Monday, October 16, 2017

Ten Books That Make Me Hungry

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's topic is about food in books. I know a lot of people are into "food memoirs" and novels with recipes in each chapter, and I've just never gotten into that, probably because I don't cook much. (I laughed at the suggestion, "You could also talk about 10 of your favorite cookbooks if you don't read foody books" because I look at cookbooks even less frequently.) However, I did manage to cobble together a list of ten books that talk about food enough to make me hungry while reading them.

1. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
This book not only got me to stop eating factory farmed meat but also convinced me to give asparagus another try. Good decisions on both counts!

2. Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist
I may have skimmed the actual recipes in this book, but she talks a lot about the joy of eating and sharing food with others, so obviously that's going to make me want to throw a dinner party immediately.

3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
I mean, there's an entire room made out of candy, but if you're like me and more about the savory than the sweet, then the part that will get you is Violet talking about the taste of warm tomato soup pouring down her throat (right before she turns into a giant blueberry).

4. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
I know this is the book everyone loves to hate, but I really liked it, and I definitely want to experience going to a little restaurant in Italy that doesn't even have a name where the food is so good it makes you cry.

5. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Who doesn't want to sit down and have a huge banquet magically appear in front of you?

6. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
This is going to sound ridiculous, but while everyone else apparently wanted to try Turkish Delight after reading this book, it just made me crave turkey. Like the lunch meat. (Before I stopped eating meat, obviously.)

7. The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
This entire book revolves around a cooking class where every month they make a new delicious-sounding recipe, so this is not one to start on an empty stomach.

8. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
The protagonist of this book is a baker, and there's a particular plot point around a special kind of chocolate-cinnamon roll, so yeah, good luck reading this one without craving some carbs.

9. Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
This is how much I love pasta so I would definitely take a magic pot that made an endless supply for me.

10. The Way Life Should Be by Christina Baker Kline
The main character disconnects from her busy city life and finds herself again via her culinary roots in this cute novel about slowing down and taking chances.

OK, now I need to go get a snack...

What books make you hungry?

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

What I've Been Reading Lately (Quick Lit)

Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit to bring you some short and sweet reviews of what I've read in the past month. For longer reviews, you can always find me on Goodreads.

I've spent the past month listening to Bleak House on audio, so that's taken up most of my reading time. Here are the books I managed to get through this past month.

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey: This was a mixed bag: Good world-building, good action/suspense, disappointing ending, annoying characters, female objectification, badly executed racial diversity.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson: Reading about two grown men taking lots of drugs and then causing immense property damage, running up bills they don't pay for, and terrorizing innocent people, told amid a massive amount of racism, sexism, ableism, and homophobia? Not my cup of tea.

After the Funeral by Agatha Christie: Christie did a nice job leading the reader down a path of red herrings in this one, but the ultimate solution was too far-fetched for me. It wasn't one of the worst ones and I enjoyed the read, it was just ultimately a bit disappointing.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens: I always seem to enjoy Dickens more than I expect to, and yet less than other people seem to. He writes memorable and colorful yet one-dimensional characters. This book is a conglomeration of family drama, mystery, and legal/political satire, and I liked each part of it, but overall found it too much of a mishmash at times.

All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot: This was a charming sequel to All Creatures Great and Small, even if didn't capture me in quite the same way. If you liked the first one, you'll probably like this as well.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green: I will never not be a John Green fangirl, but I didn't like this one quite as much as I'd hoped. For the excellent insights into the mind of someone with OCD and anxiety, though, it's a stellar addition to the YA world.

Quidditch Through the Ages by Kennilworthy Whisp (J.K. Rowling): This was a cute little book that was infinitely better than Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (the original, not the screenplay). It was a nice combination of bonus backstory for Harry Potter superfans and the silly cheekiness that makes the humor of that series so fun.

What have you been reading this month? Share over at Modern Mrs. Darcy!

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Monday, October 9, 2017

Ten Fall Covers

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's topic is book covers or themes having to do with fall/autumn. Since I can't ever remember what time of year books take place, I decided to stick with the visual. Some of these might not technically be fall scenes, but they at least had the right color scheme.

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

2. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

3. Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns

4. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

5. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

6. A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

7. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

8. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

9. Two-Part Invention by Madeline L'Engle

10. A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks

What fall-themed covers can you think of?

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Monday, October 2, 2017

Top Ten Book Crushes

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's topic was a difficult one! I realized in scrolling through my highly rated books that we tolerate a wide variety of terrible men in our books, from tough-on-the-outside love interests to cantankerous old men, far more than we tolerate variety in women. It was hard to find male characters I liked at all, and many of the good ones were kids. I finally came up with ten guys that I didn't feel weird about claiming as book crushes. (You'll notice some overlap with my favorite fictional couples.)

1. Gen Watanabe (Bel Canto)
Ah, Gen, always putting others' needs before his own, while still having strong opinions and passions. If only the book had not given him such a weird ending.

2. Silk (Belgariad and Mallorean series)
Probably my first book crush, from all the way back in middle school. He's hilarious and wicked smart, the best combination.

3. Remus Lupin (Harry Potter series)
Before the movies came out and he was depicted as a middle-aged man with a creepy mustache, I imagined Lupin as a hip young teacher, kind of like the stereotypical camp counselor or youth minister you have a crush on because he seems mature but not old.

4. Grant (The Language of Flowers)
I'm not sure I ever found Grant's character personally attractive, but as this is one of my favorite books I thought he deserved a spot on the list. I always admired how he met Victoria where she was and gave her the space she needed to heal and process her past.

5. Willem (A Little Life)
Willem was put in a hard spot given the complicated person he fell in love with, and he didn't always make the best choices, but he was overall a very genuine person who did his very best.

6. The Chairman (Memoirs of a Geisha)
My memory of this book is admittedly pretty fuzzy (I read it about 15 years ago), but I remember swooning over Chiyo's love interest along with her, especially at the end of the book.

7. Dan (A Prayer for Owen Meany)
Dan is one of the best characters in this book — kind, wise, and infinitely patient with John and Owen. He's also warm and funny and has a realistic outlook on life.

8. Simon (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda)
This crush is probably least appropriate, since Simon is gay and under 18, but he reminded me so much of my gay best friend who I definitely had a little crush on in high school.

9. Henry (The Time Traveler's Wife)
Henry's time-traveling disorder puts him in a weird position, especially in relation to his wife, but he's a sympathetic character who's sweet and sensible and funny.

10. Nat (The Witch of Blackbird Pond)
Nat is kind; he befriends the town's outcast because it's the right thing to do, even if it brings him under suspicion too. And he's got a cheeky sense of humor, as evidenced by how he names his ship at the end.

Who are your book crushes?

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Best of the Bunch: September 2017

Today I'm sharing the best book I read in September.

I appear to be in a bit of reading slump, as this is the third month in a row with no 5-star or 4.5-star reads, and I only read five books this month. As part of my goal to read longer books this year, I spent several months plowing through Infinite Jest, and I'm now midway through Bleak House. Of the five I finished this month, there was only one that merited 4 stars, and it was another Hercule Poirot novel.

Unlike last month's pick, which was a change of pace for a Hercule Poirot book, Mrs. McGinty's Dead is a typical, solid Hercule Poirot mystery. You've got a cast of characters on whom suspicion is thrown pretty much equally, you've got a host of clues that don't all arrange themselves into sense until Poirot fits the pieces together for you, and you've got enough of a twist to be satisfying without feeling like it's too far-fetched to be realistic. We also get a visit from the always-entertaining Ariadne Oliver. The result is a not spectacular but ultimately satisfying mystery.

What is the best book you read this month? Let me know in comments, or write your own post and link up below!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Ten Great Novels Featuring Women of Color

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's theme is the open-ended "Ten Books That Feature Characters _________." I don't know about you, but I know that my reading skews way too heavily white and male (especially in a year like this, when I'm trying to read more of the "classics"). I thought I'd take this opportunity to highlight some of my favorite works of fiction told from the viewpoint of a woman (or women) of color. Most of the authors are also women of color. (LaCour, Talley, and Hosseini are not.)

1. American Street by Ibi Zoboi
Through the story of a Haitian immigrant coming to live with her cousins in inner-city Detroit, we get the perspectives of multiple complex female characters who are trying to survive with bad options on all sides.

2. The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan
This story is told from two perspectives: Ruth, a first-generation Chinese-American woman, and LuLing, her mother. As an old woman, LuLing is difficult to live with and presents constant struggles for Ruth, but through LuLing's journal of her childhood in China we (and Ruth) gain a richer understanding of her life and personality.

3. Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
This is one of my favorite books I've read this year. Emi's identity as a biracial lesbian isn't central to the plot, but neither is her character like a straight white YA protagonist with some adjectives and pronouns changed.

4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Obviously this list would not be complete without this powerhouse of a contemporary classic. If you haven't picked it up yet, it's time.

5. In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
This novel is based on the true story of the Mirabal sisters, who took on the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic in 1960. It's told from the perspective of the fourth sister, the only one not assassinated by the government.

6. Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Told as a series of short poems aimed at the middle grade level, this is the story of a Vietnamese girl whose family emigrates to the United States right before the fall of Saigon in 1975.

7. Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Sarah Dunbar is one of a few black students chosen to integrate an all-white Virginia high school in 1959. Her experience of brutal harassment closely matches what Melba Pattillo Beals describes in the memoir Warriors Don't Cry... except for the part where Sarah falls in love with a white girl.

8. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
I still maintain that this should be the definitive book read in schools about racism in the 1930s American South, as it's just as good or better than To Kill a Mockingbird but it's told from a black girl's perspective instead of a white one's (and her black father is the hero).

9. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
This is a beautiful and painful story of female friendship set in rural 19th-century China. It's also powerful for its insights into the lives of women at that time and place.

10. A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled Hosseini
This book is really, really dark and depressing, but its unflinching portrayal of women in Afghanistan is ultimately rewarding. Mariam and Laila are both excellent characters who will take hold of your heart.

Which are your favorite novels featuring women of color?

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Top Ten Books On My Fall TBR List

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

I've been doing very well this year with my goal of not reading too many books off my TBR list; so much so that I think I could read books only off that list for the rest of the year and not break my limit of 50. I decided for the remainder of the year I'm going to focus on reading the books on my TBR list that feel like the biggest holes in my reading history, the ones I hear about over and over again and still haven't read.

1. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein

2. The Stand by Stephen King

3. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

4. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

5. Sophie's Choice by William Styron

6. The World According to Garp by John Irving

7. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

8. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

9. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

10. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

**Edited to add: I forgot about Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. I'm #3 on the holds list at my library for the ebook once it's released next month, and you can bet I'm going to drop everything to read it!

What will you be reading this fall?

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