Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Finds (31 July 2009)

Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
(via Vulpes Libris)
In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

But, slowly, Mary's truths are failing her. She's learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future - between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

Pop Salvation by Lance Reynald (via The Inside Cover)
Caleb Watson is not like the other children at his Washington, D.C., private school. Having skipped a grade — and being younger and smaller than the rest of the boys — he finds that his Southern accent and sensitive, reserved nature set him even further apart. Caleb simply does not belong.

But on a field trip to the art museum, Caleb discovers his hero — his icon — when he is exposed to the art of Andy Warhol. In the beauty of the things that don't fit, in the art and philosophy of Pop plus the glorious camp of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and its creatures of the night, Caleb will find sanctuary, transforming himself and the eccentric friends he meets along the way into his own little version of Warhol's Factory.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Read: Drift by Victoria Patterson

The shine and shimmer of Newport Beach is gutted in Victoria Patterson's Drift, a collection of connected tales of those who live in this glitzy community. There's teenaged Rosie, adrift in this lonely world and who ends up as a career waitress; homeless skateboarder John Wayne whom Rosie befriends; Anne, a lesbian psychiatrist in love with Rosie's mother B and others who find themselves barely afloat in this world. The stories in Drift are honest, telling, heartbreaking. Each story is like a wave gently lapping on the shore, which then rushes away and exposes the gunk and grit on the seabed.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Reading in Seattle

I took two library books along with me on the trip. Yeah I was being under-ambitious. On hindsight, I should've packed in the book I'm currently reading, Drift, Victoria Patterson's gorgeous short story collection set in Newport Beach. It would've been a nice accompaniment
to the two I did pack: Elizabeth Bowen's The Death of the Heart and Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine, both of which I definitely enjoyed, although not exactly typical vacation books.

Death of the Heart started out rather slowly and I ended up switching over to Dandelion Wine after a few pages. Bradbury's most autobiographical book, this is a tale of small town life, told from the perspective of 12-year-old Douglas Spaulding. It was not quite as lighthearted as I expected. Then again, this being Bradbury, should I have really? But it was charming and sweet and in parts a little sad. It was a good read. And when I was done, I picked up Death of the Heart again, reading it mostly at the airport and on the plane back. And I was quite amazed that I got so into the book that the 2-hour plane ride seemed far shorter.

Library Loot (29 July 2009)

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

I think I might have been a bit too ambitious this week...

Factory Girls: From Village to City in A Changing China by Leslie T. Chang
I sat in the library and started reading the first few pages to see if this would capture my attention and ended up reading some 50 pages!
An eye-opening and previously untold story, Factory Girls is the first look into the everyday lives of the migrant factory population in China.

China has 130 million migrant workers—the largest migration in human history. In Factory Girls, Leslie T. Chang, a former correspondent for the Wall Street Journal in Beijing, tells the story of these workers primarily through the lives of two young women, whom she follows over the course of three years as they attempt to rise from the assembly lines of Dongguan, an industrial city in China’s Pearl River Delta.

As she tracks their lives, Chang paints a never-before-seen picture of migrant life—a world where nearly everyone is under thirty; where you can lose your boyfriend and your friends with the loss of a mobile phone; where a few computer or English lessons can catapult you into a completely different social class. Chang takes us inside a sneaker factory so large that it has its own hospital, movie theater, and fire department; to posh karaoke bars that are fronts for prostitution; to makeshift English classes where students shave their heads in monklike devotion and sit day after day in front of machines watching English words flash by; and back to a farming village for the Chinese New Year, revealing the poverty and idleness of rural life that drive young girls to leave home in the first place. Throughout this riveting portrait, Chang also interweaves the story of her own family’s migrations, within China and to the West, providing historical and personal frames of reference for her investigation.

A book of global significance that provides new insight into China, Factory Girls demonstrates how the mass movement from rural villages to cities is remaking individual lives and transforming Chinese society, much as immigration to America’s shores remade our own country a century ago.

Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
Rubyfruit Jungle is the first milestone novel in the extraordinary career of one of this country's most distinctive writers. Bawdy and moving, the ultimate word-of-mouth bestseller, Rubyfruit Jungle is about growing up a lesbian in America--and living happily ever after. Born a bastard, Molly Bolt is adopted by a dirt-poor southern couple who want something better for their daughter. Molly plays doctor with the boys, beats up Leroy the tub and loses her virginity to her girlfriend in Molly decides not to apologize for that. In no time she mesmerizes the head cheerleader of Ft. Lauderdale heiress. But the world is not tolerate. Booted out of college for moral turpitude, an unrepentant, penniless Molly takes New York by storm, sending not a few female hearts aflutter with her startling beauty, crackling wit and fierce determination to become the when first published, rubyfruit Jungle has only grown in reputation as it has reached new generations of readers who respond to its feisty and inspiring heroine.
Lowboy by John Wray
Early one morning in New York City, Will Heller, a sixteen-year old paranoid schizophrenic, gets on an uptown B train alone. Like most people he knows, Will believes the world is being destroyed by climate change; unlike most people, hes convinced he can do something about it. Unknown to his doctors, unknown to the police unknown even to Violet Heller, his devoted mother Will alone holds the key to the planets salvation. To cool down the world, he has to cool down his own overheating body: to cool down his body, he has to find one willing girl. And he already has someone in mind. Lowboy, John Wrays third novel, tells the story of Wills fantastic and terrifying odyssey through the city's tunnels, back alleys, and streets in search of Emily Wallace, his one great hope, and of Violet Hellers desperate attempts to locate her son before psychosis claims him completely. She is joined by Ali Lateef, a missing-persons specialist, who gradually comes to discover that more is at stake than the recovery of a runaway teen: Violet beautiful, enigmatic, and as profoundly at odds with the world as her son harbors a secret that Lateef will discover at his own peril. Suspenseful and comic, devastating and hopeful by turns, Lowboy is a fearless exploration of youth, sex, and violence in contemporary America, seen through one boys haunting and extraordinary vision.
Normal by Amy Bloom (thanks to Eva's review!)
Amy Bloom has won a devoted readership and wide critical acclaim for fiction of rare humor, insight, grace, and eloquence, and the same qualities distinguish Normal, a provocative, intimate journey into the lives of "people who reveal, or announce, that their gender is variegated rather than monochromatic" — female-to-male transsexuals, heterosexual crossdressers, and the intersexed.

We meet Lyle Monelle and his mother, Jessie, who recognized early on that her little girl was in fact a boy and used her life savings to help Lyle make the transition. On a Carnival cruise with a group of crossdressers and their spouses, we meet Peggy Rudd and her husband, "Melanie," who devote themselves to the cause of "ordinary heterosexual men with an additional feminine dimension." And we meet Hale Hawbecker, "a regular, middle-of-the-road, white-bread guy" with a wife, kids, and a medical condition, the standard treatment for which would have changed his life and his gender.

Casting light into the dusty corners of our assumptions about sex, gender, and identity, Bloom reveals new facets to the ideas of happiness, personality and character, even as she brilliantly illuminates the very concept of "normal."

Netherland by Joseph O'Neill
In a New York City made phantasmagorical by the events of 9/11, and left alone after his English wife and son return to London, Hans van den Broek stumbles upon the vibrant New York subculture of cricket, where he revisits his lost childhood and, thanks to a friendship with a charismatic and charming Trinidadian named Chuck Ramkissoon, begins to reconnect with his life and his adopted country. As the two men share their vastly different experiences of contemporary immigrant life in America, an unforgettable portrait emerges of an other New York populated by immigrants and strivers of every race and nationality.
The Position by Meg Wolitzer
Crackling with intelligence and humor, The Position is the masterful story of one extraordinary family at the hilarious height of the sexual revolution — and through the thirty-year hangover that followed.

In 1975, Paul and Roz Mellow write a bestselling Joy of Sex-type book that mortifies their four school-aged children and ultimately changes the shape of the family forever. Thirty years later, as the now dispersed family members argue over whether to reissue the book, we follow the complicated lives of each of the grown children and their conflicts in love, work, marriage, parenting, and, of course, sex — all shadowed by the indelible specter of their highly sexualized parents. Insightful, panoramic, and compulsively readable, The Position is an American original.

A Very Long Engagement by Sebastien Japrisot
Set during and after the First World War, A Very Long Engagement tells the story of a young woman's search for her fiancé, whom she believes might still be alive despite having officially been reported as "killed in the line of duty." Unable to walk since childhood, fearless Mathilde Donnay is undeterred in her quest as she scours the country for information about five wounded French soldiers who were brutally abandoned by their own troops. A Very Long Engagement is a mystery, a love story, and an extraordinary portrait of life in France before and after the War.
See more Library Loot here

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Seattle LIbrary

I am such a library geek.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Friday Finds from Seattle

Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading

Ok so I'm not in sunny Seattle right now. We left on Wednesday night and are back in cold and foggy SSF. However, because the husband was in Seattle for meetings, I spent Tuesday and Wednesday wandering around this lovely city myself. Of course my first stop was the Central Library for it is big and it is beautiful and I spent several happy hours strolling through the different sections, checking out the view and of course, the many many many books. So this week's finds are those I discovered at this brilliant library.

The Colour Out of Space: Tales of Cosmic Horror by Lovecraft, Blackwood, Machen, Poe, and Other Masters of the Weird
This new collection features some of the greatest masters of extreme terror, among them Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, Bram Stoker, and Henry James, and includes such classic works as Arthur Machen's "The White People," Algernon Blackwood's "The Willows," and of course Lovecraft's own weird and hideous "The Colour Out of Space."
Outside the Dog Museum by Jonathan Carroll
A novel of love,death,and architecture H arry Radcliffe is a prize-winning architect, witty and remarkable. He's also a self-serving opportunist, ready to take advantage of whatever situations-and women-come his way. But now, newly divorced after an inexplicable nervous breakdown, Harry is being wooed by the wealthy Sultan of Saru to design a billion-dollar dog museum. In Saru,he finds himself in a world even madder and more unreal than the one he left behind, and as his obsession grows, the powers of magic weave around him, and the implications of his strange undertaking grow more ominous and astounding. Outside the Dog Museum is a novel to surprise, provoke the mind, and haunt the imagination.

The Line Between by Peter S Beagle
The long-awaited sequel to the popular classic The Last Unicorn is the centerpiece of this powerful collection of new tales from a fantasy master. As longtime fans have come to expect, the stories are written with a grace and style similar to fantasy's most original voices, such as J. R. R. Tolkien, Fritz Leiber, and Kurt Vonnegut. Traditional themes are typically infused with modern sensibilities—reincarnated lovers and waning kings rub shoulders with heroic waifs; Schmendrick the Magician returns to adventure, as does the ghost of an off-Broadway actor and a dream-stealing shapeshifter; and Gordon, the delightfully charming "self-made cat," appears for the first time in print, taking his place alongside Stuart Little as a new favorite of the young at heart. This wide-ranging compilation contains sly humor and a resounding depth that will charm fans of literary fantasy.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Read: Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

I was prepared not to like this. There seem to be quite a mixed bag of reviews, with some noting that Lahiri is doing a rerun of tales of immigrant Bengalis adapting to life in America. But for someone who hadn't read anything by Lahiri for a while, it didn't quite matter if she were at all. For I ended up falling for the second half of the book - the stories of Hema and Kaushik. The first part was filled with readable and enjoyable stories with interesting characters. But it was in the collection of stories of Hema and Kaushik, “Once in A lifetime,” “Year’s End,” and “Going Ashore", that were breathtaking, Quite literally. Hema and Kaushik meet as teens, and the different stories are narrated by each of them, as they live their lives, first together under the same roof as Kaushik's family moves back to the US from Calcutta, then separately as adults. But as it so happens, their paths cross in Italy. I read part of the stories before cooking dinner, rushed through dinner with the husband and headed back to stuff my nose back in the book, to finish them. And when it ended, I felt I had to read the last few pages again. It was sweet, it was heartwrenching. And while I had this gut feeling that it would end the way it did, it still made me tear. Hema and Kaushik was such a bittersweet collection. But sometimes the best ones are.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Eating: Lunch at Della Fattoria (11 July 2009)

Della Fattoria
141 Petaluma Blvd
Petaluma, CA 94952-2904

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Finds (17 July 2009)

Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading

This week's Friday Finds all come from the same website, Three Percent listed the books that its Best Translated Book Award panelists would recommend. And here are some of them:

Crossing the Hudson by Peter Stephan Jungk
Gustav Rubin, a fur dealer in Vienna, flies to New York to spend the summer with his wife and two young children in a lake house north of the city. When he arrives late at JFK, he is met by his opinionated, unrelenting mother, Rosa. They rent a car and set out for Lake Gilead. But Gustav loses his way, and son and mother end up on the wrong side of the river. Trying to find the right route north, they become trapped on the Tappan Zee Bridge in the traffic jam of all traffic jams- a truck transporting toxic chemicals has turned over-and Gustav and Mother remain gridlocked high above the Hudson River. Gustav begins to think of his beloved father, a renowned intellectual, now eleven months dead. Then, in a surprising, highly original twist worthy of Kafka, both Gustav and Mother see the body - the colossal, golem-like father body- of Ludwig David Rubin floating naked in the waters below.

Jungk gives a profound meditation on a Jewish family and its past, especially the lasting distorting effects on a son of a famous, vital father and a clinging, overwhelming mother, and of the differences between the generation of European intellectual refugees who arrived in the United States during the Second World War and the children of that generation.

Beauty Salon by Mario Bellatin
A strange plague appears in a large city. Rejected by family and friends, some of the sick have nowhere to finish out their days until a hair stylist decides to offer refuge. He ends up converting his beauty shop, which he’s filled with tanks of exotic fish, into a sort of medieval hospice. As his “guests” continue to arrive and to die, his isolation becomes more and more complete in this dream-hazy parable by one of Mexico’s cutting-edge literary stars.

News from the Empire by Fernando Del Paso
"Operatic and beautiful, del Paso's lush cautionary tale of empire building chronicles the brief and disastrous reign of Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria and Marie Charlotte (Carlota) of Belgium, emperor and empress of Mexico from 1863 to 1867. Seeking to redefine herself, Carlota embraces her new role as empress while Max flounders. They are usurpers, and while Benito Juarez, rightful ruler of the republic, abandons the capital to them, the seat of power stays with him as he watches from the periphery and refuses to acknowledge European rule. Desperate, spiraling into madness and wary of impending disaster, Carlota sails to Europe and begs the European monarchies for help that will never arrive. Outliving everyone, Carlota, elderly and insane, still in love with both her lost husband and her lost empire, is left to lament of Mexico, 'I am mother to them all because, Maximilian, I am their history and I am mad.' This moving and engaging epic about the twilight of European monarchy and the struggles of the people they imposed themselves on may be considered a Mexican War and Peace." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

The She-Devil in the Mirror by Horacio Castellanos Moya
Laura Rivera can't believe what has happened. Her best friend has been killed in cold blood in the living room of her home, in front of her two young daughters Nobody knows who pulled the trigger, but Laura will not rest easy until she finds out. Her dizzying, delirious, hilarious, and blood-curdling one-sided dialogue carries the reader on a rough and tumble ride through the social, political, economic, and sexual chaos of post-civil war San Salvador. A detective story of pulse-quickening suspense, The She-Devil in the Mirror is also a sober reminder that justice and truth are more often than not illusive. Castellanos Moya's relentless, obsessive narrator-female, rich, paranoid, wonderfully perceptive, and, in the end, fabulously unreliable-paints with frivolous profundity a society in a state of collapse. Castellanos Moya's Senselessness was acclaimed an innovative and invigoratingly twisted piece of art and a brilliantly crafted moral fable, as if Kafka had gone to Latin America for his source materials .

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Eating: The Girl and the Fig in Sonoma (July 11, 2009)

With a half hour wait ahead of us, we ordered some drinks and a lovely cheese platter, which came with slices of baguette and our choice of three cheeses (I picked one each from the cow's milk, goat's milk and sheep's milk sections) as well as some homecured salami and prosciutto. A great start to the meal, washed down with some sparkling wine. The wait wasn't too long, and anyway, the waiting area was pretty nice and comfortable.
We shared a starter of mussels with garlic toast.

R picked the set dinner, which started with some smoked trout.

My mom had the duck confit.
The main part of the set dinner was seared ahi tuna.
My dad's steak. Perfectly cooked.

I ordered bouillabaisse, a nice light dinner for a change!

The dessert that was part of the set was a fig clafoutis and caramel ice-cream.

But to add to that, we ordered this "mille feuille" that had cherries, pistachios and a lemon verbana cream. It sounded different and it was. Very refreshing and a fantastic end to this birthday dinner!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Library Loot (14 July 2009)

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen

In this piercing story of innocence betrayed set in the thirties, the orphaned Portia is stranded in the sophisticated and politely treacherous world of her wealthy half-brother's home in London. There she encounters the attractive, carefree cad Eddie. To him, Portia is at once child and woman, and her fears her gushing love. To her, Eddie is the only reaason to be alive. But when Eddie follows Portia to a sea-side resort, the flash of a cigarette lighter in a darkened cinema illuminates a stunning romantic betrayal — and sets in motion one of the most moving and desperate flights of the heart in modern literature.

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower
With plenty of chatter on the blogosophere about this book not too long ago, I was surprised to see it on the library shelves (my library's not really that good at new arrivals), so I knew I had to grab it quick.
Viking marauders descend on a much-plundered island, hoping some mayhem will shake off the winter blahs. A man is booted out of his home after his wife discovers that the print of a bare foot on the inside of his windshield doesn't match her own. Teenage cousins, drugged by summer, meet with a reckoning in the woods. A boy runs off to the carnival after his stepfather bites him in a brawl.

In the stories of Wells Tower, families fall apart and messily try to reassemble themselves. His version of America is touched with the seamy splendor of the dropout, the misfit: failed inventors, boozy dreamers, hapless fathers, wayward sons. Combining electric prose with savage wit, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned is a major debut, announcing a voice we have not heard before.

World's Fair by E.L. Doctorow
The astonishing novel of a young boy's life in the New York City of the 1930s, a stunning recreation of the sights, sounds, aromas and emotions of a time when the streets were safe, families stuck together through thick and thin, and all the promises of a generation culminate in a single great World's Fair . . .
An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke
As a teenager, it was never Sam Pulsifer's intention to torch an American landmark, and he certainly never planned to kill two people in the blaze. To this day, he still wonders why that young couple was upstairs in bed in the Emily Dickinson House after hours.

After serving ten years in prison for his crime, Sam is determined to put the past behind him. He finishes college, begins a career, falls in love, gets married, has two adorable kids, and buys a home. His low-profifile life is chugging along quite nicely until the past comes crashing through his front door.

As the homes of Robert Frost, Edith Wharton, Herman Melville, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, and even a replica of Henry David Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond, go up in smoke, Sam becomes the number one suspect. Finding the real culprit is the only way to clear his name--but sometimes there's a terrible price to pay for the truth.

An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England is a tour de force--a novel disguised as a memoir, a mystery that cloaks itself in humor, and an artful piece of literature that bites the hand that breeds it.

Drift by Victoria Patterson
From a fresh new Southern California voice comes this wise and intimate debut collection that offers a fascinating glimpse of exclusive Newport Beach through the lives of the waiters and waitresses, divorced and single parents, and alienated teens who all, in some way, find themselves on the outside looking in. "Henrys House" introduces us to Melody and Katharine, single mothers who raised their daughters together until Melody marries for money, sacrificing herself so that her mother and Katharine can enjoy the luxuries her beauty has earned them all. "Remoras" probes the transformative friendship between John, a waiter of ambiguous sexual proclivities, and Annette, the restaurants hostess, who has promised herself to a fellow Armenian. And then theres Rosie, whose evolution from a lonely child of divorce to precocious teenager, alcoholic college student, and eventual career waitress provides heartbreaking punctuation to this linked collection. Deceptively powerful and refreshingly frank, Pattersons stories like those of ZZ Packer, Julie Orringer, and Nell Freudenberger plumb the depths of female friendship and what it means to be an outsider, all while offering a rare and rewarding glimpse inside affluent Newport Beach.
Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
After reading The Bradbury Chronicles, I am looking forward to reading as much of Ray Bradbury's works as I can get my hands on.
The summer of '28 was a vintage season for a growing boy. A summer of green apple trees, mowed lawns, and new sneakers. Of half-burnt firecrackers, of gathering dandelions, of Grandma's belly-busting dinner. It was a summer of sorrows and marvels and gold-fuzzed bees. A magical, timeless summer in the life of a twelve-year-old boy named Douglas Spaulding — remembered forever by the incomparable Ray Bradbury.
See more Library Loot here.