One Curious Incident

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? A looooong while. I could say I’ve been busy on spring break (traveling abroad, browsing cookbooks, knitting, reading tons, etc.), and you could believe me if you so choose. You don’t have to, though. I read enough in the meantime that I have a lot to write about.

 

the_curious_incident

 

 

Continue reading

Let’s get better together.

Well, for those who may not understand the title (AKA most of the world), I just finished Atul Gawande’s book Better. And if I wasn’t already considering medicine as a possible profession, here he goes, both oddly convincing me and pushing me away from it simultaneously. Somehow. That’s just what happens with this book. Really great book in general. But I can’t tell if I’m encouraged or discouraged by it.

better(Yes, I was reading this sitting on my bed. And yes, I was too lazy to get up to get my camera and photograph someplace else. That’s this afternoon, in a nutshell.)

Continue reading

I am not an animal person.

I’m not an animal person. At all. I suppose I could give most of the credit to my dad for this one, as he passed that gene on to me for sure. My friends all go, “What?! How can you not like animals?!” Then I just say, “I don’t. I’m not an animal person.”

Therefore, Cathy Woodman’s book titled City Girl, Country Vet was probably not the best book for me to buy. Yet guess what? I did it anyways. It was sitting on my shelf at home of “Books to Read” for a very long time, and then when I was home over break a couple weeks ago, I picked it up and it was over within two days.

Image

 

 

Continue reading

Chicago Doesn’t Grow Mangoes! (AKA Why I Love Sandra Cisneros)

So. Sandra Cisneros. She’s awesome. Yeah. And that title about tropical fruit agriculture in the American middle west? That’s just because I read The House on Mango Street (set in Chicago) and fell desperately in love with the writing of Sandra Cisneros.

 

Continue reading

The Samurai’s Garden

Image

I was in this place on Sunday where I had three books started (or maybe four, considering I’d slowly been rereading The Catcher in the Rye…) and really really wanted to finish them. So this one came first on my list of books to finish. Originally started for class. Will have to go back and annotate more, both in quantity and in depth, later, but glad to know what happens at this point.

Stephen is a young man from Hong Kong who is attending university in Canton, China, when he falls ill with tuberculosis. Sent home and quarantined, he feels shut away from his best friend, King, not to mention his family, especially his younger sister Penelope/Pie. He finally convinces his father to let him take the journey to the family’s home in Tarumi, Japan, sooner than his father would have taken him and by himself.

In Tarumi, Stephen befriends Matsu, the solid, quiet gardener; Sachi, a friend of Matsu’s who also knows how it feels to be isolated; and Keiko, a pretty girl in town. As Stephen starts to embark on his own adventures in Tarumi and Yamaguchi, a small village in the mountains outside, he realizes just how intertwined the past is with the present, especially with Matsu, Sachi, Matsu’s sister Tomoko, and a mutual friend Kenzo. Seeing very much a bubble world, Stephen realizes some of the harshness of life that he hadn’t been exposed to before, and is sad to leave when the time comes.

This book was required for class, which meant that I didn’t pick to read it for me. That was okay; it just meant that my obligation to finish it was greater. (Could you even imagine me using SparkNotes? So impossible it’s laughable.) That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy bits of it, because I did, it just was not the most enjoyable imaginable.

Tsukiyama goes into complex detail about certain things, typically in clusters. The beginning, for example, had a lot of detail about everything. It got a bit tedious at parts for me because, while that’s all nice and good and can be done really well, it slowed the plot down quite a bit. Sure, it was meant to mirror how static Steven’s life was, how little was happening so he noticed the details, etc. It just didn’t work for me because I’m going, “If you’re so bored, why don’t you consider doing something then?”

Unlike a lot of other books I read, I didn’t have a favorite character, or a favorite part, really. That’s pretty unlike me to say that, especially given my human bias to favor one thing over another and then magnify both my like and dislike to the extremes. I didn’t have a favorite character, a favorite section, or a favorite topic that the book brought up- leprosy, suicide, illness and isolation from society, love, relationship histories. If anything, illness and isolation from society was the best-portrayed central theme (take into account when I write this that I really want to read Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed right now too). But Tsukiyama doesn’t really provide hard facts on when historical events occurred, or what was happening during the period, or the types of illnesses and why they’re spread, or the reasons, from the character’s perspectives, for societal seclusion of the sick, or…. you get the idea.

The Samurai’s Garden is a three-star book. The plot deals as much with backstory as it does with what’s happening when the book is actually taking place, which is nice given that so many books choose one or the other, which sets Tsukiyama’s novel apart. Characters, including the narrator (who I found a bit self-congratulatory at parts), were not particularly unique from characters you see elsewhere, especially given the stereotypes that Tsukiyama chooses to have them defy. Set in a period ravaged with deep conflict, but with little involvement in it. It was okay, and just okay.

I have at least two more reviews coming, and should go read more Flannery O’Connor (I’m hooked from “Everything That Rises Must Converge”) and wean myself off “Emily Owens, M.D.” on Netflix before I have to go back to school on Monday.

Have fun reading!

Nicole

Talking with my Mouth Full: My Life as a Professional Eater

Image

I could have made this title much longer by adding (AKA Why I Love Gail Simmons) at the end of it, but I decided to spare it today. The holiday season means you see a lot of things in excess, so a super-long title needn’t be one of them.

Hi!

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

I’m sorry I haven’t written in a while. I’ve intended to, but haven’t. Awww. There was other work going on, including a creative nonfiction piece to write and math homework to do and an extra alternative proof of the Pythagorean Theorem. Then I got home, baked a bunch of cookies, and settled into Vacation Mode. How to tell? I have flour in my hair (not at this moment, but typically) and the callouses on my feet are not from dancing but from pacing the kitchen floor barefoot.

We had a so-called Drop Holiday last week, which meant that I got to read this lovely book. I love Gail Simmons so much. She is a great writer, a wonderful television personality (one of the few I can stand), and a beautiful person inside and out. This is her autobiography that came out last year (though almost two years ago at this point).

Gail was born and raised in Toronto in a family that loves food. She has two brothers, an adventurous appetite, and more currently, a husband named Jeremy. She works for Bravo on the TV show Top Chef (where I first saw her), as well as hosting Top Chef: Just Desserts and writing. She has previously been the head of the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen, CO and trained as a chef and worked in professional kitchens. She set four goals for herself in her parents’ house once she graduated from college that she’s since been trying to live up to: “Eat. Write. Travel. Cook.” This book charts her life’s adventure to secure all of those things and find balance and happiness in her busy life.

I think Gail is such an inspiration. She’s a lovely woman who went to culinary school, cooked in kitchens as the only girl in the savory kitchen, written fiercely, and knows tons of amazing chefs (can you say Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert and Hubert Keller and Dave Chang? Yes, and more). Her knowledge of food and the little quirks of the industry is undeniable. She’s a fantastic female role model, and has a humble and wonderful balance of self-confidence and admitting that she makes mistakes.

I give her book four of five stars. There are some great diagrams in it, and the “life in a day of meals” idea at the very end is unique and really well thought-out. The writing rambles a little bit at parts, and I would love for her to share a bit more of her culinary education along the way. She does in small spurts, but cumulatively, more could be useful. However, that said, loved this book as a quick, easy read, with wonderful messages and lessons in body image and humility and growing up and figuring out what you want to do with your life and working with food and valuing yourself.

I will post later this week with a couple end-of-year lists. I’m thinking Best Things I’ve Read This Year and maybe a What I’m Looking Forward to Reading: 2014. I promise there won’t be quite so long a gap between posts, as that was unsightly.

Have a wonderful week! Read fantastic things!

-Nicole

This Side of Paradise

Hello! Happy Sunday!

I don’t know about you, but Sundays are a delicate balance of getting stuff done and laziness for me. Maybe that’s because Sundays are the only full day I have off each week, so I kinda have to treasure it. So Sundays are used for jigsaw puzzles (like the one of Times Square in the library I was working on last night and this morning) and planning holiday baking and homework. 

Anyways, I realized that I had finished this book a while ago and had forgotten to post a review. It had taken me quite a while to read this book because I had very little time to read it. And here comes the review. 

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Armory Blaine is an upper-class young man who grew up in the northeast with his mother, Beatrice. He successively goes from boarding school to Princeton, and basically has a lot of young people shenanigans along the way. Meanwhile, the cast of friends and minor characters in his life (and they are very minor considering his self-congratulatory nature) cycle in and out, and Armory makes his way along the eternal ‘quest to find himself’ that young people most often embark on when they leave home. 

This was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first book, first novel. This made him a huge success when it was published first in 1920. It made him a giant success, brought about the road to fame for him and Zelda (who he married right after the publication) and planted the seed for the idea that they were the “It Couple” of the 1920s. 

I would say this book was a really interesting comparison and connection book. It may be weird to read his later work like The Great Gatsby first like I did, but it worked out okay. I like Gatsby so much better, but it can be fascinating to see how Fitzgerald’s style changes between the two, in even that five-year period (Gatsby was published in 1925). Examples include the fact that he didn’t use the same rambling plot that This Side of Paradise has, although some of the tone is similar, and some of the ways that the characters react and interact are similar too. I can also draw similarities to another coming-of-age book written twenty years later, Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye

I give this book three and a half stars. It has some really great quotes tucked inside (I didn’t get to underline and pull them out since it was a library copy), and the ideas of it are good. However, it can be a bit drawn out, some of the minor characters can get confusing, and Armory’s romances started to blend into each other at the end for me. It’s a book to read to be able to reference it, for sure, so I would definitely read it as a contextual reference for other texts. Not the best book I’ve read, and certainly not the worst. 

Anyways, I’m off to do other things, including but not limited to enjoying my Sunday. Have a nice weekend and a wonderful week ahead!

Nicole