I read 4 books in December: 2 fiction, 2 non-fiction. 1 was a Kindle book and the rest were print. 1 was even on my long-neglected “Read It or Lose It” list (update coming in mid-January!).
The Last Night at the Ritz by Elizabeth Savage. I “picked” this up because it was one of Nancy Pearl’s book rediscoveries and I could “check it out” for free from the Kindle Lending Library (phrases in quotes because: e-book/not an actual library). I really enjoyed the narrator, and the picture it painted of early 1970s Boston, but the book never totally grabbed me. I read it in bits and chunks around other books. It took me 5 months in all to finish. Worth picking up if it sounds interesting, but not a Go Out of Your Way and Read This NOW book.
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley. This book has made it on to a few Best Books Lists, and I’m here to say that is well-deserved. It was one of my favorites too! It is a delight to read – perfect mix of food and memoir in graphic novel form. (Why aren’t there more graphic novels about food? Food is so visual!) I can’t wait to check out Knisley’s earlier book, French Milk.
Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris by Ann Mah. I wanted to love this book more. I mean, I loved the title. What a perfect play on Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. I could master eating way before I mastered cooking! In the book, Mah documents a year she lived alone in Paris, when her diplomat husband was transferred to the Baghdad office shortly after they arrived in Paris for what they thought would be a 3 year tour. In part to pass the time/deal with her (understandable) loneliness, Mah visits 10 regions in Frances and writes about their signature dishes. But she doesn’t seem to like many of them. The first non-Paris specialty she writes about is andouillete (an admittedly gross sounding sausage made from tripe), and she eats it ONCE in the whole chapter. She mostly avoids it. Which is fine, but then why include it in a book about French eating? This is perhaps just my own particular pet peeve. The book was good, well-written and interesting, but I just never loved it.
Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull. I usually love a Children’s fantasy novel, but I found this one darker and more melancholy than most. When Summer and Bird’s parents go missing, they follow them into Down to try and find them. Summer and Bird are separated early and must go through their own adventures. Summer is helped by an old man named Ben, while Bird makes her way to the Swan’s castle, where she is taken captive (though willingly) by the Puppeteer who promises her that she can be Queen of the Birds. By the end, I was glad I read it, but it took me a long time to get through, and I probably would have given it up, if I hadn’t received it as an Early Reviewer book. I think this is a case of Ranganathan’s “Every book it’s reader” law. I was not this book’s reader. I saw it described elsewhere as being similar to Neil Gaiman’s work, and that makes sense to me. If you like that sort of darker fantasy, this book will likely appeal to you.