Cake by Sandra Newman Vintage, HK$128 If stories involving neurotic, sex-addicted Americans living it up in London with endless supplies of drink and drugs are your cup of tea, then Cake by this Brooklyn author will be your pot of lapsang souchong. I fear the brew is a little stewed. Our heroine is Tanya, a 23-year-old from Massachusetts who moves to London in 1996 to support her brother Vinnie and unemployed father. Tanya is meant to be a damaged, vulnerable free spirit. But judging by her scattergun narrative technique, she's the sort of person who corners you at a party, tells you her deepest secrets and doesn't stop talking until her brain collapses: 'So, then they both died, my brother Vinnie and my father, dying slowly with no medical insurance just to f*** me.' Self-absorbed or what? In London, Tanya's ego expands to fill all Europe. She meets the beautiful Eleanor at a crazy London party and a ceaseless round of relating begins. There is probably a good novel somewhere in Cake. Newman shows touches of mordant humour and fetid sexiness. But too many moments are self-conscious cool: 'Above in the party, OK Computer played - like the soundtrack of forlornly hiding in a closet.' If there was ever a sentence that should forlornly hide in a closet, this is it.