Some of my recent reviews

October 13, 2008 at 2:07 am (Book Reviews, Young Adult)

I’ve been updating my “Books Read in 2008” list. But I realized that I haven’t really spotlighted any of my recent reviews. So, for your reading pleasure:

  • Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher (8/10)
  • How to Be Popular by Meg Cabot (8/10)
  • Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins (8/10)
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (8/10)
  • The Secret Under My Skin by Janet McNaughton (9/10)
  • New Moon by Stephenie Meyer (10/10)
  • These are all YA novels.

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    In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

    July 16, 2008 at 9:44 pm (Book Reviews)

    I was surfing around the bookblogosphere today and came upon a review of In Defense of Food. I actually got this book a few months ago and read through it right away. This was back when I wasn’t “counting” non-fiction, so you won’t see it on my list during that time, though it’ll be there now. I have been reading it again because I keep being drawn back to this book.

    The premise, simplified, is: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. 

    Eat food. The author’s definition of food is basically “foods your grandparents would recognize” although, as mentioned in the Both Eyes review, most people now know what edamame is – but my mother’s grandmother would not have, so that definition doesn’t really work. I have to dispute that by saying that while my great grandmother may not have known that it was a soybean, she would have looked at it and thought “bean” as opposed to, say, Pop Rocks, which would have left her… confused. But it goes even deeper than that – nothing is quite what it used to be. For instance, “bread” may now be “healthy, whole grain, additive-free bread” or “baked pile of white chemicals”.

    Not too much. A lot of Americans Westerners people have problems with this. Americans especially, I think. We’ve been taught to eat the biggest portion possible. Upsize for only fifty cents. An empty plate, not a satisfied stomach, means we’re done. And, generally, we eat as quickly as possible.

    Mostly plants. Even in and amongst all of the diets and nutrition fads out there, most of them agree that plants are good for you. Especially leafy greens. (Personally, I LOVE fruit. Veggies are… okay. I like some of them but have me choose between, say, a salad or a pineapple and I will almost always choose the pineapple. Mmm. Pineapple…)

    This book goes into so much more than that. It discusses how we arrived at the age of nutritionism and why eating based on nutrients may be misguided. How we’re no longer told “eat an orange” but “have vitamin C”.

    By far, the most “controversial” statement in this book is that we should stop eating processed foods. Most people believe we should, as well, but this is a hard edict to follow. It’s more expensive to eat this way. When I went grocery shopping last weekend, I was trying to find cottage cheese that didn’t have anything added – no high fructose corn syrup, no gums of any sort, etc. It was quite difficult. And I live smack dab in the middle of the city.

    Could you follow the advice of this book? Do you eat food, not too much, and mostly plants? If so, is it a struggle? If not, would you like to? How could you go about doing this?

    This book really makes me think.

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    Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs

    June 29, 2008 at 8:47 am (Book Reviews, Read-a-thon)

    This will probably be the last book that I finish during the read-a-thon. I’ve got another one I’m working on, but won’t complete before I stumble to my bedroom for some hard-earned nap time.

    I have to say that I REALLY enjoyed Comfort Food. The book is all about a TV chef named Gus (short for Augusta). Gus’s ratings are falling, so the Cooking Channel decides to boost her ratings by bringing in Carmen Vega (former Miss Spain). Gus is quite upset about having to share her show with Carmen. Carmen thinks she, also, should have her own show. The two become QUITE competitive.

    Gus’s daughters become involved in the show, as does her neighbor, an ex-professional tennis star name Hannah. She also has Oliver, her new culinary producer, to deal with.

    This was a good read. I’m glad I saved it until the end of the night because it really doesn’t require a lot of thought, but isn’t your typical “brainless” read.

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    The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

    June 28, 2008 at 10:14 pm (Book Reviews, Read-a-thon)

    I just finished reading The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen. I really enjoyed the book – a lot more than I thought I would! Well, no – this is hard to explain – I decide I want to read a book, but then when I get it in my hands, suddenly the idea of that particular book is appalling. So, I’ve learned that I can’t trust myself with that. For the most part, I make myself read at least 10 pages before deciding that I don’t want to read the book.

    One day, Josey Cirrini (who is 27 and lives at home with her mother, obeying her every whim) finds Della Lee, a woman she hardly knows, in her closet. Della Lee refuses to leave. She even sends Josey out to get her a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich from a shop where a woman named Chloe works. Chloe has books just randomly show up around her. For instance, she has recently broken up with her boyfriend (he cheated on her) and she keeps finding a book called “Finding Forgiveness” in various places – on the arm of her couch, on the counter at work.

    The lives of these three women are interconnected in ways nobody can imagine. To tell any more, would spoil it. But this is definitely a good book.

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    Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson

    June 28, 2008 at 4:12 pm (Book Reviews, Read-a-thon)

    I just finished reading Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson. It’s my first completed book for the read-a-thon… it took me a bit long to read it because I kept having computer problems – so it took a lot of time to move back and forth between sites for the challenges and such. Luckily, my husband fixed them for me!

    I’ve always loved Anne. Did you know… my middle name is Anne? Even now, when I tell people my middle name, I think “with an e”. One the phone, if somebody tells me that their name is Anne, I always ask “With an E?” It helps that I have red hair and am somewhat feisty like Anne (or, at least, I was as a kid).

    This is the backstory to Anne. It was so nice to read what happened to Anne before she became “of Green Gables”. The story is fantastic and heartbreaking. (Yes, yes, yes…. I cried.) In some ways, I like stories where you know the end. Most people who read this book KNOW where she’s going. They even know, vaguely, how she got there. The journey along the way is what makes this book so wonderful. A perfect addition to Anne’s story.

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    Baby Proof

    June 20, 2008 at 3:50 pm (Book Reviews, Weekly Geeks)

    Remember the post about my decision to be child-free? Well, I actually got around to reading one of those books: Baby Proof by Emily Giffin. Bad news.

    I HATED that book. The ending bothered me so much that I was disgusted.

    Now, to be fair, some people have said “Well, the ending is kind of ambigious. You could take it the other way.” If you’re planning on reading this book and you don’t want it to be “spoiled”, click away now. Seriously. Are you gone?

    Ok. On with this. The book is all about a happy child-free couple who becomes not-so-happy when one of them changes their mind (the husband, not the wife, btw). They break up. She goes out with another guy for a while, but she’s miserable. She misses her husband. Much goes on with the other characters in the book, but, in the end, she decides to do anything – even have a baby(!), if she needs to  – to get back together with him. Now, some say that she didn’t necessarily have the baby, because before she could tell her ex-husband about he said that he wanted to get back together with her.

    I don’t care if she ACTUALLY had a baby. What makes me mad is that she was willing to give up so much of herself, to give up something she had taken a stand for, in order  to get back together with her husband. COME ON. Be strong. I don’t care if it’s children or your hobby or WHATEVER. If it’s really important to you, don’t give it up just because some guy wants you to. Husband or no.

    Geez. I HATED that book.

    (Edited to remove a little mini-rant that got waaay off topic.)

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    I’ve been sick…

    May 28, 2008 at 10:03 pm (Book Reviews)

    I’ve been sick for the past few days and I’ll probably be sick through the weekend. I come home from work, pass out, then get up for a couple of hours, pass out again, get up, go to work… a lot of sleeping involved. I get sick a lot so I can’t take time off from work for something like this (sore throat, runny nose, worn out) but I sure wish I could. So I’ve not been reading a whole lot, although I am doing some reading at work. I’ve got a couple of books I want to review that I’ve read, but for now, I thought I’d list the books that I reviewed for Paperspine this month.

    Un Lun Dun by China Mieville – does it make me a bad reader that I kept thinking “This would make a delightful animated movie?”

    Nobody’s Princess by Esther Friesner – Helen of Troy’s younger years

    Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin – I liked this one a lot better than I thought I would. Nearly brought me to tears.

    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – I think that I might be the last book blogger to read this book. Very good. Did you know I lived in Germany for a few years?

    If you’ve reviewed any of these books, please comment on the post reviewing it. Let me know where your review is and I’ll link back to it.

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    "Pretty Face" by Mary Hogan

    May 24, 2008 at 8:05 pm (Book Reviews)

    I’m having mixed feelings about this book. In some way, I liked it. It seemed like a nice, casual read – chick lit for teens, if you will (it is young adult fiction). The story is about sixteen year old Hayley. She lives in Santa Monica, near the beach, but she feels she doesn’t really fit in with most of the girls there. Hayley is a little – not a lot – overweight, which is a bigger problem where she lives than it might be in other places. Hayley’s mother was once was overweight but has now “seen the light” and lives a life full of fiber. She’s mean. Very mean. I don’t think she means to be cruel, but she is. For instance, she buys Hayley a talking scale “So you can’t lie to yourself,” which is something I can picture my grandmother doing (the woman gave me Richard Simmons’s Deal-A-Meal for my birthday one year). I mention this only because I can understand Hayley’s situtation – she’s tired of people telling her that she “has a pretty face”. (This is code for “You’re fat”.) It seems to Hayley like everything happens because of her weight – even, Drew, the boy that she likes seems to only think of her as a friend – just when Hayley thinks that Drew might be interested in her, he asks her if her best friend, Jackie, likes him. One day, after a particularly bad fight between Hayley and her mother, when Hayley’s mom takes her to a “Waist Watcher” meeting, Hayley’s mom and dad tell her that she’ll be spending the summer in Italy – because the therapist that they’ve been seeing about Hayley seems to think that she’s under too much “body image pressure”. So Hayley goes off to Italy to live with her mom’s friend, Patty, and her family for the summer. The book is all about Hayley learning to be more comfortable in her own skin and learning to enjoy life.

    I would have really enjoyed the book, I think, except for one thing. There are times in the book when Hayley, at an internet cafe in Italy (her host family doesn’t have internet), is exchanging instant messages with Jackie (this actually happens once in California, as well). This ruins the whole book for me because the author actually uses netspeak. These include “WHT HAPPND???!!!!!!” and “GRN w NV”. I spent the next chapter or two (these chapters were super-short) being annoyed at the netspeak. In my mind, that was totally unnecessary. I don’t think as many teens use that as the author seems to think – though I may be confused because I had to be quite firm with my MOTHER about her not doing that when I first got a cell phone (although I have had internet access since before most people even knew what email was, let alone had one themselves, I refused to get a cell phone until last summer when I was often in a seedy area late at night/early morning because of work). At any rate, maybe once would have been enough.

    All in all, though, the book wasn’t bad. If the netspeak doesn’t bother you and you like chick lit – especially if you enjoy YA fiction – I think you’d enjoy it.

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    "Devil Who Tamed Her" by Johanna Lindsey

    May 7, 2008 at 6:47 pm (Book Reviews) (, , )

    I’m a bit of a book snob. Or, rather… I used to be. It used to be that certain fiction books were “worthwhile” to read, while others weren’t. I think that a lot of readers go through this sort of thing. Some people never move beyond it. Others, like me attempt to rationalize.

    Earlier today, I was talking to my husband about this. Jeremy and I have talked about this several times, actually. Talking it out has helped me come to the conclusion that if I’m willing to watch a movie for a couple of hours, just for fun, and not feel bad about it, then I could most certainly do the same for a book.

    Thusly, when I was bored one day at lunch (frankly, I would rather have a half hour lunch and be able to get off half an hour earlier, but that’s besides the point), I wandered over to Bartell’s (Bartell’s is a drugstore – I don’t know if they have them out of the area or not). I stopped in front of the book section and decided that I’d just get a book. Any book would do, because, after all, if it sucked, the book wasn’t much more than your average magazine anyway.

    I ended up grabbing Devil Who Tamed Her by Johanna Lindsey. Ophelia Reid is very beautiful and has men flocking to her, even though she is spoiled and behaves like a brat. Raphael Locke is young man who bets his friend, Duncan MacTavish (who Ophelia was engaged to, but she wrecked the engagement… on purpose), that he can make Ophelia “change her ways”. To do this, Rafe basically kidnaps Ophelia. He then sends a letter to Ophelia’s father, letting her family know where she was and that she was safe. Ophelia’s father was thrilled, because he hoped that this meant Rafe – heir to a dukedom – would end up marrying Ophelia, even though he knows Ophelia would rather choose her husband for herself. During Rafe’s time with Ophelia, he helps her learn to deal with some of her anger and bad behaviors while learning some of the reasons behind them. When Ophelia returns home to London, everyone is surprised at her change in behavior. She receives several marriage proposals but turns them all down, though far more gently than she would have before. Has Ophelia really changed? And why is she still rejecting every suitor? You’d have to read the book to find out. Anything more will spoil the story.

    While this book isn’t on my “everyone MUST read this book” list, it is on the “not a bad way to spend a couple of hours” list, which still isn’t a bad place to be.

    If you have reviewed this book as well, please feel free to email me at thisredheadreads@gmail.com with the link to your review and I will add the link to this post.

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    A Curse Dark as Gold

    May 5, 2008 at 5:00 am (Book Reviews) (, , )

    When I was little, I really enjoyed the “Rumplestiltskin” story. I kind of worried about the baby – what would somebody like Rumplestiltskin DO with or to a baby?

    A Curse Darks as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce takes the Rumplestiltskin, expands on it, and makes it more fantastic. The story is mainly about Charlotte Miller (“the miller’s daughter” gets a name!). Her family has, for generations, owned Stirwaters Mill.

    Unfortunately, when Charlotte’s father dies, the mill is in financial ruins. Charlotte and her sister cursedarkasgoldtry to keep the mill from going under, but Charlotte is definitely struggling with it. To make matters worse, the girls’ Uncle Wheeler (their mother’s half-brother) shows up to “help care for” the girls – both of whom are young adults – and is pressuring them to sell the mill. Then, a man from the bank shows up and tells Charlotte that her father took out a loan, that it’s in default, and if she doesn’t pay up, the bank will take the mill.

    Just when things seem at their worst, a mysterious man named Jack Spinner shows up and offers to help – he spins gold thread from straw. For this, Charlotte pays him her ring. The next time she really needs help, he makes cloth for her to sell, at the price of a very important piece of jewelry given to her by her husband.

    The third time Charlotte needs help – and they are truly about to lose the mill this time – Jack Spinner agrees to help her. She says she’ll give him anything. He agrees, with the promise that he’ll be back for the payment at a time of his choosing.

    Fast forward a while, and Charlotte has a son. Jack Spinner arrives to take her son. He agrees to give her three days to choose: give him her son or the mill. The entire town depends on the mill but her son… is her son.

    This is where the book departs drastically from the story. I would tell you more, but it would spoil the book. Suffice it to say that the book is fantastic and I’d recommend it to anybody who likes historical fiction or fairy tales.

    If you have reviewed this book as well, please feel free to email me at thisredheadreads@gmail.com with the link to your review and I will add the link to this post.

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