Thursday, January 31, 2008

Read in January.

Seven books read this month, with one of them being 800+ pages. It was a good reading month. I didn't get a chance to publish these individually, so here is a long entry.

The Gum Thief
Douglas Coupland
Roger, early forties, alcoholic, works at Staples. Bethany, early twenties, goth girl, works at Staples. Bethany finds Roger's writings one day, including a short piece Roger wrote about Bethany's view of the world. They begin writing back and forth to each other and Roger shares his novel, Glove Pond with Bethany, who really loves it.

I liked the relationship between the two characters, which was the rarely depicted between-sexes-friendship. I liked how badly written Glove Pond was. I liked that the story captured the numbness of working at a major chain store. I was confused about the ending. Overall, I enjoyed the book.

Motherless Brooklyn
Johnathan Lethem
What if your main character was an orphan (favorite tv plot device of the 1980s) and suffered from Tourette's Syndrome? And what if he worked as a quasi-detective/driver for a small time mafia guy in Brooklyn? And what if that small time mafia guy got killed and the main character tried to solve the case?

If you put all those things together, you get this book. I liked the writing style and how I gradually adjusted to Lional's Tourettic outbursts. I liked that it was essentially a mystery, but not as formulaic and more interesting. I especially liked understanding how Tourette's Syndrome manifested itself in this character, and it cleared up for me why all people with Tourette's don't just take medication, something I've often wondered. This was a nice escape-type read.

Dr. Gott's No Flour, No Sugar Diet
Peter H. Gott
I've been not eating gluten and sugar among other things anyway, so I figured I would check out to see what Dr. Gott says about the whole thing. Dr Gott thinks that you just need to eliminate all flour from your diet (so no bread, or pasta or tortillas, etc.) and all sugar and voila! No more excess weight. According to him, once you reach your goal weight, you can start eating bread products again, but not sugar. He does, however, think sugar substitutes are fine, something I find not fine.

It was a pretty simple diet plan and it did inspire me to stop eating what were my calorie bombs of honey, coconut and peanut butter. If you aren't too attached to flour and sugar anyway, this might be the book for you.

The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters
Charlotte Mosley, Ed.
I got this book because it sounded interesting. Not interesting like, "I want to read that," but interesting like "I should read that." When I got it, I groaned. It was huge, 834 pages, and I figured I would start it and wander off about a quarter of the way through.

Boy howdy was I wrong. It was an incredibly engrossing book and I loved every minute of it. The six Mitford sisters, born between 1904 and 1920 started writing to each other in their 20's and continued throughout their lives. Four of them became authors, one moved to Germany and fell in love with Hitler and his party, one married the leader of the pre-WWII fascist party in England, one moved to the United States and became a communist and one ended up the Duchess of Devonshire. It was fascinating reading their views of history as it happened. The 1930's correspondence between Unity and Diana was particularly eye opening. I enjoyed this book so much and recommend it for anyone who likes history and reading other people's letters.

Love in the Time of Taffeta
Eugenie Olson
After finishing The Mitfords: letters between six sisters, I needed something light. This fit the bill. Partway through, I found myself in familiar territory. The main character:
  • Lives in Boston
  • Rides a bike
  • Has a dead-end job
  • Smokes
  • Makes poor choices in men
  • Is generally unhappy.
It was as if the author knew me when I lived in Boston.
Aside from the strange sense of deja vu, I enjoyed this book, particularly the main character's roommate and her "secret" career.

Whale season: a novel
N.M. Kelby
Another good, light novel to read in a day. I picked this one up when I was near the end of Henry and Clara and things were getting ominous. This was set in a small Florida town and is peopled with a lot of quirky characters. Not overly quirky, so they are annoying, but just unique. Jesus comes to town at Christmas time in a fancy RV. His method of bringing salvation is a bit suspect and the people in the town deal with Jesus and their own problems.

Henry & Clara
Thomas Mallon
I've read this before and remember enjoying it and so I picked it up again. It's the story, based on true events, of Henry Rathborn & Clara Harris, the engaged couple who were the other two people in Abraham Lincoln's box. The book begins with John Wilks Booth making his escape from Ford's Theater and then flashes back to Henry & Clara's first meeting, when Clara was ten and Henry seven. Clara's father married Henry's mother three years later and the children were raised as step-siblings. The book follows their lives from that time, through the Civil War, the assassination and it's aftermath, as well as their married life. Those looking for a happy ending won't find it, but it is a well written book with an engrossing story.

Started but didn't finish.
The complete Travel Detective Bible
Peter Greenburg
I didn't read the whole thing, but I did pick up some good tips from this tome.

Cooking from the Garden: Original and Unusual recipes to enhance your garden harvest.
Margaret Leibenstein
This doesn't have very many recipes and most of them have too many ingredients for me.

The Structure House Weight Loss Plan.
Gerard L. Musante
I started this, but The Mitfords were distracting me and I never got through the first quiz.

Thomas Mallon
I couldn't get into this book set in a magazine publishing office in the 1920s. I may have not given it the proper attention in the first 50 pages.

Checked out and didn't even read.
I at least started everything I read this month.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Read in December.

There was this holiday this month, you might have heard of it. It's called Christmas? It cramped my reading style. I only read six books, but I was busy. I think I was sleeping better, too, which is nice, but means less reading time. Also, post Christmas I built shelves, and when I wasn't doing that I was watching season one of The West Wing. So, not as much reading for me.

I'm pretty happy with Goodreads, though. Not the least because I have a place to put a permanent "to read" list that I won't use. Thanks for recommending it, Sara. And thanks for the recommendations, April. Keep them coming.

Read this month:

Mrs. Mike
Benedict & Nancy Freedman

Hideous Kinky
Esther Freud

The Year of Living Biblically.
A.J. Jacobs.

The story of General Dann & Mara's daughter, Griot and the snow dog: a novel.
Doris Lessing.

Accidental Happiness: a novel
Jean Reynolds Page

The Wishbones
Tom Perrotta

Started but didn't finish:

As cool as I am.
Pete Fromm
I got the feeling things weren't going to go well for the protagonist. I put down the book and didn't every pick it up again.

Men's Health ultimate dumbbell guide: more than 21,000 moves designed to build muscle and increase strength.
I've been flirting with the idea of starting a weight training program again and this was the perfect book. Imagine, doing a whole workout at home with just dumbbells. I'll probably buy this book.

Low-Carbon Diet: a 30 day program to lose 5,000 pounds
David Gershon
I liked this book, it is very slender compared to many "save the earth" tomes. It's a step-by-step book to reduce your carbon footprint. I'll revisit this when I have more time.

The Pirate's Daughter
Margaret Cezair-Thompson
I was really into this book for about half of it. It is a very interesting "suppose if" book. Suppose if Erroll Flynn fathered a child with a 16 year old Jamaican girl. Then suppose that girl grows up during the independence movement. I loved the writing style and the twisty and turn-y details. I just didn't finish it and back it went to the library. Someday.

Legends of the Fall
Jim Harrison
I hated this movie when it came out so I decided to see if the book was any better. I started reading and became very confused because I was in Mexico, not Montana. I eventually figured out that there were three short stories within the book. I started reading "Legends" on the day it was due as I was taking it to the library and it did seem good. Maybe I'll get it again soon.

Checked out and didn't even read:
The Rising Sun.
Douglas Galbraith.

The Colony
John Tayman

Jokeman 8
Richard Melo
Flipped through it and saw some weird font, things going on. Ran out of time and decided to send this back.

New Luck for the New Year.

Did you eat your black-eyed peas and greens yet today? Better get them cooking. They bring good luck for the new year.
This recipe is from "Still Life With Menu" by Mollie Katzen. It's easy, but the original makes a ton, so I halved it.

Black-Eyed Peas and Greens
  • 1.5 c black-eyed peas, soaked for 8 hours or so.
  • 3 c water
  • 3 medium-sized cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 3-4 c. (packed) chopped mixed greens
  • 1 medium-sized leek, cleaned well and chopped.
  1. Place the black-eyed peas and water in a soup pot. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and mostly cover. Cook gently until tender, checking the water level every now and then. If it appears to be getting dry, add water, 1/2 cup at a time. About 15 minutes into the cooking, add the garlic. The peas will take 30-35 minutes to cook
  2. When the black-eyed peas are just about tender, stir in the salt, greens and leeks. Cover, and continue to simmer just a few more minutes. The greens and leeks will cook very quickly.
  3. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and serve hot.
Chopping the collards.
Prepping the leeks.
Chopping the leeks.
Sirring it all together.
Mmmmm. Good luck and good food.