Also on Saturday night, the Boobla was being a bit of a fuss and whining about wanting to watch Thomas and Friends. The level and pitch of the whining was increasing exponentially and I was getting increasingly frustrated not being able to hear myself think (surprise to no one, I have a very low threshold for whining), so I finally snapped at him, "Big Yam! Stop whining! Go tell the door!" and the Dotytron and the SMcKay kind of gave me the, "what the hell is that all about?" look but the Big Yam trudged over to our front door and stood in front of it, muttering about how he wanted to watch Thomas. !!!!! LOL!!!!! That will never not be funny. Unorthodox, but it worked.
In the two months since my last book review omnibus post, I have read seven books and countless cookbooks. Here are my reviews:
Tigers in Red Weather is a deferred summer read - it's been on my list since the summer. It's about two cousins, Nick and Helena, and deals overall with the relationships, ennui, and lack of direction of two post-war New England brides. The focus of the book centres on the family's estate, Tiger House, in New England, where the cousins have summered and continue to summer. A murder happens in the community and the mystery surrounding the murder reverberates through the two families, exposing deep flaws in their relationships to each other and their own drifting aimlessness and thwarted ambitions. The story is told in four or five parts, from the perspective of a different character. I found that of all the narratives, only Nick's section rang clearly. Everyone seemed kind of blurry, as if Nick was the principle character and everyone else was orbiting around her. If that was the author's intention, then using the different perspectives/different chapters approach wasn't effective as everyone else's story and experiences get subsumed by Nick's. This would be a good summer/cottage read. It's slight, but meaty enough to not be like, Shopaholic-level beachy.
Lauren Oliver's Delirium trilogy wrapped up with Requiem (my reviews of the other titles here and here). Lena, the character who grew up in Maine, in a society in which love is considered a disease, has escaped her conforming Aunt and Uncle's house and chosen a life of rebellion, joining a resistance movement. In the second novel, we see her life on the outside and follow her as she attempts to infiltrate the right-wing, pro-stamping-out-love political faction, and falls in love with Julian, the right-wing poster boy. In the third novel, A LOT happens. There are attempts to overthrow the governing society, Lena's first love reappears, broken and scarred, and it's all a bit of a giant, jumbling mess, really. There's also the reintroduction of Lena's best friend, Hannah, who undergoes the procedure that essentially lobotomizes the part of your brain that experiences love. Hannah's story is underdeveloped. Like a lot of third acts in YA trilogies, a lot of the action and loose threads are left half-told and unfinished. I think that's the problem of trying to tie up this dystopian reality in a third book. Like, the questions that readers want answered - what does the new society look like, what kind of governing will take it's place, how will these relationships be resolved - are too unwieldy for a YA third chapter. It's just all too much. They're turning this into a series starring Emma Roberts - I think this makes sense - it will probably make for decent television and the story can be fleshed out in the longer, more forgiving format of television versus a feature film.
Eleanor and Park is my favorite novel that I've read recently. LOVED IT. I would categorize it under the "kinda sorta" YA genre. Like, there's nothing so YA about it to prevent adults from reading and enjoying it on its own merits. Similar to The Age of Miracles, it would be YA because, and only because, the main characters are teenagers, but it's not like your'e dealing with a series like the Hunger Games or something, where the cultural criticism implicit in dystopian worlds has been watered down slightly to meet the reading needs of teens. This is like John Green style YA. But maybe even less YA than that. Okay, enough with the genre hand-wringing (even though John Green wrote the New York Times book review for this book and loved it). This is a sweet little love story about two very different teens who are both in their own way outcasts in their small, suburban town in one of those states that no one ever thinks about (I think it was Nebraska? Montana?) They bond over comics, music, and being forced to sit together on the school bus to and from school and the way their relationship unfolds is squealy, reminds-you-of-falling-in-love-in-high-school good. It is natural and adorable and thrums with the excitement of mix tapes and whispers and wanting to jump out of your skin at the sight of someone in the hallway. This book isn't pat or trite in any way - their relationship isn't easy and is fraught, but in a way that makes sense given the way the characters have been constructed - it's not movie-of-the-week diaster that pulls them apart, but stuff that could happen in anybody's world, if you were living the same circumstances. Ugh. I just loved this book. I would read it again in a heartbeat and it's going to be the one I'm pestering you about reading for the next little while.
Based on my experience reading the Delirium trilogy, I decided to check out the book that put Lauren Oliver on the map, Before I Fall. This is much more standard, YA fare. Pretty, popular girl, who started off nice finds herself with a pack of mean-girl bffs, at the top of the social pack in high school. She ends up dying (no spoiler here) and reliving the day of her death over and over again until she gets it "right." This was entertaining enough, I guess. It was aight. I didn't really like any of the characters and it's hard to root for the mean girl, even with the "everyone has their problems on the inside" tack the author takes.
I'm pretty sure The Sisters Brothers won some kind of award or something. It's a western, but an updated one, with told in a shades-of-Cormac-McCarthy style taciturn prose by the protagonist, Eli Sisters, who is a hired gun (along with his brother) for an unsavory, Wild West gangster type. Eli is increasingly uneasy with his profession, and his interior monologue is what gives the novel depth. This was an addictive read, even for someone who doesn't normally like the genre. The modernized Western, I can get behind. There is a beauty to the restrained prose and Eli's flashes of emotional insight. Humour, too.
Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle is a memoir of how she and her siblings grew up with an alcoholic, dreamer grifter father and a free-spirit mother who's benign neglect of her children in pursuit of her own selfish desires borders on neglect. They grew up homeless, always on the run, with two parents who couldn't, or chose not to hold down jobs. There was hunger, sometimes dire, and a falling-down house in Appalachia where they threw their garbage into a pit and eventually used a bucket for a toilet. Despite this, Walls manages to imbue their childhood with a sense of magic and wonder. It's not totally abject misery (in fact, far from it). She has real affection for both her parents (who end up being really homeless in New York City, while Walls lives on Park Avenue with her first husband), who instilled in her a sense of resiliency and self-reliance and imagination and creativity. Sometimes you're appalled by what her parents do, but Walls' gift as a writer is the ability to prevent them from becoming demonized or cariactures. They always mean well. This isn't the neglect that one associates with the rural poor - both her parents are brilliant people who just buy-in to an alternative lifestyle with a commitment that doesn't make them good parents (like, the kind of parents who end up taking their kids to grow up free-range on a commune or something). It was a good read in the sense that it showed you how a) coddled kids are nowadays; and b) how teaching your kids resiliency can overcome seemingly insurmountable structural needs. This was Academic Book Club's next read...I'm excited to hear what the ladies thought. I don't usually love memoirs but this was a particularly good one.
Monday was shrimp-fest. Stir-fried shrimp with king oysters mushrooms and napa with Chinese wheat noodles.
Tuesday, the Dotytron picked up Russian goodies from the Russian grocery by his work (so Russian that the default language between staff and customers is Russian, until it becomes obvious that you don't speak it). We had beer-braised sausages with onions and sauerkraut, this awesome beet salad, perogies, and this potato salad I"m obsessed with that comes with cut up pickles, baloney (!) and peas.
Finally, for those of you wondering how exponentially my belly is expanding, here are some preggo work bathroom shots:
Four weeks later (!!!)
Still holding steady though - can't tell I'm preggos from behind. It's all belly, from what I can tell.
Going to see a documentary today, then a massage, then home! Yay days off!