Category Archives: Book crave

recently read


The Invisible Bridge
On the one hand, this is the story of the author’s grandparents, Hungarian Jews during the holocaust. How can you criticize?
On the other hand, it’s an overwrought romance followed by tedious suffering-through-war times.

The Husband’s Secret
Entertaining, easy read. Fluff, but on the good end of fluff. Same author as What Alice Forgot.

A Natural History of Dragons
I thought that I would love this, but I sort of didn’t. It was more of a mystery than it was a fantasy, with dragons. And the narrator was a bit heavy-handed in her explaining to me just how smart and forward thinking she was. Halfway through it, I started regretting my rec to LZ, but apparently, she liked it!


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recently read

20140524-094227-34947234.jpgThe Luminaries was on every list of the books you should be reading, so I wanted to read it. Real bad. So bad that I waited for my turn to get it at the library for months and months.

But I got it, and let many other books fall by the wayside while I chugged through this 830 page beast.

For a while, I thought that I hated it. But I stubbornly persisted until I was actually curious. The basic premise is a mystery and it did its basic job of intriguing me with it’s fancy “who done it” plot. But it was so fancy that I don’t think I ever really understood. I had the sense that something very clever had happened and I just couldn’t quite ferret it out.

Similarly, I had a nagging feeling that all of the astrology references and the chapter structure were also supposed to be telling me something clever, but I was too busy calculating my library late fees to get it.

And while I’m pretty confident that the villain was responsible, I still don’t know how the one guy got murdered and the lady got passed out in the random nowhere place.  But it was very complicated and I’m sure the author lady was very smart in thinking it all up.

Just not so smart that it could be clearly conveyed to this dogged reader.

’til the next one…


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Recently Read

stack of booksIn the midst of pre-wedding lunacy, I stopped having the bandwidth for anything. But then I got married, immediately stopped thinking about getting married, and I tumbled through a bunch of books.

The Cove, by Ron Rash: In the tradition of Heaven and Winter’s Bone, this book is about back woods Appalachia people, albeit set in World War I times. Laurel has got some sort of birthmark and she lives up on a part of the mountain that is shady, so neighboring mountain hicks think she is a witch. She finds a mute man in the woods and he doesn’t think she’s a witch, so she gets friendly. Good ole boys get rage-y and tragedy ensues.

Among Others, by Jo Walton:  A cross between a Flavia de Luce novel and What a Girl Wants, that movie with Colin Firth and Amanda Bynes. Told diary-style by the protagonist, who (unlike Laurel above) IS a witch. A teenage witch! She doesn’t really do anything witch-y, though. In fact, she is adamant about not using magic. But she does see fairies in the woods. Mostly, the book is about how she likes to read a lot of science fiction and fantasy novels.

The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman: A novel that’s really a collection of short stories. Stories about the various people who work for a newspaper in Rome during a several-decade time period. The pieces aren’t really tied up into some neat inter-connected package like you might expect. But each little tale is so piquant in its illustration of some emotional exchange or experience, that I think this was, in the end, quite good.

The Lifeboat, by Charlotte Rogan:  A big passenger ship sinks in 1914 (2 years after the Titanic) and some of the people get in lifeboats. The book opens with Grace on trial for her life for something that happened while she was on a lifeboat with 39 other people for 3 weeks. What follows is an account of her experience on the lifeboat with the other survivors who suffer and power-struggle, while she reflects on her path to marriage-trap Henry, who she’s JUST married about two seconds ago and who is super rich, but no one knows she has married!

Big Machaine, by Victor LaValle:  For such a seemingly juicy plot, this was a bit of a slog to get through. There’s a supernatural element that seemed superfluous to the better parts of the book – the story of Ricky Rice, growing up in a strange religious cult, becoming a heroin addict, mysteriously being invited to Vermont to work as a oblivious researcher on a team of other societally-rejected black folk.

The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey:  Fairy tale-esque and as such, rather predictable. But very engaging and nice to read. A girl appears in the place of a snowman made by an elderly couple who lives miles away from anyone else. She disappears in the summer and reappears every year once the snow falls. Incredibly beautiful descriptions of winter homesteading life in Alaska.

Up next – Telegraph Avenue and The Golem and the Jinni. Anything else I should add to the queue?



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recently read


These are the two books I’ve managed to read as of late:  The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani and NW by Zadie Smith.

(I blame Candy Crush for this dearth of reading.  Such a wretched little game, but I can not stop.  It is infringing on my more worthwhile past times!)

So, The Shoemaker’s Wife was a very pleasant and engaging read.  I was invested enough in the characters that I had some moments of eye seeping at the end when the author decided it was time to manipulate my heartstrings thusly.
It’s about two teenagers in Italy who meet when they’re 15 years old in their tiny village.  They are obviously supposed to then be in love, but events transpire, separating them.  Lo!  We meet again in NYC!  Obviously, let’s be in love.  Missed opportunity and missed communication.  We shall keep one another squirreled away in some deep dark place of secret pining, but let’s carry on about our business of being hard working WWI era immigrants, yes?  Yes!  Finally, over a decade after our first meeting, we will cross paths again and make our merry way.  Things continue merrily, more and less, the end.

And NW?  This was not an easy read.  It wasn’t particularly dense, though, so once I committed to a read-it-up-rodeo, I did get through the last 200+ pages pretty quickly.
I’ve never read a Zadie Smith novel before, always anticipating that they’d be too smart and meaty for me to really enjoy.  And as I’d expected, I didn’t particularly enjoy this book.  Although, I feel like I appreciate it more now that I’ve finished and read some of the reviews of the book.  I need someone else to tell me what was interesting to then feel interested.
This was (mostly) about two women who grow up in a poor neighbor of London and live in a tower block.  They grow up and escape their background to varying degrees, but their background continues to impact them, their outlooks, and identities to varying degrees.
They are best friends and then not friends and then acquaintance-friends who are still in touch because of their long-lived status as bffs. Along the way, there are confused feelings about having or not having children, about marriage, and their families (who still live in the projects.)  As the reader, along the way, you are supposed to be intrigued by the dialogue, London jargon and slang, and strange structure of the book.

all for now.


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Recently read


I recently read some books.  And had a torrid affair with the Beautiful Creatures young adult trilogy (which I surreptitiously read ebook style).

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – vaguely amusing. reminded me a bit of Bridget Jones, but from a man point of view.  Characters were rather unbelievable in their portrayal of one archetype or another, but some were still likable.
Shrug.  Maybe see the movie instead?

The Family Fang – oh, what a weird book.  About a family of performance artists.  The parents were masters of their craft – doing destructive and crazy things in public just to see and record the reactions of passers-by.  Once they had kids, they started using them in the act and the kids grow up without learning how to engage in any normal sort of way.  The “art” is intended to make other people uncomfortable and that’s how reading the book largely made me feel.

The Magician’s Assistant – I remember reading and loving Bel Canto (also written by Ann Patchett) many years ago, so I had high expectations for this one.  I liked this book alright, but didn’t love it.  Sabine is in love with her gay friend, Parsifal the magician.  After Parsifal’s main man friend dies, he marries Sabine (because why not?) and then he dies.  His family, which he had told her had died in a car crash in his youth, is actually alive and living in South Dakota and seeks her out to get reacquainted with their lost son through her.
I couldn’t get behind the premise of the story and was left befuddled by the outcome, but it was written in a beautiful, dream-like way, making it an easy and engaging read.


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ruby heists, parmesan rinds, and book titles

San Francisco has this annual bonanza of bookishness called LitQuake. It’s a 9 day series of readings and signings and workshops and literary shenanigans jam packed into a week.

Because I have the stamina of a couch oriented granny, I can usually only make it to one or two things, even though there’s something fantistic every evening and all throughout the weekend times.
Last year, we made it to only one, an outdoor Midsummer Night’s Dream-themed reading of The Great Night.

The novel sounded interesting, but I never read it.

Possibly because I fell hopelessly in love with the comedic stylings of Andrew Sean Greer and Daniel Handler, who took the stage after the reading.

They played an accordian and a ukelele and sang a song, full of double entendres, about the fairies in Buena Vista park.

I am delighted and smitten. A year passes and I get distracted by other sundries.

And then!

What to my wondering eyes should appear?

They were teaming up at LitQuake again this year!

Inside, this time, they sat in a little living room vignette and asked one another questions drawn from a fishbowl.

And man, those are some funny guys. I ha-ha’ed with gusto and wished ferverently to make them my friends.

Somehow, I failed to achieve this goal later when I was getting some books signed, but I am confident that my adoration and charm will eventually win them (or at least one of them) over.

This other guy did a lovely job of telling about the evening and got some great pictures, so if you’d like to get a better idea, read his blog. But better if you can see either of these guys in person to experience the crushing for yourself.

And or! Read their books!

Daniel Handler (or sometimes Lemony Snicket)
Andrew Sean Greer


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I can only tolerate so much buzz before I must read the book.  Even if the buzz is erotic buzz.

You know where this is going.

I read Fifty Shades of Grey and it’s subsequent cohorts.  It’s the Twilight fan fiction that, instead of being all eye-rollingly chaste, is eye-rollingly porny!

The dynamic between Christian and Anastasia is uncannily Edward and Bella-like, except that instead of wanting to murderfy her, Christian wants to hog-tie virginal Ana up and beat her senseless with whackers and then do the sexing.  He’s bossy, unreasonably wealthy, super hot (no sparkle, though), and into BDSM.  Gasp.

I couldn’t stop reading it, in spite of the absolutely awfulness of the writing.  No shocker there.  I’ve gotten totally hooked on crap before, including the actual Twilight series.

A huge part of the suspense was waiting to find out just exactly what sort of kinky business Christian is into.
And will Ana consent to it?
And will she like it?

And I’ma tell you now, so stop reading if you don’t want it spoiled for you:

-Not that kinky.
-Yes, she goes for it.
-Yes, she likes everything.

So once it’s clear that yes, Ana is a secret horndog, there are new plot elements, like bad guys out to get her and miscommunications resulting in pending break-up, to keep the story line going.  Always peppered with graphic sex scenes throughout.

It was all just so unrealistic, it pissed me off.  The over the top, adolescent, vomitrocious, can’t-live-without-you love.  From two people who have never actually experienced romantic love before.  How everything just works out so nice and perfect in every way, getting everything they want.  And you can now add to that list:  being constantly and instantly in the mood for business and ALWAYS having simultaneous happy endings, every time, multiple times a day.



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The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore

Watch this incredibly charming animated short film about a young man who gets whisked away to be the care taker in a home full of magical books while you can….

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris LessMore

[Edited on March 2, 2012… the free full version of the film is no longer available.  You can see a little trailer for it here, though.  And you can buy it from iTunes for $1.99.]


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need a fix before season 3 starts?

if you were loving Downton Abbey and need a little more WWI era British aristoacracy in your life

then try The House at Riverton by Kate Morton.

I know, I know. Television ≠ books.  But still.  You gotta take it where you can get it.


Filed under Big screen, little screen, Book crave

a glut of young adult novels

It wasn’t just toffee that I gorged on in this epic time of 11 days off.

My ladyfriend, Caroline, posted NPR’s list of the best Young Adult novels of 2011 on Facebook and it spurred a glorious frenzy of book readery.  And oh, wasn’t it the best thing ever?  I had a bounty of quick, engaging material and no other constraints on my time.  Except for the toffee.  In both cases, it’s all chomp, swallow, mmm, next!

Anna Dressed in Blood is about Cas, a kid who kills ghosts with a magic knife.  He lives a nomadic life with his good-witch mom, tracking down one ghost after another and sending them off into the nether world.  He follows a tip to Canada to find Anna, the scariest ghost of all time.  And she is pretty feckin scary.  There are quite a few gruesome murdery scenes.  Despite her propensity for violence and her dress that is perpetually doused in and dripping blood, Cas falls for Anna, and teenage romance ensues.  The story behind Anna’s death is harrowing and the climax is full of supernaturally suspense.  Reminded me a lot of I am Number Four.


Eyes Like Stars was my least favorite of this batch of reading.  The NPR recommendation was actually So Silver Bright, but that was the third in a trilogy called Théâtre Illuminata so I opted to read the first one instead.  The main character is Bertie, a girl who lives in a theater that is magically populated by the characters from every play written.  Bertie isn’t a character in a play; she was dropped off at the the theater as a baby and her story is unknown.  She’s constantly accompanied by the fairies from a Midsummer’s Night Dream and she can’t decide if she’s in love with a pirate (who talks in swashbuckle) and an air spirit (whose clothes and hair are always ruffled by wind and who has butterfly familiars.)  Due to best intentions gone awry, all sorts of chaos ensues and the fate of the theater is threatened.  It’s up to Bertie to save the day and figure out who she is along the way.  Too twee for me.  Also, that’s not how you spell Theater.  Someone should tell that lady.

Puck lives on Thisby, a teeny fictional island of the Irish persuasion.  Every November in Thisby, monster flesh eating horses emerge from the sea.  The men of the island then manfully go catch these horses, train them up for a few weeks, and then race them in a big-deal race that results in a cash money prize and fame.  Cue the age old plight of small-town-ism.  Puck needs the money and she decides to enter the race and along the way, falls for Sean, a 4 year champ of the race.  Sean is very quiet and still.  Where’s Sean?  Look for the still part of the room and there he is.  People get chomped on by horses.  Puck and Sean are very still together.  There’s a race at the end.  Despite the premise of the mythical creatures, most of the story line was pretty ordinary.  Almost Maeve Binchy-esque, what with the Irish small town character stereotypes.  I give this one a pleasant shrug.

Man, do I love a post-apocalypse story.  This one tells about the kerplosian of the volcano in Yellowstone and the ensuing ash, darkness, early winter, and violent yokels that ensue.  Alex is a big nerd-o who was 130 miles away from his family when shit got real and then has to find his way to them.  Society has pretty much gone to hell:  no electricity, phones or radio.  FEMA, rather than being helpful, sets up concentration camps of sort that keep refugees locked up with minimal food and shelter where they slowly freeze or starve to death.  It wouldn’t be Great Expectations without an escaped convict, so there’s one of those, too.  Alex has a handful of run ins with violent types who want to steal his food, but he also meets Darla, who’s much savvier than Alex.  As such things are wont to do, Alex grows up a lot along the way and what says “I’m grown-up” more than a savvy girlfriend?
Definitely a fun read.

I liked this one a lot.  It had a lot of similarities to The Hunger Games:  a dystopian government born out of a people who want to recover from too much war, with a heroine full of butt-kickery.  This society is broken out into 5 factions, the Dauntless, Abnegation, Amity, Erudite and Candor.  Beatrice is born into the Amish-like Abnegation, but struggles with their extreme culture of selflessness and on Choosing Day, she chooses the Dauntless instead and changes her name to Tris.  The Dauntless are all about bravery, signified by wearing all black and having tattoos and piercings.  They also really like to jump off of stuff, like buildings and moving trains.  Tris learns, though, that she’s not really just Dauntless, or just Abnegation, she’s got varying amounts of everything, and this makes her dangerous to her government.   She has to keep her “divergence” a secret to keep the government from being out to get her, but in the mean time, she’s busy falling for her mentor in the Dauntless lifestyle.  And it turns out that this plan to keep people strictly in the lifestyles of these five factions is not working out, thus things start to crumble.
There’s a sequel to this book that I wanted to start reading immediately, but it turns out that it won’t really exist until the future and that I could only *pre* order it.  Which is malarky.  Who wants to preorder something?  Just give it to me!
Divergent was good enough that I definitely wanted to read more if I could have.

And finally, this book wasn’t really on NPR’s list, but it was a runner-up on Amanda’s 12 Favorite Books of the Year, and that was plenty of reason.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was neato.  There’s a cast of X-men like characters, who are trapped in time, trying to stay safe from the muggles and other more evil predators.  The story is illustrated with creepy vintage photos.  We learn about the peculiar children through Jacob, another dorky teenager, who has a special relationship with his grandfather.  Grandpa dies a grisly and inexplicable death, which sends Jacob into a bit of a spiral of crazy and on a trip to a tiny island off of Wales to get to the bottom of stuff.
I’d definitely recommend this one.



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