Reviews

“The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake” by Aimee Bender

In conclusion, I said, a Dorito asks nothing of you, which is its great gift. It only asks that you are not there.

I honestly don’t know where to start. From the beginning, perhaps?

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake has quite a magical premise. Rose Edelstein, the main character, finds herself deconstructing the food she tastes, and not just into different flavours, but into different feelings, different locations, different production routines. This is not something she does for pleasure, it’s something that simply happens to her on the eve of her ninth birthday, when she tries her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake. That’s when it all starts. That’s when she tastes the hollowness for the first time. And it doesn’t belong to the ingredients, it belongs to her mother.

If I had to describe The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake in one word, I think I would go with softness. I surprised myself while considering this because this novel has its heavy moments. It’s almost as if Rose, understanding the power of feelings, took extra care with the creation of this story so that the reader didn’t feel like scratching her/his eyes out. It’s so gentle, so kind, so light… it’s truly beautiful.

I fell in love with this family and their special ways. Aimee Bender has a rather enchanting way with words that give a singular final touch to her characters. Every single one of them is interesting, every single one of them has something unique about them, even if sometimes they forget, or wish they did. I found them to be so human, so real… so easy to bond with, to understand.

I guess I expected more clarity with the ending, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s the bittersweetness of the last slice of a memory cake.

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LGBTQA+ · Reviews

“Define ‘Normal'” by Julie Anne Peters

By looking at this book’s cover, would you ever expect it to discuss mental health, stereotypes and self-acceptance? Oh yes, expectations are also something this book takes into consideration.

Extremely clever books disguised as light young-adult fiction. This is only the second novel I read by Julie Anne Peters, but this seems to be her thing. It’s like a magical power, writing about heavy topics as if they were made of cotton. You can feel its texture, its slight resistance as you try to pull the pieces apart, to deconstruct it. Still, no matter what you do to it, it remains soft to the touch.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

This story is about two young girls from two completely different backgrounds that are brought together by their school’s counselor with the purpose of helping one another. How does said counselor get them to work together? He tells them both, separately, that the other needs help, that this is the other’s last chance. Little do they know that by helping each other they are helping themselves.

Honestly, there’s not much of a plot. There are no breathtaking twists, no twisted revelations. It is what it is, and it’s great. Thought-provoking, this is a book that can be everything or/and nothing, depending on who’s reading it.

Give it a chance. Give yourself a chance.

Being different is one of the things we all have in common.

Reviews

“I’ll Be Seeing You” by Loretta Nyhan & Suzanne Palmieri (Hayes)

I started reading this book a long time ago but it just wasn’t the time. I am glad I put it down for that choice (as many others, I am sure) has led me to now. I just finished reading I’ll Be Seeing You and I am at a loss for words.

Letters. This book is a compendium of letters. At first they are from, and to, Glory Whitehall and Rita Vincenzo. Through what we can only guess to have been thousands of sheets of paper, we are led into the private world of two women who, at first, seem to have only one thing in common: both their husbands are abroad, fighting for the Allies in the II World War. But there’s so much more than that!

That is what we do. That is what people do. They stay alive for each other.”

I believe that quote from The Hours by Michael Cunningham echoes this book’s aura perfectly. These two women find in each other another reason to stay alive. Together, through their written relationship, they learn not only to stay alive for one another, but to stay alive for themselves. And suddenly there are thousands of reasons, reasons that had been surrounding them for years but that they hadn’t be able to acknowledge. Sometimes it is indeed hard to see them, but that doesn’t mean they are not there. We need to want, and to be ready, to find what we are looking for. It’s beautiful how these two women open their hearts to each other and, at the same time, to themselves. That’s actually one of the things I love the most about writing… once it’s all down on paper, I believe it becomes easier to deal with it. It has a form, a shape. Once you have reduced something to words, even if you can’t erase them, you can always learn to forgive them.

A lesson on humanity, I would call it. Two different voices, that then become more than that as their families and friends join in, that belong to every single of one us, if only we decide to listen.

That said, this review is a simple grain of sand. This book is so much more than what is written here and in it… the between the lines is absolutely glorious and I wish I could put it into words, but I can’t.

It’s funny. Bombs drop from the sky every day, chaos and mayhem spread over the globe, but we’re more afraid of the mines buried deep in our hearts, the ones we hope to never give cause to explode.”

Shed a tear and then dive head on into the ocean. I’ll be seeing you.

P.S. I will never be able to look at a sunflower in the same way. There will always be Rita and Glory with me. And olives? I will have some in honor of Sal.

LGBTQA+ · Reviews

“Among Other Things, I’ve Taken Up Smoking” by Aoibheann Sweeney

There’s something very special about Among Other Things, I’ve Taken Up Smoking by Aoibheann Sweeney. I wish I could be more specific, but I honestly don’t think I can. There’s a feeling to it… a wholeness

I would say that opening this book is like closing your eyes and finding the universe staring at you. Constellations of stars, galaxies and a silence wise beyond words, beyond the word it inhabits.

“It is astonishing, in the end, how difficult it is to know the things you know. What I mean is that all I had discovered was everything I knew all along.”

Larger than life, I would call it. It was an experience that reminded me of why I keep falling in love with books and reading.

Don’t expect anything breathtaking, but do give it a chance to take your breath away, to take you away.

Books About Books · Reviews

“The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George

‘You see, Jordan’, said Perdu, taking a different tack, ‘a book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novels to the appropriate ailments: that’s how I sell books’.

All it took was one quick glance at the back cover of this book, where you can find the quote above, for me to know that I had to read it.

The main character is Monsieur J. Perdu, a very special bookseller that lives at 27 Rue Montagnard, Paris. He honestly believes that books are more than escapes, more than distractions, more than simple symbols lying randomly on a piece of paper. For Monsieur Jean Perdu, books are life and life is a book that we write ourselves, sometimes with the aid of other already written words.

As the grandmother, mother and girl said their good-byes and went on their way, Perdu reflected that it was a common misconception that booksellers looked after books.
They look after people.

Heving the dream of opening a bookstore myself, I felt right at home with this book. The first few chapters are, in my opinion, absolutely delicious. It truly starts as a book about books and book lovers. As you go on though, it becomes the book of someone’s life, the book of Jean Perdu. His having been a human life, it comes with love and loss, passion and hatred, ups and downs… it’s a roller coaster, making and losing its sense depending on the reader’s own experiences.

I love how the people in Perdu’s life come together. I love how they forgive one another, I love how that wave of almost selfless forgiveness seems to be start of their own journey into self-forgiveness. It’s like this novel is telling us that we can’t be without other beings. Which, in my opinion, and to a certain point, is absolutely true.

The writing style has ups and downs, like the book itself, like Perdu’s life. It seems fitting, even if oddly at times, when there’s a sudden change in rhythm.

I wish we could have heard more about the other peculiar characters that lived at 27 Rue Montagnard. I do understand why we had to leave them behind to follow Perdu’s storyline. He had to leave them himself. He needed to start a new chapter, but had to first review some that had yet to be edited.

That said, it was quite a lovely read. It has its corny moments, but don’t we all?

P.S. I would love to read the book that Mr. Perdu was writing

Author of the Month

Author of the Month: Suzanne Palmieri

When we first decided that we were going to celebrate one particular author per month I immediately knew two things: I was going to start with Alice Hoffman, the author that made me fall in love with words, and that April was going to be Suzanne Palmieri’s month.

You see, there’s something very special about April. It somehow feels like the bridge between winter and spring. The last tears of the coldest season drown the ground in possibility and magic reaches out into the realm of our so called reality.

Spring blossoms.

That’s why I chose Suzanne Palmieri. She is magic. She’s a bridge between being alive and being painfully aware of it, in the most beautiful way.

I believe someone once said that writing was easy, that it was all about sitting down and bleeding onto a page. As poetic as that sounds, I think that what Suzanne Palmieri does goes beyond that. Not only does she allow her characters to borrow the emotions they then wear across the pages, she also breathes life into them, she breathes herself into them. I think that was why I fell in love with her novels in the first place. There’s a soul to them and it’s beautiful to watch it unfold in front of us. And the acceptance… the love, the hope, the fear… it’s all so palpable and humane…

I must confess that bonding with her characters isn’t always easy at first. You see, they are not the kind to try and make you love them for something they are not. Instead, they just exhale their true colours and leave you to deal with it. And it’s so easy to judge them, isn’t it? That is until you realise that what they are doing is quite a refreshing thing, something to be admired and not judged. They are not playing a part depending on context, or assuming roles in different plays. No, they are being themselves. How rare is that? And what a challenge it must be!

Her latest novel, The Witch of Bourbon Street, is a hurricane.

You might feel slightly lost at first. There were a lot of voices, faces, memories… and they all kept claiming my full attention at the same time. I honestly didn’t know what to do. It was like being in the middle of a roundabout with an endless number of exits. Where was I supposed to go? Then it hit me. We have to admit to be lost before trying to find our own path, ourselves. And that was exactly what I did.

Ah, the details. There’s definitely a key to every lock and Suzanne Palmieri just keeps opening these majestic doors…

If you have read The Witch of Little Italy and/or The Witch of Belladonna Bay, I can promise you one thing: The Witch of Bourbon Street is a revolution. I found it to be way darker, heavier. Even the space between the words felt thicker.

And you know what? I cannot wait for The Witch House of Persimmon Point, coming out this fall.

Coming Out Soon · Reviews

“The Blue Bath” by Mary Waters-Sayer

Even though I don’t seem to have a favourite genre, this is probably the kind of book that you won’t find me reading very often.

I must confess that what first drew me to The Blue Bath was its stunning cover. To be honest, at first I didn’t even notice the Eiffel Tower. I believe what caught my attention was the colour. The shades of blue, green, yellow and then the white; together they created an atmosphere that captivated me instantly. There’s a melancholy to it, but also a feeling of warmth, of sunsets. And then all that blue… it made me think of the word fragile, of memories. I think I already knew that I couldn’t simply ignore it, but the back cover convinced me with promises of art, Paris and London.

Let me start by saying that The Blue Bath is written so beautifully it will make your heart skip a beat. I am in awe of Mary Waters-Sayer’s writing. Beauty, the concept of beauty, has brought quite a lot of pain to this world, but the way this book is written just makes it impossible to live without its existence. It’s so beautiful it hurts.

I don’t know about you, but usually this kind of writing makes me slow down. I feel the need to taste every single word and feel how they come together in sentences, as if they were ultimately created to make said sentences possible. You are pulled into them, one at a time. You can feel every inch of this novel; every change in scenery, atmosphere, mood… even the weather. It’s incredible. It’s like the words are alive. You can feel the blood running through their veins and their state of mind; at times they are so sharp around the edges that you feel them cutting through you. It’s intense and… fascinating.

The story itself is not one that we haven’t heard before. I do believe the way it is written somehow elevates it though, making it almost impossible to recognize a skeleton that has long ago become more than familiar. Everything seems to be utterly new and painfully alive. It feels as if you are reading someone’s memoir; someone who pressed their hearts and soul to the page and together they bled words.

I made this novel last for as long as I could. There were days when I only allowed myself a chapter, wanting it to last forever.

I believe this is a debut novel. I, for one, am hoping that Mary Waters-Sayer will keep on writing. I found myself being reminded of why I fell in love with words in the first place. Thank you so much.

ARC provided by St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley.

Books That Came Out This Month

“As If I Were A River” by Amanda Saint

As If I Were A River left me with mixed feelings.

I feel like I should start by mentioning how the title seems to work so perfectly as a metaphor for what happens in As If I Were A River. I believe the story flows with ease, even though the path leads the reader through different torrents that seem to collide at some point. It’s disorientating at times, clear as crystal at others… and then there’s the ocean. The ending brings answers that open doors instead of closing.

I must confess that I didn’t find it to be an extraordinary read, but Amanda Saint seems to be quite skilled at captivating the reader. Kate’s frustration is contagious to the point that you start feeling frustrated towards her. The fact that the story is told by three different generations, Kate being the youngest, only makes it harder not to want to snap at her and tell her to get a grip. Everything seems so much easier, clearer, when you condensate different angles into one picture…

As If I Were A River is an emotional journey where the word missing seems to play an extremely relevant part. Someone gone missing, missing someone, missing the point, missing the chance… and then finding.

I will certainly be keeping an eye out for Amanda Saint. I think she’s finding her own literary flow.

ARC provided by Urbane Publications via NetGalley.

P.S. The book is visually beautiful.

Quotes

Currently Reading Quotes: “M Train” by Patti Smith

“I look down at my hands. I’m sure I could write endlessly about nothing. If only I had nothing to say.”

“Such a sad portion of injustice served to beautiful Bolanõ, to die at the height of his powers at fifty years old. The loss of him and his unwritten denying us at least one secret of the world.”

“I count the lines of the envisioned one-hundred-line poem, now three lines shy. Ninety-seven clues but nothing solved, another cold-case poem.”

“It occurred to me, as the heavy curtains were opened and the morning light flooded the small dining area, that without a doubt we sometimes eclipse our own dreams into reality.”

“I suppose I was busy thinking about such things or attempting to untangle the mystery of an expanding network of seemingly unanswerable questions.”

“The compass was old and rusted but it still worked, connecting the earth and stars. It told me where I was standing and which way was west but not where I was going or nothing of my worth.”

“Perhaps there is no past or future, only the perpetual present that contains this trinity of memory.”

There is truly something magical about Patti Smith’s writing. It feels like we are in an alternative reality where time moves in a different way – it follows you instead of having you run after it. It’s quite extraordinary.

Reviews

“The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.”

I just realized something rather interesting. I bought this book because I heard it being mentioned quite a few times, but I never heard anything about its content. This is true. I reached The Catcher in the Rye in total darkness. I could have looked it up, but I didn’t. Why is this interesting? I had basically zero expectations. It’s a classic, yes, but long ago have I given up on thinking that I am going to love it just because it’s a classic.

I must confess that at first I thought Holden’s language was going to be the death of me. His character’s voice isn’t one that blends with the background, no, it stands out like a flag on fire. The only way of avoiding his tone is by giving up on the book. It did get on my nerves, but then it just became sort of a… ‘oh, it’s just Holden’. Like when you get used to a new friend’s way of expressing herself/himself? I guess it helped that I read it in one sitting. I just got used to it.

I understand the feeling of disappointment with the human race. Being human himself, I believe he has, at the beginning of his story, reached the point when he thinks he can’t expect anything wonderful from himself, so why bother? There’s zero motivation to do anything. That is, until we meet Phoebe. I absolutely love her. Her energy and excitement are truly contagious. So I guess that is what changes Holden’s path. I found that to be rather beautiful, to be honest.

About all I know is, I sort of miss everybody I told about.”

I guess this is it. At first Holden might seem to be a total pain, but the reason he is a pain is because you care. There’s no indifference. That is why at the end of the day you might find yourself missing him…