Julie and Julia by Julie Powell

Published: 1st September 2005 (print)/28th September (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Little Brown and Company/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 310 pages/8 discs
Narrator: Julie Powell
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Non Fiction
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Trapped in a boring job and living in a tiny apartment in New York, Julie Powell regularly finds herself weeping on the way home from work. Then one night, through her mascara-smudged eyes, Julie notices that the few items she’s grabbed from the Korean grocery store are the very ingredients for Potage Parmentier, as described in Julia Childs’ legendary cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. And The Project is born. Julie begins to cook – every one of the 524 recipes in the book, in the space of just one year. This is Julie’s story, as gradually, from oeufs en cocotte to bifstek sauté au beurre, from ‘Bitch Rice’ to preparing live lobsters, she realises that this deranged Project is changing her life. The richness of the thousands of sauces she slaves over is beginning to spread into her life, and she begins to find the joie de vivre that has been missing for too many years.

The complete title of this book is Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen: How One Girl Risked Her Marriage, Her Job, and Her Sanity to Master the Art of Living which is a nice fun mouthful. I’ve also seen it more commonly be called Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously. I chose to read this because I love reading the books movies are based on, and I enjoyed the movie so I thought I would give this a go, even if it was nonfiction. I have to say, the movie was, not better, I guess, but certainly more interesting.

The odd thing is I didn’t dislike this book, I liked the premise, it is told well. I listened to the audio book which was narrated by Julie Powell herself so that was good. The issue I had was that I wasn’t invested, nothing really happened. I had to keep reminding myself this was a nonfiction book based on a blog so that explains the lack of story, because life doesn’t have key moments planned out and an arc that propels you along. But Julie’s told her story well, there is a rise and fall of events, you follow her journey and are meant to celebrate with her and mourn her mistakes. And I did for the most part.

The problem was, I realised that I could tune out for a time and come back and not have missed anything, not be lost or need to rewind. There are a lot of detailed instructions about the cooking Julie does, understandably, and the lives of her friends and herself. Understandable as I say, it isn’t a memoir really, it’s a book based on a blog about cooking, there will be a lot of cooking mentioned. This is why I am confused. I didn’t dislike it, it just…was. Pleasant enough but it felt like it dragged on. Again, it’s nonfiction it is what it is, but towards the end I was losing interest in her journey.

I was intrigued by the parts about Julia Child. There aren’t many but it was interesting to have snippets of her life included, as a story and not as facts. It was a true side by side of their lives.

I actually watched the move afterwards and realised a lot of what was in the book had been included, save a few changes here and there. So that was nice, seeing it told in almost truth.

You can purchase Julie and Julia via the following

Booktopia | Wordery

Fishpond | A&R BookWorld

Amazon | Dymocks

Book Depository

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Fight Like A Girl by Clementine Ford

Published: 28th September 2016 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Allen & Unwin
Pages: 294
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non-Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Online sensation, fearless feminist heroine and scourge of trolls and misogynists everywhere, Clementine Ford is a beacon of hope and inspiration to thousands of Australian women and girls. Her incendiary debut Fight Like A Girl is an essential manifesto for feminists new, old and soon-to-be, and exposes just how unequal the world continues to be for women. Crucially, it is a call to arms for all women to rediscover the fury that has been suppressed by a society that still considers feminism a threat.

Fight Like A Girl will make you laugh, cry and scream. But above all it will make you demand and fight for a world in which women have real equality and not merely the illusion of it.

I had been hearing so much about this book when it was published and I was eager to get my hands on it and experience it for myself. Reading it was all I hoped it would be and more, I filled its pages with Post It’s marking of important and wonderful quotes. I also got to meet Ford at the Newcastle Writers’ Festival which was amazing, as was listening to her in her sessions.

Fight Like A Girl is a book that everyone should read, every girl and every woman, but also every man. So many of my own experiences are laid out in this book. The fact that I can agree with so much of Ford’s words should be worrying, but it’s not. They’re a comfort because it reminds me that I’m not being paranoid or silly when I hold me keys in my fingers walking back to my car late at night, it reminds me I’m not overreacting when I feel uncomfortable having a stranger talk to me at the bus stop when he’s a little drunk, worried what he’ll say and what I’m safe to respond with. It makes me think of all the times I’ve placated a thought to save hurting a man’s feelings and not stood up for something out of fear of personal verbal attack. It’s reminded me that the passion and the fight I feel inside me is one that many women out there are feeling and that it’s ok to feel this way.

Ford addresses many issues and “societal norms” I suppose we could call them through her chapters and she is unapologetic in her words and opinions. Mixed in with her own experiences it’s actually a humorous and enlightening book at times that looks at how society has been constructed to see women as the lesser and the weaker, the one in need of defending and the one who is not only walked over and shut down by the patriarchy, but happy to have it happen.

It’s not all agreement and scoffs at how men are and how childish they can be when their ways of life are challenged. Parts of this book made me sick to my stomach and it makes me angry and sad, but more importantly, it flames the fire I’ve been stoking for the past few years. The feminist I’ve been since my second year of uni and the one who’s gradually doing a little more than fuming internally and sharing Tumblr posts, cheering in the tags.

This is a book for everyone. To quote Ford, it “is a love letter to the girls”. There are some tough topics being discussed in here, but they’re important, and this book is important because if someone doesn’t want to listen to (or believe) a women’s experience from her own mouth, you can always throw this book at them instead.

You can purchase Fight Like A Girl via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Amazon | Dymocks | Allen & Unwin

Angus and Robinson’s Bookworld | Fishpond

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Don’t Hit Me! by Vanessa de Largie

Published: 19th March 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher: 
Booktrope
Pages: 88
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non-fiction
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Australian actress and author Vanessa de Largie is a survivor of domestic violence. Don’t Hit Me! is the true diarised account of her time living with an abusive man. The story is conveyed through poems, journal entries and fragments of lyrical prose. The book is a snapshot of domestic violence in real time. Raw, poignant and brave – it’s a tale that will stay with you.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the author for review.

For a very short book with very little writing, this book says a lot. Vanessa de Largie’s story is unfortunately one that’s not unique, but the way she has told it is.

The poems, journal entries, and collection of thoughts are raw, honest, poetic, and real. De Largie tells readers at the start this is not a story that unfolds as a normal story would, but unfolds as a story that did. Moments of her life are displayed on the page, there for everyone to see, and it highlights the life of a victim, without the long narration, reflection, and the chronology and increasing severity some other books have.

What is wonderful about this though is that this short 88 page book filled with fragments of de Largie’s life portrays a much bigger picture that any complete story would have. The life of an abuse victim is there in short verse and paragraphs of a moment, and the pain within and the struggle to live each day, hoping for a moment of freedom, even for a short while screams off the page.

Even in these short fragments you get caught up in de Largie’s world, you’re there with her, beside her, seeing her pain, it’s incredible. You sense her mood, her retreat within herself, her strength and determination to stay alive, and the darkness that offered her a way out.

Telling a story of this nature like this is unconventional but it is no less powerful. This is a snippet and snapshot of moments in de Largie’s life with an abuser and a wonderful expression of the empowerment of being free. I think bringing the issue of domestic abuse to light in such a brilliant way is commendable and one I hope highlights not just the life of the abused, but offers inspiration for those who think they don’t have the strength.

You can purchase Don’t Hit Me! via the following

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Readings

Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman

Published: May 14th 2013
Goodreads badgePublisher: William Morrow
Pages: 80
Format: Book
Genre: Non Fiction/Inspirational
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

This book is for anybody looking around and thinking, now what?

 In May 2012, bestselling author Neil Gaiman stood at a podium at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts to deliver the commencement address. For the next nineteen minutes he shared his thoughts about creativity, bravery, and strength: he encouraged the students before him to break rule and think outside the box. Most of all, he encouraged the fledgling painters, musicians, writers, and dreamers to make good art.

Make Good Art is a book representation of the commencement address Neil Gaiman made in 2012. It is his advice and experience in a short book that he gave to the students at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts. There is so much I love in this book, the message for certain, but I also love the way it is presented. The design and layout of this book is done by Chip Kidd, a graphic designer and writer, and while it may be unconventional, I believe it is just the right way to express the message Gaiman is trying to put across in his speech.

People talk about it being a pain and how it makes this book lose its message a bit, but I think how Kidd has converted this is wonderful. I understand the early pages can be hard as the words move about the page, but this settles down as you progress, while maintaining the colour and design. The way this book is presented I think only adds to the message Gaiman is making. All art is Art. His words are reinforced by how Kidd has presented them and shows there are no rules in getting your message out.

I know some people may feel that there are enough motivational speakers and people should just know what to do or do what they want, but having someone reinforce your own ideas and desires, especially someone you admire and idolise reaffirming and assuring you it is going to be ok is sometimes the right thing a person needs to hear. And when they are discussing something you’re passionate about is much better, everyone offers something new and different based on their own experiences and history.

Gaiman talks in his speech about his own journey and his own learned lessons in his career. He talks about how the world is changing, about how art is art regardless, and how there should always be a time for making art, whether your cat has exploded or not. There are so many lessons and inspiring messages that can be taken from this speech, one I think that will benefit even those who are not involved in creating art. Anything you strive to do, anything you dream about doing Gaiman tells you you can make it happen if you want it, you just need to find the right way of doing it.

I will never tire of hearing commencement speeches. I adored the two I was able to hear at my own graduations, as well as at friends graduations, not to mention the ones other people have done like Tim Minchin, and now Neil Gaiman. I watched the video of this speech when it was first released and the effect it had on me then was the same one evoked from reading the words. You can still watch the video here if you have 19 minutes 54 seconds to spare, you won’t regret it. There is something wonderful though about also reading the speech, there are many wonderful snippets that can be great inspirational quotes just when you need them to reassure you or to motivate you. It is a quick read, but it manages to capture to feeling of his speech so well.

One message is that “People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. They’ll forgive the lateness of work if it’s good, and they like you. And you don’t always have to be as good as the others if you’re on time and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.” This does not apply to art alone, and while it is directed and focused on the arts, it is a great speech about succeeding in life as well. And there are so many others to inspire people to create and find their place and voice in the world, no matter what format.

What is certain that the message you are left with when you finish is to leave the world more interesting for your being here.