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Sunday Salon: the Answer Post

June 21, 2009

The Sunday Salon.comWelcome Sunday Salon-ers, Weekly Geek-ers, and all of my wonderful regulars. :) This week, I’m doing things a bit differently. Instead of talking about the books I read this past week in little blurbs, I’m answering questions about them that came from y’all! All of the questions were great, and I loved answering them. But this is a long post (seriously: over 5,000 words), so for everyone’s sake, I’ve included links to the individual books at the top, in case you don’t want to read it all. To avoid an even longer post, I’ve limited myself to 6 word ‘plot summaries’ that are directly beneath the titles, but I’ve linked the titles to Powell’s, so you can quickly find out a bit about the book there if you want. I hope everyone enjoys the post!


Food Matters by Mark Bittman
The Fox Woman by Kij Johnson
Gifted by Nikita Lalwani
Liquid Jade by Beatrice Hohenneger
Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko
The Pirate’s Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson
Plain Janes by Cecil Castelluci and Jim Rugg
Spoken Here by Mark Abley
This Earth of Mankind by Prameodya Ananta Toer
Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Mariellier
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston

Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko
Light v. dark supernatural skirmishes in Moscow.

Bart asks:Okay, as I wasn’t sure about it, I’d love to know what you thought of the translation from the Russian in Nightwatch.

It didn’t surprise me at all to learn that it’s the same translator who works with Boris Akunin’s series. I think his approach is a bit awkward and stilted; most of the time, I could immediately tell what the Russian was, and he seems to favour the word-for-word approach instead of making it sound to an English audience what it would sound like to a Russian one. This annoyed me, although since I knew the Russian, I was fine with it. There were also words included that just don’t make sense in English. Off the top of my head, I remember the doctor Sveta works at a ‘polyclinic.’ Now in Russian, a ‘polyclinica’ is an outpatient clinic. I’ve never seen ‘polyclinic’ as an English word! So I was not impressed. ;) (BTW, in case y’all haven’t read my raptures over Pevear & Volokhonsky, whenever you’re looking at classic Russian lit, try to read their translations. They’re an American husband and Russian wife team, and they’re just marvelous.)

Linda asks:If you’ve seen Nightwatch the movie, does it follow the book? I haven’t seen the movie. But the book has so much internal dialogue and angst from the main character, I imagine the movie would cut a lot of that out and focus more on the action.

Trisha asks:Nightwatch sounds like a very interesting and exciting book. Does it live up to its description? Or is it just another formulaic SciFi YAL book?

Well, I have no clue what YAL stands for…sorry! First of all, I’d like to point out something that really surprised me. This isn’t one novel. It’s really three novellas; they all feature the same protagonist and really all characters, but they have different plots. One thing I did like about it was the Moscow setting; I’ve barely read any sci-fi, and I’m a sucker for anything international, but that would stand out as unique to me. The actual book, though, I found a bit heavy handed in its philosophy and the whole light vs. dark, but neither side truly good or evil thing wasn’t groundbreaking.

Katrina asks:I didn’t finish The Night Watch as it didn’t flow for me. How did you find the style of the book? Did you feel any ‘connection’ with any of the characters? And will you be reading the next 2 in the trilogy.

I connected with several of the characters in the first novella, but by the second and especially the third, I just wanted the protagonist to stop whining and do something. And the whole tricksy boss thing got old really fast. I didn’t realise that this was a trilogy: no, I can’t say I have a particular interest in the other books.

The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
High school girls unite in art.

Bart asks:
What did you think of the artwork in Plain Janes?

I really liked it! As regular readers know, I’m ‘sensitive’ to the art in graphic novels; I didn’t grow up reading comic books or the funny pages, so that style of artwork usually grates on me. The Plain Janes artwork was much more realistic, with pretty colours, so we got along. :) (fyi: I totally think comic book illustrations are a completely valid and complex artform…they just make it really difficult for me to get involved in the story; it’s my problem not the artists’)

Kim asks:When I read The Plain Janes, I didn’t write a review because I didn’t know what to say about it — it wasn’t bad, just nothing that seemed to blow me away. Of all the comic books out there, why do you think someone should pick this one over another? Or, is there another comic that’s somehow related that you’d recommend instead?

First of all, I am very new to the graphic novels genre, so I don’t have a wide frame of reference! But as someone who is NOT a comic person, I really liked this for the illustrations and for the everyday storyline. It’s about normal teens, trying to cope with normal teenage problems, in a very creative way. I also loved the exploration of post-traumatic stress disorder, and I saw reflections of the whole US in Main Jane’s story and that of her parents. So this one impressed me more than it impressed you! I do think it was too short, though, and could have benefited from an extra hundred pages to really explore some aspects of it.

Melissa asks:What was the best part about Plain Janes for you?

I think watching Main Jane reinvent herself. I grew up moving, and my favourite part is those first few weeks, when no one knows you and you can be anyone at all. :D So that really struck a note with me!

Christina asks:I just finished The Plain Janes as well, so I’m curious to read what you think about the book. However, my question for you, is what did you think of the “art” the Janes made around town? Did you see any of it as art?

I did see it as art. But I went to a small liberal arts college with a big presence of studio art majors and minors, roomed with one, and every spring our campus was taken over with art installations (the most memorable was someone who stuck strawberries on dowels into the ground at varying heights in a big semi-circle…memorable because very quickly the squirrels played a ‘how much fruit can we eat?’ game). So I’ve been conditioned to see art as something that challenges and/or reflects our views of the world, that gets people thinking about their attitudes. And the Plain Janes definitely did that! (The only one I questioned was the fountain filled with bubbles…kids in my high school did that regularly, and I don’t think it was for artistic reasons, lol.)

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
Young boy visits Victorian garden nightly.

UncertainPrinciples asks: Really like the sound of Tom’s Midnight Garden though. Would you recommend it?

I’d definitely recommend it! It’s a magical children’s book, and as long you go into it prepared to enter back into a children’s world, I think you’ll enjoy it. Of course, I’m partial to time travel stories too. :D However, my favourite young-British-boy-has-supernatural-experiences is still The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston. I think Tom’s Midnight Garden, while I loved it, was a bit more simplistic. I can’t imagine reading it over and over like I can Green Knowe or, say, The Secret Garden. I’m sure there are readers who strongly disagree though, since it’s won several awards! And I’m biased since I read both of those when I was an actual child. Anyway, I gave it five stars, because while I was reading it I was totally in the moment. A good comfort read too!

PussReboots asked:I loved Tom’s Midnight Garden. What did you think of the time travel aspect and his relationship with Hattie?

I love time travel! So obviously I was a big fan of that. :D The loneliness of Hattie made me really sad, especially since she’d only see Tom every few months ago. I thought the dynamics of him staying young as she matured were interesting, but I think they could have been handled in a slightly more complex-or maybe subtle-way. That part of the story didn’t feel unique to me, but I can’t think of a particular book it reminded me of. Just a general children’s book theme, I guess.

Gifted by Nikita Lalwani
Math genius. Overcontrolling parents. Ruined lives.

UncertainPrinciples asks:
How about Gifted? [Would you recommend it?]

This is tough for me. It depends on what kind of reader you are. I’m the type that tries to avoid incredibly depressing books, unless that’s not the main focus. Gifted was much, much sadder than I expected it to be. The main character is completely controlled and verbally abused by her father: this was very difficult for me handle, since my own father had temper issues when I was growing up. It made me so tense that I had to do about an hour of yoga for every twenty minutes of reading to try to get my muscles back under control. And her mother has so many issues surrounding sex it’s ridiculous (she tells her daughter that Indians don’t have sex to have children). And the relentlessness of all of this never lets up. I think the writer’s talented, but I could barely stand to pick this up again after I took a break from it.

Joanne asks:In the description of the book, there are some quirky things like exactly how old she is, and the probability of walking with her crush. I’d like to know if this is something that is sprinkled throughout the book?

Well, Rumi is a math genius, so she thinks in math a lot of the time; probability is one of her favourite things. It is sprinkled throught he book. However, the description is a lot more lighthearted than the book itself was.

Jennie asks: In Gifted, who did you think was ultimately to blame? Was it all her father’s fault?

Her father was an abusive asshole, yes (he doesn’t beat her, but there’s more than one form of abuse). And I wished him a fiery death many times while I was reading it. But her mother also bears responsibility for allowing that kind of household to develop. I thought the ending was poetic justice.

Rebecca asks:Gifted sounds rather brainy. Was it? Did you like it? Why or why not?

It was brainy, in that it involves a gifted child so there’s a lot of math. But the narrator is third person omniscient, so you don’t ever feel like you’re right inside Rumi’s head. I think it’s clear from my other answers that I have very mixed feelings about the book. The writing impressed me. But I couldn’t like it, because it made me so upset (which is weird, because Purple Hibiscus has an abusive father, and even though it made me really upset, I still loved it…I think there’s a lack of hope-and really changing characters-in Gifted that just wore me down). I’d be unlikely to read another book by the author.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Anorexic girl relapses after friend’s death.

UncertainPrinciples asks: Also, re: Wintergirls – is it more drama, or more thought-provoking, or does it provide the reader with a good balance of both?

I’d say a good balance. There’s drama mainly in the reader’s worry about Lia’s continual deterioration: will her parents notice in time? Will they be able to save her? There’s also drama in finding out how her friend died (the death is revealed at the beginning, but the way is drawn out over most of the book). And the complete force and certainty with which Anderson brings Lia to life is the thought-provoking part.

Melissa asks:Tell me what you did/didn’t like about Wintergirls. Have you read any other Laurie Halse Anderson; how did it compare/will you want to read another?

What I liked: the way Anderson captured Lia’s thoughts and put me in her mind, the complicated family dynamics, the presence of Lia’s friend’s ghost (I’m always a fan of the ghosts). What I didn’t like: how I kind of became a strung out, depressed, anorexic, self-loathing teen while I was reading it (but I think that’s a reflection of how good a writer Anderson is) and one character, this random guy she meets and starts hanging out with, just didn’t ring true for me (and he plays a pretty big role towards the end). Since it’s told in first person, by a girl with anorexia, it kind of seeps into your brain…the next day I caught myself counting calories. :( Creepy, right?! I’m not sure I’d want my young-ish daughter reading this…I know when I was a teen, even though I never had an eating disorder (in fact, I wanted to gain weight!), whenever I read something about a girl with anorexia, I suddenly wanted to see how long I could go without eating, just to prove I could (that whole control thing). I never did, but it’s a weird compulsion. I want to clarify, this book doesn’t advocate eating disorders in any way. The other book I’ve read of Anderson’s is Speak. I read it last November, and I found it incredibly painful to read because it felt so true. So I’d say that both are amazing novels, but not ones you’d want to read back to back. I’m not sure if I’ll read her other books; they sound very different from these two, and I think I’d be disappointed. I’m open to someone changing my mind though!

Jodie asks:Do you think Wintergirls deserves all the hype it’s had?

Yep. ;)

Heather Lo asks:And for Wintergirls, well I’m really just curious to see what you thought of it. I loved the novel, found it so powerful, and I’m generally interested to hear your thoughts.

I loved it too! In fact, I couldn’t put it down and stayed up two hours past my bedtime to read it all in one sitting. So we’re in total agreement there!

Rebecca asks:What age is Wintergirls for? It sounds pretty serious.

It’s published as a YA novel, but as I hinted in my answer to Melissa, I’d make sure that a daughter of mine reading it, especially if she was a younger teen, was a good critical reader/thinker. Not because I think teens won’t know what anorexia is if they don’t read it, but because since we’re directly in the head of Lia, anorexia seems appealing, even though it’s tearing her life apart. Somehow, the idea of young teens reading this one seems scarier to me than Speak…I think because Speak deals with the kind of horrible things other people do to you…no one’s going to read it and think ‘hmmm…maybe I should be raped.’ Whereas they might finish this one and think that maybe they could stand to lose a few poinds. On the other hand, according to nonfiction I’ve read, a vast percentage of girls already have some kind of eating disorder…so maybe this could help? I don’t know! I’m no expert on teens…I was a very atypical one. If I can get my sister to read this one (she’s 21 now, but peer pressure affected her, and she’s had body image issues), I’ll let you know what she has to say!

This Earth of Mankind by Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Boy comes of age. Colonial Indonesia.

Claire asks: What did you think of his writing? Did the plot move you along well? Are you going to read the rest of the titles in the Buru Quartet?

I was actually shocked at how engrossing the plot was. Before I opened the book, I was terrified that it was going to be slow, drawn-out, and that I’d have to force myself through every page. But that’s not the case; the style flows effortlessly, and I was immediately caught up in the story. I thnk his writing is excellent; he evokes the feel of the place, and since he’s writing from a particular character’s point of view, the reader comes to really understand what it might have been like to be a native educated by the Dutch. I’ll definitely be reading the rest of the quartet!

Food Matters by Mark Bittman
Avoid animal products, refined food, pre-dinner.

Linda asks: Did Food Matters make you change the way you eat or buy food?

At the time I read it, I was already eating vegan. So it just confirmed that choice! However, he also recommends eating only whole grains until dinner, and that was a bigger change for me. I had begun switching to whole grain wheat products, oatmeal, etc. but then I found out I’m allergic to wheat. lol But if I hadn’t already been eating vegan, I think he makes a very strong case! (Just to clarify, he recommends people not eat animal products until dinner, and he still eats meat, cheese, etc. then, so he doesn’t advocate an entirely vegan diet.)

Joanne asks:Was the information presented in a educational way? Did it ever feel like it was written in a preachy, pressuring way?

Yes, the information was presented well, and he had references to back things up. Also, his focus is much more on sustainability, the earth’s resources, and your body’s health than, say, a PETA-like treatise on animal rights. He does discuss how American food animals are ‘produced’ like a plastic toy, how that’s detrimental to both them and us (both morally and physically), and why if we cut down on the amount of meat we eat, we can then raise animals more humanely. I didn’t think he was at all preachy and pressuring, since he still eats meat, dairy, etc. if he wants for dinner, but keep in mind I’ve been a vegetarian for seven years and have been eating vegan since January, so I wasn’t likely to feel any pressure.

Shannon asks: I’ve heard there were recipes included along with the discussion of food. I hope I’m not misremembering. Did you try any of the recipes? If you just scanned through them, did they seem to match up with what he was saying?

At least half the book, if not more, is recipes and he even includes helpful meal plans. :) They definitely worked in the kind of diet he was advocating, and his granola recipe was quite yummy! I would have tried more, but I had to return it to the library. But there are a ton of recipes included for sure!

Heather Lo asks: I love books like this, but I’ve read a lot of these types of books and after awhile they all seem to kind of be saying the same thing. Is Food Matters different from the rest? Why should I pick it up (or why not)? I haven’t read The Omnivore’s Dilemma since I’m not an omnivore or Animal, Vegetable, Mineral since I haven’t forgiven Kingsolver for the horrid Poisonwood Bible and I have no intention of moving to West Virginia to start my own farm, lol. So I have no idea if Bittman is saying similar things. Here’s the gist of his argument: before 6 pm, aka dinnertime, don’t eat any animal products or refined foods (white flour, white sugar, etc.). This is good for the earth, for animals, and for your body. For dinner, eat whatever your heart desires. Repeat. :) If that sounds cool, pick it up! Also, more than half the book is recipes, and there are meal plans too; I’m not sure if similar books have that. It means he gets to his point really quickly in the first part, which is nice. And if you decide to follow his advice, you’ve got the practical instructions right there.

Rebecca asks: I have the stereotype in my head that Bittman is rather opinionated food writer. Is that accurate, or this book more of a general, informative book?

The way the book felt to me was “Hey guys! I started eating differently and felt so much healthier! And it helps the planet! Want to try it out?” I hope that makes sense. :) It’s definitely not “People who choose not to follow my diet are beneath my attention.”

Kristi asks: I have Food Matters on my wishlist, but I’m concerned about how practical it is. For someone with a full-time job, hobbies, and a LIFE (such that it is) would instituting his suggestions require me to spend scads of time in the kitchen (or at the grocery store)? In other words, is it possible for *normal* (or at least semi-normal) people to follow his advice?

This is a hard one for me to answer, since cooking is one of my favourite hobbies, and with my current health issues, I don’t lead a ‘normal’ life, so I don’t have the same reference. He does put meal plans together, which would be helpful. And I’m fairly certain the recipes all looked pretty simple to me as I flipped through them. However, anyone who changes their diet from mainly convenience/non-fresh/pre-packaged food to more produce/whole goods are probably going to have to put a bit more time into it. It’s a question of whether the payoff is worth it: I don’t mean that in a judgemental way…my mom, for example, loves 90% of the food I cook, which is always vegetarian, often vegan (it was always vegan from January-May), and heavily based on fresh produce. But if she’s alone, she eats mainly Cup o’ Noodles, popcorn, and green salads. Which works great for her! So I’d say read the book, then decide whether it’s something you actually want to implement.

Spoken Here by Mark Abley
Anti-globalisation rant. Linguistics window dressing.

Valerie asks:I’m curious about “Spoken Here” by Mark Abley. How many languages does he actually cover, and is sign language any of them? Which extinct language discussed did you find most interesting?

First of all, I loathed this book. It’s not so much an exploration of dying languages as a rant against globalisation that takes the form of talking about languages. The arguments are so simplistic, and there’s a complete lack of research or any linguistic knowledge, that I won’t recommend this one (sometimes, it’ll talk about some feature of a small language as if it’s super-unique, and I’ll think to myself ‘Um, Russian does that too’ or something…that’s why I think the book woudl have benefited from a bit of linguistics background). Sign language is not discussed. He mainly travelled to former British colonies and learned about the indigenous peoples’ languages, then minority languages in the UK, a couple in France, and Yiddish. Honestly, his strident anti-globalisation arguments got in the way of things I might have found interesting about the language. And he definitely falls into a Noble Savage approach to native languages, projecting onto them a kind of peace and harmony with the earth that makes Aboriginal and Native American societies seem primitive and Garden of Eden style. I found this quite frankly insulting to my intelligence, as well as the complex cultures these languages represent. Ok: I’m going to stop ranting now. Sorry Valerie! Lol: this is why I don’t usually review boks I don’t like. ;)

SoftdrinK asks: So does the book focus primarily on language, or does culture and place play a part in the story? Since I like to travel and read about other places, do you think this would be a good book for me…or not?

I bet you can guess after my reply to Valerie that I wouldn’t recommend it. ;) He does go to some interesting, off-the-track places, but I don’t think the few travel gems are worth all of the dross. The book strongly argues that language and culture are very entertwined (i.e.: how we say something affects how we think about it affects our core approach to the world), so there is definitely talk about culture. But without a linguistics or an-so background, the discussion remains pretty superficial. And there’s a lot of prescriptive linguistics, about how people should cling to their ancestral tongues and English shouldn’t ‘take over the world,’ which frustrated me.

Rebecca asks: Spoken Here sounds fascinating! What language is dying that sounds most interesting to you? Or, what language died that is most tragic or was most interesting?

My constant simmering anger with the book prevents me from remembering too much about the actual languages. :/ But I did love hearing how various ‘native’ languages speak about nature. What seemed tragic to me was when there were only one or two old people left who spoke their native tongue, and maybe they didn’t/couldn’t speak to each other, so they have no one left. I can’t imagine never being able to speak my childhood language and have other people understand.

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
Girl finds inner strength, saves land.

Melissa asks:What did you think of Wildwood Dancing? How did it compare to the original fairy tale for you?

I’m so glad you asked! I loved this book! And “Twelve Dancing Princesses” is one of my favourite fairy tales. :) I think the best fairy tale adaptations are the looser ones, that keep the spirit of the story, but flesh it out a lot more. And Marillier definitely succeeded: she not only brought the setting (Romania) to life, she created vivid characters I’ll always remember, and a harrowing plot that I had me turning pages faster and faster. And of course, the ending is everything my heart desired. :) (In case you can’t tell, you should go read this book!)

Melanie asks: I’m delighted to see you’ve read Wildwood Dancing. What did you think of it? Did you like how Marillier reworked the fairy tale or not? What did you think of the setting? Once again, I loved it! I’d read Marillier’s Sevenwaters trilogy several years earlier, which also delighted me, so I had high expectations. Plus, “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” is one of my favourites, and I was completely satisfied with how she played with it. Since I’ve lived in Russia, I’m a bit picky about Eastern European settings, and I have a couple of Romanian friends, and I must say I loved the setting too. :) I think this is a book that would appeal to anyone who loves a good story.

The Pirate’s Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson
Strong women. Family saga. Jamaica!

Kristen M. asks: Did you know anything about Errol Flynn before reading The Pirate’s Daughter? Did you feel that he was treated fairly in the novel? I’ve been having issues lately with authors using real people as fictional characters and then taking them off on ridiculous courses.

I knew he was awesome in Captain Blood and that he and Olivia de Havilland made a lot of movies together. ;) I have an interest in classic movies, but I purposely avoid learning things about actors! He’s not the main player in the novel by any means, and I’m fairly certain he was treated fairly. He was put on trial for statutory rape, and had a fifteen-year-old girlfriend in real life, so him sleeping with Ida, one of the main characters, when she was fifteen seemed fair. He definitely comes off as a kind of washed-up, ageing sleeze ball who still has some of that Hollywood magic. But he’s not present for most of the book, and the novel is much more about Ida and their daughter May. It’s a wonderful book!

BooksPlease asks: I’m interested in The Pirate’s Daughter – is it fiction or biographical? Is Flynn portrayed sympathetically? Is it mainly about his daughter?

It’s fiction. Flynn really did live in Jamaica for several years, and the author imagines that a young Jamaican girl-Ida-falls in love with him. Eventually they have a brief affair, Ida has a daughter, May, and the book is mainly about Ida and May’s lives, from young girlhood to adulthood. Flynn’s there for his effect on the women more than anything else. You get to know Ida and May really really well! It’s definitely worth reading. :) It kind of reminds me of Latin American literature, although with much smaller families, with the two-generation-spanning story, and the way characters wander in and out of the pages. And Jamaica’s like the third main character.

Jodie asks:The Pirate’s Daughter is on my list but my mum wasn’t that impressed – is it very light or does it have a bit of substance?

I wouldn’t call it light at all. It’s definitely literature, an exploration of colonialisation, white man’s privilege, etc. as well as how individual people forge their lives. It’s pretty much the polar opposite of, say, a Harlequin Romance or something.

The Fox Woman by Kij Johnson
Fox falls in love, becomes woman.

Joanne asks: I’d like to know if there is much mythology about foxes in the story? And if so, is it an important part of the book?

There’s definitely a lot of mythology around foxes and how they relate to the god and goddess Inari. It’s central to the book, and I now would love to visit Japan’s main Inari shrine, outside of Kyoto! The fox character, Kitsune, has an interactive relationship with the gods. This is a great book, one that I’d recommend to anyone with an interest in folklore/mythology/fairy tales and who enjoys a slower-moving plot. Or is curious about ancient Japan.

Liquid Jade by Beatrice Hohenegger
Worldwide history and trivia about tea.

Joanne asks:What made you decide to read a book about the history of tea? What is your favorite kind of tea? And did the book make you want to try any new-to-you types of tea?

I was browsing the library stacks for a 300 nonfiction book for the Dewey Decimal Reading Challenge, and this one caught my eye with its pretty green cover. I love tea, so when I saw what it was about, that sealed it! My favourite types of tea are ceylon, jasmine green, and irish breakfast. Oh, and chai! I definitely want to try plain green tea now; I haven’t had it in awhile (I usually either drink jasmine or spring cherry), but the book made it sound appealing!

Ed asks:Liquid Jade: Which cultures are explored in this book. China I presume. Japan? Britain?

She at least touches on all sorts of cultures. I’d say the majority of the focus is on China, Britain, Japan, the US, and India/Sri Lanka in descending order.

Kim L. asks:What was the most unusual thing you learned about tea that you didn’t know before?

At first, the Europeans drank almost all green tea. But that was easy for unscrupulous people to mix with gross stuff. So they switched to black, which was harder to adulterate. Oh! And one extra: the Americans drank way more tea than the English before the Revolution. And they started drinking tea earlier, thanks to the Dutch influence on Manhattan.

Melanie asks:I am so jealous you got your hands on Liquid Jade! I love books on tea but haven’t read this one yet. Is it a worthwhile read? If you’ve read other tea books, does this have anything new to add? What do you think of her approach to the subject? And what tea do you recommend to drink while you’re reading it?

She’s obviously done her research, but the way the book’s written, in really short chapters, made it feel kind of superficial. Now that I look back on it, I’ve realised I learned a lot, but I think she tried to cover too much too briefly; I would have preferred more depth. Especially the last section, where she tries to look at modern fair trade issues, but with only a few pages there’s no way to do such a complex subject justice. The first two sections, which chronicle the history of tea, are the best (fortunately, they’re also the longest!). The third, since I’m being a completist, if full of random tea facts that didn’t fit into the general history…while they were interesting, they contributed to the ‘coffee table’ feel. I haven’t read other books about tea, so I can’t compare. I recommend definitely having your favourite loose leaf black and green teas on hand for brewing! :)

Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston
Girl gets caught up in fairy battles.

Melanie asks:I’ll be very interested to hear your thoughts on Wondrous Strange. Did the two main characters & their relationship work for you?

I think if I hadn’t read Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely, I would have enjoyed this one a lot more. But there were so many parallels that were really hard to ignore (even the titles: both two adjectives!), and I think Marr’s book is just heads and shoulders above this one. As for the two main characters, I found the abrupt change in dynamics between them a bit strange. Their sudden passionate love didn’t seem organic…more like something that had to happen to fit the book.


Shannon asks:The descriptions for Wildwood Dancing, The Fox Woman, Wondrous Strange, and the Pirate’s Daughter all sound pretty exciting and interesting. Did they hold your attention and are they worth checking out?

I’d wholeheartedly recommend Wildwood Dancing, The Fox Woman, and The Pirate’s Daughter (though the latter two have slower-moving plots, in case you don’t like that sort of thing). Wondrous Strange was alright, but much of it felt like a poor echo of Wicked Lovely.


35 Comments leave one →
  1. June 21, 2009 7:09 am

    I loved The Plain Janes and got pretty much the same out of it as you did. I had to go right out and get the sequel (Janes in Love) because the ending was to abrupt for me.

    Wintergirls might just be the next Anderson I read.

  2. June 21, 2009 9:24 am

    This may’ve been long, but it sure was interesting!

    I didn’t know that THE NIGHT WATCH was broken down that way. I recently added it to my TBR thinking it was a regular old novel. I’ll keep that in mind while I’m reading.

  3. June 21, 2009 10:14 am

    I just read Speak and thought it was fantastic. I think I need to work Wintergirls to the top of my TBR pile.

  4. June 21, 2009 10:52 am

    Love this format. I don’t know if I have enough regular readers who would ask me questions about books. I’d much rather talk about books in this way than a traditional review. I love reviews. Writing them though feels more like an exercise than a conversation which is what I really how I want to engage my audience.

    Enjoyed this a lot. Thanks, Eva.

  5. June 21, 2009 11:25 am

    Completely off-topic, but I read the Food Matters section and was so happy to see I’m not the only person in the world who didn’t like The Poisonwood Bible. I feel like less of a freak now.

    And to address Heatherlo’s question, it sounds like Bitman is encouraging readers to eat the same kinds of food as Kingsolver and Pollan, but the time of day thing is new. I’d be interested in the logic there (but not interested enough to read the book). :)

  6. June 21, 2009 12:15 pm

    I’ve got Speak on my iPod to listen to over the holidays (I never find time for audiobooks whilst at work), Wintergirls sounds great but I would certainly be wary of young girls reading it. I read a novel about anorexia when I was a teen and it definately gets in your head and adds to the peer pressure thats already around.

  7. June 21, 2009 12:31 pm

    Eva, may I borrow this Q&A format?! What a great way to get thru several pending reviews that are piled on my desk.

  8. June 21, 2009 1:06 pm

    Tom’s Midnight Garden – Gosh, that takes me back. Our teacher read that to us when we 9-10. We’d all sit on the carpet in class and listen.

    I’m glad you enjoyed The Pirate’s Daughter – it’s been on my wishlist for ages.

  9. June 21, 2009 3:51 pm

    Eva – What a wonderful post! I’m so glad you like This Earth of Mankind as I have it on my Orbis Terrarum list. Have a wonderful week.

  10. June 21, 2009 5:14 pm

    Thanks for the information on Food Matters, Eva. I basically live on green salads, fruit, rice & beans, and whole wheat pasta now (all easy and fast to prepare ;o)). I don’t eat much meat because it’s not my favorite, I’m concerned about the health effects, and, frankly, it’s not as easy to cook as rice & beans ;o). I will definitely check out the book and see what he says and if I can find any other easy to prepare, that’s a bonus (I recently found a chickpea and veggie curry recipe that’s quick, but hubby’s going to get sick of it eventually ;o)).

    Great post. I enjoyed reading your thoughts about Wintergirls, another book on my TBR list, too. Thanks!

  11. June 21, 2009 5:29 pm

    Just want to let you know that the links on the top don’t work because it has a different date with the post date. Apart from that, what a long post! Lol. I’m particularly interested with This Earth of Mankind. It’s interesting that I’ve never heard about him back when I was in Indonesia.

  12. June 22, 2009 1:16 am

    Standing ovation, complete with cheers and whistles!

  13. June 22, 2009 5:12 am

    Wowza. What a fun, fun, fun post, Eva! Now I’m about to go back through for a second time to see which titles I need to add to the wish list…this could be scary…

  14. June 22, 2009 6:50 am

    This is such a fun way to read about your books! Glad some were winners.

  15. June 22, 2009 12:12 pm

    I loooved this post, Eva! I should do something like this sometime. And thanks for your Toer answer, I’m adding the book to my wishlist. :)

  16. June 22, 2009 3:14 pm

    I’ve read both Speak and Chains by Anderson… While Chains is very different from Speak (and Wintergirls, I gather), I think it’s worth reading. I’m curious about her other ones, though. Eventually. She is a great writer.

    And about Wildwood Dancing: I agree that the best fairytale retellings are the loose interpretations. Glad you liked this one. :)

  17. adevotedreader permalink
    June 22, 2009 4:23 pm

    I had a similar reaction to Gifted Eva. It was well written but infuriating and ultimately disappointing, as there’s not much resolution (or hope) to the story. I think you could tell it was a first novel!

  18. June 22, 2009 4:31 pm

    Great ideas are meant to be emulated. Hope you’re flattered enough to ask me some questions. Come by for my Tuesday Confession.

  19. June 23, 2009 8:33 am

    Even though this is a long post, the way you arranged it makes it work quite nicely. I love both the 6 word summaries and the question/answer format. I have tried before with the six word summaries and can’t quite get it down to that. I’m just a little too wordy, I guess. I haven’t tried the question/answer format before. I may give it a try. Great post!

  20. June 23, 2009 10:25 am

    Noooooooo! I wanted to have asked some questions :( But I loved reading your answers anyway. I’m really happy to hear you enjoyed The Fox Woman so much – you need to pick up Fudoki next! It’s just as good <3

  21. June 23, 2009 10:45 am

    Awesome post, I loved all the questions and your answers were really helpful!

    I’m thinking the Liquid Jade book will make a good xmas gift for my grandmother who loves learning about tea in different cultures. my sister-in-law and her husband presented the family with a Moroccan Tea Ceremony during their wedding party – it was elaborate, gorgeously done and the tea was delicious. It used a base of Gunpowder Green and fresh mint – but I was told the preparation makes all the difference.

  22. June 24, 2009 3:55 pm

    Thanks for answering my questions! I’m definitely going to check out The Fox Woman, Wildwood Dancing, and Food Matters.

  23. June 24, 2009 9:19 pm

    Thanks for answering the questions! I think this was originally to help you write reviews more quickly. I’m really curious now as to whether this method ended up being more work? Tee hee, still, it was fun to read your answers.

  24. June 25, 2009 9:41 am

    What a great idea for a post! I made it halfway through the Bittman book and it ‘s still sitting on my nightstand. Not because it’s not good, it is, but it does say a lot of what other books say, Michael Pollan’s in particular. I think I bought Bittman’s more for the recipes which look great. I like his point about eating vegan/whole grains until 6. Great idea, except I love having plain yogurt with granola for breakfast which messes the whole thing up.

    Eva, your library books look great! I’d be interested to know what you think of A Golden Age and the Adichie book.

  25. June 26, 2009 3:59 pm

    Amanda, my library doesn’t have the sequel. :( Boo to that!

    Memory, I’m glad you enjoyed it. :)

    BermudaOnion, Wintergirls definitely loves up to Speak!

    Susan, thank you! I was following the Weekly Geeks. ;)

    Teresa, I know!!! Everyone else seems to love The Poisonwood Bible, but I loathed it. Thanks for asnwering Heather’s question! The logic for the time of day is that if you can eat whatever you want for dinner, you’ll be better at restricting yourself during the day. Less deprivation, basically. :)

    Katrina, I’m glad I’m not the only one who worries about teenage girls reading about anorexia! I thought I’d be blasted for saying that.

    Dawn, of course! I borrowed it from Weekly Geeks, aka Dewey. :)

    Cezzie, this would be a great read-a-loud!

    Gavin, thank you!

    Kristi, so you’re already eating great. :D There are lots of simple recipes!

    Mee, thanks for letting me know: I’ve fixed them! I know This Earth of Mankind was banned for a long time in Indonesia; maybe that’s why it isn’t prominent there?

    Bybee, aww: thanks!!

    Debi, thank you!

    Rebecca, thanks!

    Claire, you should do something like this! I think you’d definitely love Toer.

    Melissa, thanks for the recommendation!

    A Devoted Reader, I think it felt like a first novel too!

    Susan, I’ll be stoping by :)

    Lisa, thanks!

    Nymeth, I’m sorry you missed out! :( Putting Fudoki on the TBR list.

    Joanne, Liquid Jade would definitely make a good Christmas present. Moroccan Tea is so good! I had it at a Moroccan restaurant once and I loved it. :D

    Shannon, great!

    Kim, I did it to participate in Weekly Geeks, not to help me write reviews more quickly. :) The actual reviews were easier, but the post’s formatting took FOREVER. I had to play around with it to make it pretty.

    Tara, when I went vegan, I missed yogurt more than anything! So I’m with you there. :)

  26. June 28, 2009 7:25 pm

    I’m late commenting on this, as I just returned from vacation, but thanks for answering all the questions asked!

    Hmm, sounds like I’ll probably pass on reading “Spoken Here” –I don’t think I would like the author’s tone, either.

    BTW, I also wasn’t crazy about “The Poisonwood Bible”. There were many parts in it that seemed implausible to me.

  27. August 18, 2009 3:55 pm

    Thanks for answering my questions :)


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