Short Reviews of Long Books

So the summer definitely took me away from the computer.  I did not post nearly as often as I had intended (though, to be fair, I had grand aspirations about daily posts), but I read far more than I thought possible.  This bookworm was apparently verrrrry hungry.

Here’s the thing.  I would love to do a beautiful, happy post for every book read or movie viewed over the summer, but I’m not going to.  It’s too overwhelming.  In fact, it has kept me quiet for the past week as I struggle to even begin talking about my summer.  Instead, I will give you a description of the book or movie in under 11 words or less and my thoughts in 20 words or less.  Feel free to add more ideas in the comments.

The Piano Teacher: A Novel by Janice Lee.

Summary: Sad woman and sadder man have affair in Hong Kong.

Thoughts: This historical backdrop (Hong Kong during WWII) was intriguing, but I didn’t like any of the characters.  Meh.

The Twilight Saga Collection by Stephenie Meyer

Summary: Bella must choose between creepy vampire and not-as-creepy-but-still-superhuman werewolf Jacob.

Thoughts: It teaches teenagers that the best kind of love is obsessive, controlling, and dangerous.  No thank you.

Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

Summary: 3 witches, one a fairy godmother, must stop a happy ending.

Thoughts: Hilarious.  This is my first Pratchett novel and I now want to read the entire Discworld series.

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

Summary: 3 photographers and their relationships as they photograph the Vietnam war.

Thoughts: Well-written and intricate storylines.  The background and the characters are fascinating.  I want to study photography, or go to Vietnam.

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal

Summary: Sweet valley twins, 10 years later.  Sex, betrayal, and swearing.

Thoughts: So bad.  I read it because I loved the series.  It makes no sense and I hated both twins.

Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

Summary: Love triangle in Greece during WWII.

Thoughts: Loved it with 15 pages to go.  Then almost threw it across the room.  Still love it.

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Summary: Follows two friends through school, love, and duplicity.

Thoughts: I may have used up an entire tissue box on this.  Read it if you want a good cry.

French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mirielle Guiliano

Summary: The title pretty much says it all.

Thoughts: Commonsense advice aside from drinking leek broth for three days and purchase enough champagne to have at every dinner.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (for the fifth time, at least)

Summary: Big brother knows all.

Thoughts: Love it.  Love it.  Love love love love it.  It gets better with every read.  Read it.

 

Phew!  Now that I have those out of the way, I can get back to posting on what I am reading right now!  Trust me, I have an awesome one coming up 🙂

Come Join Me @ a Site Full of Magic and Wonder

I mean Paperback Swap.

It is amazing.  Like, if I had to choose between this site and a mountain constructed of pizza, I would have a serious crisis on my hands.

It is basically a giant, online book club.  Members post books they don’t want anymore and when someone requests the book, they mail it to them.  For every book that I send out, I receive one credit.  One credit= one book.  I can then take my credit, look at the available books, and request one from anyone.

The credits never expire.  If you are fan of rollover minutes (I would be a fan if my plan included rollover minutes), you will like this.  A hoarder by nature, I get some sort of strange thrill racking up the credits and then lying in wait for the book I want to pop up.

One of my favorite features is the Wish List.  You can choose any book you like (that is not available at the time), and put it on your wishlist.  You become part of a queue of people who wish for this book and once you get to the front of the line, you have first dibs.  That way, you don’t have to check daily for books you may desire.

This is different from the library because you actually get to keep the book.  At the same time, you spend very little money on the book.  Really, you have to pay the shipping cost for the book, about $3.00 for a normal-sized book.

Not a bad deal!

Pros

  • Cheap books  that you want
  • The books are in good shape
  • Get rid of books you don’t need/want anymore

Cons

  • Sometimes it takes a while to get the book
  • Not all of the books that you want will be readily available (patience is a virtue)

I am telling you about this because I really enjoy it as a service and it allows me to clean out my book collection while earning other books.  I get nothing from it.  If you want though, and you join (or have joined), you can be friends with me!

My username is veryhungrybookworm.  Look me up once you are on the site to see my profile, posted books and wishlists 🙂

Room by Emma Donoghue

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.
-Back of the Book

This summer, I decided to make a drastic lifestyle change. In an attempt to save my bookcase, and my wallet, I have been acquiring my books through the library and loans from fellow readers. Of course, this pains me. Some of the books that I have read in the past few months, I have wanted for my very own.

Other books, I have yearned for, but are reserved at the library for months.  I, unfortunately, am not the only person who wants to read them.

One such book was Room by Emma Donoghue.  I read about it on other blogs, saw it skyrocketing in the NYT Bestseller Lists, and saw the beautiful cover at my local bookstore.  Yes, I still go to the bookstore in the same way that a recovering drug addict likes to mimic his old habits.  I pick up books, gaze longingly at their back covers, smell the new book smell, and even sit down in a chair to peruse them.  Then, I put them back and trudge sadly outside, making a mental list of books I WANT.

I went to the library in search of Room and my librarian told me that if I get on the list to reserve it, I should probably get it around October.

And as if this struggle weren’t enough, then Borders decided to put on a giant sale (sob) and I could get the book for half off.  My resistance could last no longer.

I read this book in less than 24 hours.  As in, I began it as soon as I broke down and bought it and went to sleep hours after my normal bedtime because I wanted to know what happened.  Eventually, my eyes insisted on sleep, but my brain kept thinking about it.  My dream that night consisted of me, living in my bedroom, with a book case that was overflowing with books.  In fact, the books started multiplying, threatening to overtake all of my living space.

While I do not have room for an infinite number of books, I am fortunate to have more space than Jack and his mother do.

Imagine being Jack, growing up with your only concept of the world an 11 X 11 room and a TV.  Meanwhile, Ma knew what the world is like and was locked into a room and raped.  Now, she is trying to raise Jack the best way she can.

The book is divided into two halves.  The first half is cramped into the tiny space known to Jack as Room, culminating in a daring escape attempt.  The second half is in Outside, and focuses on how Jack and Ma manage being Outside of Room after 7 years (for Ma) and his entire life (for Jack).

This story, told completely from Jack’s point of view, is phenomenal.  It is a coming-of-age story, a thriller, a commentary of our world, and a tale about how strong the relationship can be between a mother and her child.  I would read it at the beach, with a classroom of students, or late at night with a flashlight.

If I Could Change One Thing…  I would like to see a meeting between Ma and Jack and their captor (Old Nick) after they are Outside.  The only flaw in the second half of the book is that while it remains incredibly interesting, it cannot match the narrative tension of the first half.  Meeting Old Nick again would have certainly raised my blood pressure.

Other Reviews

Jack’s Macaroni and Cheese

One of Jack’s favorite meals while he is imprisoned in Room is Kraft macaroni and cheese.  Yes, the kind with the yellow cheese powder.  I decided to make the same style of macaroni and cheese, but with real cheese.  I am quite pleased with the result.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of cooked short pasta (I chose spirals because that is the best kind, obviously)
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Procedure

  • While the pasta is cooking, mix the flour, salt, and pepper in a medium saucepan.  Add in 1/2 cup of milk and whisk to get the lumps out of the flour.  Add in the rest of the milk.
  • Heat the mixture over medium heat until it reaches a simmer.  Make sure you are stirring frequently.
  • Add in the cream cheese and stir until it melts.
  • Lower the heat and add the garlic, mustard, and shredded cheese.  Once the cheese melts, you can pour it over the cooked noodles.  Stir and eat.

It is the same style as Kraft, but wow, a little effort can go a long way.  It is tastier and healthier than the original and I think that Jack would approve (once he got over the change in color).