Book Review: My Life in France

Book Review: My Life in France

By Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme

I got this book while at an airport – I had finished the one I brought with me and was trying to choose something that I knew a relative or friend wouldn’t buy (because those usually get mailed to me!). Since I love cooking, am eagerly anticipating Julie & Julia from Netflix, and know nothing about Julia Child, I chose her book, My Life in France.

I went into this book with no expectations, and to be honest, didn’t want to put it down once I started reading. However, for some reason, I felt oddly unsatisfied when I finished the book… like I didn’t know what she talked about for 300 pages.

The first two-thirds of the book were when Child actually lived in France and was learning to cook. I enjoyed the bits and pieces about her cooking classes, I wish there had been a lot more about her trials and errors in the kitchen and her experimentation while working on her cookbook.  I did appreciate the glimpses into the 1950s – life in France at the time and the American diplomatic bureaucracy as the Cold War was just beginning. However, I wish there would have been more about Child’s experiences in the kitchen.

The end of the book really focused on the publication of Child’s cookbooks and her work doing tv cooking shows – she traveled back and forth between Norway, France and the U.S. Definitely more about cooking here. However, what I appreciated most about this section was the descriptions of working together with her husband, who was retired at the time and was an amateur photographer and artist. The descriptions of the two of them working together on recipes or the cookbook were just wonderful!

Recommendation? I would recommend this book for a glimpse into Julia Child’s life and into the time period, but if you’re expecting full stories about how she learned to cook or her lessons, I would probably skip this book, as I found that lacking.

A Mystery Addict II

A couple more of my favorite mystery authors. All are quite addicting – I start reading one of theirs and get hooked, always disappointed when I realize that I have to wait for a new book to come out. It’s a good thing my family keeps me well-stocked with an assortment of mystery books (I get a box or so a month, usually more than I can keep up with!).

I hope you enjoy getting to know these authors and their characters as much as I have. Please let me know what you think, or if you have any new recommendations for me and the family (fellow mystery addicts) to try!

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Alex Kava: Most of Kava’s books are trilogies, several centered around FBI profiler Maggie O’Dell. Unlike Brennan and Stewart’s trilogies below, Kava’s should be read in order, as the later books usually refer back to previous storylines.

Allison Brennan – Brennan writes trilogies with several reoccurring characters, most members of the FBI.

Mariah Stewart – Another author that writes in trilogies. Stewart’s books follow a group of FBI agents, with each book focusing on one or to characters.

In addition to the FBI group, the Mercy books add in a group called the Mercy Street Foundation, a group of investigators funded and run  by a wealthy man lost wife and son.

Karen Rose: Unlike the others in this post, Rose writes about local cops rather than a federal law enforcement service. Like most mystery books, all of Rose’s books have a secondary, romantic storyline – but I will admit to becoming much more attached to this storyline in her books than others.

Iris Johansen: The Eve Duncan series is my favorite of Johansen’s books. Eve Duncan is an artist who often helps law enforcement identify the remains of the deceased through forensic sculpting. This series follows Duncan and her family – police detective husband and daughter Jane – often across the world.

A Mystery Addict

So I’m not going to lie – I love trashy mystery novels, that take only a day or two to read. By no means are they great literature, but I’m addicted. They’re mindless and help me unwind at night. I could lose myself in this sort of book for hours. I get very attached to the characters, so enjoy authors that continue to develop the same character set over several books. Some of my favorite authors are:

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James Patterson: A long time favorite, although I confess, I’ve been disappointed in much of his books recently. Ever since The Jester, he’s been co-authoring an increasing number of books which frankly, aren’t as good as his older ones. Also, I wasn’t thrilled when the Alex Cross series (a DC cop) suddenly took on a counterterrorism angle. I haven’t read most of his recent books, so I’m not up to date, but I would recommend the couple non-mysteries he’s written (I very much enjoyed Sundays at Tiffanies)

Patterson’s Website

Kay Hooper: Murder mysteries with a psychic twist. Hooper, writing in trilogies, follows the Special Crimes Unit, a unit of psychic FBI agents. The cast of characters is all the same, but each book focuses on the character development of one or two characters. I’m never disappointed by a Kay Hooper book!

Hooper’s Website

Suzanne Brockmann: Most of Brockmann’s books revolve around a CIA-type agency, Troubleshooters Inc., involved in counterterrorism and other operations around the world. Like Kava, Brockmann follows a cast of characters, with each book highlighting one or two characters, usually in a romantic storyline (which is why you’ll sometimes find Brockmann’s books in the romance section at bookstores). These are a fun glimpse into the world of spies.

Brockmann’s Website

Brenda Novak: Novak writes trilogies about The Last Stand, a victim’s advocacy group that picks up cases to help find missing persons and protect anyone subject to abuse.

(Also, just for the holiday season, Novak is offering signed copies of her books on her website. Link below.)

Novak’s Website

Book Review: The Alchemist

Book Review: The Alchemist{Book Review}

The Alchemist

By Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist is one of the first book written by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho – first published in 1987, and then reprinted and translated into 67 languages (the greatest number of languages a book has been translated into while the author was still alive).

The Alchemist is the story of a young shepherd boy from Andalucia, Spain who sets out to fulfill his “personal legend,” a quest to find a treasure that is supposed to be at the pyramids of Egypt. Guided by signs and unlikely strangers, the shepherd persevered and searched his treasure for (I believe) over a year.

I really enjoyed The Alchemist and the idea behind it – to follow your dreams and not to give up. The story almost had a fairytale-like quality to it – it was filled with adventure, courage, faith, and a bit of magic.

As I read, I could picture the scenes in my head, which says a lot about this new author. I look forward to checking out some of Coelho’s other books, which have hopefully been translated into English!

Book Club: Inspired by the little boy from Andalucia, we had a tapas party for the book club meeting. Here’s the menu!

Book Review: two young adult books by Avi

So after my first experience with a book on tape, I decided to try out a couple more. The first book was a bit odd, and probably not the best choice for a book on tape. Since I do mostly local travel, I decided to listen to a couple books by Avi, who writes for young adults. I remember reading his books when I was in grade school, and enjoyed them, so thought I’d give them another whirl. Both books were easy to listen to (only about 4 hours each), so perfect for my local drives.

About the Author: Avi began his career in writing as a playwright, but I know him best for his young adult books. However, when I was checking out Avi’s website, I discovered the Avi also has written all sorts of works, including picture books and short stories.

Don’t You Know There’s a War On? : This book tells the story of a boy who has a crush on his teacher, who is fired. As the boy, Howie, follows and tries to help his teacher, you get glipmses of what it is like living in NYC during WWII – war bonds & stamps, rations, air raids, etc.

My favorite part of the book, however, was not the story but the language. Howie, both the main character and narrator, speaks in slang for most of the book. This completely took me into the book!

Poppy: Poppy is a young mouse that first gets in trouble for going into the forest without the great horned owl’s permission. When her family asks the owl permission to move to New House, they are denied because of her actions. Poppy then goes off on her own to seek out the real reason for the owl’s refusal, encountering many adventures along the way.

I did not enjoy Poppy as much as Don’t You Know There’s a War On? Perhaps it can be blamed on the narrator of the story (since I was listening to it), but I felt like the story was told incredibly dramatically, considering it was a mouse. I’m not sure what I was expecting out of this book, but as I was listening to it, I felt like it should be a picture book, like the Peter Rabbit stories, and not a young adult book, as I thought it was.