Okay, here you go: a review of Eleanor & Park by the last person on earth to read it. I don't feel bad saying that I adored this book. There were things I didn't love about it (more on that in a minute), but I loved it overall. First, I found the writing oddly deep in its simplicity. Rowell doesn't hammer things in, which I sort of expected from YA lit. The writing was witty and charming and frank. Second, the characters were well-written. All of them, from Eleanor and Park to their parents and classmates, were fleshed-out and real. I didn't really expect that in YA lit either. Lastly, Rowell really nails what it feels like to be young and in love for the first time. It really took me back. What I didn't like: the language the kids used. There was swearing, which, while not always necessarily gratuitous, could have been toned down without changing the plot. What I really don't like is to hear/read God's name (and Christ's) taken in vain. That is gratuitous, and I cringed every time. Because of this, I was tempted to put the book down early on. I'm glad I didn't, but I do feel guilty for having continued when my conscience told me to examine what I was taking in. (Why don't they release books in a cleaned-up version like they do music?) Also, Eleanor's difficult family situation is written about very frankly. It makes one flinch. I knew families like that growing up, and know some now. I liked how the author just tells the story, not taking sides or sermonizing. Still, it was tough to read. Lastly, Eleanor and Park rounded a few pre-marital bases that I'd hope my 14-year-old doesn't read about in a novel for kids her age. But all that aside, I was so surprised by this book. I was surprised at how skilled it was and also by how much I liked it (nasty language aside). I was worried all the way through that it wouldn't end right, and it almost didn't, but the last page brought resolution and a smile to my face. My rating: 5 stars.
Driving Mr. Albert has been on my TBR shelf for a long, long time. The book came out in 2000, and it's pretty much been on my radar since then. I decided to finally knock it off the list this month. I was expecting a fun, rollicking road trip with the author and the man who stole Einstein's brain after performing his autopsy. It was not fun nor rollicking, though. There was a depressed atmosphere, a dark cloud that hung over the whole story, and I don't know why. I suppose it was the author's personality imposing itself. He doesn't seem like a happy guy. The book began and ended with the same questions left unanswered: Did Dr. Harvey steal the brain? If so, why? Did he do any study on it? If so, why hadn't he released any scientific papers? What did the study of the brain tell us about Einstein's brain and how it might differ from the "average" brain? I just didn't enjoy this book. The writing was at times lovely and lyrical, but that just wasn't enough to save it. My rating: 3 stars.
I left House Beautiful Pink too long, and I had to kind of rush through it. Luckily, there was very little to read, but that wasn't necessarily a boon. I'm conflicted about this one. On the one hand, I enjoyed the photos of lovely decorated rooms. House Beautiful has long been one of my favorite magazines, and this book was a compilation of "pink" rooms from various issues. But the lack of any writing to bring cohesion was a bad oversight. There was a short introduction, and the only other words in the book were short quotes from designers. While I generally find verbiage in decorating books insipid, I could have used some here. I would have enjoyed seeing some research on the color pink or reading about the history of the color pink. The second thing that is striking about this book is that there is, indeed, very little pink in the book. If I were given the pictures in the book and asked to determine their common element, I think it would have taken me a long time to realize they all had some pink to them. Some of the rooms had nothing more than hot pink pillows. Now, pink isn't necessarily a color you go whole hog with, but where was the discussion of that? And, how about a few rooms that went half hog? Lastly, I would have loved seeing a pink nursery to show how pink can be done in a very clichéd space in a non-clichéd way. But overall, I loved looking at the beautiful rooms, so while the lack of discussion was a missed opportunity for HB, I still had a good time. My rating: 4 stars.
I'm currently reading:
The Presidents Club came out a couple of years ago, and it took me awhile to finally buy a copy, then even longer to pick it up. It's a big book, full of facts about the relationships between presidents from Truman onward. I'm learning so much, and I've banned myself from taking notes on this book. A good decision, but so hard to do.
Last week I began:
With all of my February reading done early, I began on some March books: Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan (author of Counting by 7s and Appleblossom the Possum) and Peter Walsh's Let It Go. Walsh is an expert on decluttering and organization. He, more than all the other clutter experts, gets to the heart of the matter and forces one to examine the emotional ties we have to our stuff--and deciding if they're healthy or not. He's my hands-down favorite when it comes to reading about getting rid of things and the benefits he brings. (Anyone remember the television show Clean Sweep featuring Peter Walsh? I loved that show.)
I'm continuing with:
Still enjoying Poems That Make Grown Men Cry and looking forward to the paperback release of Poems That Make Grown Women Cry March 7.
I feel kind of like I'm listening to an 1840s soap opera with Julian Fellowes' Belgravia, but I'm finding that I'm enjoying the story. Not great literature, a lot of drama and bad behavior by the moneyed class, but fun.