Genre: Non-Fiction

501 Must-Visit Destinations | Book Review

Posted January 28, 2016 by Jana in Adult Non-Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

501 Must-Visit Destinations | Book Review501 Must-Visit Destinations by David Brown, Jackum Brown, Kieran Fogarty, Rebecca Walder
Published by Bounty Books on January 1, 2006
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 544
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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5 Stars

The book covers 501 must-visit destinations, ranging from remote hideaways and tropical islands to bustling cities, breathtaking monuments and stunning landscapes across the world. Stunning photography sits alongside informative text and a summary of don't-miss features of each site.

I’m plagued with a very serious disease called wanderlust. I live to explore new places, which is hard when you’re a poor grad school student. The next best thing is to flip through books like these and transport yourself to a new place, free of charge. This book takes you to every possible vacation spot ever! It covers Africa, the Americas and the Caribbean, Asia, Australasia and Oceania, Europe, and the Middle East. The pages all have color-coded tabs that tell you where you are. Each destination gets one page with about 4-6 paragraphs of text and a beautiful image or two. There’s also a sidebar for each location that tells you a number of different important facts about when to go, how to get there, any yummy foods you should try, what to do while you’re there, where to stay, legends, taboo, entrance fees, and any social etiquette you should be aware of. The main body of the text discusses the history, culture, and other interesting tidbits.

I learned a lot on my journey with this book! Let me highlight some of my favorite facts. Did you know that Lake Malawi has the largest variety of freshwater tropical fish in the world? In Egypt, women should cover their knees and shoulders in public. Cat Island in the Bahamas is where Columbus first landed in the New World. For all you pink-lovers out there, visit Barbuda in the Caribbean! They have a pink sand beach! Canada has its own serpent-like creature lurking around the waters of the Lake Okanagan. Sightings have been made at least once a year, unlike the Loch Ness Monster. They also have a Sasquatch-like creature creeping through the islands of God’s Pocket. I had no idea that the Florida Everglades is the only place on earth where alligators and crocodiles cohabit!

Moving on. Welcome to Asia! Did you know that the Buddhists believe that mountain Kailasa is the birthplace of the world? They feel this way because there are four rivers that flow down its slopes into the four corners of the world. I’d love to see that, wouldn’t you? Be careful, though! According to the locals, setting foot on its slopes is a dire sin. You might die. That’d put a damper on the vacation, huh? Thought so.

Remember how “The Bear Necessities” in Disney’s The Jungle Book mentions the pawpaw (prickly pear)? Well, Captain Bligh is credited with introducing that fruit to the people of Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. The Louvre used to be the world’s largest palace before it became the world’s largest art museum. Europe has its own Grand Canyon: Les Gorges du Verdon in France. The film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, was partially filmed in Neuschwanstein—the royal palace in the Bavarian Alps of Germany. The beautiful British Museum is totally and completely amazing… plus, entrance is FREE! Good to know!

Anyone seen the movie Leap Year? Part of it takes place in beautiful Dingle. A dolphin named Fungie has lived in that harbor since 1984. Makes me want to visit even more now! Mount Athos, in Greece, is the treasury of the Greek Orthodox faith and only men can apply to enter. Men, if you’re interested be sure to apply at least 6 months in advance because only 10 are allowed to visit per day. Spain has its own Guggenheim Museum! It looks just as awesome as the famous Guggenheim in New York. Our journey ends in the Middle East with a personal favorite: Jerusalem. Did you know that Jerusalem is also known as “the City of Peace”? Kind of ironic, considering it’s the most disputed city on earth.

Doesn’t this make you want to jump on a plane and start exploring? This book is 544 pages of dream vacations, and I would love to visit every single one of them. I am really annoyed that the book did not come with plane tickets and travel accommodations for each of these destinations. I mean, come on! I would recommend this book to any traveler, whether you’re experienced or just daydream about it a lot.

5 Stars

Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light by Amy Thomas

Posted January 30, 2012 by Jana in Adult Non-Fiction, Book Review / 7 Comments

Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light by Amy ThomasParis, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) by Amy Thomas
Published by Sourcebooks on February 1, 2012
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Pages: 280
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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2 Stars

Part love letter to New York, part love letter to Paris, and total devotion to all things sweet. Paris, My Sweet is a personal and moveable feast that’s a treasure map for anyone who loves fresh cupcakes and fine chocolate, New York and Paris, and life in general. It’s about how the search for happiness can be as fleeting as a sliver of cheesecake and about how the life you’re meant to live doesn’t always taste like the one you envisioned. Organized into a baker’s dozen of delicacies (and the adventures they inspired) that will tempt readers’ appetites, Paris, My Sweet is something to savor.

The idea of this memoir is pretty adorable. I love Paris, I love New York, and I love desserts! I envy that Amy Thomas got to fly off to live in Paris for two years, doing advertising for Louis Vuitton and sampling all the amazing pastries and breads, not to mention the culture itself. The pages of this book are crammed full of bakeries and other foodish places in both Paris and New York. She makes a lot of recommendations for those who plan to travel to either location. Many times I felt like I was reading a menu with really detailed, yummy dessert descriptions. Do not read this on an empty stomach, or if you’re on a diet. The author even had me craving desserts I’m allergic to!

She also talks a lot about the history of various bakeries and dessert creations. Like the original chocolate chip cookie was a mistake. Someone accidentally dropped a chocolate bar in their cookie dough, and decided to go with the flow. A star was born. There’s lots of cool tidbits of information that I enjoyed reading about. I learned quite a bit.

Of course, she adds in personal stories from her past, as well as her time in Paris. My favorite one is when her parents fly to Paris to visit her. She describes all the touristy stuff there is to do, and she made me want to visit even more. She takes them to this one tearoom called Angelina’s, that sells the best hot chocolate in the world. She compares it to melted truffles. YUM. Coco Chanel used to have her 5:00 tea there everyday, and Audrey Hepburn popped in frequently. I looked this place up online, and it is GORGEOUS (and majorly expensive). I need to go!

There were a few things that caused me to drop my rating of this book. I loved the idea, but the execution could have been stronger. I don’t speak or read French, and there is a TON of French in this book with no translations! She has a conversation with a woman who runs a bakery, and it was entirely in French. I could kind of make out what the general idea of the conversation was, but I had no idea what they were saying. She also used a lot of French phrases in the middle of her English sentences. It took away from my enjoyment, because I kept getting frustrated that I was missing something important. I just wish a parenthetical translation were there, or a footnote. Something. The author also writes really long, flowery sentences (sometimes the size of a lengthy paragraph) that are extremely wordy lists of stuff. She does this a lot (sometimes 2-3 times per page), and it gets kind of tiring. Here are a few examples:

  • “For months, I had been positively gushing about life in Paris: how charming the square-shaped trees were and how exquisite the ironwork; how graceful the seventeenth-century hotel particuliers (that’s French, not a typo) and enviable the French women’s legs; how sweet the strawberries and how divine the wine.”
  • “My visions of canal-side picnics in August were cruelly dashed, to say nothing of the chocolate eclairs heavy with custard, the buttery brioches that begged to be pinched and devoured, and raspberry tarts with their plump berries perfectly fanned out across precious beds of creme patissiere and moist pate sablee crusts that would have to go untasted while I was at the office.”
  • “But the prixe-fixe menu was also quite a value, considering it was really four courses once you factored in the biggest, most ridiculously decadent cheese course that came with it… or six courses, when you counted the two amusesebouches that began the meal… or eight courses with the two side dishes served alongside our entrees… or fourteen courses with the dishes of complimentary gelees, caramels, chocolates, lemon cakes, and petits fours that came in addition to our dessert course.”

Finally, she’s a complainer. She complains a lot about being single, and how all of her friends are pairing off. She complains about Paris, her job, her lack of friends, how her jeans are tighter than they used to be (which they should be with everything she eats! Haha), her lack of French skills, and how she misses New York. But then she goes back to visit NYC, and mopes and complains about how it’s not upscale enough for her anymore. And THEN she goes back to Paris and complains that she misses New York. I understand that it’s hard uprooting your life and moving to a foreign city. And I can totally understand why she felt like this. But filling her memoir with complaints didn’t make much sense to me. She spent a lot of the book sporting the “the grass is always greener on the other side” mentality, and I got tired of it. She was giddy about food. Food solved all of her problems. I wish she’d expressed more of her happiness in other areas of life.

Overall, this was a moderately enjoyable read. The author has a few coming of age moments, and you can tell she learned a lot about herself during her time abroad. I appreciated her human side, but wished for a little more depth. She either talked at great length about food or her hardships. I enjoyed reading about the food, but I got sick of it towards the latter part of the book (it started to feel about as exciting as a cookbook without the recipes). Maybe Paris, My Sweet should be read in small doses, along with another book. I might have appreciated it more that way. If you love New York and Paris, this book will take you there. And if you love torturing your dieting self with amazing sounding pastries, this is the book for you! At least reading about calories doesn’t plaster them to your hips, right? I’ve created a Dessert Bucket List now, thanks to Amy Thomas. :)

2 Stars