Reading & Reviewing | This is Act 2
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Gearing up to pick up this project properly for the first time in a while! I've set up a little writing space in my home so I can be more focused on reviewing. I've got a stack of books ready to be R&R-ed, as you can see.

For a while I've been too distracted (I kept forgetting about R&R, honestly, because I've been too focused on other things) and uninspired, ideas haven't been coming to me quite as easily as they used to. I also haven't been quite as much of a reader the past year, although right now I'm plowing through a Salman Rushdie and enjoying it: all hope is not yet lost.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I miss this project. I just miss it. I need to do it.

Apart from new reviews, I'm also considering redoing the layout for this whole website. More clean, less clutter. It might take me a while to get around to that part though 😛 but I'm feeling optimistic and glad that I'm at least thinking about this place and this project again.

Meanwhile I have been trying to blog at (about photography, plants, Rome, daily life). I think blogging there, and loving that, has helped me to begin fresh here.

As soon as I have a review ready, I'll post it. I've got my heart set on taking a photo tomorrow, so it shouldn't take me too long (this time).

Thank you, thank you, thank you, everyone who's begun following this blog. Thank you, thank you, thank you a million times over for those of you who are still reading this despite my continued absence and broken promises (to myself mostly).


R&R 136 | My Life in France

A review! FINALLY! I wrapped up some client shoots and one of the first things I did was get this review ready, because it was time. I will continue to be busy for a few more weeks as we're 4 weeks away from our wedding day, buuuuut I will try and prepare another review during that time! Meanwhile, I hope you'll enjoy reading this one.

Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme
My Life in France
First published in: 2006
This edition: movie tie-in, Anchor Books, 2009
ISBN: 978 0 307 47501 5
Pages: 414
Cover: Columbia Pictures


There is only one good Jules in Julie Powell's Julie & Julia, and her name isn't Julie. The one good thing
about that flop of a book, is that it got me curious about Julia Child. (The woman more than the chef, I
should add. All that butter, no thanks. But that feisty lady behind the apron? Yes please!)

The only two good things about Nora Ephron's subsequent movie, are Meryl Streep and even MORE Julia Child, as the movie is based on both Powell's self-indulgent train wreck, and on Julia Child's My Life in France, which deserved Meryl, but also its own movie. Alas. After fast-forwarding through bits featuring Amy Adams's horrible wig (e.g. I only watched "Julia Child's scenes"), the movie at least inspired me to get a copy of My Life in France. A lot of butter, but no more Julie. Hurrah!

And let me tell you. My Life in France is BY FAR the superior book. It has what Powell's self-aggrandizing "memoir" lacks in abundance: love, love of food, respect for others, passion, and genuineness.

Child's voice is infectious. I tend to have trouble starting books, especially when they concern subjects I am trying out. I usually read a lot of fiction, and a lot less non-fiction. And My Life in France is a memoir involving lots of cooking – as this book largely covers the time in Julia's life when she attended the Cordon Bleu and the years after that, writing cook books and starting her TV show – and my interest in cooking and recipes has only really developed this past November. I read this book before then.

So I expected to struggle getting into it, honestly. But it was a breeze to read. Julia Child tells her story with so much joy, and genuine affection. I know the phrase "feel good" is used very, very often… but it is an apt description here. This lady enjoyed life, and it just shows. I think that, in another crazy lifetime during which I would have actually gotten to meet her, that Julia Child and I would've gotten along great. Her personality sparks. I admire her spirit. She put her mind to it, and she did it. Adjusting to France, learning the language, learning to cook. She did it and did it well and that's inspiring.

To continue on this train of thought regarding my expectations for this book: I expected to like it. Definitely. But I ended up really, really loving it and this surprises me, today still. I just didn't think I'd be so taken with Julia Child.

I believe Julia Child is the Original Foodie, and she writes about it with a clear passion. Yes, she would often use French phrases for recipes and ingredients, and that wasn't always easy to follow. But I'm referring to food and a human's senses. The joy of first experiencing a dish, the scents one can detect. Experiencing food. She describes food – cooking it, smelling it, tasting it, processing it – in great detail, and with feeling. Julie Child clearly loved food. She understood it. It's hard to describe food and flavors to other people. I'm a vegetarian, and I don't understand bouillabaisse. But Julia managed to make me get why it's an impressive recipe, even though I could never (bring myself to) enjoy the taste of it. And a large chunk of Child's cooking (and French cuisine basically) consists of meaty meals. But Child still managed to enthuse me about food and cooking generally. I'll just stick to the vegetarian edition 😉

It's not just the food which she describes well; the book is of course about her life in France. She tells us about the places she's been, the people she's met. Her struggles and triumphs. There are detailed, lively anecdotes. My deep kudos to Meryl Streep *bows* (I do think she mastered the essence of the person, and became, Julia Child), and like I said this book deserves its own movie… but truth be told it doesn't really need one, because Julia Child has such a vivid and enthusiastic voice. Child's world really comes alive on the pages.

Besides this being a record of one's journey in cooking, My Life in France is also, of course, about Julia and Paul's marriage. Their story is a sweet one, and I'm glad she had him in her life. Like Julia, Paul comes across as a charismatic but very relatable person. I think he made her even better than she already was. I was charmed by their compatible, supportive and loving relationship. There was so much mutual respect between them and Child really managed to get that across to us readers. I think their connection was my favorite element of this memoir. The man behind the woman behind the apron.

And my compliments to Alex Prud'homme for successfully helping Julia Child streamline and organize her thoughts, notes and memories into one delightful book.

It's weird. I don't usually attach a visual feeling to reading a book. I mean, I do when I review books and take these self-portraits. I reflect and visualize what I would like to express in relation to a particular book. But in this case it was during my reading experience that I could visualize something, which is what this R&R's self-portrait reflects:
It's like Julia would be standing in her kitchen, this tall, impressive woman, in the process of cooking. You smell everything. It's mouthwatering and your stomach growls. But it's okay to wait a while, because you're too focused on this woman and what she's telling you. "Whoop!" she exclaims while expertly swaying from one part of the kitchen to the next, telling you stories about her husband and their first lunch at some cozy restaurant. It's almost like you're sitting at her kitchen's bar, enjoying a glass of red wine together, listening to this fun but fierce woman, contently smiling. Makes me wish it was real… but I'm happy enough with the idea of it.

I made it through

Don't google this if you're watching Game of Thrones and are not reading the A Song of Ice and Fire books, and prefer to remain unspoiled…

…but I made it through the Red Wedding.


What are you guys currently reading?

Recent purchases

I am trying to cut back on book shopping, mostly because I already have at least 80 on my TBR pile. That, and having quit my job in September to become a full time self-employed photographer. (One of the many reasons I've continued neglecting this blog, running one's own business, however small it may be still today, can be quite time consuming.) But I splurge(-ish) every year when I visit the UK. Charity shops! "Ramsj" book deals in the outlet shopping center I visit every April! And the occasional new book. But mostly it's all on the cheap. Here's my loot for 2013:

* Emma Donoghue – The Sealed Letter
* Jeff Lindsay – Dexter in the Dark (I've read books 1 & 2)
* George R.R. Martin – A Feast For Crows
* Lisa Genova – Still Alice (about Alzheimer's)
* Stephen Fry – Moab is my Washpot (Wil found this for me)
* Salman Rushdie – Midnight's Children (time to give it a go)
* Margaret Atwood – Alias Grace
* Tess Gerritsen – (2 in 1 bundle) Gravity & Bloodstream
* Anne Tyler – The Accidental Tourist
* Jonathan Franzen – The Corrections
* George R.R. Martin – A Dance with Dragons 2: After the Feast
* Mark Twain – Huckleberry Finn (a 1950's edition Wil got me)

So now I only need Martin's A Dance With Dragons 1 to have my A Song of Ice and Fire series complete until Martin's next book is out! (I'm currently reading A Storm of Crows Swords – I can't be the only person to consistently get the titles wrong? – book 1 and would like to continue on with book 2 immediately after; I feel comfortable knowing book 4 is in my book case for when I finish that one!)
The Dexter book will allow me to continue on with that series as well.

I'm also pleased with the Gerritsen bundle; I read The Surgeon at the beginning of the year, was impressed with it, so much that I think I will explore Gerritsen's other books and make her my "go-to thriller (medicrime) writer", thus saying goodbye to Kathy Reichs, whose books I've found intelligent, but less and less exciting and rather formulaic (I've read up to book 9 in the Bones series, and it seems they somehow all end the same way).

Atwood is a no-brainer for me. I've only read two of her books so far (The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake), but plan to read many more, and whenever I see one of her titles I will buy it. I'm always fascinated with dystopic tales and post-apocalyptic worlds / (what formerly were) societies.
Anne Tyler is also slowly becoming one of those authors I generally look out for when I go book shopping, because I like how she writes / developes / presents her characters.

I took a gamble on the Lisa Genova book, because the subject matter (early onset Alzheimer's disease) is a formerly-professional point of interest for me, as I used to work – and at one point in life had high hopes to continue working – with patients with Alzheimer's, vascular dementia, Parkinson's Disease and Korsakov's syndrome. (Some years after this, my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, making my interest in the subject personal in nature.)

The Rushdie was staring at me from the charity shop shelf, attempting to intimidate me into not buying it (and it failed). The Franzen book The Corrections was going the opposite route: "I know I'm not Freedom – which is on that list you are currently holding in your hands – but I still must insist that you buy me". Success.

We love us some Stephen Fry, Wil and I, but it was the Moab in the title Moab is my Washpot which made Wil pick this up and shove it – lovingly – in my hands. We have visited Moab, Utah together in 2007, to go hiking in Arches National Park (Wil had been there once before that). It is one of his favorite places in the world.
(Speaking of titles: I am a fan of Ian McEwan generally, meaning you can make me happy with any one of his books, so it would have been put on my wish list anyway – but when I saw his next book is titled Sweet Tooth, I knew I will have to buy it when it's out. It's about spies, not about sweets and treats and other subjects suitable for people like us – people whose names are literally Sweet Tooth – but ah, details.)

I am a huge fan of Emma Donoghue's Room, so was happy to find another one of her books for a good price (but I was strangely, and hypocritically, almost offended to find Room – "such a brilliant book!" – on a major discount pile next to the Fifty Shades of Grey series).

Wow. I hadn't expected to be able to blog this much about my purchased books. I thought I'd post a list and get an update in, but I guess I had forgotten how much I do miss discussing and thinking about books. So this was a nice blog for me to write.
My life will continue to be busy for a while, with the business but also because we do have a wedding around the corner (and we are planning and doing it all ourselves). So I just can't say when I'll have a new review up, or any new post for that matter… but I've enjoyed blogging today!