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 🙂

The Book Thief (and Liesel’s Pea Soup)

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. By her brother’s graveside, Liesel Meminger’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Grave Digger’s Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found. But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up and closed down.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak is one of those books that should be required reading.  It contains everything that I want from a book.  I laughed.  I cried.  I laughed while crying.  I was invested in the characters, the gruesome narrator, and the little town it is set in.  In short, I LOVED THIS BOOK.  I wanted to read it at the stoplight when I was driving.  I snuck peaks at it while sitting in a movie theater during the previews.  I woke up at 3AM just so I could read more. 

Find this book as soon as possible.

You may be wondering why, on the back cover, death is capitalized so that it is “Death.”  That, my friends, is because Death is the narrator of this book.  Yes, you read correctly, Death.  Not just some person named Death.  This narrator is in fact the entity that comes when you die to take your soul away.  Instead of being terrified by him (I think it’s a him?), I found myself amused at his sarcasm and dry wit.

Who would have thought that Death would be funny?  I guess people never hang around long enough to get to know him, poor thing. 

Anyway, I’m going to cut this short so you can go about your business trying to get yourself a copy of this gem.  Happy hunting!

Liesel’s Mama’s Pea Soup

One of the only foods that is mentioned in this book, and it is mentioned repeatedly, is the pea soup that keeps these hungry people going.  Since they are very poor, it is described as a meager soup that is not incredibly tasty, but it is nourishing. 

 I prefer my pea soup tasty, so I added in a few ingredients to kick it up a notch.

Ingredients:

  •  Peas (I shelled mine since they are in season but you could just as easily use frozen)
  • Enough chicken broth to just cover the peas in the pot
  • Lemon juice to taste
  •  Olive Oil to taste
  • Smoked Paprika to taste

Procedure:

  •  Put the peas in a pot with just enough chicken broth (or water if you want to make this vegetarian) to cover the peas over medium heat.
  •  Cook for about 20 minutes, until the peas are cooked through, but slightly al dente.
  • In a blender, or with an immersion blender, liquify 3/4 of your mixture.  Thwen add in the rest so that your soup has some texture.
  •  Squeeze in some lemon juice.
  • Place back on the burner until the mixture is the consistency you like.  You’ll notice that mine is rather thin, but if you left this on the burner for longer, it could easily be much thicker.
  •  Pour into a bowl and top with some smoked paprika and olive oil.
  • Serve with some sort of crust bread.  The one pictured is a bagel thin broiled with parmesan cheese. 

Truth: Political Speeches Bore Me to Tears

Rating: Green Leaf

I always cared about my grades.  From Kindergarten on, I wanted to learn everything I could.  Part of this is certainly because I needed to be the best at everything.  If I did well on an assignment, I felt good about myself.  If I did poorly or (gasp) got as low as a C on something, I determined that I was a bad person, not fit to breathe air.  I distinctly recall getting a 72 on a math test in third grade, crying when I got home, and writing a note to my teacher apologizing for my poor performance. 

As I went through school, I noticed that certain classes were more of a struggle for me than others.  Science was generally my issue.  Try as I might, I couldn’t make as much sense of it as I would like and my grades were never quite as high as my other courses.

High school hit and, all of a sudden, a role reversal occurred.  Science was going along beautifully and English (my best subject) was the one I was struggling with. 

WHAT???

13-year old Lauren panicked.  What went wrong?  After a lot of agonized analysis, I figured out why this had happened.

Continue reading

To all of you maladjusted people out there…

Rating: Chocolate Cake

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”

After hearing that, I have begun to see creative maladjustment everywhere. Who were the USA’s founding fathers, if not people who could not fully adjust to Great Britain’s exploitation of the colonies? Who was Galileo, if not someone who saw the world in a different way than the masses did?

Who are we, if not people who want to see a positive change in the world?

We seem to live in a world filled with problems. The economy. Gas Prices. Conflicts in various parts of the world. Natural disasters. Global Warming. 2012. Yes, that is true. Our world is nowhere near perfect. At the same time, it is much improved from the times that human beings in the US walked around in chains, real or figurative, purely because of their skin color. I’m not saying that we are free from all prejudice, but I do think that our country has made great strides. This is thanks to those creatively maladjusted people.

Martin Luther King, Jr. stood up for what he believed in, what he dreamt of, at the cost of his own life. He was maladjusted enough that he stopped caring about his own physical well-being, placing his energy into a higher cause.

Many of the people around me do not care about this extreme sacrifice, only caring about the day off from school/work that this day of remembrance awards them. I’m trying to use today for a different purpose; I am spending time thinking about those people who have changed the world, and trying to figure out how to become one of them. Continue reading