Thursday, August 28, 2008 by kate
This week, two guest reviewers are taking on Stephenie Meyer's book Twilight, which is being turned into a movie and hits theaters this November. On Tuesday, high-school junior Ashley DiFranza shared her take on the novel, and corporate mom Dee Murray joins Book Break today:
By guest contributor Dee Murray
“Just because I can’t taste the wine, doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the bouquet …”
Edward Cullen, says to Bella, in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight
It’s full of corny lines more suited to Harlequin Romance Novels and some big words no one uses in real conversation (count how many times the word ‘incredulous’ is used in this book … it’s … incredulous!) Stephenie Meyer’s writing debut Twilight redeems itself with a breathtaking storyline and two outrageously passionate main characters who take unconventional romance to an entirely new level.
Book 1 in Meyer’s Twilight series was released nearly 4 years ago, but has recently been thrust into the spotlight again, thanks to the Twilight movie due out in November (moved up from a December release date, thanks to the pushback of the 6th Harry Potter movie) and the recent release of the final book in the four-part series, Breaking Dawn.
Even though the average age of those reading Twilight is more in tune to a Jonas Brothers fan club, Meyer’s teen dream duo of the no-more-than average Isabella Swan and dark, mysterious Edward Cullen can entrance even the most hardened board-room wheeler and dealer.
The story follows Isabella Swan through relocation to Forks, Washington – a rainy, dank small town outside of Seattle, where she decides to live with her father, who’s police chief of the not-so-fare hamlet. Bella, who was just average in the beauty-ridden city of Phoenix, immediately catches the eyes of several of the Forks boys, but spurns them all in the hopes of understanding the solemn, reclusive Edward Cullen – the middle kid in a rich doctor’s family. Mystery surrounds the Cullens and their separateness; their standoffish behavior and their super-modelish beauty.
Bella and Edward are drawn to each other but in a very dangerous way – as Bella discovers shortly after arriving in Forks, that Edward and his family are vampires – vegetarian ones (they don’t drink human blood).
It’s easy to go on and on about the plot twists, analyzing the relationship between Bella and Edward and Edward and the rest of his family. But in the name of sheer entertainment and character development, it’s just not necessary. Meyer does a brilliant job of telling you what you need to know, painting a beautiful picture of danger, mystery and wanting – and she does it in a way that constantly leaves a reader needing more (not wanting more … NEEDING more).
Her character development of Bella Swan is right on – she’s an average girl with insecurities, less-than-average beauty (at least that’s what she thinks) and is quite talentless. Meyer taps into the awkwardness of almost all of us during our teen years and portrays it wantingly and matter-of-factly – as if something key is missing.
Then comes Edward: The dangerous, beyond beautiful boy (Meyers’ constantly describes him as beautiful vs. cute or handsome – in an effort to convey the unconventional perfection of his looks). Meyer sets up the expectation of him being dangerous and kind of unstable in a very seductive way giving just enough info to really start falling for him – before the two have even really met. She further develops his character into a powerful, indestructible vampire who has finally found his only weakness – Bella.
After several chapters, a reader will discover Edward is actually more than 80 years old – which attributes to his old-fashioned ideas and some of the beyond-corny things he says (the “bouquet” phrase being only one) … and even though it most definitely makes a reader roll her eyes, it’s understandable. Meyer develops Edward through showing him as a needy boyfriend, an over-protective defender and a soft-hearted teenager. But all of this has the overtone of a character wise beyond his years – so it all works.
Meyer even throws in the ‘action’ twist, which adds a sense of excitement to the book (not quite as action-packed as a Batman/Joker sequence ... but hey … what could be?) She is methodical in her pacing of the book – its highs and lows – and allows it to deliver in a way that is satisfying, yet still thirsty.
OK yeah. It’s sappy. The stories are slightly predictable and at times, the writing is a little obnoxious and calculated. But the bottom line is Twilight's addictive. Meyer has written an entire world a reader can get lost in – obsess about even (Um, this reader finished all four books in less than 7 days).
So readers beware. There really isn’t a natural ‘pause point’ in this book – it’s a huge temptation to finish it without sleep, without food and without interruption … so plan accordingly. And while you’re at it, make sure to have New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn handy … because they’re all the exact same way … no sleeping required.
Check out Ashley DiFranza's review of Twilight.
Labels: book review, Twilight
Tuesday, August 26, 2008 by kate
This week, two guest reviewers are taking on Stephenie Meyer's book Twilight, which is being turned into a movie and hits theaters this November. High-school junior Ashley DiFranza, Meyer's targeted audience, joins Book Break today:
By guest contributor Ashley DiFranza
Having been in the midst of the Twilight phenomenon for quite a while now, I knew what Stephenie Meyer’s book would eventually come to, though Meyer hid it very well for a good amount of time.
Isabella (Bella) Swan is a teenage girl who has never had a boyfriend before. She’s the too-ordinary, clumsy girl at school in Phoenix and everyone has come to know her as that. So when her mother gets remarried, Bella decides to move in with her father in Forks, Washington. Bella, dreading the first day of school almost as much as the daily forecast of rain, suddenly realizes that she’s not the same person. She has a lot of friends, is really smart here, and there are boys asking her to dances left and right. She’s never had to deal with anything like this before. Then again, her sudden rise in popularity is nothing but normal compared to the deathly looks she receives of the beautiful and mysterious Edward Cullen.
As I waited for Bella Swan to discover the truth about Edward, I actually felt like I was the new girl who was mixed up with this dark romance. For two days straight, I sat there on my couch, reading.
I even blame Meyer for the house fire I almost started. I was so engrossed in the story I didn’t even notice the food I had put in the microwave was on fire, filling the kitchen with smoke. I was pulled from the pages only when my mother began to yell and as I looked up, I couldn’t even see the room in front of me. My food had burnt and I hadn’t even noticed! Now that’s what I call a story that sucks you in!
As the story of Bella’s life in Forks progresses, Edward’s relationship with Bella changes and friendship grows as many crazy situations turn him into her savior. They bond over Edward’s hidden secrets that only Bella can seem to figure out on her own and not be afraid of. Still, as the secrets continue to poor out, Bella beings to realize that her feelings for Edward are strong, even if their relationship could mean danger to her. And in the end, it does.
This book is such an extravagant mix of teen love, adventure and sacrifice. I found myself actually yelling in shock as some of the more frightening plot lines unfolded. And oddly enough, just like every girl I’d ever talked to about Twilight with, as Bella fell for Edward, I found myself doing the same thing. Somewhere between his worry for her life and his soul-bearing love for her, Edward Cullen was made out to be the perfect, fictitious guy. And that is truly the only problem with Meyer’s creation: the fact that it is fiction and there really is no Edward Cullen gliding down the foggy streets of Forks, Washington.
And it was this mix of forbidden love and a twisting plot that made this book one of the best I’ve ever read. It keeps you on the edge of your seat from page one to page five hundred. And trust me; those five hundred pages go by FAST as you’re swept into the whirlwind of this teen love and love’s dangers. So, please, if you intend to read this novel, read it with an open mind and an open heart.
Stayed tuned for corporate mom Dee Murray’s review of Twilight later this week.
Previous Post: Table Talk
Thursday, August 21, 2008 by kate
Several months ago, on a trip to Martha’s Vineyard
, I discovered the best Veggie Burger I’ve ever had at Espresso Love Cafe
. When I tried to steal the recipe, owner Carol McManus told me she had a cook book coming out in August. So I trekked back to the island this past weekend for another taste and the secret ingredients to make my very own best Veggie Burgers.
Truth be told, I would have bought Table Talk
for just that one recipe, but as I stood in the café I couldn’t help but devour the entire book. The pages are full of warm, authentic Vineyard photographs, and unintimidating recipes.
The food is simple, but unique, and most of the ingredients are pantry staples. The book is organized into useful categories: dinner, breakfast, healthy food, weekend meals and dessert. Eighty recipes include fat-free muffins, spicy shrimp wrap, butternut-apple soup, spinach meatloaf, bread and easy brownies. The book is sprinkled with interesting stories about how the recipes came about, along with time-saving tips, cooking quotes and dinner conversation starters.
McManus’ basic theme isn’t food, but family and food. Owning her own business and raising 5 children, McManus has experience juggling a lot on her plate. So she designed her cookbook to help bring busy families back to the table.
The fabulous photographs make this a great gift, but the recipes definitely deserve a spot on your own shelf too.
And you definitely have to try the Veggie Burger.
Previous Post: The Glass Castle
Labels: cookbook, Table Talk
Tuesday, August 12, 2008 by kate
It’s hard to imagine that a successful writer who has worked at MSNBC
and USA Today
once lived in a shack with no heat, running water or electricity. From the moment Jeannette Walls
drives by her mother digging through a NYC dumper, “The Glass Castle”
grabs your attention and locks on.
I read this book in a weekend and wish I never finished it. Walls tells her heartbreaking story without an ounce of bitterness or self-pity, growing up with two sisters, a brother and nomadic parents who couldn’t hold down jobs and liked to frequent isolated mining towns and sunken, abandoned shacks.
“Dad was so sure a posse of federal investigators was on our trail that he smoked his unfiltered cigarettes from the wrong end. That way, he explained, he burned up the brand name, and if the people who were tracking us looked in his ashtray, they’d find unidentifiable butts instead of Pall Malls that could be traced to him. Mom, however, told us that the FBI wasn’t really after Dad; he just liked to say they were because it was more fun having the FBI on your tail than bill collectors.”
At the age of 3, Walls was already cooking for herself – a feat that landed her in the hospital with severe burns. Walls’ flightily artistic mother, Rose Mary, and alcoholic father, Rex, were obviously ill-suited to raise children, but certainly weren’t lacking love. (This is evident when Walls almost drops out of college, and her father, who is homeless, gives her money for school. “So, when I enrolled for my final year at Barnard, I paid what I owed on my tuition with Dad’s wadded, crumpled bills.”)
Even though their parents were extremely untraditional and often irresponsible, Walls has you convinced that they’re parenting skills weren’t all that bad. “Mom had us all reading books without pictures by the time we were five, and Dad taught us math. He also taught us the things that were really important and useful, like how to tap out Morse code and how we should never eat the liver of a polar bear because all the vitamin A in it could kill us.”
When the Walls children were occasionally enrolled in school, they were much more advanced than their classmates. “Sometimes [Dad] made me do my arithmetic homework in binary numbers because he said I needed to be challenged.”
The children with raised with tough love and no illusions of Santa Clause. “Mom always said people worried too much about their children. Suffering when you’re young is good for you, she said. It immunized your body and soul.” Maybe her mom had a point.
This bizarre story makes you reevaluate your life – if these children with nothing could make Somethings out of themselves, how do you compare? The Walls children were taught to make do with what they had, and not to complain about it. “We slept under the stars. We had no pillows, but Dad said that was part of the plan. He was teaching us to have good posture.”
This story is heartbreaking and uplifting. Walls speaks with frank honesty and a clear, untainted tone, which is amazing considering all the abuse and neglect she encountered. Her story is much like that of a Joshua tree.
“From the time the Joshua tree was a tiny sapling, it had been so beaten down by the whipping wind that, rather than trying to grow skyward, it had grown in the direction that the wind pushed it … leaning over so far that it seemed ready to topple, although, in fact, its roots held it firmly in place. I thought the Joshua tree was ugly.”
But when Walls wanted to replant the tree to protect it, her mother stopped her. “You’d be destroying what makes it special," she said. “It’s the Joshua tree’s struggle that gives it its beauty.”
Walls’ story is certainly beautiful. It will touch you, tire you and inspire you. It’s a Lost and Bound that’s definitely worth finding.
Previous Post: Puppy Chow is Better than Prozac
Labels: book review, Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls
Thursday, August 7, 2008 by kate
“Lost and Bound” is a new Book Break feature for books that aren’t newly published, but definitely worth reading. My “Lost and Bound” book this week is “The Glass Castle” – a true story about a woman who grew up with parents who lived like nomads in the mountains and Southwest desert towns. Look for my review of Jeannette Walls’s memoir next week.
What “Lost and Bound” have you recently found?