Meredith's Challenge 2.0

52 books, one year. Stay tuned for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

#26 The Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher

Fun Fact: I bought this for $1 at a library book sale and I'm pretty certain that it is a first edition copy. It's a little beat up and doesn't have that nifty dust jacket either. So, it's probably not worth much, but still cool. It's amazing how well constructed it is compared to books that are being printed now. I have the feeling that my first edition copy of Half-Blood Prince will have long fallen apart fifty years hence while Fisher will be in just as good shape as when it was first sold, more than hundred years previous. Enough dorkiness for now? Lost all my readership? Check.

I didn't know that Fisher was such a racy writer (at least for her time) until I read this She talks about "extreme sexual overexcitment", divorce, extramarital affairs (her own), lesbianism and aphrodisiacs. I shouldn't be too surprised though. "Foodies" ought to be sensualists, at least the good ones. Go watch Babette's Feast, if you don't believe me.

This is the third time I've picked this up but the only time I completed it. It was hard for me to get into. However by the end, I decided I liked it because it has fascinating insights into how people lived before WWI, at least gastronomically. I was particularly interested in how people cooked with limited refrigeration, kitchen space and no electricity or gas heating element. Fisher makes it sound like it wasn't too hard but a) she was a very fine cook, b) she didn't have any other experience or choices and c) she was in France! I get the feeling that France is an easy place to eat. You go around the corner to the fromagerie, get a hunk of brie, a few store fronts down is the boulangerie and a few more is the grocer's or a farmers' market. One day, I will go to Europe and discover this all for myself, but until then, I can just read about other people's experiences and be horribly jealous of those who have gone with out me.

I really enjoyed how she wove her life into her experiences with food, i.e. her childhood, her boarding school, her trips back and forth across the States and the Atlantic, and her romantic relationships. I don't think that people who aren't interested in food and/or history would like this but I could be wrong. Anyone out there to disprove my theory?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

#25 Candy Freak by Steve Almond

The only problem I had with this book was that I wanted to eat chocolate the whole time I was reading it. Good chocolate too, none of this Hershey/Nestle/Mars crap either. I finished it a few days ago and I still want chocolate, despite the two large (yes, two) brownies I inhaled yesterday. Just thinking about it makes me want more chocolate. Psst, my birthday is coming up if anyone needs some ideas. I'm dying to get my grubby little hands on one of the Five-Star bars that he gives such rave reviews for.

Almond is a funny, funny guy who likes candy A LOT. And is willing to travel all over the country to learn about his favorite subject and more importantly to get free samples, which may or may not have the tendency to explode in his luggage. He also has some interesting things to say about American politics, which I was not expecting. So all in all, you learn about chocolate, liberal politics, business practices, and geography. It's topical too, seeing as how Hershey's just bought Scharffen-Berger (don't look at that site too long or you feel like running out of the office in search of the most fabulous chocolate ever, or that just might be me.) So in conclusion, I need chocolate.

Monday, July 25, 2005

#24 Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Until I read this book, I loved every thing I'd ever read by Atwood. Hell, she won the Booker prize! The sticker on the book said this was short-listed for it, but I think it's lying to me.

I'm not really into the science fiction genre and a book about a distopia caused by scientific advances (say it ain't so!) wasn't that interesting. Even with a "twist" at the end, I wasn't that impressed. A friend loved it and passed it along but she hadn't read any Atwood before. I still highly recommend the Blind Assassin, Handmaid's Tale, Cat's Eye, and Robber Bride; those are all much more engrossing and better written.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

#23 Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling

Where to start? I was so worried that Harry was going to be the irritating 15-year old prat that he was in Order of the Phoenix that I was dreading reading this as much as I was looking forward to it. I didn't have to worry, thank goodness, Harry is tolerable in Half-Blood. And the book is fantastic. I've heard some people say that it has too much exposition and not enough action, but I liked the time travelling stuff and I think that it will be important for later. I was hoping that we would learn more about Neville and his family but that was not to be. Maybe in the next and **sniff** last one. I'm glad that there is definitely going to be an end though. I think that Handler would be perfectly content to continue popping out Series of Unfortunate Events, even if their quality makes a sudden and obvious downturn. Ahem.

I'm not going to ruin the end for those of you who have yet to finish (you know who you are, Miss S.) but I want y'all to know that I predicted who was going to not return for the final book and I was right. Yay me! I wish that J.K. had fleshed out Snape more. I hope that he isn't as black and white as he seems. And I'm also hoping that all is not as it appears in the end. For y'all who read it, let me know what you thought. I think its my second favorite after Prisoner but that could also be the novelty of it talking. Also I think I ought to re-read Goblet, just to make sure.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

#22 Mirror, Mirror by Gregory Maguire

On Sunday, the fabulous Miss S took us to go see Wicked for our early birthdays. What a better way to celebrate our wonderfulness by seeing a musical about a witch? Nothing I tell you.

I really want to like Maguire. I've always thought the retelling of fairy tales is fascinating even from when I was a little bit (Does anyone else remember the 3 Little Pigs book told from the wolf's perspective? He just wanted a cup of sugar!). This is the third book of his that I've read. All have interesting premises but fall apart, or never really get going. I think that Wicked is the best example of this. The first half is great but the second and third parts are like a totally different and not nearly as interesting book. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is best of the ones I've read. It's not as good as the beginning of Wicked, but it is consistent throughout, and therefore much less frustrating.

Mirror is the least interesting of the three. There's Biblical themes woven into it as well as historical figures but barely anything about Snow White, oh excuse me, I mean Bianca de Nevada. The silly Garden of Eden plot felt tacked on and took away from the rest of the story. I guess I was hoping that Snow White wouldn't be such a dim wit and not as perfectly pure, maybe even a bit wicked, however, she's just stupider in this version and the "stepmother" is even crueler than the one in the Disney version. Eh. I thought that Maguire was about filling in some gray but Mirror was still very much black and white.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

#21 The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green by Joshua Braff

I think I need to cool it with the books narrated by boys. Too much testosterone for me. I buzzed through this book super quick (I started it on my way to the bus and finished it that night.). I thought that the family dynamic was interesting and was curious to see what happened to them in the end. The Greens are Jewish and that was of interest to me, as well. I liked how each family member dealt with religion (and by proxy, the dad) differently but the older son seemed way, way over top. Maybe that's because I had a sheltered teenagehood (scratch that, I was definitely very naive in my teens, and now too probably) and never experienced anything like that. I would have liked to see more about the younger kids and why the college student was so creepily involved with Jacob. That was definitely a weird situation. In conclusion, I'm glad this book is from the library.

Margeret Atwood's latest is next; I need some estrogen, stat.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

#20 Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

I ran across this book at the library when I was in search mode. I was vaguely familar with it, in the vaguest most possible sense so I had no idea what it was about. The only think I did know was that the author won some awards (and Adam told me he is also disgustingly young).

This book is brillant, no really. All of you should go out and read it right now, unless you all ready have and were holding out on me. The main character is a boy whose dad died in the World Trade Center attacks. The book focuses on him but also on his grandfather who never met his dead son and the grandfather's relationship with his wife. Very good stuff. I am the type of person who reads on while walking and this is not a book I should read in public because I got really teary eyed on my way to work. Yes, I am also a big cry baby. I was wondering (and worrying) how it could all possibly end and surprisingly, the ending didn't suck! Yay for really good books with good endings! Yay for authors who know what they're doing! Now I really want to read Everything is Illuminated too.

I don't want to give anything away so I'll stop, but so far, this is by far my favorite book that I've read this year.