Wednesday, December 7, 2011

52 Books in 52 Weeks - #10

So tomorrow is surgery day for Collin (he has an evil gallbladder). While I'm not super thrilled about getting up at the crack of dawn to get him to prep on time and I'm not excited about him going under the knife, I am happy that I will have a ton of free crafting time while he recoups. (I have to be home to take care of him after all...).

I mentioned earlier this week that I'd be sharing the project that we used for the BSU game last Saturday...well...that is being delayed by the fact that I did not have the foresight to take a camera to the game. Since my phone is on the verge of obsoletion, Collin has all the photos on his. He, unfortunately, is at work tonight. So...that post will happen tomorrow. It does me no good to talk about a project that you can't see.

In lieu of my awesome project, I'm going to post another set of this year's book challenge brackets. As a side note, I found this on Pinterest today courtesy of my friend Melissa. It may just be the jumping off point for next year's challenge list.

But for today, I'll be talking about these books...

1. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

2. Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

3. Julie and Julia by Julie Powell

4. One Day by David Nicholls

5. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

It's another good batch. And once again, I really don't know yet which one will be the winner and which two will end up in the wild card slots. It's a close one.

1. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Finished : September 18          Rating : 4 out of 5 stars          Award : Longest Freaking Title

Juliet is drawn to the island of Guernsey by an odd letter from a man who found her name in a book written by an author they both love. She begins writing a series of letters to him and his friends - fellow members of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. She begins to hear the tale of how the Society got it's name and how the island and it's inhabitants survived WWII and German occupation. The friendships that she develops by post lead her to travel in person to see the place that seems so mesmerizing in letters.

This was my second book in a row on World War II. I had heard vaguely of the Guernsey occupation prior to reading this book, but I didn't realize how awful it really had been on the inhabitants of the island. I do have to say that this book was't really what I was expecting. I guess with the title I expected more of a comedic novel, but even though it didn't match my expectations I very much liked reading it. I enjoyed the fact that the entire story was told in letters. I think the approach allowed for enough description, but made it more personal in the details that came through. It was a pretty quick and easy read. Though the plot is somewhat transparent and predictable, it was still a good book. I never grew bored or irritated with it.

2. Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

Finished : September 25          Rating : 3 out of 5 stars          Award : Biggest Let Down

Ten years after the release of Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain writes another expose'/editorial on the world of chefs and restaurants. He continues his rants and follows the path that his own life has taken since the overnight success of his book and the development of his television series, No Reservations.

Based on my review of Kitchen Confidential, you probably expected that I would love this book. After all, I have an unhealthy love of all things Bourdain. I admit, I thought this one would be a sure thing too, but instead I found it a struggle. Realistically, if there were half stars, I would have given this book a 3.5. I have read Kitchen Confidential and watched No Reservations and I love Anthony Bourdain for his wit and his sarcasm. I love how brutal and honest he can be. The stories he tells in this book are well written and as detailed as I would expect from him. However, I did notice a distinct change in his sardonic nature...the very thing I adore most about him.

He tended to be softer on his rivals than he had been in the first book. I blame this on his fame. In fact, he alludes to the fact that this is an issue by stating within the book that he could not be trusted to be a food critic.  He mentions that he wouldn't be able to give anyone a bad review for fear of losing some of the perks that he has enjoyed from his status. I found this disappointing and a little sad.

I still enjoy him, but now the fact that his honesty could be tainted - in a man who I thoroughly enjoyed purely his ability to be so cutthroat - has somewhat wrecked it for me. I will still continue to read his books and watch his shows, but the gild has come off of the lily, so to speak.

3. Julie and Julia by Julie Powell

Finished : October 4          Rating : 5 out of 5 stars          Award : Best Movie-Book Reverse Read

Julie Powell begins a project (my kind of girl) to complete the 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days. She starts a blog about it and the resulting whirlwind manages to change her life in ways she never expected.

I had seen the movie (starring Amy Adams - who I adore) prior to reading this book. In fact, the movie was the reason I felt compelled to read the book. I will admit, this rarely happens. And when it does, it is almost always a let down. The movie ruins the book by removing all surprise and I find myself remorseful about the fact that I didn't read the book first. That was SO not the case with this book.

I LOVED this book. Let me explain to you  how much. I was reading an electronic version on my Nook that apparently had a glitch. I was sitting in a hospital waiting room waiting for Collin on the day he got diagnosed with his marble bag of gallstones, when I suddenly ran out of book...less than half way through. I was devastated. I made a special trip to the bookstore that week to make sure I could pick up a paper copy for my very own and finish the book that had me hooked.

Julie is a hilarious lady and she is able to write unabashedly about her experience with her project. She doesn't censor her failures. She writes candidly about the other things going on in her life during the project and she shares her meltdowns along with her successes. I found it to be very brave and, as a result, found myself inspired by her.

Like Julie, I tend to be a project finder (duh). I like to keep myself busy and sometimes undertake things that sound crazy to outsiders (52 Books in 52 Weeks? 40 Homemade Christmas Projects? Ringing a bell?). Julie had no shortage of people discouraging her from starting her endeavor, but she did it for herself. I give her serious credit for completing such a large task. 524 recipes is certainly no small feat. I don't think I could make that many distinct dishes in a year, let alone create dishes from classic French cuisine that sometimes require crazy ingredients and a lot of prep time.

Julie is a girl after my own heart. You know when you have that nutso idea that you could be great friends with someone in real life if they were ever to cross your path? Ya...I feel that way about Julie. She's great. I enjoyed this book immensely and I hope to read another of her novels soon.

4. One Day by David Nicholls

Finished : October 11.          Rating : 3 out of 5 stars          Award : Best Movie Wrecker?

This book follows Emma and Dexter from the night of their college graduation through the next twenty years, with a catch. The book only shares their lives through glimpses at the same day through each year. Their relationship wanes, grows, strays and changes over the years - with them never quite knowing where they would like to end up.

This was another of Erin's recommendations. And this was one of very few times when we disagreed. She LOVED this book, while I only considered it to be okay. I had seen previews for the movie, so when she mentioned the book I thought it would be a no brainer. Unfortunately, based on my experience with the book, I am now uncertain as to whether the movie will be as good as I was hoping.

I had high hopes for this book, but they just weren't met. I found the start of it boring and only stuck with it because Erin had given it such rave reviews. I did like the setup of telling the story through multiple years on the same day. I found it very creative. I liked the writing and the author's tone. I just found the plot to be less than I'd hoped for.

The book finally started to pick up near the middle and I found myself getting more and more involved with it, the reading going faster and faster. But, then the bottom dropped out. An event in the plot completely ruined the entire book for me. After that, I admit I was only half-heartedly reading. I felt very disappointed in where the author chose to go. I appreciate that he did make it less predictable than it otherwise could have been, but it just wasn't my cup of tea.

5. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Finished : October 19          Rating : 5 out of 5 stars          Award : Most Confusing Title

The story centers on Julia and Valentina Poole, twin sisters who inherit their Aunt Elspeth's flat upon her death. The inheritance comes with the strange condition that the girls must live in the apartment for a year and cannot allow their parents to enter. They are thrust out of the life they know and are forced to start to think about the future.

Each main character in the plot has their own selfish tendencies, as well as some unhealthy obsession. There is Martin, the neighbor with OCD so pervasive that he drives off his own wife; Julia, the twin who wants to be in charge and can't stand the thought of living a life different from that of her sister; Robert, who obsesses about his thesis, but who can't find a way to make it whole; and Valentina, the weaker twin who knows what she wants inside, but who can't break free of her domineering sister.

Ok, so we all know that I love Audrey Niffenegger...beyond just her last name. I was just as pleased with this book as I had been with The Time Traveler's Wife. Though the story deals with ghosts and a rather fantastical plot line, it didn't feel contrived or hard to believe. I really enjoyed this book. She did a good job of creating enough mystery around the plot line that I was hooked within the first few pages. I read the whole book in just a few days and continually found myself excited to get back to it. I felt a true sense of getting to know the characters and I wanted to see where their paths would take them.

This is absolutely a book that I would recommend to other readers. I will certainly be reading it again. Though it wasn't as sweepingly romantic as The Time Traveler's Wife, I still found it enthralling and wonderful.

Well...crap. I thought I had it figured out, but then Audrey surfaced again. Alright...let me mull it over...

This round's winner is :

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell

I'm sad to feel like I have deserted Audrey, but don't worry...because the wild cards will be...

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows


Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Here's where the brackets now stand.

That's half the bracket completely filled in and only eight spots remaining! It's coming down to the wire. These darned projects may kill me. With the end of the year sneaking up on  me, I still have 6 books to read in order to meet the goal. I need to step on it. On the bright side, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is moving along nicely.

Now...speaking of projects...I'm headed back up the stairs to finish sewing Katherine's quilt so I can get back to my own mess. My poor sewing machine.


  1. I am SO GLAD you didn't love One Day. That plot event really...UGH. Plus I hated Dexter.

  2. @Shalini Ya. Agreed. I kind of thought Dexter was a bit of a douche. The only saving grace for him was the fact that I know that Jim Sturgess plays him in the movie. I gave the character a little leeway because of that. Sad, but true.


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