Friday, January 1, 2016

The Coincidence of the Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

image by LibraryThing
I LOVE coconut!  That drew me to this book.  My mom makes an amazing coconut cake and as I read I kept tasting it in my mouth.  And that flavor made me especially enjoy this book.

This is a love story times three.  There is the love story between chef Lou and Al the food critique.  Then there is another love story between each of these main characters and food.  Finally, there is the love story written to the city of Milwaukee, introducing us to the wonders of a nearby place.

I really enjoyed this book.  Yes, I sort of guessed the direction it would take early on.  But, that didn't really dim my enjoyment!  Instead, it made it more relaxing and comfortable - drawing me in like a wonderful soup or a creamy pastry.  Although I knew what to expect - there were some great surprises.  Like the elderly couple demonstrating what a second chance looks like, or the fashion writer who hides behind his homeless man looks or the calloused, jaded food critique who still had his grandmothers cast iron skilled hidden in his shelves.

More than anything this book made me want to cook - to really cook and enjoy the process as much as the product.  The description of the Thanksgiving meal really demonstrated that for me!

And I will admit - I was completely teared up at the end!!  Another great read!!

The Dark is Rising Series by Susan Cooper

image from LibraryThing
I read this series years ago and decided I wanted to revisit it this fall.

Rod and I took an in-state vacation this summer - traveling over unknown roads in Iowa.  As we drove, this story came back to me.  What I remembered was the need to stay on the old ways - to remain on the roads that had been established long, long ago.  I thought about that as we drove down winding two-lane roads through NorthEast Iowa from one copse of trees to the next.

I want to be clear that these books are WAY more than that!  The premise of this series is the world contains good and evil - has since the very beginning.  And there are certain preordained times when the Light can take over for good. These books are the record of that final battle.

For me, this series was one of the first Good vs. Evil I met.  In true YA fashion the players in this battle are teenagers - three normal, average siblings, an old one (the 7th son of a 7th son) and the son of King Arthur who has been removed from his own time to keep him safe.  This group of five together with Merriman, their seasoned guide, face evil in different places and different times preparing for the final battle in the last book.

Rereading these after all these other recent YA dystopian books was interesting.  I don't know if I could entice my niece to read these - they are fairly dense - but, so rewarding!  Yes - you know who is going to win, but there is more to it than just that.  There isn't a romance or flashy techno toys - it is just the kids and the elements.  Instead there is a sense of a larger story - King Arthur's story woven through these books ties them in to a timeless story line.

I really liked these - again!!

Trans-sister Radio by Chris Bohjalian

image from LibraryThing
This was the November book for our book club.

I have to admit I wasn't overly enthused by the topic of a trans-gender love affair - especially when one of the characters is an elementary teacher. As a former elementary teacher in a book club of elementary teachers my experience and understanding made me pre-judge this.

The premise - a lonely elementary teacher, Allie, falls in love with Dana. Sounds simple - but so not!  Dana is a college professor who has began the process of gender reassignment when he and Allie meet, she was a student in one of his classes.  As their love affair grows he nears the reassignment surgery deadline and a lot of decisions have to be made.

This story is told over the airwaves of a NPR public radio station managed by Allie's ex-husband and narrated by her daughter. Each of these secondary characters adds to the depth of this complicated story with their perspective.  The narrative moves between first person action and a retelling of the details.  It adds an interesting dimension.

What did I think?  As an elementary teacher I did not agree with all of the actions of Allie.  She made some ridiculous decisions as a teacher - allowing 6th graders to swim in a lake on a field trip only partially clad would never happen in my Iowa town!!  But, I did care for her. I felt the pain of her lost love - changed love  - confused love!  I don't know that it changed my feelings on the topic - but it did make me pause and consider. I think that is what a great book does - force us to face a part of life that we may not bump against very often.

We had a great discussion in book club.
And then following our meeting this happened...

I was so excited that @Chrisbohjalian tweeted me back!
I felt just like a little kid - a real author responded to me!

It reminded me again why I love technology and the immediacy of connection and the power of the words we put out there to the internet.  It also reminded me how much I love the printed word and the power of those words to remain current even 17 years after they were first published!

I am happy we read this book and I am happy for the discussion that followed.
Thanks Chris Bohjalian!