Summer Reading Reviews, Week 6

So many good reviews from Summer Reading for Adults this week.  Check them out:

Sugar Cube by Kir JensenSugar Cube
Five Stars
Portland is well known for its world of food carts and Sugar Cube is no exception to the list of carts I want to relish. Great and unusual recipes with easy to follow instructions! My favorites: page 56, “Rosemary’s Baby” sugar cookies, and page 95, Pots de Creme.


Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon KrakauerUnder the Banner of Heaven
Four Stars
Solid history of the Church of Latter Day Saints and its violent past. Fascinating and insightful.



A Bad Day for Pretty by Sophie LittlefieldA Bad Day for Pretty
Four Stars
Excellent mystery featuring the adventures of Stella Hardesty, DV survivor and force to be reckoned with. This sequel to Bad Day for Sorry is full of recognizable characters and middles aged heroine who you’ll want to see more of.


How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti

How Should a Person Be First Impressions
How Should a Person Be? is categorized as a work of fiction, but reading it felt very much like sneaking a peek into the author’s diary. The main character’s name is Sheila, which is also the author’s name, and several of the characters’ friends in the book really do exist in our world. Writers are told to “write what you know”, and works of fiction are often inspired by factual events. This book begs the question: At what point does reality become story? Is there a percentage of made-up stuff that a book must contain to be called “fiction”?

Drive-by Summary
Young, creative, and newly divorced – Sheila is a playwright on a deadline, and struggling with a severe case of writer’s block that is symbolic of how stuck she’s feeling in general. In the process of attempting to complete the play she’s already been paid to write, she embarks on a “life experiment” in which she closely observes and records her closest friends and relationships.

My Favorite Character
I hate to admit to being as narcissistic or irresponsible as Sheila reveals herself to be, but if I’m truly honest I’ll have to confess I’m guilty of many of her thoughts and actions at different points in my life. The likeability of the character occurs because the author lets it all hang out – the ugly and the beautiful, the mundane and the magical, the superficial and the reverent.

Words to Live By
Puer aeternus = the eternal child

“But while others actually build a life in which things gain in meaning and significance, this is not true of the puer. Such a person inevitably looks back on life as it nears its end with a feeling of emptiness and sadness, aware of what they have built: nothing. In their quest for a life without failure, suffering, or doubt, that is what they achieve: a life empty of all those things that make a human life meaningful.”

Recommended For
If you’re carrying a load of hidden shame, have voyeuristic tendencies, and enjoy subjecting yourself to the philosophizing of the self-absorbed, you’ll definitely enjoy this book. If you’re curious about the lives of young women and men populating the artsy underbelly of the city, you’ll probably like this book. If you feel that young people today are too self-focused, you might be annoyed by the characters in this book – but I’d bet you’ll still be interested in this peek into their lives. Be forewarned – Sheila lives the life of a sexually active adult and some related scenes are graphically depicted.

Final Say
I’ve always had a difficult time keeping a diary because of the embarrassing, and sometimes plain old boring, honesty that’s required. I don’t like to admit that I feel the way that I do sometimes, or that I’ve behaved the way that I have. I admire Sheila Heti’s bravery in writing this book and sending it out into the world.

You can get How Should a Person Be? at the Bellingham Public Library.

– Jenni

Summer Reading Reviews, Week 5

Here are some more great reviews from participants in our 2014 Summer Reading for Adults program.  Enjoy!

Expecting Better by Emily OsterExpecting Better
Three Stars
Pregnancy advice have you feeling anxious? This academic delves into the research to discern the customary from the scientifically established. She includes citations so you can make up your own mind but also summarizes her conclusions in reasuring and pragmatic advice.


Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David SedarisLet's Explore Diabetes with Owls
Four Stars
The author’s dry sense of humor is so fun to read. He writes about childhood memories as well as his current adventures in biographical chapters. Other short story type chapters are confusing at first because he becomes someone else, quite opposite. This was a very entertaining book that made me think!


The Third Plate by Dan BarberThe Third Plate
Five Stars
Thought provoking look at farming, seed saving and market desire for foods.  A must read for anyone concerned about our food sources.



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Report From the Interior by Paul Auster

Book CoverThe Hook
A skillfully written memoir can be as moving as any novel, but it can be hard to break away from the humdrum verse-chorus-verse of writing a coming-of-age trajectory. Not to be discouraged, Auster published Winter Journal in 2012, an account of his 63 years of existence explored through the prism of physical being – a record of scrapes, residences, romantic encounters and familial losses, challenging the literary status quo through his use of non-linear narrative and themes contemplating his descent into old age.

Report From the Interior is his companion piece to Winter Journal, and examines the ideas most formative in his intellect and work – another unconventional offering to the world of autobiography. This time the meditations focus on childhood heroes, academic grapplings, political turmoil, and his own foray into literature.

Report From the Interior is presented in four chapters in the second person. The prose is disjointed – memories can be triggered by a teacup or movie poster, world events or secret alphabets – all information is fair game in the molding of a young mind, and it’s fascinating to see the touchstones of memory fragment and intersect. Auster begins with a vast intake of influences and memories, and like a train gathering speed, feeds on more substantial kinds of fuel as we progress through the pages. This book is a bit like opening your junk drawer, you could find anything from silver dollars to an endless supply of rubber bands and ketchup packets – but it’s damn riveting stuff. He spends 40 pages recounting the “cinematic earthquake” of “I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang”, and shifts to receiving a package from his former wife, writer Lydia Davis – a photocopy of every letter he had written her during their time together. The final chapter is a photo album in which the author presents a gallery of those who have made an impression upon him – and not a single image of himself.

A Snapshot
“Your circumstances at the time were as follows: Midcentury America; mother and father; tricycles, bicycles, and wagons; radios and black-and-white televisions; standard-shift cars; two small apartments and a house in the suburbs; fragile health early on, then normal boyhood strength; public school; a family from the striving middle class; a town of fifteen thousand populated by Protestants, Catholics, and Jews, all white except for a smattering of black people, but no Buddhists, Hindus or Muslims; a little sister and eight first cousins; comic books; Rootie Kazootie and Pinky Lee; “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”; Campbell’s Soup, Wonder bread, and canned peas; souped-up cars (hot rods) and cigarettes for twenty-three cents a pack; a little world inside the big world, which was the entire world for you back then, since the big world was not yet visible.”

Recommended For
Those open to exploring alternative forms of storytelling and memoir.

Final Say
This book will either leave you feeling challenged and inspired, or stuck at a family gathering where Great Uncle Paul has broken out the slide projector to relive his salad days at Columbia again. Take a chance, and let Auster’s interior worlds reflect your own.

You can grab Report From the Interior at the library today!

— Nicky

Summer Reading Reviews, Week 4

Here are some more reviews from our Summer Reading for Adults participants. Enjoy!

After I’m Gone by Laura LippmanAfter I'm Gone
4 Stars

This is a great mystery that kept me guessing until the end. The detective character was great and I’d love to see him in more books.



How Not to Calm a Child on a Plane by Johanna SteinHow Not to Calm a Child on a Plan
4 Stars

Laugh out loud and read out loud funny. These hilarious autobiographical essays chronical parental misadventures from a not so hallmark card perspective. A quick, quirky and effervescent summer read.


Rustic Wedding Chic by Morgann HillRustic Wedding Chic
1 Star

These crafts scream “I have lots of time but very little crafting talent.” Projects that might be cute for kids but seem elementary for adults, most cross the line from quaint to tacky.



Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary by Brandon MullSecrets of the Dragon Sanctuary
4 Stars

Yes, this is a book for middle schoolers but I love this series! There was a wonderful twist in this book; it caught me completely by surprise! The main characters are growing and learning, they’re great kids!