Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson, Tavia Gilbert (Narrator): An Unusual Mother and Son are at the center of this charming family drama.

Be Frank With Me

Be Frank With Me

by Julia Claiborne Johnson, Tavia Gilbert (Narrator)

Unabridged Audiobook, 8 hrs, 37 mins.
Harper Audio, 2016

Read: January 16-22, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!


A few decades ago, M. M. Banning took the literary world by storm with her first (and, so far, only) novel, married a movie star just before his career died, and then vanished from the public eye. Her novel is still imposed upon students throughout the country/taught in High School.

Banning’s recently hit some financial woes and has reluctantly contracted with her publisher to produce a second novel. To help Banning, her editor sends his personal assistant, Alice, out to L.A. to live with her, digitize her pages, do some minor cleaning, and help out with Banning’s son, Frank.

Alice quickly learns that there’ll be no discussion of (much less seeing and/or digitizing) the book’s progress, but essentially she’ll be Frank’s caretaker, freeing Banning to work on the novel.

The thing is, Frank’s . . . um, a handful. The word “Autism” is never used (I’m 97% sure), nor is any other diagnostic term. But I’d be willing to bet he’s on the spectrum somewhere—think Don Tillman (from the Rosie books). He has a lack of affect, trouble sleeping, an almost encyclopedic knowledge of classic Hollywood films (1930s-60s, let’s say)—which is where all his slang and fashion sense comes from, an amazing memory for things outside of films, and no sense of humor. Frank’s social circle consists of his mother, his school’s secretary (he eats lunch in her office and talks movies with her), his therapist, and a piano teacher/handyman who sporadically appears at the house. How Banning made it through the first nine years of his life is beyond Alice’s comprehension, and she’s not sure how she’ll survive however long it’ll take Frank’s mother to write her book.

Banning herself is pretty socially awkward (whether this is due to constant exposure to Frank, hiding from the rabid public, or just the way she’s been her whole life) and rarely treats Alice like anything but a pest. This whole endeavor is a real trial for Alice, who handles it fairly well (better than I would have, I can say with a great deal of certainty).

The novel is essentially about Alice trying to navigate the mine-field that is dealing with Banning and struggling to connect with Frank and help him develop a social skill or three.

I enjoyed Frank’s character—he’s like Bernadette Fox without the dangerous wit (in a way, so is his mother) mixed with the aforementioned Don Tillman. Banning herself grates a little bit, but I’m almost positive she’s supposed to. Alice is a strong character, as well—she’s not sure what her role is supposed to be, but she keeps trying to do what’s needed. Her response to the imposed social isolation is both realistic, understandable and relatable. I really enjoyed spending time with Alice and Frank, particularly once Frank warmed a little to her.

There’s a good deal of foreshadowing throughout the book to a calamitous event, and once it happens the novel resolves fairly quickly. I don’t think the novel concludes as much as it stops, and that bothered me (it still does, actually)—I’d prefer a better sense of what will happen to any of the characters after the book ends (whether one day, one year, or a decade after—I’m clueless all around).

Gilbert’s narration was impressive—it’d be impressive if only for her delivery of Frank’s dialogue. She perfectly grasps his lack of affect, patterns (and speed) of speech, as well as the ineffable charm that’s part of his character.

Be Frank With Me is a charming novel that faltered a little at the end, but the pleasures of the journey was still worth the time. I’ll keep my eyes out for something else by both Johnson and Gilbert and will gladly give them another try. I expect most readers will enjoy their time with Frank and Alice (and many won’t agree with me about the ending).


3.5 Stars

2020 Library Love Challenge

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

Stone Cold Magic by Jayne Faith, Amy Landon (Narrator): Meet The City of Trees’ Resident Demon Hunter

Stone Cold Magic

Stone Cold Magic

by Jayne Faith, Amy Landon (Narrator)
Series: Ella Grey, #1

Unabridged Audiobook, 8 hrs., 28 mins
Tantor Audio, 2017

Read: January 23-25, 2020

In 2001, a dimensional rift opens up in New York City, and all sorts of strange things come from out of it—demons, a virus that turns people into vampires, a zombie virus, and other assorted supernatural strangeness.

Thirty years later, Ella Gray is a Demon Patrol officer with modest magical ability. Her role is to keep her patrol area clean of minor demons that are little more than annoyances—there are more powerful officers in charge of taking down bigger threats. One day she and her partner try to take out some small demons only to find out there’s a much bigger and more powerful demon in the building, too. In the following fracas, Ella and her partner are mortally wounded. Her partner dies, and Ella does, too. But her death doesn’t stick and she wakes up in the morgue.

A few weeks later, she’s back to work—she’s having strange visions, has a new partner (with a mysterious past and more magical power than she’s ever seen), a supervisor that seems pretty antagonistic to her and, well…life has become stranger than she thought possible. She finds herself investigating what seems to be a gargoyle possessed by a demon and somehow the gargoyle has imprisoned a human inside it, too. (don’t worry if you can understand it, no one in the book can at first, either).

Ella enlists help from a very human PI with all sorts of nifty gadgets that can help on the supernatural front; a political activist always in search of a new cause to take up; her best friend, a pretty powerful mage; and a supernaturally-inclined mutt. No, really. The dog is a lot like Walt Longmire’s Dog, just with freaky eyes and an apparent talent for protecting Ella from magical attacks. (some anyway). Such things ought to be encouraged whenever they’re encountered, and I hope this will work in the dog’s favor.

The novel’s focus is setting up the world and looking at the tensions between various aspects of Ella’s life and the characters around her. Although Faith tells a pretty good story along the way, I just can’t help but think that it comes in second to setting up the overarching series stories.

I really enjoyed Faith’s take on vampirism and zombies. It’s a nice blend of vaguely-science-y with the supernatural. I have many questions (that I assume will be answered in the ensuing books) about the demons and magic—and just about everything that goes bump in the night, I guess—in this particular world, but initially I’m buying in

I’m not saying that Faith borrowed (intentionally, anyway) from other UF series, but I had an impulse throughout to say “Oh, she got X from Kim Harrison,” “And that bit is from Sarah Kuhn,” “Is that Butcher or Strout there?” and so on. If she did, more power to her—she picked some good influences—and she took those elements, shuffled them up and put her spin on them. If she didn’t, all the better—fans of the things I think were influences will find plenty to like here. My gut instinct is to say that Faith is a student of Urban Fantasy and has read widely within it so she can produce something that draws from the best. Ignore the voice of the cynic and enjoy this book.

To be honest, I wasn’t looking for a new UF series (I’m always open to one, however), but a friend at work emailed me, wondering if I was familiar with this Urban Fantasy series that appears to be set in Boise of all places. This piqued my interest, and as I’d just finished an audiobook, I figured I’d take this one out for a spin. Now, this may come as a surprise to you, but Boise (and the general area) isn’t exactly a popular setting for fiction. I can think of a tiny handful of books that have a character stepping foot in the town, but only two (this and Kolokowski’s Boise Longpig Hunting Club) that actually portray the city in a recognizable fashion. Faith clearly knows Boise—her use of local names and locations testifies to that, and for those familiar with the city, we can easily see the action and movement of characters in it. Which is an added bit of fun, if only for the novelty. This isn’t to say that people who don’t know Boise will be lost or won’t be able to enjoy it—it’s like any other novel set in a city that’s not commonly used. Who doesn’t like getting to see a novel set somewhere that’s not NYC, Washington DC, Chicago, LA, SF, etc? Briggs’ use of the Tri-Cities in Washington, Vaughn’s Denver, Carey’s Pemkowet, Michigan; Hearne’s (all-too-brief) use of Tempe, AZ, and, now, Faith’s use of Boise.

(If—and this is a big if—Jayne Faith happens to be reading this, I’d love the opportunity to ask you a few questions about your choice of—and use of—Boise. Feel free to drop me a line!)

Landon does a fine job with the narration. I can’t really think of much more to say—I didn’t hear anything remarkably good (nor, remarkably bad) Simply a strong, capable narration to help listeners to get invested into the characters and story.

I really enjoyed this introduction to the Ella and the rest, the magic and the world Faith has put them in. I have a pretty good idea where some of the stories she’s set up are going, and am looking forward to watching them develop. At the same time, I also look forward to Faith showing me that she has a better idea for them than I assume. It’s a solid Urban Fantasy story with an unconventional setting. You should give it a shot.


3.5 Stars
2020 Library Love Challenge

Junkyard Cats by Faith Hunter, Khristine Hvam: Hunter tries SF with Predictably Entertaining Results

Junkyard Cats

Junkyard Cats

by Faith Hunter, Khristine Hvam (Narrator)

Audiobook, 5 hrs., 2 min.
Audible Original, 2020

Read: January 3-6, 2020


Faith Hunter dips her toe into SF with this Audible Original, and leaves quite an impression. The distinctive Hutner-flair is there, with science-y stuff replacing the magic stuff. It works pretty well.

Shining Smith is a veteran, of a handful of things, really. This takes place in the near-future, following a World War and another one (called the Final War in an act of aspirational nomenclature, I assume). She lives in/runs a scrapyard left to her by her father with a few cats and another vet recovering from trauma.

Shining deals on both sides of the law through intermediaries—no one knows her or who she is beyond those. It’s a perfectly safe environment.

Not a nice one, not a fulfilling one, but a safe one. And in her world, that’s asking a lot.

Until one day, one of her intermediaries shows up at her scrapyard dead. And then a very strong suspect for killing him shows up. And things get worse from there.

The action scenes are cool—filled with all the kinds of things that the best SF action scenes are filled with. The future-tech is cool, completely foreign to reality, yet it seems like the kind of thing that would emerge from our current tech.

I liked Shining, we don’t get to know her much. She’s such the riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, that it’s hard to get a real handle on her—but we get enough to root for her and want to know her better. Her compatriots are intriguing—as well-rounded as characters can get in this limited space where everyone is lying to each other about who and what they are.

There were a couple of SF-brand/tech names (like The Tyrell Corporation or tricorder) that I really couldn’t understand what Hvam was saying. Against the spirit of an “Audible Original,” but I’d like to read this so I could get a handle on those things. Which isn’t saying that Hvam didn’t do a great job—as per usual, her narration is top-notch.

My only complaint (outside of the tech words I couldn’t decipher), is the brevity, we get the good story, but we don’t get any depth—it’s like it’s designed to make you want more. Hey, wait a second . . .

A fun action-packed story that’ll whet your appetite for more. This is a glimpse into a cool world and I love what Hunter has created here. Yeah, I’m only going with 3 Stars for this. There’s a lot of potential in this world and with these characters—if Hunter returns to this? I can easily see this becoming a favorite series. It’s fine as a stand-alone, and it doesn’t demand a series/sequel but I think to really appreciate everything she set-up here, we need a little more. I’m not sure that makes sense, but…it’s what I can do.


3 Stars

Clearing the Deck: Tweet-length thoughts about books I can’t find time to write about

Yeah, I have a daunting TBR stack, but I also have too many books on my “Too Write About” pile, and it’s bugging me. So, I’m cutting myself some slack, and am clearing the deck of everything from 2019 and before that I haven’t made time for. This was painful to do, I was looking forward to writing about most of these, but I’m just not going to get to them–and the 2020 books are starting to pile up, too. So, in 144 characters or less, here’s me cutting myself some slack.

(Click on the cover for an official site with more info)

Rivers of London: Detective Stories
3.5 Stars
Rivers of London, Volume 4: Detective Stories by Andrew Cartmel, Ben Aaronovitch, Lee Sullivan
Brief flashbacks showing what Peter et al. get up to between novels/comic series. A fun idea, well executed. Would enjoy another one like this.
Cry Fox
3.5 Stars
Rivers of London Volume 5: Cry Fox by Andrew Cartmel, Ben Aaronovitch, Lee Sullivan
This was a lot of fun, and showed a new side of a cool recurring character.
Rivers of London: Action At A Distance
3 Stars
Rivers of London: Action At A Distance by Andrew Cartmel, Ben Aaronovitch, Brian Williamson, Stefani Renne
A serial killer hunt and Nightingale backstory. Great combo.

(some nice Molly material, too)

Geerhardus Vos: Reformed Biblical Theologian, Confessional Presbyterian
4 Stars
Geerhardus Vos: Reformed Biblical Theologian, Confessional Presbyterian by Danny E. Olinger
A biography and a discussion of his Vos’ major works. This was an excellent way to gear up for my 2019 Vos reading. Inspirational stuff.
The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant
3 Stars
The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant by Drew Hayes, Kirby Heyborne (Narrator)
A light Urban Fantasy about misfit monsters. Enjoyable enough to come back for more.
Open Season
4 Stars
Open Season by C. J. Box, David Chandler (Narrator)
Series Debut about a WY Game Warden with a nose for mystery. Loved the dual POVs (Pickett, his daughter). Addicting.
Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain
3 Stars
Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Supervillain by Richard Roberts, Emily Woo Zeller (Narrator)
A cute story about kids of super-heroes/super-villains trying to get started in the biz without their parents’ involvement. Went on longer than it needed to, but fun enough to try volume 2.
Dragon Blood
3 Stars
Dragon Bones by Patricia Briggs, Joe Manganiello (Narrator)
Manganiello is a great choice for narrator. Nice little stand-alone fantasy story. Great dragons.
Savage Run
3.5 Stars
Savage Run by C. J. Box, David Chandler (Narrator)
Almost as good as the first Pickett novel. Mrs. Pickett gets to shine here, too. I’m so glad I finally got to this series.
Inkheart
3 Stars
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, Lynn Redgrave (Narrator)
Gets a bit redundant, but I loved the concept. Better than the movie (which I kind of liked), but still could’ve been better.
Undeath and Taxes
3 Stars
Undeath and Taxes by Drew Hayes, Kirby Heyborne (Narrator)
A little better than the first volume, an enjoyable way to spend a few hours.
Dragon Bones
3 Stars
Dragon Blood by Patricia Briggs, Joe Manganiello (Narrator)
OK, so Dragon Bones wasn’t a stand-alone. Could’ve been, but it was nice to get a little more with these characters/this world. Still, give me a Briggs Urban Fantasy above this.
The Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ in the Westminster Standards
4 Stars
The Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ in the Westminster Standards by Alan D. Strange
I love this series. Strange packs so much material into this tiny package. Excellent stuff.
Badlands
3 Stars
Badlands by C. J. Box, January LaVoy (Narrator)
Cassie takes over The Highway series and moves to a new Oil Town in North Dakota. Midwest Winter, Drugs, Murder, Corruption and Too Much Money wreak havoc on her first week on the job.
Zombie Spaceship Wasteland (Audiobook)
3.5 Stars
Zombie Spaceship Wasteland: A Book by Patton Oswalt (Audiobook)
The memoir chapters are nice, the comedic bits are odd (and funny). An interesting look at Oswalt.
No Sweat
3 Stars
No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness by Michelle Segar, Ph.D.
A great way to look at keeping (or getting) yourself motivated to exercise.

My Favorite Crime/Mystery/Detective/Thriller Fiction of 2019

Once I settled on dividing this chunk of my reading out for its own list, I knew instantly half of the books that’d make it before I even looked at my reading log. After my first cut (which was pretty hard), I had 20+ candidates for the other 5 spots. Whittling those down was difficult, but I’m pretty comfortable with this list. That doesn’t mean the other 90 or so books I read in this family of genres were bad—most were really good and worth the time (sure, a handful should be missed, but let’s forget about them). But these are the crème de la crème.

Not all of these were published in 2019—but my first exposure to them was. As always, I don’t count re-reads, or almost no one could stand up to Stout, early Parker, etc. and my year-end lists would get old fast.

I should say that I was a little worn out by the time I composed a lot of this and ended up borrowing heavily from my original posts. Hope you don’t mind reruns.
(in alphabetical order by author)

Deep Dirty TruthDeep Dirty Truth

by Steph Broadribb

My original post
Lori is kidnapped by the same Mob that wants her dead, giving her basically two choices—do a job for them or else they’re coming for JT and Dakota. Nothing about this book went the way I expected (beginning with the premise), it was all better than that. I had a hard time writing anything about this book that I hadn’t said about the first two in the series. Broadribb’s series about this tough, gritty bounty hunter (who is not close to perfect, but she’s persistent, which is easier to believe) started off strong and remains so.

4 Stars

ThirteenThirteen

by Steve Cavanagh

My original post
One of the best serial killer antagonists I can remember reading. A breakneck pace. An intricately plotted novel. An already beloved protagonist. Genuine surprises, shocking twists, and a couple of outstanding reveals make this fourth Eddie Flynn novel a must-read (even if you haven’t read any previous installments).

5 Stars

Black SummerBlack Summer

by M. W. Craven

My original post
It’s hard to avoid hyperbole in a Best-Of post like this, it’s harder still when talking about this book. But I just did some math, and Black Summer is in the top 1% of everything I read last year—the writing, the plot, the pacing, the tension, the protagonists, the villain(s), the supporting characters are as close to perfect as you’re going to find. The first note I made about this book was, I’m “glad Craven gave us all of zero pages to get comfy before getting all morbid and creepifying.” It’s pretty relentless from there—right up until the last interview, which might elicit a chuckle or two from a reader enjoying watching a brilliant criminal get outsmarted. It’s dark, it’s twisted, and it’s so much fun to read.

5 Stars

An Accidental DeathAn Accidental Death

by Peter Grainger, Gildart Jackson (Narrator)

My original post
Grainger’s DC Smith couldn’t be more different than Craven’s DS Poe if he tried, and these two books feel so different that it seems strange to talk about them at the same time. What’s the same? How easily they get the reader invested in their protagonists. How easily they get you plunged into their world and caring about what they care about. Grainger has a nice, subtle style (with even subtler humor) that made this novel sheer pleasure to read (well, listen to, in this case).

4 Stars

Dead InsideDead Inside

by Noelle Holten

My original post
When I was about halfway through this novel, I wrote, “While I’m loving every second of this book, I’m having a hard time shaking the bleak outlook on life and humanity that seems to be part and parcel of this novel…Seriously, read a few pages of this book and see if you’re not willing to replace humanity as the apex predator with something careful and considerate—like rabid pit bulls or crack-smoking hyenas.” This is not an easy read thanks to the characters and circumstances, later I wrote, “This isn’t the cops dealing with a larger-than-life genius serial killer—rather, it’s the everyday reality for too many. Just this time tinged with a spree killer making a grim circumstance worse for some. It’s a gripping read, a clever whodunit, with characters that might be those you meet every day. As an experience, it’s at once satisfying and disturbing—a great combination for a reader. You won’t read much this year that stacks up against Dead Inside and you’ll join me in eagerly awaiting what’s coming next from Holten.” I can’t put it better than that.

5 Stars

Deception CoveDeception Cove

by Owen Laukkanen

My original post
I heard someone describe this as Laukkanen writing fan-fic about his dog Lucy. Which is funny, and pretty much true. From the setup to the execution and all points in between, Deception Cove delivers the goods. Anyone who read just one of his Stevens and Windermere books knows that Laukkanen can write a compelling thriller with great characters. In these pages, he shows that in spades—you take a couple of characters that could easily be cardboard cutouts and instead makes them three-dimensional people with depth, flaws, and a relatability—and throw them into a great thriller. What more could anyone want? A wonderful dog. Guess what? He’s got one of those, too. Leaving the reader wanting little more than a sequel.

4 Stars

HackedHacked

by Duncan MacMaster

My original post
Duncan MacMaster is a new (for me) go-to author if I need someone to break me out of a gloomy mood because of books like this. Clever, well-plotted, and filled with more laughs than some “Humor” books I read this year. It also features what’s probably the best secondary character from 2019. Take out the humor (for the sake of argument here, don’t you dare do that really) and this is still a smartly-plotted and well-executed mystery novel. Adding in the humor makes this a must-read.

4 1/2 Stars

The ChainThe Chain

by Adrian McKinty

My original post
There was enough hype around this that I can see where some of my blogger acquaintances were let down with the reality. But McKinty’s breakout novel absolutely worked for me. The tension is dialed up to 11, the pacing is relentless, the stakes are high enough that the reader should make sure their blood pressure prescriptions are filled. The Chain is as compelling and engrossing as you could want. It’s a near-perfect thriller that doesn’t let up. Winslow calls it “Jaws for parents.” He’s right—I can’t imagine there’s not a parent alive who can read this without worrying about their kids, and reconsidering how closely to track their movements and activities.

4 1/2 Stars

Black MossBlack Moss

by David Nolan

My original post
This is one of those books that the adjective “atmospheric” was invented for. There’s an atmosphere, a mood, an undercurrent running through this book. Hopelessness surrounds the so many of these characters. Wretched also works to describe the feeling. You really don’t notice the time you spend in this book, it swallows your attention whole and you keep reading, practically impervious to distractions. Yes, you feel the harsh and desolate atmosphere, but not in a way that puts you off the book. The mystery part of this book is just what you want—it’s complex, it’ll keep you guessing and there are enough red herrings to trip up most readers. As far as the final reveal goes, it’s fantastic—I didn’t see the whole thing until just a couple of pages before Nolan gave it to us. But afterward you’re only left with the feeling of, “well, of course—what else could it have been?” And then you read the motivation behind the killing—and I don’t remember reading anything that left me as frozen as this did in years. There’s evil and then there’s this. This is a stark, desolate book (in mood, not quality) that easily could’ve been borrowed (or stolen) straight from the news. Nolan’s first novel delivers everything it promises and more.

5 Stars

The Power of the Dog The CartelThe Power of the Dog / The Cartel

by Don Winslow

My original post about The Power of the Dog, The Cartel should be up soon.
There’s simply no way I can talk about one of these without the other, so I won’t. This is a fantastic story about a DEA Agent’s obsessive drive to take down one of the most powerful, deadly and successful Mexican Drug Cartels around, as well as a devastating indictment of the U.S.’s War on Drugs. Despite the scope and intricacy of the plot, these are not difficult reads. Despite the horrors depicted, they’re not overwhelming. In fact, there are moments of happiness and some pretty clever lines. Which is not to say there’s a light-hand, or that he ever treats this as anything but life-and-death seriousness. They’re not easy, breezy reads— but they’re very approachable. I don’t know if there’s a moment that reads as fiction, either—if this was revealed to be non-fiction, I would believe it without difficulty. I will not say that he transcends his genre to be “Literature,” or that he elevates his work or anything—but I can say that Winslow demonstrates the inanity of pushing Crime Fiction into some shadowy corner as not worthy of the attention of “serious” readers.

5 Stars

Books that almost made the list (links to my original posts): Flight of the Fox by Gray Basnight, Who Killed the Fonz? by James Boice, Killer Thriller by Lee Goldberg, Going Dark/Going Rogue by Niel Lancaster (can’t pick between the two), You Die Next by Stephanie Marland, The Killing State by Judith O’Reilly, Dead is Beautiful by Jo Perry, Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin, Paper Son by S. J. Rozan, and How To Kill Friends And Implicate People by Jay Stringer.

My Favorite 2019 Non-Fiction Reads

Like every single year, I didn’t read as much Non-Fiction as I meant to—but I did read a decent amount, more than I did in 2018 (by a whole percentage point, so…). These are the best of the bunch.

(alphabetical by author)

You Can Date Boys When You're FortyYou Can Date Boys When You’re Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About

by Dave Barry

My original post
Barry at his near-best. This reminded me for the first time in a few years why I became a life-long devotee in high school. I could relate to a lot of it, and what I couldn’t was just funny. His reaction to Fifty Shades was a highlight—the chapter about his family’s trip to Israel was fantastic, funny and moving.

4 Stars

Have You Eaten Grandma?Have You Eaten Grandma?: Or, the Life-Saving Importance of Correct Punctuation, Grammar, and Good English

by Gyles Brandreth

My original post
I remembered rating this higher, but I’m not going to second-guess myself now. I’ll steal from my original conclusion for this: It’s the kind of thing that my college-bound daughter could use on her dorm bookshelf (and will probably find), and I know more than a few people who find themselves writing reports and the like for work who could use something like that. If you need help, might as well have a good time while you’re at it—and Have You Eaten Grandma is just the thing.

3.5 Stars

Dreyer’s EnglishDreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style

by Benjamin Dreyer

I haven’t written a post about this yet, but it’s a great book. I can see why it was so popular this year—so much so that it got its own card game! The only more useful book I read in 2019 was the next one on the list. I’m not sure if I read something that made me laugh more. Fun, smart, incredibly quotable, and a resource you’ll return to time and time again.

5 Stars

How Not to DieHow Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease

by Michael Greger M.D. FACLM, Gene Stone

My original post
One of the doctors that I’m seeing this year recommended this book to me, and it’s literally been a life-changer. This is an information-packed resource. But it’s not dry—Greger tells this with humanity, wit and concern. It’s a great combination of theory and practice.

4 Stars

The Art of WarThe Art of War: A New Translation

by Sun Tzu, James Trapp (Translator)

My original post
The classic text about military strategy—a great combination of psychology and management. It’s simple and profound, and approachable enough that there’s no excuse for not reading it.

5 Stars

What the Dog Knows Young Readers EditionWhat the Dog Knows Young Readers Edition: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World

by Cat Warren, Patricia J. Wynne (Illustrator)

My original post
I loved the “adult” version of this a couple of years ago, and this is just as good—but edited so that middle-grade readers can tackle this exploration of the life of Working Dogs and their handlers.

4 Stars

Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan (Audiobook): Gaffigan’s Tribute to the Topic that Defines his Comedy

Food: A Love Story

Food: A Love Story

by Jim Gaffigan

Unabridged Audiobook, 7 hrs., 17 min.
Random House Audio, 2014

Read: December 11-13, 2019


This is largely what I said about the book in 2015, but I have a few more thoughts about Gaffigan’s book on parenting, Jim Gaffigan offers a book on his true strength: food.

As with Dad is Fat, a lot of this is material I’ve seen/heard elsewhere, but most of it isn’t. There’s more than enough original material to satisfy even those who’re familiar with has specials. I think, so anyway—I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of Gaffigan’s material, as much as my children want me to (I wouldn’t mind it, either).

On the whole, this is about what foods, dishes, and practices he likes—but he breaks it up with things he can’t stomach or understand. Sometimes, like with the chapter on Reuben sandwiches, he handles both.

The chapters on Coffee, Steak, Doughnuts, Breakfast, Hot Dogs and Bacon stand out particularly for me. Although the pair “Nobody Really Likes Fruit” and “Even Fewer People Like Vegetables” really amused me, even beyond the great titles.

Actually, there’s really nothing that didn’t amuse me.

Naturally, there’s an entire chapter devoted to Hot Pockets. That’s all I’m going to say about that, it speaks for itself.

Because the book is pretty tightly focused, there are two ways I’d recommend to read this book: in one setting, or broken up into tiny chunks over several days. There’s a danger of things getting repetitive that either of those tacks reduces.

I’m going to limit myself to just a few highlights, there’s quotable material on almost every page:

A.1. was always on the table when my dad would grill steaks. It seems everyone I knew had that same thin bottle of A.1. It always felt like it was empty right before it flooded your steak. Ironically, the empty-feeling bottle never seemed to run out. I think most people still have the same bottle of A.1. that they had in 1989. Once I looked at the back of a bottle of A.1. and was not surprised to find that one of the ingredients was “magic.”

Of course I am aware that doughnuts are bad, horrible things to eat, and according to my health-nut wife, they are not appropriate for a trail mix. I’ve repeatedly tried to explain to Jeannie that I’m on a different trail. Mine leads to the emergency room. Trail mixes have nuts, and my favorite nut is most definitely a doughnut.

In my opinion, however, the line of the book has nothing to do with food:

Bill Shakespeare himself, another actor who did some writing…

Listening to Gaffigan added a little more to the experience—sure, it’s easy to imagine him saying the same things, it’s another one to hear him do it. It’s not a superior experience to reading the book, but it’s an added flavor that makes it fresh even on the second exposure.

I’ve spent the last few months trying to change my eating habits, which made enjoying this celebration of unhealthy eating a little personally ironic (particularly for the 35 minutes I spent on a treadmill), but it still made me laugh. If you’re the kind of person who eats food, has opinions on it, and likes to laugh, pick yourself up a copy.


4 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge<Humor Reading Challenge 2019