book reviews, crafts, cheap things…


Book Review: Walks with Men by Anne Beattie

Walks with men

I’d never heard of Anne Beattie when I picked this one up off of the bargain rack for $3. To be honest, I thought the picture on the front cover was kind of hot, and I was attracted to the pretension in the description on the back cover. I still really haven’t googled Beattie– though I did look up the Amazon reviews for this title. I only read the bad and mediocre reviews, but it seems like most of them are from readers who are otherwise big fans of her work. How happy I am to have started fresh!

This was a slick little snapshot (112 pages)– a detached but romantic (to a person who had yet to be born in the era she’s writing about) series of events in one of those relationships that takes over everything. The last third gets a little weird, but it’s ok because you’re not really attached to Jane, the protagonist. I got the feeling that I was reading a disguised memoir piece, but didn’t really get around to looking into it. on another hand, I also got the feeling that I was missing something big– like something symbolic or something that I really had to be there (NY in 1980) for.

Find  copy at the library

Book Review: Year of No Sugar: A Memoir by Eve Schaub

Year of no sugar : a memoir

I waited for-ev-er to get this book from the library. There were hundreds of holds, and for some reason our collections people only bought a handful of copies. I read through it in what felt like a matter of minutes, so the people behind me in the library holds line won’t have to wait as long as they thought…

I really, really love sugar. Give me sweet over savory or salty any day. I occasionally wonder if this is a bad thing, but then I reach for my daily dessert and all is forgotten… But really, as a person who’s now been vegan for half my life (and a picky eater my entire life), I’m all for reading about other people’s weird and nit-picky adventures with food.

The writing in this book is really quite good– Schaub is excellent with humor and sentence architecture. There were more than a few instances where I had to re-read sentences because I was so impressed with what she did with language. This surprised me. The story is decent– I’d hoped for a little more juicy personal information since the book has “Memoir” in the title, but I’ll live.

Was it worth the wait?  The book is an account of something that actually happened, so it’s not like Schaub can go back in time and change history to make a more compelling story with sharper ups and downs or a rock-solid conclusion. As a reader, you get some research, some anecdotes, some justifications, and some moments of realization. I never read the blog, but I felt like the book form was a little anti-climactic. But I guess life can be that way. Sigh.

I’ve read a number of memoirs of authors’ year-long special projects. What I can say, is that this one didn’t seem to get more tired as the months progressed. And that’s a plus, I guess. And it gets a gold star for not being a creepy weight-loss diet book.

get a copy here

Book Review: Ghost Songs by Andrew Demcak

Ghost songs

I was totally into this one. Sweet late-bloomer flute-prodigy teenage Todd shares a ghost (Leroy) with his BFF Jennifer. In the midst of dealing with his alcoholic (librarian!) mom, realizing his sexuality, learning about a secret with his BFF, embarking on a major treasure hunt-ish challenge,  (and more!), Todd learns exactly what the ghost is up to…

The writings good, the story kept me going, and there was a good bit of humor and dramatic irony nestled into the gravity of everything else. It’s different from the usual YA, which is pretty neat.

Get an ebook of it here, or see if your library has it

Book Review: Not That Kind Of Girl by Lena Dunham

Not that kind of girl : a young woman tells you what she's

When I learned a couple months ago that Lena Dunham was doing a speaking engagement in my city, I went straight to the “buy tickets now” page. The seats cost around $40 (+ fees, if I recall), so I wavered for a couple hours. I really don’t typically spend a lot of money on entertainment, so it seemed kind of expensive. But, I was feeling a little lonely and reasoned, I really don’t typically spend a lot of money on entertainment & a copy of the book is part of the ticket fee, so maybe I should do it! I turned on my computer, clicked the “buy tickets now” button, and found that within a couple hours, the other half of the theater had completely sold out. bummer.

So I waited in line for a library copy of the book, and just got it the other day. I like Dunham’s humor and work, and I liked the book too. Nothing in it really surprised me, but that’s ok. It’s a well-written collection of self-themed essays that will certainly amuse you for a couple of hours if you like the style of her work. The art by Payton Cosell Turner on the inside of the covers is pretty fantastic; In fact, the entire book is a pretty cute, kitschy design.

I don’t think I necessary relate to Dunham’s privileged life experience– I think my fondness is  more based in the idea that I think her candid style is important and kind of revolutionary. She’s made a career out of personal TMI’s, which I’m all for. Get a copy of the book here.

Book reviews: Travelly comics

So I read a bunch of stuff, then got really distracted. Here’s  a couple of the graphic novels.

RED EYE, BLACK EYE by K. Thor Jensen

Red eye, black eye

Grabbed this one from the library on a lunch break.

It’s the travelogue of a guy who gets dumped/fired/evicted, so he buys the legendary unlimited Greyhound pass and travels around the country. The protagonist seems like a big jerk, and I honestly found myself wondering how he’d ever attained a girlfriend (with his bad attitude and rape threats toward women at the bar) in the first place.  It really wasn’t the travel story that I wanted it to be. Reminded me a little too much of pretentious bro-art snobs living off their parents’ dime. But the whole thing was structured fine, and I liked the art. get a copy if you’re into that.

Truth is Fragmentary by Gabrielle Bell

Truth is fragmentary : travelogues & diaries

I waited for this one for a few months from the library. It’s mostly a travel diary as Bell moves between speaking engagements, readings, and sabbaticals out in the country. Bell has a peculiar knack to write/illustrate a daily diary in the most disconnected of ways. Like, a series of actions but not a chronicle of self. or something. I typically really like her work, but maybe it wasn’t the right time for me to read this one. At times I skipped parts because I felt bored, and at other times I was frustrated that she didn’t seem more excited about getting to travel to different places in the world. Call it envy if you need to. Regardless, much like real life, there were still moments that were delightful to read through. Like too-familiar bouts of awkwardness, for example.

Get one here or here.


Book Review: Adam by Ariel Schrag


About 25% into this book, I started to think Oh man, this book is hilarious but is gonna seriously ruffle some feathers.

(upon checking out the 1-stars on Amazon, the answer is yes! it did!)

The premise, alone, made people uncomfortable– and I’ll admit, is the reason why I waited for this book from the library instead of buying hot off the shelves of the store. Adam, a “typical” privileged hetero teenage boy from the ‘burbs in the Bay Area spends a Summer with his queer big sister in NYC. It turns out that her peers think he’s trans, so he plays it that way in order to get action with the older queer girls (and it works). It turns out that (even though this book definitely treads some dangerous terrain in the trans and queer department, and what the characters say and do isn’t always politically correct or right) I could’ve bought the book and been ok about it.

If you’re a person who’s ever thought about internal and external queer politics and you can read through the description without getting upset, I recommend reading Adam. I didn’t always fall in love with the characters, their motives, or their actions– but they were a really good backdrop for Schrag’s smartly pointed critiques of elements of our queer culture, different layers of privilege, sometimes superficiality, and deeper “queer insider” knowledge (it’s written by a queer insider through the gaze of an outsider discovering it for the first time). Her writing is hilarious and interesting– in addition to great pointed critiques, there are also a lot of really great cringe-worthy moments that sometimes feel kind of universal.

check it out!


Book Review: Beyond the Pale Motel by Francesca Lia Block

I will always be a supporter of FLB. From my first library copy of Weetzie Bat when I was a kid maybe 20 years ago, I’ve been a loyal reader, buying almost everything of hers that comes out. She’s a master of place, she always constructs a character that I could/(want to) slip myself into. Her writing is simple-yet-intoxicating; the everyday seems magic, even in her books that don’t involve some kind of magical realism in the plot.

I enjoyed a lot of this book; the place was totally awesome, the attention to a gruesome American obsession was solid. I liked the characters, well enough (though I wanted a little more development). I totally hated the ending though– I wish something different had happened. I don’t know if this is petty of me (you know, not liking unpleasant endings). I also felt like everything wrapped up a little too quickly and conveniently. But maybe that’s the kind of book this was. And despite my crabbiness about the end, I still liked the rest of the journey– it took me somewhere that I don’ usually go with my reading choices (though I guess one could say that about the ending as well).

get a copy here!


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