Monday, August 29, 2016

What I'm reading this week (8/29/16)

What a fast weekend! I hate it when the time between Friday night and Monday morning goes by in a flash. I went with my mother to my cousin, Kolt's, wedding. I remember holding Kolt as a baby. Sigh.

Last week I finished:

I reached the end of my Anne of Avonlea audiobook last week, and it was a sweet book. I'm not sure how the other books in the series are, but this was very much like the first book. Anne is a bit older, but she's still a dreamer, still gets into scrapes, still looks for "kindred spirits" everywhere. As I mentioned earlier, I was sometimes a bit frustrated by Anne's seeming lack of growth. There is a Peter Pan thing going on with her that sometimes irritated me, but then, I'm not really the target audience. In all, I enjoyed the book, and I really enjoyed the narrator (Shelly Frasier, I believe). She was much better than the narrator of the first Anne book I listened to (Kate Burton, I think). My rating: 4 stars.

I also finished Kim Addonizio's poetry collection Mortal Trash. Most of it was pretty...odd. I didn't follow a lot of the poems--they seemed unnavigable. There was one redeeming poem that stood out for me, but the rest were kind of dark and weird. The last section of the book was full of poems that seemed much clearer and relatable, in sharp contrast to the earlier sections. I'd recommend Addonizio's earlier works before recommending this one. My rating: 3 stars. 

My husband's favorite book experience of all-time is the Tarzan of the Apes series (24 or 25 books in all). He read and re-read them--as an adult. So I made one of my goals this year to read Tarzan of the Apes. I kind of put it off for awhile and even considered not finishing the goal. (Can you imagine?!) But having finished my main August reads with a week and a half left in the month, I decided to suck it up and just read it already. It's not a long book--my copy is 218 pages--but it really packs a punch. There's not one bit of superfluous narrative. There's tons of heart-pounding adventure. There's savagery (though it's not graphic). There's romance. There's subtle anthropologic themes. It really is a well-crafted story, masterful even. My husband and I had a discussion about whether it was intended for children, and he was emphatic that it was not. I felt that it might be, but I have nothing to back that up. It seems to be an adult novel about something children would be interested in, which is interesting. I think it would be a great read-aloud for older boys (maybe 10-ish), who wouldn't be able to understand some of the language, but would get the concepts when read to him. My husband disagrees, though, saying there's too much subtlety that would be lost on them. And since he's actually read all the books and raised children, I guess I'll back down on my assertions. I do recommend this book, which I enjoyed much more than I anticipated. My rating: 4 stars.

This week I'll finish:

Ingredienti is making me into a rebel. It seems so silly to me that someone can have such forcefully absolute opinions about something as objective as food and flavor. Did Marcella Hazan really not believe taste is subjective? I would have enjoyed her opinions a lot more had she allowed her readers to have their own as well.

Still loving Grover Cleveland, Again! Seriously, borrow or buy a copy.

This week I'll begin:

I have one more book on my August reading list that I haven't begun, and that's Dogs by Tim Flach. It's a large-format book of remarkable dog photographs. I can't wait to sit down with it.

I'll also begin:

I'll be moving on to my September reading list this week with Katharine Hepburn's Me. I have no idea what to expect. I've always seen Hepburn as kind of prickly, so her memoir might be a hoot. Although I've heard she doesn't really talk much about Spencer Tracy, which I think is odd.

And my September audiobook is a book I'm just not getting to in print, Ruth Reichl's Delicious! I think it will be the perfect thing--a longish novel about food (and romance, I think), lighthearted, perhaps. I really prefer my audiobooks to be fiction.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What I've added to my TBR lately

The good books just keep on coming, I tell you. I've never seen a year like this--every one of my favorite authors has come or is coming out with a new book this year. Plus, I'm running into intriguing books--new and backlist--every day that I must read, and now. Here's a sampling:


First up, two chunkster nonfiction reads that I'm adding to my shelves this month. Patient H. M. is an intriguing look at a man who loses his short-term memory after a botched lobotomy. The kicker is, the author's grandfather is the doctor who performed the lobotomy. The Oregon Trail came out last year, but just recently was released in paperback. The author braves the trail the old-fashioned way. I think this might be great on audio.  

The Girls of Atomic City has been on my TBR for awhile, but I recently bought a used copy, so I'm recommitting to reading it. It's about the stateside women who helped win World War II (though I'm not sure they were even told what they were doing). Hidden Figures is about the African-American women, gifted in mathematics, who helped win the space race.

I'd never heard of The Eighty-Dollar Champion until The Perfect Horse (to be released Aug. 23) came onto my radar. Written by the same woman, they're a pair I'm anxious to read. (Though can they even hold a candle to my beloved Seabiscuit?)

Another book that's been on my TBR awhile is All Roads Lead to Austen. I'd put off reading it until I'd read all of Jane Austen's major novels, and now I'm ready to go on the journey to Latin America with Ms. Smith to discuss the books in espanol. Michael Perry, one of my favorites, is releasing a book of his essays, Roughneck Grace, in September. I'm in! And I love books about grammar and punctuation, so I've added But Can I Start a Sentence with "But"? to my TBR list. It's a book of editing and word nerd questions and answers to the University of Chicago Press.  

And because Dana Perino is one of my favorite people on earth, and because I love dog books, and because it takes nothing more than that for me to buy a book, I'm geeking out over her October release Let Me Tell You about Jasper... 


(So, is aqua the hot book color the last couple years or what?!)

I'm committing to read All the Light We Cannot See next year. I've bought my copy and everything.

Okay, so have you heard about Lily and the Octopus? Well, it's hard to hear much, because readers agree the plot can't be revealed without spoiling the book. It's one of those the-joy-is-in-how-it-all-unfolds books. This intrigues me enough to want to read it. Plus, Doxie on the cover, Doxie on the cover!

I bought a copy of Where'd You Go, Bernadette at Savers the other day, and I added it to my 2017 books list.

Visual books

I'm always on the lookout for new home decorating books, and I think I've found a good one. House in the Country shows a built-new-to-look-old Milbrook, New York house, and from what I can see, it's gorgeously traditional and full of color.

I've also added 50 Artists You Should Know to my list, because I so loved 50 Paintings You Should Know.

I've decided to add Eleanor & Park to my 2017 reading list, too. Although the story doesn't particularly interest me, I've just read too many people who say they love it to not try it. Finally.

And because I love to learn new domestic skills to fill in the gaps I've forgotten in the last few decades of domestic life (yes, I'm from the--probably last--generation who actually had wood shop and home ec. in school), the kids book The Useful Book goes on the list. Plus, I want to learn once and for all how to fold a goll-darn fitted sheet.
 Have you read any of these? What did you think? Comment below.

Monday, August 22, 2016

What I'm reading this week (8/22/16)

I started and finished three books last week. That never happens. Turns out, the books I chose for my August book list are all super quick reads. I will fit in another book or two I hadn't expected to. And I didn't even take off my usual August "read-cation."

Last week I finished:

I was looking forward to the new Amy Krouse Rosenthal book, Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal, for months--and it did not disappoint. I didn't know what to expect as Amy's books--even her picture books--are just a little bit different. I enjoy the way she sees the world, with wonder, awe, and just refreshingly, but enjoyably, odd. It seems coincidences seek her out. And she celebrates things in refreshing ways (like freezing an ice cube of the tea her daughter drank before she left for college). And she tries little experiments that are just delightful. Frankly, she just might be the most creative person I "know." So I loved this book to the moon and back. It's a fast read--there's a lot of white space (i.e. blank pages). I didn't quite understand why it was a "textbook" other than it was divided into traditional school subjects (Science, Social Studies, Math, Art, Language Arts, etc.) Oh, and for those of you into this sort of thing, it's also interactive. At several places throughout the book, she asks for the reader's texts on a certain subject. My rating: 5 stars.

I'd been meaning to read something by Kate DiCamillo for awhile now, so I decided when her newest book, Raymie Nightingale, came out early this year, I'd read it. And frankly, I'm not sure what I think of it. It had one of the most satisfyingly unsatisfying endings I've run on in a long time. It was one of those books that has an undercurrent of sadness that all of the characters own to about the same degree. Everyone is just a little bit broken, which was real-to-life but also depressing. I'm not sure if this is a feeling DiCamillo's other books have or not, but I'm a little reluctant to read them to find out. Still, I thought the book was well-written and the plot was well-paced. The characters were surprisingly fleshed-out for how quickly DiCamillo had to bring them to life (the least fleshed, oddly enough, though, was Raymie). All-in-all, I'd say it was a worthwhile read, but I'm not sure I'd ever re-read it. My rating: 3.5 stars.   

Sometimes books come to you when you most need them, and that was the case with Shauna Niequist's newest book, Present over Perfect. I've enjoyed most of her other books, Cold Tangerines, Bittersweet, and to a lesser degree the one everyone else seems to love, Bread and Wine. But Niequist is terribly emotional, and if you're not along for the all-the-feels ride, her books can grate on your nerves a little. This one, though, felt like a lifesaver. Though I don't suffer from the rush-rush, too busy to breathe, lifestyle--the theme of the book--I do suffer from the secondary and underlying theme of not feeling good enough. For Niequist this not-good-enough feeling manifested itself in busyness. For me, it manifests itself in not even trying lots of things for fear of failure and in being a pleasure to the point of losing myself completely. She deals with this feeling in ways that helped me, too. Her books are like talking to your best friend, and they're very universal for women. That's why this one rocketed to #2 on the New York Times Bestseller list last week. Also, I believe this one is less Christian-y than her others, which will make it more appealing to a wide range of women but still appeal to her reader base. I loved this book. It might be my favorite of hers. My rating: 4.5 stars. 

Last week I began:

I'd been a little apprehensive about reading Kim Addonizio's newest book of poems, Mortal Trash. She can be much edgier than I'm comfortable with. So far I've found nothing terribly objectionable or icky, but I've found nothing I adore, either. I've followed Addonizio since the beginning of her poetry career. I loved, loved, loved her The Poet's Companion, written with Dorianne Laux. And I've loved many of her poems individually. I'm hoping here for one great poem, and I doubt she'll let me down.

This week I'll continue with:

I'm still loving Grover Cleveland, Again!

I've an internal monologue in which I'm continually griping about Ingredienti. The zucchini is the most versatile vegetable? But never boil a carrot? It seems her prejudices aren't based on anything concrete.

And I'm wishing Anne Shirley (Anne of Avonlea) would grow up. She's grating on my nerves just a teensy bit. Though I do love the various scrapes she gets into, she's exactly the same at 16 as she was at 10. It occurred to me last week that the Anne books might be telling us more about L.M. Montgomery than about Anne.

I'm still deciding what to pick up next. It will be something from my September reading list, but I'm not sure which one. Stay tuned.


Monday, August 15, 2016

What I'm reading this week (8/15/16)

Last week I finished:

Last week I finished my audio-read of Death Comes to Pemberley. This one left me cold. It lacked the warmth and humor of Jane Austen's books. The plot had sordid details that are nothing for today's audience, but I like to read Austen because she doesn't include such things. The writing was fine, though it hovered oddly between Austen's and modern day, never really being either. Over all, I was underwhelmed (though the PBS production of DCtP was very good). The cover, though, I adore. My rating: 2.5 stars.

I started and finished Kick last week, and I was pleasantly surprised. First off, it was even-handed. Those Kennedys were no angels, and Byrne deals frankly with the bad (Joe Senior's affairs, Joe Senior's rather undignified defeatist attitudes during WWII, Jack's sexual promiscuity, Rose's overbearing tendencies, daughter Rosemary's botched lobotomy, etc.) Secondly, Byrne is a Brit, so the English part of Kick's life--she married an English boy with a title--was in good hands. There were a couple annoyances such as the odd comparison between Kick and Jack that fell flat every single time. I'm not sure why it was important to Byrne to make it a book about Jack, too, but it didn't succeed in being so. Also, there was much too much talk of which highfalutin English parties Kick went to with which beaux and where. I couldn't care less. Lastly, one confusing thing is that the book is dedicated to Byrne's grandfather Robert Kennedy, whom I took to be THE Robert Kennedy--Kick's bother, and throughout the book I thought she was Kick's grandniece. Apparently, not so. Confusing. But overall, it was a rather good biography of the vivacious Kick, her choice between the Catholic church and love, and her tragic end. My rating: 3 stars.

I, happily, began to enjoy All the Presidents' Gardens a lot more once it reached the 20th century history of the mansion's gardens. My enjoyment really turned a corner when photography came into existence, so I could see the gardens and greenhouses instead of just renderings. It ceased being boring and became much more engaging. Ike's helicopter pad and putting green, Truman's balcony, George H.W. Bush's horseshoe pit, Michelle Obama's kitchen garden. These are all thing I've read about in other places, and they were nice touchstones here. If you're a White House buff like me, I think you'll enjoy this one. My rating: 3.5 stars.

Last week I began:

Apparently Marcella Hazan did for Italian cuisine in America what Julia Child did for French. I don't really know her, but I take the publisher's word for it. Her posthumous book Ingredienti (don't you love the cover? I sure do.) is an alphabetical list of ingredients and how to select and prepare them. It's interesting how political food can get. Hazan's opinions regarding many vegetables are counter to how most folks I know feel about them. For instance, she advises to purchase the thickest stalks of asparagus, to never boil carrots, to ignore raw cauliflower altogether. She's opinionated, but rather in a grandmotherly way. Still, I don't like thinking that I do vegetables wrong. You know?

My new audiobook is Anne of Avonlea. I planned to read this one this year, but it just hasn't worked out, so I've decided it would make a nice comfortable audio-read instead. And I was right.

This week I'll continue with:

I'm adoring Grover Cleveland, Again! Simply adoring it. Plus I'm learning presidential trivia which puts me in my happy place.

Up next:

Two of my August reads were released Aug. 9, so they're "in the mail." Depending on when they arrive, I'll either be reading Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal or beginning Kate DiCamillo's Raymie Nightingale until Textbook arrives.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What I've added to my TBR: Cooking Edition!

I promised weeks ago that my next "What I've added to my TBR" post would be books about food and cooking, and I'm finally delivering on my promise. I read a lot of books about food: cookbooks, foodie memoirs, cooking for kids, regional food, etc. And yet, I'm kind of picky about what I choose. Here's a list of 16 books that appeal to me, maybe some will whet your appetite, too.


Unfortunately, Amazon doesn't give a great idea of what A Super Upsetting Cookbook about Sandwiches is like inside, but the sandwiches sound super yummy. Not that I'll be pickling bean sprouts any time soon.

I'm so excited about American Cake. Sometimes my mind just fixates on a book, and this is one of those times. The book gives you the history behind some of America's more famous cakes. Awesome.

These days every celebrity is putting out a cookbook, but there's something about Freddie Prinze Jr.'s Back to the Kitchen that appeals to me more than most.

I followed Chungah Rhee's Damn Delicious website for quite awhile, but then I stopped visiting. I don't really remember why. I think it might have had to do with the layout of the pages or the use of a lot of shortcut ingredients. But I might check out her cookbook for Asian fare.

I love Guy Fieri. I watch Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives while I workout at night, and I watch Guy's Grocery Games while I cook supper on Sundays evenings. He's coming out with a family cookbook in October called Guy Fieri Family Food, and I think I'll look into it, if nothing else to see what a chef feeds his family on Tuesday night.
I also followed The Homesick Texan's website, but it fell off my radar awhile back. Still, I've been interested in her Family Table cookbook regardless. As long as the recipes aren't too fussy.

Foodie Memoirs

I ran across a review of Dinner with Edward on Malcolm Avenue Review recently, and it sounds good. A woman at a crossroads in life agrees to check in on her friend's father, and the two have dinner dates.

I admit it, the cover alone convinced me to buy and read In a French Kitchen. (This is the paperback version that came out earlier this year.)

And I vacillated over Stir because of its health-related content, but I finally bought a copy when it came out in paperback.


Ever since reading and loving Dinner with Dad several years ago, I've been on the lookout for another book about a dad cooking for his kids, and I've found one (two, really). Hungry Monkey is about a father's attempt to making a foodie out of his young daughter, and Pretty Good Number One is about that same father and daughter eating their way through Tokyo a couple years later.

(For the record, the only thing my beloved father ever cooked for me was a fried egg sandwich on white bread with ketchup, and it was awesome.)

And with all the foodie memoirs I've read over the years, I've never read Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking (or More Home Cooking), and I really think I should.

The Masters

Did you know there is a second volume of Julia Child's memoir My Life in France coming out in October? I ran across it the other day, and I'll definitely be reading it.

I love Jacque Pepin. He really is a master. His New Complete Techniques is one of the largest books I own. It's over 700 pages of culinary techniques--everything, I assume, you need to know to be a success in your kitchen. Luckily, it's full of photos. I plan to work my way through it in 2017.

Julia Child and Jacques Pepin brought French food to America, and I'm told Marcella Hazan brought Italian food here. Ingredienti was published a few weeks ago, and it tells how to choose the ingredients needed for a proper Italian feast. Again, I likely would have bought this one for the cover alone.

Share your favorite food and cooking books with me in the comments! What have I missed?