Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fat Chance - Leslea Newman


I have to tell you, our narrator Judi almost lost me right at the beginning of the book when she complained about summer, saying, There wasn’t anything to do except sweat and eat ice cream. Not because she's overweight with horrible eating habits, but because – here it is – Gasp! – Horrors! – I don’t like ice cream. 

However, she lured me back in soon after with a night of Oreos that I can relate to oh-so-well; she explained how, at 51 calories each, 2 cookies was permissible, but when she slid down the slippery slope to 10 – 510 calories! – it was catastrophic. Like Judi, I knew perfectly well in the 8th grade that if I had the small bag of Doritos and a can of diet Mountain Dew for lunch, I could cruise through the whole afternoon on a boastful 250 calories and stay awake through history class.

In fact, I actually challenge you to find a teenage girl who’s not a mathematical genius when it comes to calorie counting. The experts say, Calories in, Calories out – it’s simple math. Well, it’s a simple statement alright, but dieting’s effect on the female psyche is infinitely complex.  If you were to trade spelling bees for competitions on teen magazine diet and fashion advice, you’d have more contenders than American Idol.

Judi has one particularly poignant diary entry: I mean, who cares if two trains are rushing toward each other at a hundred miles per hour from Point A to Point B, so what time will they meet in Chicago? Here’s the only word problem that I care about: If a certain 13-year-old girl…weighs only 129 pounds and she goes on a diet and eats only 800 calories a day, how many days will it take her to weigh 115?
 
I won’t tell you how our tortured (and not uniquely so) young narrator’s story ends, but I will say that it’s one that will be retold over and over – in fiction and reality – until we fix our priorities; food should rule only our stomachs, not our minds.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Singer of All Songs - Kate Constable



There is a saying in Penlewin that hunger is the finest sauce.

Calwyn, the 16-year-old novice ice princess, has never been truly hungry in any sense of the word. She lives in the quiet paradise of Antaris, protected from the outside by impenetrable walls of ice. She sings chantments, cares for the bees, and eats warm bread with precious honey. Her life is golden.

Until a mysterious man (aren’t they always?) crosses the wall and opens Calwyn’s eyes to new possibilities. Before she even realizes what she’s doing, she follows him out of Antaris and leaves behind the safety of honey for wild rabbits and birds they roast themselves with mountain plants for seasoning. She’s finally getting her first real taste of life, and it’s so delicious she exclaims, The air tastes like – like queen’s jelly! (Highest of accolades.)

And, of course, now that she’s drunk the elixir of freedom, there’s no going back – not even with evil sorcerers, pirates, and erupting volcanoes on the Outland menu. 

I haven’t even mentioned the secondary edible icon – the apple, which plays its own symbolic role. There is expectedly an apple orchard in Antaris, and the obvious predictor of Calwyn’s exit from her homeland is Darrow’s carving of one fruit globe into a map of the world. His piercing of the apple skin serves to crumble the illusory walls of her perceived paradise and things will never be the same.

Fortunately, this is only book #1 of the Chanters Trilogy, because Constable has barely dipped her spoon into Tremaris, and we have many unchartered lands and exotic tastes to explore.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein



From the beginning, we know we love Denny best because Enzo does. And we learn to love Zoe and Eve as he does, too. But the grandparents – particularly Maxwell – we’re not sure about. Until – you guessed it! – we see him feed Enzo. 

“Want a treat, boy?” he asked, holding out a pepperoncini.

Oh, and did I mention that Enzo is a dog?

And this is how the pepper goes down: I took the pepper from him and immediately felt a prickly sensation on my tongue. I bit down, and a burning filled my mouth. I quickly swallowed and thought I was done with the discomfort…but that’s when the pain really began. My throat felt as if it had been scraped raw.

I could go on about how the pepper also felt coming out, but I won’t; I’ll just share the lesson Enzo learned: Since that time…I have never accepted food from someone I didn’t fully trust.

Since we all know that you can tell everything about a person by the way he treats animals, I can’t think of any better way Stein could’ve given insight into this character and also set the stage for the entire second half of the book. I almost feel like I should’ve written *spoiler alert* because that one pepperoncini scene tells so much!

So I think I’ll have to stop there or else I really will ruin the ending for those of you who haven’t read this book yet. And I will think of Enzo every time I pass a Papa John’s from now on :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

City of Ashes – Cassandra Clare

Jace Wayland is drinking scotch.

Jace is a shadowhunter. He’s unshakable – his hands had always been as steady as his heartbeat; he’s amusingly arrogant – “I prefer to think that I’m a liar in a way that’s uniquely my own;” he melts girls with his touch – she felt herself go fluid and pliant, stretching upward to twine her arms around his neck the way that a sunflower twists toward light.

And he orders scotch?

My problem with this is not that he’s too young* for such an old-man drink, nor that he lacks the sophistication to pull it off (see “amusingly arrogant” above); it’s that I feel scotch is a “wanna-be” drink. It’s what people order when they want to impress someone or portray themselves as something other than they are.

The beauty of Jace is that he is who he is – he says what’s on his mind and he does as he pleases. So I say, let him drink something bold (tequila?), rugged (a black lager?), or wild (Jaeger?). Or maybe give him a strawberry margarita and God help the barfly who teases him for it!

As for me, I’ll stick to wine so that you'll think I'm wonderfully worldly and refined. :) Cheers!

*I, of course, do not condone underage drinking (Jace is only 17), but I’ll leave that discussion for another time so as not to drift too far from my point.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

WELCOME HUNGRY READERS


When you think of Lady and the Tramp, you go right to that romantic scene behind Tony’s with the big, beautiful bowl of spaghetti that ends in their sweet doggy kiss, right?  Can you even describe any other scene?

Thousands of fans flock to Port Angeles’s Bella Italia where Bella had mushroom ravioli with Edward.

The first thing visitors to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter do is grab a butter beer.

You might be thinking that such scenes or details were only significant in the movies, but I disagree. I think those things – more specifically, those digestible items – only made it into the films because they first resonated with the readers of the books. 

Maybe it’s the relatability of characters when they make choices that we also make in our daily lives (as opposed to whether or not to turn into a vampire) that speaks to us. Or maybe it’s that we like to think that if we eat lamb chops and mashed potatoes, we can be strong enough to win the Hunger Games, too. 

Or maybe it’s just because people are HUNGRY – for love, for power, for money, for lunch!

Whatever the reason, the food depicted in a book does something for us, and the purpose of this blog is for us to read, read, read…and then ask,  
                                              But What Are They Eating?