Monday, August 30, 2010

Harry Potter Quandaries: Another Non-Review of Harry Potter #3 & #4

Since I'll be teaching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows this fall, I have been rereading the series.  If you can believe it, this is my first time going all the way back through them and it has been a pure delight!  Along the way though, I have had questions and observations pop up that I didn't notice the first time I read them.  Maybe you can join in and help me out?

Here are some of the things I noticed or questioned in book three:

  • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, we don't actually end the novel with a showdown with Voldemort.  I think I somehow missed that, since it was only the third book.  I wondered then if this was a time that he was getting more strength to make his big attack in the fourth installment?
  • After reading #3, I watched the movie and have to say I remember why I wasn't thrilled with it.  In the scene where Harry's classmates are all learning how to fight off a boggart, Harry jumps in and finds himself face to face with a Death Eater.  I had forgotten that in the book, Lupin doesn't actually let him join in on the activity, fearing that he might conjure up Voldemort instead (and wouldn't that have scared his classmates to death).  I'm sure it was for time and space, but I thought it was interesting that they skimmed this.
  • I was reminded how sorry I felt for Lupin and his condition as a werewolf.  This is a good novel to show that Snape really was much more engaged in the "good guy" team and not the complete bad guy we thought.  We could say that Dumbledore made (coerced) Snape into making the potion to control Lupin's changing, but Snape seemed much more in the loop in this novel than I remember.
  • I will still admit to not being 100% positive on the role of the stag that Harry uses to fight the Death Eaters.  It's a beautiful, touching scene though when Harry realizes that it's not someone else saving him and Sirius, but that he has it within himself to fight the Death Eaters.  Such a great scene.
Okay, so let me ask about book four, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  This happens to be my favorite of the series, which I've read about four times now.  I do have some thoughts and questions though:
  • Why is it that Professor Moody, if he's not the real Moody, would come to Harry's aid and punish Draco Malfoy for attempting to fight him?  I'm thinking this might be due to Barty Crouch being angry at Malfoy's father for not standing up for The Dark Lord and going to Azkeban as he had?  I'm not sure.
  • This isn't really a question, but more of an observation here, but I have to say that I was sad that the film cut out the Winky part of the storyline.  The house elves played such a larger part in the books than in the films and actually added a social justice element to the storyline that I appreciated.
  • In the book, Viktor Krum is made out to be a moody twit.  Although he was this great Quidditch god, he really seemed to be portrayed as more of  a fringe character than I remembered.  In some ways, because of the role he plays in showing the boys that Hermione is more than just a smart girl, I almost wish he was a stronger romantic lead than the book let on.  Am I weird in thinking that?  
  • The Christmas dance made me a little envious of the entire boarding school type of system.  I don't know that I could have handled staying at school, rather than with my parents, but as a teenager I have to say that celebrating with friends like they do in this installment looked pretty awesome.
  • My favorite scene has to be in the third challenge when Harry and Cedric touch the portkey and are transported to the cemetery.  I love how Rowling uses a juxtaposition of a weak Harry with one who is made strong through the aid of loved ones to battle Voldemort.  I CRY every time I read this scene!  Maybe because my own father has passed away and I feel Harry's eagerness to see them, but when Harry and Voldemort's wands touch and Harry says he knows who will be coming out next and his mother appears to tell him his father is on his way, I can't hold back the tears.  In such a monumental moment of need, his parents are there to help him.  I have to remember though, that only moments before those killed by Voldemort came back out of the wand, Harry had managed to push the bead between their wands closer to his enemy.  That tells us that Harry has a power over Voldermort that is unique and clearly all his own.  *sigh*  It's just such great reading!
  • FYI about the scene above, I need to go back and check the American version, but I've been told that the order the characters pop out is backward to the British version (which I'm reading); instead of his mother popping out first, his father does?  I will have to go check that out to see if that's the case, and if so, why they would do that?
  • This begins a dark phase to the series, where innocent characters are being killed off in front of Harry, and each of us as readers.  Is death an important element to help mature and push Harry? (I'm thinking that's a yes, but have been thinking more about the change this brings to Harry?)
I've really fallen in love with this series even more and am glad that I'm doing this before the final two films come out.  Most likely I'll risk looking like a ninny in the theaters because I know I'm going to shed a few tears, knowing this is the end of an era that brought such excitement into my life.  What other books have I stood in line for or even anticipated the films to the point that I waited on a theater's corridor floor to insure that I get the best seats possible?  Were we just lucky enough to be alive at the time of a phenomenon that was once in a lifetime, or will another series come along to reshape the industry and a globe of readers?  I know there are good books that come along, that grab our attention and hearts, but to this magnitude?  I just don't know.

I'm off to read book five. Now that school has started, I worry that I'll take forever to get through it!  Wish me luck as I push ahead through O.W.L.s and angst-ridden teens (at school and in the book).

I'd love to hear any observations you have on any of the questions or ideas I've posted, as well as thoughts you might have on these two books. This would really help me as I prepare to teach book seven, so thank you ahead of time!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Happenings After Work Week #1

Happy day, Sunday is here!  After what felt like the longest work week of my life, even though we only had students three of those days, I was so ready for my first official weekend.  It has been a good start to the school year so far, and I'm happy to see the kids again, but also feeling that workload creep back up again.

Yesterday I went and picked up a new haul of great books.  I grabbed a couple of cookbooks this week, as I'm still trying to fill my diet with healthy choices that taste great.

I also picked up a few books based on blog posts I'd seen around.

And, to wrap things up, I'm reading quite a stack of books that I keep rotating.  Unfortunately, when you read many at once, you don't necessarily finish anything quickly.

Besides a jump back into reading that kicked off with the two books I read last weekend, and a Harry Potter post still to come, I also had a chance to attend the Utah Book Blogger Summer Social last night.  Despite wind bursts that had paper plates, tablecloths, and potato chips flying, we had a really nice time!  I have a couple of pictures that I'll post as soon as I can dig up the cord to my camera, but it was a great time.  It's always great to meet the wonderful, dedicated people behind the words and reviews.  I didn't take very many pictures, since I always forget, but I know you can check out any number of other bloggers' sites.  In fact, Natasha, at Maw Books Blog was around taking lots of pictures, so I'm sure she'll have some great ones to share!  (I'm secretly wondering how wind blown we'll all look!)

Well, I'm off to enjoy this beautiful, even if a bit windy, day!  How was your week?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

First Day of School

Whew!  The first day of school went off without a hitch.  In all three classes that I teach (Popular Fiction, World Literature, and AP Literature), students were talking about Mockingjay, which was killing me since my book was delivered today after school.  I love hearing students talk about books without me being the one to egg on the conversation.  In fact, a couple of students plugged their ears and said, "Don't say anything!  I haven't read it yet!"  I loved it.  It was also interesting to see them create interest in the students who weren't familiar with the books.  I have a feeling that our librarians will have to get a few extra copies of the series!

Although I'm always a bit anxious to meet my new students and praying that I can weather the early morning schedule again, the day was a good one.  I have high hopes for the coming school year.  Tomorrow I teach the second day of students (we're on an A/B schedule), so I'm hoping it goes as well as today.  My feet are sore tonight and I'm excited to go to bed, but that's a good feeling after a successful day.  Now, off to bed to read a tantalizingly small portion of Mockingjay before I have to go to sleep!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Review: All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris

Yes, it's been much too long since I posted anything, and I have had a bit of anxiety about the whole thing.  I'm a creature of routine, and when my routine is switched up, everything goes out of whack!  I'm back to work at my high school, and the kiddos come back on Wednesday.  Am I ready?  Yes and no, but ready or not, they're a comin'!

One side note to all of this was that I took my mother back to the airport on Saturday so she could fly back to Hawaii.  I was dreading it, and have missed her terribly.  My mother means the world to me, so sending her back hit me pretty hard.  Although I'm used to being a tough cookie and taking care of myself, it was nice having her here.  Now, I have to count down the days until Christmas!  In the meantime, I actually calmed myself by finishing Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse book 7, All Together Dead, as well as J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (which sent me into a crying jag when Harry fought Voldermort), but I'll save that review for a little later.  Needless to say, these books helped ease the sadness a little, which makes me love books even more!

Synopsis:  In this seventh installment, Sookie has been recruited (or you could say requested) to attend the vampire "summit" being held on Lake Michigan.  As a telepath, the queen vamp of Lousiana feels that Sookie can help protect her as she heads to court over the murder of her late husband.  Also, the queen feels that she is in jeopardy and that Sookie makes a great tool for her to weed out her possible opponents.  At this conference, we find three men who each have an interest in Sookie's heart:  Quinn, Bill, and Eric.  As always, may the best man wiggle his way into her heart and try to win!

Review:  I have to say, that as a balm for a troubled soul this weekend, this was the perfect get away trip, all packaged in one book.  Even if I had not been in a position where I desperately needed an escape read, this seventh in the series still would have been appealing and a great read.  Where previous installments left me looking towards the future, knowing that I was being set up to like or not like certain characters, I didn't care as much in this installment.  Sookie felt stronger to me, and her ability to keep her head on straight (so to say), made me relax and trust that she could get through the vamp summit safely.  In that case then, I enjoyed seeing where Charlaine Harris took these familiar characters.

In a strange way, this installment felt like a side story, and yes, like it is a stepping stone to more stories to come.  I didn't mind that stepping stone though, and found the vampire trials, vampire entertainment, and new skills Sookie learned with her fellow telepath from a previous novel fun to watch.  I can't help that I like Bill, but I also like Eric and Quinn (okay, so maybe not Quinn quite as much).  The difference though is in where Sookie is honest with us as readers.  Lest I give away too much, it's starting to become evident that she's not being 100% honest about her feelings for one of these characters, maybe because (blood sharing, that sounds icky when I write it) she feels more vulnerable to one of these characters whom she is feeling a deeper connection?  Yes, I'm hoping that's the case.

Out of the other novels in the series, this was one of my favorites thus far.  I liked Sookie's strength, and that it wasn't all about a million different men falling at her feet and coming to save her after every painful battle.  In this case, Sookie really seemed to pull herself together, and even managed to do a bit of saving herself!  Whether it was her strength that drew me in this time, or the direction that it is headed, I liked this novel and can say that I can see it's going to continue to be a fun ride!

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based off of a personal electronic copy of the novel.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How an English Teacher Wraps Up the Summer

The frenzied countdown is on.  The time for reading, and procrastinating my lesson planning and cleaning is over.  Tomorrow I head back to school for teacher meetings, so let's face it, I'm back to work!

Although I've been reading to try to beat the jet lag that killed me last week, the majority of my time has been spent cleaning my house, shopping for school clothes and such, getting in those last minute doctor appointments, and organizing those last few rooms that I didn't get around to last year.  I'm sad that my mother has had to face down all this chaos with me, but how nice is it to have family around to help?  I love her to bits, and was happy to have another family member come and help us build shelves today.

So, here's what my return home to the mainland has entailed:

First we canned raspberry jam.  We found some beautiful berries at a local farmers market not long before they were going to close.  The price was pretty decent, and the jam turned out amazing!  Now, what to do with 23 jars of the stuff?

We also canned green beans.  To be honest, my mother loves to snap beans, so I saw her eyeballing this box of beans at the farmer's market.  We brought them home and canned about 20 more jars of yummy green beans.  Looks like I'll have some good stuff over the winter!

 Finally, the real miracle of my summer.  We finished building and putting up shelves in my garage, under my stairs, and in my office.  I wouldn't dream of recording, permanently what the stacked boxes looked like in my office, but I will say it was pretty bad!  Now, I  have two more lovely bookshelves filled with books to add to the three already up (and full). 

I'm excited to see things being accomplished before I head back to work.  I find myself getting pretty anxious about the days ahead, so it's always good to have a nice, settled home to come back to when the day is through. 

What about you?  What have you been doing to wrap up the summer?  Yes, I know.  We can't wait for Mockingjay!  Anything else you've been doing?  :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Review: Emma by Kaoru Mori

As a quick update, yes, the jet lag is getting better.  It's just moving much more slowly than I would have thought.  We're almost a week out, and I'm just now able to fall asleep after midnight without struggling.  Now, I just have to move that bedtime up!  :) 

As something new to fight the sleeplessness, I tried out my first manga, Emma.  I had seen these reviewed on my friend Tasha's blog Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books.  I've been intrigued by graphic novels and mangas, and this story looked interesting, so I gave it a try!  Thankfully, it was a good choice for me this week.

Synopsis:  Set in Victorian England, this tale is of a housemaid who has been brought out of poverty and made into a proper British maid.  Ruled by class distinction and money, Emma seems to have drawn the attention of highborn William.  It seems that they are set to start a sweet romance, until Emma gains the notice of a few other suitors and class and money might factor in more than love.

Review:  First of all, if you haven't read a manga before, it takes some getting used to.  I'll admit that it took me a little time to figure out that I had to read from the back of the book, and from right to left.  It was a fun twist though, and I was quickly sucked into the story.

Since this is my first manga, I have little to compare it to other than graphic novels.  This might not be a good comparison, so I took it on face value and found it to be a lot of fun to read.  As a fan of Victorian England, I loved the setting and its class distinction.  Emma is a servant, but like many stories, she is the love interest of a rich highborn young man.  These class distinctions make for a nice tension and bit of ironic humor to the story.  As a quick new introduction into mangas, this was a fun start!

Now, if I can only get past the giant, sparkly eyes that I saw discussed in the news, then I'll be good.  I've had students come in with snake eye contacts, and strange colors, but I'm hoping this look will pass up the students I teach!  If you haven't seen this trend, check out this news report by CBS News on "Gaga Lenses" back on July 7th. Interesting trend to see coming out of the publishing world.  I wonder what other trends mirror those found in publishing.  Are there others that I've missed or ones you think would be cool to see?

Friday, August 13, 2010

The W's of Reading: Why Reading Causes Jet Lag

Copyright by iStock Photo
Monday night, I took an overnight flight back to the mainland from Hawaii.  I had enjoyed lots of sunshine, sleep, water, and good food while I was there, but NOTHING prepared me this year for the bone-jarring jet lag that set in!

Like many of us, I love to travel and have faced jet lag after trips to Australia or even Greece.  It has always taken me a day or two of sleeplessness to kind of get my "mojo" back, but this time is way different.  Why then was this time so different?  That is the question I've been asking myself and have come to the conclusion that I can blame most of it on reading.  Yep, reading.

Here are the things I vow not to do next time I travel:
  • Read until 2 am for the two weeks prior to a trip.  Hawaii is four hours behind MST, so I was essentially going to bed at 6 am!  No wonder I can't go to sleep now that I'm back.
  • Get so sucked into a book that I don't sleep even for five minutes on an overnight flight.  Next time, I will find a way to FORCE myself to put the book down and get a little shut eye before landing. 
  • Use reading as a way of nodding off at "normal" bed time here.  Why?  It doesn't work!  It's still terribly early to my internal clock, and although I'm bone tired, my brain is fully engaged and willing to keep reading.
  • Finally (not related to reading), not schedule early morning appointments once I get back.  I always used to just jump right back into the schedule of the place I traveled to, but this has only made me more tired, and ready for a good nap about mid-morning.  
Yes, I have had a little extra time to read, but it has been semi-miserable time.  This newly initiated jet lag pansy now sees that the bone-jarring fatigue, low-grade headache, and semi-queasy nausea that has tagged me for four days now just might not be worth it!  Next time I travel, I will PUT THE BOOK DOWN and try to get a little sleep.

Has reading ever caused you jet lag?  Any advice for the newly titled "Jet Lag Pansy" that I now claim for myself?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Review: Dear Julia by Amy Bronwen Zemser

Today I'll be heading out to go back home.  I'm a little sad, and as always feeling that nostalgic "I wish" a bit too much.  For some reason, I always seem to wish I were more of a beach bum, or more of a water enthusiast, or that I'd exercised just a little more, or that I'd read more.  It's that bit of myself that I actually have to fight and tell myself that it really was a glorious summer, and take the lovely memories away with me.  Aloha to my second home and family!

One book I did manage to finish last week before I returned my library books was Dear Julia by Amy Bronwen Zemser.  I'd had this book on my "To Be Read" list for over a year, so it was nice to finally get a chance to read this one.  What an interesting little read!

Synopsis:  Young Elaine Hamilton was a different girl.  She wanted more than anything to learn how to master French cooking as her idol Julia Child had in the past.  From her childhood, she read her cookbooks like most children read fiction, and practiced making sauces and omelets from an early age.  By the time she was in school and faced with peers who had very different interests, all Elaine wanted to do was to get home each night to perfect another French cooking skill.  Then, into her life walked another quirky girl who loved drama and had big plans for the future.  Although more into the limelight than Elaine, their friendship pushed Elaine to show more of herself to others than she ever wanted to in the first place.

Review:  This was one of the quirkiest little books I'd read in awhile.  Since I genuinely love to read "foodie lit," I'd wanted to read this one for quite some time.  The references to sauces, pastries, and meat preparations were glorious, and made me a bit jealous that such a young girl could master them!  Elaine was truly an introvert.  Her likes and dislikes so different from other teenagers, that it was hard to even say she was a teen.  Her best friend in the story, also a big eccentric, really brought Elaine to a place where she could actually see her dreams of attending culinary school in France. 

There is this interesting blend of foodie knowledge and YA angst that makes this novel especially interesting.  It has the feel of other young adult novels that deal with really quirky teenagers, with their masked and bottled insecurities and their hopes all kept under wraps.  I really liked Elaine though, and wanted her to find herself and showcase her amazing talents!  It was truly a fun read that was completely out of the ordinary from anything I'd read before.  You do get a sense for how it might end, but the story itself feels strangely new.  I really enjoyed the book, and although thought the characters were real oddballs, I enjoyed watching them take their insecurities and oddities and showing their value to society.  Just a great little book that is out of the norm! 

If you like foodie type literature, then I would give this a try.  Yes, it's a pretty quirky story, but still fun.  Now, if I could just learn to make an omelet or crepes for myself!

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based off of a library copy of the novel.

This book counts as my 6th in the TBR Challenge.  Only six more to go! 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday Update & a Short Review

What an interesting couple of days here!  On Friday morning we had a power outage, which can be a big deal where we're located here on the island.  Basically, without other stations to tap into, it can take hours for the electricity to come back up.  We've had the electricity go off many times but it has always popped back on, but when it's the entire North Shore as it was, then we knew we were in for a longer haul.

Thankfully, we had power up by late afternoon, and I used that time to read.  Here's the thing.  I had a huge "To Do" list, but could only do one thing on there that didn't require either the computer or the Internet.  Crazy!  At first I stressed out a bit, and then I had to laugh at myself because I'm surrounded by beaches and books.  Who needs the Internet for that?

Well, we leave here to head back home on Monday.  I'm sad, but strangely eager to get back to my house and library.  I love my home library!  Plus, my mother is flying back with me to help me finish setting up my office, which is mainly bookshelves.  I'm excited to get everything put up so I can have my books up on shelves again.  It will be so nice!

This past week I finished reading Anti-Cancer, A New Way of Life by David Servan Schreiber.  I didn't want to do a longer review of the book, but did want to bring it up on my blog as I found it to be an excellent resource.  Cancer touches a lot of our lives, and thanks to a couple of pretty scary experiences of my own, I've been interested in learning more about what I can do to ward off any chance of getting cancer. 

Schreiber's book basically walks through the science of cancer and shows how the cells turn on or off based on certain factors.  By staying away from those things that would turn the cancer cells on, you can literally slow down or stop the growth of cancer cells, depending on where they are located.  He walks you through the science, foods and drinks that are filled with nutrients to ward off cancer, ways to avoid things such as pesticides and harmful chemicals, ways to meditate and ward off stress, breathing techniques to keep your body energized, and positive mental outlook to keep your mind and body connected.

Honestly, I found the book really enlightening.  I don't think I can change every negative in my life in a flash, but I am really interested in the personal accounts that showed how people fought off cancer and how I can incorporate a few more of these health factors into my own life.  If you're interested in learning more about cancer prevention, I would definitely at least check his book out.

As for the rest of my reads, here's what I'll be reading this next week.  Granted, I fly home, have meetings, and start back to work by Friday, but here's what I'll be reading in between all of that!

How about you?  What are you most looking forward to reading this coming week?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Utah Book Blogger Summer Social!

It's that time again for anyone in our area to get together for our Book Blogger Summer Bash!  Since the time is ticking down, we wanted to get the information out this week via our blogs to let you know.  The lovely, and organized Natasha at Maw Books Blog has posted all the details and information on her site.  Suey at It's All About Books and myself are helping with this fun time and hope we can gather as many of our blogging and writer friends together as possible. 

Here is the basic information:
  • WHEN:  Saturday, August 28th at 6pm
  • WHERE:  Riverfront Park East at 10991 S. River Front Parkway, in Sandy  (Same park as last summer.)
  • WHO:  Book bloggers, authors, booksellers, etc.
  • WHAT:  Families are invited.  We will be having pulled-pork sandwiches and ask that you bring a potluck item to the bash.
  •  HOW:  Really, there is no how here!  Come with a paperback book, ready to swap, chat, and have a great time. 
***Please RSVP to utahbookbloggers(at)gmail(dot)com so that we know who can make it that night.  Also, please don't hesitate to get in touch of any one of us for more information.  Other than our blogs, we can also be reached on Twitter at:  @mjmbecky, @SueySays, and @mawbooks

We hope you can come and look forward to chatting and socializing again!  It's always great fun to see the wizard behind the curtains, meaning that we're happy to get to meet the amazing writers of blogs and books alike.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Review: Strange Relations by Sonia Levitin

Let me begin by saying that I didn't finish this particular young adult novel.  I learned this evening that setting matters more than I could have imagined.

Synopsis in Brief:  A young girl flies to Hawaii (Oahu) to stay with her religious aunt and her large family.  While there she falls for a surfer, and learns more about faith and family.  (See Goodreads synopsis of Strange Relations for more information.)

Review:  I actually picked this book up at our local library here in Kahuku.  The book was standing along the top of the bookcase holding the YA fiction, and not with the Hawaiiana fiction, which should have been a big clue to me.  Neither here nor there at this point, I picked up the book and thought that I'd read a YA book set in Hawaii for the fun of it.  In an effort to clear out the last of the books I checked out here for the summer, I started reading this quick-paced novel this evening, but quickly realized it was nothing like I thought.

Although the novel is not necessarily claiming to be representing anything Hawaiian (which it doesn't), it was a little deceptive.  The inside cover says that the story is set, "against Oahu's lush backdrop."  That's really about it, and that's about all I saw.  In brief, it is a story that uses the Hawaii of a screensaver or Hollywood movie, and uses that as the setting.  That's totally fine!  Honest. I just had to pull myself back from my initial reaction of offense.  I will admit that the Hawaii that I know, is not really Waikiki centered.  The Hawaii I know has more to it than beautiful scenery and breathtaking sunsets; there is a culture that permeates and moves everything on the islands.  It was the energy and the life-style of Hawaii that was missing, and I had to resign myself to the island being a "backdrop" and nothing more.  Once again, that's fine, but one has to be ready to know that.

Lest I make this book sound shallow, I have to back up and say that there seemed to be a great message about reconnecting with the young protagonist's Jewish heritage that she had lost.  There also was a story of grief and loss that drove her to Hawaii to heal that was building steadily.  Overall, it is a book that had a message and story to deliver, and the setting was merely meant to charm the reader along the way.  If you're interested, check it out.  In any other circumstance, not bewitched by Hawaii in a pretty personal way, I would have read the novel in a very different way.

Have you ever read a novel that was set somewhere you loved?  What happened if they didn't capture it for you?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Review: Frangipani by Celestine Vaite

I had a different review waiting in the wings, but had to pull it so I could get my thoughts out before they flew away!  The library here is an excellent resource for all books from or about Polynesia, so it was easy to get my hands on a copy of Celestine Vaite's novel Frangipani.  I picked it up last night to try out the first chapter, and 200 pages later, had to go to bed!  Needless to say, I had to get my review out while it's fresh in my mind.

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, " Her name is Materena Mahi, and she's the best listener in Tahiti. Materena starts her new job as a professional cleaner at the same time she becomes the mother of her beautiful baby girl. Leilani is a challenge almost from the start, posing questions ("Why doesn't it snow in Tahiti?") that seem to Materena not worth wondering about. What matters to Materena is passing along her own special wisdom.  Everyone around Materena seems to admire her cleverness and generosity, her appreciation of Tahitian tradition - everyone except perhaps Leilani, who has her own ideas about love, family, and island ways."

Review:  Frangipani came out of left field for me.  I wasn't 100% sure what to expect, and yet had picked it up on a whim, thinking that it might be interesting to read a book set in Tahiti.  The bonus was that it is also written by a Tahitian writer who was born and raised there.  At the risk of sounding cliche, Vaite's novel has that rich tone and style that is characteristic of contemporary ethnic fiction.  The nuances in the story show the life of a Tahitian woman, Materena, who approaches her life with a selfish husband (that she loves) and demanding children with a bit of humor and philosophy.  Although the story makes a few jumps in time that had me grasping for time frame, I felt centered through Materena.  

Much of the story dealt with family relationships, and the complication that such a small island as Tahiti could throw into the mix.  Living on such a small island often spells family members leaving to distant places, splitting up the family unit, and causing mothers to cry for their children.  You get the sense that although Materena's relationship with the daughter she has is chaotic and often exhausting emotionally, that all she wants for her daughter is happiness.  As with most mother, daughter stories, Materena sees her own life through her daughter's eyes, and tries to stop her before she makes any mistakes that she could sense were ahead. 

Although the novel felt like a serious discussion of relationships and culture, there were so many funny scenes (some that probably weren't meant to be funny) that I couldn't help but be swept away by the story.  Using potted plants to cover holes in the carpet, using terms like "sexy loving" for sex, and using arguments to forward the story had me charmed and invested in their lives.  The island culture in the novel also felt very similar to what I've seen, read about, and experienced here in Hawaii, and therefore was sucked into the dialogue and large sense of family pretty quickly.  I wasn't keen on the way the book ended, with what felt like simple platitudes about the grandness of women, but I now know there are two more books to follow this first one that have me eager to continue reading about Materena and her family.

Here are the next two books in the series:

FTC Disclosure:  This review was based off of a library copy of the novel.

I've had this on my TBR pile for ages, and counts for my 5th in the TBR Challenge.

If you've reviewed this book, I'd love to hear  your thoughts!  Let me know and I'll check out your reviews.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Avoiding the Inevitable End to My Summer

As much as I love my home, my job, and my life back on the mainland, I can't help but have a little anxiety about leaving Hawaii.  I've done this every summer, so I should be ready for the inevitable freak out, but it popped up this weekend!  Here's how I solved it:

A lady in our neighborhood had a big bunch of bananas that another neighbor was trying desperately to get rid of, since they had ripened and were just too much for one family. How could I resist?  These were, actually, my first "off the tree" bananas for this summer.

My mom asked me to make a family get-together favorite, Easy Banana Pudding that I picked up when I lived in Mississippi.  Here is the pudding bit, just waiting for the vanilla wafers and banana slices.

Here's the final product.  This isn't rocket science to make, but a real sugar overload, and yummy to boot.  I made this with the mini Vanilla Wafers and will NEVER do that again.  They were too little, and I didn't like the look of them.  As my mom said, "Who cares!  It will still taste good."

Here's the recipe if you're interested:

1-2 bananas, sliced (depending on how many layers you make)
1 large box of instant vanilla pudding
2 C. milk
1 large whipped topping
vanilla wafers (It usually only takes 1/2 a box or less)

Directions:  Mix the pudding mix with the milk, until there is a slight set on the pudding.  It will be fairly stiff.  Fold in the whipped topping until the mix is incorporated.  Slice the bananas & reserve for the layers.  In a bowl, make small layers of pudding, vanilla wafers, pudding again, bananas, and then repeat, leaving the top layer as the pudding.  You can then decorate the edge of the bowl with vanilla wafers if you like.

I actually did a lot of reading this weekend.  I finished:

I'm also just finishing up:

One more week in paradise!  Yes, I'm a bit late posting this for the weekend, but what have you been up to?  Does anyone else cook when they're anxious, or am I a horrible stereotype gone awry?!?