breaking news: Books are good

You should read Love Is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson.  Just get it.

This book is so good and I stayed up way too late to finish it. Also, if you can get the hardback, do, because the design is quite beautiful.  [Note, however, that the kindle version is $2.99, so even if you don’t love it as much as #1 did, you’re not out that much.]

The book is about high schoolers dealing with race and romance at an expensive prep school in DC.  The protagonist, Emily (or “Bird” to her friends), goes to a party and wakes up in the hospital, unsure what happened.  But there’s a spy chasing her, convinced she knows something important about the pandemic virus that’s sweeping the country.  She doesn’t, but maybe the mysterious drug dealer she’s been flirting with does?  Who can she trust?  Not her parents, not her boyfriend, and probably not the government.

 

I’m not doing it justice but it’s got all kinds of goodies.  Try it out!

(#2 has not read it… it sounds too suspenseful and #2 is in the regency romance portion of her non-work reading ability right now.  The kind where she reads the last chapter after the first just to make sure it turns out ok.  Even though there’s no way it’s not going to turn out ok because it’s a @#@#ing regency romance.  But #2 can’t really handle surprises right now.)

Why I Quit Dieting: A Guest Post

Here’s a guest post from another friend of mine.  She is a white, able-bodied, heterosexual (I think) woman.  She is a wonderful person to be around, and she reads Dances with Fat (who reminds us that we can’t hate ourselves thin), too!  We were having a conversation about radical self-love when she agreed to let me use this piece.

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Why I Quit Dieting

Even though I was an average-sized kid, I went on my first diet at age 9 because I thought from example that it’s what you do when you are female.  It lasted a day because I was nothing but hungry all day.  At 15, I got better at fighting hunger and lost weight by eating only an orange and then drinking Diet Coke and chewing Trident bubble gum during the school days  – days that frequently included a couple of hours of tennis team practice – so I could go home and eat a normal dinner and not tell my stepmother I was on a diet.  I definitely lost weight and for years my mother went on and on about how good I looked when I performed in a play at the end of that spring.  I later revealed I was only that thin because I had basically been starving myself. Of course, I gained weight back.  I went through about 3 more of those 15-pound cycles into my late 20s, one of them “accomplished” during a college summer by eating 800 calories a day, chewing on candy but spitting it out, and running about 2 miles a day.  (I hereby apologize to the library information phone line librarians who had to answer all of mine and my friend’s questions about how many calories were in different foods before we had the internet.)

One of my first steps toward empowerment was after a re-gain when my mother called me and asked how she could help me lose weight.  She had experienced a time when her mother read a newspaper article about one of her major professional accomplishments and her mother only commented on her hair.  So, when she called me, I said something along the lines of: “You know how you felt when your mother only commented on your hair?  Well, that’s how I feel right now.  I am proud of what I am doing and the person I am. My weight is none of your business.”  And then I lost about 15 pounds – because that’s what I wanted to do at the time.

A couple of things helped me shed the ideas of what NOT to eat and focus on eating nutritious foods:  one friend said that to lose weight, he ate fruit instead of a hot dog for breakfast.  It was so simple, but something about that got me to eat a substantial, healthy breakfast every day, something that is an essential part of my life now.  After a thyroid crash in my second round of grad school, I worked with a naturopath who gave me a list of foods to eat every day and foods to eat every week to recover from my many inflammation-related conditions.  I recovered from the thyroid crash, focused on what TO eat and stopped paying attention to what not to eat, except when I got rid of migraines by eliminating some foods.

I love my current naturopath who has never weighed me, but reports all of my kick-ass results of true health indicators (I think it was my C-reactive protein number that she said was the best she had seen in a long time). It feels so good to use my assertiveness to tell the medical assistants at “regular” doctor’s offices that “I do not want to be weighed today.”  I’ve learned so much about what a poor indicator of health the number on the scale is and carry it through in my actions.  Since I jokingly call myself an “empiricist pig,” I trust the research that shows that the number on the scale on its own is not useful as a predictor of health, that 95% of weight loss efforts do not last beyond 5 years, and that losing and re-gaining weight is bad for health.  I’ll go with the real predictors:  eating fresh fruits & vegetables, regular moderate exercise, not smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation.

I am so much happier and comfortable my current size than I ever was at the smaller clothing size that I “could” be.  My size is not a (secretly) temporary size.  It’s not full of regulations, obligations, or shame. It’s my size.  It’s the size I am when I eat and relish the joy of delicious, healthy, whole, real foods most of the time (and relish less healthy foods sometimes as well – because they are delicious, too!).  It’s the size I am when I enjoy exercising multiple times each week.  I have always been physically active in many ways, but it is even more fun to exercise now that I do it for how much I love it, how good it feels to move, how strong it makes me, and for how much energy it gives me  – without any concern for its effectiveness at changing my body size.  Loving movement, loving food, eating when I’m hungry (until I’m not hungry, and not feeling guilty about anything I put in my mouth or even an occasional full week without exercise), is the most joyful and peaceful way to live.

 

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#2 notes that focusing on fun and new things to eat has gotten her through a lot of pregnancy and related eating restrictions.  There’s a whole world of healthy yummy food out there for all sorts of restricted eating, be it whole foods, gluten-free, nut-free, etc. etc. etc.

Got comments, Grumpeteers?  Be nice.

 

Time to spend those gift cards ON BOOKS

While we’re out of town at a huge NYE bash (well, while #1 is out of town at a huge NYE bash… #2 is probably currently driving in the snow from one small rural town to another, thank goodness for audible), let us give you some suggestions for how to spend all that money you got for Christmas/Yule/Hanukkah/Year-end bonus/blackmailing that guy, or whatever kind of denominational or non-denominational holiday-type thing you might have.

These are books I have LOVED from the library.  So many to love!

The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter.  Love it, love it, repeatedly recommended it.

I’ve been enjoying Will Thomas’s series starting with Some Danger Involved.  Fascinatingly diverse Victorian London murder mysteries.

Emerald House Rising by Peg Kerr.  Light high fantasy, sure to become a future soothing read (sadly out of print but ILL it if you can!).  Standalone, happy ending.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison.  Also fantasy: court intrigue, fish-out-of-water.

Clariel, the Lost Abhorsen by Garth Nix.  I like the Abhorsen series and this is a prequel.

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding: A Memoir, by Kristin Newman.  I like memoirs.

No Castles Here by A.C.E. Bauer.  A poor kid from the barrio finds a magical book of tales…

The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby.  Essays about books and reading.  Two of my favorite things.

Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard.  Another fantasy to recommend repeatedly.

Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher contains the recommendation letters I wish I could have written as a pre-tenure faculty member.  Epistolary, funny, but not a happy ending.

Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis.  Are you sensing a YA theme here?

The Silvered by Tanya Huff.  I mean, it’s Tanya Huff!

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography.  Heartwarming and amusing; worth getting in hard copy so you can flip around for an authentic choose-your-own-adventure experience.  (#2 fully enjoyed this one too, and was actually ok about spending full price for a hard copy in an airport bookstore when she discovered she’d forgotten her kindle.  It was worth it!)

Books I was NOT keen on:

Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling.  Really not as good as Bossypants; I didn’t finish it.

Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk:  was doing ok until Rape As A Plot Point.  Bzzzt!

 

This post isn’t all the books I’ve been reading, not by a long shot!  But it has just a few of the things that I think you might like to read.  Not exhaustive, though maybe exhausting.

Any more suggestions???

What did we get people this year?

Shopping for DH’s family is sooo hard!

MIL:  This year we gave up and asked MIL what she wanted.  The answer?  The same luggage she got me for Christmas last year.  Not a problem!  We added a “Grandma” luggage tag because she seems to like things labeled Grandma.

FIL:  Another giving up year, a gift certificate to Cabela’s.  (Last year was an exception–we got him something he really wanted but he didn’t want to spend the money on that he still talks about.) This is probably still a good choice because he loves shopping at Cabela’s and MIL hates the way he spends so much of their money at Cabela’s.

BIL1:  games off his amazon wishlist

SIL1:  the first two books in the finishing school series.   She had the first on her list, but I know from experience that once you read the first you end up buying the second on kindle because you can’t wait for it to come in the mail.  So we got her that too.

Cousin 1:  Kid’s fun and healthy cookbook  Also one of the pigeon books from his wishlist, which seems kind of young to me, but whatever, it was on the wishlist.  And if we hadn’t had DC2 we might have gotten the entire set without the excuse of having a younger kid… (my sister loves those and she’s 30 years old!)

Cousin 2:  Three books off her wishlist, including a couple of elephant and piggie books and a knuffle bunny.  Maybe it’s mom who has the Mo Willems thing…  We were going to send her M R Nelson’s new book, but after looking at the heavily be-princessed wishlist (including 4 princess outfits), we decided that might get misconstrued.

SIL2: Her wishlist had been decimated, with only 3 things left on it (it had a tonne of stuff the week before, but we think MIL swept in and bought up the bulk).  Two books and a wish for “iTunes gift-card.”  We got her the two books, which were both kind of boring looking things about her job, one of which she’d put on recently, and the other something rated “low” that she’d put on a couple of years ago.  Oh well.

BIL2:  Was happiest the year we got him an Amazon giftcard, so an Amazon giftcard is what we got this year too.

Cousin 3:  A busload of pigeon books (it’s been a very Mo Willems year) and a couple of smaller books of hir wishlist.  Also we’ll be donating to the 529 plan.  We would do this for cousins 1 and 2 also, but BIL has never gotten around to setting them up, even though in his state they get a 20% tax credit(!) off their state income taxes.

Grandmother-in-law:  She’s now in a nursing home with early stage Alzheimer’s.  MIL didn’t have any suggestions.  She’s crunched for space, so no knick knacks.  MIL takes care of things like linens and clothing and so on.  She’s not really able to do her hobbies anymore.  Someone has already signed her up for fruit-of-the-month.  So we looked online for suggestions for people in nursing homes and people with Alzheimer’s and decided to make picture magnets, one for each of our little families (DH and his siblings and all our kids) with names underneath each person (the names part is the part suggested for Alzheimer’s patients).  Each family is color coded with a different color for the names.  We had an extra magnet leftover on the online thing and put a picture of DH’s mom and aunts on it.

My parents: I wanted to get them an air conditioner.  The two wall units they have are literally from the 1980s, inefficient, and ran out of freon before I left for college.  Every summer there’s a heatwave I worry about them dying like all those people in Chicago back when I was a kid.  Also I have to listen to my mom complain about how difficult it is to sleep in the heat.  Home Depot has a thing where they will install the a/c and take an old one away, so that’s what I want to do.  After much back and forth we decided to send them a giftcard to Home Depot for the amount we would have spent on a window unit, and they will replace one of their wall units in the summer.

My sister:  Well, for various reasons, I wanted to buy her that $369 automatic litter box, but the conversation kept going like, Her: “Why don’t you buy me a new washing machine for $369 instead?” Me:  “Because I don’t feel guilty about anything involving a washing machine.” “How about a stand mixer, I’d really like one of those fancy stand mixers”  “Would you ever USE a stand mixer?  Plus, I don’t feel guilty about anything involving a stand mixer!”  (Note:  earlier that evening she’d suggested we get her a vitamix, and I was like we got you an Oster hand blender a few years ago, and she was all, “You did?  Huh, I’ll have to check.  I know you got me that food processor that one year that I’ve never taken out of the box.  And that crockpot I never use.”  Note she’d asked for said food processor and crockpot.  She always wants cooking implements when she’s saving up money for something, but never actually uses them.)  So what did I get her instead?  $85 worth of cat toys and feliway.

DH’s relative with all the kids:  probably  money.  Daughter #2 is pregnant again…

As always, Target gift cards for teachers.

#2 says:  I have no income.  I am spending out of savings for Christmas, combined with not traveling, and not getting people extravagant gifts.   I’m buying used for people who are ok with that and looking for Kindle sales.  I also used the cashback on my Discover card to buy gifts.  I got my grandmother a box of pears.  There’s a group gift for the other grandmother, who doesn’t want a lot of Stuff.  But I’m trying to write her more letters and let her know I’m thinking of her.

I’m going in with my siblings on a lot of things.  Joint large gifts for mom, dad, stepmom (split between me and sis and our partners).  My brothers got stuff off their wishlists.  Stuff for my sister?  Well, I won’t say it here in case she ever finds this blog!

Did you get anything good or fun or interesting for folks on your holiday list this year?

What are we reading? Throw-back edition.

Sometimes this century is just too much and we seek out popcorn from the past.  Not, you know, classics, exactly, but good stuff that is enjoyable to read and gives a nice snapshot of popular literature of the time.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes– technically this one might be considered a classic, I mean, it was sort of made into a Marilyn Monroe movie (though not really– the book is soooo much racier, despite the lack of a strip-tease).  (Also the main character is a bit racist, but she’s a bit a lot of other things too, and it’s portrayed in a way that the actual author seems to be condemning the casual racism, but still, FYI.)  Don’t know why it isn’t available on kindle anymore, but your library is pretty likely to have a copy.

Dinny Gordon, Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior.  These are good.  On the surface they’re silly YA fiction from the 1960s, but there’s a subversiveness to them.  Junior year is especially enthralling.  (Hat Tip to Girl Historian for recommending them!)  Worth checking to see if your university library still has them.

We Shook the Family Tree.  A comic memoir, similar to those by Jean Kerr, though not quite the same.  I used to read these kinds of books by the pile back when I was a kid after I discovered the non-fiction comedy section at the library (after running out of children’s books and being too young for a lot of the SF/Fantasy/Mystery adult books).  I have no idea where I got this paperback… I wonder if it once belonged to my mother (unlikely because she doesn’t tend to keep paperbacks) or if I actually picked it up myself at a used bookstore (also unlikely because I don’t tend to buy things that aren’t SF/Fantasy unless it’s an author I already know).   Maybe it was nestled between Richard Armour and Jean Kerr and I impulse-bought it.  It’s a mystery.  In any case, it was a fun light romp (and kind of funny how the heroine complained about having a thigh gap– only they called it being bow-legged back then!)

While reading We shook the family tree, I decided I was curious about Hildegarde Dolson, and the Wikipedia article made her seem even more interesting.  I’m always a sucker for long-lasting, late-in-life romances.  Anyway, her husband was a mystery writer (a widower) who wrote mystery novels with his wife before she died.  Well, I had to try some of those.  Annoyingly, our uni library has ALL of them and all of the Dolson books, BUT it won’t check them out.  If I didn’t have work or a family I would so park myself in that reading room and just read.  They also have a complete collection of SF/Fantasy paperbacks that doesn’t circulate.  Forget the museum.  I want to be locked into that room overnight!  (I may have to ILL One Lady, Two Cats… you know, for research purposes– or just buy it off amazon). They did have a few random circulating copies of things though, so I ordered neither the first in the series nor the reputed best in the series … and I liked them.

The Lockridges have two main series, one about a couple named Mr. and Mrs. North who are pretty similar to Gracie Allen and a less sarcastic George Burns, if Gracie and George solved crimes, and the other about a police inspector named Heimrich.  The two books I got out, Murder is Served and Spin Your Web, Lady, were both pretty good.  Though definitely products of their time (1947 and 1948)– in Spin Your Web I cringed a bit at the pregnant lady getting drunk and even more at the treatment of a mentally disabled character, and some other stuff that would give too much away if I stated it here.  Both open with really entertaining slices of life– the former gives us a scene at a high class restaurant, the latter puts us in the mind of a somewhat sketchy university extension professor.  I think I’m going to grab more by these authors.  And One Lady, Two Cats is definitely on my amazon wishlist.  I also wish I had some Perry Masons, which are easy and fun popcorn novels though not quite as wholesome as the tv show.

#2 is reading lots of frontlist right now (especially from the library), but on the backlist I’ve recently quite enjoyed Fay Weldon’s Letters to Alice: On First Reading Jane Austen.

 

Come at us with some throwback-reading love, readers!

Current book podcasts

There are podcasts about books?  Why yes, there are!  Here’s what I usually listen to these days, all through iTunes:

Book Fight – two white male friends in Philly who are writers, editors, and teachers of writing and literature discuss one book or short story per week, sometimes with a theme, and sometimes wandering off into fascinating, funny digressions.

Oh, Comics! – just starting, you can get in on the ground floor!  The podcast for the new site about comic books, Panels.  One host is a man heavily into comic books, and the other is woman just recently getting into them.

Book Riot – like the site, and the podcast!  Everything books- and reading-related.  Hosts work well together.

also just picked up Reading Lives, a new podcast in the Book Riot Empire (Book Riot, Oh, Comics!, Dear Book Nerd, etc.).

Bookrageous – a roundtable discussion about what everyone’s reading and why books are great, featuring a rotating cast of fun regulars.

Sword & Laser - The sword and the laser stand for fantasy and science fiction: books, TV, movies, pop culture, and more books.  They even have a cute mascot, Lem, a cyborg dragon (Lord Bookwyrm Lem of Swaser).

Books on the Nightstand (sometimes).  One of the co-hosts, Ann Kingman, reminds me a lot of my stepmother in both her voice and her vocal tone/inflection/mannerisms, so that makes the podcast a bit weird for me to really enjoy.  (N.B.: My stepmother is great tho.)

I tried a few episodes of Dear Book Nerd, but I quit listening because I felt like I always had the ONE RIGHT ANSWER to the question, and the host didn’t.  That’s a weird personal preference, though!  You might like it.

That’s all the book podcasts I even pretend to keep up with.  I have other ones that are about geekdom in general, writing, spec-fic writing, video games, etc.

Grumpeteers, anything I should add?

Recommendations for soothing novels?

You know, the kind where nothing truly bad happens, and you know everything is going to turn out ok in the end.  There’s no awful things done to women of any sort.  Any murder is off-stage before the book starts or is a murder of someone nobody (including the reader) liked.  Any dreadful dark secrets are things that happened literally centuries ago.  Often the worst thing that happens is nothing more dangerous than embarrassing oneself at a party.  Despite what Google wants me to think, they don’t have to be mystery novels!

Sometimes they’re delightful.  Sometimes they’re calming.  Sometimes they’re life-affirming.  Sometimes they’re quality, but often they’re popcorn.  The kind of book you’re not rushing to end, and you wish you could get back to during a stressful day.

Savor these:

Authors like Barbara Michaels (more than her Elizabeth Peters persona, who is excellent but not so cozy), Jane Austen, the always-beloved Georgette Heyer, and similar imitators.

Some make equally cozy movies– Cold Comfort Farm, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, The Enchanted April.

Connie Willis has a couple:  The perfect To Say Nothing of the Dog, and the more modern Bellwether.

Martha Wells! But not her more recent stuff which is dramatic and not everything works out neatly and perfectly.  But #2 just finished and really liked City of Bones. Recommended!

Kismet is fun.  :)  And the music!  And The Importance of Being Earnest.  And the Matchmaker (from whence Hello Dolly! came).  Also all excellent movies.  Well, maybe not Kismet (we may never know, as most of the movies have been lost to the sands of time), but it has a great operatic soundtrack…actually two.

Stranger at the Wedding by Barbara Hambly is a bit on the intense side for this topic (#1 thinks it’s totally appropriate, along with Bride of the Rat God which kind of fits in with Scalzi’s Agent to the Stars), but A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer is just right. (As is Sorcery and Cecelia and some of Diana Wynne Jones. Often YA is a great place for this stuff.  A lot of Nina Kiriki Hoffman stuff is life-affirming, though NOT Fall of Light which is triggery and victim-blamey) #2 has re-read the first few books of Amber in The Great Book of Amber compilation a bunch of times. Basically I find the throne war fascinating but I’m meh on the stuff that comes after. (TEAM BENEDICT 4 EVAR!)

I feel like we should have some Chick Lit here, but I never keep the Chick Lit so I don’t really know any titles.  There were a bunch of Chick Lit vampire books that we sent back and forth to each other, but I’m blanking on titles (Dead girls don’t…?).

#2 adds that Dune (#1  Dune?  Really?) and Jane Eyre are both soothing to me after years of many re-reads.  A lot of Mercedes Lackey is questionable but Arrows of the Queen and Owlsight are both familiar and therefore soothing.  Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Sayers.  Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman, because it’s nonfiction about books, which is the most soothing of all.  Sometimes nonfiction works out nicely because it’s not necessarily about any characters getting bashed on.  I also appreciate Amanda Cross’s Kate Fansler mysteries because they are full of the main character being in her head, and I am too.  You can be sure that justice and harmony will prevail in Dee Goong An (Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee).  And of course, the queen of the cozy mystery, Agatha Christie.

I need more of these.  MORE.

Gentle readers, please give me recommendations!

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