Quick Mini-Reviews to Finish 08

With these four mini-reviews, I will have discussed most if not all the books I read in 2008 and I will then be ready to start book-listing for my 2009 challenges…

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

I read this with my 8 yo neighbor, hoping that he would help me review it and then we could go see the movie together over the Holiday Vacation.   Alas, the reviewing assistance and the movie-going did not happen.    ttodkdcI enjoyed this story of a brave and clever mouse who wanted to be himself and ask questions of his world rather than submit to being ‘just a mouse’ like his family wanted him to do.   He has adventures aplenty!   I absolutely loved that the author didn’t talk down to the reader; encouraging the use of ‘big’ words and allowing the reader to go look them up in the dictionary if unknown.    All I could get my neighbor to say,  “I liked it very much.”     and I did, too.    (I apologize to Ms DiCamillo and the entire blogosphere for referring to this multiple times as The Tale of Devereaux, sheeessssh.) FOUR STARS

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

coragaimanA delight!    This story captures the boredom and yearning for adventure that kids often feel.   And then a scary adventure!   creepy and delightfully colorful.     Coraline is a brave girl and she just might be my favorite heroine of 2008.    I admit that one of the reasons I wanted to read this was the title, the name ‘Coraline’.    I might have to get a cat, just to name her Coraline…   (It doesn’t sound like a dog’s name, does it?    Maybe a Bassett Hound…  but my next dog’s name will be Greta…  NO, we are not thinking about another dog.   Get back on topic!)    FOUR STARS

Something Out There by Nadine Gordimer

This is one powerful collection of short stories!    Some stories are political, some are intensely personal, most involve conflicts of personality, conflicts of philosophy, of morality, gender/race/generation, etc.     Amazing!   Gordimer comes across as extremely smart.    She gently carries the power of words to emphasize the power of beliefs.     I even had a nightmare after reading the title story – not about the wild baboon stalking the suburbs of Johannesburg, but of who to trust.      If you were a revolutionary spy and you were about to get caught, who would you or could you trust with or for anything?!    sotng Most are set in South Africa,  a few are 30+ years old and yet never stale, some are ambiguous in setting, timeframe and lesson to be learned.    And she captures people’s motivations brilliantly even those unknown to the characters themselves.    I’m looking forward to more Gordimer and thanks to Verbivore for suggesting I read The House Gun next.     FIVE STARS

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

Uh, I don’t think this book was for me.   A mute boy, an only child of dog breeders, grieves the death of his father, distrusts his uncle (his father’s brother who incidently is playing on the mother’s affections), runs away, and some more stuff happens.     I cannot criticize it, but it just didn’t do anything for me.     Maybe I needed to have more knowledge of Hamlet?  I totally forgot that it was supposed to be a modern retelling until I was done reading it.   Although, knowing that, I can see this might explain the ghosts.   tsoesdw This isn’t really a ghost story and it’s not really a dog story – although it is heavily detailed on canine training and breeding theory.    I didn’t relate to any of the characters; my favorite was Almondine the dog.   She is cool.    THREE STARS?   TWO STARS?    It’s situations like this when I really hate my rating system…     I personally didn’t like the book and it felt like drudgery to get through the middle part  (and yet I did = yea me!) but that doesn’t mean it sucked.


Review: Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

Review  jandjjp Julie & Julia by Julie Powell
307 pages

“365 days, 524 recipes, 1 tiny apartment kitchen”

An almost 30-something temp in NYC who was frustrated with life goals and her career path, decides to tackle Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year and blogs about it.    Hilarious.

I took notes and jotted down a few terms/words…

pg 60  – ‘not simple, maybe, but easy.’

pg. 92 – Where are we going?  How did we get here?   IMPATIENT for more Julia anecdotes

pg 136 – baked cucumbers?

I would have liked a LOT more Julia in this book.   Many chapters begin with real letters written by Paul Child during the days he was courting Julia or excerpts from Julie Powell’s mind of what she imaged might have been happening those days…     These were good and too infrequent.   Like being allowed a finger taste of an awesome recipe and being denied a true portion.

Of course, I loved the non-Julia parts (which we can say here are the ‘Julie’ parts) and if it had more Julia/Paul stuff, then it would have been too long and I probably would have never ever read it. I dislike long books.    (raspberries to those of you who are gleefully pointing at The Pillars of the Earth on my tbr.  RASPBERRY!)    I am thinking of reading another Julia Child bio…  someday.

So.    Other than a feeling of ‘uh oh, where’s she going with this?!’, I did enjoy the ride.   But I was often thinking to myself, “Self, where the heck is she going here?” and even more frequently wondering, “Hey Self?  Did you follow how we GOT here?!”      Like a good writer, she did sum up each chapter with a return to the theme at the start.   For a book that supposedly chronicles a time span, the book feels disjointed and jumps around and back and forth and all, HUH?!  Wha?!   But still very fun.

I wish I could say I was inspired to attempt even one of the crazy recipes in Child’s cookbook.   Would it be acceptable to say I’m inspired enough to have my husband try one?!      It’s wild to consider that Ms. Powell attempts this project when she wouldn’t even eat eggs.    She learns.    I must say, I was very impressed.    I also have a few movies to put on my watch list:   Laurel Canyon, True Romance.    How did I miss these?

FOUR STARS.   I would not mind at all to be invited to dinner for any recipe cooked up by Julie Powell and I’ll bring the gimlet makings…

I am SO looking forward to the movie!

bleaders – what Julie Powell called the readers of her blog.
jalousie – type of window:  a window with glass louvers.   jalousi
prolix – tediously prolonged or tending to speak or write at great length.
vertiginous(ly) – dizzy: having or causing a whirling sensation; liable to falling
savarin (as in ‘pan’) – a sponge cake baked in a ring mold.