what I read in April 2019

Aspects of the Novel by EM Forster (Snore.)
Bakeland: Nordic Treats Inspired by Nature by Marit Hovland (I would like to live inside of and eat everything in this book.)
The Clean Plate by Gwyneth Paltrow (A catalogue of Gwyneth-cavorting-on-the-beach shots with a few recipes scattered throughout.)
Educated by Tara Westover (Hands down, the most gripping book of the month. A fascinating read.)
Everyday Dorie by Dorie Greenspan (Some decent recipes.)
Fifty Shades of Kale by Drew Ramsey MD and Jennifer Iserloh (A weird piggybacking on the softcore porn theme, except with kale.  I like kale, but not in that way.)
The Flavour Matrix by James Briscione (An extremely scientific way of approaching cooking. Not for me.)
The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin (Super interesting. I’m a questioner.)
French Vintage Décor by Jamie Lundstrom (Turns out my taste isn’t very French.)
The Fundy Vault by Linda Moore (First heard of it because of the local connection, but it read like a clunky first draft.)
George Hunter’s Canada by The National Film Board of Canada Collection (Short, but good.)
Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis  (Her honesty about issues like child-care and cosmetic surgery are commendable, but all of her advice seems geared to women with life circumstances identical to her own.)
The Library Book by Susan Orlean (I almost gave up on this one a few times, but persisted because of all the glowing reviews. It was okay.)
The Little Library Cookbook by Kate Young (I wasn’t interested in many of the recipes, but I always like book suggestions.)
Meaty by Samantha Irby (I preferred We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, but she’s a live wire and fun to read/listen to.)
Oversize Fashion Knits by Frechverlag GmbH (Knits for young women half my size. I would look like I was wearing all my other clothes underneath the oversize fashion knits.)
The Power of Pulses by Dan Jason, Hilary Malone and Alison Malone Eathorne (Good info on growing and cooking with beans and legumes. Will probably buy this one for reference.)
Reality Check by Guy Kawasaki (Meant for those with bigger business dreams than me, but still fairly entertaining. A shame the audiobook narrator pronounces it ‘entreprenyooor’.)
Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World by Brooke McAlary (The same advice one sees in all books of this genre: Declutter. Appreciate the small things. Be mindful.)
Small Victories by Anne Lamott (I’m not religious at all, but I like Anne Lamott. I think we’d get along.)

 

what I read in March 2019

The Adults by Caroline Hulse (Light, but fun – considering someone gets shot with an arrow.)
Atomic Habits by James Clear (About on par with the other books on habits I’ve read. Little steps add up.)
The Blue Zones Solution by Dan Buettner (Confirms the dietary choices we’ve made so that’s good.)
Bluenoser’s Book of Slang by Vernon Oickle (A good portion of which is just slang, not really Bluenoser-specific.)
Conan Doyle for the Defense by Margalit Fox (Super interesting.)
Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith (Spoiler alert: she gets rid of a bunch of accessories.)
Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher (Made me glad no one has ever asked me for a letter of recommendation.)
Design Your Next Chapter by Debbie Travis (She seems easygoing and relatable, but I didn’t learn much.)
The End of Procrastination by Petr Ludwig and Adela Schicker (Quite good. I took notes.)
Erebus by Michael Palin (Really good.)
Gmorning Gnight by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Tweets for people who like rhymes and repetition.)
Historic House Names of Nova Scotia by Joseph M.A. Ballard (Need to name this place, stat.)
Let’s Go Exploring: Calvin and Hobbes by Michael Hingston (I wish I’d spent the time re-reading the actual cartoon instead.)
The Mating Season by P.G. Wodehouse (Can’t go wrong with a Wodehouse.)
Milk Street Tuesday Nights by Christopher Kimball (Too meaty for us.)
Minimalist Baker’s Everday Cooking by Dana Shultz (After two minutes of perusing the library copy, I knew I had to buy my own copy. So I did.)
Nobody Cares by Anne T. Donahue (Enjoyable in that confessional-essay sort of way.)
Ottolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi (I really should give eggplant another try.)
Simple Times by Amy Sedaris (The audiobook version. She is great, but her co-narrator didn’t do it for me.)
Small Space Style by Whitney Leigh Morris (Could my family live in a tiny house less than 400 square feet? No.)
Son of a Critch by Mark Critch (The audiobook version because the accent makes it.)
Witnesses to a New Nation by The Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia (Old houses, oh yeah.)
The Woo-Woo by Lindsay Wong (Totally fascinating.)

sigh

So it’s officially spring. Whoopee. Spring is nice for about seven minutes and then it’s all biting insects, allergies and incessant roadwork everywhere you go. Even worse is that spring is the slippery slope to summer. Which is the worst.

Reverse SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a real thing and I have it. As the temperature and hours of daylight slowly climb in March and April, I experience the same impending doom regular SADists (that can’t be right) must feel in October and November as the days grow shorter and colder. June, July and August are my December, January and February: months I need to white-knuckle my way through, nauseous and headachy, cursing this stupid, hot country I live in and literally counting down the days until I can look at a pair of pants without bursting into flames. By late September, I begin to see the (thankfully dim) light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s always still uncomfortably warm until October, when I’m back to my usual self, rejoicing that the monster has been defeated for another year.

For five straight months, I’m preoccupied by my futile attempt at keeping the house as cool and dark as possible by closing the blinds and drapes that a certain unnamed ignoramus keeps opening in our passive-aggressive tug of war. I go outside only when absolutely necessary. (It’s never necessary.) I sit in front of a fan, daydreaming about being a reverse snowbird, fleeing the heat and humidity for a cool, cloudy environment where it’s never too hot for a cup of tea, I don’t sweat sitting still and I can dress with some semblance of dignity.

The most depressing part of all this, of course, is that it’s the exact opposite of what the vast majority of other people are doing and feeling all summer long. Having winter SAD gets you sympathy, commiseration and a hot tip about where to buy a light therapy box on sale. Having summer SAD gets you mockery and scepticism. From everyone, including the winter SAD people, who have forgotten what it’s like to feel persecuted by the weather.

No, I don’t think I’d feel better with ‘a bit of a tan.’ Yes, I am going to wear a gigantic sunhat and a men’s XXL white dress shirt if I risk a trip to the beach, which I guarantee will not be between the hours of ten a.m. and four p.m. No, I definitely do not want to eat outdoors. Yes, I do own not one but two pairs of enormous, wraparound sunglasses that fit over my regular clip-on sunglasses. No, I’m not joking, I really do hate those bloody endless days when it’s still light out at nine o’clock at night. Yes, I often wish my Cameron ancestors had managed to stick it out in the misty highlands of Scotland where wool is always the right choice.

So yeah, great, woohoo, it’s spring. See you in October.

I feel bad about your book

I usually try to keep my big mouth shut about books I don’t enjoy, primarily because I can’t imagine how disheartening it must be to pour months and years of work into something, only to have it torn to shreds by a bunch of know-nothing blobs like me.

Instead, if asked my opinion on anything I don’t care for, I use my mother’s diplomatic line: ‘I’m just not the intended audience.’ I like this because it isn’t insulting the intelligence or taste of people who do like that book/movie/show/band/painting/fashion trend and it acknowledges that things can be good even if I don’t like them.

I read a lot, but life is short and reading time is precious, so I steer clear of works I’m 99.99% sure will not be to my liking, no matter how popular they may be. Like 50 Shades of Grey. Or Harry Potter. Or anything that has a cover bearing a shirtless man wearing a kilt. Sorry, but I am not the intended audience.

Every once in a while, however, a book slips through the net and I am astounded by my dislike for something I thought I’d enjoy. Like I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron, which I finally got around to last week. It’s been in my reading queue for the entire thirteen years since its publication and based on all the great reviews and its presence on countless lists of ‘Top 10 Humour Titles’, I thought it would be a sure thing. Nope.

It turns out that despite also being a middle-aged white woman with a not-so-great neck, I am not her intended audience. The endless stream of procedures, grooming appointments and expensive creams and potions she describes as if they are all a necessity? Depressing. (And I don’t mean ‘oh, isn’t it depressing we women require all these interventions to keep looking passable,’ but that she seems to think that’s the case.) Griping about her enormous NYC apartment with rent that costs more per month than many people (including me) make in a year? Tone-deaf. Reminiscing how outrageously fat she grew when she went off to university and soared to (gasp) 125 pounds? Shut up.

Making the whole experience worse was that I listened to the audiobook version, read by the author herself. She…speaks…slowly. So slowly I kept looking for a way to play it at 1.25 speed. And she…approaches…a…punchline…by…slowing….down….even….more…..and……making……her……last……word……….[almost inaudible]. It made me crazy.

I know, I know, for someone who started this post bragging about keeping my snarky opinions to myself, this whole thing took an awfully negative turn. But believe me that even though Ephron died in 2012 and it’s impossible to hurt her feelings, I still feel a bit squeamish about openly criticising her work like this and I’ve been dithering for days about whether to say anything.

Is there value in sharing bad reviews and negative opinions? I’m not sure. Do I feel a teensy bit better about blurting my two cents? Actually, yes. Yes, I do.

what I read in February 2019

A Bird on Every Tree by Carol Bruneau
After Many Years: Twenty-One Long Lost Stories by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Becoming by Michelle Obama
The Big Three Knitting Techniques by Ann-Mari Nilsson
Bird Migration: The Incredible Journeys of North American Birds by Stan Tekiela
Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley
Mr Wilkinson’s Vegetables by Matt Wilkinson
Set for the Holidays by Anna Olson
Shrewed by Elizabeth Renzetti
Skeletons in My Closet: Life Lessons from a Homicide Detective by Dave Sweet and Sarah Graham
You Are a Badass Every Day by Jen Sincero