Category: booklist

Penny Book Review: Cannery Row

cannery row dropcaps

If my love for John Steinbeck wasn’t already official following my reading of East of Eden, this book definitely cemented it in my mind.

Oh, you want a drink to go with this? Here’s what you’re gonna do: you’re gonna go to a bar, ask if you can bartend–but only part time, you really don’t need to work more than every once in a while–and then set up a jug beneath the counter. Whenever someone abandons a drink, or just sort of ignores it for too long, dump it into that jug. Make sure no one sees you, but…do it. Do it for the pals back at home.

Then pour yourself a good glass of that alcoholic Suicide beverage and drink up. (You can also choose to just add random glugs of whatever you have sitting at home. Or just get a six-pack of beer, that works too.)

I don’t have too much time to write about all the reasons I loved Cannery Row, and even if I did, I doubt I would know where to start. John Steinbeck is just brilliant. I love his settings, I love his characters. Everything he writes is so down-to-earth and realistic and accessible.

Take, for example, one of my favorite passages in this book, detailing the sorta-main character’s interest in, and then attempt at getting, a beer milkshake (also an option for a pairing beverage). It’s so silly and perfect, and yes, this is a Penny Book Review, so you get what you paid for. Which is, nothing.

Read the book. It’s short, it’s sweet. It will be your gateway drug into the heavier stuff, like, yes, East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

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Penny Book Review: Haroun and the Sea of Stories

The best part about this photo is that delicious cup of liquid happiness at the bottom. The ceramic elephant is pretty great too.
The best part about this photo is that delicious cup of liquid happiness at the bottom. The ceramic elephant is pretty great too.

Haroun, Haroun. What can I say about you?

Let’s make some cha* first, shall we? It’s the most fitting thing to go with this book.

Masala Chai
Adapted from Curry Easy


  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • pinch ginger
  • pinch cinnamon
  • pinch cardamom
  • 1/2 pinch clove
  • 8 cranks pepper
  • Caster sugar, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons CTC (or two bags strong, dark tea)


  • In a small saucepan, add water and all spices bring to a boil. Let the spices simmer in the water for “awhile.” (You should see these notes I took.)
  • Also add the sugar. You want it to be pretty sweet, but if you shy away from sugary stuff, it’s up to you.
  • Add milk to the saucepan and bring it to a boil again. As it’s about to boil, throw in the tea.
  • Lower the heat and let the milk/water mixture froth up nearly to the top of the saucepan. Then take it off the burner and let it return to normal. Repeat this three times.
  • Strain tea into two cups, and enjoy with biscuits.

Look, I love Salman Rushdie. I thoroughly enjoyed Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verses. I’m sure if I ever get around to reading any more of his adult books, I’ll love them just as well.

What I wasn’t sold on? Luka and the Fire of Life, which is the kinda-sorta followup to Haroun. I read it when it was first published, back when I lived in India. And I thought maybe…oh, I don’t know what I thought. That maybe it was just a one-time dud. But now, after reading Haroun, I think the answer is, I just really don’t enjoy Salman Rushdie’s kid’s books all that much.

The brief plot of Haroun and the Sea of Stories: Haroun’s father is a storyteller, his mother leaves him, Daddy can’t tell stories anymore, there’s some pipeline of stories being uninstalled, adventures to Kahaani ensue.

So what is it that I just didn’t enjoy? I don’t know. It’s tough to put a finger on it. But if I had to start somewhere, I’d say that the most obvious thing that bugs me is just how precious the stupid book is. The Shah of Blah? The Ocean of Notions? Meh.

And then there’s the storyline. I just didn’t engage me. There’s like, the dark side taking over and poisoning the Ocean of Notions, and they have to go on a quest, but, well, maybe it’s that Haroun really doesn’t have any agency. I guess he does sort of save the day in the end, but even that I barely remember.

I realize that I’m coming across as very negative in a lot of these Drop Caps book reviews. Maybe I should keep it off the ‘net, I dunno. As a sort of reassurance that I don’t hate everything I read, I will tell you that the next Drop Caps review in the queue is going to be entirely positive. (“What is it?” Mum’s the word, but I can tell you, think of a famous author with a last name starting with “S.” Got it? Okay, stay tuned for Monday’s post.) And I love a whole lot of the YA books that I read, though I started a new one today and it’s just depressing. (Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Note: depressing =/= bad. Just difficult to read.)

*Not a typo. In the Bengali-speaking region I lived in, that’s the word for tea. Also, please, for the love of Ganesh, never say chai tea. Or naan bread, for that matter. It’s called a tautology, look it up.

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Penny Book Review: The Greek Coffin Mystery

greek coffin mysteryI am back from my conference! A summary: it was fun, I hate meeting people, the friends of my friend are my friends. Cheers to getting to D.C. for next year’s AWP! (I’m hoping to find a spot on a panel, or perhaps moderate one of my own…we’ll see.)

Anyway, that’s not what you’re here for. What you’re here for is my lil review of Ellery Queen’s The Greek Coffin Mystery, the next up in my quest to read all of the Penguin Dropcaps books before I turn 30 in November. Read more

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Penny Book Review: Five Children and It

five children and itSpoiler alert: I did not like this book. But first, let’s drink!

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Penny Book Review: Native Speaker

Picture taken at night, and that's why the weird glare. If I'd been thinking right, I would have had that scotch at mid-day.
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Penny Book Review: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

I am a rainbow fiend.

Let’s talk 30 Before 30 for a second here. Number 15 on that list, Finish the Penguin Drop Caps series, might be a little baffling to you, so I’ll take a brief moment to explain. Read more

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Penny Book Review: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

That’s how you have to say it: East-of-Eden-by-John-Steinbeck. Well, that’s how we say it around here, and we are ultimately the coolest, so…

So anyway, I was sitting on the toilet when I finished the book because that’s just how great it is, and I reached the last line and just completely teared up. It’s so perfect. That is all.

Oh, you want a review? Read more

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Penny Book Review: The Jerusalem Diet

All the time, people ask me, “Emily–how do you maintain your girlish figure?*”  To which I bat my eyes and reply, “Oh, diet and exercise, I suppose.”

Which is a lie. My father-in-law has called me a dough belly in the past. I could eat toast and butter for breakfast every day, if I allowed myself. I hope there will be unlimited pats of Kerrygold butter (nope, no endorsement there) and a big basket full of steaming rolls upon which to smear it at the great feast in Heaven.

And don’t even get me started on sweets. No, I will spare you.

What it really comes down to is this: The Jerusalem Diet. That’s a book title, not me emphasizing my diet’s name. Although, I guess it could function as both. Read more

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