Category Archives: Book crave

This one goes on the Boo Shelf: The Particular Sadness of the Lemon Cake

I spent some of my precious Thanksgiving weekend hours reading The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender.


The girl character, Rose, can taste the feelings of the people whose food she eats.  Kinda like Like Water for Chocolate, except she doesn’t feel rage if the food’s full of rage, she just won’t like eating that cookie.  So there’s an element of mysticalness, but it doesn’t spin into something cool.  She eats factory made potato chips instead and we continue to plod through the dynamics of her adolescence.  It’s a typical lady-literature bit of fiction, that delves into the very ordinary little pains and misunderstandings and disconnects of a family.  The mom is a little too flighty and dad is a little too regular.  The brother probably has Asperger’s and our heroine is just sliding under the radar.  We get extra bittersweet insight into other characters, especially the mother, due to Rose’s foodie affliction.

It turns out that weird super powers run in the family, though, ’cause her brother turns into a folding chair and no one ever sees him again.

You think I kid.

But seriously.  Her brother vanishes never to be seen again, because he has turned into a chair.  Only Rose knows the truth.  Dad acts like it’s fine, maybe a little puzzling, that his son has disappeared.  And mom just believes that he’s exploring the Andes.

And Rose keeps her brother the folding chair safely tucked away in her closet.


I can’t even pretend to appreciate this lady’s nice writing style because just eye roll.

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“one day i will have your tongue ripped out with hot pincers, and that will be hilarious”

I just finished reading A Dance with Dragons, the fifth book in this epic series of books.  And even though there are still two books and so many unanswered questions left, I am just so glad to be free!  Finally!  Free from the madness of thousands upon thousands of pages.  The entirety of August and September were monopolized by this saga of a billion pseudo-medieval characters.  Characters, who George RR Martin had no qualms about viciously murdering on a regular basis.  By the end, I was all “Yeah.  You’re dead?  Right.  Who’s next?  Whatever.  You’ll probably just end up being a zombie anyway.”

I’ve so over glutted on these books I can’t even form an opinion about whether or not I liked them.  They were addictive, that’s for sure.  I absolutely could not stop.  I read into the night.  I read first thing in the morning, before I could spur myself out of bed.  I read while walking through downtown San Francisco to get to work.

There’s a tv show of the first book that I’d love to watch, but it’s on one of those fancy channels.

So in the interim between now and the availability on Netflix, I will make do with these fancy illustrations from the Fire and Ice wikipedia:

Probably these images can really help you to visualize just how awesome the awesomeness is.




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Maisie Dobbs

I’m going to blame Cloud Atlas, the novel of much buzz and fanfare by David Mitchell.  Once I got over the hump of struggling to get into it – to read more than a page or two at a time, I found that it was a really good book.  Really good. But the journey up and over that hump was a rough one.  I almost didn’t make it.  And I never give up on a book, no matter how bad, boring or bucolic.  Whatever.  Alliteration.  It’s where it’s at.

After finishing Cloud Atlas, which was around November of last year, I took a book reading vacation.  Which is weird.  Because I would usually devour a novel a week.  On this book reading vacation, I did read myself some YA, because let’s face it.  I couldn’t truly go cold turkey.  And reading material intended for someone half my age (or, erm…. crap.  A third of my age) totally counts as reading.

I finished that Sweet Valley Confidential piece of garbage in about a day.  It was bad.  And not bad like “oh come on, you knew it was going to be bad,” but bad like Francine Pascal had a conversation with herself that went like this:

– Why will these vapid little tween girls not desist in sending me their pitiful fan letters?
– What has become of me?  I know the word “tween.”
– After all these years, they still love Jessica and Elizabeth!
– The fools.
– Fools who have paid me millions for churning out saccharine trash.
– Perhaps if I were to wipe my ass and call it a novel, they would buy that.
– That is a brilliant idea!

But I read it.  No book left behind.

And today, I finished my first adult novel (at least I’m pretty sure it’s for grown-ups… kinda.  It is sort of Nancy Drew-esque.  Please don’t burst my bubble.) in months and months.


Also, it was really good!


It was the first in a series of eight, which means that I can just go chomping through these for a while.

So, Maisie Dodds.  She’s this World War I era British girl who goes to work as a maid.  Her employers pick up on her extra cleverness and sponsor her education.  Cambridge is interrupted by the war and Maisie goes off to France as a nurse.  Afterward, she starts her own business as a private investigator, and this book is the story of her first mystery solved.

Sometimes she wears a cloche.  And she has a pearl tipped hat pin.  And a nurse’s watch.  And from what I can tell, her nurse’s outfit was just like the one that one of my paper dolls had when I was five.

It is entirely possible that I fell enamored of the style and sentiment of the era more than the actual story telling, but I was engaged in the story and the character.  Although she is a little stuffy and not so quirky, but she’s awfully smart and sensible and always knows just what to say.

Even though it wasn’t a challenging read, I’m still feeling pretty chuffed* to have finished a whole grown-up book that perhaps I will do it again**!

*See what I did there?  I used a cute little British word, just like a Maisie Dobbs character would.

**For my next act, I will be reading the 2nd Maisie Dobbs book.

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“Jessica, who becomes engaged to Todd, is desperate for her twin’s forgiveness. But Elizabeth never wants to see her, or Todd, ever again.”

The interwebs told me something incredible today.

There is a new Sweet Valley book out.  With grown-up 28 year old Jessica and Elizabeth.

The reviews all say that it is terrible.  That we could forgive it for being insipid trash, but can’t excuse it for being poorly thought out and riddled with errors (both of grammar and of consistency in the story line).

But I don’t care.  I pledged an allegiance to those books that goes deep.

I half way imploded waiting to download this book onto my iphone and am now trying to snort a few words at time, like the crack cocaine that it is.

In the short bit that I’ve read, I learned that Elizabeth cried after every orgasm when she was sleeping with some dude.  And, ahh…  Now I feel a little weird.  The Elizabeth that I knew didn’t have…. um.  Orgasms.  She had the library.

I will proceed with caution.

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why i’m reading a novel I know nothing about

Last night, I was running a bit early to meet a friend for dinner, so stopped by the local Pegasus bookstore to look around.  I did some nice looking and then decided that if they had this pretty little Penguin version of The Secret Garden, I would buy it:(Also, why on earth can I only locate this book to buy from Anthropologie and not from Amazon or Penguin?)

I asked the bookstore guy if they happened to have the special pretty Penguin books and he said that they had some of them and showed me a spot where they could be.  Then he asked which one I wanted, so we went looking in the young adult section.  And then he went looking up information in his computer and to see when it was coming out and generally went to a lot of trouble to see what he could see about this book.

In retrospect, I can now see that the trouble was that this isn’t actually a book, but a bit of decorative fluff from Anthropologie.

But after all the trouble he went to, I figured that I ought to buy some book and sauntered over to the new fiction releases.

There weren’t any titles that I knew I was jonesing to have, so I was basing my selection on the color of the spine, because, well…
I’m likely to read the book no matter what and when I’m finished, a colored-spine book can add to my rainbow ordered book collection.
So I picked out some book with a nice red spine and took it up to the counter.

And then the very helpful bookstore guy tells me that they have copies of this book from the UK print edition and they’re half as much.  “I’ll get one for you!”

The UK edition has a black spine.

I could say “Actually, I’d like to buy this same book for twice as much money, please!”

But that would be crazy, right?  So I say nothing, and buy the black-spined version.

Consequently, I’m now reading a novel that I knew nothing about, hadn’t even read the blurb on the back of, and has a black spine.


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Robert Bolaño’s 2666

893 pages are in this book.  That’s probably the most important thing I have to say about it. 

2666 has 3 parts:

  • The 4 international professors who focus their studies on one obscure, German author, Archimboldi.  And then, a second rate Mexican professor who serves as their guide as they try to track down a rumor that Archimboldi had been in Santa Teresa, Mexico.
  • A chronicle of the discovery of the many, many murdered bodies of women left in the desert, on the side of highways, and in the garbage dumps of slums in Santa Teresa.  Most of the murders seem to be the work of a serial killer.  A strange German man is arrested for the murders, but they crimes continue while he’s in jail.
  • The story of Archimboldi from childhood, through his experience as a German soldier in WWII, and then into middle and old age as he writes a slew of novels.
  • (Technically, there are 5 parts.  The Mexican professor is really Part II and then there’s a whole long bit about a journalist who goes to Santa Teresa who gets into the murder story and that’s Part II.)

I did get interested in each of the bits of the story, but there was SO much extra detail about tangential characters that really brought nothing to the story.  Or if it brought something, I’ve got no idea what it was.  In the first part, for example, we get a huge spin-off of story about the Mexican professor’s wife, who had left him.  We learn an insane amount about her and what she does after she leaves her husband.  It could potentially have been interesting, but it ultimately is cut off before anything is resolved and then we’re on to the next random long, uber detailed drawn out story line.

More than anything, I almost feel mad at this book.  It was very slow going and took me so long to read and bloody hell, I’m not even sure that I know what it was about.  Bitter.  And worst of all, it was highly reviewed by proper book critics.  I’m not the most critical or insightful person when it comes to my reading, and mostly I just like a good yarn, but this makes me feel like whadda maroon.

In the last 20 pages – and I do not kid here… this book has 893 pages and it’s only in the very last 20 pages – the 3 stories start to come together.  There’s no conclusion or resolution, mind you.  But at least the connection among the 3 parts has been revealed.

And that’s it.  I can’t muster up anything clever to say about this, so will just leave at this.  Boo.  Hiss.

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I don’t really read non-fiction; I’m a novel junkie.  So I knew about Eat Pray Love when that came out, but I never really felt tempted to read it.  It also had this vague self-help aura about it, moving it even further down my lists of to-read.

But then our CEO heard Elizabeth Gilbert‘s TED talk and fell in love with her.  We watched the TED talk at a company meeting, and I felt rather compelled by Elizabeth Gilbert myself and decided to give Eat Pray Love a read.   I bought a used copy, in a token gesture of defiance for the non-fiction book buying.

And, just like everyone else, I loved it.

It made me want to go to Italy and eat a lot of pizza.  With double mozzarella.

And then I wanted to go to India and study meditation, even though it did sound a bit awful.

And then and then!  I wanted to go to Indonesia and visit beaches and party with expats!

It made me want to be her, I suppose.  She was so smart and witty and interesting.  And excitable and boisterous and optimistic.  But other than appreciating the neatness that just is this woman, I very much liked the tidiness of the book.  The way it was organized.  I like how it referenced back to itself in clever ways and how the themes were subtly woven throughout the story.  I liked her descriptions of people and all the wise and sage things they had to say.  I appreciated just how deeply sad and hurt she was and how well she described it.  And then I appreciated the way she pulled on her boot straps and just told herself to get better, and she did it.


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It sure is some Goth version of a bad sitcom

TwilightA friend of mine wanted to borrow my copy of Twilight.  I warned her that it was crack.  Sweet, sweet, wonderful crack.  But she went ahead and borrowed it. And then a few days later, she was drooling and shaking from the withdrawal, fiending at more door for the next one (who really cares what the exact title is?)

Months later, she got around to returning them and once that happened, those two books sort of sat on my dining room table, like glistening, sparkly vials of tantalizing crack.  I tried to ignore them for a few days, but then on accident, I picked up the first one.  And I started to read it.  The next thing I know, I had accidentally re-read all four of them.

book 2So now that I’ve done it a second time, I have to say what I should have said when I was reading these the first go round:  these books are such complete and utter trash, but addictive in the most wretched sort of way.  It’s a combination of trash and addiction that I would liken to the VC Andrews books.  Except without the sexual tensions and incest and periods and arsenic poisoning, because the Twilight books are written by a Mormon!  The raciest we get is some heavy breathing.  Scoff.

book 3So I am carrying around these 800 page tomes with me everywhere:  to work every day, to the nail salon, to Tahoe.  And teenage girls keep pointing out that I’ve got one and wanting to commiserate about how great they are.  And I’m all, mmm hmm… yeah, they’re super.  There’s a girl at work who would come in every day to see where I was, except that she was rather horrified that at the same time that I was scarfing my way through the books (for the SECOND time) that I was also hating them.  The first go round, I was so caught up in just being engaged in the story that my hate was minimal.  I was still skeptical and annoyed by the immediate profundity of the teenage love and just how much they wanted to DIE DIE DIE without each other.  But god damn!  What’s gonna happen next?  What WHAT WHATTT??!!!

book 4Another friend who read the series turned me on to this blog site: Occupation: Girl, which has a completely genius synopsis of all 4 books. I particularly love the bits about the fourth book, when Bella and Edward finally have sex. They are both virgins and it’s their honeymoon and it’s just so SO wholesome that I want to roll my eyeballs straight out of my head. There is no sex scene description, just a fade to black, dot dot dot, wink wink, oh isn’t it dreamy?! Swoon! But the next morning, Bella is bruised all over her body from being pounded on by the sparkly granite body of Edward. And what I loved in that blog, was that she points out that this would only have been the case from doing it missionary style. The sad Mormon sex (which was passionate as evidenced by a destroyed headboard) should certainly not involve any women on top.

It’s been a week since I finished reading.  And it still gets me all annoyed.  And sadly, the truth is, I have no doubt that a time will come that I will accidentally go plowing through all four books again.  <chagrin>

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