review: The Death & Life of Charlie St. Cloud

i keep being delightfully and immensely surprised by fiction that i probably wouldn't have otherwise picked up!

first with The School of Essential Ingredients, that i wrote about in my last post, which i couldn't put down, to this one, The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud, which had everything going for it to indicate that i would never read it in a million years. the previews for the movie coming out this friday made the movie look like a Nicholas Sparks novel, and while many drool over Mr. Sparks work, i am, shall we say, less than impressed by both his books and the movies that get based on them.

but what rescued this from the 'never' pile for me was the title of the book. if you look quickly, you might not even catch that the words death and life are in the order they are in. {another black mark for the movie is that they shortened the title to just Charlie St. Cloud... why?!} but the order of death and life intrigued me, so on Sunday night, i found the book on, and downloaded it to my eReader.

given that i was tired, i figured i'd read a few pages before i fell asleep, but by the time i managed to turn the light out, i had gotten nine chapters in and the last thing i wanted to do was stop reading. right from the very first page the book captivated me. and as i finished the last ten chapters last night, i was almost giddy at the Cecelia Ahern-like twist that Mr. Sherwood so skillfully weaved into the story. {if you don't know of my great and passionate love of all things written by Cecelia Ahern, you may may read a bit about my love here, and also know that her If You Could See Me Now is one of my top three fiction EVER! if you haven't yet read it, stop what you are doing, yes, stop reading this, and go here to buy it now.}

about the movie, given how perfectly brilliant the book has been, not to mention what i've seen of the previews, i'm not sure if the movie is for me. to be honest, i'm not even sure that a movie could compare to the brilliance of the book, especially one the appears to veer as far from the actual story as this one does.

so it seems i am two for two in the 'fiction i cannot put down category'. do you have anything you can recommend to make it three for three?


recently, i've noticed a theme to my reading, one i haven't seen before. usually the 'steaks' in my reading schedule have more to do with genres than topics. for a while i was reading only biographies. sometimes fiction, or even young adult fiction.

but this one is different.

the theme of my reading lately has inadvertently been all about food.

it started with Paris Sweets, a cookbook that Ang got me last year, that is so incredibly perfect, there are hardly words. while it is a cookbook, each recipe is preceded by Dorie Greenspan's thoughts and experiences on the Paris patisserie that inspired the recipe. reading this book is like having Ms. Greenspan take you on the very best kind of tour of the city of lights... one that includes all things baked and buttery.

from there, i picked up Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life, which i have not finished yet, but for the very best of reasons. this book of essays, all accompanied by a recipe, is like a visiting friend, the kind that you just don't want to leave. you don't want the visit to end. and for this very reason, i am purposely reading my way through it very, very slowly.

shortly after i started A Homemade Life, on a recent trip to michigan, i picked up the book I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti at Target. i had heard of the book in a review i read, so knew that it would be enjoyable. Giulia Melucci takes her readers on a memoir of her love life, the men she has loved, lost and cooked for. while i have no intention of emulating Ms. Melucci's love life, i have already used more than one recipe found in her book, and let me say that i am a great fan. it has also put in me the desire to do more cooking for friends.

and lastly, the book i just finished moments ago, The School of Essential Ingredients, by Erica Bauermeister. this one took me by surprise. Ang lent it to me when i was visiting her last month, and i picked it up on Friday night, and was delighted the way only the best fiction can do. it is so good, i even stopped reading at the last chapter last night, simply because i wanted to save some of the magic for today. The School of Essential Ingredients is a beautiful tale of participants in a cooking class, and how their past experiences brought them together to the class, and how the mixing of the ingredients of their own lives ends up creating something beautiful. i can tell that this is one that i will definitely need to get for myself, as i will definitely want to read it again!

well, that brings me up to date. The School of Essential Ingredients is book number 36 for this year, which makes me exactly only one book behind in my plan to read 75 books this year. according to the schedule, today i should have finished book 37, but hey, at one point i was seven books behind, so what difference does one make?!

as usual, i am wondering what you are reading. do you have a recommendation that will surprise me the way this last one did?