"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Friday, February 19, 2010

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken

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Summary: A woman remembers her stillborn baby and her grief while carrying her second child. 


Wow. I expected to be moved to tears by a woman writing of her stillborn child's birth. Instead I was bored to tears. Where was the pathos, the pain, the anguish, the joy crushed? I've never read anything by the author and I never want to. I've read ads more interesting than this book.

A big disappointment. I know you're thinking, "Clare, the woman's baby dies! This is supposed to be a good story?" But I've read tragedies that moved me -
The Shiniest Jewel, for example is one of the best stories about adoption you will ever read - and I've read boring mommy blogs - you are the best thing that ever happened to me I love you so much yada yada- and both were far more compelling than this book

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Deep Dish by Mary Kay Andrews

Please note: Links pointing to Amazon contain my affiliate ID. Sales resulting from clicks on those links will earn me a percentage of the purchase price. So buy and read now!


Summary: A Southern chef gives up on love to focus on her career but finds love with her rival.


French Silk Pie tastes like “Deep Dish” reads - Sweet, delicious and best in small servings.

Adrift local celebrity chef Gina Foxton seizes an opportunity to leave her cheating manager/boyfriend and claustrophobic life behind her when the Cooking Channel invites her to compete for their newest show. Her competition is uber-manly, and gorgeous, Tate Moody, your basic backyard grilling guy, complete with hound dog named Moonpie.

The Cooking Channel contrives typical reality show challenges, but the real challenge for Gina is figuring out what she wants, what she needs, and how to get it. Toss in some homespun Southern sayings, a recipe I can’t wait to try, and writing with depth and heart and you have “Deep Dish.” This book offers no surprises, but serves up exactly what you are looking for – a light, fun romance.

Now the comparisons: The sexual tension between Gina and Tate is delightful whipped cream, even if some of the characters seem too clich├ęd or fluffy to be real. While we do root for Gina, we can’t help but wince at her crustiness, even as we understand it. Tate reveals himself to be a savvy, nuanced man, like espresso powder added to chocolate filling. Gina’s sister Lisa and Tate’s assistant Val are the chocolate curls, adding drama and appeal.

Enjoy “Deep Dish.” 

Eve: A Novel of the First Woman by Elissa Elliott

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Summary: Adam and Eve's life in and after the Garden of Eden told as a family novel. 


An ambitious novel, laudable in the attempt, if not the execution. "Eve" tells the story of Adam and Eve, and their marriage and family. I most identified with Eve during her marital struggles with Adam. Yes, it's true, even the first woman had trouble getting the first man to understand what she really wanted. The honest, conflicted reflection after Adam barters away Eve's garden belongs in a Dr. Phil session. I found this novel poorly written, with often too much detail, erratic and confusing timelines, and underdeveloped characters. I wanted to like it, but there are too many fascinating novels about Biblical times for me to recommend this.


Read Mary, Called Magdalene or The Red Tent or even Lamb before this.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Julie & Julia - 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell

Please note: Links pointing to Amazon contain my affiliate ID. Sales resulting from clicks on those links will earn me a percentage of the purchase price. So buy and read now!


Summary: An underemployed woman named Julie attempts to cook Julia Childs' food and blogs about it. 


Julie Powell is not the first person to compare sex and food, and thankfully, she won’t be the last. In this self-absorbed blog-turned-book, Julie Powell, a self-described government drone, needs a project to make her life a little more interesting and give it some (or any) meaning – she’s really not sure. (Someone asked George Mallory "Why do you want to climb Mt. Everest?" to which he famously replied, "Because it is there." Same philosophy here.)

Julie sets out to cook all or most of the recipes in Julia Child’s iconic cook book Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. Small New York apartment, challenging recipes, supportive beleaguered husband, a hunt for rare or unusual ingredients interspersed with fictional glimpses of Julia Child’s life – you can see why the Julie/Julia Project would seem intriguing to readers. An exciting premise certainly, but a poorly-written book. Perhaps that’s why Julie and Julia is now a movie starring Amy Adams. Hollywood certainly will improve on the book – tightening up the pointless details, the endless segues and making us care about Powell and her project more.

Powell’s not a good writer, just as many bloggers are not. (There are so many better memoirs out there I wondered how this even got published.) The inane minutia of her childhood and life leave readers exhausted and hoping she’ll get to the point – or any point, really. And the constant pop culture references? Yawn. Okay, already – we know you grew up in the 70s; you watched a lot of TV; you have a crush on Jason Bateman. I kept waiting for the Teen Wolf reference. Powell’s like that friend who only wants to tell you about everything that’s going wrong in her life and needs you as a friend only so she has someone to complain to. Sigh.

The book does have some bright spots. When Powell talks about her friends, you can feel the love and affection she has for them – that’s also when the strongest writing comes out. Her co-worker’s IM trysts with a married man are hysterical as is the co-worker’s ultimate reason for breaking up with him. And while I personally wouldn’t compare liver to sensational sex as Powell does, it made a giggling discussion for my book club as we picked a food that compared to sex with our husbands.

Powell’s blog readers – or “bleaders” – express many of the feelings that readers of this book will have: “Enough already” (referring to aspics) or “Don’t give up,” (referring to lobsters).

Powell also changes the cooking rules recommended by Julia Child when it suits her – substituting tomato paste for seeded, diced, crushed tomatoes when she feels like it but spending hours making mayonnaise. There was no explanation of why she had to follow exactly some of Child’s recommendations for ingredients or why she “cheated” with other ingredients – and don’t forget that Powell explains everything.

If you like reading blogs instead of books, and know a little about cooking but don’t really care, you will likely enjoy this book.