Reviews by jamiemarie
Easter eggs!
When I first read the premise of Ready Player One I immediately jumped to the conclusion that it would be nothing but a mediocre copy of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, one of my beloved favorites. However, the stellar reviews (how could I not read a book described as a "nerdgasm"?) and the curious focus on 80s pop culture was enough to get me to place a hold. I'm so happy I did! If someone had told me that there was a book that was one part Snow Crash, one part Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and one large part a nostalgic trip through the video games, tv shows, movies and music of the 80s, I'd have been highly skeptical. Happily, this book delivered all those elements as well as some likeable characters and a fantastic, yet realistic world. Highly recommended for those interested in video games, the 80s and the role of technology in society.
The Heisig method
As a long time student of the Japanese language, I've tried various methods in the attempt to force my brain to learn and retain enough kanji to read a book or newspaper easily. However, around 500 or so kanji I would rapidly start to forget many of the kanji I had learned earlier. After a while I pretty much gave up, until I was intrigued by all the praise I had started to hear about the "Heisig method" of kanji learning. What sets this method apart (and you can read a more detailed explanation of it in the preview) is that it separates the learning of the meaning of the kanji and the readings/pronunciation of the kanji. Instead of the rote memorization of kanji and their readings, it focuses on fluently producing the kanji through the use of imaginative memory, aka creating stories based on the meaning of the parts of the kanji.

In volume one of this series you learn the meanings of over 2,000 kanji, however you wouldn't be able to articulate those meanings in Japanese without supplemental study. Volume two covers the various readings, grouping kanji into families of sound. Still, even with this second book under your belt, it is unlikely that you will have developed a significant vocabulary in Japanese since there are many words that aren't represented by a single kanji. Therefore, vocabulary study outside of kanji study is necessary to gain a large enough
vocabulary to be literate.

So is this book worth it? Speaking from my own experiences, I am delighted that with this book I've now finally re-reached and surpassed the 500 mark and feel relatively confident of retaining what I've learned so far. However, there are some significant drawbacks to this all-or-nothing course of study. If your goal is to start reading Japanese words immediately and you haven't already started building your Japanese vocabulary, this book will not help you. Only after you complete the book will you be able to enjoy the process of attaching vocabulary words and readings to characters. Another issue is that many of the keywords, or meanings, that Heisig has assigned to the kanji are optimized for ease of memorization and tend to stray from, or even completely change, the main or original meaning of the kanji. One more negative is that Heisig does not provide a thorough method of reviewing kanji in order to retain them. This is easily remedied though by the use of an SRS (spaced repetition system) or some other system of flashcards or reviewing.

On to the positives! The great thing is, when you finish this book you have over 2000 concepts for which you can readily produce a kanji out of thin air! You have already taken out half or more of the work out of completely mastering the common use kanji. Another positive is that this method makes you very aware of the components of kanji. Unlike when you master kanji by rote, with meaningful knowledge of kanji components that you will gain through this method it is less likely that you will mix up similar kanji.

My advice to people who are looking to conquer the kanji and are considering this method is to review your priorities. If you are dedicated to reaching literacy in Japanese and are willing to delay the instant gratification of learning phrases and grammar points in order to build a base for literacy, this method is for you. For those who are more focused on developing conversational skills or basic grammar and vocabulary, this is not for you.

Good luck!
sweet and simple
Kitchen has for a long time been in my top ten of favorite books because of how touching it is without being sappy. The main character, Mikage, deals with the loss of her entire family by embracing her love of kitchens, food and the unlikely relationships she finds. I wouldn't really describe this as a foodie book or a romance, though it has elements of both. Banana Yoshimoto books (Kitchen in particular) are great for readers looking for something sweet and simple.
great casual gardening guide
As a complete beginner at gardening, I've recently taken out a lot of gardening books with the hope that I will be able to learn the mysteries of keeping a plant, any plant, alive for more than two months. Most of the gardening books I have perused are full of gorgeous pictures and a great deal of information, but I felt a bit lost when I had to take the first few steps.

Recommended to me by a friend, You Grow Girl had a very approachable, conversational style that I liked immediately when I started reading it. I also really liked the mix of information, tips and tricks, mini projects, helpful lists and humor. As the author of this book is also a popular gardening blogger, people who enjoy reading blogs will probably enjoy the style of this book as well. Though I am not sure this book will turn me into a master gardener, it has definitely inspired me to pick up some seeds and see how it goes.