Read: California by Edan Lepucki + 2 more bummer reads

I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid. That’s what I really, really wanted to do when I grew up.

I spent a lot of time alone, writing and reading. A few of the stories I wrote have survived, but most of them disappeared years ago. Probably good that I can’t find them because they are really good in my memories, if I still had them I’d be reminded of how horrible they were.

What I did more than anything else was world-building. I’d construct entire families and villages in my head, and think about every little detail of their lives. It would consume hours of my day. It was delightful.

I remember the exact moment I decided that I could not be a writer. About 12 years old. I had just wrote a story about a mom and her daughters, the mom gets re-married, the man she marries has three boys, and they have lots of adventures as a modern stepfamily. Obviously, if you know my family, you know that I was writing about my real life (although it was a year or two before my mom and stepdad got married). I thought I was writing a pretty original story. I am not kidding, I really did. I was really well-read at the age, I had watched the Brady Bunch, but for some reason I thought my story was new. Naive!

I picked up the next installment of The Babysitters Club, Kristy’s Big Day, and my heart sunk when I started reading it. Ann M. Martin had stole my idea! thI decided then and there that all the good ideas had been written about. What was the point of writing a story if others had already told the same one? I decided I could never be a writer. This whole episode is documented in my dramatic pre-teen journals.

I stopped writing all the stories I had spent so much time on, but of course, I did not stop reading. As I read more and more, I became TOTALLY convinced that I would never be able to be a writer. I would never be able to do what they could do.

Writing takes courage and perseverance and patience and TALENT.

Damn, I still want to be a writer.

I read about California by Edan Lepucki last year (I posted about it here) and I was green with envy because she had taken  an idea I had been playing with in my head and she had turned it into an actual book. California, dystopic, wilderness, love – all the necessary ingredients for a good book. However, this book just worked okay for me, I did not love it.

There has been so much hype around  the book, on Colbert Report, etc. A LOT to live up to.


The good things about the book: Beautiful, gorgeous cover. Believable moments as humanity has reached a breaking point, but is not completely broken yet (like in other dystopian books). Good, well-developed, flawed characters. Some great lines and I like the ideas that the book is trying to explore. The feeling of escaping to the wilderness. “This was one of the things he loved about life out here. The space to consider questions. Even if he sometimes longed for mindless diversions, mostly he was grateful for the silence, the time”

The bad things about it: Stupid coincidences. Sloppy plot development. Dumb decisions.

I stayed up late to finish the book. But overall, it was not my cup of tea. I may have to write my own version of it.

For a good California dystopic read, I recommend The Age of Miracles by Karen Walker Thomas.

Another bummer read was Tom Robbins “autobiography” Tibetan Peach Pie. Boring. Not that interesting. He comes across as a little creepy. No matter what, Jitterbug Perfume will always, always remain one of my favorite stories.

The final bummer read is Delicious by Ruth Reichl. I hope you have read Comfort Me with Apples and Tender at the Bone. Reichl writes food memoirs like no one else (except maybe Anthony Bourdain, but his are totally different than hers). Delicious is her first piece of fiction. I finished it, but it was not 1/2 as good as her memoirs. Which is probably a good thing, because it means her actual life is more interesting than fiction. I wanted more descriptions of recipes and food. The character were boring. It was fine…meh.

My 6 month long good reading streak had to end sooner or later. Two days ago I picked up a huge haul at the library, and I think I am about to start another good streak. I just finished listening to Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) on my commute – highly recommended. Right now, I am listening to The Storied Life of AJ Fikrey by Gabrielle Zevin – fantastic! Plus, I just bought a cookbook, Salad Samurai by Terry Hope Romero, and all the recipes that I have made from it have been perfect for the hot weather.

I’ve had another idea in my head for the last few months about what I want to write about. I have characters, but I need a plot. Maybe I’ll be able to get it out of my head and create something, or maybe I’ll just let it stay in my head where it can’t be judged and no one can ever say that it was a “bummer” read.

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