- "I'm wondering if they'll try to brainwash us," Mrs. Pollfiax was saying cheerfully. "Do you know anything about brainwashing, Mr. Farrell?"
- "Uh--no," Farrell said politely.
- "It might prove rather interesting."
Okay. I'm going to do my best to stay in my seat and not reach right through the computer screen and stick this book in your hands. Deep breath.
... But please race out and get this book? And read it today? Thank you.
Emily Pollifax has wispy white hair, a love for geraniums, and memberships to the Garden Club, the Art Association, and the Woman's Hospital Auxilary. Oh, and she'd like to become a spy.
So she does.
And in her first mission (yes, this is the start of a series, isn't that just fabulous news for you??), she visits Mexico, gets drugged and abducted, imprisoned, interrogated ... and, oh, she meets Farrell.
Confession is good for the soul? Well then: I'm still madly in love with Farrell.
So "book crush" is more literal this time.
The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax is hilarious, suspenseful, and even sweet at times. All together, it's the perfect kickoff to your summer reading stash. (Especially if your stash consists of the rest of the Mrs. Pollifax series. Just a thought.)
Recommendation: Iced mint tea and that shady patch in your backyard. Go to it.
Now he was helpless with delight, for he wanted to dance and he wanted to be still; he shook with shouting and speeches, and yet there was nothing that he wanted to say. -- Schmendrick the Magician
As a hero, he understood weeping women and knew how to make them stop crying--generally you killed something. -- Prince Lir
The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle: One of my favorite, favorite books. (I know, that's the whole point of Book Crush, right? But I still can't get over it ... I love this book!)
It's certainly one to get lost in, to indulge in, to read in one long luxurious day in bed.
That kind of book.
Confession: I only read this one to get it off my list. It was recommended to me years ago, but I cheerfully passed it up time and again for lesser books. Shame on me.
Confession #2: One great way to keep me from reading a book? Put unicorn in the title. Not a huge sell for me. And as long as we're confessing, the same goes for dragons and vampires.
Just ... can't ... manage ... to get excited. I could be so wrong (as I was with The Last Unicorn), but nevertheless: I'm an avoider.
So imagine my shock when I did finally read this book and realized it was my long lost love, my newest favorite, the one I would rave about to anyone within earshot?
It would make a stint on a desert island significantly better, perhaps even enjoyable.
And this too: I want to write a book like this when I grow up.
It's always hard for me to describe the plot, since this book seems so much larger than just plot, characters, and settings. But essentially, it is the story about a quest. The last unicorn travels to find the others of her kind. Along the way, she picks up two unusual human companions, and together they work to set the other unicorns free...
Mmm, but I'm not satisfied with that as a description. Let me try again:
Peter S. Beagle knows how to blend the humorous, the poignant, and the unexpected. And he writes sentences that literally take my breath away.
Or, to put it another way: This is the kind of book that reminds me why I read and why I write.
But it's also chilly, which means we're really glad that Kristen made these springy neckwarmers for our store! (And isn't she the cutest model? I mean, seriously.)
"A slavish concern for the composition of words is the sign of a bankrupt intellect." -- The Humbug to the Spelling Bee
"So many things are possible just as long as you don't know they're impossible." -- King Azaz and the Mathemagician to Milo
The Phantom Tollbooth (by Norton Juster) is, quite simply, my hands-down untoppable favorite childhood book. My copy is much used, tattered, yellowed with age. My name is written exuberantly in the front cover (evidently from the era when I dotted my i with a star), proof of my early and undying love for this story.
When I first picked it up, I had no idea what I was getting into. The word phantom was so full of mystery, and my experience with tollbooths was fairly limited.
What I found was a crazy adventure story that takes Milo, a terribly bored ten year old, through the Doldrums, Dictionopolis, the Forest of Sight, Digitopolis, and into the Mountains of Ignorance on a dangerous quest.
There's a score of unforgettable characters--the Humbug is always my favorite, no matter how maligned he is by the other characters. Juster's language is packed with wordplay (the conversation with the Everpresent Wordsnatcher still sends me into hysterics) and idioms unfolded (of course you have to jump to the island of Conclusions).
I reread Phantom Tollbooth recently, curious to see if I loved it as much as I used to, and found it even better than I'd remembered. I raved about it to anyone nearby, and I'm not sorry. I'd hand out The Phantom Tollbooth tracts on a streetcorner if I could. (Hmm. Not a bad idea.)
... And, honestly, if you haven't read it yet, for heaven's sake stop reading this blog and get your hands on a copy. It's a book that sticks with you. After all, once you've heard of Subtraction Stew or witnessed the conducting of a sunrise, can you ever go back? Would you even want to?
Recommendation: A childhood classic deserves a childhood classic. I would read this near a sun-filled window, with tomato bisque and a grilled cheese sandwich. It doesn't get much better than that.
(Everyone else can skip this post and go back to whatever they were doing.)
Okay, lemon lovers, you can sit back down, but only if you tell me this: how did I go for twenty-five-and-a-half years without ever tasting lemon curd?
Ever? Not once?
I mean seriously: lemon curd. It's basically a lemon staple, especially for those who also love tea and scones and such things. Which I do.
My long lemon-curdless existence ended Sunday night when I mixed up my first pot. (This recipe.)
And it wasn't until I was "letting it cool" (or sticking spoons into the pot and then into my mouth and laughing--my usual response to astonishing food) that I realized the wonder of wonders of lemon curd.
It's true love, and I know we'll be together forever.
I used it to stick lemon macarons together...
to weigh down a spoon...
and there are plans for blackberry scones in the works.
The one Bach piece I learnt made me feel I was being repeatedly hit on the head with a teaspoon. -- Cassandra
I'm a little afraid of discussing this book, because I'm half certain that I'll just lapse into exclamation points, which, while fun to type, won't convince anyone of anything.
So I'll try to contain myself. Ahem.
I found I Capture the Castle (by Dodie Smith) mostly by accident. I heard a few people talking about it, and on a whim, I decided to pick it up. I can't remember what I was expecting from the novel, but I quickly promoted it to the ranks of my favorites.
This is one of the quirkiest books I've read, and also one of the most endearing. Any attempt at explaining the plot falls flat--I suppose it's the bittersweet story of a family living in a castle, dealing with poverty, frustration, tea time, new neighbors, and great hopes...
But the reason I love it is because it is a story told by Cassandra Mortmain.
And Cassandra is one of the narrators I most hope to meet, in some book-heaven where we shake hands with our favorite characters. If I manage to write a character half as entertaining and unique as Cassandra, I'll call myself a pretty decent writer.
She somehow manages to be poignant, insightful, and shockingly funny, often at the same time. Her voice is fresh enough to be completely new, but she's also true: I could relate to her at every turn.
(I think that Cassandra's narrative brilliance is the main reason why I didn't like the movie. They still tried to keep her voice in the story, but you saw the events of the tale first, and heard her voice secondarily. In the novel, it's reversed: her voice is the high point and the light by which you see the story. That makes all the difference.)
Recommendation: Savor I Capture the Castle with a good flavored black tea. I prefer Monks Blend: black tea with vanilla and grenadine... the perfect complement.
Tea, this novel, and a rainy afternoon: that's a big cup of perfect.
My younger sister and I used to joke that we should work together in a café/bookstore. I'd run the book side, she'd make the coffee, and we'd cross reference every purchase.
"Emily Dickinson? Go over to the café and see which herbal tea she recommends," I would say.
"Dark chocolate mocha?" my sister would inquire. "Check in with Jenn and see if she'd have Poe's Short Stories or Macbeth with that..."
So in my little online café, what could be more natural than a weekly book recommendation?
It's not a book review--there are plenty of blogs out there which can tell you accurately what a book does well or poorly. All I can do is tell you, from one reader to another, which books I can't do without.
If my bookshelves are to be believed, it's a very long list...