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Archive for June, 2009

Last week I complained about the fact that there was still no marketing for the upcoming Time Traveler’s Wife movie.  Well, someone must have been listening to me, because suddenly, there is a trailer and a website!

Check it out here.  I reserve the right to be skeptical about the chances of turning a great book into a great movie, but I did get a couple of goosebumps while watching the trailer…

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Beyond the DeepwoodsA friend recommended The Edge Chronicles to me several years ago, when I was looking to add some young adult books to my reading list.  R and I gave the audio version of the first book a shot while driving to Asheville this weekend.  (Ordinarily, I read aloud while he drives, but I’m still recovering from a lingering cough/cold, so we opted for the less vocally-stressful CDs.)

While there were definitely some entertaining bits, we found ourselves exchanging “are you kidding?” looks more often than not as the book progressed.  Eventually, we agreed to turn the whole thing off and just chat for the remainder of our drive.  The book was just too melodramatic for our taste and I’m taking it off of my reading list.

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This past weekend was incredibly full of travel (which made the beginning of this week a little hectic).  Early Friday morning, R and I headed to DC for my Grandfather’s funeral service.  We met up with many family members from all over the country and attended the lovely and moving graveside service.

Grandfather could seem gruff, but his heart was pure gold – and usually his gruffness (especially with his grandchildren) was in jest.

We called him many things – Grandfather, Bap Bap, Grand.  He called me Brat just as often as he called me by my first name.  I loved that about him and our relationship.

I’ll never look at a crossword puzzle without thinking of him.  He and my Tutu always tag-teamed the daily paper’s crossword, and a visit from them was never complete until a mostly-finished puzzle was lying on our kitchen table.

I know I learned my love of games from Grandfather and his unending willingness to play cards.  As a family, we spent thousands of the best hours playing rounds of Sink – big, crazy, boisterous games of Sink.

Saying goodbye is so hard, but I’ll cherish these and many other memories.  I love you, Smiley.  To me, you’ll always be the STAR of the day.guestbook table 001

Wow, since that was much harder to write than I expected, I’m going to just jump ahead to the next round of our traveling weekend.

After taking a (very) late flight home on Friday, R and I got up early Saturday and drove to Asheville, NC for his cousin’s wedding that evening.  Asheville is one of my favorite cities in the Southeast (maybe even in the whole country?), so I was thrilled to go back.  Some of the highlights:

  • Lunch at Early Girl Eatery where I re-discovered their yummy grit croutons (if anyone has a recipe for these, please tell me!)
  • Staying at a lovely downtown hotel, courtesy of my father-in-law’s mad Priceline skills
  • Attending the wedding at the Asheville School’s gorgeous chapelMarci and Ben
  • Catching up with all of R’s family at the reception

B and R at wedding

  • Brunch at Rezaz, the restaurant I’ve been wanting to revisit since eating there last year
  • Muhamara at Rezaz, the dish that I’ve been dreaming and talking about for a year
  • Exploring the River Arts District for its biannual Studio Stroll with R, my mother-in-law, and brother-in-law
  • Being dressed up by an artist who makes latex ‘armor’

Headpieces

It was a good weekend.  And it is good to be home.

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I’m not a big movie person.  In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I saw a movie in the theater.  If I watch a movie, I prefer to do so at home, in my jammies, cuddled up with my husband.  But several book-to-movies are coming out this summer that might make me re-think that preference, because I don’t know that I can wait for the DVD version of a couple of these!

My Sister's KeeperMy Sister’s Keeper – Opens June 26.  This is the first Jodi Picoult book I read (and the last one I really enjoyed).  R and I actually fought over the copy we were both trying to read, because we both got so hooked on it.  Plus, any movie that can create even a tenuous connection with 30 Rock (through Alec Baldwin) has my vote!

My Life in France

Julie and Julia – Opens August 7.  I just finished reading (and loving) Julia Child’s memoir, on which half of this movie is based.  Although I haven’t read the book on which the other half is based, Julie and Julia, this movie still looks really appealing to me.  Based on the trailer, Meryl Streep has nailed Child’s unique speech and habits, and I bet this one is going to be really cute.

The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler’s Wife – Opens August 14.  I absolutely adored this book.  It took me through an entire range of emotions, and I loved every page of it.  I’m doubtful that any movie could do this novel justice, but I’m willing to give it a shot.  If only they would get their marketing act together and put up a website or even a trailer already…

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Chains

Title: Chains (audiobook)

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Published: 2008

Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult

Rating: 4 of 5

Chains was my first introduction to Laurie Halse Anderson, and I am beginning to understand why she is the current darling of the Young Adult world.  This book tells the story of Isabel, an orphaned slave girl living during the Revolutionary War.  She and her younger sister, Ruth, are denied the freedom promised to them by their recently deceased owner and find themselves moving to New York City with their new cruel masters.

Isabel’s struggle between accepting her fate and looking for opportunities to gain their freedom is heartrending.  Against the background of war, her quest for personal freedom is particularly poignant.  In an city filled with talk of liberty and rights, no one appears to care about how those ideals apply to the many slaves serving on both sides of the conflict.

I loved Isabel’s dogged determination and her fierce love for her helpless sister.  I was cheering for them from page one, and took great delight in the intelligence and cunning Isabel displayed.  The audiobook version was great, although the narrator had a difficult time with male characters – they all sounded angry, even when they weren’t.

Anderson has announced that two more books will follow Chains.  The next, Forge, is being released in 2010 and I am definitely looking forward to it!

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Don’t take my word for it.  Check out what others are saying about Chains:

A Comfy Chair and a Good Book – Chains

Devourer of Books – Chains – Book Review

Maw Books Blog – Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Random Wonder – Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson – Review

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My Life in France

Title: My Life in France

Author: Julia Child & Alex Prud’homme

Published: 2006

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

Rating: 4.5 of 5

My Life in France combined many of my favorite things in one enchanting package – books, food, wine, and travel.  Before her death, Julia Child spent several months telling Alex Prud’homme all about the experiences that made her ‘Julia Child.’  Prud’homme compiled her tales into this memoir, retaining her unique tone and matter-of-fact attitude.

Child did not begin learning how to cook until her mid-thirties.  After she and her husband Paul moved to France, she launched herself into learning everything she could about classic French cuisine.  Pursuing her new-found passion with single mindedness and intensity, Child eventually met two Frenchwomen who invited her to co-author a French cookbook for Americans.  After years of dedicated ‘cookbookery’ and some amusing brainstorming (would Method in Cuisine Madness or The Witchcraft of French Cooking have done as well, I wonder?), the now infamous Mastering the Art of French Cooking – and the beginning of Child’s television career – was born.

My Life in France isn’t just about Child’s life in France.  It is also about her happy marriage to Paul, the politics of the decades following World War II, her relationship with family and friends, her life in Paris, Marseilles, Germany, and Norway, and her development into the first successful television chef.  Coupled with dozens of Paul’s lovely photographs and generously scattered with mouth-watering descriptions of various culinary adventures, this book is a fascinating peek into the mind and heart of the incredible woman who revolutionized how Americans thought about food.

I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this memoir and would highly recommend it.

Bonus – Take a look at this video clip of Child’s television show, the French Chef.  If you can get over watching her paw at an army of raw chicken without sink or soap in sight, you’ll get a good glimpse at this fascinating woman and a bit of her true joie de vivre.

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Don’t take my word for it.  Check out what others are saying about My Life in France:

The Evening Reader – My Life in France

The New York Times – Becoming Julia Child

Powell’s Books – One Simple, Perfect French Meal Changed Her Life

Small Spiral Notebook – My Life in France by Julia Child, with Alex Prud’homme

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Pigs in Heaven

Title: Pigs in Heaven

Author: Barbara Kingsolver

Published: 1993

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 4 of 5

Taylor Greer adopted Turtle after finding her abandoned in her car.  Turtle and Taylor settled into life as a curious mother-daughter pair and were doing fine until Annawake, a lawyer from the Cherokee Nation, recognized Turtle as being Cherokee.  When Annawake informed Taylor the adoption was illegal without the Nation’s consent, they were launched into a willful struggle over Turtle and her future.

When I picked this book up at my favorite used bookstore, I already knew that I enjoyed Barbara Kingsolver’s writing based on my experience with The Poisonwood Bible.  What I didn’t know was that it is a sequel to The Bean Trees, which I had not read.  Fortunately, this book stood fine on its own and I was none the wiser until after I completed it and did some research on Kingsolver.

I enjoyed Kingsolver’s storytelling – her writing is simple and beautiful, but leaves the reader with many challenging issues to contemplate.  For example, I was fascinated by the different portrayals of poverty in this book.  When Taylor and Turtle are fleeing Annawake’s threats, their financial situation is grim.  They live on almost nothing, need much, and Taylor’s desperation and depression are only outweighed by the pride that prevents her from asking help from anyone.  In clear contrast, Annawake’s small Cherokee town is a place of joy and support.  While its residents have humble lifestyles, they ask for what they need, need very little, and seem to accept life for the daily gift that it is.

There were definitely points in the book where things dragged, but the high points kept me engaged.  Barbie, a wanderer who Taylor and Turtle pick up, was so bizarre and fascinating, I kept wanting to know more about her.  I also really appreciated the small peek into the legal issues surrounding the Cherokee Nation.  It is a shame I didn’t learn more on this subject while in law school, but the bits presented in Pigs in Heaven made me want to learn more.  My only complaint was that this book really focused more on relational struggles than it did on any actual legal activity.  In the end, I think that was the point – stirring up questions about poverty, family, and the balance of individual and community interests.

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Don’t take my word for it.  Check out what others are saying about Pigs in Heaven:

The Friendly Book Nook – Review: Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver

The New York Times – Books of the Times: Community vs. Family

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