Burned and Books that Cook: The Making Of A Literary Meal

Here’s a quick rundown of where I’ve been reading wise!

Burned by Karen Marie Moning

Ugh. Avoid. I’d read the first five books in the Fever series feverishly (clever! not.) And had thought that that would be the last I would see of Mac and Barrons and the sidhe-seers and the uglies (I mean the Unseelies of course) and the pretties (also known as the Seelies).

Turns out I was wrong. Miss Moning released a sixth book in 2012. Only it wasn’t really a sixth book. It was purported to be the first book in a trilogy set in the same world but following the travails and triumphs of Dani Mega O’Malley, a precious 14 year old who was one of the major characters in the series.

Fair enough.

I like Dani’s voice and enjoy the first book in the trilogy.

Only it wasn’t the first in a trilogy. No siree. Miss Moning backtracks and pronounces that Iced was actually the sixth in the series and a continuation of the first five. Ugh, what? I was left feeling slightly distrustful but mostly confident in KMM’s ability to tell a good story.

Or not.

Because the seventh in the series (!!) which was released this past January on the 20th of the month was a Disaster (yes, with a capital D).

Where do I begin?

First there’s the whining. Yes, Mac, the girl who’s become a woman through the first five books whines. Now, I don’t think that being a woman means that you’re done with insecurities forever but dear god, Mac’s moanings (see how clever I am being today?) makes her downright unbearable and BORING. Yes, dear reader so bored was I that I skipped large swathes of the book (majority of which were Mac’s inner chatterings) and finished the behemoth of the book (it was 500 pages plus) within four hours.

Then there’s Barrons and his nine whatever they are. I’ve already documented my love for Alpha Heroes but this was just Too Much Testosterone! And not necessarily in a way that appeals. The problem with getting into the details of Barrons and his entourage is that all of them come across as carbon copies of each other. I would rather have some mystery associated with them than have them become boring in their details.

The biggest infraction, however, is the short shrift that Dani’s character is given. The only way KMM can redeem herself is if in the next book she can explain why Dani’s character was developed the way it was.

There’s just too much going on and not in a way that adds up to any coherent whole. Maybe KMM’s setting it up for the next two books but that’s no excuse for such sloppy storytelling! The world that’s been created in the series is compelling and is what might persuade me to read the next installment. We’ll see.

Books that Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal
Edited by Jennifer Cognard-Black, Melissa Goldthwaite, Marion Nestle

So I love food. And it has dawned on me that perhaps there is literature to be explored that celebrates food and explores food and discusses food.

Books that Cook was one of my first forays into this territory. Unfortunately because of its structure (it’s a collection of pieces, excerpted both from fiction and non-fiction, that focuses on food) I never got around to reading it in one sitting and was half-way through before I realized that I most likely would not finish it anytime soon and returned it to the library.

The bits that I did read I enjoyed quite a lot.

There’s what I call the talkative recipes from the 18th and the 19th centuries. No, the recipes themselves don’t become little monsters and start whispering in your ear while you’re stirring the ladle in what constitutes for the modern cauldron. It’s the way the recipes are written—preceded by exhortations to be an economical housewife and the admonition to learn the practical art of cooking which would mean a steady source of income at the very least that I found quite entertaining.

Then there was a piece about mushrooms which was quite lovely. It was a piece of non-fiction in which the author alternates between the mushrooms and his own doomed relationships. As he narrates his love for the edible fungus, alternating it with his account of a phobia of commitment and his discovery that he prefers the company of men to women, following his father’s death, the reader cannot help but feel the solace that the author derives from the image of life blooming into fullness amidst rot and waste. I loved how the writing was imbued with this sense of confluence, of the feeling that surely there would be a point of convergence between his two loves.

It’s a book that I’ll most likely be checking out again.

a reading meme

Found this wonderful meme over at Litlove’s and wanted to give it a whirl!

The Book I’m Reading

Jo Walton’s ‘Among Others’ – universally good reviews plus a 2011 Nebula followed by a 2012 Hugo clinched the deal. This was, however, a month ago. At the time that I started Among Others I also embarked upon Francis Lymond’s 10 year journey with Dorothy Dunnett little realizing that I would be dead to everything else till I finished the six part series. Of course, once I finished the series I was left gasping for breath and had to breathe in a lung-full of something sweet, something light. Once THAT was over with as well I could finally settle into Among Others.

Among Others is a fantasy unlike others in that the story’s not choc a bloc with fantastical creatures and other-worldly happenings. In fact now that I think of it the story’s touched more by an air of mystery than fantasy – the event that triggered Morganna’s current life situation are never fully revealed (Morganna is the 15 year old socially awkward bibliophile who narrates the story). Her mother is hinted at being literally evil but we do not really hear from her or of her other than Morganna’s oblique references. The secondary characters especially Wim and Morganna’s paternal relations, grandfather Sam and her father’s three sisters, all portend trouble – of things coming to a head in the second half of the novel where all these secondary characters are going to become important. And of course writing the above just made me realize that Miss Walton has definitely succeeded in imbuing her story with a certain atmosphere – a thick pall of rain and thunder and storm is what I would associate the story with. I’ll come back to this once I’m done with the whole novel.

The Last Book I Read

Pride & Prejudice – Ahh, I loved this re-reading so much. Sort of like soaking in the warmth of the sun after a particularly chilly night. The romance between Miss Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy was delightful. So too was the ridiculousness of the haughty Lady Catherine and the obsequious Mr. Collins. I appreciate the fact that while from my 21st century perspective I find these characters a tad unrealistic and tending to be a little caricature-like they probably have their grounding in the norms that were prevalent in the late 18th century and early 19th century. Of course each character could also be held up as a template of a certain type of individual that remains as true in the 21st century as it probably was in Miss Austen’s times – Mrs. Bennett and Lydia Bennett, the fluffy heads with nary a care except all that would be judged by the social barometer; Jane Bennett and Charles Bingley who seem naïve and too-good-to-be-true with the sweetness of their tempers and kindness of their dispositions; Mr. Bennett who seeks solace and amusement in his books and the absurdities of life as his coping mechanism for the choice he made in marrying Mrs. Bennett; and last but not the least Elizabeth and Darcy who in the surety of their opinions and in the blend of a certain selfishness and caring affection towards their family members and friends are perhaps the most easily relatable. I have to admit that I would not mind reading Pride & Prejudice in a proper classroom setting with a rigorous analysis of the novel as well as of the context in which Miss Austen wrote this much beloved work.

The Book I’ll Read Next

Ahh, all the contenders have been swept aside by the release of Karen Marie Moning’s next installment in the Fever world series – Iced.  I am a fan of Miss Moning’s packs-a-punch storytelling where half the world’s population is dead and the other half is busy cavorting ‘in the Faerie’. I came to the Fever series late which was odd considering that I was a big fan of her Highlander romances. However, once begun I could not put the books down – a heavy dose of paranormal elements crossed with alpha-male-hunkiness dunked in a world of non-whimpering females who can kick some major ass is as good a pleasure-read as it gets. Why these would not be the epitome of comfort-read is something that I might need to explore in another post; for the time being for a thoroughly enjoyable bout of pleasure reading I’d most certainly recommend the Fever series.

The Last Book I Bought

My last purchase was actually last night – Persuasion from the Kindle store since after re-reading Pride & Prejudice I want to go through all of Miss Austen’s works again.

The Last Book I Was Given

It’s been a while since I was given a book. I think the last one was a collection of poetry edited by Edward Hirsch. I love what I call ‘Poetry of the Everyday’ and I distinctly remember this collection featuring several of those kind… perhaps it’s time for a re-read. Speaking of poetry, I love the sort written by David Whyte, Billy Collins, Jane Hirschfield and Mary Oliver – they remind me of the joy and the poetry lurking in the interstices of life. And writing this brings the forceful realization that it’s been a really long while since I read any. I think one of my next purchases is going to be a book of poems!

tana french and karen marie moning

The Faithful Place – Can we really shed our past? Is it not better to just embrace it rather than keep pushing against it? That to me seems to be the overarching theme of The Faithful Place. An extremely well crafted murder mystery, the pages of The Faithful Place pulsed with the life-blood of Liberties (the location of the story) – the location is very definitely a character of its own in this novel. So much of the characters’ actions (and non-actions) are shaped by The Faithful Place (the specific locality in Liberties where the story plays out) and all that it stands for in each of the character’s mind. In fact the book is so well-written that despite having guessed the identity of the culprit half-way through the book, I still wanted to plow through all of the details. Well-deserving of all the hype and hoopla surrounding it.

Fever Series – Whoa! Packs a punch. Un-put-down-able. I found the heroine a tad irritating and wanted to scream at her to grow up for almost the whole of the series. The hero – ahh, like all good escapist-fiction (and as one would expect from a former romance author) is totally sigh-worthy with nary a flaw in sight. The BEST part of the series though is that at the end of the series the delineation of who is the hero and who the villain is well blurred. If motive counts (and it DOES in my book), then well… would you still call the villain of the story the villain? Miss Moning mentioned she wanted her readers to see shades of grey all over and she has for certain accomplished that. All in all Karen Marie Moning has created an unforgettable world and I cannot wait to read more of Dani’s and/or MacKayla’s adventure!