I occasionally watch The Food Network. Okay, that's a lie. I can't stop watching Chopped, even though I yell at the contestants and judges all the tim...moreI occasionally watch The Food Network. Okay, that's a lie. I can't stop watching Chopped, even though I yell at the contestants and judges all the time, and whenever Iron Chef America is on, I'll watch. But I'm not a foodie by any means. First off, I'm a vegetarian so my options are limited. And then, I'm pretty picky and have a few favorite cuisines that I usually stick to.
I'm no fan of France. I'm also not a detractor, but I've never had an overwhelming urge to visit and it's not on my list of top places I must go before I die.
All that taken into account, a few years ago I saw the movie Julie & Julia. I liked it, especially the Julia part. Prior to the movie, I had heard of Julia Child and knew she was a chef but didn't know much beyond that. With Meryl Streep's portrayal, I definitely felt like finding out more about her (and wished that the movie had been just Julia).
I added My Life in France to my reading list at that time. Recently I came across it in my library's e-lending program and decided to check it out.
I really enjoyed it. Though the book is a collaboration with Julia and her nephew, and I guess he technically wrote it (not sure about this point), it seems like her personality and style is definitely conveyed in the writing. Julia Child seemed like such as nice and fun person to get to know. While reading, I wanted to have her a friend.
The book is not a straight autobiography per se. As Prud'Homme mentions in the intro, they wrote a lot of it based on her memories and Paul Child's letters. So while it follows a basic timeline, it does get a bit jumpy, going from topic to topic, sometimes without real transitions. This was disconcerting at first, but I got used to it pretty quickly.
As the title suggests, the book chronicles Child's life in France, but it also goes beyond that, up to her husband's death. There is a LOT of France in this book (duh) and a LOT of cooking (double duh). Even though I'm not into either, I really liked it. It was fascinating to read her experiences and her thoughts. Her love of both France and cooking was extremely evident in the pages.
What I really enjoyed the most, and what really showed off how cooking-obsessed Child was, was her dedication to the recipes, both on an emotional level, and surprisingly, on a scientific level. Child talked about how often she made every recipe, how she tried all kinds of variations, all kinds of ingredients, all sorts of variations on different pieces, to come to the best way to make something. That's ridiculous dedication! For one item (French bread, I think) she mentioned how she went through 200lbs of flour until the final recipe emerged.
As a proponent of science, I just loved that!
The other thing that was pretty awesome was that Child didn't come into cooking till she was in her 30s and her passion exploded after that. I think that's amazing and hard to imagine in today's world, where it seems like your whole life should be organized and you should know what your life goals are right as you come out of the womb!
Julia Child was definitely an interesting and inspiring person. I'm glad I read this book and got to know her better. I think I'm a better person for it.(less)
I learned recently that Lawrence Anthony died in March. I didn't know anything about him until I read this book, and even then, my knowledge was limit...moreI learned recently that Lawrence Anthony died in March. I didn't know anything about him until I read this book, and even then, my knowledge was limited. Of course, it takes his death to learn more about him and find out that he was a respected leader for African wildlife conservation.
I'd seen this book at my library many times and finally decided to check it out due to some zoo research I've been doing. It was a very quick and engaging read. The story is about how Anthony found out about the plight of the animals at the Baghdad Zoo during the Iraq invasion and decided that he had to go and help out at any cost.
To say the book is eye-opening is probably an understatement. Not only do you get to witness the utter devastation at the Baghdad Zoo, but you also get to experience life in a war zone. It's no picnic, in case you were unsure. However, the dedication of Anthony, along with the perseverence of the Baghdad Zoo caretakers, and even the care and aid of the soldiers in the area was something fantastic to read about.
The book moved me to anger, to tears, and sometimes even (the faintest, tiniest bit of) hope. No matter what you feel about war, I think this is a good read for animal lovers and people interested in zoos.
So Bossypants definitely lived up to the hype, as I expected it would. I really enjoyed the book - parts of it were laugh-out-loud funny. So why doesn...moreSo Bossypants definitely lived up to the hype, as I expected it would. I really enjoyed the book - parts of it were laugh-out-loud funny. So why doesn't it get 5 stars? I'm not sure. I guess I wish it were longer. I know it was essentially a bunch of essays, with some interconnectedness but I'm selfish and I just wanted more. That's not Tina Fey's fault per se. (Or is it?) I loved the way she explored a variety of topics, such as women in the workplace (LOVED the chapter on the "love letter" to Amy Poehler) to breastfeeding. This is definitely a must-read book.(less)
This is the book I expected my previous (unfinished) read - Florence: A Delicate Case - to be. It served as a nice introduction to Rome prior to my tr...moreThis is the book I expected my previous (unfinished) read - Florence: A Delicate Case - to be. It served as a nice introduction to Rome prior to my trip there. The author intersperses his experiences in Rome with the history of the city, serving as a tour guide through the streets, the monuments, and the art.
This was a short, easy read, one that I probably could have finished in a few hours if I just sat down and focused. It was a great introduction to a city that I knew little about.(less)
Here's another deep, dark confession of mine (to accompany the one in my review of Life Itself): I don't watch The Office. I'm not really much into th...moreHere's another deep, dark confession of mine (to accompany the one in my review of Life Itself): I don't watch The Office. I'm not really much into the humor of the show, or maybe I've never really given it a chance. I've only watched bits and pieces of random episodes here and there.
But when I saw that Mindy Kaling had a book coming out, I knew I had to read it. Because how many Asians (India is part of Asia! Crazy, isn't it?) do you know that go into something offbeat like comedy and acting (it's definitely not being a doctor or engineer!) - and become successful at it?!
The inevitable comparisons will be to Tina Fey's Bossypants but I don't think that's quite fair.
This book kind of has me split. There were great parts and then there were parts that underwhelmed me. The stories about her childhood, growing up, her jobs, and working at The Office were really good. There were a couple of laugh-out-loud moments for me. But where the book lost me was in the "fluff" pieces, so-called by other reviewers here - for example, some of the pieces in the Romance and Guys section read like blog posts and I don't think they really added anything to the book.
Overall, this was a super-fast, fun read, and great for a few laughs.(less)
Who hasn't heard of Roger Ebert? Well, I suppose there are many people who haven't. But I have. I grew up hearing the Siskel & Ebert thumbs up or...moreWho hasn't heard of Roger Ebert? Well, I suppose there are many people who haven't. But I have. I grew up hearing the Siskel & Ebert thumbs up or thumbs down on movies. But I didn't really go beyond that.
Here's my deep, dark confession. I didn't get into Roger Ebert until the advent of Twitter. Actually, it wasn't really until I read the Esquire piece on him last year that I became interested in who he was and what he does. I was never into reviews, whether they were of movies or books. But in the past few years what I've begun to do is read the reviews after watching a movie or reading a book, to compare my thoughts and feelings to that of others. So these days, I usually dig out my phone after coming out of a movie theater to check Ebert's reviews. Many times I agree with him but there are often times I don't.
The book talks about his life, focusing a large part on his youth, and an even larger part on his days in college and post-college, at the newspaper. For me, the first quarter of the book wasn't bad, the second quarter dragged on and was a bit boring for me, and the last half was really good.
The last half focuses on his relationships with famous "movie people," and then talks about his later years. I guess because I didn't get into what he does till his later years, the earlier stuff was not really as interesting to me. Plus a bunch of the earlier chapters seemed to get repetitive to me and there wasn't a linear progression among the chapters, so that got a little confusing.
The parts where he talked about movies and actors was fascinating. Frankly, I didn't really grow up watching movies - I was a bookworm - so much of that I was not familiar with, including movies, actors, etc. But reading his writing made you you long for the good old days of the movies even though you weren't quite sure what the good old days were like.
Overall, most of this book was pretty interesting and while I don't think there would be an occasion for me to read it again, I'm glad I read it once.
My favorite quote: The first time I saw John Wayne, he was striding toward me out of the Georgia sun as helicopters landed behind him. His face was a deep brown. He was wearing a combat helmet, an ammo belt, had a canteen on his hip, was carrying a rifle, and stood six feet four inches. He stuck out his hand and said, "John Wayne." That was not necessary. (p247)(less)
I mulled over this one a bit. I think Roxane Gay's review here on GoodReads is a fantastic summation of how I felt about the book. In fact, y...more2.5 stars
I mulled over this one a bit. I think Roxane Gay's review here on GoodReads is a fantastic summation of how I felt about the book. In fact, you should probably just read that and not bother with anything I have to say in the next few paragraphs.
I definitely found funny parts and select quotes that were on point. But it seems to me that there was a lot of over-generalization on the behaviors and characteristics of women and men. And the title doesn't really make sense - as Roxane says, this was definitely way more of a memoir than anything else.
I'd heard critiques of Moran that she's used racist language (definitely some casual racism in this book!) and isn't really a supporter of LGBT rights, etc., so after reading the book, I set out to find out more. That led me down the Internet rabbit hole, as this kind of thing often does. I learned about all kinds of Internet fights, and even found out some Doctor Who related critiques. I had to stop myself because I seriously could have gotten lost in the tangles of the Interwebs.
Overall, I think Moran is writing from a very specific viewpoint and generalizing her experiences to a whole wide world of women that quite obviously don't share her background. Perhaps if this were presented as more of a memoir, as "here's how I've managed to get around in the world," it might have worked better.(less)
A light, quick read - I would probably almost call this a children's book except that it's longer (in terms of pages) than most children's books. I ha...moreA light, quick read - I would probably almost call this a children's book except that it's longer (in terms of pages) than most children's books. I had no idea Betty White was so into animals and zoos. I think it's great that someone of her level is involved in this type of work, which you don't see that often.
Looking through the pictures was fun, but most of the text was fluffy. I did love how she infused a bit of humor in places. It made me grin.
It's very text-light overall. Shouldn't take more than an hour, if that, to get through. I saw Betty White on The Daily Show a couple weeks ago, talking about this book and being funny, as she is wont to do. Saw the book at the library a bit later and thought I'd check it out.
My favorite quote:
Perhaps a simpler approach would be to ask which animals I don't find fascinating, and I could honestly say, "None." The only ones I find disappointing on occasion are the two-legged type, but they are still interesting, nonetheless.
I love Betty White. Unfortunately I missed her birthday special recently so instead, I watched a ton of Youtube videos of her, in current and old role...moreI love Betty White. Unfortunately I missed her birthday special recently so instead, I watched a ton of Youtube videos of her, in current and old roles, on Inside the Actors Studio, on old game shows, etc.
This book was a short, cute read about her life, written in 2011. It was a very quick read but I really felt myself wanting more. I wanted more substance as well as more of her humor in the writing, and while there is some, it fell short of my expectations. That's probably the problem: my expectations.
I am glad I read this though - it definitely gives you a window into White's mind. She is an amazing, inspiring woman, still going strong at 90. If I could have even half of her energy I'd be happy!
Some of my favorite parts/quotes:
[Advice given to Betty from her mother, something we could all use:] "Bets, you can lie to anyone in the world and even get away with it, perhaps, but when you are alone and look into your own eyes in the mirror, you can’t sidestep the truth. Always be sure you can meet those eyes directly. Otherwise, it’s big trouble, my girl."
Okay, so I’m weird. At least I am in good company.
[This is something I'd say:] The trainer, whose name is Dennis Christian, asked if I would like to meet their beluga whales. How is that for the silliest question ever?
[Flashes of her humor:] All my life, even as a kid, I have preferred men older than I am. Unfortunately, today I don’t think there is anyone older than I am! Even at this age, once in a while I meet a man who seems a trifle more interesting than usual. Nothing untoward—just someone who might be fun to know a little better. I’ve even thought (to myself) that it might be nice if he asked me to lunch or dinner, perhaps. Then reality kicks in and it cracks me up. This guy is probably a much younger man—maybe only eighty—and not about to even look my way.
When I learned that Nora Ephron died, I didn't know much about her. But as I read some obituaries and articles about her, I became more interested. I...moreWhen I learned that Nora Ephron died, I didn't know much about her. But as I read some obituaries and articles about her, I became more interested. I read her essay A Few Words about Breasts and I knew I had to read more.
When I picked up this book from the library, the librarian told me I was to young to be reading it. Of course, I look younger than I am. I told her I had read the breasts essay and thought it was hilarious. She apparently really liked her writing.
So I started the book with high expectations and at first, I was a bit let down. I didn't really identify with the first few essays (they didn't have much to do with age at that point). But I continued on, hoping it would get better.
It actually did. About a third or halfway through the book, maybe around the essay Moving On, I started to enjoy it. I thought the later essays were poignant, well written, and humorous at times. And of course, I really liked her thoughts on reading.
Ironically, it was the last essay, Consider the Alternative, wherein Ephron talks about getting old and dealing with death, that I enjoyed the most. Though I feel old, I'm nowhere near the age she was when writing it (64). Yet, I still identify with what she wrote and connected with it. It also made me think of my parents and in-laws, who are approaching that age, and what will happen as the years go by.
It was also really poignant considering she died recently.
Because of the latter half of the book, I'm bumping this up to 3.5 stars. (less)
I picked this one up as part of my preparations for an upcoming trip to Vermont. Unfortunately, since Wren was walking to Vermont, th...moreRating: 3.5 stars
I picked this one up as part of my preparations for an upcoming trip to Vermont. Unfortunately, since Wren was walking to Vermont, there wasn't really much of the state in the book. However, I did end up enjoying it.
Wren is a retiring journalist - a foreign correspondent - for the New York Times, and decides to literally walk into his retirement. He is walking from his apartment in NYC to his house in Vermont. This involved walking through the city and its suburbs and then walking part of the Appalachian Trail.
Throughout the book, Wren reflects on his experiences as a foreign correspondent, comparing moments in current time with the past. It was really interesting to read his stories.
I also liked his descriptions of all the excesses of Americans, which rang true. Especially enjoyed this this tidbit he added: The Chinese describe such excess as "drawing a snake and adding feet." But sometimes, he definitely came off as entirely "you kids get off my lawn!" I.e., that crotchety old man you want to avoid. (Though I can't say I'm not getting there myself!)
Even though this didn't really have much to do with Vermont, I'm glad I picked it up. I need to read more books about the Appalachian Trail (and the Pacific Crest Trail, the West Cost equivalent).
Quotes I liked:
I slept no worse than anyone else might after trudging eleven miles over mountains, downing three beers, grilled salmon, a chicken quesadilla, and a banana pudding pie, then stretching out on a queen-size inner-spring mattress in a darkened room in front of C-SPAN. (p111)
Food writers can be a pretentious, irritating lot, and no more so than when they disparage chocolate desserts as sinful or decadent. Sin and decadence are words that define the human condition, not desserts. Sinful? Dropping poison gas on the Kurds when you're the despot of Iraq is sinful. Decadent? Ordering forty-dollar entrees and sixty-dollar bottles of wine in an exclusive restaurant in Manhattan is decadent, when the less privileged are sleeping on the grates outside. Chocolate is merely delicious, and what's the sin in that? (p121)
Today, American-style adolescence remains a luxury that much of the world still cannot afford. (p198)