Book Thirtynine: Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen

Who doesn't like a story about a circus? Especially an old-timey, depression-era circus populated with characters like Diamond Jim, Blackie, Camel, Kinko and Uncle Al? I truly did like this story (it made for very good on-the-couch-with-a-stinky-cold reading), though I do admit it's not the finest book ever written. Sure, it had it's share of trite dialogue, somewhat predictable plot, and a key relationship that I don't feel was totally fleshed out. But, hey, whatever! It was still super interesting and the descriptions of the circus were lovely and even if it was a bit melodramatic, is there anything wrong with a little melodrama? I don't think so.

Book Thirtyeight: Traffic

Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), Tom Vanderbilt

I want to load up the trunk of my car with copies of this book and, whenever I see someone do some jackass thing on the road, stop them and politely hand them the book. Seriously, what a great freaking book. I feel like, if the whole world read this book, we'd all be more sensible, conscientious drivers. Or maybe we'd all just continue to be jackasses, but sometimes I dare to dream. What did I learn that's so amazing? Well, for starters, that we should all be late mergers (I've always been an early merger, but after this book I'm changing my ways), that I should take the first parking place I find rather than drive around looking for a better one (which I usually do, but this just reinforces that), that every intersection should have a traffic circle, that we should get rid of most traffic signs, that I should probably drive slower than I do, and that people who talk on cell phones while driving should be dragged out of their cars and shot. Okay, the last one is my opinion, but still, that doesn't make it any less true.

Book Thirtyseven: The Last Chinese Chef

The Last Chinese Chef, Nicole Mones

It's not that this was a bad book. In fact, it was pretty good. It's just that, at times, it seemed so forced. Like I was always hyper-aware of the story and where it was going, rather than just enjoying the ride. We start the story with Maggie, a recent widow, who discovers that a paternity claim has been filed against her dead husband by a woman in China. Conveniently, she is a food writer and her editor has a story for her to write while she travels to Beijing to sort everything out, about a Chinese-American chef, Sam Liang, who will be competing in a cooking competition to coincide with the 2008 Olympics. The title of the novel comes from a book written by Sam's grandfather, who was an imperial chef and widely recognized as one of the great chefs of Chinese history. Each chapter opens with an excerpt from this (fictional) book, discussing elements of Chinese philosophy, cooking, medicine (yay!) and culture.

Really, what this book should be lauded for, is its descriptions of food. Some of the food described here sounds absolutely astounding and sometimes you can almost taste it. I can't stop thinking about the crab-infused tofu from the final banquet, and, as a dumpling fiend, her descriptions of the jiao zi and bao zi from the restaurant Gou Bu Li made me salivate. As a novel, though, it was just ma ma hu hu (so-so).

Book Thirtysix: Love and Rockets: New Stories #1

Love and Rockets: New Stories #1, Los Bros Hernandez

The good news about the new Love and Rockets issues coming out in book format is that I am now counting it as a book. The bad news about Love and Rockets coming out in book format is that it's now only coming out once a year! I read this in only a couple of hours and now I have to wait a whole year to read the next installment?! Phooey! The guy at the Fantagraphics store (who, incidentally, is selling this now before the official release date of September 15th) said that it's possible that it'll come out again sooner than that since, to quote him, Jaime and Beto don't do anything except sit around and draw... but still!

You can see from the cover that the main Hoppers story revolves around Penny Century, who has finally gotten the superpowers that she has always hoped for. Sadly, this story involves only a page or two of Maggie, no Hopey and, worst of all, no Ray. Beto has a bunch of stuff in here, and one good one with Julio. But really, I don't think it's possible for me to be disappointed by Love and Rockets. It does nothing but warm my heart and make me giddy.

Book Thirtyfive: The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, Barry Lyga

My pal Albert had nothing but good things so say about this book, so I figured it deserved a read. Besides, it's a YA novel about a geeky high school kid who loves comics. What's not to like? Not much, really. Sometimes a little heavy on the teen angst, but then again, that's what it's like being a teen, right? (Sometimes I forget so easily.) Fortunately I was not picked on in high school to the extent that Fanboy was, but my heart goes out to anyone who was.