the Little Red Reviewer

August Reading Update

Posted on: August 14, 2021


Happy August!

Up here in the Great Lakes we’ve had brutal thunderstorms, tornado touch, higher than normal humidity, and wildfire smoke in the air. These aren’t the dog days of summer, these are the Cerberus days of summer, and I hope they are over soon. I’m ready for cooler days, lower humidity, and the crinkle of leaves. This will be our first autumn in our house, I want to know what color all these leaves turn!

As you can see, I’ve not been blogging much lately (or at all), but I have been reading! With some other stressful things and time commitments going on, enjoying books without the weight of “now I have to write a review” has been exactly what I needed this summer. (also don’t get me started on how frustrating I still find WordPress block editor. Writing a blog post is no longer fun. thanks WordPress. ) I got a lot going on right now, and I had to let go of some things, so I could say ‘yes’ to other things. One of the obligations I let go of was feeling obligated to write a long review of every book I read.

This post has some very very short reviews of some enjoyable books I’ve recently read, or am currently reading.

But first, something pretty! My friend has been hand painting bookmarks. This photo doesn’t do this bookmark justice! The yellow is pure sunshine and until now I didn’t know how beautiful coral could be!

In need of some comfort reads lately I grabbed one of my favorites, China Mountain Zhang by Maureen McHugh, written in 1992. Hard to verbalize how much I love this book. It’s just about this guy Rafael, who is trying to figure out his life. He’s trying to pass for straight, he’s trying to pass for Chinese. This is a quiet book. No action, no intense cliffhangers, no one is out to change the world. Just ten years or so of Rafael’s life (making it feel like a fix-up novel), some humorous misunderstanings blended with truly tragic moments. And it is a damn pleasure to read. McHugh’s prose is perfection. McHugh wrote a number of short stories, this was her debut novel and it won the Locus award for best first novel, the James Tiptree Jr Award, a Lambda Literary Award, and was nominated for the Hugo and the Nebula. So it isn’t just me who thinks this is a great book!

I think I’ve unpacked all my Banks novels? I went on a Banks binge a few years ago, and I remembered Use of Weapons being a stand out favorite. All I remembered was that there was something about [spoiler], but I couldn’t remember the details. Use of Weapons was even more engaging this time around. The main character, Zakalwe, is a war strategist for hire, so much of the book is designed around his memories of different wars he was involved in. In this interstellar future, what could one small war on one continent on a planet no one has ever heard of matter? We never find out if anything he does matters or not, which is sort of the point. And that thing that happens at the end, that I fuzzily remembered? Absolutely 100% knocked me flat. If you’ve never read a Culture book, Use of Weapons is a great place to start.

What can I say? I love manga about food.

This volume of Oishinbo a la Carte by Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki is about Japanese Sake. The first chapter was pretty disappointing so I was worried the whole volume would be a slog, but every chapter after the first one got better and better. If you’re interested in Sake and French wine, and how both intertwine with Japanese culture, this is the book for you. Be aware! These comics were published 30 some years ago, so they are very dated! Also note that the American “Oishinbo a la Carte” is a compilation of chapters on specific topics, each of which was written at a different time, which is why the American volumes have a theme instead of a volume number. I’m slowly reading my way through this volume, haven’t finished it yet.

More modern food manga (with recipes!) is What Did You Eat Yesterday by Fumi Yoshinaga. This slice of life drama follows middle aged couple Kenji and Shiro. Shiro is a lawyer who loves to cook, so much of the story focuses around him selecting ingredients at the market and then making simple but delicious meals, AND THERE ARE RECIPES!!!! to enjoy with his boyfriend Kenji. I can’t decide which I enjoy more – the pleasant and enjoyable plotline, the fantastic characters, or the cooking tips! I need to make some of the recipes in here!

Not anything close to a Japanese recipe, today I’m making this “life changing” bread. There’s no flour or wheat or yeast, so it’s not really a bread, I guess? I also made a quinoa salad (quinoa, chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet corn, kalamata olives, etc) and instead of doing oil+vinegar+lemon juice+herbs dressing, I did a creamy salad dressing with greek yogurt, oil, lemon, pomegranate molasses and herbs. I’m not used to creamy dressings, but wow was that delicious!

More stuff I’ve read or am reading!

Because OF COURSE I needed to read Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Jillian vs Parasite Planet! 2021 is my year of Kornher-Stace! Ok, so this was an adorable book. Really absolutely adorable. But? Too kiddie for me. I read the rare YA, but middle grade is exactly that – middle grade. Absolutely perfect for the 8 – 12 crowd, but not what 40-something me wants to read. I’ve already told my neice about this book, it went something like this:

me: I’m sending you a book, it’s about a girl your age who does “take your child to work day” with her parents.

My niece: I’ve already been to work with mommy. It was boring.

Me: yeah but in this book, her parents don’t work in an office. They work on an alien planet! And there is this cool character named Sabrina, I think you’ll like Sabrina.

My niece: oh?

I was lucky enough to get an ARC of Jillian vs Parasite Planet, so I really should write a formal review of it. I feel obligated.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno Garcia was both fantastic and also not quite my thing. The writing is engaging and a pleasure to read, and I couldn’t put it down! I zipped through this book, it was a fast and fun read. Reading this book makes me want to buy more Silvia Moreno Garcia books. But I think gothic horror tropes just aren’t my thing?

My current read is Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. I remember this book getting a lot of hype when it came out, and I probably avoided it at the time, because hype. This book is also a fast and easy read, I only started reading it a few days ago and I’m already halfway through. To be honest? The beginning was kinda meh for me. BUT THEN THAT LEFT TURN HIT, and now I am hooked! It’s sorta Steins:gate-ish, very cinematic, and is it just me or does Amanda have a huge crush on Jason? And if Jason gets home, she’ll lose her chance to be with him. But Jason misses his wife, all he wants is to get home to her. The writing style is very cinematic, this would make a great movie.

I already mentioned it in a previous blog post, but Mostly Void, Partially Stars, which is the transcripts of the first season of the Welcome to Nightvale podcast was 100% my brand of absurd. I wouldn’t shut up about the book, and now my husband is reading it. About five times now, he’s walked into the room, said something absolutely absurd followed by “and now the weather”, and then I giggle. I have GOT to get more volumes of these transcripts!

I hope your summer is going well. I hope you have gotten read enjoyable books and gotten to eat yummy food.

I hope you and yours are staying healthy and are finding time to relax and unwind.

The Jewish New Year is a few weeks away, and a tradition in the weeks leading up to the New Year is to think about what you want the next year to bring, and what kind of person you want to be.

I hope this next year allows us to be better listeners. To listen with intention, to talk with people instead of at them. To be able to bring ourselves to care about what another person has to say, even if we don’t agree with it. To come to conversations because I care about the person and truly want to hear what they have to say, and not with the goal of convincing the person of something.

As much as I love the sound of my own voice, I want to shut up more this year, and be more intentional about the things that come out of my mouth.

And now the weather.

8 Responses to "August Reading Update"

Hey ho, Kiddo. Nice to see the post and read that you’re having a good reading Summer, in spite of weather. Can’t say I’m too happy about the weather here in Portland, with the second heat dome on us and triple digit temps until yesterday, when it was “only” in the mid 90s, which is where it will remain for the next week. Good news: the garden loves the heat, especially the Roses and Hydrangeas. Bad news: we are having to water lots, we’ve had power outages, and it’s very smoky from the wildfires across the state and in California.

Yesterday, I ate thin crust mushroom pizza and fresh peach pie. Delicious.

I reread an older favorite too, Jodi Taylor’s One Damned Thing After Another, the first book in her excellent Chronicles of St. Mary’s series. A must read if you haven’t read it yet!

Lovely picture of your yard and woods! Thank you.

Liked by 1 person

ya, we’re getting your wildfire smoke here too! makes rosey sunrises.

Stay cool, stay in the shade, stay in the AC, stay hydrated. I hope the heat breaks soon for you.

i love thin crust pizza, I hope yours was delicious!

I finished Dark Matter earlier today (what a fast read!), will keep my eye out for some Jodi Taylors next time I’m at the bookstore.

we lived in the city for 15 years, I’m still not used to so much green being MY yard that I can go out into whenever I want. so much green, it’s amazing and I love it. I am so thankful we were able to get this house.


Re: Taylor – read the first one (the one I just reread), they’re much better in order.

Liked by 1 person

I hear you on the block editor. I came back to blogging a couple months ago and was just like “wtf is this??” Hosted seems to be a tad better *touch wood* but gosh I hear you.

I need to read the Culture novels one of these days, too. I have the first two I think! Did love his writing when I read The Wasp Factory back in the day.

Liked by 1 person

yep. block editor is such a pain in the ass.

ooh, The Wasp Factory is SO GOOOD!!!! I never did read the first Culture book, Consider Phlebas, I heard it’s the weakest one. Maybe one of these days I’ll get around to reading that one.


Consider Phlebas was the only one I tried. I didn’t like it, so didn’t bother with the others. Too many other books to read!

Liked by 1 person

Thanks for your kind words about the bookmark!

Liked by 1 person

Puts a smile on my face everytime i look at it! 😊


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FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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