Sunday, August 29, 2010

Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

A couple of things about me: 1) I love to read. 2) I love animals. Maybe some of you remember this post in which I asked a librarian if the dog in Because of Winn Dixie dies at the end. I don't enjoy reading books where the animals die at the end.

In college, I was about two-thirds of the way through Travels With Charley and enjoying it when I asked a housemate who had read the book if Charley dies at the end. She paused, and then said, "Well, I guess if he didn't die, I would have said 'No' right away." That sealed it for me. If Charley was going to die at the end, I wasn't going to finish the book. I put it down and haven't picked it up since.

Just recently, my friend, Grace, asked me if I had read Travels With Charley and I told her why I hadn't finished it. She said, "But I don't think Charley dies at the end!" I was speechless. Grace offered to re-read the book to double-check for me. She added, "I'm pretty sure he doesn't die at the end."

Grace just reported back to me that Charley in fact does not die at the end, so now I can pick it up and read it again. Thanks, Grace!

And now, Grace is here as a Guest Blogger. Grace is a trusted friend, a fellow reader, and a fan of the public library.

From Grace:
I am very honored to be a guest writer here! I love books and blogs and Elaine's book blog is the best of both worlds!

Travels with Charley is Steinbeck's travelogue as he rambles across the country in his truck with his dog, Charley. (Incidentally, for those of you who are wondering, Charley the dog does NOT die). Reading it made me feel as if I was on a road trip with them.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book the first time. And, on my second read, it still charmed me--which, in my opinion, is the mark of a good book.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Unfinished Business: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things by Lee Kravitz

This man was laid off from his job and decides to take a year to take care of relational business that he's neglected over the years. He reconnects with friends, pays back a loan, and makes amends.

I found the first two-thirds of the book to be very good, and then I got bored and put it down for quite awhile. And even then, I skipped one of the chapters.

Taking care of unfinished business is a good idea. Taking a year off sounds even better. This guy seemed to have unlimited funds to do that (flying places to visit and staying with people that he wanted to reconnect with). But I guess unfinished business could be taken care of by letters as well.

All Over the Map by Laura Fraser

At 40, this author finds herself divorced and nursing a broken heart from her latest romantic affair. She travels and thinks about what's going on and/or wrong in her life and her relationships.

This book was just OK for me. I didn't really grow to like her as a person. I did appreciate her travel writing and descriptions of food. But overall, this was just a so-so book.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Match Day: One Day and One Dramatic Year in the Lives of Three New Doctors by Brian Eule

Match Day is when fourth-year medical students find out which hospital they will do their residency at. This book goes into some of the history behind how Match Day came to be what it is, but it mostly talks about the anxiety, anticipation, and stress around and leading up to the day. The book follows three soon-to-be doctors as they make decisions about how they will rank their choices. The book also follows the doctors through their first year of residency.

The most fascinating part was reading about how each of the doctor’s personal relationships fared as a result of Match Day and the first year of residency.

This book followed the Match Day experience of all three doctors fairly well and made me care about each of them. But when it came to the residency part, it really focused just on one of them. This book could have been longer with more details about the experiences of the other doctors or it should have just followed the one doctor.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

This has been on the bestseller list for awhile now. It’s written from the perspective of two black maids and one white lady in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Era.

One of the most satisfying reads so far of 2010.

Farm City by Novella Carpenter

The author is an “urban farmer” who lives in Oakland, CA. I love her name!!! =D She has a vegetable garden in the lot behind her house, and she also raises rabbits, chickens, and pigs for meat.

I don’t like reading about killing animals for meat although I know that it’s done and I eat meat myself. In fact, last night I feasted on filet mignon which was very tasty. It was served on a bed of shallot infused mashed potatoes along with a red wine and beef broth reduction sauce. And, can you believe this? I ate this meal while camping in Yosemite. We’re talking real camping with tents – so this was not your regular camp food. Back to my post, I guess I’m one of those people who, if I had to slaughter animals myself in order to eat them would probably become a vegetarian.

I raced through this book, mostly because it was due at the library in two days. It was amazing what the author did with her backyard and her generosity in sharing her produce and meat with neighbors and friends. She is doing extreme urban farming, and it made this low-scale suburban farmer (me) somewhat uncomfortable (with the slaughtering) but also proud about the two tomato plants I have on my patio out back.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

At age nine, Rose discovers that she can taste the emotions of the person who cooked the food that she eats.

I have several comments about this book:
1. This is another book that doesn't have any quotation marks, and I read the whole thing!

2. I don't think I really understood this book. It's in that whole magical realism genre. Hum, I think my sister wrote her Senior Thesis on magical realism, maybe I'll ask her to explain it to me.

3. But besides thinking that I did not totally "get" this book, I somehow did like it. I would probably like it better if I understood what happened. So dear readers, if any of you read this book, maybe you can let me know what happened at the end.