weekly recaps. My reading has slowed down some. There seems to be a huge disparity between the books on my to-read list, the books available on Overdrive as audio, and the books physically housed in my local library. It’s like a venn diagram where none of the three circles overlap.

March final count:

  • Books = 3
  • Audiobooks = 4
  • Fiction = 4
  • Nonfiction = 3

Total = 7

Total for 2016 = 23

The Madwoman UpstairsThe Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell
Format: book

This was not exactly the Jane Eyre literary scavenger hunt I  had hoped it would be. The narrator was initially quite annoying and boastful of her family’s celebrated relationship to the Bronte sisters. She mellowed out over time and I came to appreciate her self-deprecating jokes. The love story was incredibly predictable and I never had a clear sense of where the story was headed. She ignored large parts of the “hunt” for most of the book. But it did all come together at the end and it was an ending I didn’t exactly expect.

Enchantment: The Life of Audrey HepburnEnchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn by Donald Spoto
Format: Audio Book

I’d been wanting to read an Audrey Hepburn biography for years. I finally found one on my library’s Overdrive and immediately checked it out. I wish I had read another one instead. The author spent most of the book critiquing her movies and co-starts than actually talking about her life. His opinions felt forced, arbitrary and unjustified. I was also shocked to learn at the number of extramarital affairs Audrey Hepburn participated in during her life. The author wrote her to be such a sad and unloved person, ready to jump into the arms of anyone willing to show her affection. I feel like I read to another account to balance out his summary of her life.

Modern RomanceModern Romance by Aziz Ansari
Format: Audiobook

Although I enjoyed his narration and his exploration of the world of modern dating, I am so grateful to not be in this world anymore. My husband and I met in college when AIM was still the main source of online communication. We heavily utilized chat services and Gmail Chat when we were long distance to keep in touch because neither of us are phone people. But the amount of online options, personas and drama that is going on today is ridiculous. Ansari’s narration was at times stilted (when he was clearly reading his co-partner’s words) and at times natural and humorous (his audiobook asides and improve moments). I went into this book expecting it to be like Master of None, but it is clearly a different animal altogether.

Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs, #2) Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear
Format: Audiobook

I enjoyed this second Maisie Dobbs book so much more than the first. This one immediately jumps right into a missing persons case with is tied to a series of mysterious deaths of three young women around London. I just wish the author gave more insight into Maisie’s thought process when figuring out the case. Things just happen, or things are just told but without any detail for the reader. It was a bit choppy, but I really liked the chemistry between all the characters and each person had their own personality. I’m taking a wee break before jumping into book 3. I’m hoping book 3 has a different narrator than book 2. I wasn’t too fond of the narrator for this book. Her reading voice was so rushed that I had to double-check to make sure the pace wasn’t sped up on accident on Overdrive.

Across the Pond: An Englishman's View of America Across the Pond: An Englishman’s View of America by Terry Eagleton
Format: Book

I had really high hopes for this book. I’m constantly reading about Americans overseas. I really wanted to read the reverse. What are we really like as a country? Well, Terry Eagleton answered my question. We are rude, fat, religious prudes. His book was full of sweeping generalizations, random jabs, small moment of British self-deprecating opines and unfocused bias. I wasn’t sure what his point was through the entire short read. He never offered any examples or studies aside from his random run-ons on the Ivy League campus where he taught. Maybe if he actually did some research outside of his small inner circle of friends, it would be something worth reading.

The Remains of the Day The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Format: Audiobook

Goodreads recommended that I read this book because I loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Well, I’m glad I picked it up. It is an incredibly lovely novel about the most faithful and devoted British butler you’ll come across. I think fans of Downton Abbey will really appreciate this book and its story. I enjoyed the book when I was listening to it, but I’m not sure if I liked the story or the narrator’s reading. Mr. Stevens emitted a robotic aura, always concerned with dignity and loyalty to his lordship, rather than projecting any kind of accessible emotion. I still sympathized for him and could feel his struggle to both feel emotions and yet remain distant from his emotions so that he could fulfill his duties at his utmost capabilities. It is an interesting look at the “downstairs” life of servants in the early 20th century. I wasn’t sure impressed, but I am curious to see what the author’s other books are like.

Be Frank With Me Be Frank with me by Julia Clairborne Johnson
Format: Book

I’m not sure where I first heard of this book, but I was happy to be a recipient of a copy from LibraryThing’s First Reads group. The book itself is both charming and annoying. Trite and endearing. Much like the two main characters, the mother-son duo who make up half of the relevant cast. This is the story of a small-town girl, Alice, moving to LA to “help” a reclusive and incredibly famous author finish her second book. The relationship between Frank and Alice felt very unrealistic. Frank was both the best and worst part of the book. I’m starting to develop a real pet-peeve against kid characters being wise beyond their years. Just write kids as kids. Stop making them prophets or something more symbolic already.
This post first appeared on http://www.thenovelworld.com on 4/5/2016

Copycat Covers

I finally found one!

Its the same cover, just flipped. One is a fiction and the other is a non-fiction about the fashion industry and only 3 years apart.

1048517  4993001