It seems like there’s a slew of new travel memoirs coming out this summer! Here are a few that caught my eye. Just in time for Paris in July too!
It seems like there’s a slew of new travel memoirs coming out this summer! Here are a few that caught my eye. Just in time for Paris in July too!
Is that I am constantly reminded of all of the books that I won’t ever get to read. As quickly as I try to read through books now, my to-read list on Goodreads is a bottomless pit. 424 books and counting.
This has been a decent year of reading for me though. 18 books in 5 months. I always start strong in the first couple months of the year, and then by summer I’m struggling to finish a book in two months.
Here are some of the books I read in the recent months:
I just finished this one last week. It was…so-so. I really enjoyed the history of the street. Rue des Martyrs is tucked away by Montmontre. It seems like a quiet and simple little street in such a big and bustling city.
This one was one of the better historical fiction novels set in Paris that I’ve read. Set during WWII, it focuses on a small little village in France that is under Nazi occupation. The characters were varied and engrossing. I particularly enjoyed the protagonists’s glum nature, although based on the reviews I’ve read, others didn’t feel the same.
I’m a few days late on this recap, but I also didn’t really get very far with reading either. My library had a Friend’s of the Library Booksale on Saturday and I picked up a wonderful selection of books all for $6. Seriously, I live off of book sales like these.
I also picked up a copy of these two books, but they didn’t make it into the group photo shoot.
What I finished:
The summary and the cover are what attracted me to this book. As well as a sneak peek into the author’s newest book coming out in March Paris is Always a Good Idea. Ingredients of Love is a cute little love story based on a massive, self-serving deception of a naïve restaurant chef, Aurelie, by a book publisher, Andre. One sad and lonely day after being dumped by her boyfriend Claude, Aurelie goes for a long and thoughtful walk and finds herself in a charming little bookstore. Unsure of what to do, the bookseller directs her to table covered with novels. The first one she picks up is somehow about her and her restaurant. After that, her search for the author leads her to Andre and madcap hijinks ensue.
Its kind of nice reading a contemporary love story set in Paris that is not a memoir with biting or thoughtful social philosophy and observation. Its just a story of a guy and a girl and how they “fell in love.” Its very cheesy, but I liked the author’s writing style. He’s no Antoine Laurain, he’s still my number 1 for French fiction. But I did enjoy this book, despite the lackluster heroine (she’s quite dull). Andre was very entertaining in his determination to keep the ruse of his double personality. Its very reminiscent of a 1990s Meg Ryan Rom-Com.
I went back to the audiobook version of Casino Royale. Although I liked the book, it just didn’t live up to the hype and the myth that surrounds the theatrical version of James Bond. This book is our first introduction to Bond. Like the book itself, or maybe the book is like Bond, both are very dry and matter-of-fact. Bond is more sexist than charming, and not very clever despite being a good gambler. I wasn’t very impressed, but it was a quick read at only 187 pages, so I might give the follow-up novels a try to see if he gets more exciting. I kept waiting to see if Vesper would do something besides being kidnapped and looking pretty. I think my modern feminist view clashed with the sexism of the 1960s. As Bond put it, women were only good for cooking and sex. They had no role in espionage. How he became a 007 agent was someone disappointing too. It was revealed during a quick mention of him having killed a couple of people. That’s it. A quick two sentences and viola. The book was a nice step away from the hard-boiled crime novels I was reading. Now I’m ready for something more exciting, like books about espionage, and government level conspiracies.
What I’m Reading Now
It’s an 87 page story, but because it’s on my bedside table, I only read 2-3 pages before I go to bed. I hope to finish it this week though. It’s quite a juicy story and I’m loving watching Watson and Mary fall in love with each other.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Format: Audiobook / Read by Jim Broadbent
Unassuming and mild manner Harold wakes up one morning with a letter from a former co-worker informing him of her battle with cancer. After spending some time thinking of a reply to her letter, Harold finally puts the pen to paper. But when he walks to the post to deliver it, he has an overwhelming sense that a letter is not enough. So he walks to the next post box, and then keeps going. He makes a decision that if he walks the 500 miles to Berwick upon Tweed, then he can save Queenie Hennessy from her cancer.
This book is amazing. The narrator is amazing and I never want it to it. Harold is one of those super flawed characters that you cheer for anyway. He’s a coward, a bad father (detached, not cruel), but he’s sensitive, vulnerable and his travel is more of a philosophical look into his life than it is about saving Queenie. It’s wonderfully introspective and I love being on this journey with Harold.
This quote is from The Ingredients of Love, but I feel it applies very well to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
“Sometimes you go out in order to get somewhere. And sometimes you just go out to walk and walk and go farther and farther until the clouds clear, despair calms down, or you have thought a thought through to the very end”
I like this little weekly summary of what I’m reading. If you’re really curious as to what books are going through my revolving door of interest, follow me on Goodreads.
What I finished:
Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn (Daisy Dalyrmple Book #1)
I’m not sure why, but I’ve fallen into a historical murder mystery fiction mode. I really enjoyed Death at Wentwater Court, at least I did until the ending. Daisy Darlymple is a new journalist, writing columns about the homes of the England’s wealthiest and finest aristocracy. During a stay at a friend’s estate, Daisy and her companions stumble upon the corpse of one of the house guests. Now Daisy is entangled in solving the mystery with the local detective. The book was fun, although the author was very heavy-handed with the slang of the era towards the beginning of the novel. I enjoyed the mystery, the twists and the guesses as to who-dunnit. The only bell that really rang false for me was how the eventual murder was solved and Daisy’s attempts to convince the murderer to escape to Brazil.
Near death due to the influenza, Helena Parr promised herself that if she survived, she would make sure to really live her life. After a miraculous recovery, she decides to leave her gossip-riddled life in England and go to France for a year to live with her eccentric aunt Agnes, studying art. Along the way, Helena makes a motley cru assortment of friends and meets and greets the various literary and artistic elite of this jazz age of Paris’s past. This book was fairly boring from start to end. I still don’t understand the concept or reasoning for the character of Louisette. She’s meant to be a chaperone for Daisy Fields, one of Helena’s classmates, but she’s never actively a part of the story and then she’s quickly swept away at the end. Although, the story and romance is very predictable and there is little to no plot in the story. Just Helena going to school and being chummy. I think the only thing that kept me engaged with the story was Robson’s writing style and the ease of which I felt transposed back to Paris of the 1920s. She has a great talent with description and setting. I just wish her book had some more depth and character development to it. All the characters were flat, minus the tropes of the eccentric aunt and flamboyant artist friends.
What I’m Reading Now
Although this is penned as two novellas covered the tale of Nick and Nora Charles following the hit novel The Thin Man, this comes across more as a screenplay than a novella. Which is fine, but I think what I loved most about The Thin Man was Hammett’s setting and use of descriptive writing to really bring the characters alive. And Nick and Nora are possibly by favorite literacy couple. The story is definitely dated though, with blatant racism and sexism in its depictions of certain characters. It does take away from the story. Although the audio is still fairly entertaining as its read by a full ensemble cast of narrators.
I have yet to venture in the James Bond world. I’ve seen a couple of the newer movies, but I thought I should give the books a try as they fit in quite perfectly with my murder mystery theme of the month. I did start on the audiobook, but I couldn’t concentrate on the narration, so I’m giving the print version a try.
Fresh off the tails of the Sherlock Christmas special, I’m back into the world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I did read A Study in Scarlet a while ago, but have stagnated on reading the rest of the Sherlock books because I honestly have no clue in what order they need to be read. There are the 4 novels and various essays and short stories and mini novels. A co-worker recommend I spilt the works into groups, pre-death Sherlock and post-revival Sherlock. In either case, it doesn’t matter too much in which order I read the stories in those two groups.
Title: Delicious by Ruth Reichl
Source: Library copy
Publisher: Random House, 2014
Billie Breslin is a girl with a magical palate and a flair for cooking. This skill, however, goes unused as Billie moves from Santa Barbara to New York to work for the famed food magazine, Delicious. After a year at the magazine, the owner decides to fold the magazine and fire all of its employees except for one. Billie remains as the sole employee to ensure the Delicious Guarantee that all the printed recipes satisfy their customers. This requires a lot of phone calls and research. In the now abandoned mansion, Billie finally gains access to the library. A secret room that has been locked and sealed for decades. After researching a particular recipe, Billie stumbled upon a series of letters from the famed James Beard and a young girl named Lulu living in Indiana. Soon, Billie realizes that each letter holds a clue as to where the next letter would be filed in the library’s archives. Putting together the clues, Billie learns not only about Lulu’s life during World War II, but she gains some valuable insight into her own life as well.
The narration by Julia Whelan was purely mesmerizing. The story, despite some flaws, eye-rolling moments and predictability, was well-written and well executed. The characters had a respectable depth and differentiation. I’m so used to supporting characters blending into each other, that is was refreshing to read a book where each side character stood apart. I’m not quite sure if I can credit that to the author or to the narrator though. Whelan’s impression and different voices were superb.
The story did have some flaws. The whole ugly duckling into a beautiful swan scene with Billie was some over-the-top and unnecessary. A girl who never put any effort or thought into how she looked, ate bad take-out Chinese food each night and never exercised ends up a body of a model and a hidden flair for putting outfits together. I also didn’t understand why someone with a deep-rooted avoidance of cooking, to the point of it inducing panic attacks, would want to work at a food magazine where cooking takes places around the clock. The storyline with her sister was predictable from the first email as was the eventual love story.
All that aside, I really did enjoy the story. I LOVED the library scavenger hunt. It was so clever the librarian, Birdie, hid the letters and the clues that Billie had to look for to find the next letter. I loved reading about Lulu’s childhood with her insecurities and uncertainties, all during World War II. Reichl definitely did her research and presented a very unique and personal take on the war from a small-town outlook. Reichl is known as a food writer, and it’s clearly evident how skilled she is when she wrote about the kitchens, the cooking and the food. I was craving Italian food non-stop when listening to this book. It’s definitely a good choice for a foodie.
Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page.
The post: Weekend Cooking – Book Review: Delicious by Ruth Reichl appeared first on The Novel World.
Dr. Suskind’s involvement with early childhood education and literacy comes from a rather unique perspective. Dr. Suskind is a pediatric cochlear implant surgeon, giving children the gift of sound and hearing. It was during the post-op and follow-ups with her young patients that she began noticing peculiarities and shocking differences in language acquisition, intelligence and emotional development. Her observations led her down the vast rabbit-hole of research, study and data regarding early childhood brain development. The most notable study on this field is the Hart & Risley 30 Million Word Gap study conducted in the 1980’s. Through meticulous data collection, Hart and Risley stumbled upon a wide gap between children from low-income families and children from high-income families. Financial disparities aside, it was found that by the time a child is ready to enter Kindergarten, a child from a low-income family will have heard 30 million few words than a child from a high-income family. 30,000,000. That is a whopping gap when it comes to setting the educational foundations of our nation’s children. Studies have shown that by the time a child is 3 years old, 80% of their brain has developed. By the time a child is 6, 95% of their will have been developed. The very early years, the zero to 3, are monumentally important for a child’s future academic and personal success. But since preschool doesn’t normally start for children under they turn 3, and the Kindergarten starting age is around 5, there is large number of children that fall under the educational radar.
Enter Dr. Suskind. With a bevy of data, science and facts at her side, she develops the Thirty Million Words Initiative to help bridge the gap and provide every child a fair chance at success in their lives. It’s very compelling for new parents who are not aware of the power of talking to their children. Suskind breaks down her Initiative into three basic activities for adults:
by paying attention to what your child is communicating to you.
with your child using descriptive words to build his vocabulary.
by encouraging your child to respond to your words and actions. (courtesy of http://thirtymillionwords.org/)
I really did enjoy Suskind’s book, but all while reading it, I felt like something was lacking. She spent a great portion of the beginning talk about the research that she conducted, which was great. But then, when she got to the actual 3 T’s (or 3 C’s in Spanish) the chapters were short and didn’t really provide very many tips. The main points of the book can be summed up as: Talk to your kids. Read, Sing, Play. Engage with your children. I think her ideas and research would have been better suited as a long article rather than an entire book. I do love her bibliography and it has given me a huge list of articles and books to read as early childhood literacy has been my primary focus as a librarian during the last few years. Suskind’s program works as a workshop for parents. It is promoted as a curriculum that will help parents harness their strengths when interacting with their child. It teachers parents how to expand on ideas, how to talk to their children, how to observe what their child is doing and to build on those experiences. For the most part, this is a Chicago based initiative, and I’m curious as to their results of the program.
This is a topic that hits close to home as I see and work with a number of children across the socio-economic range. I try to instill a sense of confidence and pride in parents that come to the library. My library system has taken part of the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten initiative and we have sign-ups in massive numbers at the library and at outreach events. Parents care about their children and they want them to succeed. It’s just that so few parents know that the first 3 years are really the most important when it comes to creating a scaffolding for the future. This is a good book for anyone wanting to get their feet wet in the data of early literacy. There are so many excellent resources out there. I really feel as if there is a new emerging focus on the Zero to 3 age-range right now, and I’m excited to be a part of it.
The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Thériault
Source: Library Copy
Publisher: Hesperus Nova, 2014
ISBN: 9781843915362, 108 pages
Bilodo is, as the title suggests, a lonely postman living in Montreal. He’s an introverted, quiet man who delivers mail by day, returning to his lonely and empty apartment at night. Despite the monotony of his life, he’s found a way to break the cycle. He pockets personal letters and steams open the envelope in his kitchen at night, reading the contents. The letters do eventually find their way to their intended recipients, albeit a few days late. It is during one of these intercepted letters where Bilodo first comes across Ségolène’s letters to Gaston. Their letters, an exchange of haikus, excites Bilodo as he wedges himself into their world as an invisible interloper. During one of his delivery rounds, he witnesses a horrific accident, where Gaston is struck by a car on his way to deliver a letter to Ségolène. From here, Bilodo’s world takes an unexpected twist as he finds himself that much closer to Ségolène.
This short novella is quite peculiar, as the title states. The postman, Bilodo is a creeper who steals personal letters to steam open and read at night after his shift. The book is a tragic love story with elements of fantasy. It’s more psychological than anything although we don’t really get into Bilodo’s head. I wish the story was told from his point of view rather than a 3rd person narrator. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to feel sympathy for him or see his downfall as a warning. It’s a bit shallow on that end. It could have been a better novella with a bit more depth and introspection into Bilodo’s fragmented sense of sense and his deteriorating sense of life. Maybe this was lost in the translation? There were also a lot of little details that were left unanswered. How does he afford to keep two apartments with one postman’s salary? How does he suddenly learn to write haikus just by putting on a kimono? How does he go two years without anyone noticing their mail being tampered with? I have more questions. The fantasy elements were too subtle, I couldn’t suspend reality to accept its overlay throughout the novella.
At times, it felt like the book was more about poetry than about people. In those instances, I was reminded of another novella about a postman. Il Postino, The Postman. Set in Italy, this is the story of a humble and sweet postman who learns how to write love poetry from the famed Pablo Neruda to win the admiration of a beautiful girl in his village. This is one of my favorite movies and one of my favorite books. The love story, the poetry and the tragic ending are heart-breaking and so genuine. If you want a book about a postman and poetry with a love angle, I’d opt for the latter book. If you want a book about a creepy 27-year-old who spies on his neighborhood, go for the first book.
This has been an epic year of reading for me. Nearly every book I’ve picked up to read, I have enjoyed. Its bizarre, its wonderful. I’m on a roll and I can’t stop. I forgot how much fun books can be. How engrossing they can be. Its so easy to get bogged down in the poorly written stories and characters and be put-off, but no. This has been a wonderful year of reading and there’s still so much left to do!
In the past week, I’ve checked out these books from my library. I’m not sure what order I’ll be reading them in, but I’m excited to get started.
The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
Source: My Copy
Find this book at your local library
This book has been sitting on my bookshelf for over a year now. I don’t remember exactly why I grabbed it other than knowing that the author is someone well-known and a person that well-read readers read. I was not disappointed.
From the introduction to the very first page of the book, I was mesmerized by Maugham’s use of language to paint such a stoic, dramatic and engaging perspective of life. I didn’t really know what to expect when I started reading this book, I had absolutely no idea what it was about when I began reading.
The book begins with a short biography about Kitty, who is born and bred for a fine marriage. When that fails, her mother marries her off to the next available suitor, Mr. Walter Fane. Shortly after marriage, Kitty accompanies her husband to China. His work as a bacteriologist leads him away from their home in England. Once in China, Kitty is bored and unhappy with her marriage and engages in an affair with colonial officer Charles Townsend. Up until this point, I had Anna Karenina similarities running through my head and I found Kitty to be incredibly vapid and annoying. That is until Walter found out about the affair and gave Kitty two options. 1) Divorce (on the condition that she marry Charles in 2 weeks time) or 2) accompany him to cholera-ridden town of Mei-tan-fu. This marks the turning point for Kitty, when Charles undoubtedly lets her down. Whisked away to the dangerous city, Kitty befriends the French nuns at the local church and begins to work with them, helping the young children in the village.
In its simplest description, it’s a tale of redemption for Kitty. She commits a sin, denies the sin, accepts the sin and tries to atone for it. Watching the slow evolution of Kitty took me by surprise. I didn’t fully realize how much she had changed until the end. Even then, she still hadn’t changed that much, at least not when reintroduced to Charles Townsend towards the end of the book. The novel had its racist moments particularly in the descriptions of the Chinese citizens. The book was written in the 1924, not that it’s an excuse, but apparently it was accepted commentary back then. Maugham didn’t really shed anyone in a favorable light except maybe the Mother Superior. Kitty, Charles, Walter, everyone had their faults and insecurities. Even in her search for redemption, I still found Kitty slightly unlikable.
The book is very short, but covers so much ground. Racism, colonialism, adultery, isolation, filial strains, friendship, unhappiness, etc. The list goes on. Quite a few times I forgot that the book was written nearly 90 years ago, so many of the issues brought up in the book are contemporary issues of today. I think that’s what makes this book a classic and timeless in its message.
© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld This was originally posted on The Novel World on 8/10/2015
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.
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.
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.