Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I’ve heard a lot more about her other (newer) book, A God in Ruins, which is also on my reading list, but because they’re sort of a series about a family (although not chronological) and Life After Life was written first, I chose to start there. I’m told it doesn’t matter which you read first, but I suspect I chose correctly. I think the context of Life After Life will make A God in Ruins even better.
Anyway, I really liked Life After Life. This explores the impact our choices have on our lives, but with a really interesting premise. This isn’t a spoiler, but Ursula dies a lot in this book. Each time she dies she starts her life completely over, but with only vague memories (feelings, really) to guide her to make different decisions next time. It’s structured in such a way that you aren’t hearing the same story over and over again, but there is just enough repetition to make it charming. And then there’s some history sprinkled in there (especially WWII) which I think adds a nice dimension to an otherwise very fictional story–she experiences the war though many different lenses throughout her lives. The ending isn’t terribly satisfying, but I do like the point it made–that this book isn’t so much about finally getting it right, but more about the infinite possibilities of our lives.
What Should I Read Next podcast. I’ve been following Anne Bogel’s blog (although it’s much more than a blog with her book database and daily Kindle deals) Modern Mrs. Darcy for a while, and she’s always blowing up my reading list (I heard about both Life After Life and God in Ruins from her). But more recently she’s started a literary matchmaking podcast. And although I think she’s got a few kinks to work out, I do enjoy it. She explains in length at the beginning of every episode (unnecessarily, I think–one of those kinks), but she has a guest tell her three books they love, one they hate, and what they’ve been reading lately. Then she recommends three books based on what they’ve told her. They discuss each book and what they both like or dislike about them, so it’s actually really helpful. There are a few episodes where I’m not interested in any of the books they talk about, but when the guest likes books I’ve also liked, it’s a goldmine.
(although it’s technically not baking) Coffee Cake in a Mug. I’ve made several variations of microwave mug cakes and they’re fine, but nothing that truly captures real cake or brownies. Probably because I use the recipes with no eggs, but I get nervous about the recipes that do call for eggs because undercooked eggs give me the willies (I’m looking at you, sunny-side-up). Anyway, this recipe calls for applesauce, which seems like a pretty good idea, but I didn’t feel like opening a whole bottle to use a few tablespoons. So I saw in the comments that sour cream (or Greek yogurt) also works in place of the applesauce, so I did that. And oh man. What a difference. It tasted like actual cake. Slightly more dense, but the flavor was perfect. It was a bit more work than the typical mug cake what with the struesel topping, but so worth it. It’s not ultra healthy, but I guess at least I’m not eating a whole pan of it, right? Right.