Thursday, May 25, 2006

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell

This is a true account of a woman who tries to add meaning to her somewhat dreary existence by cooking all of the recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year and blogging about it. The author, Julie Powell, is approaching 30, working as a temp, facing fertility problems, and living in a dumpy apartment with her husband in NYC.
I listened to the audio, narrated by the author. This was not an easy endeavor, (the cooking not listening to the book). The recipes vary from the sublime to the gross (cold poached eggs in aspic!!!) I enjoyed the audio very much. Often humorous, sometimes surprisingly poignant, Julie has an interesting tale to tell.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

As simple as snow

This is an interesting first book by Gregory Galloway, but nothing in it is as simple as the title suggests. The narrator is a teenage boy who meets Anna, the newcomer in town. Anna is an intriguing character & has an opinion on everything and even recommends books to him. Her hobby is writing obituaries of all people who live in that town! Then halfway Anna disappears, & then it is a search for Anna thru codes, buried maps etc. This book did get the ALA Alex award for 2006. Alex awards are given to 10 books that are written for adults and can be recommended to young adults. Everything in the book is a clue even the ending!. Try deciphering it.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Sight For Sore Eyes

I'm not all that into suspense fiction but I do like Ruth Rendell's psychological suspense. My favorite is The Crocodile Bird. That one is a must read. I listened to A Sight for Sore Eyes on tape--narrated by Donada Peters. It's creepy good fun. Rendell is a master at creating a dark mood with an ongoing sense of foreboding in a contemporary setting. Edgar Allen Poe meets Stephen King? Dysfunctional families produce two young people who are not comfortable in their surroundings. Of course, their paths cross and their lives and the lives of those close to them are never the same. Read it on a dark and stormy night. I just hope you don't have an Edsel in your garage.

The Space Between Us

This one by Thrity Umrigar didn't capture me immediately but in no time I was immersed in the lives of the two main characters. Bhima is a domestic servant to the wealthy Sera. Because of social class and, being in India, the caste system, their lives are very different; but because they are women their lives are very much the same. Universal issues of gender and class make this story resonate with all of us. The skillful unveiling of the plot made this tragedy hard to put down. Great for book discussions.

A Gesture Life

Chang-rae Lee's 1999 novel had been recommended to me several times over the past several years and it was just a matter of time before I read it. I was not disappointed. Multi-layered, it initially is about a Japanese man, Doc Hata, who lives a very ordinary life in a small town in New England. Of course, that's only the surface and little by little you learn that much has happened in his recent as well as distant past--an adopted daughter from whom he is estranged and horrific incidents during WWII to name a few. This one will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Clumsiest People in Europe, or: Mrs. Mortimer’s Bad-Tempered Guide to the Victorian World

One can only guess that Favell Lee Mortimer must have been a joy to be around. A noted mid-19th century author of children’s books, she also published a series of travel books. Compared to our familiar and trusty Frommer’s or Lonely Planet guides, though, Mortimer’s works are, one could say, less jovial. Mortimer shows unusual creativity in finding something wicked to say about everyone, everywhere. Germans read too much useless literature, she feels, while thieves lurk behind bushes throughout Spain. She struggles to write enough bad things to satisfy her dislike for anywhere so misguided as to be predominantly Catholic. Her writing reveals a peculiar sadism as she imagines all the unfortunate mishaps that might befall a traveler to, well, anywhere. Viewed through her writing, even her native England seems particularly unpleasant. According to this book’s editor, Todd Pruzan, who admits he didn’t know quite what to make of Mortimer’s books when he stumbled across copies in an old barn, Mortimer only twice strayed from home. She went to Paris once, and another time ventured as far as Wales. While these selections from her writings are wickedly funny, Pruzan’s helpful historical backgrounds that precede each entry add a strange sobriety to the work. The mid-19th century world was not all roses. Civil wars, rampant imperialism, famine and disease spilled over huge swaths of the Victorian map. Whatever one makes of Mortimer’s invective, this offbeat mash of history, humor and commentary make for a wonderfully engaging read.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Speed of Dark

Elizabeth Moon's 2003 novel is a compelling story of a high functioning autistic man. As with the better known Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the reader gains a real understanding--and appreciation--for the autistic's world. Speed of Dark is set in the near future when a "cure" for autism has just been developed, and human subjects are needed. The pages nearly turn themselves as a plethora of important moral questions are explored. This is a book deserving much wider readership.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Never let me go

This novel set in the 1990’s, England covers a controversial topic of science & ethics, where students of a private school are solely produced for the medical harvesting of their organs. As children they are protected from the ultimate truth. The main narrator Kathy, is now a carer of a donor & ultimately she’ll become a donor & complete her life. It’s not completely clear how this process happens. The narrator recounts in detail her interactions with fellow teenagers at the school & their attempts to understand their role in the big plan. The book is very detailed in narrative which does slow down the book , but is very touching too. I am ready to read Kazuo Ishigoru’s earlier books and all of them have good reviews.