The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

Wednesday WarsThe Wednesday WarsBook Review: The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

Loved this Newbery Honor book. Fun plot, a likeable main character, and lots of humor in a story that could easily have veered into too didactic, or too grim. The setting is Long Island during the Vietnam War, and while the action only takes place in New York, the era clearly has an impact on the characters.

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Book Review: My Life from Scratch

My Life from Scratch or Confections of a Closet Master BakerMy Life from Scratch: A Sweet Journey of Starting Over, One Cake at a TimeBook Review: My Life from Scratch or Confections of a Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado

I’ve mentioned before how much I adore memoirs, especially food memoirs. I grabbed this one not because of the fame of the author (or at least the author’s sister), but because of the topic: a woman in a career she dislikes who leaves it all to open a bakery. Sounds delicious.

And her baking sounds truly scrumptious. The hardest part about the book is reading it and not having immediate access to the delights she describes. I’ve had little experience with German pastries, so several of the items she details are unfamiliar to my tastebuds, and I lamented that fact.

I liked the attempted structure of the book; organized by time of day, and what she’s doing at her bakery at that time. Unfortunately some of her stories feel shoehorned into the format and it doesn’t completely work. It’s still kind of fun though, especially how it lets me appreciate NOT being a professional baker with the hours that requires. Those early morning hours are brutal.

She mentions her famous sister, Sandra Bullock, but always in natural ways that fit with the stories she’s sharing. I was slightly concerned that it would read like a continual “by the way, I’ve got a famous movie star for a sister” text, but it doesn’t. She’s close to her sister, but she talks about her because she’s her sister, not because she’s famous. And she’s realistic enough to acknowledge that yes, it helped her get her bakery established thanks to her sister’s mention. She had to be good enough to back it up through her skill though!

I never felt like her husband was that much of a presence in the story. Perhaps because he doesn’t have as big of a role in the bakery, and is often still in Hollywood at his job? Mostly I noticed because two of the last nonfiction books had the husbands/boyfriends with such significant roles in the story. With Bullock-Prado’s book, I kept forgetting what her husband’s name was!

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but unless you’re a die-hard food memoir fan, it’s not a must-read. If you’re curious about life as a bakery owner, I think it’s a fairly realistic look at the challenges that sort of schedule brings, as well as all the other challenges inherent in being a small-business owner. Except for the whole initial publicity boost most small-business owners can’t expect. 🙂 It’s not that I had major problems with the book or think it’s terrible. It’s fine. I liked it. I just don’t feel like it’s compelling enough to encourage everyone I know to read it.

One thing to note, the book was originally published in hardcover under the title “Confections of a Closet Master Baker: One Woman’s Sweet Journey from Unhappy Hollywood Executive to Contented Country Baker,” but it was retitled for the paperback publication. So the story might sound familiar even if the title doesn’t.

Publisher’s Description:
A former Hollywood insider trades the Hollywood Hills for Green Acres—and lives to tell about it in this hilarious, poignant treat of a memoir.

As head of her celebrity sister’s production company, Gesine Bullock-Prado had a closet full of designer clothes and the ear of all the influential studio heads, but she was miserable. The only solace she found was in her secret hobby: baking. With every sugary, buttery confection to emerge from her oven, Gesine took one step away from her glittery, empty existence—and one step closer to her true destiny. Before long, she and her husband left the trappings of their Hollywood lifestyle behind, ending up in Vermont, where they started the gem known as Gesine Confectionary. And they never looked back. Confections of a Closet Master Baker follows Gesine’s journey from sugar-obsessed child to miserable, awkward Hollywood insider to reluctant master baker. Chock-full of eccentric characters, beautifully detailed descriptions of her baking process, ceaselessly funny renditions of Hollywood nonsense, and recipes, the ingredients of her story will appeal to anyone who has ever considered leaving the life they know and completely starting over.

Book Details

Title: My Life from Scratch: A Sweet Journey of Starting Over, One Cake at a Time
Author: Gesine Bullock-Prado
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir
Length: 240 pages
My Rating: 3 Stars

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Literary Confessions

Pride and PrejudiceThis pains me a bit to admit, but I am starting to feel like I’m misleading my friends by not acknowledging it.

I’ve never read Pride and PrejudiceLiterary Confessions: Pride and Prejudice. There. I said it.

Until this month’s bookclub assignment of Sense and Sensibility, I’d never read ANY Jane Austen. How did that happen?

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2013 Reading Challenge Progress – February

2013 Reading Challenge ProgressAre you taking part in my 2013 Reading Challenge? It’s not too late to join in; the linky is closed on the original post, but you can always jump in on these monthly progress posts and let us know that you’re participating!

I kind of hoped that I’d read more than the two books I need to to keep on pace for my challenge. Alas, I read exactly two books off my own shelves. I haven’t posted reviews of them both yet, because I read them towards the end of the month and haven’t written them yet! At least I’m on track as far as the reading goes…

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Book Review: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Book Review: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a DayMiss Pettigrew Lives for a DayBook Review: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

I can say without much doubt that I would never have picked this book up on my own, but when my friend Anne recommends it as highly as she does, I knew I had to give it a chance.

And I am so glad I did. I took it with me on our Thanksgiving trip, and it was a perfect vacation read. Light and fun, without being silly and making me regret spending my reading time on it.

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Book Review: When You Reach Me

When You Reach MeWhen You Reach MeBook Review: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

I picked up When You Reach MeBook Review: When You Reach Me because I’m trying to get caught up on all the Newbery winners and nominees, and it won for 2010. The start felt somewhat slow, and it had a much more deliberate pace than some of the other children’s/young adult books I’ve read lately.

That’s not a criticism, simply a comment. If you’ve gotten used to the rush-rush-action pace of a lot of kid lit lately, it feels slower and quieter. Once you get used to the pacing, it’s a lovely book, with engaging characters and thought-provoking themes and ideas.

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Book Review: How to Eat a Small Country

Book Review: How to Eat a Small CountryHow to Eat a Small Country: A Family’s Pursuit of Happiness, One Meal at a TimeBook Review: How to Eat a Small Country by Amy Finley

Food memoir set in France? Travel memoir? Combining the two into one book made me think that of course I would adore it. Alas, it suffered from a mistaken identity. Or at least misleading advertising.

The food-focused and travelogue parts I did really enjoy. It was the other part of the book that I didn’t like. Turns out the book was only part travel/food memoir, but it also had a lot about Finley’s troubled marriage. A LOT about it. I don’t particularly enjoy reading about dysfunctional relationships, but I especially don’t appreciate reading about them without the benefit of distance. A memoir that looks back years later on a crumbling marriage years can offer perspective and wisdom that isn’t possible when the events are so recent.

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Getting Geeky: 2012 Reads, Charts and Graphs Style

Books Read in 2012 Charts GraphsThis post was completely inspired by Jessica at The Quirky Bookworm’s post. I adore stats, and seeing all the variations of what she charted make my nerdy heart skip a beat. I immediately knew I’d have to make my own charts and graphs. I thought I’d just follow her lead with what I measured, but I found I was curious about a few additional variables, so I’ve added some additional charts.

Total Books Read: 159
Actually, I know I read at least a few more than that but while I was visiting family in the Spring I didn’t keep track of the books I read. And I went through a few months where I didn’t record any of the children’s books I read, so eh, the adult and young adult books are mostly complete, and most of the stats are accurate, but it’s not completely perfect.

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Friday Link Love

Friday Link Love
Some of my favorite recent articles from around the Internet:

When Not To Google

Google’s a great search engine, but it’s not always the best choice. I think my favorite of the other ones listed is DuckDuckGo, because of the bang feature. So quick and easy!

How to Write a Memoir

I adore memoirs, but I am picky about them, so I heartily endorse these rules for how to write them. Hint: confessional writing alone does not a good memoir make.

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Book Review: Dark Road to Darjeeling

Book Review: Dark Road to DarjeelingDark Road to DarjeelingBook Review: Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn

Book 4 in the Julia Grey and Nicholas Brisbane mysteries. I’d enjoyed books 1 – 3 quite a bit, as fun historicals. This book was a lot less fun, and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re reading the series and are as much a stickler for not skipping books in a series as I am.

If you haven’t read any of the earlier books and think you might and don’t want to know some details that are discovered in those books, you might want to stop reading now.

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