Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell

As part of the most recent Weekly Geeks, I'm reviewing this book "interview style." I received more questions from Joy Renee, and I promise I'm not ignoring her excellent questions, but they require more thought, and in the interest of just getting this posted, and I'm going to have to skip those.

What is Julie and Julia about?
Julie Powell was 29 years old, working as a secretary in post-9/11 New York City, and was basically having an existential crisis. After running across Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking at her mother's house, Julie came up with the idea of cooking all the recipes in the book over the course of a year. Her husband, Eric, suggested she blog about it and thus started the Julie/Julia Project. The blog became extremely popular and ultimately Julie got a book deal out of it, the finished product being Julie & Julia. The book is not just a republishing of the blog in book form, but instead it is Julie's recounting of her experience cooking and blogging her way through the project. Another one of the questions was is this non-fiction. Yes, it is.

Please share your impressions of Julie as a person.
This one is a tough one. If you've read my previous post about this book, you will know that maybe 1/3 of the way through the book I realized I went to high school with Julie. She was a year younger than me, and we didn't really know each other, but I definitely knew who she was. Especially since she dated someone who eventually dated one of my best friends and, um, me, sort of. So while reading this book, I couldn't keep from picturing her as I remembered her from almost 20 years ago and trying to reconcile that memory with what I was reading. Hard to do when you didn't really know the person other than in passing. I actually know way more about her now than I ever did then! One funny thing. At the point in the book where I began to really wonder if this might be the same Julie I remembered, she mentioned being on her high school drill team and that the only reason she had tried out was to prove she couldn't make it, but then did and had to suffer through it for the year. I distinctly remember being *very* surprised way back when that she was on drill team - she just didn't seem the type. I guess I was right! Getting back to the real question though. I really liked Julie in the book (even before I realized who it was). I've seen some scathing reviews, and a lot of people really disliked her, but I thought her humor was great. She may have been a little obsessive (can't really say much there, as I think I would be the same way if I were doing something like this). The one thing that seemed a little weird was her VERY STRONG dislike of Republicans. Now, I'm a Democrat, but I thought some of the things Julie said about her Republican coworkers was just downright mean.

The book came out of a cooking project and a blog. Did it inspire you to take on a similar project of your own?
It made me think this could be a cool idea, but I don't think I could ever take on anything like this. I am way too picky of an eater to work my way through an entire cookbook. I could see wanting to cook all the recipes that I would *eat* maybe... Or all the desserts in a book. Hmmm...that's not a bad idea!

Addendum: (I originally wrote out these responses last Friday, and I've thought more about this since then.) While I could never take on an official project like this, I did buy a copy of The Foods and Wines of Spain by Penelope Casas last night, and I have every intention of attempting as many recipes out of this book as possible. I even will likely blog about it (among other food-related things) at a yet-to-be-created blog which I will call "Hold the Onions, Please."
Have you ever tried to master the art of French cooking? Would you want to?

No and no! I wouldn't mind dabbling a bit, but French food's not my thing really. Or maybe it's just this impression of French food I have that's not my thing.

Did you feel that Julie adequately conveyed the humor and struggles of trying to live up to a famous cookbook author? How would this book have been different if she'd tried taking on Martha Stewart, for example?

Yes, I thought Julie did a really good job at this. I'm not sure the book would have been that different had she been trying to be Martha. Different struggles, but probably similarly frustrating.

Edited to add this question...Did you find any good recipes in the book?

This wasn't a cookbook, per se, so no. There were references to a few recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking that sounded good, though, that I might one day hunt down. Don't remember what they were, though....

I passed this book along to a friend of mine this past weekend that I went to high school. She was much more informed than me. When I asked, "Do you remember Julie Foster?" she said, "Yes! Didn't she write a book or something?"

This book will fill the "J" title category in the A-Z challenge.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Barnes & Noble gift card

I received a nice B&N gift card today from one of my supervisors, so Jimmy and I went shopping tonight after dinner. I'm still really resisting buying new fiction books, since I have so many to read. I ended up with a cookbook (The Food and Wines of Spain), Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, and a wooden Tangram set with a neat book that has a lot of historical information about these neat puzzles, as well as tons and tons of designs to create. My desk calendar last year was a tangram calendar, and I've missed doing them. This will be a nice coffee table item. So, one fiction book to add to the stack, but it's a classic, and I don't mind adding classics...

It's Tuesday, where are you?

I am in a reading slump. Seriously, I just can't get excited about anything I pick up. I started As If Being 12 3/4 Isn't Bad Enough, My Mom's Running for President (an ARC I picked up at TLA) on Friday and decided not to read it. I found it annoying (the main character is a spelling bee winner and has a tendency to spell words out in the middle of sentences, among other things) and decided not to waste my time with it. It got pretty good reviews on Amazon, so I'm thinking it just isn't my style. So after work, before we left for Austin, I grabbed Shogun. I really want to read this, but it is an immense book and the font is tiny. At this time, I just can't get into it. I'm thinking that once I start riding the bus to work in a few weeks, that might be a good time to pick it back up (or whenever it pops up on my randomizer again). So now I have grabbed Taken by Edward Bloor, but I fell asleep about a page into it last night, so time will only tell if I
stick with this one.

So where am I?

On my commute, I am with Lady Jane Dudley (previously Lady Jane Grey) in the tower of London. I'm at the very end of this book, so I'm not going to say anymore, in case you don't know how Jane's story ends. (To tell you the truth, I'm so unfamiliar with this time period, that even being 50 minutes from the end of the book, I'm still not completely sure what's going to happen!) (The Innocent Traitor by Allison Weir)

And at bedtime, we are at Camp Half-Blood with Percy and his other demi-god pals. We just discovered why the book is titled what it is. (The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan)

Play along at And yay! Hopefully this is the last time I'll have to post this via e-mail, since next week I'm on vacation and the next week I'll be in a new job where my access to blogger isn't blocked!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Weekly geeks

I had hoped to get my reviews/questions written but haven't had a chance, and now we're heading out the door for a quick trip to Austin. I just wanted to let all of you have asked questions know that I do plan to answer them!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It's Tuesday, where are you?

Today I am in Cape Cod, probably in the 60s or 70s at Blackbird House. (I actually haven't picked it up yet today, but since the last story took place in the late 50s, I'm guessing at the time period for the next.) My family is the 7th or 8th generation of occupants of this old house, which has quite a history. (Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman)

Sunday, July 20, 2008


What is it about colds that make it so hard to read? You'd think that when you're feeling under the weather and don't really have any desire to do much else besides lay on the sofa that that would be the ideal time to lose yourself in a book. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work that way for me, so my reading time hasn't been taken advantage of today. Hopefully I'll be feeling better tomorrow...

I'm reading Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman and am enjoying it when I feel like reading it.

My reading time is either getting ready to take a plunge or get boosted in the next few weeks. I was offered a job at our downtown library on Friday (yay!) and am going to start taking advantage of the Park & Ride service instead of driving, to save my sanity and, more importantly, on gas. Hopefully this is going to give me prime reading time before and after work, but I may also use it for knitting/crocheting. That would almost be the best of both worlds, though, since I could listen to an audiobook while knitting. I'm sure I'll get all obsessive about how I divide that time. Reading in the morning, audiobook/knitting in the evenings? Reading one day, audiobook the next? I'm sure I'll find some way to make this way more complex than it needs to be!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Book giveaway: The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Lori at Lori's Reading Corner is giving away a copy of The Host by Stephenie Meyer. Hop on over for a chance to win!

Weekly Geeks #12

This week's Weekly Geeks is a variation on last week's theme, in which we picked one of Dewey's books and asked questions for her to answer in a review. However, this time it's reversed. We're supposed to choose books that we need to review and ask YOU, our devoted readers, to ask questions for us to address in a review. I currently have 3 books waiting to be reviewed. You aren't limited to one particular book, as this isn't a giveaway (the library might not be too happy with me for giving away 2 library books!), so ask me about any or all of these three books. Leave your questions in the comments, and I will post about these books later in the week.

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Julie and Julia by Julie Powell
Wait for Me by An Na

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It's Tuesday - where are you?

I haven't done this in a few weeks for some reason...

I just started a new book last night and am not very far into it. I believe I am in California working in my parents' dry cleaning business. (Wait for Me by An Na)
We *finally* finished Peter and the Starcatchers, so at bedtime we are now in New York City where we just fought off a bunch of cannibals in a really ferocious game of dodge ball. (The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan)
On my commute, I will be in England where my parents and Thomas Seymour are trying their darnedest to get me married off to the king. (The Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir)

Play along at

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi

I think this book made it to my wishlist after a mention in either (the now defunct) Pages or Bookmarks. I always find it interesting to begin books that have been on my wishlist for a long time, because in most cases I've completely forgotten what it was about them that grabbed my attention in the first place. Such was the case with The Icarus Girl.

Jessamy Harrison was born in England, but her mother is Nigerian and her father British. Jess has always been a moody, quiet child, but when she meets Titiola (Jess calls her TillyTilly because she can't pronounce Titiola) while visiting family in Nigeria things start to get weird.

Overall, I really liked this book. However, the end left me a little mystified. Honestly, I'm not sure how it actually ended. So I had to knock half a star off my rating, giving it 3.5 stars instead of 4. Also, Jess is supposed to be an 8-year-old little girl, and she is much too wise and articulate for a girl of that age, in my opinion. Oyeyemi was only 18 when she wrote The Icarus Girl, which I find very impressive!

This fills the "I" title spot in the A-Z challenge.

Whoa! Weird coincidence!

I picked up Julie & Julia last night. It was on my wishlist for a long time and found it on the bargain shelf at Borders (boo hiss Borders) sometime within the past year. I was pleasantly surprised to discover early into the book that the author, Julie Powell, grew up in Austin, Texas, where I lived in high school. Didn't think much about it other than, huh, wonder what school she went to, what part of Austin she lived in, etc. Then a little further in she mentions wanting to be an actress and further on mentioning that she was on the drill team, which, coincidentally, wore the same white cowboy hats the drill team at my school wore. So I really started wracking my brain. Who did I know named Julie that was on the drill team that was also in theater. And I came up with a name. Surely not. I couldn't keep reading; I had to do some sleuthing to see if I could figure out if this just happened to be the Julie I remembered from high school. Yeah. It is. So weird. We weren't friends, but our circles touched a bit at times - she was a year younger than me, and I'd be seriously surprised if she even knew who I was. But whoa. So, Julie, if you happen across this blog post, congratulations on the book (a few years late now...), which I was enjoying even before I realized I knew who you were! :-)

BAFAB Winner!

Congratulations to Popin, who won my BAFAB giveaway! (And yes, I did use the randomizer - it's purely coincidence that Popin was also the first entrant!)

Popin, e-mail me at and let me know where to send Life on the Refrigerator Door.

Weekly Geeks #11

I've been a slacker the past few weeks when it comes to Weekly Geeks.

Week #8 was the scavenger hunt which I knew from the get-go I wouldn't be able to finish, since my blog hopping time is pretty limited.

Week #9's theme was to organize your challenges or join some if you didn't have anything to organize. The only challenge I have going right now is the A-Z challenge, as I've finished the others, and I don't really want to join another one right now. I'm enjoying my current reading MO and am not ready to shake things up again yet. (What is my current MO, you ask? The Randomizer has been my best friend of late. I had 2 lists I was feeding my habit from - the Tayshas list and my TBR list of books I own. Then, I was messing with my Amazon wishlist one day and decided to throw that one into the mix, too. So now, I pick one from the Tayshas list, then one from the TBR list, then one from the Amazon wishlist. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.)

Week #10's theme was to talk about the magazines we read. I'm not really a big magazine reader, so I passed. I subscribe to Better Homes & Gardens but don't think I've ever sat down and read one in detail. I also subscribe to Cook's Country, which, actually, I really like, but probably won't subscribe to again because I just joined the Cooks Illustrated website instead. And I pick up Bookmarks occasionally.

But now I'm back. For Week #11, Dewey wants us to help her move by choosing one of the books she needs to review and part with so that she has fewer books to move. What a fun idea!

I choose Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, because it's one that I wanted to read last year but never got around to it. Here are my questions:

1. Which character from this book did you most relate to and why?
2. The School Library Journal review of this book says, "Dessen explores the interior and exterior lives of her characters and shows their flaws, humanity, struggles, and incremental successes." Do you think that Dessen is successful at this?
3. If you could pick one character to spend a weekend with, who would it be and why?

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Braid by Helen Frost

I read The Braid because it is on the Tayshas List, a recommended reading list by the Texas Library Association. It got great reviews on Amazon, but I have to say it didn't leave much of an impression on me.

The book is very short - around 90 pages, so I was able to read it in one afternoon. The story is of a Scottish family in the 1850s who are evicted from their home. The entire family is supposed to emigrate to Canada, but one sister hides so that she can stay behind with her grandmother, who is moving to a nearby island. The night before the family departed, the sisters braided their hair together and, when she left, Sarah cut the braid and left half with her sister and carried the other half with her. The family encounters much hardship on the way to and in Canada, while Sarah, the sister who stays behind finds love, and, in a different way, also hardship.

The book itself is very clever. It is narrated alternately between two sisters, Jeannie and Sarah. Each narrative section is accompanied by a poem featuring some aspect of the previous narrative. At the end of the book, Frost explains the form of the book, which is quite complex. In fact, I need to go back and look at the book before returning it to the library, as I think knowing this about the book will make it stand out more in my memory.

I do recommend this one, especially since it is such a short read. While the strength of this book is in the clever format, I would have enjoyed a longer novel more I think, in order to get to know the characters more.

This book fills the F author spot for the A-Z challenge.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Belated June summary

I can't believe it's July already! Here's my June summary. July is off to a good start so far, too!

Books finished:

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (graphic novel)
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Prey by Lurlene McDaniel (YA)
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (YA)
One Good Punch by Rich Wallace (YA)
The Porridge Pot retold by Anthea Bell (picture book)
That Darn Yarn by Tony Millionaire (picture book)
Masterpiece by Elise Broach (children's)
Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt (YA)
It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris (older children's)
Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers
No Girls Allowed: Tales of Daring Women Dressed As Men for Love, Freedom and Adventure by Susan Hughes (children's, graphic novel)
Doctor Illuminatus: The Alchemist's Son Part I by Martin Booth (children's, audiobook)
Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult (audiobook)

WOW! That's a lot of books for me! Granted, many of those are YA and quick reads, but still. I also read most of Little Women (but that counts as a July read, since I finished on July 4), and I read part of Deadline by Chris Crutcher.

Challenge update:

Finished Once Upon a Time Challenge
Technically, I have finished the Chunkster Challenge, too, but that counts as July, so hopefully I'll remember that at the end of the month!

Currently reading:

Peter and the Starcatchers - We're 2 chapters away from finishing this one. Been reading it for aaaaggggeeessss now! Next up for bedtime is The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan.

The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi - I started this one a couple of days ago and am about 1/3 of the way through. Next up is Julie and Julia.

The Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey by Alison Weir - I chose this audiobook after hearing good reviews from both Amanda (the Librarian) and Lezlie. It is definitely living up to the hype!

Sunday, July 6, 2008


I'm hosting my first ever book giveaway!

The winner can choose one book from the following ARCs that I have received:

Becky by Lenore Hart
The Translator by Daoud Hari
Every Past Thing by Pamela Thompson
The Venetian Mask by Rosalind Laker
Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers
Prey by Lurlene McDaniel
Sexless in the City by Anna Broadway

To enter, leave a comment. I'll randomly pick a name (see, my randomizer has more than one use!) next Saturday.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


I don't want to take the time to do full-fledged reviews of the books I read for the read-a-thon last week or the couple of audiobooks I've read recently, but I do want to give them a mention, so I'll do minireviews.

First off, read-a-thon.

It's Perfectly Normal by Robie H. Harris. I already wrote a short blurb about this during the actual read-a-thon, but I'll mention it again here. This book has been challenged left and right for its sexual content. Duh. It's a sex ed book; of course it contains sexual content. I think people that challenge material like this are afraid. Afraid that if their children know more than the little bit of information they eek out, they will end up sexually promiscuous, or even just sexually active. I, personally, think the opposite is true. In my opinion, the more well-informed children are, the more likely they are to make wise decisions when it comes to sex. At least, that is the philosophy we have adopted in our family. I have no hesitations whatsoever in letting my children read It's Perfectly Normal. I think Harris presents a very balanced resource on puberty, sex, and birth.

Life on the Refrigerator Door. While this book is 200+ pages, it is a very quick read - I read it in less than an hour. As it consists of notes written between a mother and her teenage daughter, many pages hold only 1 or 2 sentences. Short though it is, I found this book very sad. Early in the book the mom is diagnosed with breast cancer, so many of the notes are reminders of appointments and quick check-ins. I found it so sad that in a time of such despair, so little face-to-face communication occurred between mother and daughter. I would hope that were I ever, god forbid, in the same situation, that I would make more time for my family and that they would do the same for me.

No Girls Allowed! This one was an ARC I picked up at TLA and hasn't been published yet. This book is in graphic format and presents the stories of several women throughout history who dressed as men in order to be successful. The targeted age for this book is 9-12 years, which feels about right. The stories were simple; the drawings all in black and white (I think this is final formatting, but the official release may have colored illustrations). I enjoyed it, but I can't see it being hugely popular. It would make a nice addition to a classroom library.

Doctor Illuminatus. Laura and I listened to this one while she was attending a 3-week band camp. It is the story of two kids (whose names I have already forgotten) who have recently moved into a very old manor house in England. They soon meet Sebastian, who, while appears to only be 12 years old, is actually nearly 600 years old. Sebastian's father was an alchemist who discovered a way to manipulate time and Sebastian is the benefactor of this gift. In this book, Sebastian enlists the help of the two children to stop the villain (whose name I can't spell - that's the problem with audiobooks sometimes), who also was privy to Sebastian's father's knowledge. The book was fast-paced and had lots of humor and lots of pseudoscience. We enjoyed it, but it wasn't remarkable. I'm sure my husband would have torn apart the science had we been reading it aloud!

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult. I admit it. I'm a Picoult junkie. She is actually the only pop-fiction author I read, at least on a regular basis. I was hooked when I first read The Pact more than 7 years ago. In this book, a man convicted of murdering a police officer and his young stepdaughter decides he wants to donate his heart when he is executed to the daughter of the little girl he killed. Due to remarkable events, people begin to think Shay (the inmate) could be a messiah. There is a lot of religion in this book. One of the main characters is a priest who served on the jury that convicted Shay, and he undergoes a crisis of faith. Another character, an ACLU lawyer representing Shay, is the atheist daughter of a rabbi. I was afraid the religious content was going to be turn-off, but as Picoult does with many issues, she makes religion a point of debate. I was impressed that she used the gnostic gospels in her arguments. As a freethinker, I would be interested to hear what others with firm religious beliefs think about this book.

And finally, Little Women. I finally finished this one last night. I had tried to read this a few times over they years but could never settle on it long enough. I finally stuck with it, and I'm so glad I did. I can't say that it makes my list of favorites, but I really did enjoy it. I feel like I'm finally part of the club and can know what people are talking about when discussing this book. And I did love the characters. And I did almost cry several times (which does say a lot about the impression the book had on me). And I laughed out loud several times. I found Jo so refreshing. And the sarcasm and teasing between Laurie and the girls - so many books of this time (in the ohsomany I've read...yeah, right) portray young women as still and really prescribing to social norms. It was really cool to see that girls back then could be just as spunky and opinionated as girls today.