Saturday, February 28, 2009

I Didn't Forget

February has been an intensely crazy month in my office -
but I haven't forgotten that I have a book to give away!

I have randomly selected (using one lucky person from those who left a comment on my review of The School of Essential Ingredients and will be passing along my copy to her.

And the book goes to . . . .
Shelley aka Chain Reader!

(Shelley, if you'll email me your snail mail address,
I'll get the book out to you shortly!)

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Published in 2005.
Unabridged audio book performed by Julia Gibson.

I read this heart-breaking memoir in 2006 - pre-book blog - for my primary in-real-life book club. My church women's group book club picked it for our January 2009 read. At first I thought that I wouldn't re-read it: although I really liked it, The Glass Castle isn't a particularly "happy" or "feel good" book, and I have so very many books on my to-read list. Then I decided that if I was going to try to lead a discussion about the book, I ought to have it fresher in my memory - so I got it on CD from the library. I'm really glad I did!

Bottom line, I think I liked the book even better the second time. The voice of the audio book performer is somewhat whiny - so at first I found that annoying. The foul language of the father was also more jarring when I was hearing it than when I seeing the words on paper. Both of those negatives were offset by the intensity of the story for me this go around, though.

For some reason - maybe because I was hearing the words - I "felt" the story more than had the first time I read it. I was able to put myself in Jeannette's shoes more easily - experiencing her pain as well as the love she truly felt for her highly dysfunctional parents. I like that she tells the story without being judgmental; she lets us draw our own conclusions. I also like that we see the good in her parents, as well as the bad; one of the things I found myself thinking about a lot this time was what I admired about Rex Walls, Jeannette's alcoholic father. One story in particular sticks with me: the Christmas that he gave Jeannette the planet Venus as his gift to her.

The account in the book of Jeannette's older sister Lori getting eyeglasses is, for me, symbolic of the message of the entire book. Just as I was when I got my first pair of glasses, Lori is amazed by the things she can now see. When she asks her mother to try on the glasses, however, Rose Mary returns them, saying that she likes the world as she sees it, not very clear, a bit soft and fuzzy, not quite reality.


Thursday, February 05, 2009

The School of Essential Ingredients
by Erica Bauermeister

Published in 2009. 240 pages.

I received an advanced copy of this book, which was available for purchase beginning January 22, from Matthew Boyd at the Penguin Group. Thanks, Matt!

First line: Lillian loved best the moment before she turned on the lights.

Last line: Then she turned off the lights, and left the kitchen.

Brief summary of the plot: Eight people of varying backgrounds gather on Monday nights for a cooking class. Lillian, the chef and restaurant owner who teaches the class, is able to give her students more than just recipes and kitchen skills.

What this book reminded me of: Maeve Binchy's Evening Class was the first comparison that came to mind. Although that novel is a lot longer with a more complicated plot, it's similar in setting - an Italian class - and format - each section focusing on a different character. The School of Essential Ingredients also reminded me of Chocolat. Lillian, like Vianne, has the ability to choose foods that will satisfy people physically and also meet their emotional needs. Finally, in reading Essential Ingredients, I remembered The Miracles of Santo Fico, a book I read some time ago that stimulated my senses, especially those of taste, sight, and sound, in a way that rarely comes from words written on paper. This book was the same way.

What I'd like to see: I would love to read more about Lillian's cooking (and life) lessons. Although this is Erica Bauermeister's first novel, I hope it won't be her last.

For more information: Check out the author's website and the Penguin Readers Guide.

To share in the joy of a good book: I would love to pass my copy of The School of Essential Ingredients to another interested reader. Leave a comment if you'd be interested, and I will randomly pick one lucky reader from those who comment by Friday, February 13.