30 August 2003

Reads & Listens, August 2003


The Future Homemakers of America by Laurie Graham
I managed to slog through the first part of the book (real slow going) until the characters developed to such a point I could keep them straight in my head. Overall, this wasn't the most exciting book I've read nor the best written. At times it seemed the author was sacrificing story for time -- was it really necessary to cover forty years in the life of Peggy & Co? Couldn't we just have covered the "important" events? Why keep introducing issues and then abandoning them? However, despite its failings, this was still a pretty pleasurable piece of fluff.

Swann by Carol Shields
Do not skip ahead to the end. I did this and ruined the book for myself. It was still a great read, but knowing how and why the Swann material was going missing took some of the fun out of it.

Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier
Wow. This is one of the best books I have ever read. I laughed. I cried. I danced. I hungered. Go read this book. Go. Now.

Alia Waking by Laura Williams McCaffrey
Hrm. Alia wants to be a warrior, but fears she will not be accepted into the sisterhood. Slowly, through her relationship with two captured "spies" she begins to rethink what it is to be a warrior and whether she really wants to be one. Includes dabs of magic, beautifully descriptive imagery, and realistic character behavior. I would have enjoyed the novel more if McCaffrey had avoided the use of made up or tweaked names. "Keenten," for some reason, drove me crazy. Maybe, because I kept trying to read it as "kenteen" (canteen)?

What Are YOU so Grumpy About? by Tom Lichtenheld
Yes, the story is fun, but it's the illustrations and side comments that really make this book (the cereal boxes are my favorites). Some of the text is hard to read -- the washing machine page uses a swirly, squiggly font which is pretty hard on the eyes, but does look like a wash cycle ought to. All the children in this book are white and most are male. A pity, because while the topic should appeal to all children (and their parents) some children may feel left out as they are not represented in this book.

Bliss by Gabrielle Pina
Absolutely stunning debut novel. Beautifully written with lyric prose and excellent character development. I was so completely swept up by this novel I cried a little bit at the end. All this book lacked was a soundtrack.

Love With the Proper Husband by Victoria Alexander

Pillsbury Doughboy Slow Cooker Recipes: 140 New Ways to Have Dinner Ready & Waiting!
One of the best slow cooker recipe collections I've ever used. Simple, straight forward, and yet tasty recipes perfect for a work night or Sunday dinner. So far, I've made the Cheesy Italian Tortellini, Ravioli with Smoked Sausage and Peppers, Yellow Pea Soup with Chorizo, Smothered Buttermilk Chicken over Biscuits, and the Salsa Chicken. All keepers.

The Keeper of the Isis Light by Monica Hughes
I first read this book when I was elevenish and it rocked my world. It had everything -- robots, space travel, impossible love, self sacrifice, and faint whiffs of sex. Olwen is the only human on Isis. One day, settlers arrive and Olwen discovers that the things she has taken for granted about herself and her planet are suddenly and startlingly different. What is it to be human? I am pleased to discover this book is the first part of a trilogy and I look forward to reading the rest.

To Sir Phillip, With Love by Julia Quinn
As always, this Quinn novel starts with a cute plot premise and then goes nowhere fast. With tighter editing, this would make an excellent short story.

It All Began with Jane Eyre or, The Secret Life of Fanny Dillman by Sheila Greenwald
Fanny's mom is worried about the books her daughter has been reading (Jane Eyre, for one) and gives her a few "teen angst" novels, instead. Of course, Fanny incorporates the plots of those books into her own life and madness ensues. While the tone is a little too clever (and sometimes the tone feels a bit condescending) this is still a good YA read. This is the book that introduced me to Jane Eyre and the joys of reading in the closet by flashlight.

Threshold by Ursula K. Le Guin
Published in the US as The Beginning Place, this is the story about growing up, and the loss of innocence. I found the book to be a bit confusing -- the unanticipated POV changes and constant reference to characters by pronouns rather than proper names kept me flipping back and forth trying to make sense of what I was reading. The characters are also not very well developed, but if you treat the book as a mythic tale full of archetypes, character development may not matter so much.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
Frequently compared to Maus because of its content and graphic style, this is simply stunning book. I grew up knowing very little about the conflict in the Middle East -- either, it wasn't taught in school or I wasn't paying attention, but I don't remember covering the 1979 revolution (I do remember covering the US Civil War every damn year). This book is extremely well-told fantastically illustrates Iranian history in the late twentieth century. I devoured the book in one sitting and await the next volume with great anticipation.

The Wright Sister by Richard Maurer
This is a beautifully put together book full of otherwise unseen photos of Katherine Wright. Even discounting her relationship with her brothers, she remains a very interesting lady.

Nerd in Shining Armor by Vicki Lewis Thompson
As a girl geek married to a boy geek, I wanted more from Nerd than it delivered. While this book is not particularly well edited or put together and most of the story is extremely predictable, it would still make a decent beach or airport read. Large parts of the story are repeated over and over again so you don't miss much by reading it in chunks. The sex scenes are alright, but generally told from the male POV (what he did to her versus what she felt or did to him), but that's pretty standard for this genre.

17 August 2003

Glorious Garlic In My Tummy @ Adam's Garden of Eden

I have eaten so much garlic today that I could knock a vampire dead at ten paces. The rain turned out to be a plus as it cut down on the crowds and made it much easier to talk to stall owners. No real waiting for food, either. Was I ruled by my taste bud's insatiable lust for garlic today? You betcha.

Balsamic grilled portabella mushroom caps with a dollop of garlic goat cheese ... garlic and shiitake potato vichyssoise with garlic pesto croustades ... fried dough with garlic ... damned fine chicken gyro with garlic ... ginger garlic chicken ... garlic ice cream ...

And there are pictures, because The Husband brought the camera along. We don't bring the camera to family functions, but we bring it to the garlic festival!