Monday, July 26, 2010

Highly Recommended Reading: "The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake" by Aimee Bender.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is about a young girl named Rose Edelstein who, at the age of eight, discovers that when eating food she can taste its maker's emotions.  Suddenly, Rose knows much more than she wants to know about her mother, the baker, the people who picked tomatoes for the pasta sauce, everyone who has a hand in the preparation of her food.

With this unusual hook, author Aimee Bender makes completely fresh and original the well-worn topic of a young girl growing-up.  The book is also the story of Rose's family, each member's strengths, weaknesses and coping strategies.  The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is an interesting novel with just the right touch of magical realism to make it unique and absorbing.  It's highly recommended reading.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

To Kindle or Not to Kindle . . .

Professor Iain Stevenson, University College London, Centre for Publishing, offers his opinion on the merits of the Kindle:
It is unsurprising that Amazon are pushing the "fact" that ebook downloads for their Kindle reading device have outsold hardback printed books on their site as they have a vested interest in selling more Kindles (Report 21 July). It is also unsurprising that they steadfastly refuse to disclose how many Kindles they have actually sold. However, purchasers of downloaded ebooks from Amazon should be in no doubt about what they are buying compared to hardbacks. If you buy a hardback from them, it is yours to keep for ever, or sell, donate or destroy as you wish. With an ebook download you are only buying a licence to read it on a specified device and Amazon can delete it remotely from your reader at any time. You cannot sell it, give it away, transfer it or (in theory at least) read it in certain parts of the world. Buyer beware, I recommend!
The Guardian.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Music We Like: "Broken Bells".

The Broken Bells self-titled debut album is full of melodic, indie rock.  Very beautiful music.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Movies We Like: "You, the Living".

A 2009 release, You The Living is very, very funny.  It is comprised of about 50 lightly linked vignettes that dramatize the absurdities of life.  I am rarely tempted to buy the DVD of a movie, but this may be the exception.  As soon as You The Living ended, I wanted to watch it again and then show it to everyone I know.  Highly recommended.       

Highly Recommended Reading: "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet" by David Mitchell.

David Mitchell is a extraordinary writer and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is a fantastic book.  The story is set in 1799.  Jacob de Zoet is a clerk working for the Dutch East India Company on the island of Dejima, an artificial island in the bay of Nagasaki, Japan.  Japan is in the Edo period, an isolationist, feudal society ruled by the shogun.  The Dutch traders are restricted to Dejima; Christianity is forbidden. 

In the small world of the Dutch traders, Jacob is an honest man encountering corruption and double-dealing as he undertakes an audit of the company's books.  The story draws in Edo society when Jacob meets and becomes infatuated with a beautiful, but scarred, Japanese midwife who has been allowed to receive some training from the Dutch physician.  After the midwife's father dies, she is sold by her step-mother to pay off family debts.  The beautiful midwife is now a prisoner to the abbot of a secretive mountain shrine where some bad stuff is going on.  Can she be rescued?

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is historical fiction at its very best; or if you think you don't care for historical fiction, then just know that it is fiction at its very best.  Often funny and told with rich language and wonderful word choice, the plot flies along with exciting twists and turns all the way to the end.  This is one of those books that completely pulls you into its bubble.  I loved it; I wish the story wasn't over.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell is highly recommended reading.     

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Reliable Author for a Beach Read? Nelson DeMille.

Nelson DeMille writes thrillers that are perfect for reading at the beach, on an airplane, or over the weekend after a long and aggravating week at work.  Check out Plum Island or The Lion's Game.  DeMille also has a new book out, The Lion.

Is this stuff great literature?  Well . . . it's great escapism.

One review of The Lion here.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Books With Buzz: "A Visit From the Goon Squad" by Jennifer Egan.

Jennifer Egan's new book, described by the Wall Street Journal as "a genre-defying work that lies somewhere between a novel and collected short stories," is another highly-touted book for summer reading.  Are you going to read it?

The Book:

A Visit from the Goon Squad

Fiction.  Interlocking stories revolving around aging punk rocker-turned-record executive Bennie Salazar and his assistant, Sasha.

The Author: 

Jennifer Egan.  Egan's previous books include Look at Me, which was a finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction in 2001.

Should you read it?  What some reviewers are saying:

"It may be the smartest book you can get your hands on this summer."  Los Angeles Times

"The book's mixed structure is a challenge but a profitable one that repeatedly places the kids hopes and fears in ironic juxtaposition with their adult selves. It's nothing so simple as the cool kids turning into dumpy adults while the dweebs win the yuppie rat race, but as you may have noticed at the last college reunion, past performance is no guarantee of future results. Again and again in these stories, characters wonder and ask one another, What happened? How did time, that punishing goon squad, creep over us and leave us with these flabby bodies, these remote spouses, these children we love but can't reach? And why, among everything we've lost -- talent, potency, hair -- do we still retain that desperate thirst for belonging?"  Washington Post.

"Egan is a classically good storyteller. Any of these stories could stand alone, and the reader wouldn't feel confused or deprived, thanks to her ability to bring her characters to life with just a few deft strokes, dropping them into harrowing circumstances that are clear turning points. Yet the chapters contain common themes that work like musical bridges, and the whole is greater than its parts."  San Francisco Chronicle

Am I going to read it?

Absolutely.  It's already in my stack of books.

Monday, July 5, 2010

"Junkyard Dogs" by Craig Johnson; "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet" by David Mitchell.

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Today we are experiencing weather only a mosquito can love:  Cloudy, rainy, humid, and hot.  Still, this makes it a perfect afternoon for reading.

Today I'm going to finish Junkyard Dogs, a fun mystery by Craig Johnson from his enjoyable Walt Longmire series. If you are looking to begin reading a new and entertaining police procedural series, start reading Craig Johnson.  He has now published six books featuring Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire.

After finishing Junkyard Dogs it is on to The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell.  Mitchell wrote Black Swan Green, which I highly recommend.  Now, I am looking forward to his new work.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Books with Buzz: "The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake" by Aimee Bender.

Aimee Bender's new novel is one of the most promoted books around this summer. Are you going to read it?

The Book:        
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel
Magical realism. When a girl eats food, she tastes the emotions of cook. 

The Author:
Aimee Bender.  Check out her web site here; it's a creative page.

Bender's other works include:
The Girl in the Flammable Skirt: Stories
Willful Creatures
An Invisible Sign of My Own: A Novel

Should you read it?  What some reviewers are saying:
"'The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake' features a family in which three people are seriously depressed and one is traumatized by their depression. And yet there's an almost trendy tone, a lightness of being, a blinding glare . . . It's this century's version of noir, or maybe it's the opposite of noir. Void of sentiment and high drama, bleached clean of mystery and even metaphor, it's about daily life that is increasingly impossible to navigate yet moving always forward."   Los Angeles Times.
"High-hearted and soulful"; a "virtuoso performance" from author Aimee Bender.  NPR
"Magic realism is kind of like cilantro; plenty of people love the Latin flavor. But for some, even a hint of it is like eating soap. My mom, for instance, picked up “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake” – and put it right back down."  Christian Science Monitor.  
Am I going to read it?

Sounds intriguing.  I think I will check out this novel.