Sunday, May 30, 2010

Librarians Do Lady Gaga

This is not an adult book review, but it's definitely worth a post.

Thanks to Boing Boing (and a FB friend's post) for introducing me to this video of "students and faculty from the University of Washington's Information School perform[ing] a Lady Gaga remix."

Friday, May 28, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

It's my first Book Blogger Hop for my new blog. Hosted by Crazy-for-Books, I've participated before with Afterthoughts... (my children's book review blog) but this is Afterthoughts for Adults' inaugural hop. Thanks to all those stopping by!

Hello, in particular, to everyone who was just at BEA! This is my BEA post on Afterthoughts...

Here are some great new blogs I discovered today:

Book Review: On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl's Guide to Personal Finance by Manisha Thakor & Sharon Kedar

This post was originally published here in May 2008. It has been edited from its original version.
by Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar  
9781598691245, Adams Media Corporation, $12.95

On My Own Two Feet is knock-your-socks, stockings, or stiletto high heels -off enjoyable! This book is amazing for what it accomplishes without making you feel like a complete moron for not knowing it in the first place, and building you up so you believe you can actually be financially savvy. I realize I may be one of the only people in the world who thinks learning about financial planning is fun, but this book makes everything having to do with money so easy to understand, it's actually not scary! That's probably one of the best ways to recommend this book. Everything is dealt with so matter-of-factly, there's no chance to be scared. Things you sort of knew about, things you sort of heard about, and things that haven't yet crossed your mind are all addressed in a comprehensive, yet not overloading, fashion. The first part of the book is all the basic stuff - budget, what you should be saving for, and how to go about doing that. The second part of the books delves a little deeper into things like investments. A very good introduction for any woman 18-118.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Book Review: Serena by Ron Rash

This was a post I intended to publish over a year ago. Now in paperback, I'm finally going to post my review of Ron Rash's Serena.

Hardcover: 9780061470851, HarperCollins, $24.95
Paperback: 9780061470844, HarperCollins, $14.99

Serena blew my mind a bit.

You wouldn't think upon first picking up a book about a timber empire in North Carolina during the years leading up to the Great Depression that it would be a gripping read for anyone other than a history buff. Yet the cast of characters and the stark reality of Ron Rash's writing creates a compelling and bone-chilling story.

The absolute lack of morality and concern for anyone other than herself makes Serena a heinous individual. You want to hate her, but her intelligence and self-possession make her fascinating. In a harsh land, building a harsh timber empire, Serena is a beautiful, feminine, immovable steel rod who has a blow as heavy as one of the trees felled by her timber crews. Recently married to owner George Pemberton, Serena is as obsessed with power and the unplumbed Brazilian forests, as George is with her. Together they form an nearly unstoppable team of knowledge, money, and Serena's ruthlessness. If someone stands in their way, they will be taken down - whether by a swift knife across the throat, a hunting "accident", or Serena's right-hand man who always gets his prey.

An unnerving subplot involves George Pemberton's illegitimate child, mothered by a local mountain girl, conceived prior to George's marriage to Serena, but birthed afterward. Distracted by her ambitions in other directions, Serena does not focus on the mother and child until later in the book. Then, for reasons of her own, Serena turns her obsession toward them - and it is time for them to die.

Much like the trees now clogging the riverways, Serena will cut down everything in her path: Teddy Roosevelt's plan for a national forest, a local sheriff who is the only man with backbone enough to stand up to her, and the mother and child who retain a claim on the man and the empire that must be solely hers. Serena doesn't share; she takes, eliminates, and possesses.

A frighteningly compelling read, you won't want to put it down until you find out how, why, and who is the next to die.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Book Review: Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
9780385342308, $23, Delacorte Press (Random House)
Paperback: 9780385343497, $15, Bantam (Random House)

Intriguing cover. Interesting premise. Snotty British accents. Child narrator interested in chemistry and the properties of poison. Murder over stamp collecting.

It all sounds like it would lead to a rompy, well-written, literary, murder mystery of a novel doesn't it? And it almost does, with the slight exception that (to me, my own opinion here) it's just pretentious and aware of itself enough that I kept getting pulled out of the story, had to put the book down, go away for a while, and in the end it took me about 2 months to finish! But, for all of those readers out there who enjoy a book about the English countryside, and all manner of things relating to people in the English countryside - nosy neighbors, privileged family with land but no money, boarding school chums, custard pie - this is the perfect read.

Flavia De Luce could easily be the criminal mastermind of post-World War II Britain, despite being only 11 year's old. She's fascinated by all things chemistry, but especially the chemical properties of poisons. When a red-headed midnight visitor to her father is discovered dead in the cucumber patch below her bedroom window, Falvia sets out to solve the mystery of the stranger's death - partially to prove her father's innocence (he's been charged with the murder), and partially because she's fixated on the mysterious death and wants to unearth the chemical properties that might have caused it. Despite of (or with the help of?) the Inspector in charge of the investigation, Flavia manages to make her way around the English countryside with the help of her trusty bicycle Gladys. Searching people's rooms, breaking into the library archives, investigating her father's old boarding school, no place is off-limits to the insatiable curiousity of Flavia. And wouldn't you know it - by the end, murder solved.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Book Review: Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey

Naamah's Kiss 
by Jacqueline Carey 
Hardcover: 9780446198035, $26.99, Grand Central Publishing (Hachette)
Paperback: 9780446198042, $7.99, Grand Central Publishing (Hachette)

Naamah's Kiss is the first book in the third trilogy in the fantasy world created by Jacqueline Carey. The first trilogy followed the as yet unsurpassed story involving Phedre and Joscelin, Terre d'Ange, Kushiel's blessing/curse, and the fate of the world. The books in the first trilogy are Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's Chosen, and Kushiel's Avatar. The second trilogy followed Phedre and Joscelin as their lives intertwined with the fate of the nation and the fate of Imriel de la Courcel, son of D'Angeline royalty and the nation's most famous traitor. This series is comprised of Kushiel's Scion, Kushiel's Justice, and Kushiel's Mercy. The third trilogy follows the story of Moirin, a descendant of Alban/D'Angeline royal lines. Only the first two books of this trilogy are out: Naamah's Kiss and Naamah's Curse.

Naamah's Kiss is a softer read than the previous trilogies. I'm sorry, but nothing has come close to touching the political intrigue with fascinating historical and religious references and wrestlings combined with the compelling (and at times heartwrenching) love story. Not to mention, let's be honest, Jacqueline Carey knows how to write a smokin' sex scene. In Naamah's Kiss, we lose a lot of (my personal favorite) the interesting bits - the politics, the way Carey alludes to our own knowledge of world history and religions morphed into the world she has created, and the sacrifices made in the name of honor, duty, and most importantly, love. There is a certain passion missing in Naamah's Kiss, despite the very evident passionate love scenes. Or maybe it's not missing, entirely, maybe it's just quieter, and as I'm used to this bold, reckless style, it's hard to switch gears and properly appreciate the quiet dedication of a softer personality, a softer love.
Whatever the reason, I was a bit disappointed at what I saw as the lack of additional interesting story elements to pad out a so-so twisting plot. The part of the book that held my attention the most was actually the beginning, when we learn of Moirin - the main character - and her childhood spent with her mother, living in a cave, learning the wild ways of the Maghuin Dhonn, the oldest tribe in Alba. Descended of Alban/D'Angeline royalty, half Maghuin Dhonn, half D'Angeline by birth, Moirin's secluded upbringing has allowed her to grow independent, wise, free-thinking, yet naive in the ways of the rest of the world. This naivete, while originally charming, quickly irritated me when she failed to have a backbone at certain points in the story. I'm sure it's not often that a reader asks for more plot complications, but there were a few elements in the story that seemed far too pat for me to believe; knowing Carey's writing as I do, she is capable of more.

The second half of the novel, when Moirin (who left Alba for Terre d'Ange,
at which point the plot and her personality had the consistency of a wet blanket) leaves Terre d'Ange for Ch'in, is where I was expecting to find that fascinating filler of information on this new culture, but was left a little disappointed. The high point of the second half of the novel was not actually the love story between Moirin and Bao - which, btw, I called the moment his character was introduced, and I'm not saying that in a complimentary way - but instead was the 3-way relationship between the Princess, the dragon imprisoned within her, and Moirin - the only person to whom the dragon would listen. Carey does write a good adventure story from this point on, but the tentative, lukewarm, barely blossoming feelings between Moirin and Bao paled in comparison to the begrudging respect, agonizing courtship, and eventual passionate love between Phedre and Joscelin (who you can't help but compare them to).

This book did end well, and I look forward to reading more about Moirin's trek into the land of the Tartars, following the other half of her heart and soul. Perhaps she'll find a little more plot, my favorite - cultural, religious, and historical elements, and some backbone there.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Book Review: Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey

by Jacqueline Carey 
9780446198172, $13.99, Grand Central Publishing (Hachette)

I have been a Jacqueline Carey addict since high school. That is when my sister and I first discovered the Kushiel series. I honestly don't remember who discovered it first. I think it was me, but I'm never quite sure, and anyway, we were pretty much trading those books back and forth from the moment either of us found them. The Kushiel series is comprised of 9 books - three trilogies combined to make a series.
Santa Olivia is not of that series. Santa Olivia is a different beast entirely, but one that has proven just as effective by sinking its claws into me. Carey has this incredible ability to create new worlds out of something that seems so familiar. For instance, this story takes place in an isolated town in the no-man's-land border between the United States and Mexico - perfectly plausible, given the state of the world today. Not a part of either country, the U.S. military runs the town that surrounds the military base. The people of Santa Olivia (the town) have been forgotten by the world, and it is into this controlled, neglected, forgotten wasteland that Loup Garron is born.

The daughter of a human woman and a genetically-modified "Wolf Man" (a project of the U.S. military - genetically modify humans to make them faster, stronger, fearless, fighters), Loup has been taught by her mother and brother to hide who she is so the military doesn't take her away. Her father was forced to leave for his own safety, before Loup is born, so upon her mother's death, Loup goes to live with the other orphans at the town church. The orphans know her secret and help her to conceal it, while simultaneously working together to right some of the wrongs in the town. Hence, the living legend of Santa Olivia - already the patron saint of the town - is born. When Loup's brother is killed in a boxing match set-up by the commander of the military base, Loup vows to fight and win, even knowing this would mean exposing herself, thus leading to her capture and possible death.

A beautiful side-story is Loup's relationship with her fellow orphans. As a half Wolf-Man, Loup always feels a little different; though they love her, her fellow orphans recognize that difference, especially when they start growing up and pairing off. Loup tries kissing, tries dating, even tries sex, but it is a surprise to them all, with whom Loup actually ends up being. Wolves mate for life, and the love between these two is no exception. But what will become of it, with Loup's fight looming closer and closer? What, and who, will Loup choose? Avenge her brother? Stay with her lover? Be herself? How can she possibly win everything she's fighting for?

I'm not going to give away the ending, but I will say, it in no way disappoints.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Book Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soullessby Gail Carriger
9780316056632, $7.99, Orbit (Hachette)
The subtitle says it all, really: A Novel of Vampires, Werewolves, and Parasols. I thought, No, not really, this can't possibly be as witty and engaging as I want it to be. But then I began reading, and to my great surprise and eternal delight, it was!
Alexia Tarabotti is a spinster and a lady, drinking tea and chaperoning balls in London during the time of Queen Victoria's reign. She also happens to be a preternatural, or soulless being, one of the very few lucky individuals who can take away the power of a supernatural being (such as a vampire or werewolf) simply by her touch. When she accidentally kills a vampire (well, he was trying to drink her blood at the time), she is forced to contend with Lord Maccon, the werewolf leader of both the local pack and the local national office of supernatural investigations. Alexia and Lord Maccon find each other argumentative, frustrating, irritating, and secretly appealing as they are forced to work together to uncover who has been making rove werewolves and vampires disappear. Fans of Jane Austen-ish writing and fantasy forces will love this wicked, and wickedly funny, romp through London, supernatural-style.

Book Two: Changeless9780316074148, $7.99, Orbit (Hachette)

Book Three:
9780316074155, $7.99, Orbit (Hachette), Pub. Date: September 2010

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Book Review: Darling Jim by Christian Moerk

Darling Jim
by Christian Moerk
Hardcover: 9780805089479, $25, Henry Holt (Macmillan)
Paperback: 9780805092080, $15, Henry Holt (Macmillan)

I read the first 100 pages of this novel holding my breath and barely blinking. Here is what I discovered: 1) I should never begin a new book at work because then I will read it even when I'm not supposed to and not get any work done, and 2) Christian Moerk is a new voice to be reckoned with. Boy, oh boy, did I get the creeps! Spine tingling, goosebumps, morbid fascination with whatever twisted secret will be revealed next - the whole nine yards.

In a sleepy little village in Ireland, a postman discovers the bodies of three dead women. Two were discovered right away - a bloody fight to the death that resulted in them both leaving this world. The third woman was discovered later, hidden behind a wall. Death and murder, by their very nature is a pretty creepy business, but there's already a twist. All three women were related: the two young girls are the nieces of the older woman, and it looks like the older woman held them captive, slowly starving and poisoning them to death. Even later it is discovered that another person was also held captive in the house, but apparently managed to escape. No one knows why this gruesome episode took place.

No one, that is, until a different postman discovers a package in the post office, sent by one of the dead girls! He steals the package and opens it to find a diary, kept while the girl was held prisoner in her aunt's house. As he reads her diary, she begins to tell him a tale of sisterly love and devotion, an aunt's unstable mind, and a traveling bard named Jim who ensnares women far and wide.

His life already out of control (fired from his job, evicted from his apartment), the postman sets off on a quest to the village the girls are from, to find out what led them all to their pitiful end. The diary haunts him, her story haunts him - so honest, so lacking in self-pity or remorse. And what of the third person held in that house? Who was it and where are they now?

Almost a Sidney Sheldon-like psychological creepiness, you won't be jumping at bumps in the night, but you'll definitely feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. The plot development is absolutely wonderful, the prose is crisp and clear, and the characters are ones that will stay with you long after the book has ended. Everything about this book was a sinister pleasure.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows & Mary Anne Shaffer

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Annie Barrows & Mary Anne Shaffer
Hardcover: 9780385340991, Dial (Random House), $22
Paperback: 9780385341004, Dial (Random House), $14 

This post was originally published here in August 2008. It has been edited from its original version.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Doesn't that make you want to take a big bite out of the book itself? What is this society? What's Potato Peel Pie? Who is in it, how did it get started - so many questions come to mind when you read such a deliciously convoluted title.

The book is an epistolary novel (thank you to Emily Crowe for supplying me with that word), which means it is told entirely in the form of letters. I love this form of novel; it feels so much more intimate. You're not just getting this tale, you're reading the thoughts and feelings behind the actions. People feel so much freer and more able to put down on paper (in the form of letters) what they can't, or won't, verbally describe. If all the letters don't actually describe the scenario, then they serve to tantalize you with glimpses of the plot and tease you into reading more.

The letters are all to, from, or about Ms. Juliet Ashton, the central character in this novel. She is a writer by trade, so her letters are wonderfully descriptive, yet always leave you wanting to read more. She receives a letter from a man on the island of Guernsey. He had purchased a book written by Charles Lamb, which had been previously owned by Ms. Ashton. He writes to say he enjoyed this first taste of Charles Lamb and wonders if she would be able to help him in procuring more works of similar literary quality and merit. 

Ms. Ashton beings writing with Mr. Dawsey Adams (the man who wrote her), and is thus introduced to the society he is apart of - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The current year being 1946, people are still recovering and rebuilding their lives from the devastation of World War II. This society was begun during the German occupation of the Channel Islands, of which Guernsey is a part. Soon Juliet is corresponding with many of the members of this society, slowly uncovering the stories of German wartime occupation - the love, loss, friendship, and courage that occurred on this isolated island during the war - and getting a first-hand look at what that means in her own life.

No part of this book disappoints. I wanted to rush through it to see how and what happens, but I wanted it to never end. Also, it's a very sweet and sad story about how the book came to be. Mary Ann Shaffer was writing this novel when she unexpectedly passed away. Her niece, Annie Barrows, a famous children's author (she wrote the Ivy & Bean books), finished the novel for her. It became a success, because how could it not, but is so bittersweet due to the loss of its original author. 

Fans of The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, and/or Letters from an Age of Reason by Nora Hague will love this book as well. This is the perfect summer read.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Book Review: Stay by Nicola Griffith

Spoiler alert - if you haven't read the first Aud Torvigen book - The Blue Place, my review is here - don't read this review. I ruin the ending of The Blue Place for you.

Stay by Nicola Griffith

Paperback: 9781400032303, $12.95, Vintage Books (Knopf, Random House)

Stay was not quite the same masterpiece as the first book in this series - in my exulted opinion. While Aud is still an intriguing character, I was not turning the pages as fast as I did in the first Aud Torvigen novel (and not just because of my work load). Her all-consuming grief over Julia's death is understandable and well-written, but does not make for a captivating read. If you're looking for the sexy, kick-ass Aud of The Blue Place, you won't find her here. Clearly Aud is multidimensional, but having that confident, attractive, self-knowing character was one of the major appeals for me; Julia's death has ripped Aud apart and she doesn't know how to put herself back together. She attempts to do so throughout the novel, with varying degrees of success.

A secondary character in the first novel- Dornan, one of Aud's good friends - comes to her for help. His often-wayward fiance has gone missing and he wants Aud to find her. Aud reluctantly takes the case, but when she finds Tammy, it's really just the beginning. Tammy was essentially kidnapped by a sociopath who not only kidnaps people, degrades them to the extent that they have no self-confidence left, and video tapes their sexual escapades as part of blackmailing them, he also has a 9-year-old girl being raised to be his perfect future wife (think brainwashing, illegal Mexican immigrant, Bible-belt foster parents, the whole nine yards).

The plot has almost a Bourne-series feel to it (the book series about Jason Bourne, made into a blockbuster movie trilogy staring Matt Damon), and the convoluted plot almost begs for some fast-paced action, which we sadly do not get at quite the pace it asks for. The story itself takes place over the course of a few weeks, but Aud's inner monologue makes it feel as if the plot is going on for much longer.

What Griffith does well in Stay is enhancing Aud's newly-formed deliberations over how situations are not always black and white, right and wrong. Griffith also gives us more enticing details of Aud's wood fascination - Aud rebuilding a cabin in the woods is almost as much of a sexual exercise as it is therapy. (Or maybe that's just me - I find brains and capability sexy in a woman, and Aud's knowledge of wood types, hand tools, and how to build a cabin in the woods really does it for me. Especially since she adds things like plumbing and a claw-foot tub.)

While I was pleased with the way the plot-line was resolved, I'm definitely looking forward to reading the third (and so far, last one published) book in this series. I'm hoping the sexy, kick-ass Aud Torvigen I fell in love with in the first book will be back in full style. As soon as I've finished Always, I'll let you know. For an excerpt of Always, click here. For an excerpt from Stay, click here.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Book Review: The Blue Place by Nicola Griffith

The Blue Place by Nicola Griffith
Paperback: 9780380790883, Harper, $13.99

This post was originally published here in February 2009. It has been edited from its original version.

Though published over 10 years ago, this is one of those "new to me" books that I have to tell everyone about. Especially considering how hot Scandinavian thrillers are at the moment, Nicola Griffith's Aud Torvigen is not a character to miss.

When I call this book a "thriller," I don't mean it in the Steven King, make you pee your pants with fright in the middle of the night, sort of way. It's an adventure thriller: a symphony where you have a beautiful melody and harmony and you're floating along on trills of music until all of a sudden it crescendos and the cymbals crash and the drums boom and you've got yourself a little rock 'n roll thrown in there.

Aud Torvigen is hot, sexy, and in control. A 6-foot, ice blonde Norwegian-American, Aud grew up in Norway, and now makes her home in Atlanta, GA. After leaving the elite "Red Dogs" special police force at the age of 29, Aud now works for herself, taking on jobs that pique her interest, since she no longer needs them to pay the bills.

After running, literally, into a strange woman on a dark road in the middle of the night, only to have a house blow up a block away a few minutes after that, Aud gets tangled in a mess of a private investigation involving a highly-placed politican, international money laundering, art forgeries, and one Julia Lyons-Bennet, who is at once more than and also exactly what she seems. When the investigation turns deadly, Aud and Julia escape to Norway where an unexpected betrayal will bring their trip to an abrupt end. Though Aud solves the investigation, Julia has helped her learn it's no longer about that thrill you only get when you're in the Blue Place. Though the end is very sad, it will make you glad there are 2 other books out there about Aud for you to read.

Called a "new wave crime-writer" and an author of "literary noir," Nicola Griffith's writing is a sensory delight. Like Aud herself, Griffith's words are precise and exacting, yet slow and senuous enough to have all of your senses enjoying the experience. You can feel the moist humidity of Atlanta and the icy breath of Norwegian fjords, the bump of rock 'n roll and the glide of skin against skin. Her writing has won her the Tiptree Award, the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and six Lambda Literary Awards. It is easy to understand why. Pick up The Blue Place - for an excerpt, click here. You won't be able to put Nicola Griffith or Aud Torvigen down.

When you look for more Aud reading, check out Stay (excerpt) (9781400032303, $12.95) and Always (excerpt) (9781594482946, $15).
When you look for more Nicola Griffith, check out her website and/or her blog.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Book Review: Nice to Come Home To by Rebecca Flowers

Nice to Come Home To
9781594483561, Riverhead Books (Penguin Putnam), $15

This post was originally published here in May 2008. It has been edited from the original version.
Keeping up with all the great new children's books out there hasn't left me much spare time to sit down with something more appropriate for my own age and reading level. I admit it was the cover of this book that made me pick it up, and when I actually read it (4 weeks later) I was glad I did.

As the title may give away, this is a novel about finding love (that someone it's "nice to come home to"), but it's also a novel about finding yourself. What I liked best about this book, and I mean this in a complimentary way, is that the novel doesn't take itself too seriously while exploring that vein. I admit to being a deep thinker; I tend to apply everything - books, movies, music - to feelings and situations in my own life (often way overdoing it!), and it was really nice to read something that spoke to me without taking me too deep.

The main plot involves Prudence Whistler - Pru for short. She's in her mid-to-late 30s, has just lost her job, and is about to lose her boyfriend. Unexpectedly, she sees herself reflected in a stranger - a woman full of children, husband, and her place in life as mother/caregiver - and Pru is catapulted into uncertainty about where her own life is taking her without any of those things. Prudence Whistler is a woman of lists and plans. The plot unfolds as Pru struggles to find what it is she is really meant to be doing, really wants to do, and how any sort of romantic entanglement fits into all of that.

A sub-plot involving her younger sister, Patsy's, romantic life only serves to underscore the things Pru is finding out about life, love, and herself. The subplot was well-done, adding some familial substance to the character of Pru, forwarding the plot just enough, without overwhelming Pru herself.

Even though I began this post by saying I'm glad things didn't get too hot and heavy into a discussion of topics such as life philosophy and the feminist female psyche (or as I put it earlier, "deep"), I admit to being a bit disappointed by how things worked out so well for everyone in the end. I won't write a spoiler, but I will say everything ends up as it should. Though on the surface Pru suffers - lost job, boyfriend, spoiled second romance, struggling career options - I really didn't feel Prudence taking enough charge of her own life. She went with the flow a bit too much for me, the universe threw a few too many good coincidences her way, and when she finally did stick up for her emotional well-being, the moment quickly became anti-climatic (which may have been the point, but really only served to take the wind out of my reading sails). As a list maker and planner myself, I didn't see enough determination, enough drive, enough (yes, I'll admit to it) ambition from her regarding her own life. Things sort of happened, she dealt with them, accepted them or didn't accept them, but there was something lackluster in her character, some missing spark or spirit that kept me from getting 100% behind her and fully celebrating for her at the end. Real life just isn't that pat of a story.

What held the book for me was the solid writing. I consistently went back for more. Rebecca Flowers has a way of putting together a sentence that gets to the heart of the matter and makes you want to know what's coming next (even if it the event itself is slightly predictable). Overall, a good, light read, well-written and meaningful, without the headache of too many unanswerable life questions. A great summer beach read.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Book Review: Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love by Lara Vapnyar

Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love 
by Lara Vapnyar
9780307279880, Knopf (Random House), $14

This post was originally published here in July 2008. It has been edited from its original version.

I picked up this book expecting it to be good, and was thrilled when I wasn't disappointed. Do you ever have those hunches? When you look at a book, totally judging it by its cover, and think, yeah, I bet I'm really going to enjoy reading that. This was one of those books for me. 

Let me also tell you that I'm a rather recent, but passionate, short story/essay lover. Who knew? Seriously, this is an adult-life discovery. I think we should start encouraging more children/teens/young adults to read short stories. Though I wasn't this way as a child, so many children get overwhelmed by the size of a large book, tiny words, pages and pages of text. If they knew they only had to sit down and read one short story, they may sit and read two in one sitting. Maybe soon they would be reading a whole book, just for that sense of accomplishment that comes when you've turned the final page.

Lara Vapnyar writes about food as if it's there on the page in front of you for you to taste. She writes about love the same way. The fact that she is able to combine the mostly inner monologue of people's musings on life and love, while making your stomach growl for the hot borscht with sour cream someone in the story has just made, is a brilliant way of inviting other senses to partake in this primarily visual experience. 

Her stories reflect the food in them: if the food is unsatisfying in the tale, you may be left with a longing sensation for a little more of the tale to come along. If the food has been completely filling and satisfying, the story wraps up with a warm, contented closure. At the end, just as with a fabulous meal, I was sad it was over, and simultaneously relieved the self control was taken out of my hands or else I would have gorged myself a little too much.

If you like her writing, or short stories/essays in general, you should also check out her other works:

There Are Jews in My Houseby Lara Vapnyar
9781400033898, Knopf (Random House), $12

Memoirs of a Muse by Lara Vapnyar
9781400077007, Vintage (Random House), $13.95

Adult Books Only

For all of you coming here from Afterthoughts..., this is the blog where I discuss the adult books I've been reading. I decided Afterthoughts... needed to be kept strictly children's books, but then what to do with all those adult books I read and want to blog about? Thus, an older versions of Afterthoughts... was born, known as Afterthoughts of a Demented Mind.

I read a little bit of everything and go through phases when I read a lot of one thing. I embrace it all, from the smut to the lit awards, with a little non-fiction thrown in for fun. I promise not to judge your reading habits if you promise not to judge mine.