Save Me the Plum: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl

Years ago, I read Reichl’s memoir about her time as the NY Times restaurant critic and I remember enjoying her writing style. Even though I have never read a Gourmet magazine (and I wish I had), I’ve wanted to read this since she published it.

She really writes about people and food very well. There’s also a certain intimacy in her writing when she describes people in her life. It’s a storyteller’s way of depicting characters and they can come together very distinctly in Reichl’s descriptions. She appreciates the oddness of people and her own sometimes unusual relationships.

I thought the book also really captured the time. In the chapters set in the 90s, Reichl makes mentions of the trends and the world news. When 9/11 happens, it feels like life is never the same again. She really crafts a narrative. She is writing about events in retrospective almost 20 years later, but as a reader, this works very well. This a memoir about a writer and editor’s life. It’s not an academic’s biography about a political figure. I appreciated this look back at an almost simpler time. No times are simple of course but I grew up in the 90s so it brought back memories of life before the 21st century.

I love the her memoir style and had such a good time with this memoir. Looking forward to reading her first memoir as well and hoping she writes more books in the future.

Read August 19-21, 2021.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow

I have gotten out of the habit of writing book reviews right after finishing a book. I really have to get back into it because I’m reading more books this year than I have in a long time. Maybe that is part of the problem. There are some books that I won’t ever post about which makes me forget about blogging even more.

I did want to write a review for this one because I really enjoyed this debut fantasy novel. It’s what I wanted Starless Sea to be. It has nice world building. It even has a semi decent antagonist. I enjoyed the writing too but it really was the building of plot. Like a lot of urban and modern fantasy, the beginning is a bit disorienting. Once the reader learns more, it becomes more interesting and even a bit exciting.

It was a really fun read for fantasy story lovers. It had action, world building, coming of age, romance, and just fun. Wish there had been more to be honest. I’ve read more mixed reviews about Harrow’s second novel so I may not pick it up. However, I like what the author did here. Recommended for fantasy lovers.

Read August 11-18, 2021.

Two novels by Keigo Higashino

Devotion of Suspect X

I have heard about this author from a couple of people and decided to finally try it out. It was a good mystery mystery with a very good twist. I like how the author crafted it from the get go. I do not expect as much from mysteries other than to be enthralled for a few hours and this did the job. The only quibble I have with Higashino and other male Japanese authors is how I do not seem to get enough sense of the female characters. All the men are more developed and all the women seem to be thinking.

Read July 14, 2021.

Salvation of A Saint

Since I enjoyed my first Higashino, I was interested to try more. Now that I was more familiar with him, I saw most of the twists coming and early on. That does not negate my enjoyment of books. I like the guesswork. It was mildly predictable as a result. Mostly, I also found myself irked that all the women in these books seem to talk and focus on men. Oh well. They can’t all be Agatha Christie. I do like these books the Japanese culture and sociology. It’s a bit different. On a funny note, the translation had a few grammatical errors and someone had corrected them in pencil in my library copy.

Read Aug 5-7, 2021.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

This book is well reviewed and I heard some hype about it. It has a great title and cover. All in all, it was a nice read for me.

I found most of the book a bit slow. The ending really made it for me. It is very sweet and lovely. I do not know if it needed such a long build up. The writing in the good is nice. I think I expected more from the plot and the characters. It got there in the end but it took awhile. I would consider reading from Klune again.

Read June 23-29, 2021.

A Thousand ships by Nathalie Haynes

It feels like there is a literary trend for feminist interpretations of the Greek classics. Song of Achilles and Circe by Madeleine Miller were both popular in the mainstream. As a results, these kind of books are coming to the forefront. I read the classics for fun as a kid and as a teenager, I do gravitate to these kind of stories out of familiarity.

This was fine. It did not wow me too. Each chapter takes perspective from a woman or certain women from the Iliad and the Odyssey. I was not a big of the Penelope chapters which just ended up as a retelling of the Odyssey. Circe did a better job of it.

The ending of a couple of the women were retold quite well. I particularly liked Cassandra’s chapters. She’s always fascinated me and I have read one other interpretations for her. Haynes noted in her afterword of the book that Cassandra stayed with her too. I liked how Clymenestra’s story and perspective weaved with Cassandra’s in the end as well.

This book is favourably reviewed and perhaps it would be enjoyed by someone who was less familiar with the classics and wanted more of the female perspective.

Read June 16-21, 2021.

Lopi Braided Hat

It’s the third of the three hats I planned this winter. It’s been awhile since I actually finished this hat and a lot of things have happened in my life the last couple of months. I don’t remember all the details. I think most of the knitting was done in March and then I forgot about it. I finished it in April, blocked it, and left the weaving in ends and the photos until recently because of my hellish May.

I love lopi yarn. I received this skein also for free from my local Buy Nothing group. I knew I had to make something with it. Great colour. I wish I had more yarn to do an additional repeat of the cables but I was running out at the end. I wanted a folded brim as well for the extra cold days. As in my recent hat projects, I also made it tall for my hair bun.

Continue reading →

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

fter Midnight Library, I wanted to read more of Matt Haig’s works. Overall, while this was fun and interesting at times, I preferred Midnight Library.

I liked a lot of stuff from this novel. I liked the protagonist Tom and I could understand him. I also enjoyed the light supernatural magical realism aspect of being a very long living person. The concept of the novel was fascinating. I liked the chapters in the past as well. It was a mix of historical fiction and modern fiction. There were some interesting supporting characters too, but most of them were as developed as the protagonist. I wanted to know more about all the interesting female characters.

What did not work for me as much in this novel was the suspense and psychological thriller aspect. The villain was very one dimensional. The whole Albatross society aspect seemed to detract from the history of Tom’s life. While it was a sort of impediment to his character growth, it actually felt unnecessary in the novel. I do not think Haig needed this mafia stuff to tell the story of an older man who was heartbroken. The storyline took time away from interactions between Tom and the other characters. I rather the book had more of Tom’s self reflections of his life. The ending was abrupt too. I was left with questions at the end because the ending felt so hurried.

Being that this was an earlier book than Midnight Library, I saw that Haig has developed as a novelist. I will read more from him in the future.

Read June 9-12, 2021.

Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving by Celeste Headlee

I have been thinking more about the need to rest and take time off especially after a year of pandemic and lockdowns. I am extremely grateful to have weathered the pandemic relatively unscathed, but like many others, the restrictions and limitations did affect my mental health. Furthermore, my personal life has had been affected by the ill health and death of people very close to me. So yes, I have been thinking more about doing nothing and taking time off. I hope to do so more this summer too.

As someone who has always wanted to retire with books and crafts and food, this book is preaching to the choir. Most of the book is about the history of how western society views work and busyness. It has some economic and religious history. I did not learn anything new from the book. The last third offered some tips on how to take a break. I welcomed the reminders but I wish there was more of them.

All in all, an ok book for me. It was nice to read in a time where I have been thinking of it. It did not change my world view. I do think that the pandemic and recent economic times has recently taught us how destructive constant busyness or claims of busyness can be. It would be better if everyone didn’t find leisure so unreachable or useless.

Read June 5-8, 2021.

Bridgerton: The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

I continued my journey to find the heir to Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels. I had mostly given up on this quest but then the Netflix TV show became popular. I had to reconsider. I did not watch the TV show before reading the novel. I have started it as of this writing.

This is probably the second or third modern romance novel I’ve read. I do not count the Outlander series. I am finding that romance novels have a couple of tropes which include a lot of angst from the male lead. Back to this novel, it was not bad overall. I think there were a couple of really funny moments. I actually wanted to read more about the female characters like Daphne’s mother Lady Bidgerton and Lady Danbury.

I found the book a bit too long. Most of the novel, I just wanted it to get to the point. It seemed too many drawn out shenanigans. If one would resolve, another conflict would resolve. I did not relate to Daphne either as I am not really inclined to a large family. There was just not enough character development for me. I feel like Simon got the most and it became a bit too angsty for me.

So not a bad read, but I will not be reading the sequels. The TV show is fine. I like the visual, the music, and the casting. I am overlooking the writing to be honest.

Read May 23-25, 2021.

A Couple of Mysteries

Duplicate Death by Georgette Heyer

I was a fan of Heyer’s romances and this is the second mystery from her. After Detection Unlimited, I wanted to try again. However, I was bored and underwhelmed again. I do not really know precisely why I do not like Heyer’s mystery writing when I could speed through her romance novels. The dialogue in these mysteries are clunkier. Heyer really is a bit too extra with her character development through dialogue. I just kept thinking that I wanted to read an Agatha Christie novel.

Read April 19-23, 2021.

Elephants can Remember by Agatha Christie

I had a couple unread Christie novels on my bookshelf. I got them from the wonderful Free Little Libraries in my neighbourhood.

After the Heyer novel and a period of mourning, I needed something reliable. Even with the dark themes in this novel, I really enjoyed it. It took my mind off my recent stress. I always know what I am getting from Christie. This is a Poirot cold cast. I called the twist halfway through the novel, but I still wanted to see how it would unfold. I have always found spoilers do not bother me especially in mysteries. It was a nice, easy read.

Read May 22, 2021.

The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson

It’s been awhile since I posted on this blog. I’ve been reading lots of books and even broke my reading goal of 38 goals in the month of May. I started drafting this book’s review some weeks ago. I decided to go back to it and some other book reviews after a significant event in my life.

I’ve been reading Bryon’s books for over twenty years. I really enjoy him as a writer. His memoirs are better than a lot of these nonfiction catch-all topic books generally. I still learn a couple things.

After a year of this pandemic, this book would be a hypochondriac’s nightmare (or dream perhaps). There are so many things to make one sick. I find that most of this book was averaging 3 stars. It was long and mildly interesting, but it meanders in a way too. It took me awhile to read. It was nice and well written in Bryson’s style, but it didn’t knock me over for the most part.

As I approached the end of the book and the topic of aging and death, the book’s topic started crossing into my life. I had a significant conversation about death with a close friend of mine who was very ill at the time. After that, I read the end of this book. The book’s reflection of of illness and death made more thoughtful about mortality. It reminded me that death how it is the most common thing about our lives .

A couple days after I finished this book, one of my parents passed away suddenly. It was a significant loss which I still grieve and mourn. In a strange way, this book may have helped me a little to prepare for it. It was the last thing I read before my loved one passed away.

I liked the end of the book and I elevated the book to 4 stars.

Read March 6 – May 6, 2021. Read mostly in late April and May.

Midnight Library by Matt Haig

This was a really cute and enjoyable book. Not saccharine cute and it has wholesome message to it. It was light even though it touches on some harder subjects like mental health and suicide. It was a bit slow to start off because the main character is depressed at the beginning but it came along nicely. I knew the ending early one but the ride was fun. In fact, the novel stayed with me the next day because it offers so many different stories.

The format of the novel involves the protagonist trying various different lives which made it interesting. It felt like a series of connected short stories and possibilities. The book was easy to read. It has a lot of dialogue. I read it one sitting.

This book is popular for a reason and I can see the appeal. Book lovers probably like especially female ones. The format and the main character Nora made it easy for the reader to inhabit and relate too. She is at times athletic, intellectual, and artistic. She doesn’t seem to be described as drop dead gorgeous or plain. She’s a great reader insert based on her interests and even her own struggles. Her love interests are even relatable in context to how they affect her. They do not actually have much character development, but the point was more about how Nora felt about them. For example, her selfish ex boyfriend/fiance is very typical of a lot of ex’s. Her ideal love interests are idealistic but not out of this world romantic heroes.
One of the love interests is a thinking woman’s real world dream partner: a dorky surgeon who is a great dad and adores his wife.

The Britishness of this book was nice. It feels like it’s been awhile since I read a modern English novel especially one that was not overly literary. I like the author’s style so I’ll try more from him. It was quirky. A good novel.

Read March 8, 2021.