Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Everything is Fine. by Ann Dee Ellis

This is a nice young adult novel. Short and fast, I picked it up from the library around 3 and had it finished by 8, without neglecting any of my motherly and wifely duties. So it might take 1-2 hours to read.

Mazzy is the main character (yes, I do take issues with her name.) I think she's 12. Maybe younger. She is at home during the summer with her mom who is basically catatonic in bed, depressed. Sound exciting?

The story is sad, but not hopeless. I think what I liked best was the writing style. Simple pages, too short to be called chapters. It reads like a girl's diary, kind of poetic, but not forced. I didn't love the way every 10 pages or so another hint comes out to explain the tragic event that lead up to the crisis the family is in. I felt like it was a game to withhold it until the very end. BUT, I liked the ending, even if it was a little quick. Just a couple more pages would have helped. But it is on the happy side.

I recommend it, but probably only give it 3 out of 5 stars. If you're a sucker for Young Adult fiction like I am, it's worth picking up. Plus, Ann Dee Ellis is a Mormon mom, and this is a way better book than so many I've read. So support her!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery

I'll just say it up front. If you liked The Elegance of the Hedgehog, you'll probably like this book. If you didn't, I wouldn't bother. Of the two I like Hedgehog better, but it is longer and more difficult to get through. I liked this book, but I did not love it.

The main character of this book is a world famous food critic, but not a very likable guy. He's arrogant, he goes on about how he never liked his children, he is unfaithful, and rude. So why read a story about him? I know. But the story is that he is dying, and he is thinking of a flavor that he can't quite recall. I think it's an interesting set up.

The chapters alternate between Arthen's description of a food he has eaten in the past (like tomatoes in his aunt's garden), and a person from his life describing their feelings and interactions with him.

In my opinion the food chapters are very interesting and fun to read. The writing is so intricate and descriptive without being overwhelming. I would guess that the translator deserves quite a bit of the credit. I think it is written so well, but I have to remember that it was written in French.

The food chapters also made me very hungry. The descriptions are so vivid you can almost taste the food!

Unfortunately I didn't copy down any great descriptions. I had to return my book because it was blocking my library card, but here are a few excerpts I liked:

In reference to dessert being eaten after a meal, and not when we are hungry, "not destined to fill some primary need, but to coat our palate with all the benevolence of the world." I love that.

A portion of a garden is described as "a cathedral of light splattered greenery."

"People think that children don't know anything. It's enough to make you wonder if grown-ups were ever children once upon a time."

I enjoyed reading the character's description of the foods' textures, flavors and merits. I liked the emotional connection that each of the flavors he was recalling had for him in his life. Some of them are very intimate and sensual. I just wish he was more likable.

This is a short book. It was translated and published after The Elegance of the Hedgehog, but it was Muriel Barbery's first novel. It was written 5 or 6 years earlier. It is set in the same building as Hedgehog.

I haven't talked to anyone else who has read it, and you know, that was the reason I started this blog. SO I'd love to hear what you thought!

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

My son read this at school, then did an at home project on it. I was so curious by his board game that I borrowed his class copy and read it myself.

I thought it was a fun book. The title was really familiar to me, but I don't think I've ever read it. The main character's name is Milo, and he's described as a pretty boring little boy. Then one day his adventures begin.

The journey that he takes is filled with puns and literal interpretations. I think this is such a perfect match for my 10-year-old because he is full of both of those! But I didn't feel like it was too cheesy or too much. I've recommended it for book club, so I hope I'm not the only one.

I think Norman Jester is very clever, and here are a few examples.

"People who don't pay attention often get stuck in the doldrums."
(The doldrums of course being an actual place.)

In reference to words: "Remember while it is wrong to use too few, it is often far worse to use too many."
"Be very quiet because it goes without saying."(If you don't talk, then the vehicle will move forward.)

"If you only do the easy and useless jobs, you'll never have to worry about the important ones which are so difficult."

"Rhyme and Reason, without whom wisdom withered." (Just rolls off your tongue, right? Rhyme and Reason are, of course, princesses that Milo must save.)

"So many things are possible just as long as you don't know they're impossible."

This is a nice quick children's book. I thought it was a fun read and so different. I'd love to hear what you think!