Recent Reads

Books I’ve recently read

Image result for make me lee childMake Me, by Lee Child – I’m a big fan of action books, especially spy/thrillers and police procedurals, and I’m really liking Child’s writing. I’ve read a lot of those, and I’ll freely admit I had not guessed the twist. Looking forward to more of his work.

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Red Dragon, by Thomas Harris – I’ve had this book on my shelf for 20 years, and I finally got around to reading it. In fact, I ended up staying up late reading it without realizing it. I don’t know if I’ll be able to watch the movie – I’m an anti-fan of gross-outs and slashers, so it’ll depend a lot on how the moviemakers decided to handle it. Seriously considering reading the third novel in the set, Manhunter.

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A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway – How is it possible, that as an English major, I never read any Hemingway? Maybe one short story. Possibly. But nothing else?  I found this one at the Little Library in one of the grocery stores I frequent and thought what the heck. Apparently I’d misunderstood all the descriptions of his writing I’d seen, too. While he uses fairly spare vocabulary, his sentences and messages are anything but. I find I can only read a short bit before having to stop and take a break from his writing style, but that’s okay. I usually have a couple of books going at once anyway. It’s especially interesting to read right now, having been to Paris this summer. He writes of the Jardin du Luxembourg, and we walked all through it; he strolls along the Boulevard St. Michel, and we walked up and down it, watching the boats on the Seine. In addition to being an interesting recount of his time there – spent with authors I’m familiar with too – t’s an especially nice reminder of that trip.Image result for serenity the shepherd's tale

Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale – I can’t remember where I got this one. Maybe from a friend who went to a Comic Con, maybe from Michael’s Firefly Loot Crate. It took me a bit to adapt to the narrative style, and I don’t know that it actually answered any of the questions I’d had about this character from Firefly, but it was a good read and did provide some interesting info on his backstory. Plus it was a good reminder to find some more graphic novels.

Image result for lab girl hope jahrenLab Girl, by Hope Jahren – autobiography/memoir of Dr. Hope Jahren, geochemist & geobiologist that’s as much memoir as it is some of the best scientific writing for the layperson I’ve seen in a while. Wikipedia says this better than I can:

Jahren is an advocate for raising public awareness of science and has been working to lift the stereotype surrounding women and girls in science. One such example included the repurposing of the Twitter hashtag#ManicureMondays.  Seventeen magazine originally came up with the hashtag, but focused mainly on manicured and painted fingernails. Subsequently, Jahren encouraged fellow scientists, specifically girls, to tweet pictures of their hands conducting scientific experiments. The idea behind this was to raise awareness of scientific research and to increase the profile of women working in science.

Jahren has also written compellingly about the sexual harassment of women in science. She recommends that people draw strong professional boundaries, and that they carefully document what occurs, beginning with the first occasion of harassment.

Anyone who’s been read the “About” link on this site or my Recent Reads posts will know I’m a fan of biographies. This book did not disappoint. She writes about the best parts, the worst parts, and all the realities along the spectrum, of being a woman in the self-perpetuating male-dominated world of science, as well as how this country supports (not) and values (not) science, especially when there’s no sellable or weaponizable product to show for the work put in.


What are you reading these days? What do you think of it?

Recent Reads

Books I’ve read recently.  All non-fiction this time.

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Kachka: A Return to Russian Cooking, by Bonnie Frumkin Morales with Deena Prichep

I haven’t been to this restaurant yet, but I’ve heard a lot about it. I stumbled across this book on a “featured books” shelf at the library, and decided to check it out. Russian cuisine is one of my least-researched modern cuisines, and one of the more interesting to me, especially how it overlaps with European and Asian cuisines, along with being steadfastly its own.

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The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America’s Bees, by Joseph S. Wilson and Olivia Messinger Carril

A fantastic reference on bees, with beautiful photography, extensive comparisons & contrasts with similar-looking insects such as wasps and flies, and fabulous descriptions of each of the subspecies of bees. This one was from the library – I may have to buy a copy, so we can start learning the bees in our yard.

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Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, by Mark Kurlansky

I kind of love Mark Kurlansky’s writing. I’ve also read Salt: A World History and The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell. I’m a huge fan of teaching through food – everyone can related to food on some level or another. Kurlansky weaves economics, geography, geology, history, culture, language, and pretty much every other possible study together, using a single a single food item as the focal point. I’m very much looking forward to finding Milk: A 10,000 year Food Fracas.

Recent Reads

Books I’ve read recently – Children’s books!

I was at the library the other day, waiting on meeting some folks, and got to looking through the children’s section. I work with preschoolers and their parents, so some of it is about finding books for work, and some of it is because I just plain like picture books.

Image result for the cat the dog little red the exploding eggs the wolf and grandmaThe Cat, The Dog, Little Red, The Exploding Eggs, The Wolf, and Grandma, by Diane and Christyan Fox

Not so much a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood as more of a meta-telling of it. Cat tries to share one of his favorite books with Dog, who has an entirely different attention span. Probably best for K-3rd grade, better if they are already familiar with Little Red Riding Hood. Cute artwork.



Image result for this monster cannot wait imageThis Monster Cannot Wait, by Bethany Barton

Monster has a super-hard time waiting. He’s *so* excited about going camping, but the camping trip isn’t for another 5 days – forever! Monster’s parents try a variety of strategies to help Monster learn to wait. Finally, he stumbles on one himself. I’d hoped this would be a good book for actually working on patience with some of my small work friends. While it’s about patience, there isn’t really much in here geared towards the actual teaching of it, especially for a preschooler. Pre-Ks might like the story and artwork nonetheless – it’s a fun read. It might be a useful adjunct for a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grader whose family and/or teacher is already using some strategies for working on patience. In which case, this could be a good book for prompting conversation about some strategies the kiddo has been learning, and whether and how Monster might be able to use them. This book is one of a series of books about Monster. It is a fun story all on its own, and your little monster might enjoy it.

Image result for otter and odder imageOtter and Odder: A Love Story, by James Howe

Otter falls in love with a fish. Which doesn’t seem so strange, on the surface, but he comes to realize “I am in love with my food source”. Yes, that’s an actual quote. And the other otters make sure Otter knows how odd this really is. Fish (whom Otter believes is named Myrtle) returns his love – after going through what sounds like some of the same emotions as someone who has been kidnapped. “As for Myrtle, her first desire was: Please don’t eat me.”  I had a *really* hard time with this book. I’m all for books about falling in love with someone your family doesn’t approve of, and the love working out (for whatever value of “working out” is still safe/respectful of the participants). But in love with your “food source”? How in the world does one work with that? The author has Otter eat tree bark and other plant life. Otters are meat eaters! How’s that going to work?

Myrtle’s initial abused-partner-just-trying-to-survive reaction giving way to what I can only imagine as some sort of Stockholm Syndrome somehow magically blossoming into True Love kinda freaks me out in a picture book meant for elementary school kids. I’m all for unlikely pairs becoming friends. I’m cool with them falling in love. But this plot was too much for me.

Image result for green lizards vs red rectanglesGreen Lizards vs Red Rectangles, by Steve Antony

Another one I just didn’t get. The Green Lizards and the Red Rectangles are at war. No idea why. No idea how they are battling, except that occasionally some rectangles fall on the lizards, and some lizards knock over some rectangles. Then out of nowhere, a small faction from each side decides it’s time to end the war. No idea why. And they end the war and live happily and peacefully ever after. No idea why.


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Poor Louie, by Tony Fucile

Louie is his people’s only baby, pampered and just a bit spoiled – all in the best ways. Until another baby comes along. Louie is so sure his way of life will end that he plans to run away. Fortunately, everything turns out okay.




Image result for the bus ride marianne dubucThe Bus Ride, by Marianne Dubuc

Another retelling of sorts of Little Red Riding Hood. The reference is subtle enough that you might miss it. This is the little girl’s first bus ride all by herself. She talks herself through her brief concerns and many observations. Lots of little jokes and gags throughout. This is a great book about riding the bus and about observing and interacting as well.

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Toilet: How It Works, by David Macaulay

While this one is a picture book, it’s definitely aimed at a slightly older crowd than the other books I read, maybe 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th grade, depending on your reader. If you’re trying to get a young reader interested in reading non-fiction, this might just be the way to do it. What kid isn’t fascinated with bodily functions, especially functions normally deemed socially unacceptable to talk about! A bit wordy for a beginning reader, but definitely a topic that will engage.

Recent Reads

Books I’ve read recently

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Hey! It’s that Guy!: The Guide to Character Actors, by Tara Ariano and Adam Sternbergh – One of my minor superpowers is being able to link That Guy in the movie/TV show we’re watching with either the actor’s name or at least one other film or TV show the actor’s appeared in. Which is kind of amazing, given how few films I’ve actually seen. I saw this book at Goodwill and decided I wanted to read through it and up my game. I was a little disappointed by how few women overall and men of color were in it (no Margo Martindale, Beth Gant, Lilli Taylor, Tonye Patano, Fadwa El Guindi, Brian George, Adam Beach, Wes Studi, Daryll Mitchell, or BD Wong), but then that right there makes this book a reasonable reflection of Hollywood’s hiring practices overall. This book is a great place to start if you’re into movies and haven’t really thought much about the second- and third-banana actors in them.

Image result for girl interrupted book Girl, Interrupted, by Susanna Kaysen – I had a hard time getting into this. I’d heard it was such a great book, such a great movie. As I read it, I kept waiting for the Great to happen. I don’t necessarily mind the non-linear storytelling, but I had a hard time ‘hanging my hat’ on why she was really there in the first place, why she was subsequently released, and why telling this story was important (to her or to her readers). I thought it might just have been me, but my husband read it as well, and thought exactly the same thing.

Image result for little free library bookLittle Free Library: Take a Book, Share a Book, by Margaret Aldrich – Again, I found the writing less engaging than I’d hoped. Lots of good info on the Little Free Library movement/phenomenon. Some neat little projects towards the end. Some lovely sidebars about specific LFLs and some interviews with certain Stewards. I was disappointed repeatedly in the main text, though, when the author would describe some neat things people were doing with LFLs in their community, and there would be pictures of LFLs, but they didn’t go together at all. I wanna see pictures of the people and LFLs you’re describing!  I’d recommend it to someone who wanted to know more about the LFL project, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it otherwise.

What are you reading these days? Seriously – I want to know!

Recent Reads

Books I’ve recently read:Image result for lynda laplante good friday

Lynda LaPlante’s Good Friday, a Jane Tennison novel (these are the books that led to the PBS crime drama series Prime Suspect). As a fan of cop/spy/thriller novels, I liked the different tone used by this female author for this female character.


Image result for lee child die tryingDie Trying, by Lee Child – one of the many Jack Reacher novels. I found this one in a hotel I stayed at on vacation recently. I wasn’t sure about this one going in, but I’m really liking Child’s writing.



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Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor – this was outside of the usual genres I read; I don’t read a lot of sci-fi/fantasy.  I still really enjoyed this book, and am looking forward to reading more in the series.



What have you been reading?

Recent Reads

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Speedbumps: Flooring It Through Hollywood, by Teri Garr –                Autobiography

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A Pig in Provence: Good Food and Simple Pleasures in the South of France, by Georgeann Brennan – Memoir and recipes

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Technically, It’s Not My Fault: Concrete Poems, by John Grandits – Poetry & Wordshapes


Recently Read: 500 Treatments for 100 Ailments

I recently… “read” isn’t the right word. I can’t say I read every page. I lookedIMG_7680.jpg through all of the pages and *read* (and marked for later!) many of the pages in “500 Treatments for 100 Ailments”, by Gustafson, Ren, McEoin, Espinosa, and Caley.

I’ve been getting into herbal medicine lately as an adjunct to Western medicine. For instance, I know there’s no cure for the common cold, and most cold medicines are just doing what a number of things in my kitchen and garden can already do, without Red Dye #40 or Blue Dye #5 or weird fillers and preservatives. I’ve been getting curious about what else I can treat at home – either in place of over-the-counter meds/Western medicine or in conjunction with it.

The book is organized by complaint – muscle aches of various sorts, allergies & colds, skin issues, etc. For each complaint, there is a short “diagnosis” section describing the complaint, a short list of “symptoms”, and a “treatment goal” – often stating something like “we don’t aim to magically cure you of this thing, rather we aim to help reduce the inflammation/pain. If X happens, go see your regular medical professional”. The Treatments for each and every Ailment comprise five parts: Conventional Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (to include herbs and acupressure points), Naturopathy (to include diet changes, supplements, and herbs), Homeopathy, and Herbalism.

I like that this is how the book is organized. Most books are organized around the herbs – 40 things to do with Calendula, 23 things to do with Mugwort. Which is great if I have a ton of Mugwort in my yard, and I can remember all the things it’s good for when those ailments come up. But that’s not really how my brain works with regards to health-related material. When I have a headache, I want to know how to treat it.

This book will not teach you how to make salves, tinctures, compresses, or infusions (though it does give very general information on making the teas). It also will not teach you how to identify the herbs in the wild (actually, it assumes you’re likely buying from a reputable herbal/homeopathy shop). Fortunately, that information is easy enough to find elsewhere. I was also surprised to find it doesn’t have a glossary of any sort. Some terms are defined within a sentence, but not every time that term is used. It also doesn’t give you *all* the possible herbs/supplements/acupressure points to address any given ailment – it gives *some*, and there are a few brief cross-references here and there (“this tea/tincture is also good for similar ailments such as…”).  And it gives *very* little info on contraindications – things like “don’t mix these particular herbs because you’ll create a nasty combination” or “don’t use these infusions/salves if you already use X medications”. To their credit, throughout the book they let you know this book is mostly for informative, beginner purposes, and suggest repeatedly you start with very low doses of any given treatment, and consult your medical professional or a qualified practitioner of whichever approach you choose.

I’m excited to try out some of the treatments. We have a variety of serious illnesses in our family, and I feel I have a pretty good sense of where my limits are for what I’m willing to try and what I’ll leave to professionals. We’re also pretty good at looking up components of treatments for possible negative interactions with the meds we currently take. I also feel like I’ve got access to resources – professionals I can talk with, more reading I can do on herbal preparations & interactions, people with a wide range of experiences in making and using herbal treatments – to support my learning. I’ve got a couple of good “here’s a plant, here’s how to identify it, here are some things you can treat with it” books. It’s nice to have this book that works the other way ’round.

Recently Read: Kitchen Gardening in America

Okay, “Recently read” is stretching it a bit here. I didn’t actually Image result for kitchen gardening in americafinish the book. And this post is more about how I read the book than a review of the book itself.

I started “Kitchen Gardening in America”, by David M. Tucker, with high hopes. I love writing about gardening/farming/cooking/preserving. Unfortunately, I was heavily influenced by a note in his acknowledgements/ introduction, thanking the person who noted his heavily male-centric research and writing. To be fair, most of history features men, because throughout the world and throughout history, men are the ones allowed (typically, by other men) to do things and men are the ones whose deeds -good, bad, and otherwise – are most often recorded. But women make up half the world, half of history. So perhaps more than a brief mention of their contributions are in order. So Mr. Tucker says he went back and fixed that issue as best he could.

I appreciate him acknowledging this – he could have just left the final draft as it was, the issue and editing and rewriting unmentioned. I appreciate that he brought it up – hopefully future readers and writers will make some small note and it will influence their own reading and writing.

That said, it was hard for me to get past it. No matter what period or topic he wrote on, I kept wondering “what else has he glided over, decided wasn’t important enough to include, didn’t dig far enough to find out?” I finally decided if I was this suspicious of someone’s writing, perhaps I need to stop reading it.

Maybe I’ll try reading it again another time.

Recently Read: Rock Steady

I just finished reading Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice From My Bipolar Life, by Ellen Forney.

This is an awesome book for folks with Bipolar I, Bipolar II, Depression, Image result for rock steady ellen forneyAnxiety, and Mood Disorders. Based on her own experience with Bipolar, it’s a terrific read. Lots of great advice for readers newer to their diagnosis or new to building their toolbox, and lots of great reminders for readers more experienced with their disorders.

The illustrations help make this a less formal-feeling “self-help” book, while it’s clear through the text that Forney really knows her stuff. Between two decades of her own experience and the research she’s done, there are lots of good, accessible ideas with the reasoning behind each one.

It’s not the kind of book you would simply hand to a friend or family member who is new to your diagnosis, but once you’ve read it once or twice, it would be a good book to go through together as a starting point.