Brief reviews of books by contemporary authors I read this month — along with photos of what I ate while reading. The list is ordered by the level of my enjoyment:

Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere but Here by Angela Palm (Graywolf, 2016)

“I was well acquainted with the sensation of exterior isolation and interior energy, of the power in that juxtaposition.”
A girl grows up in a poor rural Indiana town, in love with the sweet boy next door — who ends up killing two people while strung out on heroin and gets sentenced to life in prison. Two kids, a childhood romance, two divergent paths, a lifetime of desire, unanswered questions, longing — This memoir gave me all the feels! I’m so honored to have gotten the chance to read with Angela Palm at Book Soup earlier this month!

Michelle Ross Theres so much they haven't told you

There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You by Michelle Ross (Moon City, 2017)

“There is a part of me that knows I probably won’t feel so good about this in the morning, but for now I’m spinning with desire. It’s like I’m all tentacles, a giant squid. Give me, give me, give me.”
My full review of Michelle Ross’s short story collection is now up at The Rumpus! Enjoy —

The Neighborhod by Kelly Magee (Gold Wake, 2016)

“Sometimes the girl did things without questioning why she was doing them, even though she knew the thing she was doing was exactly the kind of thing she should question.”
Kelly’s book is full of modern myths and fairy tales and surreal events in quiet neighborhoods and small philosophical moments. It was so fun reading with her at Village Books in Bellingham — Thanks to all who came to the event!

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016)

“Achieving the extraordinary is not a linear process. The secret is to show up, do the work, and go home.”
This gigantic tome is mostly words of wisdom from inspiring people Tim has interviewed on his podcast. The above quote comes from Coach Sommer — and it reminds me to just write every day, without worrying about the end result or what will happen with the writing —

The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes (Knopf, 2016)

“In this book, the focus is specifically on the role of sugar in our diet…. It implies that populations or individuals can be at the very least reasonably healthy living on carbohydrate-rich diets, even grain-rich diets, as long as they consume relatively little sugar.”
I’m glad Gary Taubes has gone from advocating low-carb to just low-sugar in his latest book! I personally need moderate healthy carbs to feel good, have energy, support adrenals & hormones — but refined / processed sugar is something else. The Case Against Sugar is still a bit extreme, making the case that sugar’s a big factor behind not just diabetes and obesity but also dementia, cancer, and other slow developing diseases…. In any case, it’s a pretty motivating book if you’re trying to cut down on the white stuff —

Adventures in Property Management by Chelsea Werner-Jatzke (Sibling Rivalry, 2017)

“The building began to reek of us and the pheromones drove the dogs wild.”
I got to read with Chelsea at Stories in Echo Park earlier — Thanks to everyone who came! — then read Chelsea’s chapbook of stories: It’s a moody yet hilarious narrative about the manager and inhabitants of a building whose owners are distant and unresponsive — leading to apocalyptic consequences!

Assisted Living by Gary Lutz (Future Tense, 2017)

“I’ll let my life live me.”
Gary Lutz’s slim chapbook is poetic and wry, with four stories focused mostly on the aftermath of divorce. It’s short enough to read over an acai bowl!

Power Made Us Swoon by Brynn Saito (Red Hen, 2016)

“We are the hours. The hours are us.”
Brynn’s poems feature a witty woman warrior — and touch everything from the legacy of Japanese internment camps to the lulling power of television. I read with Brynn at Diesel Oakland earlier this month, along with the author of the next book —

Birds of Paradise Lost by Andrew Lam (Red Hen, 2013)

“But everyone’s ruled by some kind of desire.”
Andrew Lam’s stories center around Vietnamese immigrants in the Bay Area — sad stories of suffering, cultural conflict, and small moments of connection.

Dietland by Sarai Walker (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015)

“I spent my days tiptoeing around food, the way one might tiptoe into a baby’s room while it’s sleeping.”
I picked this one up for The Edison Book Club. This novel’s about an obese girl called Plum who’s dieting and planning on a gastric bypass — who meets a mysterious group of women waging war against the diet industry. It’s painful to see Plum’s futile dieting efforts, which goes in a clear starve-binge starve-binge cycle — You want to shake her and say, girl, you can’t lose weight by starving yourself! While I was glad to see a book written from the perspective of an empowered large woman, this book’s unrelentingly negative portrayal of basically all men really troubled me, among other issues with character and plot.


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