Saturday, May 30, 2009


Babbit, by Sinclair Lewis
The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton
The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides
Ballet Shoes, by Noel Streatfield
Raise High The Roof Beam Carpenters, by J.D. Salinger
Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?, by Raymond Carver
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
Bright Lights, Big City, by Jay McInerney
Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
Nine Stories, by J.D. Salinger
Last Night at the Lobster, by Stewart O’Nan
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, by Eric Hodgins
My Antonia, by Willa Cather
An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
American Psycho, by Brett Easton Ellis
Main Street, by Sinclair Lewis
Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe
Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
Mariette in Ecstasy, by Ron Hansen

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wire Jewelery Workshop, by Susan Ray

Nice basic book about wirework. Nothing incredibly new, but nice detailed photos and clear instructions- this would be great for a beginner.

Treasure Hunt: Inside the Mind of the New Consumer, by Michael Silverstein

This was an interesting look at how businesses are dealing with the demise of the classic middle market in shopping (department stores like Caldor or Woolworths etc) and the rise of either 'trading up' or 'trading down' consumer behaviour.

My Life in Pink and Green, by Lisa Greenwald

Well, this was odd. YA obvs, and skewed very young, but I don't think I liked it. Lucy is worried that her mom's pharmacy is going out of business, and somehow decides that what they need is a local green grant to create an eco-friendly spa. I don't know why it bothered me so much, but I guess I wish that Lucy hadn't been so obsessed with being nice and with the makeup and all.

Flipping Out, by Marshall Karp

Surprisingly violent but still somehow light mystery, but the mix of the kind of cosy premise and the tough guy LA thing felt off to me.

The Cold Light of Mourning, by Elizabeth Duncan

Enjoyable cosy mystery, set in North Wales. Good characters, great setting, a bit of a stretch at the end, but overall very nice.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

One Night at the Call Centre, by Chetan Bhagat

Funny, sad, and interesting book set in a Delhi call center on Thanksgiving. As increasingly anxious, desperate, and rude Americans call the appliance support line, 6 workers open up to each other. Shyam and Vroom realize their boss is taking advantage of them, beautiful Esha thinks about whether she can really make it as a model, Radhika sees her traditional marriage and in-laws in a new light, and Priyanka, Shyam's ex-girlfriend, shocks everyone by telling them that she's accepted the offer of an arranged marriage to a Microsoft programmer living in Seattle.
Interesting book, with a surprising veer into magical realism. I'm very glad I read it.

The Frozen Thames, by Helen Humphreys

Strange and lovely little book. 40 very short vignettes, each set about one of the times the Thames was known to have frozen over- each vaguely, tenuously linked to each other, but each very much a meditative quiet little glimpse into the London of that day. Made me very curious about late medieval bridge construction, which isn't something you get to think about every day.
Apparently after 1831, when Old London Bridge (built 1209), was destroyed, the dredging and shape of the new construction changed the flow of the river enough that it is unlikely to freeze over again (unless that whole Gulf Stream thing thing happens.)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Personal Days, by Ed Park

Well, this was the second third-person plural office life narrative I've read recently, and this was no Then We Came To The End, which wildly observant readers of this blog will remember I chose as the best Adult Fiction I read in 2008.
But, to be fair, if it weren't for Then We Came To The End, I might have loved this a whole lot more. As it was, with a hell of a baseline for comparison, I loved it a lot.
The first section was, by far, the best. It kind of went downhill from there.
Funny, wry, set in a landscape surrounded by Starbucks and haunted by the staplers left behind those who wer taken in the Firings, it was a great read and one that felt very real- if awfully familiar.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Genesis, by Bernard Beckett

An absolutely intense short novel that has left me reeling. I feel like I did when I was fifteen and read No Exit or The Stranger- like I just read ideas, interestingly presented, that will linger and forever tinge the way I think about things. That sounds so overly dramatic (and fifteen!) but really, that was a hell of a little book.
Set in 2075, history student Anax must pass her Examination to perhaps join the Academy, and the novel is basically a transcript of her oral exam. It was so powerful that I don't want to say much more, other than to encourage everyone to read this- it was gripping, thought-provoking, and so well done.
There are so many books that I have read set in dystopian near-futures (and so many others out there every day- we're all scared as hell, aren't we?) that when I started it, I didn't expect, well, this. It was so much more than I could have imagined.
Individuals vs. community, artificial intelligence and rights, natural selection and evolution- all in a heady mix of words, so well written that the whole dizzying experience clocked in at a mere 160 pages.
Echoes of 2001, for sure, and of a movie called Hardware that only I have ever loved, but it was fresh and astonishing.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Year in Provence

Oh this was lovely and only added to my longing for old french farmhouse-type life, what with the bicycles and baguettes and wine and truffles and old stone walls with white plasterwork and bright blue shutters...

High School Musical 3

So catchy!

Switched , by Jessica Wollman

Pretty terrible YA re-do of the Prince and the Pauper.

Fed Up, by Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant

Ok mystery. I actually guessed the villain very early in this one, which is either a bad sign for the mystery or proof that reading 8 million mysteries gets you better at guessing the baddie. Foxglove again though? I swear, I'm going to need a tag for all the mysteries where the murder is done by digitalis.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Carbon Diaries 2015, by Saci Lloyd

Fantastic YA. Near-future (2015) UK decides to begin rationing carbon, after the Great Storm, in an effort to lead the world in reducing emissions. 16 year old Laura Brown wants to help but at the same time, giving up things like long showers and cell-phone minutes are painful. Her friends become increasingly radicalised, while her family falls apart. This was really so well done- the mulitcultural Britain and the increased government powers seemed very possible if not here already. The riots and the use of military force against civilians... this was really good.

Still Alice, by Lisa Genova

Absolutely devastating book about early onset Alzheimers. Alice Howland is a professor of Linguistics at Harvard and when memory problems begin intruding on her life, she assumes tha menopause is causing disorientation, forgetfulness, and so on. This was stunning, and heartbreaking, and terrifying.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank: And Other Words of Delicate Southern Wisdom, by Celia Riverbank

Funny collection of newspaper columns. Don't know what else there is really to say about this. I'm surprised I liked it (hell, I'm surprised I picked it up) because I am usually not taken by "Southern" anything, but this chick really was funny and I agree- stop dressing your six year old like a skank.

Princess Mia, by Meg Cabot

I feel like Veronica Sawyer's dad in Heathers.
Will someone tell me why I read these stupid Meg Cabot books?
Because you're an idiot,
Oh, yeah, that's right,
No, seriously, it's like having an involuntary lobotomy to read this nonsense, and I LOATHE Meg Cabot and her entire oeuvre, and I don't know why I read this crap. Well, I needed a bath book, but I had choices! I have some truly excellent ARCs, I have books, but no, this has been my bath book for like, 3 days and it was DREADFUL but I had to finish the damn thing because I'm very bad at putting down a book and leaving it for dead.
Princess Mia has another whole book of bitching about what a hassle it is to be a princess.

The Curious Garden, by Peter Brown

Very, very interesting children's picture book. I wish I remembered where I saw the review for this that made me request it, but I don't.
Anyway, young Liam discovers an abandoned stretch of elevated train tracks that has become colonized by weeds, mosses, and seedlings, and begins to care for it as a garden. The garden and Liam become more and more curious and adventurous, and eventually kind of take over the city.
It's so interesting to read/see something that presents urban decay as a growth opportunity, but in light of what is happening in Detroit, Flint, and damnit, Providence, etc, it deserves some serious consideration. Obvs, the inspiration was New York's Highline tracks, which have been transformed into a deservedly famous urban wild garden thing, but the whole thing left me a little unsettled, in a strange way...
Ayn Rand would not approve, let me say that much. Where is John Galt?

Green Flowers: Unexpected Beauty for the Garden, Container or Vase, by Alison Hoblyn

I had hoped for a lot more emphasis on how to combine the green flowers- I thought the title hinted at pics of containers and vases full of delish green flowers, but the page-by-pages were of individual green and green-tinged flowers, with horticultural details and information on growth habits. Gorgeous pictures, and so on, but so many of the plants were outside my zone, and I really had hoped for a more florist-oriented book, so I was a bit disappointed.

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day

Once again, I found Amy Adams incredibly charming in what must have been a difficult role, and Frances McDormand was wonderful. This was surprisingly gripping, and I really wonder why it didn't get on to my radar before now- I really liked it.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Afterlife, by John Updike

This was absolutely stunningly good. God, the precision, the delicacy, the impeccable eye and ear.
Updike's writing is so subtle and undramatic that it is a shock how powerful it is- like getting knocked over by a falling maple leaf.
A Sandstone Farmhouse, was, I thought, the best story of the collection, but god, that's like choosing a favorite star. Impossible.

Science Fair, by Dave Barry

Well, I can see that a young boy might love this book.

The Other Side Of The Island, by Allegra Goodman

Interesting yet flawed YA sci-fi. Near future dystopia, and people who survived the Flood are living in weather-controlled domed areas. All must swear allegiance to Mother Earth, a fascist leader who drugs political opponents into zombie-like states, and who is misleading the populace in order to control all aspects of society. Honor, a recent refugee, and her parents already don't fit it, but life becomes much harder for her when her parents are Disappeared for being Unpredictable.
There was a lot that was good about this, but there were so many plot holes that it kind of fell apart. But what a great cover!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Spiced: A Pastry Chef's True Stories of Trials by Fire, After-Hours Exploits, and What Really Goes on in the Kitchen, by Dalia Jurgensen

This was a fun, fast-paced read, and a very satisfying look at real life in fine restaurants. I felt that Dalia Jurgensen was very lucky, as she seemed to kind of fall into her first position, but she obviously works her a** off wherever she worked, and her deserts sounded heavenly. It was funny to read about her reaction when restaurant critic Ruth Reichl came to a restaurant she worked at, having listened to her Garlic and Sapphires, and of course I was fascinated when she wrote about working for Martha Stewart.