Saturday, August 1, 2009

Book Review: Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

Review of Julie & Julia by Julia Powell

Out of context:
Talk about something I'd never think I'd be saying during the current administration, but God bless the White House. (page 293)

Married and living in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, working as a secretary in an unnamed government agency after a series of dead end jobs, pushing thirty, and having learned that she may have fertility problems, Julie Powell is ready for a change. Inspired by her parents' copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child (MtAoFC), Julie creates a blog and declares her challenge to the universe:

"Government drone by day, renegade foodie by night. Too old for theater, too young for children, and too bitter for anything else, Julie Powell was looking for a challenge. And in the Julie/Julia Project she found it. Risking her marriage, her job, and her cats well-being, she has signed on for a deranged assignment. 365 days. 524 recipes. One girl and a crappy outer borough kitchen. How far will it go, no one can say ...."

Sure enough, the book takes us through the challenges and victories of that year. The culinary ones have an undercurrent of NYC scavenger hunt and discovery, like Julie's first experience with bone marrow: Bifteck Saute Bercy garnished with bone marrow of a cow. The personal challenges and the torments of her low rent apartment meld with the Julie/Julia Project making frozen pipes, water outages, blackouts, and the move to Long Island City, Queens part of a large, mildly hysterical adventure.

With all the advertisements for the movie coming out and the buzz about this book, you probably know about the Julie/Julia Project and have some impression of the book. Before I began reading, I wondered whether Julie Powell would pull it off. It sounded like a good idea, but would it end up slow or contrived? Annoying? I'm glad to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I wish I'd known more about Julia Child as I read the about the birth of the Julie/Julia Project. My vague recollections of Julia Child meant that this book shaped much of my image of Julia. But this is really isn't a bad thing. Julie's Julia is a funny, practical, generous and adventuresome muse. I've just unearthed and watched a video of the Omelette Show on The French Chef and will surely watch more Julia Child over time.

Julie & Julia captures the flavor of New York so well. It's a light, enjoyable read full of good writing, interesting characters, and unusual dishes. I highly recommend it!

Read more direct from Julie Powell's blog What Could Happen at or the Julie/Julia Project blog at

Watch the Omelette Show on The French Chef at

Friday 58: Week 10

* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions
on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
Post a link along with your post back to this blog and to Storytime with Tonya and Friends at
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Here's mine:

"Now if we only had some eggs poached in red wine."

-Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Vixen Diaries by Karrine Steffans - Taken

Pam S. was the first to respond! We have the replacement winner for the Vixen Diaries by Karrine Steffans. Thanks so much!

Replacement winner of The Vixen Diaries by Karrine Steffans

Cecile was kind enough to let me know that she'd won the book on another site. If you'd like a copy of The Vixen Diaries, please email me your mailing address at gaby317nyc AT gmail DOT com. The first person to respond wins. Thanks so much!

Update: Pam S. was the first to respond. Thanks for participating!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Winners of The Vixen Manual by Karrine Steffans


Winners of The Vixen Manual

Esme @ Chocolate and Croissants - confirmed
Lauren @ Shooting Stars Mag - confirmed
Nicole @ Mom Saves Money - confirmed
Cindy @ I Heart Book Gossip - confirmed
Cecile @ All I Want And More Books Pam S. - confirmed

Please send me your mailing addresses by midnight on noon on Saturday or I will have to pick out a replacement winner. Thanks so much for entering the contest!

Thank you so much to Anna and Hatchette Books Group for this generous giveaway!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Book Review: Hollywood is Like High School WIth Money by Zoey Dean

Review of Hollywood is Like High School with Money
by Zoey Dean


Taylor Henning started her dream job at a major Hollywood studio. For as long as she can remember, Taylor has loved movies. The reclusive director Michael Deming and his seminal work Journal Girl have been a particular inspiration for Taylor. Although she's never received a response, Taylor sends Deming updates on her Hollywood experience.

Taylor soon finds that life as a second assistant involves small tasks and not the selection and producing of "great films," at least to start. But more than the type of work, it's her co-workers that make Taylor miserable. It's like high school all over with the popular girls and their mean tricks. Taylor's too much of a nice girl to acclimatize. Outwitted one too many times by first assistant Kylie and with her job at risk, Taylor asks Quinn, her boss's popular teenage daughter, for tactical advice. It's not about being mean. It's about being confident. Not taking anyone's shit...Fake it till you make it...Speak up in class. When you're quiet, you're invisible...Make 1 cool friend...Lunch is a battleground...Enlist a faithful assistant. Taking Quinn's advice, Taylor wins victories against Kylie.

As Taylor starts to come into her own, a creative executive position opens up. Competing against Kylie and the other assistants for the promotion, Taylor proves willing to use darker methods to advance.


Hollywood is Like High School With Money is the first Zoey Dean novel that I've read. Though the plot seems straightforward and predictable, Zoey Dean sets up the conflicts wonderfully. It may be that I'm inured to violence and too sensitive to female bullying, but when I got to where Kylie was setting the first trap for Taylor, I found the tension unbearable. I had to pause, put the book down, and come back to it. After that break from the book, I couldn't put it down. When Taylor seemed naive and too trusting, Dean gave her enough wit to make her likable. As Taylor grew accustomed to manipulation and was veering to the dark side, I still cared about her.

Overall, Hollywood is Like High School With Money is a light, satisfying read. I highly recommend it as a fun escape.

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (July 23, 2009), 288 pages.

Courtesy of Hatchette Books Group.

Thank you so much Miriam and Hatchette Books Group for this opportunity!

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Rejuvinate and Renew Reading Challenge


Becky at One Literature Nut has organized her first reading challenge, the Rejuvenate & Renew Challenge '09. Becky's such a warm and generous blogger and I expect that participating in the challenge will keep me from procastinating, so I'm signing up!

Here's the challenge:
  • Choose any three non-fiction books that deal with a topic you've wanted to learn more about. This could be money & finance, home decorating, budget tips, weight loss, nutrition, beauty & fashion, writing, religion, philosophy, literary theory, or even a biography. (You get the picture.) Basically, take three how to or self help books that you've been wanting to read, and join in!
  • Read these books between June 1st and September 1st.
  • Sign up by posting a simple comment at One Literature Nut.
  • Take the button created above and post in your own blog, with a link back to One Literature Nut so that we can all see what everyone is reading.
  • Review your books, and once a week Becky'll put up a post for us to link our individual post/review.
  • Enjoy finding out more about what everyone else is learning this summer!
I'd like to improve my diet/fitness and financial fitness. Here's my initial list:
  1. How Successful People Think by John C. Maxwell
  2. The Flat Belly Diet

Book Giveaway: The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser

About the Book:

Tom Loxley, an Indian-Australian professor, is less concerned with finishing his book on Henry James than with finding his dog, who is lost in the Australian bush.

Joining his daily hunt is Nelly Zhang, an artist whose husband disappeared mysteriously years before Tom met her. Although Nelly helps him search for his beloved pet, Tom isn't sure if he should trust this new friend.

Tom has preoccupations other than his book and Nelly and his missing dog, mainly concerning his mother, who is suffering from the various indignities of old age. He is constantly drawn from the cerebral to the primitive--by his mother's infirmities, as well as by Nelly's attractions. THE LOST DOG makes brilliant use of the conventions of suspense and atmosphere while leading us to see anew the ever-present conflicts between our bodies and our minds, the present and the past, the primal and the civilized.

About the Author:

Michelle de Kretser was born in Sri Lanka and emigrated to Australia when she was fourteen. She was educated in Melbourne and Paris and has worked as an editor and a book reviewer.

The Hamilton Case, her second novel, received the Commonwealth Writers Prize (SE Asia and Pacific region), and the Society of Authors’ (U.K.) Encore Award for best second novel of the year. It was also first runner-up for Barnes & Noble’s Discover Award in Fiction, and a New York Times Notable Book.

The Lost Dog is her third novel. It was a finalist for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and received the 2008 Christina Stead Prize for fiction.

To read about Michelle's inspiration of the book, visit the publisher's website.


To enter, share something about your pet, if you have one. If you don't have a pet, tell us something that you are thankful for.

1. Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win.
2. For an extra entry, sign up to be a follower. If you're already a follower, let me know and you'll get the extra entry as well.
3. For another extra entry, subscribe via googlereader or blogger or by email and let me know that you do.
4. For another entry, blog about this giveaway and send me the link.
5. Leave a separate comment for each entry or you'll only be entered once.

The contest is limited to US and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at 6 pm on August 15, 2009.

Thanks so much to Valerie and Hatchette Books Group for sponsoring this giveaway!

Book Giveaway: The Blue Star by Tony Earley

About the Book, courtesy of the Publisher:

Seven years ago, readers everywhere fell in love with Jim Glass, the precocious ten-year-old at the heart of Tony Earley's bestseller Jim the Boy. Now a teenager, Jim returns in another tender and wise story of young love on the eve of World War Two.

Jim Glass has fallen in love, as only a teenage boy can fall in love, with his classmate Chrissie Steppe. Unfortunately, Chrissie is Bucky Bucklaw's girlfriend, and Bucky has joined the Navy on the eve of war. Jim vows to win Chrissie's heart in his absence, but the war makes high school less than a safe haven, and gives a young man's emotions a grown man's gravity.

With the uncanny insight into the well-intentioned heart that made Jim the Boy a favorite novel for thousands of readers, Tony Earley has fashioned another nuanced and unforgettable portrait of America in another time--making it again even realer than our own day.

About the Author, courtesy of the Publisher:

Tony Earley is the author of four books: Here We Are in Paradise, a collection of stories; the novel Jim the Boy; the personal essay collection Somehow Form a Family; and The Blue Star, a novel released in Spring, 2008. A winner of a National Magazine Award for fiction, he was named one of the twenty best writers of his generation by both Granta, in 1996, and The New Yorker in 1999. His fiction and/or nonfiction have appeared in Harper's, Esquire, The New Yorker, The Oxford American, The New York Times Book Review, Tin House, Best American Short Stories, New Stories from the South and many other magazines and anthologies.

He is a native of western North Carolina and a graduate of Warren Wilson College and The University of Alabama. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife and daughter, where he is the Samuel Milton Fleming Associate Professor of English at Vanderbilt University.


To enter, share your recommendation for a powerful historical novel. You must make a recommendation for your entry to count.

1. Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win.
2. For an extra entry, sign up to be a follower. If you're already a follower, let me know and you'll get the extra entry as well.
3. For another extra entry, subscribe via googlereader or blogger or by email and let me know that you do.
4. For another entry, blog about this giveaway and send me the link.
5. Leave a separate comment for each entry or you'll only be entered once.

The contest is limited to US and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at 6 pm on August 15, 2009.

Thank you so much for this giveaway, Valerie and Hatchette Books Group!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

SF/F/H Book Reviewers Linkup Meme on Grasping for the Wind

Just wanted to spread the word about Grasping for the Wind's project, the SF/F/H Book Reviewers Linkup. John is organizing the second compilation of reviewers that focus on SciFi, Fantasy and Horror. The goal is to come up with a comprehensive list to share and to raise presence of SciFi/Fantasy/Horror on the internet.

To learn more or sign up, drop by Grasping for the Wind at

Book Review: My Name is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs and Shakespeare by Jess Winfield

Review of My Name is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs and Shakespeare by Jess Winfield


Set simultaneously in California in 1986 and in England in 1582, My Name is Will introduces us to two young William Shakespeares.

Willie Shakespeare Greenberg, a graduate student in UC Santa Cruz, hasn't been focused on his thesis on William Shakespeare. Instead, he occupies himself with drugs, women, and agrees to deliver a large psychedelic mushroom to a client at a Renaissance Fair. While evading DEA operatives, Willie juggles his longtime girl friend in UC Berkeley, his sexy teaching assistant in UC Santa Cruz and a few willing women along the way.

While in 1582, William Shakespeare is an eighteen-year-old Latin teacher busy with women, drink and drugs. Shakespeare is also beginning to flirt with writing and Winfield gives us glimpses of the seeds of famous speeches, plays, and sonnets. Around young Will, the persecution of Catholics is on the rise. Family members, teachers and friends, and even Shakespeare himself are at risk as the local sheriffs hunt for practicing Catholics. Despite the danger, Shakespeare agrees to deliver a sacred relic from Rome to the family of an executed priest.


Full of double entendres and puns, this is Jess Winfield's debut novel and makes full use of Winfield's deep knowledge of Shakespeare and his experience in the Reduced Shakespeare Company. "A Novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare" describes it well.

My Name is Will is quirky, funny, silly, sexy, and well executed.

Publisher: Twelve, Reprint edition (July 3, 2009), 320 pages.

Review copy courtesy of Hatchette Books Group.

If you'd like a copy of this book, enter the My Name is Will contest at

To learn more about the author or the book, visit Jess Winfield's website at

Thanks so much to Anna and Hatchette Books group for this opportunity and the generous giveaway!

Review: The Juror by George Dawes Green


Single mother, struggling sculptor, and newly selected juror Annie Laird doesn't realize her danger when she agrees to participate in the murder trial of mob boss Louie Buffano. This changes quickly enough when Annie meets "the Teacher," a handsome, dangerous and volatile member of Buffano's familia. The Teacher makes it immediately apparent that if she agrees to cooperate, he can help make her career. If she refuses to do so, her life and that of her son may be forfeit. The tension rises as Annie struggles to find a way to save her family without giving in to the Teacher's increasing demands.


If the plot sounds vaguely familiar, you may have watched the 1996 movie version with Demi Moore and Alec Baldwin. The audiobook is equally fast paced and absorbing without the strength of Alec Baldwin's portrayal of the Teacher and the weaknesses of Demi Moore's Annie Laird. Overall, The Juror is action packed, suspenseful and highly entertaining.

Enter the contest for an audiobook of The Juror by July 31 at

Thanks so much Anna and Hatchette Books Group for this opportunity and the generous giveaway!