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Books 77 & 78 Completed

December 26, 2010

I’ve been a bad book blogger.

And I’ve received no less than five messages from friends this past week or so begging to know what is happening with the challenge. So, people actually care that I finish on time, huh? I mean…I care…it would feel like a giant failure to be this close to reading around the world in a year and then not actually accomplish that goal just because I have been sick (pregnant sick is AWFUL — can’t take anything for it) and busy (saving all your Christmas shopping for the last three days adds hours to the trip and to your life).

But even though I haven’t found time to crawl up next to the computer and write, I have been reading. I picked up The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux for Honduras — and that was the main hold-up. I started it right about finishing The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and finished it Christmas Eve. Then I turned to the book that’s way over-due at the library, but I’ve been holding on to for Mexico: Like Water for Chocolate by by Laura Esquivel.

At 5:30am on Christmas morning, I woke up to a two-year-old in my bed and a vicious stuffy nose. If the child was going to have any chance of getting back to sleep, I needed to take my stuffy, coughy, sicky self out of that room. So, I grabbed Like Water for Chocolate, curled up on the couch until Matt and Elliott joined me around 8:30 and, by the light of our tree, gulped the book down in practically one sitting.

So, despite my dragging feet…I am now one week and two books away from completing the 2010 Around the World Challenge. Yeah. I’m glad I made up some ground.

Here are my brief reviews for both books:

The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux:

So, this wasn’t a spectacular read. It’s a story about a family who moves from their home on the east coast to the jungles of Honduras because the dad hates America and consumerism and blah blah blah. Of course, upon arriving to the new country, his hubris is the cause of massive problems and disasters. The story is narrated by his teenage son — which I liked. But the story in itself could have been equally as effective as a short story; I felt it dragged as a novel and the father character is so intense and over-the-top that it’s hard to read for extended periods of time. It just felt like, “Okay, I get it. He’s egotistical and crazy. I know something is going to come of this. Get to it already.” The denouement was so welcome that I think it lost its emotional punch for me.

It probably would make a better movie (which I would like to go rent…because I’m totally curious how Harrison Ford pulls off this character…) which is something I hardly EVER say – occasionally a book is paced in such a way that I feel a movie better serves the purpose. The Mosquito Coast falls into this category. It’s not that the book is poorly written, because it’s good, it really is. It just felt long and slightly predictable. A friend I talked to about this book was upset because she really liked the father character and thought that he was written to be sympathetic in the beginning and then the author changed the character on her. I didn’t read the father like that at all. While he was often “right” and won arguments with ease, he was a bully from the start. Maybe if I had cared more about him I would have enjoyed the journey more — instead I just got tired of listening to the father’s rants. And there are many. Plus, I hate books with weak female characters. And the mother is the epitome of this — not even that she is weak, but she is poorly drawn and realized, one-dimensional, flat.

Anyway, it took me a long time to read because I never fully sold myself. But I don’t regret reading it — I didn’t hate it. It just won’t end up on a love list either.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel:

It’s hard to go wrong with this book. It took merely a few hours to read, it has a fun quirky format, it appeals to people who like magical realism, cooking, love stories, and family sagas.

I’m curious if the recipes included are actually cookable. Because some of them sounded super delicious.

This book is simple: A girl in Mexico during the revolution is in love with a man, but can’t marry him because of an old tradition that the youngest daughter must stay unmarried to care for her mother. So, the man marries her sister and years and years of drama occur. What we discover is that when the girl, Tita, cooks — her tears and emotions get absorbed into the food. So, when people eat the food she has cooked, they experience her emotions — whether it be unbridled lust, despair, or annoyance.

The book is told in a breezy fashion — with the family history intertwined with recipes and descriptions of how to cook the food. And the book is broken up by months, with a story occurring within each month. (Although, the entire story does not take place within a calendar year and nor are the stories particularly linear, which was a little confusing at times.)

I liked it. It was exactly the type of book I wanted: Easy, fun, engaging, held my interest. It’s a little melodramatic. But hello…have you watched Mexican soap operas?? And I’ll even forgive the author for matching up Tita with the wrong man in the end. Come on, I’m the reader, I always know best, right? If something wants something light, fluffy, and dramatic, I think Like Water for Chocolate is a great choice.

Two more books to go…but you’ll for sure get a post here soon about all the cool book related awesomeness I got for Christmas this year.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 26, 2010 9:59 pm

    Way to go Shelbi! 加油! Ganbatte! Courage, ma belle! Axé!

  2. SMM permalink
    December 27, 2010 8:09 am

    Love you my friend! Let me know if you need anything! I am SO proud of you!! (AND, I can’t wait to hear what your challenge for 2011 is!!!)

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