Monthly reading roundup August and September 2016

I don’t remember why the beginning of August was so busy that I wasn’t able to squeeze in my monthly reading update and I have a feeling that I will regret looking into it, so I won’t.

WHAT I READ IN AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER

18143844Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 14, by Julietta Suzuki. Yep. I’m still at it.

25776250Why Diets Make Us Fat, by Sandra Aamodt, Ph.D. A real doctor with a real grip on science (meaning, among other things, that she gets that what happens to rats in a lab is not necessarily what would happen to humans IRL and she doesn’t consider a paltry two years to constitute a “long term study”) explains that the rumors you’ve heard are true: diets make you fat, fat does not necessarily make you sick, and what you eat and how much you move your body are way way way more important for your health than what the scale tells you.

66657Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link. People have been raving about this book for years now, and now I see why. It’s lovely! I wasn’t expecting short stories, and I don’t usually read short story collections, but I gave it a go. The first one is my favorite. Reading this books is sort of like channel surfing in an alternate dimension where all networks show The Twilight Zone and independent horror films all day.

18774906Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 15 by Julietta Suzuki. This seems like a good time to explain, once again, that you cannot judge a manga by its cover. I know these covers are syrupy and stupid, but the interiors are not. Conversely, I have checked out some manga with gorgeous covers only to discover the insides are awkwardly laid out or poorly written.

15904026Every House is Haunted by Ian Rogers. Another book of short stories that I wasn’t expecting to be a collection. But so good. Good, solid, creepy, quirky, imaginative horror. Most stories are very short, practically flash fiction, and something about this compels you to read on, to have just one more, just one more, like you’ve got your hand in a bag of chips. I dragged this book around the house and read it while I cooked and played with the dog and waited for pages to load.

26025580The Grownup by Gillian Flynn. A novella by the woman who brought us the fucked-up yet compelling plots of Dark Places and Sharp Objects and Gone Girl. A twisty-turny, at-times-gross story, as expected, but I have to confess to being a little disappointed in the ending. I was really braced for one more unexpected and imaginative twist to unseat the baddie but instead they just sort of rode off into a sunset of existential discomfort. *shrug* Still, though, not bad. Still a good read. I mean, Gillian Flynn could write a single sentence on a napkin in a drunken stupor that would be more shocking and imaginative than my whole second novel is at its current 74,289 words.

21412471Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 16 by Julietta Suzuki.

22609112Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 17 by Julietta Suzuki.

27064358Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay. A realistic missing kid story with supernatural elements. Neither you nor the characters witnessing get answers to the supernatural questions (What are we seeing? Why? How? Are we realing seeing something supernatural or is our grueling worry and grief making us hallucinate?) but we all get answers to where the kid is, though we may wish we didn’t.

23492461Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 18 by Julietta Suzuki.

25110936Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 19 by Julietta Suzuki. Quite possibly the worst cover yet.

16124496The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. You know that feeling when you read a book that’s gotten eleventy billion awards and you’re like “Hey, that was a pretty good book. I don’t regret the time I spent reading it. I would be proud to have written it myself. But . . . would I give it an award? No.” and you wonder for weeks afterward what it was you missed that everyone else found so incredible?

25332115The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner. This is one of those memoirs that will haunt you. It’s hard to put down, but it’s hard to read, too. I didn’t read any reviews before I checked this out. (Due to my high reading volume I don’t often read reviews. I just read the blurb and cross my fingers and hit the “place hold” button.) If I had I probably wouldn’t have read it because I would likely have been warned about the sexual abuse and incest that were just part of what made this story harrowing.

25814365Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 20 by Julietta Suzuki. One of the least awful covers.

32282602Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 21 by Julietta Suzuki. Houston, we have a problem. When I finished this volume and opened my library’s app to ask them for the next one it was listed as being in the service center. That means it’s not available yet. Furthermore, this is the second to last volume. Uh oh.

25543181The Family Plot by Cherie Priest. A classic haunted house story with bonus on-site cemetery (which is just supposed to be an old Halloween joke but whoopsies there’s a real body in it!). Good Gothic feels with 21st century amenities like strong female characters and technology.

 

INCOMPLETE

26114135All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood. I’ve heard a lot of scuttlebutt about this book and I knew what I was getting in to (not like with The Sound of Gravel) but the timing wasn’t good. This book arrived on the hold shelf just as I had finished the aforementioned memoir and I just couldn’t handle another tale of a tortured childhood so I bowed out before I even got to the stuff that has driven others away. Perhaps I will try again later.

27774632Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett. Too stream-of-consciousness for me.

13623723Your Beauty Mark: The Ultimate Guide to Eccentric Glamour by Dita Von Teese with Rose Apodaca. I no longer wear stockings and skirts every day and my vintage hat collection is gathering dust (though I did just buy a tube of ruby red lipstick for the first time in ages) but I still adore Dita Von Teese. She is self-made in every imaginable sense of the word and yet she doesn’t come across as fake. In this lavishly illustrated (and mammoth) book she stresses that you can do this, too. You can find a unique style and milk it for all its worth. You can be eccentric and glamorous and confident. I lack the dedication to take it to Dita’s level, but I wouldn’t mind owning a copy of this gorgeous book so that I can flip through it once and a while with a cup of tea and fill up on the inspiration to squeeze some beauty out of life.

289060About Face: A Plastic Surgeon’s 4-Step Nonsurgical Program for Younger, Beautiful Skin by Gregory Brown. Not what I was hoping for, but rather what I was expecting: another doctor shilling proprietary and unproven products.

3945558River of No Return: Photographs by Laura McPhee. Wide-angle landscapes and a few portraits. Too much detail for my taste (many shots are very busy and everything in the frame is in perfect focus) but the subject matter (rural Idaho) is interesting to me and the composition is good. Not how I want to shoot, but it is great stuff. I think maybe a book doesn’t do this stuff justice. I would like to see this work on wall-sized prints in a gallery.

9871628The Practice of Contemplative Photography: Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes by Andy Karr & Michael Wood. I read about 50% of this because I agreed wholeheartedly with about 50% of what they had to say: the parts about seeing familiar things with fresh eyes, about mindfulness, that sort of thing. But I checked out when things started getting very prescriptive. Also there was a lot of pressure to not seek out the beautiful. Yes, not all pictures need to be beautiful, but there’s nothing wrong with taking a picture just because you find something pretty or taking a picture in a manner that makes something pretty or prettier.

23753The Absolute Sandman, Volume One, by Neil Gaiman. I have read very little Neil Gaiman and I was looking to rectify that with this enormous collection. But I checked out just a few pages in thanks to some troubling plot devices I thought were beneath this author. I know you want to leave comments urging me to try again, but please don’t. Trust that I know my own limits. This won’t put me off Gaiman altogether, but I won’t be coming back to this particular work.

13434433The Complete Digital SLR Handbook: Mastering Your Camera to Take Pictures Like a Pro by The Editors of PhotoPlus Magazine. Lots of good tips, but also lots more than I needed.

COOKBOOKS

Sadly, I did not find a single recipe I wanted to try in any one of these cookbooks.

26031078Dinner Made Simple: 35 Everyday Ingredients, 350 Easy Recipes by Real Simple.

51cvo6mikel-_sx258_bo1204203200_Good and Simple: Recipes to Eat Well and Thrive by Jasmine Hemsley, Melissa Hemsley.

25862317Big Flavors From a Small Kitchen by Chris Honor.

25810693The Vegetable Butcher: How to Select, Prep, Slice, Dice, and Masterfully Cook Vegetables from Artichokes to Zucchini by Cara Mangini.

25982864The Love and Lemons Cookbook: An Apple-to-Zucchini Celebration of Impromptu Cooking by Jeanine Donofrio.

— Amanda

Monthly reading roundup July 2016

I was really busy this month. I was doing Camp NaNoWriMo (which I won!) and remodeling a bathroom and having car trouble and adjusting to a new work schedule. Reading ended up taking a back seat to real life. And this post is late cuz the fun don’t stop. Car is fixed, sleep schedule is still all fucked up, bathroom is in pieces, and manuscript needs editing. #adulting

WHAT I READ IN JULY:

15800518Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 11 by Julietta Suzuki.

158206Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. This is precisely the kind of non-fiction I love: scientific and hilarious. Not unlike You Are Not So Smart, by David McRaney, this book illustrates how our brains are both incredibly complicated and seemingly at cross-purposes with survival in the modern world.

27170153How to Make White People Laugh by Negin Farsad. I’m white. I laughed. I’m pretty certain people of color would laugh if they read this, too (though with a different flavor of “ugh, white people” than I felt, of course). Just the right amount of self-depreciation, harsh truths (phrased hilariously), anecdotes, and facts (and wildly erroneous, hyperbolic completely made-up facts).

139253The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. As promised, this was a lovely little book. Sad at times, magic at times. A collection of semi-connected vignettes of a Latina girl growing up in Chicago, featuring her whole family and most everyone on the block.

15803910Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 12 by Julietta Suzuki. Stop rolling your eyes. I love these books. You might, too. I do wish that whoever named the English translation had picked something closer to the actual meaning of the Japanese title, Kamisama Hajimemashita, which means “I became a god” or “A god began,” and has nothing to do with kissing (no matter how much the main character may want to snog her servant guy).

15803925Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 13 by Julietta Suzuki. The cover art on these books, I will have you know, is totally out of touch with the plot inside the books. I find it very weird, as the covers are drawn by the same woman as the rest of the manga, but that’s just how the Japanese roll. The books contain little, if any, provocative fruit-feeding, floating through anti-gravity, wild fashion shoots, or group snuggles.

187020Empire Falls by Richard Russo. This was my second attempt at this book. At least one follower I know in real life is going to hate me for this review. Sorry, Phil. I love me some small town fiction, but I felt like I had a level of background information on every person in this town that would have given the Stasi a brain boner. Also, there’s a few interesting bits of information/plot in the first chapter or so, one more about 3/4 of the way through, and then several pretty compelling chapters at the end of the almost 500 pages, and the rest is all just people going about their day-to-day, thinking about how much they hate their day-to-day.

INCOMPLETE

23272302du balai! by Hans Wilhelm (in French). My language studies were one of the hard-hit areas of my to do list in July.

13643895¡Ves al revés! by Jeanne Willis, Tony Ross, & Gabriel Martínez Jiménez (in Spanish). See above.

COOKBOOKS

None! *gasp*

— Amanda

Monthly reading roundup June 2016

WHAT I READ IN JUNE

17884042Still Life With Breadcrumbs by Anna Quindlen. This is the kind of book you drag around with you everywhere because you don’t want to put it down but your life insists on continuing without you. I cannot say what made these characters and this story so compelling: they just were. No frills, just damn good writing.

29340182Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West. I think what I tweeted about this halfway through is still the best summary (pardon the typo):

12325117Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 7 by Julietta Suzuki.

12566298Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 8 by Julietta Suzuki.

13183545Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 9 by Julietta Suzuki.

30166675American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I got burned out on classical “high” fantasy (dragons and elves and whatnot in a sort of alternate earth where it’s perpetually the middle ages) when I was a teenager and it still makes my stomach turn. But this here is my kind of fantasy: the old gods (Norse, Native American, Indian, African, Slavic, you name it) versus the new gods (TV, cars, airplanes, media) on the vast back roads of Americana. Like Supernatural, but both deeper and funnier. I’m antsy for the TV version now.

13183547Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 10 by Julietta Suzuki.

211478Japanese Women Don’t Get Old or Fat by Naomi Moriyama. Less silly than I expected, and more scientific. Still follows the largely anecdotal format of lifestyle diet books set forth by French Women Don’t Get Fat, but that’s OK, because it still contains solid advice.

25897960Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith. I love me some local fiction. This compelling, atmospheric story time-hops around a story that takes place in both the Oregon wilderness and two small San Juan Islands.

INCOMPLETE

6000153Start Your Own Restaurant Business and More: Pizzeria, Coffeehouse, Deli, Bakery, Catering Business by Jacquelyn Lynn. I skimmed this, while taking copious notes, because I have a complicated fantasy in which I run a very small bakery and breakfast-only restaurant. So the pizzeria chapter and the bar chapter didn’t apply to me, nor did anything having to do with employees because I don’t want any employees.

23398646The French Beauty Solution: Time-Tested Secrets to Look and Feel Beautiful Inside and Out by Mathilde Thomas. This sounded like a great idea when I was looking at it on the library’s website, but when it showed up on the hold shelf and I saw that it included a “detox diet” my spirits sagged. I didn’t want quackery, I wanted time-tested advice on simple beauty habits. There were some of those, and I have to hand it to the author for not simply recommending her own desperately expensive products as the answer to everything (I also didn’t know about that bias before I put a hold on the book) so it wasn’t a complete loss.

22890270Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin (Audiobook). I plan on re-reading this in the future. I was really enjoying it, as I had the other books I have read by Gretchen Rubin, but I was away from the computer most of the first weekend of June and my loan expired before I could finish listening to it.

10515837The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners by Jack Hawley. I was reading this a few pages at a time before bed but I couldn’t finish it at that rate before the library wanted it back.

4620248The Beauty Diet: Looking Great Has Never Been So Delicious by Lisa Drayer. This book really could have been an article. Rarely have I read anything so repetitive. However, the science is sound (these foods are really good for you and getting your vitamins and minerals and antioxidants from food sources rather than supplements has been proven to be more effective) and by “diet” the author does not mean “weight loss diet” but rather the now almost-archaic original meaning of “a selection of foods habitually eaten.”

996251Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. This is one of those books that crops up in the bibliographies of other books all the time, so I felt compelled to read it. But I just couldn’t hack it. The analogies and “lessons” the author draws out of the stories she relates seem pulled out of thin air to me. I could see no correlation at all between the folklore and the morals the author perceived in them.

COOKBOOKS

24693655Protein Ninja: 100 Plant-Based Recipes for Hardcore Soups, One-Pot Meals, and Saucy Bowls That
Pack a Protein Punch
by Terry Hope Romero. There was nothing in here I wanted to eat. It was all very strange stuff, full of pea protein and unobtainable flours and whatnot. I was expecting clever uses for tofu and beans, not this science-project stuff.

27415846Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2016 ed. by Dana Cowin. Food & Wine is always good stuff. I will be trying about four recipes from this mouthwatering collection.

— Amanda

Monthly reading roundup May 2016

WHAT I READ IN MAY:

23848562Killing and Dying: Stories by Adrian Tomine. I don’t even remember where I first heard of Adrian Tomine but I have his Scrapbook and I never tire of it. His stories are drawn with simplicity and precision sometimes bordering on minimalism. He knows how to tell a story and he specializes in melancholy.

11343537Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 6 by by Julietta Suzuki.

1281393Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. I see now why this is such a beloved book.i Wonderfully atmospheric, with fully-formed characters. Definitely something that would bear repeated readings.

10098617The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky (audiobook). I may have to read this again, in book form. The author is a researcher who has actually tested and studied the tests of other researchers on what really and truly creates lasting happiness. Much of what her research shows works are things I already practice, but there were other insights I would like to revisit. Also, there are lots of tests and evaluations for you to run on yourself.

15077298Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City by Eric Toensmeier, Jonathan Bates. I am not a permaculture person but I still found this memoir very interesting.

56478Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto by Anneli Rufus. YES. Rufus hits the nail on the head about being a loner: we don’t hate people – we just want to be alone. We have friends. We are not “hiding” in our homes. We are not stuck up, we are not perverts, we are not socially inept. A point she brilliantly hammered home was the the headline “loners” who kill are never loners in the real sense – they are alone, not loners. They don’t want to be alone, but rather have alienated anyone who might have wanted to be around them.

9849425French Toast by Harriet Welty Rochefort (Audiobook). Interesting at times, but mostly very complainy. And I’ve got a complaint of my own about that cover: does that cover say middle-aged mother to you? It sure didn’t to me.

INCOMPLETE:

22752444Drawn & Quarterly: Twenty-five Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels ed. by Tom Devlin. I admit it, I just read the comics and didn’t read the articles.

16059656The Property by Rutu Modan. I placed a hold on this and picked it up when it came in but once I had it on my own shelf I no longer wanted to read it. This happens sometimes, but it makes me feel like a bad person.

522726

A+ cover image, amirite?

Walden and other writings by Henry David Thoreau. I was already aware that Thoreau didn’t really live the monkish life of seclusion and self-sufficiency that he claimed, but I was willing to read this semi-memoir anyway for the slice-of-life stuff: descriptions of his idyllic days in the forest and garden alone except for animals. But I only made it through 30 pages of off-topic rants before I gave up. If I wanted to listen to some old white guy bitch about modern technology and “young people these days” I’d just go to Facebook. If you want a book by a guy who really did build a cabin in the middle of nowhere, by hand, and lived there alone year-round (except for occasional deliveries of beer and TP) and who can really make you pine for the pines with his prose, get you a copy of Dick Proenneke’s One Man’s Wilderness, or the DVD version Alone in the Wilderness.

COOKBOOKS:

25747157My Kitchen in Rome: Recipes and Notes on Italian Cooking by Rachel Roddy. Nothing appealed to me. The food was simple, which I like, with the emphasis on the ingredients, which I like, but the combinations of ingredients were all off-putting to me.

13167803Keepers: Two Home Cooks Share Their Tried-and-True Weeknight Recipes and the Secrets to Happiness in the Kitchen by Kathy Brennan, Caroline Campion. Lots of photocopying going on here. Nothing complicated, but everything sounded very delicious.

12798803Jamie Oliver’s Food Escapes: Over 100 Recipes from the Great Food Regions of the World by Jamie Oliver. Jamie Oliver has never let me down. Photocopies made.

15791048One Pan, Two Plates: More Than 70 Complete Weeknight Meals for Two by Carla Snyder. Does what it says on the tin. And sounds delicious. This came to the photocopier with me.

16071724The French Market Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes from My Parisian Kitchen by Clotilde Dusoulier. I have been watching Rachel Khoo (♥) and I’m trying to go vegetarian again, so this seemed like a winner. But sadly, nothing cried “eat me!”

— Amanda

Monthly reading roundup April 2016

WHAT I READ IN APRIL:


Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up
by Marie Kondō. Just as pleasant and calming to read as her first book. I am sure there are people who are put off by her charming way of anthropomorphizing household objects, but those people are heartless and wrong.

23848559Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Lawson, Jenny. Having followed her blog for a while now and having read her first book I had complete faith that I would enjoy this one. It was snort-laugh funny but at times she also got very real about living with mental illness. To quote my own tweet: “OMG. There are people I love who need to read this book and people I don’t love who need to be beaten with it.”

11684657Francesca Woodman ed. by Corey Keller. I read this for research for a book I’m not supposed to be working on right now. It was the only book on Francesca Woodman the library had. I didn’t understand a lot of what the essayists were going on about but I am not well-versed in the jargon of art criticism. That said, I got what I needed for my research and I still dig her work.

20484545It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell. Another book written by a blogger I follow. I read a lot of weight loss memoirs, but this one seemed to particularly resonate with me: the pain of getting fat without realizing it, the pain of being fat, the pain of losing the fat, the pain of being skinny and having people who have never been in your situation micromanage everything that goes in your mouth and make rude comments if it’s healthy and make rude comments if it’s not and they think they’re helping but they just make you want to quit.

15843166You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero. I finished this because I was worried that I had set aside too many books and was going to get behind, but I wish I hadn’t felt pressured. There’s nothing original in here (the author does state this herself in the opening) and what’s in here is not for me. I’m not sure where Sincero gets off calling other self-help books “woo-woo” because this is pure woo-woo. Positive thinking, affirmations, and visualization really are powerful tools, but Sincero is misinformed or ignorant if she thinks you can “fake it til you make it” to get out of depression or cancer.

8230409Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 1 by Julietta Suzuki. This is the manga that the anime was based on. I binged the first two seasons (number three is currently airing in Japan) and was left with a powerful need for more, so I was delighted to find that the library had this series. (Well, they have volumes 1-21 out of 22, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. Like damn near every shojo manga, it’s about a high school girl. In this case, a suddenly homeless high school girl who is made the land god of a local shrine and has to learn to answer prayers while simultaneously keeping up her grades and attendance at school. I will not apologize for falling hard and fast for this series: shojo goodness with almost no angst and lots of positivity about life in general.

3832552Going Gray: How to Embrace Your Authentic Self with Grace and Style by Anne Kreamer. I thought this was going to be more of a memoir-y memoir, but it was a sort of journalistic memoir; 50% anecdotes 50% research. This gave me a lot to think about in my own journey towards going gray (which was delayed from age 30 to age 40 when I balked, but that’s a story for another time).

23012592Batman Adventures: Mad Love (Deluxe Edition) by Paul Dini, Bruce Timm. I don’t read a lot of comic books (although this month’s list makes it appear otherwise) but I was a big fan of the Batman Adventures cartoon created by Dini and Timm that birthed the character of Harley Quinn, on whom this book centers. This book unveiled Harley’s origin story as Dr. Harleen Quinzel, the Joker’s psychotherapist in Arkham (if that sounds familiar it’s because they later made an episode of Batman Adventures about it).

9404151Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 2 by Suzuki, Julietta. In this volume an adorable little sidebar began that was not in the anime: pages from Tomoe’s “Ennui Blog” in which he whines about how bored he is while Mikage is gone (these sidebars take place before Nanami became the kami). They are drawn in a different style (very simply, with a brush) and they always make me giggle.

189277How to Avoid Making Art (or Anything Else You Enjoy) by Julia Cameron. I think this was recommended in Writing is My Drink, which I read last month. A quick read, as it is mostly illustrations with captions, but the advice (or anti-advice) is sound.

3330724A Year of Mornings: 3191 Miles Apart by Maria Alexandra Vettese, Stephanie Congdon Barnes. Lovely, simple diptych photographs of the mornings of two women, one in Portland, Oregon, one in Portland, Maine. Restful yet oddly invigorating. Makes you want to get up and make breakfast foods, clean something, take pictures, appreciate small things.

6903105Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. I was kind of surprised, when I ran across this in my TBR list, that I hadn’t read it already, having devoured Gone Girl and Sharp Objects. These books are fucked-up, to be sure, but in a compelling, unusual, and fascinating way, like Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal or True Detective (Season 1).

10954369Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 3 by Suzuki, Julietta.

17978193The Wives of Los Alamos by Tarashea Nesbit. A fictionalized account of the lives of the wives of the scientists at Los Alamos told in a POV I had never encountered before: first person plural (we). The book starts in a tone that is a little irritated by the forced move to the middle of nowhere but is surprisingly pleasant. You begin the book wishing that you, too, could live a simple life on a desert plateau in a small community in the 40s. But you know what the narrators don’t know – why they are there, and what their husbands are doing – and as the book meanders along the tension increases incrementally, almost imperceptibly at first, until by the time the tests actually begin you are writhing with the suspense. I feel like the conflicting feelings of victory and guilt over what all that research culminated in was handled well.

44380Man Walks Into a Room by Nicole Krauss. Wow. Read this book. I’m not going to be able to explain it properly, but it was compelling and deep. The protagonist loses 24 years of memory, which drives a wedge between him and his wife (no – more like a chasm, because there’s nothing there) who he no longer knows. His memories end at age 12, but he is able to make new ones. He volunteers for a charismatic doctor’s project to copy and paste memories from one brain to another which has, as they would put it on a dust jacket, “disastrous consequences.” This is a phrase that normally turns me off cold and makes me put a book back on the shelf, but I’m glad I checked this one out anyway because the consequences and their fallout (all of which are emotional) are written so deftly I hated the author a little bit. (Always a sure sign of good writing: I curse the author.) A quote, if I may: “And what is a life, Samson wondered now, without a witness?” Ugh – so many implications for writing, for reading, for memory, for relationships.

10954370Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 4 by Julietta Suzuki.

23460830Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore. The sequel to one of my favorite books of all time, A Dirty Job, which was recommended to me by my dear friend Heidi (*waves manically*). A good, solid sequel. Lots of laughing out loud.

11041572Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 5 Julietta Suzuki. This was the first volume to differ in any way from the anime (or rather, since the manga came first, this is the first volume in which the anime differs). There are minor to major deviations in all five chapters of this book. Interesting.

INCOMPLETE:

12602798Alfred Stieglitz: A Legacy of Light by Katherine Hoffman. Probably would have been more interesting to someone who was more interested in Stieglitz. I was there for pictures but the book is mostly text and about 50% of the pictures are paintings or photographs by Stieglitz’s contemporaries.

17654702The Seeker: A Novel by R.B. Chesterton. Dialogue was unrealistic at times. At the midpoint of the book the action reached a fervor and I just mentally checked out.

17707627Sweet Thunder by Ivan Doig. At some point I realized I was not paying attention to this book at all and also that it was going to be action and intrigue – not my cup of tea.

9110654The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I think I only made it about 20 pages into this before the racism (“a strange and terrible dialect which she imagined to be the speech of the Southern negro”) and misogyny (see my tweet, below) ran me off.

25620698In Search of Lost Time: Swann’s Way: A Graphic Novel by Heuet, Stéphane. Proust’s masterpiece has been on my TBR list since I first heard the madeleine anecdote. (Probably in The Transporter.) But a five volume work with paragraph-long sentences is a daunting reading task, so I have been putting it off for more than a decade. When I started reading comic books and manga I thought, Hey! There’s got to be a graphic novel version I could read! Yes and no. There was this in the library system but when I got it in my hands and started to read the introduction I found a rather vital piece of information that had not been in the library catalog or on the back of the book: this was an adaptation of the first volume only. And it was still 224 pages. I was looking for significantly more abridgement.

COOKBOOKS:

None! *gasp*

— Amanda

Monthly reading roundup March 2016

WHAT I READ IN MARCH:

151915The Hungry Years: Confessions of a Food Addict by William Leith. I read a lot of memoirs. Lately, I read a lot of weight loss memoirs. We are all going through the same shit, but we all get something different out of it. Leith is a journalist, so his way of dealing with his weight problem was to go right to the source: he interviewed weight loss experts like doctors, and, in particular, Dr. Atkins. Turns out that the Atkins diet is not at all what I had been told – and it did not kill Dr. Atkins. This book got me thinking and that thinking snowballed into research and that research resulted in a new battleplan for my own weight loss.

11079179Sikh Spiritual Practice: The Sound Way to God by Siri Kirpal Kaur Khalsa. I have been fascinated by Sikhism for some time, but since I became hooked on Jus Reign’s YouTube videos I decided to actually learn something about it. Officially my new favorite religion of all time, this dharma is rooted in radical equality. Men and women are equal, all castes are equal. The turbans that they wear are symbolic crowns and the names they take were traditionally reserved for royalty. In Sikhism, we are all princes and princesses. Sikhs believe in pacifism – unless someone (or a group) is being oppressed or forced to convert their religion. Then, they are duty bound to intervene – even physically fighting if necessary. But to get back to this book in particular: I enjoyed it, but it was a little uncomfortable from time to time when the author got off topic and began interjecting 70’s American hippy stuff.

PT Food Addiction rev2 (Page 1)Psychology Today: Breaking the Bonds of Food Addiction by Susan McQuillan. I would recommend this for someone who is new to the concept of food addiction. I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know, but I have read dozens of books on this subject. This book is thorough and scientifically sound and would save a lot of time spent reading a lot of other books to get the same information.

28790888Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. I have followed the Minimalist’s blog for about a year now. They give sound, personally-tested advice that is simple and common-sense. This short volume is essentially their mission statement.

13579626Rooms by Lauren Oliver. A ghost story written from the POV of the ghosts. (Although, unlike in The Turn of the Screw, they know they’re ghosts.) Not a short book, but you’ll devour it in no time because it is so well-written and engaging.

1014 WHY I CAN'T STOP EATINGWhy Can’t I Stop Eating: Recognizing, Understanding, and Overcoming Food Addiction by Debbie Danowski and Pedro Lazaro. Again, I read a lot of books about weight loss and food addiction, so much of the scientific information in this book wasn’t news to me (although I can say with some authority that it wasn’t wrong). This is the first book on the subject that I have read that gives a specific food plan, though. In the late chapters there is a complete, balanced, eat-this-for-the-rest-of-your-life recovery diet which the authors urge you to treat as your medicine.

20821000Friendswood by René Steinke. Not a good book to read when you are down. It won’t cheer you up. Marvelously well-written, though. From page one there is such atmosphere: what a pretty town – wouldn’t you love to live here? But also, foreboding in the air like an approaching storm, religious zealotry blinding people to the ineffectiveness of their own actions, horrible secrets in every other heart, and at the center of it all, a poorly-closed EPA superfund site like a giant cancerous lesion, leaching evil and sickness into every lovely happy home around it. Also, this book has one of the best goddamn covers I’ve ever seen.

16043567How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britain’s Most Ineligible Bachelor and His Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate by Wendy Moore. I was a whole chapter into this book before I realized it was nonfiction. This guy really picked up two 12 year-old girls and attempted to train them into his perfect mate – which would have been crazy enough if he hadn’t had exceptionally specific and fairly oxymoronic specifications.

17571594Writing Is My Drink: A Writer’s Story of Finding Her Voice (and a Guide to How You Can Too) by Theo Pauline Nestor. This is intended for memoir writers, but I feel like the exercises at the end of each chapter would be helpful for any writer. A lot of your material is going to come from within and this book focuses on mining the hard-to-reach stuff. The stuff you don’t want to touch. The stuff you don’t want anyone to see. I got my copy at the library but if I ran across a copy at a bookstore I would definitely pick it up and I would read it again and do all the exercises.

INCOMPLETE

1033836The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss by Arthur Agatston. I skimmed this for the information I needed to do the plan. I didn’t need to read all the chapters on basic nutrition and the trouble with simple carbohydrates. Contrary to what random strangers have insisted on telling me (without having read the book themselves) this is not another Atkins, and it is not a never-eat-bread again nightmare diet that will kill you. This is a glycemic index diet originally intended to help Dr. Agatston’s cardiology patients get off the fast track to diabetes. I never thought I would defend (let alone try) a name-brand diet, but there you have it. The science is sound.

2631 HOW TO MAKE ALMOST ANY DIET WORKHow to Make Almost Any Diet Work: Repair Your Disordered Appetite and Finally Lose Weight by Anne Katherine. I didn’t make it through Chapter One of this bad boy. I can see how it would be perfect for someone else, though. But it had too many charts and graphs and tests for me (and that is saying something). For some, though, this level of engagement would be just the ticket – giving you a real feeling of knowledge of and control over your eating problems.

516jch2bbpvlThe Sikhs by Patwant Singh. I wanted another book about what the Sikhs believe and how they practice their religion day-to-day, but this was a history book. And not my kind – the one-battle-after-another kind of history book. I’m sorry to say I couldn’t hack it.

COOKBOOKS

22715977Vegan with a Vengeance, 10th Anniversary Edition: Over 150 Delicious, Cheap, Animal-Free Recipes That Rock by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. OMFG. I never thought I’d find a vegan cookbook that made me feel like this. I want to eat it all!

7222602The South Beach Diet Super Quick Cookbook: 175 Delicious Recipes Ready in 30 Minutes or Less by Arthur Agatston. Not bad. I would have preferred the original cookbook but the library doesn’t have it anymore. I did find a handful of lunch recipes to try.

464208The South Beach Diet Cookbook: More than 200 Delicious Recipes That Fit the Nation’s Top Diet by Arthur Agatston. Found this at the thrift store. Also not bad. I photocopied three recipes (which is about average for me).

a1fm9kvexrlGlycemic Index Cooking Made Easy: Lose Weight, Eat Well, and Boost Your Energy Levels Using Low GI Foods by Jennie Brand-Miller. I also got this at the thrift store. I liked it. I photocopied four recipes.

306366The Sugar Solution Cookbook: More Than 200 Delicious Recipes to Balance Your Blood Sugar Naturally by Ann Fittante, Prevention Magazine. These recipes weren’t terribly inspiring. Lots of very diet-y stuff and things I didn’t think I could get Matt to eat. I did photocopy one recipe.

192401Better Homes & Gardens Diabetic Living Cookbook. I can’t believe I didn’t find anything to photocopy in here. I love Better Homes & Gardens. But these recipes weren’t quite what I was looking for on the South Beach Diet.

8691299Prevention’s The Diabetes DTour Diet. Meh. Same issue as above.

25622041Cut the Carbs: 100 Recipes to Help You Ditch White Carbs and Feel Great by Tori Haschka. Now we’re talkin’! So much delicious-looking food! I photocopied half the book.

— Amanda

Monthly reading roundup February 2016

BOOKS READ IN FEBRUARY

20256635Black River by S. M. Hulse. Sometimes a book is so well-written it makes me a little angry. I am very envious of this writer’s style: spare, subtle, atmospheric – but never ambiguous or apathetic. Occasionally I would mutter “goddamnit,” and Matt would ask “No good?” and I’d reply, sadly, “No, it’s great.” This book is everything I wanted Ellipsis to be, and much, much more.

15757384I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids by Jen Kirkman. A funny memoir of a comedian getting her shit together. A quick read, but enjoyable. When I was done I had to rewatch her Drunk History episodes, which were now even funnier.

15952899Life After Life: A Novel by Jill McCorkle. A pleasant read. Right up until that shitty plot twist.

25489453Always Too Much and Never Enough: A Memoir by Jasmin Singer. This began as a really relatable memoir about being overweight – and the “why I’m a vegan” chapters were explanatory, convincing, and not overwrought or bombastic – but the author lost me when she abandoned all reason to go on obsessive weeks-long “juice fasts” and babbled pseudoscience all over the goddamn place.

17707738The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You by Ella Berthoud, Susan Elderkin. This was a fun book. Not at all good for my TBR list (I probably added a dozen titles). The “cures” are quite appropriate: Cold Comfort Farm for lack of common sense, or To Kill a Mockingbird for those who need courage, for instance.

69517The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark. I wouldn’t have finished this if it hadn’t been so very short. And I should have been able to finish it in a day, but it kept putting me to sleep, so it took me two or three. People say Muriel Spark is subtle. Too subtle for me, apparently.

18144048Forgot to Remember: A Memoir of Amnesia by Su Meck. Here’s my review from Goodreads: “Hard to put down, but also sometimes hard to read. I ripped through this book even when I wanted to rip the author’s husband into tiny little pieces.”

INCOMPLETE

13609922Everything is Perfect When You’re a Liar by Kelly Oxford. Unrelentingly batshit crazy. The secondhand embarrassment was suffocating. Also it didn’t sound remotely plausible – incredibly hyperbolic.

17605531Local Souls by Allan Gurganus. Just didn’t hold my attention.

23848557Time and Time Again by Ben Elton. Is it just me or does anyone else have this problem where continuous, uninterrupted action becomes overwhelming and boring at some point? After a few chapters straight of espionage and fights I find my eyes skimming the page without taking anything in. This is one of those books I would have been riveted to if it had been a TV show or a movie, but I couldn’t keep track of who was hitting who (or the politics) on the page.

COOKBOOKS

24388414My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl. There was a lot of photocopying going on before I relinquished this one back to the library.

MedVegFeasts_casewrap-051414DM_r4.inddMediterranean Vegetarian Feasts by Aglaia Kremezi. Food combinations were a little odd for me. Nothing I wanted to cook.

— Amanda