The Julie Julia Project: Something to get your teeth into

9780141043982I have absolutely no idea of what is going on in the world this week because rather than listening to the radio in the car, I have spent all my vehicular hours on the Julie and Julia Project. Nine CDs of being absorbed in the life of a somewhat hysterical Texan New Yorker and her quest to cook all 500 and what ever number recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking (or MTAOFC as she refers to it).

Let me tell you, I am NOT a fan of the cooking memoir. The exception is this completely compelling slice of life from one Julie Powell, who, in the shadow of the first anniversary of September 11, and her own loudly ticking biological clock, decided to cook and blog her way into a new life by emulating America’s cooking sweetheart of the 60s and 70s, Julia Child.

The best thing about listening to this memoir, is that the author, Julie Powell, has recorded it  herself. With a voice that is caught somewhere between Austen and and the east coast, she is one woman not to mess with. There is nothing saccharine or sentimental about our Julie. She calls a spade a shovel, or in fact, an f***ing shovel, and when it comes to cooking in her tiny Long Island apartment with the dodgy plumbing and the occasionally blocked and frozen pipes, near enough is definitely good enough.

You’ll be hearing a lot about this story in coming weeks because the movie with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams is being released on October 8. But my advice to you is read it, or better still, listen to it first. I have Julie’s voice in my head and let me say, it is loud, strident and authentic and if the trailer is a good indication, the movie version just doesn’t cut it. By the way, you can read an extract here.

Meantime, if like me, you are now inspired to dust off the apron and get out the rolling pin, Penguin is releasing local editions of MTAOFC. Volume one will be out towards the end of October, with volume two a month or so later. We can get versions in from the US sooner, but they are pretty pricey.

By the way, Julie’s blog is still out there in cyberspace. The last entry was on Friday 13, 2004, the day after Julia Child, aged 91 died in her sleep, about six months after the official end of the Julie Julia project. There were 264 comments from readers that day.

On fire with The Hunger Games and Catching Fire

9781407109084First it was The Hunger Games, now it is Catching Fire. I haven’t seen this month young adult enthusiasm since the early days of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight phenomenon. In fact, Ms Meyer herself is a big fun of Suzanne Collins‘ nail-biters.

Put these books into the hands of anyone above the age of 13 and you won’t see them again until their gasp of tension at the very last page. Believe me, I have tested this theory reasonably widely. And from the number of pre-orders we already have for the October release of Catching Fire, word has definitely got out. 9781407109367What will be interesting to see is how long it will take adults will get onto the bandwagon.

In the meantime, this is the sort of noise they are generating in the US, where they have dominated the charts since their release.

Here is a trailer for The Hunger Games.

A word of advice from the Collins’ fans in my household – you absolutely have to read The Hunger Games before you go on to Catching Fire. And after that – well, there is a long frustrating wait for the next one.

dogs v cats: BTG weighs in

9780740789649OK, it pains me to put this out there (being a cat lover wot I am) but have a look at this very cute clip put together by none other than Bradley Trevor Grieve (he of the Blue Day Book and many, many others) extolling the virtues of dogs.

BTG as he is known in the trade, is famous for his own love of dogs, and in (gulp) Why Dogs Are Better Than Cats he has distilled it all, in a series of gorgeous images and linking text.

I hope he appreciates how high minded I am talking about this. It doesn’t come easily!

Huge savings on The Lost Symbol – only a few hours left

lostsymbol-tileI can’t tell you the number of pre-orders we have but let me say its HUGE .

In the meantime, The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown goes on sale tomorrow at 9am (and not a minute before).

So here’s the story.

If you order today you pay $19.95 for a book that should retail for $49.95. If you order tomorrow, you’ll pay $29.95.

Click on an image of The Lost Symbol to order Dan Brown’s new book at only $19.95 and save 60%. And if you already have, send this link to your friends, pronto.

New Stieg Larsson: A Brilliant Book at a Brilliant Price

stieg larssonFour years ago, an unknown Swedish journalilst delivered three manuscripts to his publishers in Stockholm. These supremely exciting, page-turning thrillers featuring crusading liberal journalist Mikael Blomkvist and distrubing punk heroine Lisbeth Salander became  known as the Millenium Trilogy.

The journalist was Stieg Larsson and his books went on to sell more than three million copies in Sweden alone, although he tragically died suddenly aged fifty and never saw the phenomenon which swept the publishing world. It wasn’t long before there were more than 13 million books in 35 countries – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and (finally in English on October 1), The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.

untitledI know that anyone who has started the series will be absolutely itching to get their hands on Hornets’ Nest.

We have The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest at an unbeatably low price of $19.95. That’s a massive 39% off the retail price of $32.95 and you certainly won’t find anything better than that!

(Delivery or pick up after publication on  October 1).

Meantime, the fans are eagerly awaiting Dragon Tattoo on screen later on this year in Australia.

Man Booker Prize Short List

The field is narrowing for the Man Booker prize, with the long list being whittled back to 6 contenders.

summertimeOur favourite of course, given the Australian connection, is J.M Coetzee’s Summerland, which would put the South African born and raised author on a hat trick given his wins for Disgrace and the Life and Times of Michael K.

A S Byatt is also up for a second win with The Children’s Book. childrens bookPossession was the winner in 1990.

Hilary Mantel’s Elizabethan novel Wolf Hall was the one that was whispered in my ear when it was released onto the Australian market several months ago.

Other contenders are Sarah Waters for The Little Stranger, Simon Mawer for The Glass Room and Adam Foulds for The Quickening Maze.quickening make

And it won’t be easy to come up with one name on October 6, according to judge chair Simon Naughtie.

We’re thrilled to be able to announce such a strong shortlist, so enticing that it will certainly give us a headache when we come to select the winner. The choice will be a difficult one. There is thundering narrative, great inventiveness, poetry and sharp human insight in abundance.“These are six writers on the top of their form. They’ve given us great enjoyment already, and it’s a measure of our confidence in their books that all of us are looking forward to reading them yet again before we decide on the prizewinner. What more could we ask?

Meantime, we read, and we wait.

Stunning debut crime – Black Water Rising

A few people have asked me lately why I am always so enthusiastic about the books I review. I get the gist – why the hyperbole? Are those books really all that good?

Well no, its not hyperbole. The way I see it, there are so many deeply satisfying reads, why waste time finishing something that doesn’t grab you, let alone talking about it (despite being sorely tempted from time to time, especially in the case of one very well known author whose writing,  in my opinion, is a dance of a thousand cliches).

blackwaterrisingA long preamble to introduce a stunning crime noir read from debut author Attica Locke. Black Water Rising is laid out so clearly you can feel the sweat of the Bayou heat trickling down between your shoulder blades, you can see the marshes oozing, you can feel the pulse in the temple of its hero, journeyman Afro American lawyer Jay Porter.

Attica Locke weaves a tangled web of murder and intrigue, court room drama, set-up and counter set-up, unholy alliance of politics and business (something strangely familiar given the current daily unfolding of theories surrounding the recent murder of Michael McGurk in Sydney). Most of all, she tells a story of a man held ransom by his past. And Porter’s past plunges straight right back to the birth, and  some might say abrupt strangling, of the civil rights movement in America.

attica lockeLocke knows about this subject. She grew up near Buffalo Bayou in Houston where her story is set. Named after an uprising in Attica prison in upstate New York in 1971, Locke is the daughter of a couple who made the transition from college radicals to working professionals, never stopping to voice the disillusionment they felt about a social movement that stopped just short of real victory.

“I felt the weight of what went unspoken”, she explains.

“In both my parents’ lives, in their hearts, in their quietest moments, there was a palpable sense of melancholy, a sense of loss that the times didn’t make a lot of space for. In the early Reagan era, the whole country was caught up in a colletive fit of amnesia over the wounds and hurt feelings of the 1960s and 70s. And no place more so than Houston, Texas, which was awash with oil money and a blind, almost arrogant sense that the future held nothing but promise.”

Attica Locke has been getting a lot of attention for her debut novel, and a lot of excellent reviews.

Black Water Rising is a near-perfect balance of trenchant social commentary, rich characterizations and an action-oriented plot according to the LA Times.

That action-oriented plot is drawn directly from the author’s past, with the central event of the novel based on an incident that happened to the eleven year old Locke and her family one night on the Bayou. She has made a tight, tense thriller out of it, a story where the big picture is just a menacing as the personal drama. Talk about the sins of the father being visited on the son. As the lyrics say, Adam raised a Cain. I couldn’t put this one down.

Pub. date : October 1.

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