After the first update a million years ago, the next book I read was Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett. It was a good time, though the main feeling that stuck with me was serious amusement at Nanny Ogg and her "wordly" ways/vocabulary. This book satisfies the "book given to you as a gift" square (thank you, hamsterwoman :).
Next was The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber, which satisfied one of the "non-fiction" squares (since the same square shows up in each one I feel the need to use a separate book to satisfy each one). This book detailed the turn of nurse/serial killer Charles Cullen and somehow managed to make this horrific tale boring as can be with the blandest journalistic writing possible. A big disappointment.
I breezed through Girl on the Train, which satisfied the square for "female protagonist" (I know Witches books do, too, but this had one clear protagonist). I enjoyed the perspectives in this book a lot, especially the titular girl's. I found it quite the addicting read. This can also count as the second "author you've never read" square because I'd never heard of Paula Hawkins before this. Oh, and it counts as "continent you've never been to", as well, as it's set in England (so, Europe).
Then it was back to Pratchett, with Lords and Ladies. As promised, this increased my fondness for Magrat exponentially. Though I was shocked to find her major turning point in the story was not somehow Granny's doing. As always with Discworld, it was a lighthearted and amusing time but unfortunately books of that nature don't stay in my memory too well and at this point the main things I recall are Magrat's queen outfit and Pratchett's very creepy version of fairies.
For a book heavily featuring food, I happily recommend Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach. She is one of my favorites, always. This book, like all her others, is a humor-filled adventure with lots of information you never knew you needed to know. In terms of food, some interesting things I remember reading include the point of history when chewing was all the rage (this one "scientist" encouraged folks to chew each piece of food 100+ times), the nutrition of organ meat (and its stigma), and the human being's disgust with saliva (e.g., how you won't eat a piece of food you already chewed and then spit out, since, you know, it's gross as hell). And I am somehow just now remembering that this is non-fiction, too - it almost feels like it's a magical story with her, hahah. Will have to cross out that other non-fiction square before the next update.
Then I borrowed The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Clarie North from Anders. Loved it. I love the whole concept of a person enduring entire lives as if they were decades-long Groundhog Days, changing choices each time he is born again. I completely believed Harry's reactions to the various lives (e.g., thinking he was mad in his second life when he was old enough to realize what was going on, spending one life studying all religions looking for answers, spending another life studying all of science to do the same, etc.). I liked Harry, too, though I found the antagonist of the story to be less than compelling. No other characters were dealt with in serious depth, but I understand the reason for that, as they are small parts of Harry's many, many years on Earth. ikel89 informed me that Claire North is the same person who writes the Matthew Swift series she loves and explained that the series gives you a strong feeling of the London atmosphere. I can tell this author is quite skilled in evoking a sense of place, and just as well with a sense of time/age. Even though 80% books that I read fall into this category, I'm counting this one as "book without magical creatures" (it's so odd to me that this is a square, instead of WITH), since it's got a mystical/magical aspect to it but all creatures are un-magical and realistic.
Finally, I just finished reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio, since I felt it was time for something quick and had heard good things about it. This counts as "heavily featuring kids" as all of perspectives are either fifth graders or high school students, with the main character a fifth grader. It also counts as "character with a physical disability" as Auggie suffers from hearing loss in addition to craniofacial abnormalities. I do feel that this is very much a kids' book, but I think it's a well-done kids' book. Based on my experience tutoring 4th/5th grade students, I feel like the author did an excellent job portraying the voice of this age group and the types of things kids care about. I also really like how she illustrated that Auggie's difficulties are not just his own (or his parents') - his sister, his friends, and others all share perspectives in the book and all struggle based on their association with Auggie, even when they mean so, so well. What I also really like is how the perspective of each person shows they each feel ashamed of and/or different about something in a similar manner to what Auggie feels about his face (like Jack Will and his family's money issues) - it seems like a good way to illustrate to kids that there's no one who lives a problem-free life, that everybody has insecurities. The ending seemed inevitable based on the tone of the story, but it seemed too neat to me, especially once I got to the part *after* the ending, with the pieces of wisdom from each student in the class. Overall, it was an enjoyable read, though, and it made me consider what my role would be as a teacher if a student with this type of issue were to end up in my class at some point in time.
Here's hoping I can get a good few more books in before the year is over.