Even more selective reading reviews

Blogging beyond my daily life seems to be too difficult these days, so I’m stuck with massive long lists of books to “review.”

But first – two books that I didn’t finish.

Kitchen Mysteries by Herve This – Food, cooking, and science – sounds like a great combination for a book, along the lines of How to Read a French Fry, which I enjoyed greatly. I couldn’t finish this book, though, because I found the conversational writing style grating and annoying. I feel a little bit bad about not finishing it because the information itself is actually pretty interesting – what happens on a chemical and molecular level when you cook eggs, for example – so you can learn why the egg white immediately around the yolk is always a little runny.

A Guinea Pig’s History of Biology by Jim Endersby – I liked the cover. The first few chapters seemed fine, as well, but I think my continuously interrupted readings of the book resulted in me losing interest.

The Pixar Touch by David A Price – A fascinating look into the story and history of Pixar.

Hack by Melissa Plaut – Melissa Plaut was a rare female New York taxi cab driver for a couple of years. This memoir details her experiences. Not recommended for nieces and nephews because of language and “adult themes.”

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield – I’m not sure why I had this on my “to-read” list, because I’ve definitely read it before. This pleasingly hefty mystery involves a mysterious best-selling author who finally chooses to reveal her true life story (after giving out 19 different versions) to a young bookseller/biographer. A troubled family, dark secrets, a haunted mansion, and a surprising ending – I enjoyed this the second time even though I remembered the twist ending before I finished the book.

The Queen of Bedlam and Speaks the Nightbird by Robert McCammon – While Speaks the Nightbird is when you’re first introduced to Matthew, the main character, I read The Queen of Bedlam first and only read minor spoilers to the first two-volume book. Speaks the Nightbird follows Matthew, a young clerk, as he assists his mentor, a magistrate, in a witchcraft-murder case in a muggy Southern town. Matthew becomes convinced that the beautiful accused witch is innocent of the charges, and becomes wrapped up in a life-threatening and weird adventure as he performs his own investigations. The Queen of Bedlam follows Matthew, now back in New York, as he becomes involved in an odd string of murders. Both of these mystery-thrillers were can’t-put-downers, although on the dark side, as well (which I guess is typical of most mysteries that don’t have recipes after each chapter)

The Way Toys Work by Ed and Woody Sobey – What’s inside an Etch-a-Sketch or a Magic 8 Ball? The Sobeys take timeless toys apart (and include tips for taking toys apart yourself!) and reveal the mechanics of super-distance flying rings, pull-and-go spring-loaded cars, Magna Doodles, and more

Accidentally on Purpose by Mary F. Pols – Mary Pol’s memoir about the best mistake that ever happened to her. A one-night stand with a cute guy ten years her junior results in an unexpected pregnancy, and despite being single and thirty-nine, Mary, who has always wanted to be a mother, decides to go ahead and raise the baby. Her sometimes hilarious co-parenting attempts and on-again, off-again relationship with aforementioned cute, younger guy (who, she finds out, is also jobless and a bit clueless but generous and gracious) and her discovery of how much love you can have for a child, are skilfully shared in this look into a single mom’s life. She also came up with a phrase that I absolutely love, as it’s so descriptive of what Steven does: “idly pumping his arms and legs.”

Father Knows Less by Wendell Jamieson – What would happen if a plane flew over a volcano while it was erupting? Why is the sky blue? Why is there war? Wendell Jamieson started writing down the questions that his son and other children asked, and went on a mission to find them real answers. The book mixes in some of his experiences as a son and a father, but mostly follows a question-answer format: The question, including the name of the child and their age (if available), and the answer, obtained from a bona-fide expert – in the case of planes and volcano, an actual pilot who had that experience (the engines shut down, they thought they would die, then the engines started back up); in the case of “does your brain actually freeze when you get brain freeze,” a brain surgeon. (Perhaps the most surprising expert was a dominatrix explaining how a whip makes noise even if it doesn’t hit anything.) I’d say this book is more for grownups than kids as some of the explanations get very technical, and enjoyed it because it brought back, at least temporarily, a sense of childlike wonder.

Simply Green Giving by Danny Se – A short, well-formatted book, filled with ideas on ecologically-friendly gift and gift-wrapping ideas. After Danny Se spent a lot of energy and money wrapping a pile of Christmas presents only to see $$$ worth of paper and ribbon being torn into and thrown away to reside in a landfill, he asked himself if there was a better use of money and resources while still being able to honor the recipient with a beautifully wrapped gift. Some of his ideas are pretty cool and practical – pull part old VHS tapes and use the film as curling ribbon, or use actual peanuts in the shell instead of Styrofoam shipping pellets – and all are beautifully presented in the book’s photography. Others, like making organic soy candles, are probably things I won’t attempt. In general, I was inspired to try to use things I have already (or cheap things from thrift stores) to creatively wrap gifts.

With a bookmark: (Books I just started reading, or books I’ve been “reading” for ages. Most recent first.)

  • Alexander and the Wonderful, Marvelous Excellent, Terrific Ninety Days by Judith Viorst
  • Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham
  • Your Child’s Strengths by Jenifer Fo
  • Sacred Attitudes by Erica Ross-Krieger
  • A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson

In the library book box:

  • The Homeschooling Option by Lisa Rivero
  • Dangerous Surrender by Kay Warren
  • A Wrongful Death by Kate Wilhelm
  • All The Way Home by David  Giffels
  • The Parrot Who Thought She Was a Dog by Nancy Ellis-Bell

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