The Drunken Botanist
by Amy Stewart
My free review copy came from ALA Midwinter. I was much more impressed with this than with Stewart’s earlier work. The bad part of reading the ARC was that there was no index (this is of course corrected in the published version) and I wanted to flip back and forth more. Lots of fascinating plant trivia here! Worth a look.
Teach Yourself Visually WordPress
by Janet Majure
I like the Teach Yourself Visually series quite a bit. I guess I’m a visual learner, I don’t know. The instructions herein are pretty clear, though this should really have been two books, one for the web-based free WordPress.com people and one for the self-hosted, because there are a lot of differences that I didn’t think got covered clearly in the text. It helped me quite a bit, though.
If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother
by Julia Sweeney
Sweeney is a very engaging memoirist. Her eye is clear and her prose is clean, and she’s just a fun and interesting person to read about. I really enjoyed getting to know her through these essays (the book reads more like a collection of essays than a linear memoir) and I’ll read whatever she writes in the future.
Beer: A Cookbook
by Kimberely Willis
The single star is for the recipes, which made me laugh because of the way they were rated. Easy, Medium, and Hard. Hard recipes included more than 3 steps, even when one of the steps was “open a can of beans.” The fun fact call-outs were recycled from every other beer book in the world. Give it a miss.
The Big Book of Hacks
by Popular Science
I wanted to do about 90% of the projects in this book. Sadly, only about 30% of them fall within my current skill level. Even if you don’t know which end of the screwdriver to hold, this is an engaging and interesting book. The photographs are clear and informative, the instructions mostly comprehensible to me, the list of resources exhaustive. Who doesn’t want custom-fit earbuds? Or a cardboard hammock? Or a foot-operated mouse, for Pete’s sake. So much cool stuff, just waiting for you to make it.
This is Portland
by Alexander Barrett
Cute enough that I was unable to leave it on the shelf at Powell’s, I needed to bring it home to install in my guest bedroom. The essay that made me laugh delightedly was the one about Portland traffic, because it was so, so true. It’s not the end-all travel guide to Portland, but it’ll do in a pinch.
Playing with Fire
by Bruce Hale
Reasonably engaging middle grade book that seems designed to appeal to kids hooked on adventure/spy stuff. Fairly predictable to me, but funny and fresh enough to hold my interest throughout. Spy school with interesting twists. No kissing! My free review copy came from ALA Midwinter.
by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo
Issue. Issue. Issue. Issue. This book is stuffed full of issues, what my friend Wendy calls “guidance counselor fiction” I think. Our protagonist is fat, unpopular, bullied, abused, maybe gay, has a lousy relationship with her mom, her brother is adopted and abusive, her sister is missing in Iraq. Lots and lots of slang done in what struck me as an obtrusive manner. If our protagonist hasn’t enough issues, no worries! We get secondary characters who include cutters, mean girls, clueless adults. There’s just too much going on here. The plot, when I could dig it out, was engaging enough, and Angie’s growth felt very believable. I wanted to like her, but the author buried her in so many issues it was too hard to care. My free review copy came from ALA Midwinter.
Emily’s Runaway Imagination
by Beverly Cleary
I loved this book so much, I have no idea why I was so resistant to reading it. I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to Ramona as well, i suspect because the first Cleary I ever read was one of those dreadful teenage romance things, and I read it at my most cynical, disaffected and obnoxious. So my default response to Cleary is “Oh, I hate her” but in reality, I mostly love all the books she wrote. Except the teenage romances. I think.
Anyway, Emily! Oh, how I loved Emily. She’s hilarious and delightful and awkward and so very real. Everyone should read this book. Even people who think they hate Beverly Cleary. Especially people who think they hate Beverly Cleary.
One Saint and Seven Sinners
by Ennen Reaves Hall
I picked this up at a rummage sale based on the author’s photograph, the jacket flaps and the fact that it was published by T.Y. Crowell, who rarely lets me down. I’m so glad I did, this was a delightful book. Hall’s dad was a preacher, an old school Baptist, and though she says that this is his story it’s much more the story of her indomitable little mother, who was a treat to get to know in these pages. Watching Mrs. Reaves face down the Ladies Aid Society is priceless. If you can find this, by all means, pick it up.