Tag Archives: San Francisco

The Language of Flowers (Vanessa Diffenbaugh) – Review

The language of flowers : a novelThe Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Age: Adult
Genre: Fiction
Source: Library Copy
Publisher: Ballantine Books, 2011
ISBN: 0345525543 / 318 pages
Find this book at your local library

Shuffled around various foster homes since birth, Victoria Jones has developed a heavy shell preventing her from forming any close bonds. 18 and emancipated from a group home in San Francisco, Victoria puts her knowledge of the language of flowers to use by working under the table with a local florist in an attempt to stabilize her constantly shifting life. She then finds love, but runs away from any type of affection because she feels she doesn’t deserve it.

The book alternates between Victoria’s adulthood at age 18, and her childhood at age 10. Although we learn about the various abuse Victoria suffered in the different foster homes, she never whines or complains, just accepts it. It is clear why she made the decisions that she did over the years, and why she has so much trouble letting her guard down. Being constantly let down by nearly every person in her life, she learned to only rely on herself. It is because of this past that she makes some very wrong decisions in her present life. I still found myself hoping that she would just realize that the people around her care and would help her if she let them.

I found Victoria to be a very likable character despite the walls she had built around herself. I did find it odd that for all the negative treatment she received as a child, there was nothing but warmth when she went out on her own at age 18. The people she encountered; Renata and Grant, were very quick to be understanding and sympathetic to her needs.  I also felt that some parts of the novel fell into place much too easily. Although the ending wasn’t the typical happily ever after, it was close enough. There are a number of heartbreaking scenes in the book, especially in regards to Victoria’s experiences with motherhood. It was frustrating, but Diffenbaugh’s writing added multiple yet subtle layers of complexity to the anxiety and battle within Victoria.

This book is Diffenbaugh’s first novel and I am immensely impressed. It was carefully crafted and you could really see the research that she put into this book, mostly in regards to the flowers. There is even a glossary in the back of the book that lists the flowers and their meanings.

Fog City Mavericks – Movie Review

Fog City Mavericks – Directed by Gary Leva
Genre: Documentary
119 Minutes

Fog City mavericks : the filmmakers of San Francisco

Although San Francisco isn’t usually the first city to pop-up when it comes to major movie players, it has played an incredibly powerful role in the start and progress of cinema.

Fog City Mavericks is definitely a must-see documentary on Bay Area cinema and celebrities. The film starts with a brief introduction of the start of cinema by a Eadweard Muybridge based on a challenge by Leland Stanford (founder of Stanford University). Leland and a friend wanted to know if at any point in time, a racehorse had all four legs up in the air. From this challenge, Muybridge created what can be considered the first film.

Through a series of interviews centered around George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, we learn about various directors, actors and creators of independent cinematic films that have reached high levels of success and have helped shape the movie industry. While the majority of the documentary focuses on Coppola and Lucas, we do learn about Sofia Coppola’s contribution to cinema, Chris Columbus, Clint Eastwood, John Lassister (best known for Pixar) Steve Jobs’ involvement with Pixar, and Saul Zaentz.

The documentary includes clips of iconic American films such as: American Graffiti, the Star Wars film series, the Indiana Jones film series, The Godfather trilogy, Apocalypse Now, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus, Toy Story, The Incredibles, Lost in Translation, Flags of Our Fathers and many others.

The documentary also includes interviews with those who have worked with the Bay Area mavericks: Steven Spielberg, Michael Douglas, Anthony Minghella, Milos Forman and Robin Williams. I am sad to say that there was no mention of Alfred Hitchcock in this documentary. Many of his films are based in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area, Vertigo, being perhaps one of the more famous of the films.

Who knew that Francis Ford Coppola owned the Centinnal Building for his American Zeotrope Production company? I didn’t. I didn’t know that Chris Columbus, although raised in Ohio, came to San Francisco to start his career. The film offers a unique look at the history of San Francisco and its bohemian culture and acceptance for the off-beat, anti-mainstream, and the fostering of individual creativity.

I would also recommend watching The Pixar Story to learn about Pixar productions headquartered in Emeryville, CA.

The Golden Gate – Review

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The Golden Gate: A Novel In Verse
Age: Adult
Location: San Francisco
Genre: Poetry – Fiction

Set in San Francisco during the 1980s, Vikram Seth tells the tale of star-crossed yuppies, with a few love triangles, and major obstacles thrown into the mix. The book is written entirely in verse and is broken down into 13 chapters.

Seth’s justification for writing in verse:

Why, asks a friend, attempt tetrameter?
Because it once was noble, yet
Capers before the proud pentameter,
Tyrant of English. I regret
To see this marvelous swift meter
Demean its heritage, and peter
Into mere Hudlibrastic tricks,
Unapostolic knocks and knicks.
But why take all this quite so badly?
I would not, had I world and time
To wait for reason, rhythm, rhyme
To reassert themselves, but sadly
The time is not remote when I
Will not be here to wait. That’s why.

This book is very true to San Francisco life, much as Armistad Maupin’s Tales of the City. Also written and set in the 1980s, the story still resonates with the San Francisco I know today. Many of the themes are still the same: unrequited love, homosexual love, friendship, and adored pets. The love story begins when Jan fills out a personals ad in the newspaper for her best friend John in an attempt to help him get some dates and find true love. As events unfurl, John loves Liz, and Phil, a single dad, loves Ed, but Ed’s faith in Jesus is an obstacle to their relationship. The poem is written in a wry and wonderful humor, but is also serious. There is love, tragedy, separation and character growth. There are a number of characters to relate to even on the most minimal of commonalities. At the end of the book, I wanted to know more about the characters and where their lives progressed. If there is ever a sequel to this book, I will be the first in line waiting for it.

What I appreciate the most is that in a few short lines Seth is able to portray back-stories, personality traits and character developments. That is the gift and brevity of poetry. Here is a snippet of the poem:

John looks about him with enjoyment.
What a man needs, he thinks, is health;
Well-paid, congenial employment;
A house; a modicum of wealth;
Some sunlight; coffee and the papers;
Artichoke hearts adorned with capers;
A Burberry trenchcoat; a Peugeot;
And in the evening, some Rameau
Or Couperin; a home-cooked dinner;
A Stilton, and a little port;
And so to a duvet. In short,
In life’s brief game to be a winner
A man must have … oh yes, above
All else, of course, someone to love.

More creative bloggers have reviewed this book as a poem in the same meter as The Golden Gate. This one, over at Hardly Written, is one of my particular favorite reviews. If you liked the Tales of the City series, have a good sense of humor and enjoy well written verse, then this is definitely one book that I highly recommend.

The Golden Gate: A Novel in Verse
By Vikram Seth
Vintage International, 1986
ISBN 9780679734574
307 pages
Book 23 of 2011
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 The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth

The Maltese Falcon – Review

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The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammet
Age: Adult
Genre: Mystery

One of the original noir detective mysteries, the Maltese Falcon is a story about San Francisco detective Sam Spade and his partner Miles Archer. On a typical day at work, a young lady enters into the offices of Spade and Archer to ask for help bringing her runaway sister back home. What soon ensues is a tangle of lies, and deception that suck Sam Spade into a chain reaction of murder, greed and lust.

My first experience with Dashiell Hammett was The Thin Man, set in New York. I absolutely adored The Thin Man and was looking forward to reading The Maltese Falcon, particularly because the book is set in San Francisco. That being said, I was slightly let down by The Maltese Falcon. I did not find Sam Spade to be near as endearing as Nick Charles and I don’t think he was meant to be. Spade lied, he cheated, and he took advantage of women just to further his case. I didn’t connect with the characters at all and that took away from the book. Nearly all of the characters were terrible people who did terrible things for their own personal benefit, except for Spade’s secretary.  In typical Hammett form, there was plenty of witty rapport between the characters which this book a quick read. Since this wasn’t a who-dun-it type of mystery, there weren’t too many plot twists. I did like the story itself and the back story for the much searched for Maltese Falcon. I loved that it was set in San Francisco and for other local Hammett fans, there is a weekly Dashiell Hammett tour in SF, tracing all the sites mentioned in the book.

The Maltese Falcon
By Dashiell Hammett
Vintage Books, 1929
ISBN 0394717724
229 pages
Book 17 of 2011
Find this book at your local library
The Maltese falcon

A Soft Place to Land – Review

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A Soft Place to Land by Susan Rebecca White
Age: Adult
Genre: Fiction
Location: Georgia, San Francisco

During a brief vacation visiting the Grand Canyon, Naomi and Phil Harrison board an airplane that soon crashes into the rocks, ending the lives of a couple defined by their never-ending, and passionate love for one another. During the funeral, their daughters, Ruthie and Julia are shocked by the provisions of the will that split the sisters from each other. Julia is sent to Virdin, Virginia to live with her birth father, while Ruther is sent to San Francisco to live with her aunt and uncle. The novel spans two decades, detailing the rift between the sisters as they learn to cope with their loss. The rift between the sisters is more than just the distance in miles between them. The rift also effects their emotional connection to one another.

The novel starts with the girls living in Atlanta, Georgia detailing what they believe were the last moments of their parents lives. In morbid detail they try to piece together what their parents last ate, said and felt before the plane crashed. Thick as thieves and overprotective of each other, the girls are inseparable and are shocked when they learn they are being torn apart due to the will. Although it had a slow and somewhat repetitive start, I really enjoyed this novel, especially once Ruthie relocated to San Francisco. I enjoyed all the references to the city and the Bay Area. I also loved witnessing Ruthie’s transformation into an adult during her teen years in San Francisco. The comparisons of life in the Bay Area versus life in Georgia and Virginia were really eye opening to just how snobbish the Bay Area can be. Being sent to live in rural Virginia with a negligent birth father and an “evil” stepmother did not help Julia learn to heal from her loss of not only her parents, but also from the separation of her sister. Ruthie, meanwhile, is sent to a thriving city filled with new experiences daily with an aunt and uncle that care the world for her.

One scene I particularly loved was Julia’s first visit to San Francisco. Known as the wild-child-older-sister during their time in Atlanta, you could really feel the rift between the sisters during Julia’s time in town. Much to Ruthie’s horror, Julia was ready to explore the Haight wearing torn jeans, a tie-dye shirt and sandals on a cold winter day. This day marked a rift in the sisters that would last well into their adulthood; past boyfriends, a stint in rehab, college and a published novel. The sisters accomplished much in their lives after the deaths of their parents and it was interesting how their lives overlapped at points, but then completely diverged at others.

Bay Area folk will love the references to San Francisco and Berkeley, and sisters will enjoy this novel for the hardships and struggles Ruthie and Julia overcame as they grew into adults.

A Soft Place to Land
by Susan Rebecca White
Simon & Schuster, 2010
ISBN 9781416558699
328 pages
Book 13 of 2011


Find this book at your local library

A soft place to land

Feb Recap

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February royally sucked in regards to challenges. I failed my reading challenge (it doesn’t help when awesomely awesome publishers send unsolicited books in the mail, and it certainly doesn’t help that multiple Borders within a ten mile radius are going out of business and having massive clearance sales).

That being said, I’ve been pretty good about only reading books off my bookshelf, regardless of the number of additional books I’ve been bringing into the house.  The only exception has been Almost Moon, which is the current mandatory bookclub selection.

Books read in February

Paris Was Ours – Penelope Rowlands &

Pygmalion – Bernard Shaw &

What The Dickens – Gregory MaGuire

Almost Moon – Alice Sebold

Paris was ours : thirty-two writers reflect on the city of light by Penelope Rowlands https://i0.wp.com/var.pulist.net/what-the-dickens-library-edition_small.jpg

https://i1.wp.com/img1.fantasticfiction.co.uk/images/h0/h1129.jpg The almost moon : a novel

The Yarn Diet is going okay….I’m not knitting much, mostly because the yarn I have is yarn I inherited when a friend moved away, and thus I have no project concepts for any of it, other than a king size scrap blanket.

I did finish a shrug, a vest and a beanie that I am particularly proud of:

February did bestow the Stitches West Knitting Convention in Santa Clara, CA. I did keep in mind the option of 5 anytime yarn puchases loophole with the Yarn Diet. I only made 2 purchases (of a TON of yarn), so I have 3 extra yarn purchases, and I think I added another 50 skeins to my stash. =/

Lets hope March is a more successful month.

SF Booklist (Adult) – Memoirs

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The Bay Area is home to many experiences, many lives and many famed and fabled individuals. This list features memoirs written by Bay Area residents. Dave Eggars and Brian Copeland have made a number of appearances in San Mateo and San Jose. Brian Copeland was last year’s Silicon Valley Reads selection for his memoir.

  1. Dave Eggars
    1. A Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius
  2. Rudyard Kipling
    1. American Notes
  3. Beth Lisick
    1. Everybody in the Pool
  4. John Simon
    1. The Sign of the Fool
  5. Brian Copeland
    1. Not a Genuine Black Man


SF Booklist (Adult) – Romance

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San Francisco has some of the most breath-taking views, the most curious bookshops, cafes, shops and streets. You can fall in love with the city the instant your foot steps on San Francisco soil, and you can fall in live in the city just wandering the streets, exploring its gems.

This week’s list features romance novels (some erotica, some romance, some just love stories) set in San Francisco.

  1. Jane Abbott
    1. Yes is Forever
  2. Susan Amarillas
    1. Scanlin’s Law
  3. Kristen Billerbeck
    1. San Francisco: Four Romances Blossom in the Bay
  4. Georgia Jensen Blosil
    1. Gifts to a Hearing Heart
  5. Catherine Brady
    1. Curled in the Bed of Love
  6. Millie Criswell
    1. Wild Heather
  7. Susan Crosby
    1. His Seductive Revenge
  8. Janet Dailey
    1. WhenYou Kiss Me
  9. Eric Jerome Dickey
    1. Between Lovers
  10. Debra Dier
    1. Surrender the Dream
  11. Stephen Elliott
    1. My Girlfriend Comes To the City and Beats Me Up
  12. Mark Evans
    1. Metropause
  13. Tim Farrington
    1. The California Book of the Dead
  14. Christine Feehan
    1. Dark Gold
  15. Janis Flores
    1. The Reluctant Bride
  16. Kristin Gabriel
    1. Engaging Alex
  17. Carol Grace
    1. Pregnant by the Boss!
  18. Valerie Hansen
    1. The Doctor’s Newfound Family
  19. Donna Hill
    1. Temptation
  20. Leona Karr
    1. Obsession
  21. Alison Kent
    1. Infatuation
  22. Susan Krinard
    1. Luck of the Wolf & other works
  23. Kristin Kyle
    1. The Last Warrior
  24. Elizabeth Lane
    1. His Substitute Bride
  25. Valerie Lee
    1. http://www.sex.net
  26. David May
    1. Madrugada
  27. Barbara McMahahon
    1. The Boss’ Little Miracle
  28. Mary Anee Mohanraj
    1. Kathryn in the City
  29. Kelley Nyrae
    1. Getting Lucky with Luciano
  30. Judith Pella
    1. Blind Faith
  31. Michael Perkins
    1. Dark Matter
  32. Carol Queen
    1. The Leather Daddy and the Femme
  33. Miriam Raftery
    1. Apollo’a Fault
  34. George Rathmell
    1. The Pickle Girl
  35. Paul Reidinger
    1. The Best Man
  36. Francine Rivers
    1. Redeeming Love
  37. Nora Roberts
    1. Sullivan’s Woman
  38. Jenna Ryan
    1. Belladonna
  39. Jennifer St. Giles
    1. His Dark Desires
  40. William Saroyan
    1. The Time of Your Life
  41. Anne Stuart
    1. Catspaw
  42. Tiffany K Shipp
    1. Send Me A Stranger to Love
  43. Jamie Sobrato
    1. Made You Look
  44. Danielle Steel
    1. The House & Other Works
  45. Katherine Stone
    1. Promises
  46. Amy Wallace
    1. Desire
  47. Mary Ann Wilson
    1. The Christmas Husband

SF Booklist (Adult) Science/Technology

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The San Francisco Bay Area is home of Silicon Valley. Although the South Bay (San Jose, Cupertino, Mountain View) are home to such technology giants such as Adobe, Apple, and Google, San Francisco is not far behind on its Science and Technology. There is Cal Academy of Sciences with its amazing living roof, not to mention the De Young Museum, WordPress, Zynga and more.

Here are the books that explore the science and technology of the city.

  1. John Robert Marlow
    1. Nano
  2. Todd A Shimoda
    1. The Fourth Treasure
  3. Colin Forbes
    1. Year of the Golden Ape
  4. Bharti Kirchner
    1. Shiva Dancing
  5. Robert Alan Burton
    1. Cellmates
  6. John Keane
    1. The Business Plan: Perpetual Life for the Rich and Famous
  7. Maureen Robb
    1. Patterns in Silicon
  8. Mary Tomasi-Dubois
    1. The Mariner’s Secret

SF Booklist (Adult) Legal

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San Francisco is home to some of the finest legal thrillers and series. The Bay Area is home to a few mobsters, a few bums, quite a number of pimps, and gangs. Although there is no CSI: San Francisco, or Law & Order: San Francisco on TV, the golden city by the bay is not without its crime and shadowy corners.

  1. Jim Barnett
    1. Imagine
  2. Dudley W. Buffa
    1. Star Witness & other works
  3. Vincent Bugliosi
    1. And the Sea Will Tell
  4. Robin Burcell
    1. Cold Case
  5. Patricia Campbell
    1. Lush Valley
  6. Angela S. Choi
    1. Hello Kitty Must Die
  7. Gaylord Dold
    1. The Devil to Pay
  8. Robert Dugoni
    1. The Jury Master
  9. Michael Eberhardt
    1. Witness for the Defense
  10. Joe Gores
    1. Deak Skip & Other Works
  11. Stephen Greenleaf
    1. State’s Evidence
  12. Blair Hoffman
    1. Murder for the Prosecution
  13. Jonnie Jacobs
    1. Shadow of Doubt & other Works
  14. Gus Lee
    1. No Physical Evidence
  15. John T. Lescroat
    1. The 13th Juror & Other Works
  16. Claudia Long
    1. Weave Her Thread With Bones
  17. Malcolm McPhearson
    1. Deadlock
  18. John S. Martel
    1. The Alternate & other works
  19. Lia Matera
    1. Havana Twist & other works
  20. Marcus McGee
    1. Legal Thriller
  21. John Miller
    1. Causes of Action
  22. Will Nathan
    1. Book of Business: A Novel of the Law
  23. Carla Neggers
    1. Outrageous Desire
  24. Perri O’Shaughnessy
    1. Unfit to Practice
  25. Richard North Patterson
    1. Eyes of the Child & other works
  26. John A Peak
    1. Mortal Judgements
  27. Sheldon Siegal
    1. Incriminating Evidence & other works
  28. Julie Smith
    1. Death Turns a Trick & other works
  29. Shirley Tallman
    1. The Cliff House Strangler & other works
  30. Alfred Vea
    1. Gods Go Begging
  31. Chelsea Quinn Yarbo

1. Bad Medicine