Books of the Past Year...or so...PART TWO

Here's the second half of my book list for the year (see part one HERE)! Let me know if you've read or plan to read any of the same books. And I'm always open to recommendations for my next book!


THE ORCHARDIST -- A slow, riveting, epic story of a man living a semi-isolated, quiet life in Eastern Washington in the late 1800s. Having survived hardship as a boy, he goes on to help some wild girls on the run. This book was quiet, but dramatic and interesting.


A COMPLAINT FREE WORLD -- I rarely dip into the 'personal development' genre, but I was feeling like everything that came out of my mouth was negative and judgmental. Sometimes negative words pop out of my mouth and I don't even mean them. Complaints, unfortunately, can be a way to connect with others, and they can also be a projection of your emotions. Negative words become a habit. And they're contagious. This book points out some words and actions that you might not realize are negative, talks about how they affect you and others, and gives tips on how to change your attitude and speech, and even what to do when someone else is complaining. I borrowed this book from the library, but I'm thinking of getting my own copy to refresh my thinking from time to time.



MY YEAR WITH ELEANOR -- A memoir of a woman who takes up a quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt ("Do one thing every day that scares you.") as a guide for her life for one year. With stories from shark cage-diving to streaking down the hall to having hard conversations about relationships, this is an entertaining recap of a year of fear.


FROG MUSIC -- This book is a historical fiction, murder mystery piece set in 1870's San Francisco. The time and place of the book were quite interesting, and while the story was based on true events, it all felt a bit cartoony. I picked up this book because the author wrote ROOM, which was devastating but so good. Frog Music was just okay.


FYI, I partner with my favorite independent bookseller Powell's Books! If you click+buy a book from one of the links I post here, I'll get a small commission from Powell's so I can buy more books and tell you all about them! Yay! 


Books of the Past Year...or so...PART ONE

My reading has been a bit sporadic this last year, and so, unfortunately, is my memory about which books I've read. Writing it down always helps. I may not begin to keep a full reading journal at the moment, but I do always enjoy sharing my reads here. I'm sure I have completely blanked out on some of the books I've read recently, and a few were not worth mentioning (and one I already wrote about HERE)...but here is part one of my list of my standouts reads from the last year:


PLAYER PIANO -- Kurt Vonnegut's first novel. I found it a little bit slow moving, but so interesting and in many ways more timely than ever with the way screens+machines are dominating our lives and the way corporations are influencing society+government. Oh, and tv personalities placed in the office of President. Of course, it has that Vonnegut touch of semi-dark humor+social commentary.


THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN -- A true page-turner. I was up very late for a few days glued to this twisty mystery story. 


THE WAYWARD BUS -- No one writes characters like Steinbeck. This story dives into the inner minds and outer actions of a diverse group of people in the middle-of-nowhere California in the late 1940s, all brought together by a bus ride, and it all somehow works as not only an interesting adventure, but as a commentary on society. 


SECONDHAND SOULS -- This story is a matter of laugh and death (groan). Secondhand Souls is a sequel to A Dirty Job, so start there for a silly, surreal, sentimental read. I'll read anything Christopher Moore puts out.


THE CAMPBELL PLAN -- For a few different reasons, I've been wanting to eat less meat. Looking for  practical guide with recipes, led me to The Campbell Plan, a guide to eating according to research outlined in The China Study. The China Study is a book by a doctor presenting his research which showed a link between meat+cancer. At the time it came out, there were many critics of the books premise, but just recently the World Health Organization said, yep, some meats can increase risk of cancer. Most of the restrictions and substitutions outlined in The Campbell Plan are still a bit much for me, but the recipes for banana pancakes and sweet potato enchiladas are gems.

Part two of my list will be coming soon. Meanwhile, guess what? I've partnered up with my favorite independent bookseller Powell's Books! If you click+buy a book from one of the links I post here, I'll get a small commission from Powell's so I can buy more books and tell you all about them! Yay! 




Book Report: A Tale For The Time Being

It's been awhile since I wrote about a book...with a few exceptions, my recent reads were dismissed soon after finishing the last page. That's how it goes sometimes, especially if I'm not giving reading my full attention. On a recent trip I had quiet time to really dive into a story which had been sitting on my bedside table all year. A Tale For The Time Being is a story about a young American girl in Japan who wrote about her life in a journal...the bullying she gets at school, her love for her Buddhist nun great-grandmother, her admiration for her kamikaze pilot uncle, and her fear for her suicidal father. The journal is found in a packet washed up on an island in Canada by a woman who is struggling to write her own story. The book flips back and forth between the girl, Naoki, and the woman, Ruth, as she reads the girl's journal (I love books with multiple points of view!). Ruth, gets really absorbed in the Nao's fate, and shadows of Nao's story start to creep into her life. This book was a page turner and so interesting and unique with the teenage drama, all the mysteries, the bits of philosophy, and even a splash of quantum physics. Highly recommended! 

(I link books to Green Apple Books in San favorite local bookstore...but they don't know me and I get no kickbacks)

Book Report: Recent Reads

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. A page-turning, he said/she said tale of a wife gone missing. I might be the last person to have read this book...but just in case someone else out there hasn't read it, I'm not going to say much more. I enjoyed the page-turning quality of it, but I might have known too much about the plot to have been dazzled. I'll probably watch the movie when it is online, though. Ben Affleck is  perfect casting.

The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood. This is a story of a dystopian future, one that could be even more relevant today than when it was published in the conservative 1980s. It's a chilling story of religious extremism and the oppression and exploitation of women.

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. This is a very good book which novelizes the lives of two female fossil hunters living on the coast of England in the 1800s when paleontology was really just beginning. The story is enriched by talk of gender, science, and religion without getting too heavy and only a tiny bit soap-opera-y.

National Geographic. I got hooked on the @natgeo Instagram feed and had to get a full issue after seeing great photos and sneak peeks at articles. I read the issue cover to cover and got another the next month. And again today. When is the last time you looked at one?

Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. After nearly 9 years in "The City" I though it was time to read this book, especially since it is the 2014 choice for the San Francisco Public Library One City One Book program. It originally appeared as a serial in the newspaper in the late 70's, so the chapters are short and the story feels a little choppy, but you definitely want to know what happens next. It's kind of amazing how much San Francisco hasn't changed at it's core. I'll eventually read the sequel.

I'm currently reading a non-fiction selection: "An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth" What have you read lately? 

I link to Green Apple Books because they are my fave local bookstore...the only kickbacks I get from them are when they give me store credit for used books!

book report [Salt Sugar Fat]


Not long ago I finished reading the book Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss. It's all about how the food industry, the processed food industry, uses these three simple ingredients along with tricky marketing to make people crave their products. Food products are scientifically, mathematically, and industrially engineered according to psychological and physiological responses in consumers. Not just for taste but for texture, shape, and color.

I am kind of a food snob who shops mainly at Whole Foods for mainly raw ingredients. I read labels and rarely drinks soda. Even snobby me was shocked by the trade secrets revealed in this book. Like the fact that just 1 1/2 Fig Newtons has the same amount of sugar as a can of Coke or a Twinkie. ("I eat Fig Newtons by the sleeve!")

Part of the story in this book is that food ingredients are always in flux...whatever the current health trend is the food scientists can reduce one ingredient "Now with less sugar!" When an industry is subsidized by the government (beef, cheese, corn) and tons of excess is created, food scientists create new products and ingredients to get rid of it (cheese stuffed crust 4-cheese pizza). The massive byproducts of the greek yogurt fad are the next challenge...

Really anything pre-made is processed. Because of time, pleasure, and in some cases money, I won't stop buying small amounts of processed foods (crackers, bread, some yogurt, ice cream)...but I've definitely become that much more cynical about ALL food in packages, especially from large companies. And I'm looking at labels that much more carefully. I know I'm getting a bit preachy here, but there's just so much going on behind the scenes that we regular folk are clueless about. And I'm sure secrets abound in the "healthy" food world too (have you read the label on a Clif Bar!?) There's a lot to talk about in this book. I'm not saying don't ever have a treat or grab a bag of chips with your sandwich (just like the chip people want you to!), I just think everyone should make informed decisions of their own free will. And I want my family and friends to be healthy.

Read this book! Be amazed!

book report [The Sisters Brothers]


With one month to go, I have serious baby brain...I'm often distracted to no end and can't remember what I did 5 minutes ago...and when my brain is functioning semi-normally, there's so much to do ('s real, people!), there's family to spend time with, or there's a creature squirming around inside me (woah, did anyone see Prometheus?)! So I haven't been reading much lately...I think. I have not kept my reading journal up to date and of course didn't write down a list of all of the books I did read...not sure what to do about that. I'm fairly certain I read at least 2 or 3 books in the last 3 months, but what were they? I'll have to do some research and pondering. I DO know that I read The Sisters Brothers, because it's due back at the library this week.

The Sisters Brothers was a much lighter read than I thought it would be. I was expecting a more dramatic, more richly detailed story. I did enjoy it though, and found myself picking it up often, wanting to finish. It's probably best that I didn't have to think too much to get through it. It's a quirky Western about two brothers who work as killers-for-hire. Their latest assignment brings them to California gold country. Along the way you learn more about the brothers and how they came to be in their particular situation. Read this book if you liked the recent movie version of True Grit, you appreciate when a hero fails (think of the predicaments Indiana Jones gets into), you don't mind sympathizing with 'the bad guys,' and you need a beach/pool book.

What are YOU reading? Maybe I'll just stick to catching up on reading blogs for awhile...

[FYI, I link to

Green Apple Books

in San Francisco because it's my favorite bookstore...local,        independent, and awesome.  They have no idea who I am, nor do they  give       me anything for linking to them. Where you buy your books is your       business.  I also advocate the public library [and the  library  didn't      waive any fines or give me anything to say that]

book report [february+march]

Here's a quick roundup & review of the last few books I've read...


The last book in this nautical series...there are 3 chapters of an unfinished twenty-first book, but this ended nicely enough, so I'm going to leave it at that.  I can't believe I read all of them!


Woah.  A story about a horrific situation (woman+child held hostage) that draws you in and even makes you smile sometimes.  It's actually a fascinating adventure tale...both heartbreaking and amazing.


Everything in the universe is made up from a 100 or so elements...this book is full of stories about how interesting those elements can be, how scientists figured out what and where they all are.  If it's been awhile since you've taken basic chemistry, you might need a quick brush-up on electron shells and chemical bonds to follow the science. 


I really enjoyed this slightly creepy, creative, quick page-turner...has anyone else read this? How is the movie version?


A journalist embeds herself in 7 different situations in the "art world" (an auction, an art school critique, a dealer/collector fair, a magazine, an artist's studio, a prize, and an expo). In these particular situations it's all about who's-who, who has money, and people acting according to a contrived "art world" etiquette/stereotype.  Bleh.  I know it's not all that way, thank goodness. Weird what media and money do, isn't it? 

Anyone have any good book recommendations? As you've seen, I'll read almost anything...

[FYI, I link to

Green Apple Books

in San Francisco and/or


        in Portland because they are my favorite bookstores...local,        independent, and awesome.  They have no idea who I am, nor do they  give       me anything for linking to them. Where you buy your books is your       business.  I also advocate the public library [and the  library  didn't      waive any fines or give me anything to say that]

book report [a list to finish up 2011]

I'll never catch up writing a post for each book I read since the beginning of November...and I've only just finished writing about them in my reading journal (crap entries because I let finished books stack up) I'm going to post links here and call it good.  


All I'll say is that if you haven't readThe Hunger Games Trilogy, do it! American Gods was creative, interesting, and good. The Living was not good. There's one more book I finished but I think it deserves it's own some point.  That's it for 2011... I read 23 books.

[FYI, I link to Green Apple Books in San Francisco and/or Powell's in Portland because they are my favorite bookstores...local, independent, and awesome.  They have no idea who I am, nor do they give me anything for linking to them. Where you buy your books is your business.  I also advocate the public library [and the library  didn't waive any fines or give me anything to say that]

katherine and simon

I know a lovely painter named Katherine Lewis.  I've known Katie for a few years now and am always delighted by her sweetness, her positivity, her adventurousness, and especially her artistry.  Whether she's painting, pursuing beekeeping, or studying abroad in France, she puts her whole heart into what's in front of her. I'm pleased to share the news that she has written and illustrated her very own children's book, Simon and The Orange Scarf


This book would make a lovely holiday gift for anyone, yes? You can see more of Katherine's artwork on her website. Bravo, Katie! I can't wait to read your book and get lost in the artwork. 

[FYI, I link to Green Apple Books in San Francisco and/or Powell's in Portland because they are my favorite bookstores...local, independent, and awesome. They have no idea who I am, nor do they give me anything for linking to them. Where you buy your books is your business.  I also advocate the public library [and the library didn't  waive any fines or give me anything to say that]

book report [Packing for Mars]


Packing for Mars, the 2011 San Francisco Public Library One City One Book choice.


It was funny and interesting and quick to read.  It discussed all the details to consider if you send humans into space...not so much the technical details, but the little details related to psychology, physiology, gravity, food, waste, and hygiene. Mary Roach interviews people & takes experiences from NASA and other space programs around the world.  Mars seems to be the next far off destination. If people do go to Mars, then we'll have to take what we've learned in the past 50 years of the 'Space Race' and multiply it b a thousand.  The logistics of life in space are mind-boggling and not always great for publicity.  This book is great for anyone who's casually wondered about being in outer space...for people like my husband who have all the Gemini and Apollo Space missions memorized, this book kind of takes the 'right' out of The Right Stuff.  The biggest lesson here? Having no gravity is kind of a big deal (duh!). Gravity helps your bones stay strong, makes fuses work properly, and helps a certain bodily function more than you realize.  Fun read! Go check it out...

[FYI, I link to Green Apple Books in San Francisco and/or Powell's in Portland because they are my favorite bookstores...local, independent, and awesome. They have no idea who I am, nor do they  give me anything for linking to them. Where you buy your books is your business. I also advocate the public library [and the library didn't waive any fines or give me anything to say that]

book report [Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet]


My Mama's book club read this awhile back and she passed it along to me.  I finally picked it up off the bedside table and it was pretty good.  It is the story of Henry, a Chinese American boy growing up in Seattle in the midst of World War II.  Henry makes friends with Keiko, a Japanese American girl, because they are the only non-white kids at their school.  Keiko and her family are taken away to one of the Japanese internment camps.  The story flips back and forth between the 1940's and 1986, when a big stash of items belonging to Seattle's Japanese families is found in the basement of the old Panama Hotel.  Families being 'evacuated' could only bring a limited amount of stuff, so the rest of their belongings might have been burned, looted, or stashed.  The book's themes are found & lost love, tradition, prejudice, family, and sacrifice. Even though parts of this book are sad and, frankly, embarassing, I couldn't put the book down and really enjoyed it. 

Similar to The Help, this is a story with a basis in a political/social could stick with the story and/or you could think about the issue.  With this book I was thinking more about the issue.  I didn't really know that much about the internment of Japanese Americans until I moved to San Francisco. There was an internment camp in Utah (Topaz), but I never went to see it and no one ever talked about it much.  Turns out one of my favorite artists, Chiura Obata, spent a year there. On our roadtrip a few weeks ago we passed by Tule Lake, where 'high risk' people were sent. It's just amazing how different (?) things are now...what prejudice driven act will we look back on in 70 years with disbelief? building a wall on the border of Mexico? banning same-sex marriage?

[FYI, I link to Green Apple Books in San Francisco and/or Powell's in Portland because they are my favorite bookstores...local, independent, and awesome. They have no idea who I am, nor do they  give me anything for linking to them. Where you buy your books is your business. I also advocate the public library [and the library didn't waive any fines or give me anything to say that]

book report [a homemade life]


A BFF lent this book to me ages ago (you'll get it back soon, I next week).  Lucky me! She thought I'd like it...and I did. I put it to the side for far too long and sort of forgot about it until same BFF was visiting and asked if I'd read it.  I wanted to read this book when it first came out and a lot of bloggers where raving about it..but I didn't realize the one my friend sent was the same book until I finally cracked it open.

A Homemade Life is something of a memoir entwined with food.  The author Molly Wizenberg has a blog called Orangette (yes, she's one of those magical people who, deservedly, got a book deal via blogging. She also got a husband). The posts on Orangette are lovely and clearly from the heart...just like the book. Molly has a great way of wrapping stories from her life around stories of food.  Her stories of food, family, travel, and decisions are cute and sad and wonderful...all well told, and the food sounds delicious. Have you read it?

I'm flipping through the book again now, looking for recipes to write down before I return it to its rightful owner...remembering the wedding in Bellingham, the monster macaroon birthday cake, the so-very-French boyfriend in Paris...seriously, you should read this book. 

[FYI, I link to Green Apple Books in San Francisco and/or Powell's in Portland because they are my favorite bookstores...local, independent, and awesome. They have no idea who I am, nor do they  give me anything for linking to them. Where you buy your books is your business. I also advocate the public library [and the library didn't waive any fines or give me anything to say that]

book report [the yellow admiral]


Eighteen down, 3 more to go in the series.  I just bought #19, but I'm going to squeeze in a few other books first, I think. I'm not going to bother with a review or summary because 99.9% of you are uninterested in this series.  But I DO want to show you what I found inside:


An old train ticket from Loughborough to London! Loughborough is here:


Another reason I love buying used can find old bookmarks, receipts, news clippings, inscriptions...Along the same lines, have you seen the blog Forgotten Bookmarks? So interesting!



Earlier this summer I came to THIS post called 10 Myths About Introverts via  While I pretty much already knew I was an introvert, something about the content and timing of this really made it stick with me.  The list derived from the book The Introvert Advantage.

I often worry about being perceived as rude and anti-social.  I don't necessarily think of myself as shy, but at the same time I can really have a hard time interacting with people. Reading the list of myths became an 'I am not alone' moment, or rather 'I am not crazy'.  I sent a link to Scott and he declared it if I had been interviewed.  Scott is much more of an extrovert, and sometimes it's challenging to balance ourselves out...we consciously compromise and try to understand each others' needs.  He grabbed this book at the library for me.  I knew I would want to blog about it, so after reading it once through I started over to take notes...but found I was writing nearly everything down. I finally just bought my own copy. 

As with most things in life, there is a gradient to the amount of introvert/extrovert in each's not all or nothing. I do have extroverted tendencies, but, as the results of the self assessment in the book said, I'm 'pretty darn introverted'. According to the same quiz, Scott is actually about 60/40 extrovert/introvert. 

I will be posting more about what I find in this book from time to time because I find it fascinating and am learning more about myself and others...about introverts AND extroverts.   

book report [galapagos]


This is a crazy story where the past, present, and future are all told at the same you find out what is happening now, you know what is going to happen, but you're still learning why and how. There's a little bit of silliness and a little bit of social commentary.  I don't want to write much about the plot, but it involves politics, money, technology, tourism to the Galapagos Islands (which of course brings evolution into the mix), and the end of mankind as we know it. How's that for a teaser? This is a quirky, fantastical book I liked reading.  It takes a little bit of time to get oriented in the story. If you're a Vonnegut fan you'll notice a nod to some of his other work (a connection to another character).

book report [the commodore]


Book 17 in the series.  This was a good one.  You'll have to take my word. I won't give you a synopsis because, let's face it, you probably won't read this.  I'm a weirdo. The Aubrey-Maturin series (you probably know the movie Master & Commander, based on this book series) is a true series where you would be a bit lost if you didn't start from the beginning...and a lot of people don't make it past the first book because it's full of naval mumbo-jumbo.  But you don't really need to know which sheet is the mizzen topgallant staysail to enjoy the stories (but there is a diagram in the front of each book, ha ha). I only have 4 books left...I'm excited and sad at the same time. I have gotten to know the characters over the last five years (read Book #1 in May 2006...thanks reading journal!) and the quality has stayed true thru the entire series...I just want to keep reading! But...I pace myself, because there are a lot of other books out there...Number 18 is in hand and will probably be read next month.

book report [the weed that strings the hangman's bag]


This book is the second installment of the Flavia de Luce mysteries...Flavia  is a precocious 11 year old girl living in 1950's England.  She loves  chemistry and poking her nose into strange goings on in her village. Her  dad and her sisters sometimes get in the way...but she still manages to  get in the way and figure out the mystery.  This mystery involves the  death of a famous tv puppeteer who is traveling the countryside. At  first the crime seems random, but as clues unfold it seems the puppeteer  may have old ties to the neighborhood. The suspects? The vicar, his  wife, the puppeteers assistant, a german WWII prisoner of war and others  all must be investigated all while avoiding older sisters and dreaded  Aunt Felicity. These mysteries are fun reads...I definitely recommend  them, and I think you could get away with not reading the first book  (although I think it was slightly better than this one).  The third is out in hardback now..I'm sure I'll read it in a few months!

book report [the war of art]


I borrowed this book (thanks K!) during a creative crisis last year and it slowly got buried under other books and magazines by my bed.  I dug it out yesterday to try to read it and found it just wasn't my style...or maybe I'm just not in my crisis anymore.  I skimmed through it. It's quick, snappy, and opinionated; it's designed to push & pull you out of un-productivity. I caught a few good motivational passages while I was skimming through and I see how it could be useful to others, but in general it wasn't my cup of tea. Flip through it at the bookstore and see what you think.

Meanwhile, I somehow read 4 or 5 books in I'll be reporting on those books soon. I have a lot of catching up to do in my reading journal [not putting this one in] As always, you can check my sidebar --> to see what I'm currently reading.  I'm pretty excited about this one and have been wanting to read it since it came out (thanks J for lending it to me and reminding me of it again last weekend!)

headed for something

If you're a blogger you know the feeling that your blog has to look just right.  Bloggers are always giving their blog little makeovers, and regularly changing their blog headers...but of course headers have been around far longer than blogs. I enjoyed seeing this post on the fab BibliOdyssey blog of some Art Nouveau woodcut illustrated page headers...


I love them all, especially these two: 


Which are your favorites? Is it time for a header makeover?

book report [the other wes moore]


Did you have a good holiday weekend? Good! We were busy busy busy. But this post is about reading, not projects. This was a quick read, so maybe this will be a quick post...This book is getting passed around the In-Law side of the family, starting from Oregon...the public library in Portland has a program called Everybody Reads where they name a book for the year, you read it, then pass it along to whomever else you think ought to read it...with no late book fees.  There are discussion groups and talks you can attend too.  Portland folks can tell you more about it I'm sure.  It's a neat idea...similar to San Francisco's One City One Book program. 

The Other Wes Moore is a non-fiction account of two boys with the same name who started life just a few streets away from each other but as a product of the choices they made & the support systems they had went down very different paths in life (life in prison vs. Rhodes Scholar). The story is a good reminder to reach out and offer guidance or direction to someone who is straying, or to tell anyone, hey, you can do better.  There is a huge list of youth advocacy groups and resources in the back of the book. I'll add one to the list: A Home Within.  They help foster kids get someone (a professional) to talk to...a little mental and emotional stability for a potentially chaotic life. Seems like a good idea, right? As forThe Other Wes Moore, I actually wouldn't be surprised if it gets made into a movie...the story is like a split screen of The Wire and The Blind Side (sort of).