Wednesday, March 30, 2011

22: Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time, by Greg Mortenson and David Relin is the story of an American man who wanted to give back to the Pakistan community who helped him heal after an unsuccessful summit of K2, and, in thanks to them for their kindness, he offered to come back and build a school. The book focuses on his work now, not as much on the mountain climbing part, and focuses a lot on the operations in his business now.

The book’s title comes from the Baltinese saying, "The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a strange, the second time, you are an honored guest. The third time you become family." The traditions of the Balti were amazing and the snippet about the old man reading the Koran, but turned out he could not read had me thinking for days about how comforting our religions can be to us. 

However, I found this book hard to read. It was confusing and not well-written, in my opinion (a quick look at Amazon’s almost perfect reviews of this book tells me I am in the minority here). I wanted to know more about the schools, the students, the curriculum, and not as much on the operations part. I didn’t like how the book ended, I feel like he was being hateful to people who initially kind of backed away from financing his project. 

I’ll admit. I had pangs of thoughts while reading this book where I thought, “he should be helping AMERICANS. Not foreigners set against us.” But. There is truth when he talks about how terror comes from not being educated, and how in helping educate these rural children, whose only options for education often come from the Taliban, I supported his project more.

I don’t know if I see this business (CIA) being operational once Mortenson steps down. He tends to run it all alone, and while its working right now, when he’s unable or unwilling to run it, I wonder if anyone will step in. I also have to wonder how his wife can stand this. He’s gone for 4-5 months at a time, and yet htye have two small children and live in Montana. She must be more understanding than I would be!

I give this book a solid 6/10, but I just didn’t love it. I found it hard to read, very detailed focused and way too over-written. It’s good, but I think it could have been a lot better.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

21: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is the timeless story of love, loss and the eternal green light. It’s really hard to recap such a classic story, so I’m not going to try, since I have to be in the 5% of people who have never read this book until now (How? I have a Masters Degree in READING!). Anyway, I was not disappointed. 

I loved the language in this book. It was so vivid and just flowed so well. I reread the last sentence at least ten times, just soaking it in, because it was so well-written: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” What a great line to describe the fight of life, the fight we all have every day in different areas of our lives. 

It was neat reading about the Jazz Age. I don’t know much about this Era, but the overwhelming abundance of money and parties and stuff was very neat to read about. 

I did really like this book. It was not my favorite, I did not devour it like I do some books, but it’s an American classic for good reason, and I’m glad I read it. I give it a solid 8/10. 

PS: I am STILL thinking about that last line! Gah, it gets to me!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

20: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is the debut novel by Beth Hoffman. A true Southern charmer, this book delighted me to no end. It was uplifting, funny, sweet and sad all in one book, and I found myself cheering for CeeCee, for her aunt and for her adopted family as the book went on and while the ending was a little far-fetched, I still loved the book so much.

CeeCee’s mother has a debilitating mental illness that she has stopped taking medication for. CeeCee immerses herself in books so she will learn as much as she can so the genetic disorder that has taken over her mother’s life will not take over hers. The story unfolds, and her absent father refuses to help and travels for his job so he is gone often and does not notice how deeply depressed his wife is. A tragedy occurs and CeeCee’s father sends her to Savannah, the land of bees and honey, to live with her great-aunt. CeeCee is plopped into a foreign world, complete with racial tensions, a naked neighbor, an aunt who loves her and a whole lot of fun.

The story solidifies women’s friendships, the strength of women and the delight of a young child. I loved this book. It is true Southern fiction and almost a perfect story. I give it a very, very, very solid 9/10 and recommend this to everyone.

Friday, March 11, 2011

19: Mini Shopaholic

Mini Shopaholic, by Sophie Kinsella, continues the story of Becky Brandon (Bloomwood)  and her husband Luke, and their two-year old out of control daughter, Minnie. The book follows a very traditional storyline that Sophie Kinsella has mastered with these books, in that Becky messes up, makes a big act of something else, and then manages to pull it together, all while spending way too much money and annoying everyone in her path.

This time, Luke hires a Super Nanny for Minnie, because he wants to get her under control before they agree to have another child (something that Becky really wants). The nanny catches all of her behavior on tape, and Becky tries to justify everything. Throw in the fact that Luke is having a huge birthday party and Becky manages to give him the most extravagant party of her life, even in the midst of a global recession. It really bothered me that she was throwing this out of control party (fire-eaters, jugglers, etc) while her parents had lost all of their money. Have some compassion, Becky!

These books are getting old. Becky has never learned any lessons and she continues to spend to the point of ridiculousness, and now she buys for Minnie (I did laugh at the “Pocket Money” fiasco). I had a hard time finishing it only because Becky has never learned to grow up and be an adult. Everyone has to at some time, and it’s about time Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood) does.

I give this a 5/10. I think I’m done with Shopaholic books for a while.

18: Comfort Food

Comfort Food, by Kate Jacobs, is the story of a soon-to-be 50 year old cooking show hostess, who dreads aging and the birthday party she is expected to throw for herself. But all of this changes when her boss adds the spicy Spaniard, Carmen Vega as her new cohost to her very traditional show. (The whole time I read this book I pictured Paula Deen).

This book was cute. It was a super easy read, and was very funny in parts. Some of the food things were funny (when Carmen made octopus, EW) and some of the parts were unrealistic (uh, the wedding scene in general). I wasn’t attached to any of the characters, but I definitely liked the book overall. I think I liked her other book, Friday Night Knitting Club, even more though.

I give it a 6/10. Nothing spectacular, but a good, simple book about love and hope.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

17: Like Water for Chocolate

Like Water for Chocolate, written by Laura Esquivel, is a book written in the magic realism genre and is about a Mexican family and their traditions, their love and their family drama. It was recommended to me by someone else, and I have to say, I liked it.

The style of writing reminds me of the movie Big Fish , which I absolutely loved. It’s exaggerated and embellished, but aren’t most stories? It tells the story of Tita, who is the youngest daughter, and must never get married, because she has to take care of her mother until the day she dies, per tradition. Well, the boy she loves (and who loves her) is Pedro, but Pedro ends up marrying her sister, Rosaura, but he does not love her. Tita learns how to cook and while she cooks, her emotions end up in the food and anyone who eats the food will certainly feel the same emotions as Tita. So the wedding is a terribly sad event and everyone cried because Tita was crying when she chopped the onions. And another family event is bitter because Tita is bitter when she is cooking. This cracked me up, because aah… what story would my food tell some nights?

The story develops into more of a drama, with brothels and death and soldiers and rape, but it retains its very magical-style of writing. Like I said earlier, I liked this genre more than I thought I would and I am excited to rent the movie that is based off this book and read it.

The only thing that disappointed me was the recipes were not very useable for me. I’m not planning on making Ox-Tail Soup anytime soon, at least 

I give this book a 7/10. A good, solid but funky love story.