Fiction · Food! · Julia P · Quick Read!

How to Eat a Cupcake | by Meg Donohue

How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue
(Harper, 2012, 309 pages)

I needed a light read and this definitely fit the bill.  The story revolves around the relationship between two women, Julia and Annie, as they reconnect and try to get past a troubled past and a secretive present.  The two women were essentially raised together.  Annie was the daughter of Lucia, a woman hired by Julia’s mother (Lolly St. Clair) to act as her nanny.  It worked out nicely that Julia and Annie were the same age.  A bond quickly formed between the girls, but it was severed once they entered high school and their class differences became more readily apparent.

Julia has returned to San Francisco and is living with her parents as she gets ready for her upcoming wedding.  Annie has been working as a baker and is known for her inventive and delicious cupcakes.  Despite a rocky re-introduction, Julia decides it would be a great idea to work with Annie to create her own bakery.  While Annie is hesitant at first, it has always been her dream to own her own bakery and eventually she caves.  Documents are drawn up that say they will work together over the year, but after Julia’s wedding, the bakery will be solely Annie’s.

The bakery comes to fruition quickly (thanks to Julia’s hefty bank account) and while the women’s enthusiasm remains steady, despite a few setbacks in the form of vandalism, stalking, and a secret that Julia often let’s get the best of her.  In the midst of all this and some relationship hiccups the book has a happy ending.

This was a nice, light read.  You’ll probably enjoy it if you’re into “food lit” like I am 😉

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Fiction · Gwen B · In the Library · Page-Turner · Thriller

Guilty Wives | by James Patterson and David Ellis

Guilty Wives by James Patterson and David Ellis
(Little, Brown, and Co., 2012, 424 pages)

Overview:

No husbands allowed. Only minutes after Abbie Elliot and her three best friends step off of a private helicopter, they enter the most luxurious, sumptuous, sensually pampering hotel they have ever been to. Their lavish presidential suite overlooks Monte Carlo, and they surrender: to the sun and pool, to the sashimi and sake, to the Bruno Paillard champagne. For four days they’re free to live someone else’s life. As the weekend moves into pulsating discos, high-stakes casinos, and beyond, Abbie is transported to the greatest pleasure and release she has ever known.

What happened last night? In the morning’s harsh light, Abbie awakens on a yacht, surrounded by police. Something awful has happened—something impossible, unthinkable. Abbie, Winnie, Serena, and Bryah are arrested and accused of the foulest crime imaginable. And now the vacation of a lifetime becomes the fight of a lifetime—for survival. GUILTY WIVES is the ultimate indulgence, the kind of nonstop joy-ride of excess, friendship, betrayal, and danger that only James Patterson can create.

Well, James outdid himself with this one. I kept turning the page, hungry for more!  The suspense really pulls you in. It left me wondering what was going to happen from one moment to the next. What Abbie and the other ladies had to go through, you could feel yourself going through with them as if you were right there. James Patterson and his co-writer really delivered on this one. It’s clear to see that he is definitely back to his old self in this book. From start to finish it had me on the edge of my seat. I was intrigued, outraged, and nervous the entire time! Just the way I like it when I read a great book! Two thumbs up, and welcome back Mr. Patterson!

In the Library · Non-Fiction · Science · Ying L

The Atom and the Apple | by Sébastien Balibar

The Atom and the Apple: Twelve Tales from Contemporary Physics by Sébastien Balibar
(Princeton University Press, 2008, 190 pages)

This is a fun and engaging book on physics. Sébastien Balibar is a French physicist, the current research director at the French National Centre for Scientific Research. The book has twelve chapters; each chapter is a topic on physics. Balibar uses everyday examples and some stories from his own life to explain intriguing questions in physics. He discusses antimatter in chapter two – remember Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons? What about arithmetic and puff pastry in chapter nine? Find out what they have in common. Because of the chaotic movements of the atmosphere and the oceans, we can’t reasonably predict the weather more than a week in advance.  In chapter 11, Balibar uses a classic Fermi problem to explain how physicists reason and why wind power will not become an important source of energy. If you forgot who Enrico Fermi was, look it up and you’ll have some fun. I promise. Hint: how many piano tuners are there in Chicago? A few chapters are not as accessible and require scientific knowledge beyond high school. Overall, it was a slow but satisfying read.

Fiction · Julia P · Quick Read! · Thriller

Dexter is Delicious | by Jeff Lindsay

Dexter is Delicious (#5 in the Dexter series) by Jeff Lindsay
(Doubleday, 2010, 368 pages)

Book 5 in the Dexter series has us re-entering Dexter’s life after some life-changing events.  His wife, Rita, just had their baby and he’s decided to swear off his “dark activities” from now on.  That decision doesn’t stay in effect very long.  Just as Dexter decides it’s time to change his ways a mysterious “kidnapping” has him and Deborah working together to solve a case.  As luck would have it, this isn’t a simple case – there are cannibals involved.  Yup.  Cannibals.  I was slightly taken aback, but I read on.

In addition to the cannibal coven roaming around Miami, there’s one other surprise.  Dexter’s brother has magically reappeared and he seems eager to make himself a part of Dexter’s new life.  As Dexter tries to come to grips with this while also working to help solve the cannibal crimes it becomes very clear to him that his “dark activities” aren’t going to stay in hiding…

This was a quick read, but I found some parts a little gruesome for my taste.  Not my favorite, but it definitely kept my attention.

Bob G · Essays · Fiction · In the Library · Non-Fiction · Short Stories

Armageddon in Retrospect | by Kurt Vonnegut

Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut
(Berkley Publishing Group, 2008, 232 pages)

As a college student in the 70s, I, like many of my fellow students, was a huge fan of Kurt Vonnegut. His irreverent, satirical novels somehow spoke to my generation with their wry observations on the human condition and pessimistic view of bureaucracies, bores, and bombast. I was therefore intrigued by Armageddon in Retrospect, a compilation of unpublished writings related in some way or another to war. With an introduction by his son, Mark, this book gives us one last peek into the mind of this author, who was a humorist on the scale of Mark Twain or Will Rogers.

When Vonnegut died at age 84 in 2007, America lost a shrewd observer of the human condition and a very funny writer. Having read pretty much all of his other books, many of them more than once, I have always appreciated his wit and unusual writing style. Spare, concise and sometimes accompanied by his own drawings, Vonnegut’s books dwelt on themes of industrialization, futurism and free will.

The book includes a speech that Vonnegut was supposed to deliver in Indianapolis but he died before delivering it. Like his writing, it is filled with short, sometimes biographical factoids and wry observations on Karl Marx, religion, and African-Americans.

As his readers learned in 1969 when Slaughterhouse 5 was released, Vonnegut was taken prisoner after only 5 days on the front during World War II and he spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner. This final book includes his non-fiction account of his experiences, including the burning of victims of the Allied bombing of Dresden. A copy of a letter he sent to his family after being freed is also included. It also provides more detail on his capture, transport and treatment by his German captors.

The rest of the stories, although somewhat uneven, relate in some way to issues of war and peace. Some of them come directly from his experience as a P.O.W..     Prisoners in a camp speculate on what meals they will eat after they are released. A soldier confronts and ultimately kills another American who had returned to Germany to fight for the Nazis. A Czech cabinetmaker is forced to build an elaborate desk for the commanding officer of an American occupying unit.

Each of these stories give us an insight into how Vonnegut’s style and thinking evolved over the years. As a counter-cultural hero, Vonnegut appealed to my generation’s cynicism and his sharp-witted jabs at the follies of warfare endeared him to beats, college students, and peaceniks of all types. This final volume puts a period on the career of this troubled, but gifted, writer.

Fiction · Graphic Novel · Julia P · Quick Read!

Koko Be Good | by Jen Wang

Koko Be Good by Jen Wang
(First Second, 2010, 304 pages)

Koko Be Good is a graphic novel about two people who are on the path to finding themselves.  Jon and Koko meet by chance as she enters a bar where he and his friends are hanging out.  Their lives intertwine when she makes off with his tape recorder, which has a tape in it sent by his long-distance girlfriend.  When Jon finds Koko and tries to get it back they end up talking and develop a unique and influential friendship.  Jon reveals he’s getting ready to move to Peru with his girlfriend.  It’s something she’s always known she wanted to do and he wants to be with her and do some good in the world.  Koko takes this notion of “doing good” to heart and after they talk she makes a point of trying to do what she can to better the world.  The question is, are they doing things they truly want to do?  Feel called to do?  Or are they just acting the way they think they should?

I enjoyed the overall message of this book, but wasn’t wowed by it.  Would be an ideal read for high school/college students.

Food! · Julia P · Memoir · Non-Fiction · Quick Read!

Fried Butter | by Abe Opincar

Fried Butter: A Food Memoir by Abe Opincar
(Soho Press, 2003, 165 pages)

This book wasn’t quite what I expected, but I still really enjoyed it. Opincar wrote more of a collection of personal vignettes than a memoir. At least in my opinion. Each vignette revolves around food in some way, but the focus is more on how his memories are tied to food rather than on the food itself. After I wrapped my mind around what I was reading I was able to better appreciate Opincar’s writing style. The reader is taken all over the world as we are introduced to the author’s experiences in place from France and Mexico to California and Israel. You definitely appreciate the life Opincar had the opportunity to lead.

While I prefer my food memoirs to be more “food-focused,” I really liked Fried Butter. After each section I felt compelled to sort of stop and think about what I’d read. Opincar is a very clean writer and he does a great job conveying emotions and telling stories. Some vignettes were almost shockingly tragic and others got me to chuckle out loud. I was able to finish this in 2 days which should tell you just how accessible it was 🙂 A surprising and engaging read.