In Category: ‘Flipping Pages’

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October 30, 2012 Flipping Pages: Vlad


Every year it seems to sneak up on me more quickly.  It’s Halloween time y’all!   I’m not a huge Halloween fan… I don’t really go to the parties and I haven’t dressed up in years.  Actually, it seems this year that I’ll be heading to the other side and going trick-or-treating with the little ones.  As an adult type figure.  What!?

So, as I head away from the parties and the slutty costumes and into the suburban neighborhood festivities, looks like I’ll have to start getting my kicks from the literary circle.  So glad I have friends like Jess to recommend books of absolutely any variety!   Thanks darling!

51clDv dGCL. SL500 AA300  Flipping Pages: Vlad



Vlad by Carlos Fuentes

You guys…it’s Halloween! And I have a terrifying little book to recommend in the spirit of this spookiest of holidays. The whole vampire thing is pretty tired at this point, so I was surprised to read a book about a vampire that feels fresh. The vampire in question here, Vlad the Impaler, isn’t a sparkly, smoldering hunk of burning love. In short, this vampire book is actually scary.

The book is barely 100 pages, so it makes for a quick, completely engrossing read. Yves Navarro, the narrator, is a lawyer in modern day Mexico City. His boss persuades him, in tandem with Yves’ real estate agent wife, to help a foreign friend of his relocate from Eastern Europe to Mexico City. The foreigner’s qualifications for his new home are beyond odd. It needs to have access to a ravine, a tunnel must be dug through the backyard, leading to the ravine, each room needs to be outfitted with several drains in the floors, and all the windows in the house must be completely sealed. Yves finds this strange, but proceeds with the plan because he wants to impress his boss. Even after he meets this eccentric new client, who introduces himself as Vladimir Radu and says increasingly creepy stuff, like, “Tell your wife that I am breathing her scent,” he remains clueless. We know, of course, what’s going on and we marvel at Yves’ blithe attitude.

Yves’ feelings toward his wife are beyond sweet. His love and physical attraction to her seem fresh, even after years of marriage and the loss of their son, who drowned in the sea only a short time ago. Their relationship seems stronger than ever, as they enjoy their daily routine of dropping their daughter off at school and breakfasting alone together. The memory of their passionate love-making lingers with him throughout his workday.

Before long, Vlad begins to torment our poor, daft Yves. I won’t say more than that, but I will say that what happens is sublimely terrifying. The book manages to get beyond traditional “horror” and takes us to a place we never knew we needed to be afraid of.



Sometimes, Jess recommends books to me that really make me wonder about her.  How could she possibly enjoy this?  Or think that I might enjoy it?  A teen romance?!  And then I read it, because she has never ever steered me wrong.  This book is fantastic.  It makes me wish I had been this girl when I was in high school.  Or even known that I could have been this girl in high school!

Oh, and just a note… this book is incredibly heavy!  It’s not that big, but it’s super heavy.  One of those that you think you should buy for an e-reader, but the illustrations are so good, you really must see it in full color!

Skirball 057 Flipping Pages: Why We Broke Up

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Hey Everybody! Summer is officially OVER and this week’s got me looking forward to Autumn (or the extended summer we have here in LA) and looking backward with longing at what used to be my favorite time of year: Back to School. It’s sick, I know, but I used to get excited at the promise of new assignments, fresh school supplies and end-of-summer gossip (I went to school when people were much less technologically connected). I thought we should read something that takes us back to that time, when the week after Labor Day meant new beginnings and cool breezes and being a grown-up was something to be put off for as long as possible.

Full-Disclosure: this is a Young Adult book. But that’s ok! We were all Young Adults once…not so long ago! I’m not sure what it was about this book that piqued my interest. Perhaps it was the illustrations by one of my favorites, Maira Kalman. Or I just have strong urges to revisit those formative years of my youth and remember what it was like for everything to be so downright new. Why We Broke Up is a letter from Min to her former boyfriend, Ed, detailing all the ways their short love affair was just plain wrong. I love that Daniel Handler, sometimes also known as Lemony Snicket, so totally nails what it’s like to be a confused and yet very cool teenage girl. Ed repeatedly tells Min she’s “not like other girls.” In fact, she is. She could be any of us, really. She meets a popular guy at a party, he pursues her, she is completely enchanted by him and blind to some pretty huge warning signs.

After I read this little gem, I had a marathon session of My So-Called Life episodes, an old favorite that shares so much in common with the book. The show aired when I was a sophomore in high school, and it was truly the first time I saw characters on television that could’ve been plucked straight from the halls of my school. The show beautifully represented what it was like to be a teenager in the late 90′s and it was refreshing to finally see that I wasn’t alone out there, that whatever I was going through was fairly normal. So sad that they only filmed one season! (And what’s even more disturbing: I found myself identifying with the parents in the show this time around! Noooo!) The entire season is available on Netflix, Amazon and iTunes, so definitely catch it if you haven’t already!

xo, Jessica


There’s a Tumblr page that people can post their own break-up stories on…adorbs!
This page is a collection of posts that Daniel has responded to…hilarious!

I have a French problem.  I am obsessed with all things French.  The food, the language, the culture, the cafes.  All of it.  So, when Jessica recommended Le Divorce I was super excited.  But when her copy had Kate Hudson & Naomi Watts on the cover, I was concerned.  How good could this book be!?  Turns out, real good.  If your copy has Kate Hudson on the cover, push through it and flip through.  It’s delicious!

ledivorce Flipping Pages: Le Divorce

Le Divorce by Diane Johnson

Isn’t Paris delicious? Let’s go there right now. Zero airfare required. Actually, this novel is more than 10 years old, so you can get a paperback for about the cost of two coffees. Score! (Unfortunately, it might have Kate Hudson and Naomi Watts on the cover, from the film adaptation. I recently watched it again, and I have to say, it’s not as bad as I remember. Hudson is horribly mis-cast, but it’s a Merchant Ivory film…how bad can it really be?)

Le Divorce is about Isabel, an American girl who moves to Paris to help her sister, Roxy, during her pregnancy and through the birth of her second child. When Isabel arrives in the city, she finds that Roxy’s upper-crusty husband’s run out on her and is living with another woman (also married to someone else) . It’s all quite scandalous, as he’s left Roxy pregnant with a toddler in tow. His family knows the whole story and the way they handle things is very French. As in, they act like nothing has happened, more or less. Things start to get a bit prickly when the matter of a divorce is raised, along with the separation of their assets. They have practically nothing, except a painting Roxy took to Paris with her from her parent’s home in Santa Barbara. Questions are raised about the value and authenticity of the painting and both the American and French families become involved in the struggle over this piece of art that Roxy has loved since she was young. Toward the end, the book becomes very suspenseful, which I didn’t expect, but thoroughly enjoyed. Nestled in with all of this intrigue is Isabel’s coming of age. You know the story. American Girl in Paris. Sowing her wild oats…all those cliches. Cliches that are fun to read about, it turns out. She has several affairs (one most notably with a much older man), learns to form an opinion and live on her own, becomes a “citizen of the world”. We see everything through her eyes. Her American, impossibly young and incredibly self-centered eyes. And she’s hilarious. She reminds me of myself around the time I visited Paris for the first time, a 21-year-old who thought she had things figured out, but turned out to know nearly nothing at all. (Here’s a picture of me, chewing gum like a teenager. Sigh.)

Jess 1024x647 Flipping Pages: Le Divorce

State of Wonder was one of the first books that Jess recommended for me.  It made me fall in love with reading again after a, ahem, seven year hiatus.  It’s fun and fascinating and the story unfolds so beautifully.  A must read!

stateofwonder Flipping Pages: State Of Wonder

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Oooooh…let’s go on an adventure! Into the heart of the Amazon (not my sadly beloved e-commerce site, which wouldn’t count for much of an adventure, unless we planned on making a purchase large enough to stop hearts)! Let’s venture deep into the heart of the jungle with one of my very favorite authors, Ann Patchett. I promise you I will not write the words “jungle” and “fever” together in this post. Crossing heart, hoping to whatever. Although, malaria is a huge issue raised in this lovely romp of a book. But in a more serious way. Seriously.

In State of Wonder, we meet Dr. Marina Singh, a pharmaceutical researcher whose colleague dies after he’s sent into the Amazon to check up on yet another researcher’s progress in developing a valuable mystery drug. The details of her colleague’s death are unclear, his progress unreported. The big guns at the company she works for are anxious to get the famously brilliant and notoriously secretive Dr. Swenson under their control, to begin making lots of money off of her discoveries. So, Marina follows in her dead co-worker’s footsteps, traveling to Brasil and tracking Dr. Swenson all the way to a tiny undiscovered and completely sheltered community deep in the Amazon. We all read Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in high school, right? There are echoes of that story here, but it’s far from an adaptation. There’s mystery and a good bit of suspense around Dr. Swenson’s work. What has she found in the jungle? Will it change the world and modern medicine forever? Was she involved in the death of Marina’s colleague?

I don’t want to say much more and spoil everything for you, but let me just say: this book is just so much fun. I like to travel as much as the next gal, but I don’t have the guts to get on a dingy and disappear into the jungle. Bad stuff happens there. Stuff no one will ever know about. No thanks! I’d rather read about it. Maybe that’s a tiny part of why I loved this book so much. And why you might, too.

I’m still working on our Italy images, but until they’re ready, perhaps you ought to bury yourself in the most fabulous Italian novel!   I haven’t had a chance to read this one yet, but Jessica’s review makes me so happy and excited for it that I bought it on my phone while we were chatting about it over brunch.  That good!

Italy Cinque Terre 28 Flipping Pages: Beautiful Ruins(a few frames from our trip to Portovenere in December 2011)


Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

As part of our Summertime Wanderlust reading series, let’s travel to Italy! It might be my favorite country in the whole wide world, but you know what’s better than just plain Italy: Italy in the early 60′s…with movie stars! Bananas, I know. Actually, this is the perfect “my body can’t travel, but my mind can” book because, in addition to Italy, Walter takes us to so many different places (the Pacific Northwest, Hollywood, Idaho, London and Edinburgh) and times (1960′s, present day, the end of WWII, 1980′s). By the second chapter, I was completely caught up in this delectably inter-woven story. I am forever in awe of a storyteller who can take several seemingly unrelated strands and turn them into one lovely story. It’s tough to achieve, so when it’s done well, I can think of nothing more enjoyable to peruse.

The novel begins in the tiny (fictional) coastal village of Porto Vergogna, home to a few fisherman and not much else. It’s 1962, there’s not a whole lot going on, but Pasquale Tursi has great aspirations for his family’s teeny hotel there. (The name of his hotel is Hotel Adequate View. I dare you not to laugh at that.) He dreams that one day, American tourists will flock to his place, much as they’d started to visit the nearby Cinque Terre. But the village isn’t connected to the rail lines. It’s so small and insignificant that it can barely sustain its handful of inhabitants. This makes it the perfect lay-low-lair for a dying young actress, Dee Moray, who flees the set of Cleopatra in Rome and appears on the docks and stays in Pasquale’s hotel. With her, Dee brings the all messiness of the whole modern world, changing the little village, and Pasquale forever.

Other characters include Claire Silver, a creative assistant who left her broody/serious academic endeavors for a job at a dying production company. (The only problem I have with Claire is that she lives in Santa Monica, works on the Universal Lot and her commute is described as taking exactly 18 minutes. This is impossible. But let’s not get bogged down.) Her boyfriend is an out-of-work actor with good looks and a porn addiction. Her boss, Michael Deane, used to be a huge Hollywood player, but is nearing the end of his life and trying to hold on to some of his former success. Shane Wheeler is an all-around failure, living with his parents after his recent divorce and hoping to sell his screenplay to Deane’s company. It’s about the Donner Party. As in, cannibals. An in, people eating people. As in, why would anyone want to see that movie?! Lucky us, one of the chapters in Beautiful Ruins is Shane’s pitch for his movie, which is called Donner!, so we get to see the magic unfold. Another chapter is the first and only chapter of a book that a failed writer and frequent guest at the Hotel Adequate View has left behind in one of the rooms. That one little stand-alone chapter made my eyes water like crazy (as in, I was NOT crying!)

All of these character’s stories are beautifully inter-woven to a perfect climax, after which, all of the ends are tied up like a pretty little gift to yourself. (As in, please do yourself a favor and read this book!) Calgon only takes me to my bathtub, (which, after a moment of soaking, I invariably wish was cleaner, thereby causing me to question my housekeeping skills as a whole. It’s all quite depressing) but this book is transporting!


eeek the very first Flipping Pages!  I’m not going to lie, I’m super excited about this one because, well, it’s delicious.  One of those books you don’t want to put down.  And definitely one of those books I never would have read had Jessica not been in my life.   So, go pick this one up and settle in.  Tomorrow there will be a cocktail to go along with this delicious story!

Summertime Wanderlust: The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey


image1 1024x656 Flipping Pages: The Flight of Gemma HardyJessica at Edinburgh castle, 2001

Every year as summer rolls around, it hits me: Wanderlust. I don’t want to be home wrapped up (read: tied down) in the everyday, I want board a plane and roam distant lands (which hopefully have luxurious accommodations).  However, life sometimes gets in the way of my travel plans. I know, ridiculous! When I can’t get away, the next best thing to travel, for me, has always been finding a great story to get lost in. During the summer, I try to read novels set in faraway places. So simple, so cheap. All you need is a comfy, quiet place, your book and your imagination. Add a latte (or, dare I say, a cocktail) and a few delectable morsels to nibble on and the experience could almost compete with a fabulous vacation. I am aware that this sounds cheesy, but who cares?

The Flight of Gemma Hardy satisfies some serious wanderlust. Set in Scotland, and later in Iceland, the novel is a clever re-tooling of Jane Eyre. In most situations, I’d frown upon something billed as the “retelling” of a classic, beloved novel. It seems like stealing. Or just laziness. Practically every beloved classic has been copied, both outright and covertly, a thousand times. The originals are perfect. Just read those! But Livesey takes the basic threads of Jane Eyre to create a story that feels fresh. It’s fun to note all of the clever parallels to Bronte’s masterpiece (they’re sort of sign posts that mark your place in the story: here, the harrowing school years. There, the letter announcing a job offer), but you don’t need to have read Jane Eyre to enjoy Gemma Hardy.

It begins in the 1950′s and stretches into the late 60′s as Gemma is taken from her native Iceland to her uncle’s home in Scotland after the deaths of both her parents. Her uncle intends to raise her as one of his own, but he, too, dies, leaving her in the care of his mean-spirited wife. Gemma’s aunt sends her away to a boarding school where Gemma must work as a housemaid and fight to get an education where she can. Eventually, she finds a job as an au pair to a wild young girl living under the care of Mr. Sinclair, master of Blackbird Hall in the Orkney Islands. And then things get really interesting.

The novel is so lovely, so skillfully crafted. Some of the gothic elements from Jane Eyre are preserved, but don’t feel out of place in the least. I found myself cringing at all of Gemma’s missteps, all her little misfortunes. And going through all of these with her make reading about her triumphs all the more satisfying. The ending breaks away from the Jane Eyre model to fit in more with the time it’s set in, the beginning of the women’s movement. By the end, you’ll be sorry you can’t follow her just a bit farther, just a bit longer.

Happy reading!


Jessica is my literary friend.  I imagine as a child that she kept her nose buried in a book at all times, with a waiting stack not too far out of reach.  Her apartment has multiple walls dedicated only to the storage of books, and this girl reads mostly on a Kindle.  She has collections of books… old books, pretty books, classic books.  She is funny and smart and creative and happens to know me super well.  So, whenever I’m looking for something new to read, she’s my first, and well, only stop.  Because anything that she has every recommended to me is absolutely superb!  She gives me books that I absolutely can’t put down.  Books that I never thought I would enjoy.  Books that I try to go back to after the last page, forgetting that the story is over and the characters aren’t moving on among those pages.  Books that make me sad they aren’t part of a trilogy!

So, my lovely friend has been kind enough to be a contributor!  I know that I find her recommendations absolutely wonderful, and I hope she can inspire you!

jess 1 199x300 Flipping Pages: An Introduction

Hello, my name is Jessica and I have a reading problem. (This is where you’re all supposed to say, “Hi Jessica.” Do it. It’ll be fun.)

I was beyond thrilled when Jordana asked me to contribute this little series on everything book-related! It is my firm belief that one cannot lead a truly fabulous life without a regular reading regimen. In other words, books are my cardio. This does nothing for my figure, but if only you could see my soul! After majoring in English Lit in undergrad and grad school, I have a pretty solid foundation to build upon. That doesn’t mean I’m (too) snobby about what I read. After years (and years) of being told what to read and when, my philosophy is: pick whatever strikes my fancy at this very moment. This means choosing from all (err…most) categories and genres, to whatever makes me happy. Because Jessica’s Reading Rule No. 1 is: Above all, have fun. I find that after I’ve finished a book I truly enjoyed, I want to run out and tell everyone about it. The best thing anyone can ever say to me is, “I’m looking for a good book.” There’s just nothing better than passing on a great read to someone I know will love it as much as I did! So, so looking forward to sharing all my great book finds here with all of you!

Here are some of my most memorable reads over the years. Some of them are embarrassing.

collage1 Flipping Pages: An Introduction

1. The Great Gatsby. I come back to it every few years and it’s always absolute perfection.

2. A Song of Fire and Ice. Ok, here’s where I really let my dork show. Yes, this is a fantasy series. Yes, there’s magic and dragons. But I stand behind my love of this series and remain forever thankful to good ole’ George R. R. Martin for leading me on an unforgettable journey through this incredible world.

3. Anything Jane Austen. My favorite is Persuasion, but I hold a deep and burning love for all of Austen’s novels. They’re such cheeky fun.
4. Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea. I loved Jane Eyre as a child, but enjoyed it even more as a grown-up. Jean Rhys’ quasi-prequel, set in the West Indies, chronicles the life of Bertha, Mr. Rochester’s ill-fated first wife.

5. Charlotte’s Web.  I recently read this to a child and found myself sobbing as poor Charlotte said her goodbyes. Made a mental note to compose myself a bit before reading it to my own children someday.

6. Moonstone. A completely engrossing Victorian detective novel that kept me awake, reading furiously for several nights.

7. The complete works of David Sedaris. At least once a week, I lament not being born a Sedaris. I go back to his stories over and over again and find they still make me ugly-laugh every time. They’re also great as audio books because, to be honest, Sedaris’ voice is hilarious all on its own.
8. The novels of John Grisham. These really did it for me during junior high. I definitely knew more legal jargon than most 13 year olds.

9. Babysitter’s Club. I was so engrossed in this series that my parents had to intervene. They’d pry the book out of my hands and force me to play outside. I still hold this against them.

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