The Cookbook Collector

The Cookbook Collector
Allegra Goodman
Dial Press, 2010

What caught my attention initially was the title - my mum and I collect cookbooks, so to see a novel entitled "The Cookbook Collector" was attention-getting to say the least. Then I saw where people are calling Allegra Goodman "the modern-day Jane Austen". And at that point, I knew I needed to give in and read the book. Thankfully, I lucked out and the library had it available and ready for check out!

I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call Goodman the new Jane Austen, but I can understand why people draw the comparison: Just as Jane knew humanity and was able to demonstrate the ridiculous and the admirable in her characters, Goodman is a keen observer of human nature and draws very believable, real figures. So while I can understand it, I don't entirely agree. The Cookbook Collector has a LOT of characters. And almost all of them get a chance to 'speak'/ be in the spotlight. While that creates a very developed, detailed and dimensional story, it was also rather confusing until I got everyone sorted out in my head.

Actually, that's kind of my overall feeling about the book: I was confused until I got it all organized. There are a lot of storylines, and figuring out how they all related - IF they were all related - took some mental attention. As the story progressed, it got easier and easier to follow. Whether that's because I was now totally engrossed in the story or because I had worked through the confusing beginning and made it into a clearer-in-general part of the story, I don't know. What I do know is this: Goodman wove an intricate tale, and took it somewhere I was not expecting. At all. Once I reached the end, I had a moment of thinking "I should've seen that coming," but then - if I had seen it coming, I wouldn't have liked the story so well. Because I did like it, a lot. Allegra Goodman may not be Jane Austen, but she can write an amazing and arresting story.

Book provided by my local library.


Simon Pulse RomCom Challenge

I saw this posted over on the YA Booknerd blog, and while I was intrigued I didn't think I would be able to get my hands on any of the books. Then I browsed the stacks of the library I am interning at, and had a momentary happy dance today! They have some Simon Pulse RomComs!!! Not the whole set, but enough to let me do the challenge. Quite exciting, let me tell you. This will be my second challenge effort (the first being Everything Austen II, which I need to get my butt in gear on), and I'm pretty excited.

I think I'm going to do this at the 'Lover' level, since I'm not sure there are 15 different titles I can get my hands on ... If I can read more, I will. But I'm shooting for 5! Yippee!


Girl in Translation

Girl in Translation
Jean Kwok
Riverhead, 2010

I have seen this listed on a lot of To-Read lists, and read several reviews, and let's be honest: the cover and title are pretty amazing. (Random sidenote: I wish my own hair would stay that nicely with a pencil stuck through it.) So when I saw it available at the library, I quickly scooped it up.

The story is straight-forward and chronological, after the initial chapter that is a little bit of a "Huh? Did I miss something?"-intro to the book. It makes sense later, after you've read the story of ah-Kim from beginning to end. Premise is simple: mother and young daughter immigrate from China to America, and do whatever it takes to survive. Ah-Kim is very smart, and quickly learns what needs to be done to rescue her mother and herself from their situation in life. Along the way, there are all sorts of 'normal' growing up adventures, and these are contrasted to the 'hidden' life of New York's Chinese.

For me, the book was just 'okay' -- it didn't have me hanging on every word, but I wasn't disgusted either. I kept reading, and was actually surprised by the ending. Did not see that one coming. At all. Kwok's ability to slip that in while leaving me, the reader, totally unawares of where the story was going earned a few points.

Book provided by my local library.

My Name is Memory

My Name is Memory
Ann Brashares
Riverhead, 2010

I am a huge fan of Ann Brashares, and have read every book she's written. So when I found out she had a new book coming out this year, I was thrilled! Until I saw the premise ... I'm definitely not a fan of paranormal, and while time travel in the sense of - well, I guess it's basically reincarnation - isn't that "paranormal" it was a little odd and not really on my reading radar. But the cover kept beckoning, and I kept seeing it popping up in places, so I gave in. Oh. Wow. I am so glad I did. The story isn't about reincarnation so much as it is about memory - and what makes a person the person they are. It's about trust and faith and love. It's about humanity. And it's a bittersweet romance.

Daniel, the one who remembers the most, gives us all the backstory, which involves a lot of flashbacks/memories. They're nicely done however, and clearly marked - both by chapter headings and a change in font. The memories are scattered in among the 'current' story, and help explain why everything is happening as it is in the now. In the process of learning about Daniel and Lucy/Sophia's past, the reader also gets to experience fun historical vignettes - Daniel has lived many times, and has many memories. This is most definitely a book that requires the willing suspension of disbelief -- it is rather fantastic at points -- but if you read the words on the page instead of trying to reconcile them with a sense of reality, the story will take you amazing places.

All things considered, I'm glad I took a chance on My Name is Memory -- it is very different from what I tend to read, but the story was everything I expect from Brashares. Sometimes risks are lesser than their rewards.

Book provided by my local library.


Summer Reading Recap

I work in a college environ, so I consider 'summer' to be May-June-July-August, therefore, here are the books read from May through August:

- Waiting for You: Susane Colasanti (320)
- Sweet Little Lies: Lauren Conrad (309)
- The Alpha Bet: Stephanie Hale (232)
- The Cranford Chronicles: Elizabeth Gaskell (484)
- The Cinderella Society: Kay Cassidy (322)
- Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots: Abby McDonald (293)
- The Summer I Turned Pretty: Jenny Han (276)

- Spoken from the Heart: Laura Bush (432)
- Wish: Alexandra Bullen (323)
- Dreaming of Dior: Charlotte Smith (292)
- Wedding Season: Darcy Cosper (340)
- Odd and the Frost Giants: Neil Gaiman (118)
- Princess Ben: Catherine Gilbert Murdock (344)
- A Song for Summer: Eva Ibbotson (397)
- Android Karenina: Leo Tolstoy & Ben Winters (538)
- Tammy: Adventure in Hollywood: Alice Wellman (214)
- It's Not Summer Without You: Jenny Han (277)
- The Bad Queen: Carolyn Meyer (420)

- Cleopatra's Daughter: Michelle Moran (422)
- Someday My Prince will Come: Jerramy Fine (305)
- Portion of the Sea: Christine Lemmon (422)
- After the Kiss: Terra Elan McVoy (382)
- The Cupcake Queen: Heather Hepler (242)
- Runaway: Meg Cabot (310)
- Persuasion: Jane Austen (283)
- Ice Land: Betsy Tobin (354)

- Everlasting: Angie Frazier (329)
- Heist Society: Ally Carter (287)
- Commencement: J. Courtney Sullivan (324)
- Lowcountry Summer: Dorothea Benton Frank (340)
- My Name is Memory: Ann Brashares (324)
- Girl in Translation (290)

Totals:  32 books, 10545 pages

Okay ... So maybe that's a lot more than I was expecting, even though I see my yearlong tally on a regular basis. It was obviously a hot-hot summer, which meant a lot of afternoons reading in the cool. And no, not all of those books have been reviewed on here - this blog is still getting up and running as a steady review-source; and, too, some of them I just frankly didn't feel inclined to review some of 'em. I'm getting better though, I really am. There are definitely some reviews in the works waiting to get fine-tuned and published. So stay tuned!