Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Test Post?

Hmm. That's interesting. Looks like I will have to draft entries with photos from the bottom up. This is a butterfly at the California Academy of Sciences.

So, I'm still new to this blogging business. I wanted to play around a little bit with adding some pictures to a blog post.

This is a peanut butter and jelly cake that I made over Christmas. I guess I should have put something in the picture to make it obvious how big it is. For all you know looking at this picture, it could just be a regular PB&J on a regular plate.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

2011 TBR Pile Challenge: 2 Down, 10 to Go!, part 2

Ok, so here is the missing review for the second book I finished off my TBR Pile!

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less
by Terry Ryan and Suze Orman

Let's start with the obvious: I have no idea what part of this book Suze Orman may have written, or why she has anything to do with it at all.

Now on to the book itself. I enjoyed it, although it was truly not what I was expecting. It was definitely more of a tribute and not so much of a non-fiction book. The portrayal of Eyelyn Ryan is so positive as to be near-fantastic. (Of course, they say truth is stranger than fiction!)

That said, I was hoping for more than copies of the jingles without any insight into the process. Perhaps the scenes of Evelyn with her notebook at the ironing board are meant to give the insight into this, but it didn't explain how she came up with her ideas beyond the notion that she 'used her kids for inspiration.' Of course, Mrs. Ryan passed away before this book was written, so that might be asking for too much.

The most bizarre thing I learned in the book? For all the contest entries, judging and effort that went into them, the companies didn't actually use the winning entries for advertising! Today that would be unheard of, but then it was a matter of course.

Admittedly, this is kind of a chick lit book as well. I'm hoping my next foray into my TBR pile will be something a little more literary and a little less fluffy. (Or at least a little grittier and less sunny -- for February, seems appropriate.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2011 TBR Pile Challenge: 2 Down, 10 to Go!

So, on vacation last week, I read two of my TBR books. I suspect that this challenge might be more challenging than I expected at first. Turns out that I hadn't read these books because I suspected that they might not really be my cup of tea and, indeed, they weren't. So here goes with the reviews:

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything
Author: Janelle Brown

First, a disclaimer: I didn't choose this book for myself. Well, obviously, I did: I chose this book for my TBR challenge because it's been sitting on my To Be Read shelf for over a year. However, initially, my sister gave me this book with the proviso that 'I had to read it, it is so funny.'

Well. In terms of plot, this book is the opposite of funny. The book focuses on the lives of three women: Janice, Margaret and Lizzie. The novel opens with Janice's husband's IPO going straight to heaven. The same day, he sends her a letter letting her know that he wants a divorce; turns out, he's been having an affair with her best friend. At the same time, her younger daughter, Lizzie, has made the false discovery that sleeping around gains her "popularity". Finally, Margaret, the older daughter, is on the verge of bankruptcy, having started a feminist media magazine that has failed spectacularly.

In terms of cliches, you've got them all: the pampered housewife in denial, the faltering feminist, the naive teenager. I had hopes approximately 100 pages into the book, as Janice begins using crystal meth, Margaret moves home and hides from her debts and Lizzie joins an evangelist church. Unfortunately, by the middle of the book, I suspected that the novel was based on the "idiot plot": many, if not all, of the problems faced by the characters could be solved if any of them behaved as real people do. It stretches credulity to imagine that a 28 year old cynic like Margaret wouldn't suspect that her mother is using drugs when she's awake nearly 24 hours a day and constantly active. Come to it, it strains credulity that even a pampered housewife like Janice would take crystal meth, no matter what the pool boy said about it.

And then there's Lizzie, whose conversion to Christianity takes place in one youth group meeting with a cool minister whose weapon of choice is a slideshow of "bad" people. Having been drinking and sleeping around, one doubts that Lizzie wouldn't take that with a grain of salt.

I stuck with it to the end, but partly because I was waiting to see what the resolution would be. If you're looking for a resolution, drop this book and find something else to read. The major conflict in the novel is the relationship of the three women with their husband and father. This conflict is never resolved. The combined efforts of the three humiliate him, but there is no payoff to this revenge: the book ends with a return phone call to the lawyer to happen in the future.

In short, it's chick-lit at its worst -- neither truly fluffy enough to be junk food for the brain, nor original enough to be fully engaging. Skip it.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


I seem to have been updating this blog more frequently since the New Year started -- perhaps I'll actually keep with it this time.

I am about halfway through my first challenge book -- Mark Twain's Feast (trying to see if I can italicize things -- for some reason the usual commands don't seem to apply to me). It's definitely an interesting book, although a lot of it has to do with environmental changes since Twain's day. However, he's a hometown hero (so to speak), so I'm a fan of his anyway. This book has inspired me to download a couple of his books (some I've read before, some I haven't) onto my iPad for 'just in case' reading. (Of course, knowing me, I will need extra books on vacation next week and they will be just the thing.)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

2011 TBR Pile Challenge

So, in an effort to find more time to read (and quit reading the same books over and over), I am joining a second book challenge.

You can find more details about it here, but the general idea is to choose 12 books that you have been meaning to read (i.e., your "To Be Read" pile) and read them by the end of 2011. You can also choose two alternates, in case some of the books you choose end up on the "I can't make it through this book" pile.

Accordingly, here is my list (as mismatched and bizarre as one might expect):
01. Trotsky by Robert Service
02. Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg
03. Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
04. The Hellfire Conspiracy by Will Thomas
05. All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
07. Time and Again by Jack Finney
08. And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts
09. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
11. American Sphinx by Joseph Ellis
12. Sone of a Witch by Gregory Maguire

1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (a book I am ashamed to admit I haven't read)
2. Bleak House by Charles Dickens

I must admit that I am looking forward to this. I'm hoping at least one of these books will prove to be good vacation reading for next week! (Maybe I can get one for free as an iBook? That would be extra excellent.)

Foodie's Reading Challenge

Ok, I decided I'll go ahead and try this one. I'm going to aim for the "Epicurean" level, as I typically read 4 or 5 food books per year (though I've never counted cookbooks before, so that might be an interesting personal challenge -- I definitely have a few on my wishlist!).

So here we go: I'm in!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Book Challenges

Ah-ha! I've remembered it! I was contemplating signing up for some book reading challenges, and thinking that I would never ever stick to them if I just signed up in the comments and didn't have anywhere to write about them.

Would anyone find my writing about food books interesting? Well, that's a topic for a different time. In the immediate interim, I will continue to think about whether I want to join these challenges officially or just consider joining them. Things to wonder about during the new year.