- Once Upon a Town by Bob Greene
I had high hopes for this one. One of my favorite reading interests is WWII testimonials (not about military history though) and there isn't much about the home front. The relevant content of this book could have been condensed into a magazine or even newspaper article. When Greene found an original player, he basically wrote a transcript of his/her speech. It made some sense, since they are a dying generation, but it doesn't make for enthralling reading. The North Platte Canteen is an amazing piece of disappearing history and tells a beautiful story about the kind of Americans we should all be. The best part of the book highlights the pure patriotism and compassion of a seemingly average town.
Monday, June 21, 2004
- The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Very interesting novel. Parts of it are beautifully written, but remarkably free of pretension. It falls into that category of passionate (not necessarily romantic) novels for women that have a bittersweet, if not outright tragic, ending. Think Anita Shreve or Alice Sebold. I don't know that I like those as a genre. You can't really enjoy them unless you're in a dark mood. The unusual thing about this novel is the time travel element. Towards the middle of the book, Niffenegger made good use of the advantages by foreshadowing the climax and denouement of the novel. In this case, I'm grateful because it would have been too much to take all at once in the end. It was rather artfully done. Generally, the action was all over (between the 1960's to the 1990's), but her gradual intentions were pretty easy to follow. I think that that is why I liked this book much more than I thought I would - the author isn't trying to play games with you. Unfortunately, the characters were not that appealing. I think they were too human, too much like people you'd meet at school or at work. Bleh. I like my realism to stay where it is and out of my books, thank you. What's the point of reading for pleasure if the people you meet on paper aren't any better than the people that depress you in the news? They'd make for an interesting movie, though. This book was made to be a movie. I can imagine Jude Law or Robert Sean Leonard playing Henry and Jennifer Connelly or Naomi Watts as Clare.
Thursday, June 17, 2004
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
- The Borrowers Afield by Mary Norton
I think I've always had a fascination for miniature life in a big world. I loved how the Borrowers used doll furniture and adapted human size objects into usable things for their lives. This second book was set outdoors, which was more confusing to picture, but fairly creative too. The characters inhabit familiar roles, which is not to say that I liked them in the first place, but there is something to say for consistency. Like a lot of other children's books from the past, this is wholesome and calming in a way recent writing has abandoned. Sometimes it good to mix it up a little.
Sunday, June 13, 2004
Friday, June 11, 2004
- Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie
I loved this one! It's so much better than the only other Crusie I read. Okay, the prerequisite girlfriends and villains were like caricatures instead of characters, but it didn't really detract from the light, fun tone of the book. The heroine, Minerva, is a gal I wouldn't mind having as a buddy. It's not too often you find a strong, sensible, and sexy protag (in reality, it's always two out of three: the Jane theory, which I personally think should be a postulate) that you can like. The hero was definitely acceptable. A sensitive, hot, modern man, of course. The premise is what hooked me into getting this one. Crusie sets it up well, too, since it could have easily degenerated into something corny and contrived. An excellent beach read.
Thursday, June 10, 2004
- Number 10 by Sue Townsend
Very British. It took me a little while to get into that whole dry humor that is so prevalent in Brit writing. Townsend seems to revel in the absurd of daily, modern British life. First she takes on the Queen and now it's the Prime Minister. She's a very clean, evocative writer, who creates mental pictures. Number 10 is primarily a buddy book, but makes some social commentaries without becoming wrapped up in the secondary mission. The characters aren't endearing or relatable, but are distinctive. Probably will read more of her work.
- What Einstein Told His Cook by Robert Wolke
I love this chem prof! I wish I had had one like him. I may have stayed a chem major. Well, probably not, unless my college had offered a minor in culinary arts...Anyway, Wolke is charming and fairly down-to-earth. His explanations are a lot of fun to relate to my own cooking experiences. Good advice, but not really a reference since you can't really look up specific topics as needed. He covers a broad range since, I believe, the sections were all originally questions he answered for his column in a newspaper. It's just a very interesting read if you like to cook.
- Alton Brown's Gear for Your Kitchen by Alton Brown
Fun stuff, literally. Electric appliances, gadgets, pot and pans, tools, and even storage. His advice is a little biased because he usually only highlights things he uses after some trying a few test options, but by no means is it scientific or comprehensive. There are a few areas where he has exhaustively researched, experimented, and chosen, but that is occasional in a book that covers as much this tries to. I love his style, though, and I respect his opinion since I've learned a lot from him previously, so I found it a helpful reference for the kitchen.
Monday, June 07, 2004
- Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl by Debra Ollivier
Surprisingly insightful. Granted, it's quite biased (pro-French) and full of advice, but it's not preachy. I thought it captured cultural differences in an interesting way that made me want to know why the French (women) behave they way they do. The tips on living à la francais felt admirable, although I can't imagine them working anywhere but their native land.
- Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell
I don't quite see what would have made a producer think this was sitcom material. It's an intriguing slice of modern life, that is often funny, but in a pathetic way. Actually, I found it a really depressing and morally shallow protrayal. I can't help thinking it would have come off better as a satire, à la Jane Austen. I suppose I could have appreciated it as is, if there weren't two blinding flaws. The first, the writing, is inexcusable. Stylistically, SATC was flat and uninspired mostly, a little too simplistic for someone who writes for a living. The second isn't Bushnell's fault. It really threw me off to read about Carrie, for example, and find her not at all like the TV Carrie. It's twofold, I guess. Producers kept the original characters' names and then the show developed their characters so well, that the latter became mentally indelible. A remarkable phenomenon, but it doesn't help the reader any.
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
Renée and I went to a flea market on Saturday, where I got three books, Faust with German and the English translation on facing pages, The Chicago Manual of Style in hardback, and The Swiss Family Robinson. Total=$2.50. Renée picked up a pristine copy of To Sir Philip, With Love for a buck.
Went to the library to renew some of the books I'm still reading and also happened upon Diane Johnson's newest in her Francophile series, L'Affaire. Bien sûr, I had to check to see if my library had the second (after Le Divorce), Le Mariage. They did - so grows my pile to read.
Barnes and Noble is on my list for this week, so we'll see if I have anything to add. Doubtful, though, since I only go there to get ideas about new books and buy elsewhere.