Paris, His Dark Materials, Phineas Finn, and Food

Paris in Love: A MemoirParis in Love: A Memoir by Eloisa James

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I am a sucker for expat memoirs. So I picked up this one as a matter of course, without even glancing inside the cover. Maybe I should have looked a little closer.

As an author, Eloisa James’ normal genre is romance novels. But I don’t think even that explains the bizarre format of this book. It is, I kid you not, a compilation of her Facebook status updates for the year she spent in Paris. This means that the entire book consists of disjointed 5-10 line paragraphs. There are a few longer sections (of 2-5 pages each), which I paged through and read. But the rest of this book is virtually unreadable.

If you have a hankering for Paris, instead check out Adam Gopnik’s delightful memoir, Paris to the Moon.

The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1)The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tony and I watched the movie that is based on this book, and he asked me to check it out for him. So of course I ended up reading it myself too. This did turn out to be one of those cases where the book was better than the movie, mostly because the plots were very similar, and the movie was visually stunning. Nicole Kidman was lusciously villainous, and Pullman’s alternate-reality-London was gorgeous.

My favorite part of the book/movie was the premise of people’s souls (called “dæmons” in the book) walking around outside their bodies in the shape of animals. Sort of like a cross between a best friend, a smart pet, and just a really good justification for talking to yourself. All in all, this was a fun book, but nowhere near as profound as it was trying to be.

The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, #2)The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This one was OK, but not nearly as interesting as the first one. I personally think that authors who are working with multiple universes should just stick to one or two, because there’s not really time to develop the differences in more universes, and they end up being boring caricatures. Also, the plot in this one kind of meandered. In fact, I can’t even really remember it a week and a half after finishing the book.

The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, #3)The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This trilogy was already mediocre by book 2, so the only reason I read this one was that I was sick in bed, and it was the closest thing at hand. Unfortunately, even just compared to books 1 and 2, The Amber Spyglass is exceptionally bad. Not only does the narrative fall apart, but Pullman’s already thin allegory crosses over into pages and pages of downright preachiness.

Evidently, some Christians have objected to the series (and the delightful movie based on The Golden Compass) on philosophical grounds, but I object to it on purely artistic grounds. Still, if your teenager is reading this and your family is not atheist, you might want to have some discussions about the author’s rancorous portrayal of both religion and God.

Phineas FinnPhineas Finn by Anthony Trollope

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am, of course, still reading this series. One of the things I love about it is that I am still looking up new words (with the touch of a button–I love my Kindle!). I highly recommend reading Trollope to anyone preparing to take the SAT or GRE.

I’ve also unbent my feminist ire a little. In Phineas Finn, bad husbands are given no quarter, and the woman are portrayed as well-rounded, complex characters. Trollope is still not exactly progressive, but he might not be as bad as I thought. Plus, I’m even getting interested in 19th century British politics. Who’d have thought?

The Deluxe Food Lover's CompanionThe Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This replaces A History of the World in 100 Objects as my bathroom book. What a wonderful, informative, fascinating book. Whether you need to know what picadillo is or how to pick a good kohlrabi, if it has to do with food, it is in here.

Today I perused the cheese glossary, and found that I’ve tried 47 different kinds of cheese. There are also glossaries of sausage, shellfish, sauces, pastas, and herbs, among others. And then there are the many tips scattered throughout the book for ripening persimmons, creating a quick brown roux, and six steps to the perfect hamburger.

With gilt edges, a ribbon bookmark, and profound culinary quotes beginning each chapter (“Cooking demands attention, patience, and above all, a respect for the gifts of the earth. It is a form of worship, a way of giving thanks.” — Judith B. Jones), this is a book to be treasured, read, and referred to often.

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2 thoughts on “Paris, His Dark Materials, Phineas Finn, and Food

  • August 12, 2012 at 7:31 am

    A book of status updates? Wow! Have you ever read The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo by Paula Huntley? I found it at my local library last year and *loved* it! It’s not a new book, but somehow I only found it last year. If you want to read a few excerpts type “Hemingway” in the search on my blog. I noted several bits from it that were thought-provoking or interesting to me.

    As always, thanks for your reviews!

  • August 9, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Amen to your review of His Dark Materials.


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