Okay, dudes. It's been too long since I've written a review, which makes no sense at all since Nate and I have been spending a fortune on take out and restaurants. (Folks with no kids: Does this ever happen to you? You just get into an "eating out" phase? Bad for the pocketbook, but good for the soul, I say.) 

Anyway. Several weeks back we hit up a place we'd never been to before: Biff's Bistro (an Oliver and Bonacini restaurant down on Front St.). 

We went for one reason and one reason only: CHEAP OYSTERS. In fact, I think the oysters at Biff's may be the cheapest in the city. See, the restaurant runs this happy-hour-type oyster special that starts at 5 pm every night. Oysters on the half shell are only $1! Usually, they're $3. They come with basic toppings only - lemon wedges and horseradish, but frankly, that's good enough for me. Additional toppings may be available, but probably at a price. I didn't check. All I cared about were the oysters. Slippery, salty, wonderful oysters. Only $1 a piece. It was like a dream.
I don't know if you're aware of this, but $1/each is basically a wholesale oyster price. I'm not even kidding. I'm crazy for oysters lately. So crazy, I've been looking into trying to buy them wholesale for myself. So that Nate and I can have a feast of only oysters. (I don't know why I want to do this. I have just been craving oysters lately. I'm not preggo or anything, so who knows where this craving is coming from.)

Anyway, Nate and I headed to Biff's a little early, arriving at 5:30, which was smart, because they get a limited amount of oysters in each day, and they sell out fast. So if you want to take advantage of the $1 special, be early and order quick. When we were there, they'd sold out of their 700 oysters (which is the number they happened to get that day) before 7 pm.

Now, to be fair, these are not fancy oysters. The ones we had were perfectly fresh, but they were also on the small side. I think they were malpeques from PEI. Nothing wrong with that, but if you're a true oyster lover and want more variety and options, this isn't where to get 'em. This is where you get cheap oysters. And when you're eating something that usually costs $3 for less than a mouthful, you've got to compromise a little.

We ate three dozen and boy was I happy.

Anyway. Enough about the oysters. Here's the rest of Biff's dinner menu
Otherwise, Biff's was just so-so, in my opinion. Sitting on the patio (on one of the last warm evenings of the year) was nice. The french bistro vibe and outdoor furniture were nice too. In addition to the oysters, we had the Crispy Pig Ears and Rinds (shown above), which were sort of mediocre. The rinds seemed like the sort of stuff you could get in a bag from the supermarket, while the crispy ears were more chewy than crispy. Still, not bad. Nate also had an order of Steak Frites. Steak and fries and vegetables. For $26 (on top of what we already ordered), it was the cheapest hearty-looking thing on the menu, and since we were already splurging on the night out, we wanted to keep our costs down). It was fine, but nothing special. If not for the cheap oysters, it would have been a disappointing meal for the price.

Anyway, there's my review of Biff's. The oysters make it worth it. Everything else was ho-hum.
I watch a lot of TV. I LIKE to watch a lot of TV. Sue me, okay? I don't love much of what I see, but I keep watching nonetheless, giving new shows a chance each and every season, watching and waiting for that one gem of true goodness. (Something I can get behind as much as My So-Called Life, The Sopranos, The Wire, or The Walking Dead.) I watch and I watch and I watch, but likeable shows are few and far between, and really great shows practically don't exist. Also, more often than not, when I think a show has potential, it's cancelled before it can get off the ground. (This happened last season with The Playboy Club and Prime Suspect.) So, me saying I like a show is a little like saying "Hey, this show is probably going to be cancelled!" but nonetheless, I am going to give you my feelings on a few of 2012's new offerings. In the interests of levity and brevity, I'm going to keep my reviews short. Feel free to tell me if you disagree with my conclusions.

The Mindy Project

Considering how smart and funny Mindy Kaling is, this show is/was a huge disappointment. In fact, I hated it. (So, as I said above, it will probably be a hit.)

Personally, I think fat jokes, race jokes and misogynist stereotyping are base and not particularly funny under any circumstances, but  I know I'm in the minority in that regard. Stupid, offensive humour is apparently HILARIOUS to most. And if you watched the first episode, but didn't even notice how offensive it was, then I guess you're part of the "most."  This show's for you! 

666 Park Avenue

I've only seen a couple of episodes, but I'm willing to give this show a chance.

It's heavy handed. If you've ever watched any supernatural-type stuff, 666 will feel familiar. 

Expect devilish cliches including selling your soul, homages to The Shining, sexy sexy red dresses in a sea of black, ghostly apparitions that appear and disappear without warning, and surprise-based scares, designed to make you jump (but that are rarely scary enough to ACTUALLY make you jump.

I personally found it distracting and depressing to see the blond lead, Rachael Taylor touted as the show's sex-pot, particularly considering that when she's pictured in the aforementioned red dress, her entire rib cage is clearly visible beneath her skin. In Hollywood, emaciation is super-sexy (for women) and middle-aged bald men rule. Le sigh. But as I said, I'll give the show a chance.


Watching Dennis Quaid try to channel the goofy-faces of Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones without any of the charm is a waste of my time, frankly. 

There was some sort of murder in the first episode, and I'm sure Mr. Quaid is going to turn out to be a crack lady-murder-solver, but I just didn't care. Stopped watching after 25 minutes.  

I feel like some network jerks got drunk one night and said "Hey, what if, like Criminal Minds and the Sopranos and Mad Men WERE ONE SHOW?" And that's what Vegas is supposed to be. Only with crap writing and no inspiration. Snore.


Nate and I have watched the first three episodes of this post-apocalyptical drama and so far, neither one of us is particularly impressed. 

The basic premise doesn't bother me (a world with no more electricity) and the pull of actors who played popular characters on OTHER shows is strong Giancarlo Esposito (Gus Fring on Breaking Bad), for example, and Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliet Burke on Lost). Nonetheless, this show feels way too dumbed down to really compel. Everything is made so obvious and that can be boring. Like, yeah yeah yeah, there's no more electricity and there's some sort of mystery to why there's no more electricity, but what else? Can I get somebody with a real-world problem to relate to up in here? 

Revolution feels to me like a brightly-lit take off of The Walking Dead, except there are no zombies, so the stakes are way lower. Plus the lead girl is such a cookie-cutter nubile hottie -- a feisty (but whiny) teen/adult hybrid. You've seen her a million times before, and yes, she's still irritating. Maybe it'll get better. I don't know.

Last Resort

A military drama? Initially, I thought this show would be hateful. 

Scott Speedman NOT on Felicity? Yuckeroony. 

Nate and I tuned into this pilot after abandoning the stink-fest that was Vegas, so maybe I was primed to like anything better than that, but I felt like Last Resort had a moderately strong premiere. 

The whole "Rah rah America! Nuclear power is terrifying!" thing doesn't really resonate with me, but I think this show has potential. Will watch at least a couple more episodes.

Chicago Fire

This is another one of those surprisingly-watchable dealies. Having seen the previews, I expected to have to suspend my disbelief, which primed me to be irritated. (I mean, women who weigh 90 lbs aren't capable of regularly lifting and working with fire-fighting equipment. Sorry. Unless they're super-powered, no. Just no. I know said women were cast because they're socially approved on the "attractiveness" scale, but they're not believable firefighters, thankyouverymuch.) Luckily, the show seems conscious of these issues  (ie. the teeny women in question are EMTs, not firefighters! Crisis averted!) Anyway.

Chicago Fire has all the makings of a stinker: Think boring, tired premise. Men in uniform! In Chicago! With hard-rock man-boobs! (Check out the overly worked/photoshopped pecs in the promo shot, above.) Even so, I'm surprised to say that the pilot of Chicago Fire wasn't bad. The stakes were high and the plot deals with at least SOME real issues (including the death of a husband/friend, possible drug-dependency, gender relations, ego and competition in the workplace, etc.). I have no idea if it's going to be a good show (my guess is probably not), but the premiere was WAY more successful than many I've seen, so I think I'll give it a chance.

The Mob Doctor

Have attempted multiple episodes, but can't bring myself to develop much of a connection to this show, even though I remember liking Jordana Spiro (the lead) in previous roles. 

The Mob Doctor is just another mainstream drama. Doctors, mobsters, stock characters and situations, totally predictable motivations. 

It's the kind of thing you can tune into any night, and it feels familiar. Because it is. That's what you get with a show that is little more than another hospital/crime/family drama hybrid. It's not great. It's not even bad. It's just sort of meh. Something that could run for years without ever doing anything particularly impressive or offensive. It will never be great, but that doesn't mean it won't stay on the air.

Anyway! Make of my mini-reviews what you will, fellow boob-tubers. And like I said, feel free to disagree in the comments!

Back in February of last year, I did a little blog about a new kitchen boutique that had recently opened in the St. Clair west neighbourhood of Toronto. Called Clay, the place had (as I put it) a "neat indie aesthetic" and that hasn't changed. It's still a very cute place, and it seems it's doing quite well. One of the owners got in touch awhile back asked me to pop in again to see how it had changed and grown over the past couple of years and I finally got around to it this week. My verdict: the shop is a success.
When I first wrote about Clay, I said that it felt a little sparse and very IKEA-y. Sparse is definitely no longer accurate. The store is now very well stocked -- not packed -- but there's plenty to see. It's definitely handy to have a place like this in the 'hood. I feel like I can shop for a wedding or for a last minute gift without going out of my favoured 5 block area, and that's big for me.
Clay is a place where you can get both big ticket items and small stuff. In other words, it's very option-friendly. For example, if you want to splurge, Clay has a good selection of Le Crueset:
At the same time, the shop stocks cool and quirky stuff like this adorable squirrel nut cracker, for about $26. (Push down on the tail and the mouth opens. Put the nut in the squirrels mouth and press down on the tail to crack. Fun! It was hard to resist buying this little guy.) 
I also love that the shop has a warm, neighbourhood vibe. Since it's a neighbourhood store, that seems appropriate. Check out the mantle on the back wall:
Finally, check out this interesting line of cookware Clay has stocked:
A little research tells me that while this line looks new, it's actually been around since the early part of the 20th Century. Since the line is imported from France, a lot of the information about it is in French, so I can't tell you much more except that it seems super eco friendly and it can go from stovetop to oven, which is always handy. Maybe it'll be the next old-to-new boom like the aforementioned Le Crueset? Who knows. Clay is one of the only places I've EVER seen carrying it. 

Anyway. Yay for Clay! That should be the title of this post. Having to go to a mall or a big box store makes me want to shoot myself in the face. It's places like Clay that let me avoid that sort of thing, and that's why I love it.

Congratulations, Clay. Keep on truckin'. 
Aw, man. It's been way too long between reviews posts. Time to get back to it. 

And with that, I bring you a little piece on a new vintage shop that opened recently in my hood (St. Clair West/Hilcrest Village). 

The shop's called Gypsy and it's FABULOUS.
Gypsy is located in the same space as another local store that died recently (always a bummer). If you live in the neighbourhood, you might have noticed the recent changes to the facade. It used to be beige/tan. Now it's a wine/plum/burgundy colour. 

Initially, this change made me nervous. Burgundy brings back memories of my 9th grade fetish for crushed velvet baby-doll dresses. 
I was wrong to worry. The building's colour, and the romantic signage perfectly suit the moody, eclectic interior. The shop is dark and sumptuous, like a Parisian boutique you found hidden in a neighbourhood you only visited by accident. (In other words: it's awesomesauce and full of personality.)

On the day when I was there, I didn't have my camera, so I will rely on shots pilfered from the shop's own Tumbler page (linked via the shop name above).
What I love about it? It's PACKED with stock. This is one of the most well-stocked vintage shops I've ever visited, in fact. It's a little overwhelming. Though the space is not enormous, every square inch is filled with treasures, from boho dresses to leather boots, to jewellery, to collectibles to oddities. My friend and I stayed for two full hours and I don't think we managed to see everything.

And in general, stuff at Gypsy is well priced. It's a mid-range pre-loved kind of place. Here's a quote from the shop's Tumbler, describing the prices for some of the pieces in a recent window display: 

"The jean dungarees on the tall model go for $30, which is a bit higher than the average for our jean shorts. Her 100% silk peasant blouse top is $38, and all the silk ties she’s adorned with (for belts and roses) - as well as all the silk ties in the store - are $24 each."

All those prices are fair, I'd say. Well below mall-range retail, but pricier than Goodwill, which makes complete sense when you factor in the work it takes to curate a nice vintage collection.

The shop's owner, Donnetta Galloway, seems like a lovely lady, with lots of experience. She told me she used to do custom bridal back in the day. (Her partner apparently owns one of the newish cafe's in the 'hood as well - NOIR - so shopping at Gypsy makes me feel like I'm supporting TWO small local businesses, which gives me the warm fuzzies.) 

I didn't buy any clothing (not that I wasn't tempted), but I did snag a decorative piece that I absolutely love: a brass, moroccan-style pendant that I could easily convert into a light fixture. For the time being, it's hanging from the ceiling in my office. 
Look past the bad lighting. It's great, right?

Anyway. Do check out Gypsy if you're in the hood. I couldn't be happier to see such a cool little shop making a go of it. 

GYPSY (found objects)
762 St. Clair Ave. W.
Toronto, ON m6C 1B5
So, I'm not usually much of a jewellery person. I mean, I LIKE jewellery. I like looking at it, and I admire it on other people, but owning to a raging inherited contact allergy, I can't wear much metal adornment myself. I break into horrible rashes and hives. Even my vintage rose gold wedding ring irritates me sometimes.

Anyway, as a result, I hardly every post about jewellery. But today, I just had to share something with you:

City and Cedar - Handcrafted Jewellery made by a girl I know right here in Toronto.

I don't know Rachel -- the artist -- well. She's the partner of a guy who is a friend of my husband (not exactly a close connection), but DAMN, I like her stuff. (In fact, I almost descended into a little jealous rage when I first saw her website, which made my website look kind of hokey.)

Anyway, take a look at some of this awesomesauce jewellery. It's a mix of boho/industrial styles, urban and hippie chic at the same time. Here, look - I've pulled a few of my faves:

This is the Kunda Flower Bracelet. ($15 each - probably the most inexpensive piece in the shop). Looks so good layered.
Next up, two incarnations of the Neci necklace:
And finally here's a bad-ass necklace called the Kita:
If I wasn't wildly allergic to brass, I would buy some of this stuff in a wink, but since I can't, I thought I'd spread the word to you in the hopes that you might buy a piece of two and let me live vicariously. (Note: some of City and Cedar's other pieces include customizable ribbon, wood beads, and leather cords. You can definitely make any of their pieces your own.)

Seriously... this stuff is funktastic. Pretty, feminine, unique, urban, etc. Love it. And I'm so happy to be able to give a little blog shout-out to a local artisan who's making a go of something crafty and wonderful instead of giving in to a life as a cog in the corporate machine. I really want people like this to succeed, especially when they're super talented.

Anyway. Last, but not least, here's a sweet (and very hip) behind the scenes video Rachel made of the recent City and Cedar "look book" photo shoot.
Bejewel yourself, my friends. You won't be sorry.
It's been ages since I've done a review, so I thought I'd spend a little time today talking about author Karen Russell. I received both of her books recently (one for Christmas and one for Valentine's Day) and I enjoyed them quite a bit.

Russell's prose is unusual -- almost lyrical -- and the imagery she uses is very strange, but I think I might love her. I've certainly never read anything like her before, and in a saturated market, you can't beat good, old-fashioned creativity.

According to The New York Times, Swamplandia! is "a novel about alligator wrestlers, a balding brown bear named Judy Garland, a Bird Man specializing in buzzard removal, a pair of dueling Florida theme parks, rampaging melaleuca trees, a Ouija board and the dead but still flirtatious Louis Thanksgiving. Sound appealing? No, it does not. Unless Ms. Russell had you at “alligator wrestlers” — not likely — you may well recoil at every noxiously fanciful item on that list."

Cute as it is, reducing Russell's book to this list of "noxiously fanciful" oddities, even for the purpose of proving a point before going on to shower the book with praise, which the NYT article does, does her a disservice.

Certainly, the aforementioned images and characters appear in Swamplandia!, but they're not what the book is about. Not even a little bit. The book is about a grieving family, recovering from the loss of their matriarch while trying to deal with financial ruin and teenage growing pains.

At it's heart, this is universal stuff.

For all the talk about the strangeness of Russell's settings, her story is ultimately about a very average family. They simply happen to live in very unusual circumstances. The "Bigtrees" live on the fringe. They're island-dwellers who home-school their children (and the children are, as a result, seriously unsocialized). But the drama of the story grows out of loss, grief, poverty and assimilation. It's a book about things you know, wrapped in a shell of things you are unfamiliar with (say, the alligator wrestling) and the result is extremely compelling, and very, very sad. (Look out for very serious stuff such as possible suicide attempts and rape.)

I really don't want to give too much away except to say that the impression I got from this book was similar to what I felt while reading Peter Rock's My Abandonment (which I raved about last year). If you read that book and liked it, I highly recommend you read this.

P.S. If you decide to try Russell, you might not want to start with Swamplandia!

I started with the novel because it's the book I was given first, but it might have been better to begin with the 2006 short story collection, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised By Wolves. The stories will give you a good idea of Russell's style and you won't have to commit to a longer piece. Also, St. Lucy's contains a prototype or seed story that seems to have germinated into Swamplandia! as a whole, so that's another good reason to read it first. (The story won't be as compelling if you read it after getting to know the same characters in the longer novel.)

So, I'm starting to think this whole "sell your jewellery" thing is a big fat crock.

I don't get why the fad is still going. Selling gold to be melted down is a HUGE rip off, in my opinion, as will be evidence by this little post I'm about to share about my recent experience trying to sell to Toronto's Omni Jewelcrafters at Bathurst & Glencairn.
Here's how it went:

I went to Omni hoping to sell 3 things. These things are as follows:

1) A 14k gold circle pendant (with chain) featuring a ring of small diamonds. (Original price: about $500)
2) A pair of diamond earrings (studs). Smallish, by v. high quality diamonds, set in white gold. (Original price: $750)
3) One 18k gold earring set with six small diamonds (like the ones in the circle pendant) that didn't have a mate. It was real, but I don't know how much it cost, because I found it in Heathrow airport six years ago.

I wasn't expecting that much, but considering that I had original receipts and/or appraisal documents for each item, I figured I might get a nice little chunk of change. Maybe... $200? $250?

Not even close. Omni offered me $110. For all three items combined.

Now, this is jewellery I don't want. It's stuff I don't wear. Besides the found earring, it was all given to me by an ex and is infected with bad juju. I WANTED to sell it, but I just couldn't bring myself to settle for such a crappy pay out.

I had receipts! I had appraisals! But in the world of jewellery hocking, such things mean nothing, I've learned.

Perhaps I should have known. I mean, consider the kinds of ads these outfits run.
_I definitely should have known.

I'd also like to add that the clerk at Omni was a bit smarmy and condescending, which didn't make me want to make a deal. Regarding the pendant necklace, he said "I know it's pretty and it sparkles, but it's not really worth anything." And "these diamonds are sOooo small ... it would cost me as much as they're worth to remove them from the setting."

Um. Yeah right, I thought. You could take apart this setting in five minutes, buster. You're not fooling anyone.

The whole experience was lame. I parted with the one earring and was paid $20 for it. (Six little diamonds, plus the thick gold setting and all I got was $20. But hey... he was doing me a favour, right? The diamonds were soooo small.) I let the earring go because I'd found it. Didn't seem fair to profit too much from someone else's loss. But I took the rest of my pieces home.

After having this experience, I can't understand why people sell jewellery this way at all. You've got to be desperate.

Maybe I'll do some sort of bad juju cleansing and start wearing this stuff again. Maybe I'll regift it. Who knows?

Omni Jewel & Java Café
2793 Bathurst St.
Toronto, ON M6B 3A4
(416) 783-2091

P.S. Also, there's a built in café/restaurant at the Omni location I visited. Because it makes total sense to combine food service and fine jewellery sales? Totally weird.
_I've been trying to like American Horror Story for more than eight weeks now. Trying ... and failing.

I want to like this show. Really, I do. It seems to have everything going for it. Attractive, interesting actors? Check. Creepy, but chic sets? Check. Nice fonts? Check. Dead babies? Check.

But it's just not working for me. Not at all. The scares come primarily from gore and cheap tricks designed to make you jump, but even when I DO jump, I'm always more unsettled and grossed out than frightened. And frankly, the plot makes NO SENSE. I know I'm supposed to be patient and that things will likely be explained in more detail by the end of the first season (which hasn't aired yet here in Canada). But I'm sick of waiting! Instead of introducing new ghosts in every freakin' episode (last night's newbie being an imagined version of Elizabeth Short (a.k.a.The Black Dahlia, played by Mena Suvari), why not advance the plot a little bit? I'm sure there's a reason, but I just don't care.

The problem, I think, is that nearly every character in American Horror Story is hateful. With the exception of Vivian, played by Connie Britton, who is clearly meant to be the heart of the cast, not one character is particularly likable.

Husband Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) is a philandering jerk face. Daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga) is little more than an annoyingly angsty teen, neighbour Constance (Jessica Lange) is somewhat appealing, probably because of Lange's acting, but she's not nice.  And the legions of ghosts are generally creepy and horrible, which makes sense I suppose, since they're ghosts and evil and all that, but still ... a viewer needs SOMEONE to relate to and love. (At least, I do.) And Vivian doesn't appear enough to fill that role.

I've come this far, so I'm going to keep watching until the end of the season, but I'm not hopeful. American Horror Story will appeal to some, I'm sure, but without a little more heart, I can't see it ever becoming a mainstream favourite.
As some of you guys know, I work in the Queen West area of Toronto, right at the edge of Parkdale. And in nice weather, I like to wander the neighbourhood during my lunch hour. This wandering has lead me to a lot of great vintage stores.

In particular, one I'm loving more and more lately is 69 Vintage.

One of a small chain/group of shops, the 69 Vintage on Queen carries a lot of country/western style garments. Think leather boots, bags and jackets. Pendleton and Hudson Bay style patterns. And beautiful wools.

They've also got some great old dresses - both glittery and saloon-style.

I pop in regularly, but don't often buy because it CAN get a little pricey. (At least for my budget, which is miniscule, though in general, items range from $50 to $150, which seems fair considering their high quality). That said, I did find something for Nathan recently: A COACH Beekman Briefcase (in a rugged, worn tan). It was $60, but retails for over $500 new, so I'm happy with the deal.

(While we're talking price, I should also say that there are often $10 items at 69 Vintage as well. Ironic vintage tees and that sort of thing.)
Back in 2007, Robyn Urback at BlogTO did a piece on the store, but all I really remember about it was her focus on the smell... as in, the smell of vintage stores. She LOVED that 69 Vintage didn't (in her opinion) smell.

People are so weird. Why do so many people think second hand stores smell bad? It's all in your head, weirdos. Do they smell different than new stores? Yes. Do they smell unique in the way that people's houses smell unique? Yes, they do. But don't be a snob, please. It's totally lame. Just because another person's body has touched a piece of clothing, doesn't mean it's going to smell. Geeze.

Anyway, here are some ads and images that capture the 69 Vintage look:
Creative commons image by moon angel, from Flickr.
Dolce & Gabbana ad from fall/winter 2008/2009.
The Dude, fromThe Big Lebowski. If you liked his cardi - read more about it on the Pendleton blog.

If you like the look of the stuff above, you'll like 69 Vintage. I suggest you check it out.
On Tuesday, I promised to post about the last four books I read while on vacation last week and I'm nothing if not a promise keeper (and okay, sometimes breaker). Regardless, in this instance, I'm keeping my word. Here are some more mini book reviews:

Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner      ** 1/2

I wish there was a nice way to explain this book without invoking the words "chick lit." But there isn't.

That said, Weiner's work is some of the best in the genre. It gives you the warm fuzzies, it features young women in New York, but it's not completely predictable.

This one tackles the world of infertility, from egg donation, to IVF, to surrogacy. Women's lives intersect. Things get a bit tense, there are several red herrings, and ultimately,  a happy (and unbelievable) ending. It's a decent beach read, but I wouldn't say it's more than that.

Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg    ***

I liked this book. It read like very (very) light and accessible version of Unless by Carol Shields. It features an aging writer-narrator, still dealing with the sudden death of her spouse a year ago, who must also face her writer's block while navigating her relationship with her adult daughter (who often finds her exasperating).

The best thing about this book is the voice of the writer/narrator. She's appealing, and I felt like I could relate to her, even though she's more my mother's age than my own. I'd recommend this, but I'd warn readers not to expect too much.

Lemon by Cordelia Strube     *** 1/2

This is probably one of the "best" books I read all week, in that it is very well written, and very literary, but I'm not sure it's mainstream or accessible enough to warrant a full-on endorsement.

Title character - Limone (aka Lemon) is a 16 year old girl with a whole lot of angst. No false optimism for her. Sounds predictable, but it's not. For one thing, the book's written in a stream-of-consciousness-esque teen-speak that twists and turns in unpredictable ways. For another, the basic plot is ultimately WAY more upsetting than any teen-focused book you're likely to encounter in the main stream. Expect disturbing sexual assaults, for one thing.

My one quibble is that I'm not 100% convinced that teens like Lemon even exist. She's a bit too literature/history obsessed. A bit too Holden Caulfiend.  As I said, this book isn't for everyone, but I do think it's good. It was on the Giller Long List. Make of that what you well.

Heaven is Small by Emily Schultz     ** 1/2

This is definitely the weirdest book I read all week. The premise is this: protagonist Gordon Small dies and (failing to notice his death) seeks new employment. He gets a post-mortem job at Heaven -- the world's foremost publisher of romance novels.

Bizarre, right?

The rest of the book is about Gordon realizing he's dead and trying to figure out exactly how "Heaven" works. It's kind of funny, I guess. And ultimately pretty light.

In the end, however, I'm not sure what to make of it. I thought the book was okay, but I didn't feel edified by it. I finished reading on the plane ride home and closed the cover thinking... nothing. Little about it resonated.

The book's strangeness makes it kind of interesting, but even having finished it, I'm on the fence about whether I liked it or not.

Anyway. There you have it. Four  more mini-reviews to round off my week of holiday reading. I've begun Eve Ensler's Insecure At Last now, but I'm not sure how that's going to go. I think I need a book break. I sort of feel like watching TV and reading some magazines instead.