Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Two books by Janet DeLee

I hardly ever accept review requests. This is partly because I prefer to spend my limited time reading books of my own choosing, but mainly because I'm rarely sent a synopsis that piques my interest. And of course there's always the sad but true point that an unknown book carries a higher risk of increased suck factor.

However, for once, a review request caught my eye: the story of a group of dreamers in an Ideal Life Club, meeting to encourage each other towards their goals, with a few ghosts thrown in. I liked the cover photo (if not the title font), too. So I decided to take a leap and accept the request. AND just after replying in the affirmative, I looked DeLee up on Amazon and found she lives 3 hours away from me, she loves Italy and gardening, and this book is her second with the same main character. So I quickly emailed again and greedily requested a copy of her first book too. She replied and said she would send both as long as I read the new one first.

As promised, I read Taking Leaps & Finding Ghosts before Creating an Ideal Life. Though the writing style of TL&FG did not jive with my preferences, I still found myself engaged by the experiences of the characters. And I liked the suggested method of working towards making dreams reality:
1. Write a visualization of your goal. 
2. Write a statement of affirmation. 
3. Write at least one step towards actualization. (And, of course, take the steps you commit to.)

I almost didn't read Creating an Ideal Life immediately afterwards, but we're on vacation and I only brought one other book with me. I picked up the other book (du Maurier short stories) and had only read a few pages before Sam reminded me that I'd promised to read that one with him. So Creating an Ideal Life it was! The writing style was slightly more in line with my tastes, but the best thing about the book was that most of it detailed the main character's solitary travels in Italy, mirroring my own experience of six years ago. Though our trips were not identical (we did not visit all of the same places, and my trip was much shorter than the one in the book), it was similar enough to bring back great memories. But I think I would have enjoyed the vicarious armchair trip even if I hadn't had a similar holiday of my own. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

"Gut" by Giulia Enders

For this book, I should get the "Why Are You Surprised?" award. It's a book about the workings of the gastrointestinal system, and I didn't really enjoy it. (I was tempted to say it was crap, but it wasn't that bad.)

Part of my problem with this book was its tone. I wasn't prepared for the silliness. A bit of irreverence, sure--that's to be expected in a book about the production of poop--but this was something other than irreverence. I assume the goal was humor and clarity for the layman; the result was a book crowded with euphemisms, the entire thing seeming more suited for children than directed at adults. Of course I'm not suggesting it would be improved if it were more dry and dull (I'm not that old and boring), but perhaps my slightly scientific mind was a bit insulted by passages like this, regarding food poisoning by Salmonella:

"...It is better for the gut to flatly refuse entry to Salmonella, however rude that may seem. After a visit to the toilet or a retching session into a sick bag, you should not take them by the hand and show them what life is like in the outside world. They should be given the cold shoulder by washing with very hot water and soap to let them know: it's not you, it's me--I just can't deal with your clinging personality." 

I don't know. Maybe I just don't have a sense of humor. 

It's not like reading it was a complete waste of time, though. I did learn a few things, my favorites of which I have noted below:

1. Olive oil should be kept in the fridge. What?? I've never done that, and my olive oil has never gone bad. I even checked our current bottle in use and the label doesn't say a thing about refrigeration after opening. However, refrigeration of olive oil isn't to keep it from going bad: according to this book, it's to limit the number of free radicals it captures. (A side note: I also need a "You're Doing It Wrong" award. Olive oil should not be used for frying! Fine oils are too sensitive and are chemically altered by high heat.) No plans to change my beloved olive oil habits at this point but I am filing this info away just in case.

2. When you vomit, you might not only be expelling the contents of your stomach; the emesis could be composed of slush from the small intestine as well.  Too gross for you? Come on, you had to expect to hear a few disgusting things, given the subject matter.

3. Speaking of disgusting things: fish and birds can vomit (there's a pretty picture), mice and horses can't.

And that's it... the end.

The final illustration of the book.
THIS is the type of irreverence I can get on board with.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

"The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" by Marie Kondo

I first came across this book at Books-A-Million (of course). The peaceful cover and pleasing size caught my eye, as well as the lovely words in the title. (Magic, decluttering and organizing. Harry Potter for neat freaks!) I picked it up and caressed it just a little bit, and then read half of it while standing in the middle of the store.

Ultimately I decided not to buy it. Probably solely because it was $17 and I was trying to save money. But I kept thinking about it and thinking about it and thinking about it and finally, weeks later, I gave in. I wanted to own the magic. As someone who LOVES the state of being tidy, if not the action of doing the tidying, I want to know The Best Way to Get Tidy and Stay That Way.

After reading TLCMOTU, I find myself left with oddly conflicting opinions. Somehow I simultaneously loved the book while disagreeing with almost everything the author wrote. Kondo's approach to tidying is two-pronged: first, get rid of almost everything you own. Second, put it all away and keep it tidy. (OK, so she goes into a little more detail than that.) But the amount of discarding she suggests sounds so wasteful. And she wanted me to begin organizing by piling everything up in the middle of the room? Ugh, sounds too much like packing and unpacking, which I HATE. Empty my purse every night and re-fill it every morning? Ditto. Plus, ain't nobody got time for that! Speak frequently to your clothes and belongings to thank them for their service? Weird. Remove everything from the shower after each use (and dry it all off before storing it in a cabinet)? Insane!! The moment you first encounter a book is the right time to read it? OK, so I grudgingly admit that this is probably correct, but I encounter too many books and have too little time to follow this rule.

However. You should SEE my T-shirt drawer now. I am so proud of it. I would post a picture except I'm not going to. AND I have a wonderful new ability to get rid of useless junk, although certainly not to the extent that Marie would suggest . . . and I still feel guilty for giving my younger daughter's zebra-striped fedora to the little girl next door. (Hey, I warned her if she wouldn't put her things away I would give them away . . . ) Final verdict? I think this book would be more helpful for someone in a teeny tiny apartment.