Saturday, July 14, 2012

THE LAST CHINESE CHEF by Nicole Mones

I remember meeting Nicole when her first book came out in 1998. I was a buyer at Kepler's Books in Menlo Park, and we were all pretty excited about Lost in Translation, which went on to win numerous prizes and do very well in sales for us, and for many other bookstores. I liked her first novel and I like this most recent novel even more, The Last Chinese Chef.
I found the characters believable, and the setting exotic. Not the kind of exotic that feels completely foreign, but the kind of exotic that feels like someplace I might want to visit, a place I might find felt like home. This is a rare and particular talent, sometimes evinced by travel writers, but not often by novelists.
Also, the book is about food. Glorious, scrumptious, heavenly food. Chinese food. Of course I was hungry, you had to ask? I had to make broccoli with fresh ginger and green curry, for heaven's sake.




Friday, July 13, 2012

CARRY THE ONE by Carol Anshaw

CARRY THE ONE by Carol Anshaw is that most delicate and amazing of creations, a literary novel that has glue on the pages. Yes, it is not perfect. No, I no longer expect perfection from literature, or from any other part of my experience of the world, for that matter. But this novel is so satisfying and the characters are so real and compelling and flawed in all the right ways.

A big thing happens right near the beginning of the book, and then the characters have to deal with it. Or try not to deal with it. Roving close third person POV, one of my favorites, and the storyteller past tense, so there is nothing to get in the way of the dream. By this I mean the reader's dream, where I sit down and go into the book and then look up and Considerable Time Has Passed during which I should probably have been Accomplishing Something.  Ah! Lovely!